As the calendar moves towards Spring equinox, and at least some of us are experiencing harbingers of spring (bluebirds and daffodils perhaps) one starts seeing articles appear about fasting, a traditional (as well as a favorite of many alternative health care practitioners) way of acknowledging and aiding (for health purposes) the transition from winter diet to spring diet.
Many of us gain weight over the winter as we eat more calories (often in the form of fat) to keep warm, and don’t / aren’t able to exercise as easily. Because of all the holidays, we often have eaten more sugar than usual or is wise. With the stress of winter storms we might not always have been able to prepare well-balanced meals, gotten to the store in time, and therefore we ate more fast food.
A common response to the sluggish feeling arising from this situation is “I gotta make a change.” Great. However, plunging into a major fast can be daunting, even if you find a good one (which means under the auspices of a reputable health care provider, and often in a group, because real fasting is difficult and can precipitate uncomfortable detoxification).
Here are my suggestions, based upon years of experience (and yes, I have done some major fasts and cleanses, and experienced some nasty effects, mostly because I was headstrong and ignorant and much younger).
First: what is your goal? Is this a major revamp of your entire diet, or just a tune-up? Either way, you can make this really simple for yourself by trying my common-sense fast: eat only real food. And let me spell that out: whole grains (rice, millet, corn, etc. ), “pseudo-grains” (buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth), nuts and seeds, free-range humanely raised meats, raw milk cheese, fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and other pulses (if soy, eat only miso and tempeh), fish (especially herring, sardines, wild Alaskan salmon), healthy fats (extra virgin cold pressed olive and coconut oils, and ghee, which is a clarified butter and great to cook with) and tubers (potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams).
Second: fast from fast foods. If it is in a box, can, bottle or fried, it is processed. You are going to be the “processor”. You may stir-fry, make soups, eat raw salads, ferment, steam, bake your own bread. Play with marinades. Find your grandmother’s recipe for chicken soup. But only use real food that is recognizable as food, with no unpronounceable chemicals and NO SUGAR. Try this traditional way of eating for at least two weeks (more if you are feeling bold).
Third: 80% compliance is fabulous. You do not need to be perfect. It is usually self-defeating and no fun. Do your best, eat with gratitude, and enjoy. Chew well, try a digestive enzyme. Drink enough good water. Move your body. Get enough sleep. Am I sounding like your (grand) mom? “Old wives’ tales” are usually based upon deep truth. Eating is a communal act, even if only you are at the table. Invite all the beings who helped put that food on your plate, and you will not be alone.
Last but not least: try fasting from TV, from TV News, from your cell-phone, from email, from being available to anyone anytime. Try just one day a week away from this merry-go-round we moderns call our lives. See what arises.