A Fast Approach to Spring Cleaning
My father, a stocky fellow from the Tyrolean Alps, spent many years at sea in the merchant marines, where he became a shrewd observer of the human condition. He told me once, while slicing a round of hard salami, “A man finds his identity in his food.” For him that was a bottle of beer, some sausage, and good piece of rye bread. Years later I came to understand that his insight cut both ways—by changing what you eat you can change who you are.
I have applied this idea through a kind of personal ritual. Come each spring, once the weather begins to warm and the days stretch out towards summer, it’s time to shed my winter coat. I start by throwing out all my old eating habits. It’s a lot like cleaning my garage by first taking everything out and setting it on the driveway. Then, picking up each piece and the old memory it holds, I decide if I still really need it or not, placing it back in the garage, or discarding it in the dump pile. In the end it is those old memories that are hardest to let go of. When it comes to food, it is even more difficult to release the memories that began in childhood like the smell of bacon sizzling on the skillet and the warm taste of pancakes and maple syrup. Food can be a comfort, as well as a living repository of our personal history.
Over the years I’ve found that the best way to free myself from old eating habits is to make a clean break—that is by fasting for a few days. For many the word ‘fasting’ triggers strong emotional images of deprivation, like starving children in Africa or skinny-as-a-rail food faddists with drawn cheeks and large eyes. But fasting has long been used as a tool of spiritual, as well as physical healing in many cultures. Jesus Christ sought inspiration fasting for forty days and nights wandering in the Sinai desert, and later recommended foregoing food to rid the body of all sorts of pestilence. For millennia fasting was an established part of the medical armamentarium from the time of Hippocrates all the way up through the hygienics movement that swept across America from the late 1800 to 1950’s.
There are many ways to fast. Strict water fasts are the most direct, but in my opinion are hard on the body. During a fast the body is calorically deprived and begins to break down its own fat and some muscle stores to maintain energy needs. As fat cells break down they also release into the blood stream chemical residues that are stored in the fat such as toxic pesticides, herbicides, food additives, and a wide variety of chemical pollutants. It is estimated that in recent decades over 40,000 new chemicals have been added to our environment. Considering that the average American consumes 124 pounds of food additives a year, we are all eating in a chemicalized food chain.
The body rids itself of these harmful toxins through complex detoxification enzyme systems within the liver. Unfortunately many of us have depleted these enzymes through years of unhealthy living. Then, when you add the strain of a water fast, the liver may not be able to keep up with the removal of toxins. The result is that the mild fatigue and torpor which often occur in the first few days of fasting may be uncomfortably accentuated. This harshness has cut many a fast short and prevented more people from experiencing its great benefits.
Fruit fasts avoid the caloric deprivation which makes them easier, but lack the benefit of fat breakdown and are very high in sugar content. If you wish to approach fasting in this way, a fresh vegetable juice fast would be a better choice.
Personally, I prefer a high-tech approach to spring cleansing. It is a gentle process that anyone can do. I typically set aside two weeks, during which time I can reliably control my food choices. The process begins with an elimination diet where I avoid common foods that are often associated with food allergies. During this first week of preparation I also take a supplement that provides the nutrients to support my liver detoxification enzymes. I plan it so that the following weekend will be free. My fast begins on Thursday after dinner and ends Sunday evening or Monday morning depending on how I’m feeling. I work through Friday, but Saturday and Sunday I set aside for a mini-retreat. The following week, I reintroduce foods systematically watching for any food sensitivities. More recently as my diet has gotten cleaner the whole process has been streamlined into a week or less.
The results of what I call the Pureworks process is that I easily shed a few pounds, feel great, and am ready to enjoy the summer. I have done this process with many people who typically report a delightful sense of lightness in the body, a clearer mind, and a feeling of empowerment to take on new tasks. More importantly, once your palate and body have been cleansed in this way, you can literally taste which foods are healthy to eat. Eating fresh fruit and vegetables becomes a wonderful taste treat. With a fresh relationship to food people naturally make the kinds of food choices that lead to sustainable weight loss.
So this spring in addition to cleaning out the weeds in your garden, and the unnecessary junk in your garage, think about cleansing your body and discover a new healthier, lighter self.
Why do I need biochemical detoxification?
We are increasingly exposed to chemical toxins. There has been an estimated 40,000 new chemicals introduced into the environment in the last two decades alone and 2.5 billion pounds of pesticides sprayed on crops each year. When you add to this that the average American eats 124 pounds of additives a year, the toxic load can easily overwhelm and deplete our detoxification enzyme systems. Such toxic exposure is a significant cause of cancer and other diseases. Dr. Jia’s Spring Cleanse (info on his web site) is designed to replenish these detoxification enzymes with a special supplement that efficiently eliminates toxins from the body
Will I need to be on a special diet?
The first week you will be on a test diet that eliminates foods commonly associated with food allergies. After the fast you will systematically re-introduce foods to pinpoint hidden food allergies. Even though there is no caloric restriction, people easily lose weight as they begin to make more conscious food choices.
What is the value of fasting?
Fasting has been used for thousands of years in many spiritual traditions as a method of physical and spiritual renewal. When the body is calorically deprived, toxins stored in fat cells are released in the bloodstream and can be cleared by an adequately supported liver. Fasting also interrupts old eating habits, making new food choices easily accessible.
I’m not sure that I can handle a three day fast.
This scientifically supported fast makes fasting relatively easy. It is much easier than a severe water fast and much more effective than a common juice fast. You may be surprised with the increased clarity, energy, and decreased aches and pains that often comes with fasting. If you have a medical condition, take medications or are unsure if fasting is appropriate for you, please contact Dr. Gottlieb (or your personal physician) for a consultation.
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