Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Fast and The Furious


No. I'm not blogging about the never-ending "cars and babes"-sequels. I'm talking about, you know, abstaining from food for physical or spiritual purposes.

This month I fasted in different forms for two weeks altogether.

My mother used to do a juice fast every year either around Easter, or in the fall, when I was growing up and in my teens I did it with her a few times. We drank carrot juice and those gross bottled Biotta juices. In my teens and twenties I fasted a few times, mostly with juice.
I found that it's a really good way to jump-start feeling better. Simply put, I don't know about it's cleansing properties, but it's a really good way to shed sugar, white flour, bad eating habits in general.

But even more importantly, fasting is a way to recalibrate your body, to figure out what is going on with it and where its at, without the highs and lows of food consumption, alcohol, caffeine...

I haven't fasted in about ten years and after all the illness in the past year and a half, I feel like I need to feel out my body a little. To listen to what it needs. I eat pretty darn healthy, but still, I feel like all that food drowns out how you actually feel and much you need to eat and what and when.
So when the 10-day fast came up in the Apothecary Circle, I jumped on it, first seven days of trying to (and often failing) be more mindful of the Noble Eightfold Path with three days of food fasting tacked to the end.

I started by kicking meat, eggs, sugar and wheat (I don't really eat wheat anyway.) and eventually and after much backsliding due to unexpected fun times, alcohol. This took about seven days. By the time the full juice-only fast came around, I already felt pretty good, eating lightly and having juice for one meal a day.
My but my body has changed in ten years. The first days of a fast are always the hardest, but this time the second day was almost unbearable. Day one always goes pretty easy because of the novelty, but previously I remember the second and third day as being pretty calm and focused. Not so much this time.

Probably this was because ten years ago, I was more addicted to caffeine and sugar and their absence brought not only calm, but borderline euphoria to my restless 24-year-old body. (Coffee is not my friend and never was.) The only way I could tolerate the constant thoughts of food was to stay busy. I don't remember when I last accomplished as much. I was also extremely grumpy.
By the third day I was adjusted and could have kept going. I didn't eat until the afternoon of the fourth day and by then that strange joy of not worrying about food had kicked in and I was really reluctant to start eating again.

Fasting can be a transcendental experience. No matter what you fast from, you tend to discover a lot of your weaknesses before you find your strengths. Turns out, that I have real problems staying with Right Speech, meaning that I gossip, blabber and tell white lies way more than I even realize. In addition to this I seriously lack both mindfulness and concentration, much as I try. This was made, harder, not easier by focusing on my practice more intensely.

Trying to increase the amount of time I spent studying texts and meditating, actually led me to being more frustrated by how hard it continues to be, not less. After years of practice, my meditation experience is still often heart-brakingly arduous, but no matter, I've heard it over and over from people who I've looked to for spiritual guidance that they have the same experience. At least I'm not alone.

Maintaining the Right View, meaning one's perspective, or outlook proved easier. During the fast I felt more of a sense of purpose, even as I was failing.
I felt good about the fact that I was able to accept my failures and move past them and keep trying, rather than beating myself up about it.

Now that the actual fast is over, I feel way more motivated than before to try to adhere to these principles, to meditate and to study.
As for the food fast, I learned that my body, though still affected by the long assault of living in a mold-infested house, is making a wonderful comeback.  For the first time in what seems like years, I feel like I'm really in my body. I can't exactly explain it, but I feel more aware, flexible, alert, strong, in conrol than in a long while.

Current favorite garb: Sweater-thrifted, dress-gift from Sara, boots-local consignment, scarf-girft from Nicole, necklace-made by me

In fact, post food-fast, my energy levels have been pretty awesome. Maybe it's just the ever-increasing amount of light and the fresh nettles in my tea, but I feel really good. Something I hope never to take for granted again.

I did also gain some important tools from the food fast. Apparently, I'm also way more of an emotional and habitual eater, than I realized, and turns out, when it comes to alcohol, an emotional and habitual drinker. (Fret not though, dear reader. My "drinking problem" consists of less than four drinks a week. Just something to be aware of.)
All in all, my fast was pretty worth it, a very good way to start spring. It's sweater weather, by goodness. I don't even know what to do with that.

Do you fast? Have you ever tried it? Did it make you want to kill your egg-frying husband?

Oh and is anyone interested in discussing meditation?
And is it spring where you are yet?


  1. Hi girl! thanks for the explanation, about the recalibration that fasting provides. The more I read your words, the more I saw how this could be, and feel that you are right. Also, Right Speech. I hadn't heard of that before, I love that you admitted you're a blabbermouth fibber, hahaha. I am too sometimes. A very womanly thing isn't it. The white lies, are they to protect you or someone else's feelings? I find more clarity, calm and become more understanding of myself...when i people fast. I'm sure there is nothing scientific at all behind it. But i feel like people cloud my mind and heart sometimes. As you probably know, I certainly carry on enough about it on my own blog. mmmmm though i haven't fasted before (unless you count the 40 hr famine whereby i gorged on glucose lollies-cheated) i think it would help me with my sugar-love. It most certainly isn't Spring here, and Summer has some heat in it still. I don't feel Autumnal days yet, but our mornings are cooler. For the first time in years we are getting 10 day straight runs of Sun. I guess this is Climate Change. It is so unusual for us that many of us look forward to the occasional grey day and summer shower. My garden does. love. xo

  2. didn't realise my comment would look that long.

  3. wow. way to go. i'm interested in a few more details about the actual fast. did you do nothing at all, only water, until the 4th day? would you mind telling me more about the actual details of it? XO

  4. I have so many questions - like what is the Apothecary Circle (if this shows me up as a new reader, I apologise!)? I have never fasted, in the way that you describe, because I skate precariously close to having an eating disorder and worry that if I were to fast I just wouldn't bother to eat again. But I really really need to get out of some bad eating habits, like that latte-with-a-chocolate-biscuit habit that strikes me every morning at my desk, but doesn't bother me at home. Funny that. Emotional eating, anyone? ;)

  5. I am currently reading a book about detoxing/fasting - but that's about as far as I have gone! I have done juice fasts before and they really do make me feel great, I'm just need to stop making excuses not to get going this time. I haven't fasted in about 6 years though.Since having had my twins (almost 3 years ago) I have developed semi-terrible eating habits. I have recently had about 8 months of re-curing illness (lung infections/sinus infections/influenza/coughs/colds/general bleurgh-ness) and I need need need to cleanse my system and adopt better habits. I will be starting over the next week or two. This post has spurred me on a bit, so thanks! Also, yes to talking about meditation -I have been reading '10 Mindful Minutes' by Goldie Hawn with intentions of bringing more mindfulness into everyday life at home.... Hmmm, I think at some point I need to stop reading and start doing!

  6. i love your honesty! and as you, i too have learned so much about myself during the last month and a half. fasting and prayer (and alms giving)- that is what this season of Lent is all about...well, if you're catholic ;D so i find the topics in this post quite fitting! one of the things i have noticed the most is how much i was actually eating before! i never gave my stomach a chance to shrink because i was constantly over eating. and for as healthfully as i was eating i now realize that all the little handfuls of chips, popcorn and other snacks certainly add up. i also realized how much i eat when i'm bored or frustrated. i haven't kicked caffeine or booze but i'm sure i'd feel even better if i did, but that is not realistic for me right now. i'm going to do post about it soon with more details of my experience. and oh my gosh! making dinner for the family and NOT being able to eat it is sheer torture!!!

    i don't know too much about meditation but i certainly know how difficult having a good prayer life can be. i feel i have made no progress in the last three years but i just keep on keepin' on. lately when i notice my mind wandering and i start thinking about really unimportant things i make a mental effort to turn my thoughts toward God. and even then i notice how quickly i come back to worries, to do lists, gossip..."the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak". that pretty much sums me up!

    well, take care my little nettle friend :D oh yes, your necklace turned out beautiful and you look adorable as always!

  7. I love that last picture of you! It completely sums up this post! I have never fasted for more than 24 hours, and in the past 6 years I have either been pregnant or breastfeeding, so I find myself finally free of sustaining another life. I have read a lot about it, but frankly am afraid of who I would become around my children during those tough times. Grumpy mama= REALLY grumpy babes. When they are all in school, though, you'd better believe I'm going to juice fast for at least 5 days! Thanks for sharing- it's a pleasure to read, as always. :)

  8. So pleased to hear how well your fast turned out. I like that it started out almost accidentally and then continued on. I think they almost always work out best like that...when they are of the moment. Right timing. I have been feeling the desire to cleanse, and Jeff and I have cut out coffee and other vices. Which made us extremely grumpy and like I said to you girls...highly aware of how under resourced I am. And sadly I can't imagine doing a proper cleanse with a three year old...there's not enough room for cranky adjusting moms in that scenario.

    I so want to go on a forest walk with you. Your pictures have this great contrast going on. As if all that matters suddenly stands out. And I would love to talk meditation, and to know more about what style you do. Also would love to hear about the apothecary circle stuff. love love.

  9. i have diabetes so fasting is not an option but i do go through phases of cutting out all the rubbish in my diet...but it never lasts even though i always feel so great when cutting out the rubbish. i think if i really looked at everything i eat it would be dreadful *thinks of the brioch sliced and ready to toast in the kitchen*
    i really do need to get myself together and look carefully at my food.
    i think the endless days and months of grey sky and rain has not helped, it has made me want to hibernate but there are signs of spring here...green pushing its way up through the soil and a few early flowers, snowdrops and crocus opening. we even had a few warm sunny days that were glorious!
    looking forwards to reading your thoughts on meditating milla :) xoxoxo

  10. Did you follow the 3-day juice fast? Or, were you doing a longer one? I tend to have a pretty erratic appetite. If things aren't in balance in one way or another I tend to lose my desire to eat whole foods--and I can take on whole weeks or months not really wanting to eat. I have never embarked on a true-blue fast though. I am very interested in trying one, and I had been considering the three-day juice fast.

    Meditation is something I'd love to have a broader conversation about... I've been attempting a practice for the last two years. I have more successful periods than others. I've recently been trying the "empty bowl" meditation practice from my Ayurveda books. One of my goals for this year was to at least commit to 5-minutes a day. I'm a pretty spiritual person, and I just feel that i really need this in my life. I just struggle with being lazy about it...

  11. I haven't tried fasting because I was kind of worried about how healthy it would be?? It just seems like I wouldn't be getting all the nutrients I need! I think I'll look into it though- it sure would be great to give my body cycle a little restart. I used to meditate everyday when I was in elementary school and going into Junior High. I kind of just made it up as I went along. I was kind of Wiccan/Pagan at the time, so I used crystals and magic circles and meditated on a spiritual journey. As I've grown I've become more scientific/Buddhist and have been working on the Buddhist types of meditation like loving kindness and all. It's hard because it's different from what I used to do and I haven't quieted my brain in SUCH a LONG time!! But I know I should practice more because it's really helpful for people with bipolar and other similar mental disorders. How do you convince yourself to try?? Also: I would love to try nettle tea, I've never had it.

  12. Well, Milla, I do admire you for fasting several days in a row, and I am touched by what this experience has revealed to you, on a deeper level.

    When I was trying to detox through a simple weekly program where I was every morning on a smoothie / juice (whole fruits blended with lemon juice and fresh ginger, basically), then lunch was a salad and dinner cooked vegetables, I felt great - except in the mornings, where I would be jumpy and shaking for 4 hours. (This even as my everyday diet is devoid of sugar, gluten, meat or alcohol - it's basically fruits, vegetables, quinoa, brown rice and legumes, yogurt, eggs and some fish.)

    The roommate who had advised this program mentioned that raw fruits have a very "quick" energy - when not balanced with protein or nuts, they send your body and mind surfing on an uncomfortable, unstable state. A good alternative for fasting is drinking vegetable stock (homemade in advance with plenty of nice tasting vegetables and ginger, and a bit of grey salt), it brings you the appropriate nutrients without sending you on the jumpy side of life ;o)

    What I often do is semi-fasting: most mornings my "breakfast" is just a bit of rice bran cooked in almond (or soy) milk with cocoa, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom. Then I can easily wait a few hours before lunch (usually wholesome), and again several hours without a snack before dinner - the problem is, when I do arrive home I am tired and hungry, so I tend to eat too quickly and then again an hour before going to bed, which is not a good idea in my case :o/

    Spring will not arrive in Montreal before the first week of May! And since days are already getting longer (which feels so good every year, like a miracle), I do have a longing for soft winds and warm sun, and growing plants. I grow grass for my cat and I marvel at the new tender green sprouts!)

    Looking at your coastal forest pictures is a very good waiting-for-spring therapy :o)

    And don't worry about this feeling you have about meditation - I think it works on us without our noticing in, from the inside. The fact that we keep trying is the thing that brings us closer to the source of what we already are. Do you see what I mean? This sounds strange I know... I find it hard to explain (or to grasp it most of the time).

  13. Ooh,miten vihreää teillä on!!! Täällä taukoamaton valkoisuus. Eilen sentään näimme auringon,joka jopa lämmitti vähän,jotta kais sitä toivoa keväästä on.Ei silti pidän kyllä talvestakin.
    En ole koskaan onnistunut paastoamaan paria päivää kauempaa,mutta herätit taas ajatuksen siitä. Tosin nyt on pienokainen massussa,eikä paastoaminen varmaankaan olisi hälle kovin hyväksi.
    meditoin kyllä.-)

  14. I am also interested in hearing more about your fasting method. I've never fasted before and this post definitely made me curious to try it. I rarely drink alcohol but sugar and coffee are my main weaknesses and it would be nice to try to recalibrate my body.

    I would love to discuss meditation! I'm not very good at it at all but have been working to incorporate more mindfulness into my life. I also find that walking meditation works better for me than sitting and clearing my mind.

    Anyway, thank you for all the lovely posts. :)