I wouldn't recommend a fast longer than three days but a one to three day juice fast, when done properly, can be a safe and effective way to detoxify after holidays and vacations when healthy eating is sporadic and gets peppered with rich foods, sweets, wine and cocktails.
Reader Michele had made a very interesting comment about fasting and self-care and nurturing. I didn't publish her comment because I really wanted to read more so I asked her to expand her comment into something longer for me to share with you. It's a beautifully written article, thank you so much Michele!
Let me start off by saying--I'm so honored that Andra asked me to Guest post on Love to Eat, Hate to Exercise! It's great to be here. :) My name is Michele, and I've been reading (& inspired by) Andra's blog for a while now. I'm a Reiki Master and soon-to-be Yoga Teacher (I recently completed a 200-hr Yoga Teacher Training). Basically, I'm just living, loving, and learning Life--trying to be the healthiest version of me that I can be.
Throughout the duration of my Yoga Teacher Training (YTT), I had the opportunity to participate in a juice fast a couple times, in a very safe, supportive environment-my community of other teachers in training. I was nervous, having only tried fasting a couple times before-but I was up for the challenge. Based on my experiences juice fasting (first for 24hrs, and then later for a longer, 72hr fast), I have the following words of advice:
- Embrace what you're feeling before you fast. It's perfectly OK to feel nervous, scared, or any other emotion before fasting. I was nervous for the first fast, but found myself looking forward to the second, longer fast. Just take note of where you are physically & emotionally before embarking on this journey-just notice, without judgement.
- Prepare your body for the fast by giving up caffeine & eat as clean as possible. This will make symptoms of withdrawal (headaches) much less.
- Prepare your environment/living space for the fast. Make sure that you have all of the things that you will need to be comfortable. For me, this meant clearing my house of any clutter. Putting away the foods that would be "off-limits" for the next couple of days. Making sure that the bed was made with fresh sheets, the bathroom was stocked up with some nice "smellies" (aka bath salts, bubble bath, body lotions/oils, nice smelling soaps, essential oils, etc.), and making sure that my favorite pair of pajamas were clean and ready for me! Have a good book & favorite movie to watch, and a journal to write down your thoughts.
- Shop for your fast. For me, this included: lots of bottled water (an indulgence for me, as I usually carry a recycle-able bottle with me everywhere--but I wanted something with electrolytes to really help flush out the toxins), lots of different varieties of herbal teas, lots of fresh produce for juicing, cold-pressed apple juice or apple cider, & vegetable broth. More on how each of these items comes into play during the fast later.
- Let your family, friends & co-workers know your intention. It's good to let people know that you'll be essentially "unavailable" for the next couple of days, while you take care of yourself. Since I didn't get to pick the days that I was going to fast, I let my co-workers and friends know about my fasting days-so that they could be a little more understanding during that time.
- Plan to juice when you would normally eat a meal-three times a day.
- Drink LOTS of water. Water is key, not only to avoid dehydration & stave off headaches-but to help aid the cleansing/detox process. Water helps flush the toxins out of the body. Your body needs the water, in addition to the juice/tea. Because I was fasting in the fall, sometimes I drank hot water to warm my body.
- Drink as much herbal tea as you would like! All herbal, nothing with caffeine (unless you really need it, ie. coffee drinkers). The Yogi teas are good-anything that says Cleansing/Detox/Fasting. When I was on my residential weekend retreat where we fasted, we opened up all the boxes of tea and put them in a big beautiful bowl on the counter top, next to a big pot of constantly boiling water. It was such a treat to go into the kitchen and pick out a tea for my mood. Sometimes it was Calming tea (at night), other times when I felt pretty good, it was the Fasting/Cleansing tea. As a bonus, each Yogi tea bag comes with a little quote for inspiration.
- Warm vegetable broth is divine. Save it for when you're feeling like you need something a little more. We drank some warm vegetable broth at the end of day 2 during our longer fast, and I can still remember how good it tasted. And any hunger pains I was feeling completely dissipated.
- 1/2 & 1/2 (apple juice & iced tea) for a little spice. During each of my fasts, I was also practicing yoga multiple times a day. For these times, I brewed about 4-6 lemon & raspberry zinger teas (or your favorite flavored herbal tea of choice) and let steep until cool. Then add equal parts cold-pressed apple juice and enjoy! I emptied several of the bottles of water I bought into a jug, and filled them with this home-brewed 1/2 & 1/2 mixture to take with me to drink during my practice.
Self-care & Nurturing
The thing with fasting is, you have so much more time to focus on you when you're not busy thinking about food, preparing food, etc.. What to do with all of that extra time? I've got some suggestions!
- Take a break & break your routine! Get outside, enjoy the fresh air, see the world through "fasting" eyes. Take a shower in the middle of the day (you are detoxing, and sweating out lots of toxins!), enjoy light physical activity.
- Journal. Writing down my thoughts helped me to take note of how I was feeling throughout my fast. It also helped me to capture some really important thoughts. I had some real moments of clarity throughout my fast, and writing them down was key to remembering and revisiting these thoughts later.
- Indulge! Take a bath. For me, a bath is a daily ritual-as a bath with sea salts helps pull toxins out of the body. Definitely take the time to draw a perfect bath, using your favorite products. Light candles, put on your favorite music. Soak away!
- Take a media fast too. Read a book, or magazine, but avoid anything with an "ON" button or remote.
- Find ways to love yourself that don't involve food. Similarly, find ways to love those around that don't involve food. Maybe your weekend routine involves curling up with a big bowl of popcorn to watch a movie, or going out for ice cream/dessert, etc.. I took a walk with my husband around the neighborhood in the moonlight in August, we held hands and talked--and it was pretty special memory.
- Honor your body. Do only what feels right to you. I practiced yoga throughout both of my fasts. I also went to bed earlier-way earlier than usual.
The important thing is to just do it. Do what feels good to you. Follow your heart, listen to your body.