Over December 2013 and January 2014, the author of this article underwent 2 extreme approaches to eating. One was the providence diet-to go with the flow and eat and drink everything offered over the month of December. The other approach was to attempt a 10 day juice fast starting on the 19th January. The article starts 3 days into the fasting process.
Food for thought
I have been thinking deeply about food this week, mainly because it is 3 days since I last ate. I am on a “juice fast” although strictly speaking it is not a fast as I am consuming litres and litres of freshly pressed juices (a true fast consists of water with nothing else).
I am feeling hungry all the time. And for the first time in my life I am experiencing “food envy” every time I sit next to anybody who is eating. I keep staring at their plate-everything looks so appetising and I am thinking that they do not realise how lucky and privileged they are to be able to eat …how many in our world can not just sit and eat without giving the food a second thought? As I watch my 3 daughters tuck into plates of food I think they are lucky and spoilt in a global context. They take it all for granted-no worries about enough or where it came from or who made that food get onto that plate. In the west we are constantly fed news on the media of the obesity epidemic-we are overeating (and over consuming resources) whilst there are parts of the world suffering from malnutrition. As a human family we are not being fair with the distribution of our planets resources, some are fat and over fed, some are hungry and under fed. Who is responsible? Do all westerners share a part responsibility for this injustice as we collectively sit back and let others decide on how resources should be distributed? Anyway that’s my little global justice rant over.
For this juice experiment, I am really for the first time in my life feeling ongoing hunger and it is not a usual sensation in my body. I am not comfortable, it is actually a very unpleasant sensation, because it does not really ever go away, even after taking juices. I do not have that familiar “full” or “satisfied” feeling and I am afraid that I feel somehow cheated of pleasure-even though this is my choice, I somehow expected it to be different. For a start, I have had only mild withdrawal symptoms. I was looking forward to a big ass- kicking withdrawal headache-I could then have said “Ah my body is now re-adjusting to clean living and I am paying for my over consumption crimes!” But I had just a mild ache, nothing extreme to write about and I now doubt this fast is really going to “whip me into shape” and purify me after the indulgence called December. Even though I am not a coffee drinker, I just love my first cup of tea everyday so in should i be mildly comforted by the thought that when I drink tea again, I will not be giving my body anything too harsh to handle?
The word “Diet” comes from the Greek “Dieta” meaning to direct one’s life. Over December, I did the opposite of diet- as I consumed everything I was offered and even second helpings if they were offered. Mince pies, mulled wine, hot port, local free range turkey, sweets and all manor of treats- i graciously accepted providence-whatever my environment in modern Ireland would provide-from whatever source-neighbours, friends, family, the local community-generous offerings from every corner. The tradition of feasting over this time of year goes back to pagan Ireland-when at the end of winter people went about about storing up fat for colder days ahead, to give energy in Spring when the first seeds are sown. The end of winter is such a dark time and indulging is such a good idea to see the body through to brighter days. The results of my feasting? I started this year a full 7lbs heavier (3 plus kilos). That would not be unusual for me as December is a relaxed time of year when hibernating and storing up fat is a family friendly plan! January started with resolutions-no more sugar and by the time I start my juice fast on 19th January, I have shed about half of my December excess. I am also training for a half marathon and running is back on track so I am feeling good going into this-with no health issues. We ordered the Omega 3 Juicer to press the juices out of vegetables and fruit as opposed to liquidising them so we are really excited to see if we get a boost of energy from this way of working with foods. I have found these last 3 nights I am asleep by 9pm at night and I am waking up fresh and ready for the day by 5am. I get up and I feel light-a good feeling -so I decide to start doing a headstand as well every morning more because I want to make the most of this time by introducing other health enhancing techniques. In for a penny in for a pound! I have read that this kind of juice fasting should be accompanied by coffee enemas but I decide not to do this- in between juices and on an empty stomach i am taking pre-soaked linseeds to keep everything moving and it is doing the trick!
Day 4-The man in the local vegetable shop says “you again-you can’t have eaten all that!” So I tell him what I am doing and he thinks I am crazy. He throws in some free bananas for being such a good customer-I am spending about €25 every 2 days on fruit and vegetables and I am grazing our garden every morning for Kale, celery and fennel. I feel like a deer, getting up really early and waiting until its light enough to see what food is growing and harvesting it before the humans wake up. I am hungry and looking afresh at my garden as a place where good green nutrients grow. My mouth is really watering when I am choosing the most succulent looking greens and I am discovering what it is to really bring an appetite to the day. We have a stock of beetroots left over and we have a good cheap supply of organic carrots- the staple food on this fast- I have consumed 10 kilos of carrots in 5 days. I am sick of carrots.
Day 5. The day starts well, doing my grazing and headstands and all the usual new juicing routines but by 5pm all I can say, think or do is …..Arghhhhhhh! I can not go on….
On the positive side I am sleeping less and waking earlier but against that I am fed up with this way of consuming nutrients. I ran earlier today with very little energy, I could hardly keep up with the usual pace. I now feel so negative about this experiment that I doubt whether the benefits will outweigh the negatives associated with a winter juice fast. The run was a struggle and I felt so cold afterwards. Each day i am finding it harder and harder to keep warm. I am drinking litres of ginger tea but there is a constant cold feeling in all of my bones and I am shivery. My partner says I am hunching up and I am-in a vague attempt to heat my bones or keep the cold from entering through the shoulders!!! I stare at my mix of beetroot, carrot and garden kale juice for over an hour. I literally can not face putting it to my lips-the thought s of drinking this intense sweet cold juice has made me feel nauseous. I can not bear the thoughts of it. I am huddled over the fire and my husband offers me some warm soup and I agree to it feeling like a bit of a failure.. The bowl of warmth fills every cell and I decide that I will finish out the fast by adding in a warm soup every day. As soon as I have taken the soup I feel immediately better-warm food in winter-what a good idea! The juice feasting ebook I have read does not recommend this as it may confuse the body but my body is not feeling confused but delighted that I have given in to some warm soup. The next 5 days I finish the fast with a warm soup daily. I completed 5 days juice fast and a further 5 days half and half-2 juice meals and one cooked meal a day. I think it is a happy compromise given that it is winter and I am not used to so much cold liquid, even in Summer.
I have lost a total of 6lb (just under 3 kilos) in 10 days. I feel ok-not buzzing with energy and I developed a cold sore-which I only ever get when I am run down. I think that this kind of eating suits warm climates or seasons and it is for people who are conserving energy-not training for a half marathon! I think that in spite of all the fresh greens, I am lacking essential nutrients for energy. One person told me that I looked pale whilst fruiting but nobody else seemed to notice. I do feel lighter and this is a cleansing programme, but I was unwise to cleanse when I have a training schedule to go through which requires more not less nutrients!
So what do I think about food now? My relationship with food has changed. I am conscious now of feeling full sooner-I think this has been good for me. I do not need to consume as much. I would do this in the Summer time when I can find more in the garden and it will not be as expensive. This is not a diet that low income Irish families could undertake in winter in Ireland and as I am keen to find a sustainable and affordable eating plan, juice fasting is not the way to go- it is not sustainable as it depends on too many imported foods-maybe it could be good for a summer diet as a way to use up extra produce when the garden is in full swing. Having said that my children now enjoy daily juiced carrots with apples and look forward to them so it is a good supplement to meals-perhaps taken first thing on an empty stomach. If you are looking to lose weight and want to survive on less sleep, this is a good diet. I had a very clear understanding of the relationship of digestion and sleep- the light diet made the body require less time unconscious and I think that sleep is about body repair. I woke up every day very early with no tired feeling. Is this diet healthy? That depends on your lifestyle and energy requirements. I need a little more fat and fibre to feel fit!