Today was the last day of a four-day juice fast for me. I will be honest in saying that up until I did this cleanse, I had a lot of judgment about "fasting" or "eating raw" or "cleansing" mostly because I thought it was extreme and to be perfectly honest, I was a little envious of people who seemed "healthier" than me. I know I live a healthy life for the most part, eat organic when I can, avoid gluten/corn/soy/GMOs/refined sugar when at all possible -- as well as exercise, connect with myself and God in yoga, keep up with doctor appointments, and just generally pay attention to my health overall. But in this, I realize now that something was missing. Yes, I was paying attention to health and making health-conscious decisions about my life, but what I was failing to do was to actually listen to my body. Sure, we all read health articles. We all listen to what our doctors say or what Dr. Oz says or what we hear at Whole Foods or one health event or another. We hear the risks of eating dairy, meat, GMOs, gluten, and the list goes on and on. But what about our own personal bodies? I'm a holistic health counselor and I tell my clients all the same thing: Listen to your body. Does one thing work for all people or all bodies? Of course not. For one person, veganism might be the way to go, while for another, adding in lean meat is helpful and assists in better overall health and vitality. So part of the reason for me doing this cleanse was to take my own advice. I simply don't feel right about telling a client to do something if I haven't already done the experiment myself to pave the way.
So after years and years of school, research, reading, doctor advice, nutrition school, spiritual psychology school, and my own journey (read about it here), I decided to check in with my body, slow down a bit, and see what was what. I typically live a high-paced life like the rest of us. I run around, meet with clients, exercise six days a week, sleep far less than I know I need to, eat on the go, sometimes eat nothing at all, sometimes eat too much, and then wonder why I am tired and bloated all the time. My friend, who guided me through the juice cleanse, recommended that I take some time "off" from exercising and all the other fast-paced things in my life. I think this terrified me the most. The idea of slowing down, taking time to myself, and resting during a time when I wasn't sick seemed strange to me. I brushed off what she said and figured I would be one of those people who can detox and cleanse on a juice fast while still maintaining my crazy schedule. Let's just say that she knew better than I did!
I started the cleanse on a Friday night, which meant I had my last meal at noon, then had my first juice at around 5:00 p.m. I had stopped exercising two days prior so my body could balance out, calorically. I did not want to go into the cleanse with any added feelings of hunger because I assumed I would be hungry enough! The first night was easy and most of the second morning was easy as well. I realized, though, right away that I could definitely not maintain my normal fast pace of living. I found that even on the second morning, I slept in until 8 a.m., which is something that is relatively unheard of for me. I did feel hungry at times, but I was more distracted by the detox symptoms (I basically felt like I had a stomach virus for 24 hours) than by being hungry. I will say that the second day was the absolute hardest both emotionally and physically, but it was also interesting to move so slowly, which was relatively peaceful. It felt like I wasn't in a hurry for the first time in years. I also noticed the times where I really wanted to eat, and most of the time I wasn't actually even hungry. I found myself noticing a pattern about reaching for food for comfort. And I realize that even though I do eat really healthy, reaching for food for any reason other than hunger is a red flag in my opinion, or at least something to take a deeper look at. I survived the second day and fell asleep, exhausted, and slept well. I also weighed myself before going to sleep and noticed I had already released two-plus pounds.
The third day, a Sunday, was interesting because I did have to get some work done. I had a colonic in the morning and after that, most of the nausea and detox symptoms seemed to subside, and I felt lighter and cleaner! I told myself I would never get a colonic and there I was, volunteering to skip yoga on a Sunday morning to go and get one. I will say it's probably a necessary step for anyone doing a juice cleanse because the cleanse breaks up the toxins and loosens them, but they need to be released somehow and this is a quick (and relatively painless) way to do it! Sunday was uneventful and before I knew it, it was Monday (fourth day). I had originally decided I would start eating again Monday morning, but I decided to keep going because I felt so good! At that point I had lost seven pounds, two inches off my hips (due to the relief of bloating and gas), 1.5 inches off my waist (again, bloating) and I felt amazing. I was tired and did not have as much energy as usual, but I found myself able to completely focus on tasks in a way that I haven't ever before. I found myself engrossed in my work and it was as if all else became silent. It was then that I realized how "noisy" food can be.
And so here I am, Tuesday morning. I woke up feeling hungry, and not for juice. So I did my final weigh-in and saw I have released a total of nine pounds in four days. Releasing weight hadn't been my intention going into the cleanse, but it has been surely welcomed! And then, because my body told me to, I broke my fast with a half a zucchini. I steamed it lightly, cut it up into tiny pieces, set an intention for my eating process, and started eating, making sure to chew every single piece until it was nothing. It was the strangest sensation to chew! My jaw felt like it had never chewed food before! And for the first time, I ate without distraction. No talking, no being on the phone, no watching a movie on my laptop, no working or reading or thinking about the rest of my day. I sat and chewed and swallowed and reflected on my past four days. The craziest part was I felt full after about a quarter-cup of zucchini. I would have normally (in the past) kept eating, but I heard my stomach say "enough" and so I stopped.
For me, the best part about this whole experience was how much I connected with myself. Now, I already feel like I live a pretty connected life, with all the work I do with myself as well as the work I do with my clients. I consider myself to be a fairly aware, insightful, intelligent and connected person, both with myself and others. But what I realized during my fast is that I had been neglecting my body. Yes, I eat healthy and exercise a lot, as I mentioned, but those are both things that my mind wants. My mind wants this or that or needs chocolate or wants to exercise or needs this distraction or that or feels like going to yoga or doesn't or decides to stay up late, etc. But my body, my temple, hasn't really had a say until now. But when it came to the cleanse, my body knew the way. When my mind felt scared, I turned to my body to check in and see if I should keep going. I was so afraid of taking a week off of my intense exercise program because I worried about losing momentum, etc. But what my body needed was rest. My body needed this time to reset itself and experience peace and stillness and take naps! My body, after all the work it has done for me the past nine years with all the weight loss and everything it has gone through, desperately needed to rest. And even though my ego wanted to get in the way, I finally listened and now have a new respect for my body, as well as a new perspective moving forward. My body is my temple. And now I know what I need to do to keep it happy and healthy, and clean.
The truth is, my old judgments about "those people who are too healthy" was really just coming from a place inside myself that I knew wasn't actually making the healthiest choices. Maybe I was indulging in vegan chocolate too often, or eating too fast or too much, or consuming too much animal protein even when I knew my body wanted something else. I told myself I was too busy to rest or to worried to take a break from exercising or too hungry and active to be a vegan. I told myself all sorts of things and in the meantime, my body was suffering, at least on some level. And so now I understand "those" people because I have become one. Sure, is it going to be challenging to go out to dinner with people who don't eat the way I do? Yes. But it already has been! And sure, there will be people who judge me or think I am "too healthy" or "being unhealthy" or whatever the judgment may be. And sure, maybe it is extreme, but the last time I checked, cancer treatments and open-heart surgery are pretty extreme, too. So why not take the risk of being judged as "weird" and do for my body what it needs in order to sustain the level of optimum health that I want to experience? Why not be the healthiest version of myself as I work with and assist clients in reaching their own level of desired health? It's my own integrity with myself, my body, my decisions and my relationship with food that will assist me in helping others. I cannot help others until I help myself and I cannot help myself until I listen to my body. And so here I go, moving forward with my body as the driver because it is my body who knows the way.
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