Yesterday I mentioned juice fasting on the blog again and I think it was about time I did a proper post on this subject. From the first time I’ve started juice fasting and mentioning it here on the blog I have gotten questions on the how and why of juice fasting. Many of you are expressing you are willing to try it yourself, so some tips and pointers might be in order!
There’s many great reasons to fast. To name a few:
- To give the digestive system a break
- To allow the body to cleanse out old waste and toxins in an accelerated speed
- To experience what it’s like not to be able to eat whenever/whatever you want
- To experience missing a meal isn’t the end of the world
- To experience how energizing nourishing foods (as opposed to filling foods) are
- To rediscover the real value of food, re-establish your gratitude for food
- To save up a lot of time from food prepping/eating
- To experience we are in control of what we eat and we can break free of bad food habits
- Spiritual growth
Personally, I fast for many reasons, most of the reasons I listed above actually. Fasting for me is very refreshing. I spend a lot of time thinking about food, buying food and preparing food, something which I generally consider to be a good thing. But it’s also sometimes good to take a step back and take a break. During and after a short one day fast I feel fresh and energized. Simply put, it feels great to take a break from this whole cycle once a week and have a ‘rest’ day. A day in which my body doesn’t have to digest everything I shove in it, and instead can go to work on other important tasks, such as more thorough cleansing.
Fasting also resets my buttons and makes me appreciate real food even more, which can sometimes get lost having things such as bread, sweets, raw cacao and baked goods readily available to you 24/7. During and after fasting, the only thing I’ll crave is fresh fruits and vegetables, huge salads, fatty avocados, a crispy Brazil nut. (Though please note that if you are new to fasting or cleansing in general, you may still crave things like chocolate or bread during fasts because your system isn’t quite calibrated yet).
My main motivator for fasting though is my overall health. Only during a fast, when we put no new toxins in our bodies (through food at least) and no energy is required for digestion, can our bodies start working on tasks that have a lower priority: expelling of old waste and stored toxins. Fasting isn’t the only way we can cleanse on such a deep level, but for most people it is easier than drinking only liquids until lunch every day, eating vegan and mostly raw, getting colonics, taking probiotics, eating all organic, etc. Although really this lifestyle of ongoing cleansing if more powerful long-term, fasting is a great way to detox short-term. But as with anything short-term, please know it will never match up to long-term lifestyle changes!
Fasting can also be used, as part of ongoing cleansing, to alleviate such things as headaches, PMS symptoms, mood swings, cravings, bad skin, etc.
Fasting = Healthy
Fasting has gotten somewhat of a bad rep so I’d like to straighten one thing out up front: fasting is not the same as starving yourself. When done right, and only when done for the right reasons, fasting is very healthy. You can’t seperate your mind and body. If you starve yourself all day simply to feel in control or because you are looking to lose weight, you are hurting yourself and not gaining anything from it. In fact, the stress that this causes will only cause your body to become more acidic. Fasting for the right reasons won’t only bring you physical benefits, also mentally, emotionally and spiritually (eventually).
‘But… missing a meal sounds so unhealthy!” ”won’t my metabolism die on me?!” ”I’m afraid I’ll keel over and die from hunger”
Considering our modern day obsession with protein and and revved-up metabolims I can see why these things would concern you. Trust me, missing a meal doesn’t have to be unhealthy, and fasting is far fro simply ‘missing a meal’. Yes, if you’d miss a meal and then ‘make up’ for it later in the day then this would probably not be the best thing for either your health or metabolism, that is simply very taxing on your digestive system, whereas fasting is the opposite, if gives your digestive system a mini-vacay.
Short bouts of fasting, such as fasting for 1-2 days won’t impair your digestive system. Your caloric needs might go down during the duration of the fast but this isn’t a long-term effect. Your overall lifestyle and eating habits (and to some extend your genes) is what make up your metabolism, not what you eat, or not eat, in one or two days. If you eat healthy enough and keep active, your metabolism should be great and not eating for a day or two won’t take away from that. If anything, cleaning out old waste material and toxins will only have positive effects on your metabolism long-term!
Also, not eating for a day won’t make your bowels lazy. Lazy bowels are the product of a chronically unhealthy diet, namely lacking in fiber. If anything, the waste material that gets lodged in your bowels can impact their efficiency, and periodic juice fasting will help keeping things moving along faster and more efficiently.
Lastly, fasting is an ancient-old practice that even today millions of people engage in on a regular basis. Funny fact: scientists believe that the Mediterranean diet wasn’t (just) found to be very healthy because of their high intake of (unsaturated) fats, but also because the group of study subjects fasted regularly for religious reasons, something that was not taken into account when the data were originally analyzed.
How hungry (or not) you’ll get varies per person, and even per day. I have done a small amount of one-day juice fasts and even though I can recognize some patterns, everytime will be different. For exmaple, normally I would’t be hungry all day, but then get very hungry around 3-4 in the afternoon, which would pass again around dinnertime. Monday, I almost experienced no hunger whatsoever. The hunger I experience while fasting is also a different kind of hunger. Not the hunger that normally makes me get up and prepare a meal or snack, but simply a hollow feeling in my belly.
As for energy, I normally feel fine with some ups and downs during the day. This last Monday it was only up. I suspect that the more clean our bodies become, the more easy fasting will be.
How to Fast
Fasting is a very powerful cleansing tool that shouldn’t be taken too lightly. When you put nothing but soluble vitamins & minerals in your body all day, your system gets to work on peeling loose old impacted waste and stored toxins. This is good, obviously, but only when done right.
Fasting can be compared to running a 10 mile race. Anyone can do it, but only when in good health and not injured. It is healthy for the body, but unhealthy without proper training.
If you’re absolutely new to fasting, and cleansing your body in general, I would not suggest diving into a full day juice fast straight away, unless your diet (think refined grains and sugar, meat, dairy, conventional produce) and lifestyle (think smoking, alcohol, medicine/drugs) are very ‘clean’ already!
Instead, opt for a different type of fast, or work your way up to a full day juice fast. To work your way up, simply replace one meal, starting with breakfast, with a big fresh(!) juice, until you’re down to all juices. You could do this one day a week, so after 3 weeks you would be doing a full day juice fast.
Instead of working your way up, you could try and start with milder forms of fasting as well. Here’s a short overview of the types of fasts there are, with a water fast being the most rigid.
Types of fasts
- Water fast
- Juice fast
- Smoothie fast
- Mono-meal fast
- Fruit or veggie fast (or a combination hereof)
So, for example, you could start with eating nothing but fruits and vegetables for a day. Not an ideal fast because some vegetables can still be hard to digest, but it’s cleansing nevertheless. A mono-meal fast is a fast where you only eat one food per meal, a pound of strawberries for breakfast for example. Smoothie fasts are great too and easier than juice fasts since smoothies can be made beforehand and stored up to three days, whereas juices have to be consumed straight away. For a fast, keep your smoothies as simple as possible and avoid dairy milk and processed soy milk. Almond milk, coconut water and water are a good base.
I consider juice fasting the best type of fasting since even though your body doesn’t have to digest a single thing, you still get tons of nutrients in your system, and these nutrients are what actually cleanse the body! Vitamins, minerals and chlorophyll bind to the toxins and transport ‘em out of the body. The sugar from the juices also provides some instant energy.
When juice fasting, opt for 4 or more juices, and make sure the juices are vegetable based! When juices largely consist of fruits, you’re crashing your system with way too may sugars . Lemons, ginger and stevia will cut right through the strong taste of vegetable-based juices. And adding some fruit is acceptable of course! Only fresh juices are acceptable, store bought juices are sterilized and therefore futile. If you don’t have a juicer, a juice from a juice bar is an option, but very expensive! (This is my juicer by the way!)
General tips & guidelines (for beginners)
- The day before, eat light & clean (no coffee, refined sugars, meat), no heavy dinner!
- Prepare: pick a day you have to yourself, not a day packed with important meetings and appointments..
- Aim for 2 – 5 juices. Listen to your body to see how much you need that day.
- Drink a lot of water, lemon water and herbal teas all day long (very important)
- Don’t plan any streneous exercise, opt for walking, light yoga, cycling instead
- Induldge in some nice pastimes: reading a book, taking a hot shower or bath, getting a massage, etc
- Take a nap when needed
- Come off a fast light & clean as well, this is very important!
On either sides of your fast you should eat very light and clean. Shocking your system with a heavy meal after a fast, even if it was just a one day fast, can undo all the benefits of your fast. A light smoothie or a bowl of fruit would be ideal. Wait a few more hours before having your light lunch.
When you fast, the released toxins and waste should be able to leave your body quickly, otherwise they’ll simply get reaborped into your bloodstream, something called autointoxication. This only creates more problems in your body as you’ll experience detox symptoms without the benefit of the toxins actually being expelled. Your diet should be sufficiently healthy and your bowel movements should be sufficiently regular if you plan on undertaking a fast. If not, work on improving these things first before doing a fast (or take a colonic the day after).
Fasting is great when done periodically. I opt for one day a week, but even once a month is great. I might try a 2 and 3 day juice fast somewhere along the line, but for now I am really content with my one day fasts. But as my body gets more clean, I think a slightly longer fast will be more beneficial.
How I broke my fast yesterday:
8 AM – lemon water
9-10 AM – half a Glowing Green Smoothie
11 AM Bowl of fruit
1 PM Light salad (as in, no nuts or too much oil) with only a small amount cooked starch
2:30 PM Snack Smoothie
5 PM Some strawberries (pre-Bikram)
7 PM Coconut water (post-Bikram)
8 PM Big salad with tempeh
11 PM Strawberries dipped in homemade chocolate dip
Contents of my lunchbox: mixed greens, lemon juice, pepper & salt (base), half a large avocado, half a carrot (+ I munched one while prepping), oil-based olives, broccoli/red cabbage sprouts, sundried tomatoes, sea veggie (salicornia cress), a few pieces baked sweet potato.
Coffee – Caramel Green Smoothie
* 1 1/4 cup cold water (300 ml)
* a few Romaine leafs (or other green)
* half a frozen banana
* big handful frozen blueberries
* one packet coffee mocha (or regular coffee)
* 1 T raw cacao powder
* 1 t caramel syrup
* 1/2 t vanilla extract
As always, blend water and greens first until smooth. Add powders and top with frozen fruit and blend again. I love making treats that are semi healthy semi not-so-healthy .
Tempeh – apple – beet salad topped with sprouts. I’m on a roll!
Dark Chocolate Dip (raw, no equipment required)
* 40 ml coconut oil (little under 1/4 cup)
* 60 ml raw cacao powder (1/4 cup)
* 1 T agave
* 1 t vanilla extract
Heat coconut oil au bain marie. Stir in cacao, agave (or other liquid sweetener) and vanilla extract. Use as a dipping sauce for bananas, strawberries, blueberries, etc!
As you can see I kept my food pretty light until dinner, which felt great. The energized feeling I got the day before from fasting lasted all day. Had I started out with a heavy breakfast, say oat bran, I think my energy would’ve dropped (not to mention the discomfort I would’ve experienced, even now I felt quite full all afternoon).
One last note: if you struggle with an eating disorder or any form of disordered eating, please don’t undertake a fast. For obvious reasons, but also because your system might very well be very acidic from stress, undereating, overeating, purging, over-exercising, etc, and fasting will release too many toxins into your bloodstream at once.
I hope this post was helpful, let me know if I missed anything! For juice inspiration, check my ‘daily juice‘ page!