Fast Times

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I’m in the middle of a weeklong  Master Cleanse fast and just realized I have spent the last half-hour browsing recipes for golden lentil soup. I guess this would be a good time to collect my thoughts and feelings about how this fast is going so far. Time to refocus the mind!

Although this fast has become trendy among a certain celeb set, I first heard of the cleanse eleven years ago when it was still something only the crunchy hippies in our circle of friends were doing. And I mean that in the nicest possible way, of course.

After watching my husband go through the, um, process for a week, I decided to give it a try. While it’s true that you can lose a fair amount of weight (mostly water and…some other stuff), that wasn’t my primary motivation. I had just had my second miscarriage and was feeling pretty down about it. We had been trying for years and just couldn’t make it stick. When I heard about the cleanse I thought it might help me “clean out the pipes” so to speak, set the right conditions for trying to conceive again.

I should mention here that going into my first cleanse I was a stone-cold caffeine junky. I could easily have 6-8 cups of coffee a day. It really bothered me to feel so enslaved to something. I knew it would be hard to give it up for the fast, but I also knew that I wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t really need it.

As an added motivation to keep good eating habits after breaking the fast, I began reading Fast Food Nation while doing the cleanse. It proved to be the perfect combination to reset automatic eating behaviors and commit to following a healthier eating plan.

Fast-forward eleven years and three kids later, I recently found myself wanting to push that reset button again. Having just completed my first year of graduate school at age 44, serving on a local nonprofit board, going into my second year as co-president of the PTA at my kids’ school—and as mentioned in the previous sentence—mothering three children, I felt the need to make a change.

Over the past year all of this busyness and stress has led to poor choices. After being caffeine-free for almost two years, I succumbed to its seductive powers before an evening class one night at a campus cafe. Without it I don’t think I would have been able to keep my eyes open until 10:00pm, the time the class ended, or drive safely forty minutes to my home.

Despite keeping up a fairly active regimen of exercise throughout the first semester, continuing to eat mostly healthy foods, the stress, late nights, and caffeine consumption caused the numbers on my scale to begin creeping upward.  Drawn to snacking a bowl of nuts (healthy, yes; by the handfuls, no) almost by compulsion while working on school assignments, it really was only a matter of time before I could no longer button my pants.

Even though gaining weight did bum me out, it was how I felt that mattered most. And to be honest, I felt like crap. Or rather, to put it bluntly, how you feel when you no longer crap. Time to clean out the pipes!

I just happened to be shopping for groceries one day with my son when I saw the big bag of organic lemons to my left. As I sauntered down the aisle in search of ripe avocados, I saw a display of Grade B maple syrup to my right.  As sure a sign as there could be.

When my husband came home and saw the collection of lemons sitting on the counter he knew something was up.

“Oh, no…what’s going on?”

“Well,” I said, “I just don’t feel well. I need to flip the switch.” Having been down this road himself, he was nothing but supportive.

“Ok, then,” he said, as he walked away wincing.

The next day I got up bright and early and tackled the vile salt water flush. Imagine you are in the ocean with your mouth open and guzzling a quart of water in just a few minutes. It took all my resolve not to vomit it all back up. The purpose of this salty swill is to act like a plunger in your intestines, basically scrubbing you clean on the inside. I awaited the relief the hard-earned concoction would bring.

I waited. And waited. And waited. Not a damn thing happened!

I was furious! I decided to switch to the embarrassingly named Smooth Move tea for its laxative properties instead. Try buying that and a carton of toilet paper and see if you can maintain eye contact with the cashier!

What always surprises me about the cleanse is that you do not feel hungry while doing it. I feel mostly mellowed out (perhaps as a result of slowed synapse firing), and just more mindful about food. In the beginning, it was agonizing to make french toast for my kids and not eat any. Worse still was having friends over for a BBQ the first night of the cleanse and sitting at the table with my sad glass of spicy lemonade while they dined on some of my favorite summer foods: grilled chicken, salad, watermelon, corn-on-the-cob, berries and cream for dessert. Sigh.

But sitting here on Day 5 (a Wednesday) with two more days to go (although 10 days is recommended, I’m traveling on the 10th day and wanted to be sure to be back on a somewhat normal diet before getting on a plane), I marvel at how good I’m feeling despite the fact that I haven’t eaten any food since last Friday night. Kinda makes you wonder about all those times we think we’re just starving and mindlessly stuff our faces with whatever’s in reach, doesn’t it?

Which leads me back to lentil soup. I’ve been scouring recipes lately trying to plan out my meals for my first few days off the cleanse. No matter what it is I end up eating, I hope that I will be mindful while choosing it, conscious of  how it is made, what it can do for my body (for good or ill), whether or not I’m really hungry for it in the first place, or just using it to fill a void of some kind.

Well, enough thinking for now. Time to squeeze more lemons.