7-Day Juice Fast Part II: For the Love of Broth
"Let me get this straight, you're not going to eat anything for seven days?" asked my co-worker, incredulous at the prospect. A three-time veteran of juice fasts, I reassured her that it wasn't some cruel starvation camp, where fasters wandered about listlessly, drinking water in anticipation of the magical moment when food would enter their lives once again.
Our days were punctuated by communal activities like yoga, group circles, meditation and movies and every hour and a half to three hours, we were drinking a nutritional concoction prepared by Menlha. The juices ranged from downright tasty (beet juice, carrot, ginger, young coconut, apple and celery) to less than pleasant (spirulina, chlorophyll and the foul-tasting noni juice). Twice a day, we downed a blend of natural fiber and water to help absorb and move the toxins out of our systems. A schedule was posted in the communal lounge, so we could keep track of our busy days filled with anything but eating.
We gathered in Buddha Hall, the retreat's open-air yoga studio, to share our intent for the week. In addition to cleansing, Hani, the real estate broker from New York, expressed her desire to quit smoking during the fast. I mentally prepared myself for a week of cranky outbursts and roller coaster emotions, but in the end, Hani surprised us all. Many people do juice fasts as a sure-fire way to drop weight quickly. This was not the case in our circle. Although I struggle with an extra five pounds, what I wanted more than anything was a kick-start to healthier living. I wanted to set my digestive clock back to "clean," drop my Krispy Kreme-filled cravings and regain focus in my life.
I had been eating nothing but fruits, vegetables and legumes for the last ten days, in preparation for the cleanse. I knew from previous experience that this would make for a smoother transition to a liquid diet. Before beginning our fast the next day, Menlha prepared the ultimate last supper. She had been eating 100% raw for more than five years, and dished up a meal of lasagna (marinated zucchini takes the place of pasta) complete with macadamia nut cheese not unlike ricotta, fresh herbs and sauce, a salad of sprouted mung beans with wakame, almond cheese and dehydrated "crackers" made of flaxseed and pureed onions, garlic and veggies. This was eating raw -- cheese made from almonds (nuts = delicious), lasagna and crackers? I was in a flavor-induced coma.
She encouraged us to eat slowly and warned against drinking lots of liquids during meals as this dilutes the enzymes and acids necessary for digestion. I discovered that over-acidity is a dangerous condition that weakens all body systems. The more alkaline-forming foods we consume, the more electrolyte minerals become available to help build the body's immune system. Both processed and cooked foods are highly acidic, resulting in a weakened reserve and increased stress. Bottom line: try to eat at least 40% raw -- preferably fruits, seeds and green leafy vegetables.
To get our juices flowing in the literal sense, we began our days with lemon and cayenne pepper mixed in water. Jane, one of our fellow fasters who was a practicing instructor in Nosara, led morning yoga classes. She incorporated key elements from several disciplines and introduced me to "yogassage," perhaps my favorite since it involved a relaxing massage at the end. For one hour each morning, we focused on our breath as we stretched into sun salutations, sank into warrior pose and balanced in tree stance. I watched Jane glide effortlessly from one pose to the next and couldn't believe the energy she exuded. I felt fortunate to be fasting with such interesting people. Collectively, we shared a positive energy -- a crucial factor in such an isolated environment.
Hacienda del Sol can accommodate much larger groups; up to 24 people can sleep comfortably in the retreat's airy thatched-roof cabinas. With just the four of us roaming the lush grounds, the retreat had a Shangri-La feel. I felt safe, protected and free of any stress that would normally distract me. Between our schedule of juice and fiber drinks and twice daily colemas, I spent time reading, listening to music, enjoying mud baths and talking with my new friends. Although reluctant to live outside the moment (i.e. do any work), I appreciated the onsite Wi-Fi, so I could keep up on emails and squeeze in a little writing/editing each day.
Everybody is different, but for me, the first three days of fasting are the most challenging. My body quickly realized that something was missing, and although not hungry, I felt unsettled in my gut -- I was restless. Food plays such a central role in our lives, and I had suddenly replaced one of the highlights of my day with a foaming green smoothie. I remembered when I was backpacking with my boyfriend in Indonesia a few years ago, how our endless days of lounging in the sun were planned around potential meals and beachside snacks. Eating is such a social activity, but one I have put very little thought into these last two years.
My first three days of fasting passed rather uneventfully; I had good energy, high spirits and a relatively low grump factor. On Day 3, using a combination of joint-release, deep tissue massage and rebalancing techniques, Menlha treated me to an hour of restorative bodywork. A total lush for massage of any kind, I melted into the table as she used elbows, knuckles and fingers to work out the tension in my muscles. She finished with a sacro-cranial treatment, designed to release fluid deep within the tissues. Though not versed in the physiological process that took place, I felt a warm tingling sensation all over my body and left feeling lighter and taller.
Each night following a shot of lemon juice and parsley, we journaled and meditated in Buddha Hall. This hour directly preceded our evening meal of mineral broth made from celery, seaweed, garlic and potato skins. Never before has clear broth been so satisfying. Broth became the central theme in my earlier meditations. I focused on the cayenne pepper and the salt that would flavor my broth, its rich scent enveloping my senses, the feel of it on my tongue and the nutrients it would provide me.
And then the strangest thing happened. I woke up on Day 4 without my usual restlessness. I was not hungry. I drank my lemon-cayenne water dutifully, and bounced into yoga class with an extra spring in my step.