Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Day 5 – 14 February 2013

Happy Valentine's Day! I thought I could sleep in and have one more relaxed day before officially (ahem) breaking the fast, but no, work emergencies call me out of bed. During 4 hours of work, I'm too busy to think of drinking, or eating, or anything.

Now it's almost 2 pm and I'm confused. I thought I would break the fast today, but I feel great – energetic, no grumbly tummy, not cold any more, no evil monsters in my mind. The official formula goes: eat lightly for 1-2 days, then 5 days of complete fasting, then 2 days eating very lightly and slowly again. If you start shovelling crap into yourself after the cleanse, there's no point doing it.

The sun is shining! Yes, in London. Time to have a tomato juice and go out! On my afternoon walk, I pick up food. I decide not to break the fast with an apple, but with something I have been craving all week and is light and easy to digest: a simple miso soup and a small bowl of rice.

Around 5 pm, I finally, properly, break the fast, eating ever so slowly. And yes, this rice tastes much better than yesterday's – nourishing, clean, and even sweet all on its own.

Have I achieved what I wanted to? Yes and yes. I wrote some things on my list which obviously take a longer time to become a routine again, but I feel fresher, more clear-headed and have tons more energy than before the cleanse. It feels good to not only know, but experience that your body and mind can go much further than you think.

However, like on my previous fasts, I didn't really have the feeling that my body is being “cleansed”. I still think this is complete rubbish. Surely changing up your routine and the way you live for a few days also influences your body, but my organs work well. I'm not a container for toxic waste.

Will I do it again? Definitely, whenever I feel I need a little kick-start in life. However, I will probably stick with a maximum of 3 days next time, because the physical effects that are supposed to kick in after day 3 just never happen to me.

Day 4: Wednesday, 13. February 2013

So all the online people and books tell me I should be over the moon today, but I'm not: I'm cranky and bored, and even the signs of detoxification are gone. The only thing that keeps me going is the fact that today is Ash Wednesday – the day of the year that millions of other people worldwide start their fasting period. I hope that tomorrow's special event, Valentine's Day, does something similar to me, but I think I will break the fast tomorrow afternoon or night. I can do another night today, but I don't think I want two more of these sleepless nights full of self-doubt and fucked up dreams.

During this cleanse, the evenings are truly terrifying experiences where I get to meet the worst sides of myself. I'll spare you the glimpse into the abyss of my mind. Maybe all this means my mind is detoxing, as well?

The mornings are filled with yoga, tea and work, the afternoons with a little more work and lots of relaxing: absolutely easy, but I start feeling a little numb. As I get ready to meet a friend in town, I catch my reflection in the mirror: does my skin seem much clearer, my eyes a lot brighter? Or is that just the expensive Clinique cream I recently (stupidly) splurged on? Usually, I put on a little make up when it's for going somewhere fancy or evening entertainment. Today, I skip it. I feel energetic, happy, accomplished, ready to take on the world. Not all is great, though: I'm still really cold today, but not as much as yesterday, and I've been strangely bloated all day, although I didn't eat anything that could cause it. Except... that I've been drinking too much, and way too fast to keep the evil monsters away that tell me that I want to eat. Not need to, want to.

After a cup of tea and a depressing Chilean movie (during which my stomach is so loud the woman next to me stares at me) with the best Porteño in town, the unthinkable happens again: I eat an onigiri, not because I'm hungry, but because eating is fun and that Argentine guys is just so wonderfully convincing.

A few grams of rice and seaweed, is my cleans spell now broken? My stomach seems happy now. My tastebuds? Somehow, it's not a rewarding experience. People speak of 'heigthened senses', but the rice just tastes like nothing.

(Note to self: don't buy any more onigiri in London, they're all crap. Make your own or stick to Japan, or at least Düsseldorf Japantown.)

I get back home around 10 pm and keep reading until... 3 am. Still not really
tired, I force myself to go to sleep. Definitely not over the moon.

Day 3: – Tuesday, 12. February

I wake up in better spirits, but with a funny taste in my mouth and a mild headache. I'm also a little cold and my back hurts. So there is some poison in me, after all! I manage a few half-assed sun salutations and get on the Google, where everyone agrees that the 3rd day of not eating is the hardest, because on this day, the body finally switched into self-support mode.

It think it's a really good thing to know that your body, just as you are now, is able to go on by itself for weeks and weeks. A very empowering thought on many levels!

Anyhow, I still have this headache, and as people advise for any kind of problem during the cleanse, have another go with the tiny micro-enema. Surprise: an hour later, I really feel brilliant, except for still being a little cold (but to be fair, it is a really cold day today).

At 1pm, I lie down for the magical detox hot water bottle over the right side of my belly (“to help the liver detox”) and wake up... 3 hours later. So that's that for going into town today. Instead, I go for a walk around Little Venice and yes, feel a little light-headed. On the way back, I stock up on juice at the Sainsburys, where lots of ads ask me “How would you like your pancake?”. Hm, pancake...

When I get back, I tackle a project I've been meaning to accomplish for the last two months: mend some clothes, and above all, figure out if I still really want to wear all that stuff that has been sitting in suitcases for the last two years. Turns out mending doesn't take that long, and yes, it all still fits me and I like it. After all, I cleaned out 90% of my belongings before I first left, and it seems things have not changed all that much since.

As the sun sets, my self-pity grows into a giant monster that tells me “You can stop anytime!”. Trying to study Japanese doesn't help, so I bury myself in a marathon of watching “Tatort”, this time the Zurich edition. But the Swiss are not great at doing crime fiction, and it doesn't help that every single German show I watch seems to have a carnival theme and people are eating lots of sweets.

I then turn to the worst thing you can do: reading food blogs and checking cookbook reviews on Amazon. As a consequence, the voices in my head get so loud that I nibble on a flapjack from my Graze box, which is luckily divided into three parts. After one third, I stop and pity myself and finally fall asleep around 2 am. Not a good day at all.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Day 2 – Monday, 11 February 2013

I wake up at 7, still – or again – full of energy. It might sound like a total paradox, as I'm giving my body barely any calories, but think of it this way: around a third of your body's energy is usually used for digestion (pretty ineffective, if you ask me...). When there's nothing or very little to digest, that energy is set free.

… and used for a miserable 20 minutes of yoga in which I establish that my upper back and shoulders are tense like those of a 55 year old civil servant. This is what happens if you drop yoga for over a year, even after 8 years of daily practice.

More tea and it's back to work, which seems to flow much faster than usual. My concentration has definitely improved and I get the same amount of work done in 3.5 hours that would usually take me 5-6 hours. It's noon and my work for the day is done!

Yet, I still don't feel any effects of 'detoxification'. After my lunch - Whole Foods Parsnip and Ginger soup - I lie down with a hot water bottle on the right side of my stomach, which supposedly helps to expedite the liver functions and flush out all the toxins.

I can only nap lightly as my flatmate is having an operatic Italian crydown with her boyfriend in Rome over the phone (really, I'm sure he can hear her well without her shouting into the phone), so I flee to Tesco to buy some more tea, and yes, a Starbucks Espresso (at Starbucks, not Tesco). Caffeine used to be forbidden for any kind of cleanse, but recent studies show that a little, without the dairy, is only beneficial. So much for 'toxic' coffee.

The rest of the afternoon and early evening is spent with another round of yoga, another guided meditation and a lot of reading.

At night, I have another scrub and shower. And then, doubts start creeping in on me. I'm feeling great, but also feel that I have already achieved most of my goals (on Saturday, I wrote down a list of things I want to achieve, which seemed crazy at the time. 48 hours later? All done). But I don't seem to be detoxifying. Why am a doing this? Plus, my feet are really, really cold. While I plot to break the fast, I somehow fall asleep just past 11 pm.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Day 1: Sunday, 10 February 2013

So much for "fasting when spring is coming"; London has decided to give me sleety rain instead. The first thing I do today is actually clean the flat, not cleanse myself.

Then, I make myself a cup of peppermint tea and make friends with the mini enema. Things work out well. I have lots of work to do, so there is not much time for any intense feel good private wellness or woo-woo. In between, I have a tablespoon of honey (by the spoon, not in tea); it's meant to be “therapeutic”, but mostly, it's to prevent your blood sugar levels from crashing (which mine love to do and turn me into evil jittery bitch). I also cut a lemon (the organic ones from Sainsburys that go mouldy so quickly...) into eights and suck on them during the day. This is meant to give your body vitamin C and those invisible mini-micro-nutrients. Mostly, it's good to prevent the taste of well, nothing, in your mouth.

You are supposed to create a routine during the cleanse, but unless you can manage to not work at all, that won't work, as much as anybody would love to spend their entire days napping and being massaged with fragrant organic oils.

So today, I quickly make my fasting 'broth': 2 potatoes, a carrot, a quarter of an onion and two sad looking spring onions are boiled in water for 30 minutes. And nope: you don't get to eat the veg, just the resulting stock, which is eaten slowly and meditatively. The cleanse gurus say you shouldn't add any salt, but medicinally, this leads to nothing but a total lack of any taste (unless you have issues with your body retaining water, then going salt free would be the solution), so I add a little bit of salt and pepper. Presto: it doesn't taste half bad!

So far, I don't feel hungry at all, but the big challenge awaits: I have been invited to meet friends for a matinee of “Jiro – Dreams of Sushi”. 1 hour and 16 minutes of sushi. When 10 minutes into the film, my stomach starts to grumble, I have the Innocent smoothie I brought along, and magically, I am not longing to EAT ALL THE SUSHI THAT EVER EXISTS. Not even when after the film, I manage to convince my friends to go to Whole Foods instead of the pub. Irishman manages to find the unhealthiest food in the entire shop and chomps down on fried chicken while I have a hot spiced tomato juice (which also tastes like the most delicious concoction on earth now!). As a short online search reveals, lots of people actually do eat the veg from their stock, pureed really finely – so I decide to take two pots of lovingly handmade organic vegan soup home with me as my friends hit the pubs.

For me, surprisingly, the hardest part of the cleanse is to say “No” to much of my London social life, which always seems to involve some kind of food or drink. Wednesday, there's a big communal lunch with Canadian vegan icon and cook book author Sarah Kramer, and I'll have to miss it. Food is a massive part of my life: I love to buy groceries, to look at recipes, to cook, to eat, in or out. I even read cookbooks before going to bed.

But tonight, instead of going out in Soho, I go back home, work a little more, have a shower, scrub all the dead skin cells off my body, lather on lots of coconut oil and then try a guided meditation. Aum, surprisingly still not hungry at all.

I try to go to sleep at 11 pm, but am full of energy. Funny, considering I gave my body a maximum of maybe 300 calories all day. Sometime around 1 am, I fall asleep.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

The big German cleanse, Day 0

I haven't posted here in a long time, and am not sure if anyone is still reading this. The big disappointment: I will not be posting about food for the next week. Instead, I'm writing about NOT having food for a week.

For a variety of reasons, I'm doing a cleanse, but not one of the usual 'crash diets' or 'Dr. X' Amazing Juice Wonder'. Sticking to my roots, I'm doing a German 'fast' losely based on a German doctor named Buchinger, who called the thing “Heilfasten”. A healing fast, literally, because it was first used in his clinic for people with chronic diseases. But there are many benefits for healthy people, and it's very easy to do at home.

In Germany, this is not really a woo-woo kind of thing; lots of people fast for a couple of days or do this type of cleanse in one variation or the other (there are no hard and fast rules), often twice a year, but mostly during Lent. It's not a method to lose weight - you might lose some during the time, but it's mainly water and you'll put it back on in no time after starting to eat again.

Will it detoxify my body? I'm not quite sure. The last time I did this, I did not experience any of the supposedly typical symptoms of toxins being flushed out of your body (e.g. furry tongue, bad breath and general smelliness, headaches or dizzyness). I was a young and health-conscious vegan at the time, though, with daily yoga and 8 hours of swordplay training in the Aikido dojo. There's no medical evidence that the body builds up toxins, but many people swear the cleans helps do detoxify their bodies, especially those with asthma and allergies. I don't believe that the body will build up toxins that it's unable to cleanse by itself, but let's see if two years of eating animal products have made my body toxic.

People report about experiencing the fast as a deeply spiritual experience, many speaking even likening the feeling to being high. Again, I'm not so sure. I'm not a particular spiritual person, though I have no issues with meditation and yoga. Replace 'spiritual' with 'psychological' and much of this stuff makes sense.

But really, the cleanse doesn't have to be for anything like this.
I returned to London after almost 2 years of travel, and I'm happy to be here. Work is going well, my social life is going well. Yet, I feel strangely unsettled, have trouble concentrating, trouble sleeping, eat way too many animal products, waste a lot of time on the internet instead of doing things that are important to me, that I enjoy and benefit from. Telling myself all these things doesn't seem to help. I work from home and could go out any time, but I barely do so. My yoga routine has completely disappeared.

I need a spring cleaning for my mind, and it probably won't hurt my body, either. I need to push the stop button and instead of spending so much time buying food, cooking food, eating food, going out to eat, focus on things that are important to me. Maybe even push the reset button and get a new start.

I meant to start the cleanse from Monday, but after a boozy night in a lovely country cottage, I don't feel like eating much today. Maybe a good reason to get started today already.

Day 1 of the cleanse simply a day where you eat lightly, with lots of fruit and veg and no or little animal products.

And get the equipment all ready!

The equipment:
Hot water bottle and micro-enema. Sexy times, I know!

As your digestion mostly comes to a halt during the fast, it's really important that you... well, cleanse your colon first. Otherwise, you'll keep feeling hungry as your stomach thinks the digestion keeps going (and some say the undigested stuff in your gut can lead to re-toxification. Whatever). This isn't as nasty or terrible as it sounds. Many people take Epsom salts or similar to create artificial diarrhoea. The medical industry has also invented these nifty mini enemas, which are as easy to use as a suppository. Because I refuse to drink something that tastes nasty, when drinking is all I will be doing the next days.

A propos drinks: There's no need to get any fancy stuff. Many people make their own juices, but honestly I can't be bothered and use organic proper juices instead. What I will be doing myself this time is to cook my own vegetable stock each day, but I've done it with storebought ones before. Get good quality, organic stuff, without added sugar or nasties. Smoothies and very thin, finely puréed soups are ok, too (that's my take on it at least).

The outline for the fast recommends that you only drink a certain amount of juice and soup, but I'll disregard that one – if I am not eating, I at least want to decide what and how much I'm drinking (and I don't fancy fruit juice too much anyway, so probably won't experience any sugar shock).

So in addition to fruit and vegetable juices and “soup”, the menu will feature herbal teas, water, fresh ginger tea, plain miso soup, and if things get hairy, the leftover pumpkin soup in my freezer. Also, lemon for the vit c and against the general taste of nothingness in your mouth.

My last meal: a salad of mixed green leaves, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin seeds and a tiny bit of 'Drunk Goat' hard goats chesse (next time, Deborah!)

Let's get started.

P.S.: The girlfriend is worried that I might be 'starving' myself. Not so – they human body can go without solid food for a remarkably long time, and with this kind of fast, you give your body about 300 calories a day and all the minerals and vitamins it needs.Unless you are very underweight, pregnant or suffer from a severe chronic disease, it's perfectly safe.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

On the move... in every way!

So, yeah, that food blogging thing. I still love it and read and comment on people's blogs, but writing about things myself is a bit silly as at the moment, I don't really have a kitchen. When I do (as in Osaka), I'll post food and recipes, but to be honest, right now, TRAVEL is my life. So, not to annoy anybody here, I have started a new blog here (it will be pimped in the next weeks, right now it's pretty much a blank canvas for posts - it has some posts though).

I will still post here when I actually do some cooking or foodie things, but I'd be very happy to see some of you follow me over there and through Asia ;)