Traditionally during springtime, many cultures around the world would incorporate gentle fasts into their daily routine or partake of gentle purgatives and cleansing bitters to remove the heaviness and excess left over from the winter season.
Fasting can be a great way to remove the Dampness (濕) that often results from overindulging in heavy and sweet foods during the chilly months of winter. With so much information about fasting out there, it can be hard to understand which program is best for your body. The most important thing to remember is to pay attention to your body and remember the goal for your fast--the removal of Dampness. The more symptoms you have below, the more Dampness you are likely to have:
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The True Fast:
In this fast, no food is eaten for an entire day or more. This plan is best suited to those individuals with most or all of the above symptoms, especially if performed for more than a single day. Generally speaking, three days is a safe maximum. Do NOT go beyond three days without food unless you are experienced with this style of fasting. Drink water when thirsty only. (Often people tend to overdrink during fasts, which can cause too strong a cleansing effect.) Avoid excessive physical activity during this type of fast.
According to folk wisdom, the Stomach is the second Heart and this is seen to be true as many people eat impulsively according to their emotions: either to stuff down bad emotions such as sadness or to fill a void caused by loneliness. In these individuals, Dampness builds up to occlude the issues that are bothering them or acts as a substitute for the deficiencies in their life. Hence many people can be addicted to certain types of foods such as sugary sweets. They use these foods in order to lift their mood because they are depressed in their personal life and/or work life or otherwise feel disconnected from society, friends, or family.
Fasting can cause the same types of withdrawal symptoms as withdrawal from any other addictive substance. So remember, when it is tough, just stick with it a little longer. Once you get through the cravings, the “hangriness”, and the anxiety, you will slip into a state of Peace and Clarity and these strong desires will be lessened.
It often helps to tell yourself that you intend to fast for three times the length of time you actually intend to fast. This way, the mind and body understand that they need to appropriately apportion their energy and resources in order to last for that extended amount of time. This causes less anxiety and fewer cravings during the fasting process as you aren’t expected to be relieve from your, in this case, “beneficial” suffering for a long time.
Lastly, the MOST important thing to remember about this fast is to come out of it slowly. Do NOT “pig out” or eat junk food right after you break your fast, otherwise all your work will have been for naught. (This is a common barrier to receiving the benefits of fasting.)
The Partial Fast:
This fast is a modified form of the above, where you skip one meal per day for a period of five to seven days. According to ancient wisdom, it is best to eat a large breakfast, a fine lunch, and a meager dinner. If your eating habits are discordant with this, then I suggest you try aligning yourself to this way of eating and notice the changes it has on your emotions, perceptions, and body. The ideal meal to cut out would be dinner as the body naturally cleanses during the nighttime. By skipping this meal your body will have fewer things to sift through and can focus more on cleansing.
This fast is best for those starting out or for those with difficulty following through and completing their goals. Again, come out of this fast slowly and resist the urge to overeat in the evenings. Let your “suffering” benefit you.
The Juice Fast:
In this fast, you will substitute one to two meals per day (ideally dinner or dinner and lunch) with a therapeutic vegetable juice. Juices must be freshly made from organic vegetables only and NOT from concentrate or non-organic sources. It is best to not perform this fast if you cannot get the proper ingredients. Individuals can safely perform this fast for two weeks to a month, depending on the number of meals skipped, the juice taken, and the body's response. General dosage: 2-3, 8oz. glasses per “meal”.
Consider the following juices:
- carrot (gentle - neutral) – eye issues such as floaters and poor vision
- celery stalk (gentle - cool) – urinary issues such as retention and gravel, anxiety
- beet root (gentle - neutral) – indecisiveness, constipation, difficulty staying asleep
- raw potato (medium - cool) – bad breath, stinky bowels, general acne
- wheatgrass (strong - cold) – obesity, chronic toxicity, lack of direction in life
this does not help to lose weight per se; it helps neutralize the toxic load that comes with obesity
- dandelion greens (strong – cold) – effects of alcoholism, irritability, red, oozing genital sores
Always listen to your body and work to overcome your challenges. Push yourself just a little more than you think you can handle. Remember to come out of fasting slowly and develop good habits after fasting so that you can enjoy the gifts of clarity, focus, and new perspective into the weeks and months ahead. Cleaning is tough and it makes a world of difference!