Fasting is an important practice in many ancient traditions, used for purification and spiritual connection, but has carried with it the frankly off-putting associations of ascetism, denial and the mortification of the flesh. Today it is also recognised as having wide-ranging health benefits, but for many, our perceptions around fasting can prevent us from accessing it's powerful healing capacity.
If you love food, the way I do, you've probably sometimes had the feeling that you've loved it a little too hard and that some distance between the two of you wouldn't go amiss. Waking with a liverish nausea, experiencing heaviness and bloating, weight gain, inflamed skin or general exhaustion may be your body's way of telling you it needs some alone time in the relationship.
As uncomfortable as we feel when our bodies are in overload, the thought of cutting out the morning coffee that turns your brain on, the glass of wine at the end of a demanding day that switches it off again, or the piece of cake that just for a moment makes the world a sweet and dreamy place to be- can be far more uncomfortable. The perception that cleansing and conscious eating are about denial, scarcity and difficulty is enough to keep even those suffering from chronic illness from listening to the body's call for retreat.
But, just as a day out alone in nature or spent under the duvet with a book can bring us much needed relief- a cleansing programme can bring the same sense of space and restfulness to the body. Fasting can tune us in to a renewed honouring of the things that bring us balance, peace and a more enduring kind of pleasure, offering far more than it takes away. Changing our perceptions around the process is the deciding factor in whether a cleanse feels like a feast or a famine. Before embarking on a cleanse, remind yourself of these marvellous pluses.
Expect a radical reawakening of your senses to natural, explosively wonderful flavours and aromas. Over time our tastebuds can become dulled by exposure to highly seasoned food and artificial ingredients. During a cleanse, when your diet includes only fresh, live foods and juice, eating and drinking is experienced in an entirely different way. Post-cleanse, you may find processed foods far too sugary, salty or over-flavoured for your tastes. Tuning back into the body's natural intelligence, you are more likely to gravitate towards clean, natural foods and be even more delighted by them.
During a cleanse, the feeling of truly inhabiting your physical body can be heightened. You will become more aware of it's internal movements and processes, accessing a new sensitivity that allows you to quickly realise when your body is out of balance. With deep attention to your body's signals, you may even be able to discern the cause and the appropriate remedy for a minor imbalance, before it becomes a major one.
FEEL FABULOUS AND KEEP IT THAT WAY
Even more magical is the remembrance of how alive and brilliantly functional your body and mind is capable of feeling. Many of the irritating symptoms that we tolerate daily because they aren't painful or life-threatening disappear in days during a cleanse. With a plan for the mindful reintroduction of other foods in place post-cleanse, it is possible to pinpoint the substances responsible and consciously choose whether the trade off is worthwhile.
SEEK AND DISCOVER
For most people, cleansing with raw food or organic juices means significantly different food preparation techniques, using a much wider variety of ingredients than you might usually consume. A cleanse is best undertaken with an attitude of inventiveness and exploration (as, even the most delicious juice will lose its appeal if you drink it eighteen times in a week!) Look forward to an intensive discovery of new taste combinations, ingredients and methods that may transform the way you feed yourself and your family.
Before their first cleanse, participants often expect that they'll be weak with hunger and full of craving. Though occasionally this is so, most often, it's not. Raw food meals and juices are packed with nutrients, easily and more completely assimilated than those in heavier food like grains and animal products. Though raw food or juice is quickly digested, and unlikely to result in the lethargy and uncomfortable fullness we so often feel after a more ordinary meal; it is so nutritionally dense that we often require less but feel satisfied for longer.
Patterns around food are, for most people, deeply habitual- our meal times, serving quantities and food selection usually rely more heavily on conditioned response than on conscious choice or feedback from our bodies. We may eat without fully tasting our food because we are distracted, clean our plate even though we're already full, or consume more than we want or need to as emotional consolation. All of these behaviours rely on a lack presence in the moment. Fasting is a radical departure from our usual routine, an opportunity to observe and challenge habitual patterns and unhealthy behaviours and return, responsive, to the aliveness of our present experience.
FIRM FOUNDATIONS FOR CHANGE
When you make positive changes to something as foundational as your relationship to food, you'll begin to notice how the vibrancy and presence you feel begin to ripple outward. The choices you make daily with each mealtime play an essential part in building the body and mind you'll be living with for the weeks and months to come. Fasting provides a welcome reset, and can be a powerful ally and change-maker across all areas of your life.
Our cleansing programme at The Whole Truth Retreat has not been created around a long list of can't's or shouldn't's. We offer our cleanse in the spirit of exploration, discovery and delight. During a period of juicing or eating raw food, I am always astounded by the creativity, abundance and sensory delight that is mine, and I see the same surprised satisfaction in our retreat participants, no matter what their previous eating habits may have been. Join us at a future retreat and experience fasting as far more of a preference than a prohibition.