Macro Monday: Some Thoughts on Fasting and Cleansing

Hi Guys,

I'm back from some time away visiting family & friends in my hometown. I had SUCH a blast catching up with with everyone, and I had so much fun attending the loveliest wedding! I definitely embraced the summer fun vibe, and drank more wine in those few weeks away than I have in the last 10 years put together...very out of character for me (in the last long while), but not so out of character for my younger-self (also formerly known as party Jess...she seems so far far away these days, haha). It was great though, and life's short, so why not?!

And here are some delicious eats from my visit:

I finally got to try  Frickin' Delights Donuts ! Donuts have never been something that I've craved, but Mandy's vegan donuts are SO FRICKIN' GOOD (seriously, they are) that I'd become a donut person for sure if I lived in the same city!! She uses the best & freshest local ingredients around!

I finally got to try Frickin' Delights Donuts! Donuts have never been something that I've craved, but Mandy's vegan donuts are SO FRICKIN' GOOD (seriously, they are) that I'd become a donut person for sure if I lived in the same city!! She uses the best & freshest local ingredients around!

I guess all that food & wine brings me to the subject of cleansing, and fasting (or lack there of). I've been asked quite a few times about various fasts, so I thought I'd do a quick post on my thoughts for any of you who are interested.

MM: Fasting & Cleansing

Extreme Fasting / Cleansing

I guess this could be a really short post, because quite honestly, I think that fasts and cleanses can more often than not cause more harm than good. But of course, it definitely varies depending on the cleanse and the fast. I have never personally tried anything so extreme as the Master Cleanse, or even an all-juice fast. I think that these kinds of fasts (often, not always of course) create much too quick of a change in body chemistry - these kinds of changes are usually impermanent, and often lead to future binging & weight gain, a damaged metabolism, and major eating and emotional health issues. Under proper guidance of course, these potential side effects could be reduced. But it is an area that I would tread very cautiously on. especially if you are feeling pretty healthy anyways. If you have a strong digestive system, be happy (yay!) and don't do anything too drastic, because you might permanently change and/or damage it, and my sad-belly history is begging you to reconsider. I also think the cleanse mentality of "good foods" vs. "bad foods" can be very destructive to our relationship to food. If you pay attention, you'll learn to know just how each food you consume makes you feel and you can choose your eats accordingly, allowing of course, for enjoyment. Remember, the dose makes the poison.

Cleansing vs. Healthy Eating

I guess I'm not so into "cleansing", because I do not consider clean natural eating or healthy eating to be a part of a fast or cleanse - but perhaps some people do. I guess often the recommended diet on many of those cleanses is one that appears to be a stricter variation of my regular day-to-day eats. If not eating much processed food, focusing on local veggies, fruits, and whole-grains and gentle protein, with healthy nuts, seeds, and oils means going on a cleanse, then hah! I guess I have been "cleansing" for a long long while unknowingly. The closest I have been to what I would consider a "cleanse" is simply to have chosen to eat a bit more simply, for a short chunk of time (eating lots and lots of brown rice amongst other things, perhaps adding in a few extra supportive herbs or remedies, and removing for a short period, a few things that I sometimes eat too much of!). But really, nothing very different at all from what I normally eat. And anytime I have thought about or leaned more towards what I feel like is the common fanatical "cleansing" mindset, it has stirred up negative eating thoughts and patterns that I am much better off without! Instead of drastic measures, eat good food and your body will feel good! Eating healthy natural food regularly is key to a happy body, mind & soul :)

Healing With Old-School Wisdom

I think the best natural break you can give your body (of course only when and if you need a break) is to focus on freely eating lots of cooked whole-grains and veggies with healing seasonings, herbs and oils, and some gentle protein of choice. This is probably more effective for most people than any mono-diet or strict cleanse, as it greatly reduces the possibility of damaging your metabolism, while still providing high quality yet easily digestible energy. You are still eating real food! If you're wanting to do a cleanse because of sickness or severe digestive problems, then (after seeing a doctor or professional, of course) perhaps try cooking your grains and veggies with extra water and for longer than usual, and even blending them into soft porridge. But nothing crazy is required here. I'm talking about simply removing the obvious junk, and giving your body a tiny break - even just for a day - probably all the things your body is asking for if you learn to listen closely. Let's just gather up all of our collective old school knowledge and apply it - when you were sick as a child, did you eat lots of heavy foods such as meat and dairy, or hard crunchy sweets like candy ? Probably not. I know at least for myself, when I was sick as a child, I was given plain toast, or soft rice, or porridge, and sometimes plain popcorn. Simple food. Easy on the belly. If you want to give your digestive system a break for a few days, then just scale back the variety of foods you're eating, and chew well your well-cooked simple food.

Our Natural Ability to Cleanse & Heal

Really, all this cleansing talk is super positive when you think about it in terms of what goes on without us doing anything. Our bodies are amazing! They will naturally cleanse and heal themselves, if we let them do it! Seriously, cells regenerate and heal all on their own. Sometimes letting our bodies heal on their own, means that we may need to assist by removing some obstacles out of the way. Here are a few of those obstacles that I can think of that can impede our bodies' natural ability to cleanse, process, and function optimally:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Lack of rest (too much go-go-go-ing)
  • Major diet imbalances - too much of any one kind of food or macronutrient (have you eliminated an entire food group, and instead are focusing on just one?)
  • Stress & Anxiety
  • Excessive alcohol, caffeine, drugs & refined sugar
  • A lack of necessary vitamins or minerals (get tested for deficiencies if you're not feeling well, & especially if you've recently changed your way of eating - also be aware of Vitamin D deficiency, fellow Northern friends).
  • Being too sedentary
  • A food allergy or more serious condition such as celiac disease or chrons.
  • Too much time in front of screens, and not enough time outdoors
  • A hormonal imbalance or other imbalance such as depression

I think a simple self-assessment of the previous points, and addressing any ones that stand out, will give you much more of a deeper cleanse than any actual "cleanse" you can do or take or buy. Why not send all your cells on a holiday, when you sleep well, get some gentle exercise, breathe in some fresh outdoor air, and eat supportive foods, while reducing for a little while, the frequency of foods that take a little more to process. Nothing harsh, just some TLC in the most simple yet deep way.

Final Thoughts

So would I recommend cleansing? No- at least not in the way that most people understand it (such as those popular very extreme cleanses like the master cleanse), and not for most people.

What would I recommend?
Try eating, as much as possible, high quality, wholesome, local & natural foods with minimal processing. In whatever shape and form those take, as long as they make you feel your best.

...And back to the wine conversation from earlier...obviously there has been no "cleansing" going on over here - it's summer, and I'm just enjoying and relaxing and following what my body is asking for right now and catching up on some rest - I'm not so spry as I was in my younger days, and those few days of, what feels like a lot of wine to me, took a bit of a toll :) Summer is a time of in season fun splurges along with the season's natural ample fruit and veggie bounty.  My favourites are fresh raspberries and cherries, and of course some iced coffee wouldn't be horrible ;)

I'd love to hear any of your personal experiences with "cleansing" both good & bad, or any of your thoughts on the subject in general! And...what's your favourite summer treat!?

Have a great week!
- Jess

Heya, spring cleaning!

Hi Friends, Happy Easter!

Heya, spring cleaning!

I'm back from a week of crazy yoga-subbing, and am full of spring time vigour and vitality!

My body was asking for a bit of spring cleaning, so that's what it's getting. Most people think I eat very cleanly, and truthfully, I eat mostly macrobiotically, all the time. But like many people, Christmas involved a few over-indulgences, and they seemed to have carried over into the first few months of the year. I think my sensitive system was carrying around a few too many of my winter treats in the form of sluggishness, dullness, and a few extra pounds.

With the chirping of little birds, more sunlight, and the beginning of April, everything clicked and I knew it was just time to clean up a bit. For me, this means a few obvious goodbyes for now. The main culprits were: decaf almond milk lattes, cocoas, dark chocolate, stevia, and little snacks here and there.

Step 1, and my biggest challenge and goal: To reduce my sweet tooth.

I was simply answering it's call far too often. Although I wasn't using actually sugar, stevia is just as bad for me, because it takes away a sense of needing to moderate, and adding stevia to little treats a few times a day was just firing up my desire for all sweet things. And while I love cocoa and dark chocolate, and they are wonderful "soul/emotional" treats, they should be TREATS, not a daily occurrence.


So, for the past week:

I have successfully had no stevia, no cocoa, no chocolate, no decaf espresso. I don't even miss them a bit, this means that it's 100% the right decision.

 And the best part is that already I feel great.

I have more energy, am sleeping better, want to snack less, and am already a bit lighter. Instead, I have focused on my usual 3 meals a day of whole grains, lots of veggies, a few roasted nuts/seeds, and some lentils and adzuki beans. 

For now, I have substituted decaf espresso with dandelion coffee, and i'm loving it. Dandelion is a great for detoxifying the liver---> perfect for spring! Liver & gallbladder are the organs associated with spring, so if we can help them clean out a bit, we'll feel great! Also, kukicha tea is just delightful.

I am satisfying my sweet tooth in a few ways:

using my willpower to ignore it (the best choice, obviously), a few tiny spoonfuls of rice syrup in my tea here and there, a bit of fresh fruit (apples, pears, & berries), a bit of carrot juice, and sweet baked squash. 

I am also incorporating some lovely spring foods:

lots of lightly cooked leafy greens and fresh herbs (dill, parsley). And some great macro-foods to help the cleaning out/lightening-up process: daikon, green onions, leeks, and turnip.

I'm helping my belly by taking a very high quality probiotic.

 I have a very high sensitivity to anything fermented (I get horribly bloated for a few days, which makes we wonder about candida), so for now am being gentle by avoiding miso and pickles. For this reason, pickles are the one area of macrobiotics that I don't regularly include, but i'm always wanting to. So that is a goal of mine, to slowly test the waters after my stomach feels great. But i'll wait for awhile, until I feel ready. 

The next phase of my spring cleaning:  To be the kindest I possibly can to my digestion.

This means a few things:  

Cutting out all unnecessary snacking in-between meals (which is hard because I teach at random hours). 

Get better at chewing, and not letting it slide sometimes. 

I'm also going to reduce/eliminate the amount of nuts and nut/seed butters

 I eat (mostly almonds, sunflower butter, and tahini, & very rarely peanut butter).

Reduce even further any puffed/popped/flaked whole grains like popcorn, rice cakes, rolled oats, and wraps (even though I don't eat them often at all, I hope to eliminate them completely for awhile). 

The snacking & chewing are things I hope to permanently change. The other foods i'm going to avoid just temporarily  because they are known to be harder to digest. 

Often when you reduce/eliminate things that you love or naturally gravitate towards, it feels like you are being mean to yourself, or you can feel deprived. But this time

I feel excited, inspired, and rejuvenated.

Eating this way is how I want to eat all the time, and if I need to be stricter for awhile to re-gain my sense of moderation, then that's what i'll do! In fact, i'm actually being kinder to myself! I also have a brown-rice fast in the back of my mind.

So, here's an example of a lovely quick spring-time inspired lunch that I had to throw together in 5 minutes:

Heya, spring cleaning!

Pressure cooked brown rice, roasted almonds, parsley, and a bit of carrot juice.

Not perfect, but getting there, and really quick and easy.

I've also been having this a few times a week, with my whole grains:

Heya, spring cleaning!

Grated daikon with a touch of tamari.

Are you doing any spring-cleaning in any sense? If so, what?

Any tips/advice for a macrobiotic spring cleaning?