Sunday, March 11, 2007

Spring Cleaning - Day 2

The pain in my head was undescribable yesterday, but my headache finally faded during the last half of That Obscure Object of Desire, which I watched while laying on the couch last night. I was a bit exhausted by the ordeal but decided to call my dad anyway, which was a good thing; however we were on the phone until 3am my time. It's important to get adequate rest while fasting; when we hung up, I knew I'd kind of blown it as far as that goes. I also knew I was in for little sleep since I was planning on attending a meditation class at 10:30 AM. I missed the transition to Daylight Savings Time and the class, so I got some rest after all.

I decided that rather than mope around the house, I should get out and enjoy the stellar weather with which we've been blessed the past several days. I mixed up a batch of bug juice, transferred a diluted amount into my water bottle, then took off on my bike. I rode about 16 miles and burned about 900 calories over the course of two hours despite not having eaten for more than 24 hours, and it was great. With the headache lifted, I had energy to burn, though I didn't push myself to do so. I felt fantastic! We had clear skies, warm sun, and an occasional cooling breeze. The day was pretty much perfect. This is one of the indicators that fasting is healthy for me: I felt good mentally and physically.

Last night I started reading Stanley Burrough's The Master Cleanser for the first time. It's odd that in all these years I've never done so, and I'm sorry I haven't. Burrough's originated the recipe that I use, and his little pamphlet is chock full of ideas. I don't agree with all of it, but it's giving me a new perspective on what I'm doing. One idea with which I do firmly agree is his belief that "to be complete, a healing system must be able to cover the entire field of human experiences—physically, mentally and spiritually. Any system which denies any part of this trinity fails in its attempt to heal to the same extent to which it denies any part or parts." He goes on to admit that "many of the principles that are presented in this book may be completely contrary to everything you have believed and studied." He then urges his readers not to dismiss his theories outright but to use one's own judgement. This is pretty much how I live my life anyway.

For instance, I strongly disagree with his statement that honey "must not be used at any time internally." He believes that it raises the sugar content of the blood too high, too quickly, just like alcohol, forcing an overproduction of insulin, which then causes the blood sugar levels to drop below normal. Burroughs states that regular use of honey can create "constant imbalances," whereas maple syrup and cane sugar are balanced and don't affect the body in the same way. I'm not scientist or doctor, so I don't know if these statements are true. But whether or not "it is one of the most overpromoted, overpriced product[s] being sold to gulliable health foodists," as he claims, I also know that lots of non-gulliable people believe in the health benefits of honey, particularly raw honey as opposed to the cooked and filtered honey that is found in most grocery stores. I use honey from time to time, and I'm not afraid of it after reading his thoughts about it. I don't think having a spoonful of honey is the same as knocking down a shot of Maker's Mark or pouring a couple packets of sugar in my mouth. In my mind and in my own experience, nothing is worse than processed sugar, and even if it's not as healthy for humans as some people believe it is, I don't think honey is a health culprit of nearly the same level. By the same token, I would never deviate from using anything other than the ingredients Burroughs suggests for his recipe.

His version of his recipe is interesting. I was surprised to learn that one can use either lemon juice or lime juice, freshly squeezed of course. I've never done it with limes and am intrigued by the thought. I also thought that Grade A maple syrup was a total no-no. While the darker grades are preferable, he says that all grades can be used. Burroughs notes that freshly extracted sugar cane juice works well instead of the maple syrup, but it's hard to come by in the United States. Pure sorghum, or molasses is another "possible but lesser replacement" in the recipe. His original recipe calls for "medium hot water," though "cold water may be used as preferred;" and he doesn't indicate a preference for spring vs. purified (distilled) water. I've always used spring water in the past but bought steam distilled drinking water this time around. He calls for a lot less cayenne than I tend to use, but I have a higher tolerance for it than most people, and the recipe says 1/10 tsp (per 10 oz. glass) "or to taste." I like it with a kick.

A lot of my friends ask me what the cayenne is all about. In addition to warming the body, the cayenne is an adaptogen, meaning that it invigorates or strengthens the system. Its purpose in this diet is to break up mucous in the body and add trace amounts of the B and C vitamins. Though I said I never deviate, I do sometimes add sage to the recipe. This is not sanctioned in his book, but sage is a member of the mint family, and Burroughs does say that mint tea can be used occasionally during the fast for "a pleasant change and to assist further in the cleansing. Its chlorophyll helps as a purifier, neutralizing many mouth and body odors that are released during the cleaning period." So I far I smell as fresh as a rose (wink), but one's breath does tend to "rot" during a good fast. As for the sage, I think I used it during my winter fast because it helps to clear the sinuses and lungs. I don't think I will use it this time around because it also stimulates the appetite. Though it didn't trouble me, it seems counter-productive.

In general, the fast has been pretty easy so far. The biggest challenge was this afternoon when I hung out with D. after my bike ride. I joined him while he demolished a giant empanada. We were surrounded by people eating heaping plates of chicken and rice that smelled delicious. It was torturous, but I was in no real danger of caving. In the beginning, everything that's been sworn off calls your name, but it's mostly a mental game. Usually by Day Three, the temptations diminish. I have two things on my list for next month, though—an empanada and a shrimp and scallop crepe with tomato sauce. Dios mio!

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