Friday, December 3, 2010

Zits, Juicing and the Better Me

I'm juice fasting this week.

I woke up the other morning with a huge, unfriendly zit from all that terrible food I've been giving thanks with for the last week.

A Thanksgiving zit. How lovely.

So, realizing the need for some detox, and anticipating that the bridesmaid's dress I'll be squeezing into in a couple of weeks for one of my best friend's weddings may be a little snug, my meals for the most part this week consist of juice. Beets, carrots, celery, garlic, jicama, leafy greens, citrus, apples, cucumbers and ginger are piled up in my refrigerator and on my counter tops awaiting their final destiny within the blades of my fabulous juicer. I think they're proud to go out of this world in such a way. It is a most honorable death.

I've been doing a lot of juicing this year. I read some books last winter and Derek got me a juicer for Christmas so I could do my own experimentation at home, like the mad scientist I wish I was. Well, maybe not the mad part. When I started my juicing odyssey, I needed to lose 45 lbs.

I've lost 19 as of today.

So I have 26 to go. I'd like to lose another 10 in the next two weeks. I know that seems a bit extreme, but juice fasting is one of the healthiest ways to lose weight. Your body shuts down the digestion processes for the most part after a couple of days of fasting because the vegetable and fruit juices you are drinking are very easy to digest and don't require a lot of energy. So your body is able to take that huge amount of energy that is usually used for digestion and apply it to healing itself. At first, you lose quite a bit of old fecal matter, and I won't be gross, but it's quite encouraging to feel the lightening of your body by getting rid of old waste that has been accumulating in your intestines.

Then, because you are getting all of your nutrition from raw foods that are full of wonderful enzymes, your body starts to attack it's fat. Quite a bit of the toxicity in the human body is trapped in our fat. So as it is burning through the fat, causing you to lose more weight, it is releasing those trapped toxins and they are able to escape your body through your skin, saliva, stool, and sweat. Often you will notice that your body smells funny, your tongue feels coated and your skin feels funky. This is all the result of toxins making their way out of your body.

As the fast goes on, and I don't recommend doing more than a day to start with, and then moving up from there, you feel better and better. Often while I'm on a juice fast, I sleep phenomenally. My sleep is deep, restful and healing. I've also noticed that I have really good ideas when I'm on a fast, maybe because my brain is able to focus better, and I have incredible energy. My skin starts to glow on about day 2. Prior to this week, the longest juice fast I've done was 3 full days. I had amazing results. I lost 10 lbs. and have kept it off. I felt so much better after I had done it, not so sluggish and foggy. That optimistic and healthy feeling hasn't left me since I've started juicing so much.

This week I'm doing a five day fast. Fasting is so incredibly good for you. There are excellent benefits to be won not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well, by practicing regular fasting. It gives your body and digestive system a chance to rest and repair itself and gives you an opportunity to go without for awhile, brightening your perspective and inviting a whole myriad of healthy gratitude for the amazing body that God has given you. We are "fearfully and wonderfully made" it says in Psalm 139:14, and for me, juicing and juice fasting has been life-changing.

One of my biggest quests for this year as my children went off to school and I was left home alone during the day was to get healthy. I had gained about 40 lbs. over the last three years from when I was at my healthiest in 2007. Back then, my boys were babies, which required all kinds of work but for some reason I was able to keep a pretty regular running schedule and ate plenty of healthy foods. Derek and I were even able to somehow manipulate our schedules to include running some 5k's.

But as a result of some hard financial times due to some very unexpected and quite expensive home repairs and the crash of the housing market in Florida (and many other states too), we had a pretty stressful year and I did what I always do when I'm stressed out: I began to eat. I ate and ate and ate. Salt n vinegar chips with hot sauce, which is my favorite evil snack, tons of refined sugar and white flours and rices with heavy fatty "comfort food" sauces, frozen dinners, Chinese takeout, pizza, and on and on until, whaddyaknow, I had gained 40 lbs.

So frustrating. Talk about self-hatred. Not only was I disappointed in my inability to handle stress in a better way, especially when I knew better from all the health, fitness and nutrition books I'd read to get there in the first place, but I was mad at my lack of willpower. I couldn't run without breathing like an asthmatic. I couldn't eat healthy food without feeling it was the beginning of a long diet back and I didn't know if I had the resolve to do it again. I couldn't shop for clothes without leaving the store feeling like a fat lard and an abysmal failure. I started hating myself. Then I started lying to myself. I pretended it didn't bother me that I wasn't the best version of myself. For a long time, almost two years, I just gave up.

Sometimes starting is the hardest part of a journey we know we are meant to make.

But I truly, deeply want to be all that I am meant to be. I know it's not super spiritual to be ultra concerned about my physical health, but what I put into my body is an indication of the health of my mind and my spirit. After all, God made us physical beings, so while it's not the most important thing to be physically healthy, it is important. How can we expect to fulfill the calling and purpose He has soaked each one of our lives with if we don't have the energy, stamina and health to work hard at it?

I was putting crappy food into my body and acting as if I were a martyr for being overweight. Maybe you've done this too? Every time I would look in the mirror I would tell myself how ugly and fat I looked, but then I'd start to mentally list and catalogue all of my grand excuses for why this had happened, justifying my own unwillingness to move in the direction of change, however small.  Every time someone gave me a compliment, I would cement into my brain the exact opposite message they had given me. They'd say you look nice and I'd think but I don't look great. My perfectionist tendencies combined with my self-torture made me a walking time bomb of negative criticism.

So I don't write this to point fingers, or act the know-it-all about health. I just want to be honest about my struggles, hoping that someone out there is given a little more encouragement or inspiration to take that next step in their own journey. Juicing has changed my life. It has helped me to see the energy level that is possible for me and allowed my body to get rid of the toxins that were making me sick and tired all the time.

It has helped me to better live my life, and though I'm not there yet, 26 lbs. from now I hope to have a huge sense of accomplishment and the energy and rest to keep up with the work required to make my dreams a reality. I know, with the grace of God as my constant companion and the willingness to work these life issues out daily for myself, it is possible to be, in every category, the very best version of myself.

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