Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Fast That Was

Goji berry powder tea

Goji berry powder tea

My five-day, water-and-tea fast was both easier than I’d feared and less cosmic than I’d hoped.

It was easier because it appears that when the body goes into self-preservation mode, it doesn’t waste energy on things like anxiety—and I had so dreaded feeling anxious and not being able to assuage my anxiety with food. Instead, my body felt somewhere between wonderfully calm and less wonderfully becalmed.

I didn’t have a lot of extra energy of any sort—on Day 4 I was so cold that I turned up the thermostat  in my house from 65 to 70—but I was able to take walks, work on the computer, teach a taiji class, do my qigong practices, even do some yard work. I don’t think I could have functioned in a high-stress job or done any serious digging or hauling in my yard.

Periodically I would get hungry and think, “This is silly; I should just bag it and eat.” But I would have a cup of tea and the hunger would pass and I would be able to get involved in doing something other than thinking about being hungry.

I drank water, a cup of green tea every morning, herbal teas, sometimes with a bit of honey—and goji berry tea. The goji berry tea, which you see pictured here, really deserves a post of its own, but here we are so let me just say that it is unique. Continue reading

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To Fast or Not To Fast

When she heard I was contemplating a total fast, a nutritionist friend of mine said, although in words more gentle than these:

“At your age, why on earth would you want to do something that will cause your body to eat some of its own muscle? You’re already losing muscle mass just because you’re aging. What makes you think your body will hop to and immediately rebuild the muscle you’ve lost when you start eating again?”

I knew there was truth to what she said. Why, indeed, would I want to do such a thing?

I am already doing a type of fast—specifically a type of Daoist “bigu” fast where I don’t eat grains, dairy, sugar and alcohol. I’ve done it for three weeks now, and eating only meat and fish, nuts and seeds, and vegetables and fruit hasn’t been all that difficult; in fact, in some ways, it has been easier than eating the way I normally do.

I don’t know if grain-free, sugar-free eating has changed my appetite mechanisms or if it’s simply psychically easier to eat none rather than just one, but for the most part I have not craved candy, ice cream, bread or taco chips (and I dreamt of eggnog only once). I have two friends who have eaten this way for years as a means of weight control—and, indeed, this version of a bigu diet is a lot like the paleo “eat like a cave man” diet that’s currently a weight-loss craze.

If I decide to move on from this “easy bigu” fast to a five-day water-only fast, it will be partly in hopes that giving my GI tract a break could ease my digestive woes—but mostly because I’m curious: Am I capable of going without eating for five days (which is four days more than the prep for a colonoscopy)? How hungry would I be? How desperate? Might I discover something about my body or my spirit—or about life and the universe? Continue reading

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Thinking of Winter in Spring

Cilantro in spring

Cilantro in spring

Spring is such an easy time to resolve to live in harmony with the seasons.

Spring is a time for new growth, a time when the world turns more yang and we do well to turn more yang with it, becoming more active, taking more walks, starting new projects.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is also the season of the liver. In a wonderful article in Qi Journal on seasonal harmonization, Dr. Henry McCann writes that we should eat to support liver function with foods that have an acrid or mildly spicy flavor, including herbs like onions, garlic, cilantro, ginger, basil, fennel and dill. We should eat young greens, new potatoes, asparagus, eggs, wheat and  sprouted grains.

I can do this. I am happy to do this. Spring comes, and the daffodils bloom, and sometimes it stops raining and the sun comes out long enough for me to work in my garden. I want to take walks, and suddenly endeavors I was plodding through seem far easier and even fun. Continue reading

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I Had a Dream

Last night, six nights into my bigu fast, I had a dream that may, or may not, have spiritual significance.

Before I describe the dream, let me explain that bigu fasting is a traditional Daoist spiritual practice. “Bigu” literally means consuming no grains, but it can also mean not eating anything at all. Advanced practitioners of qigong are said to be able to stop eating and live off the qi they absorb from the environment for an extended period of time. Lesser practitioners like myself probably have to live off their fat.

I may work up to a five-day total fast—if I can figure out how to work it in amongst a string of Saturday evening dinner parties, one of them at my house.

For now, however, I’m doing a “bigu basic” spring cleanse. In addition to grains, I’m avoiding a number of substances long-ago Daoists would not have consumed anyway, namely dairy, sugar and alcohol. In other words, everything yummy. I eat meat, fish and eggs; nuts and seeds; and fruits and vegetables, including legumes. Continue reading

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