Day two of a four-day fast finds me forgetting 1.where I left my coffee and 2. any coherent plan for the long Saturday ahead. I started fasting the day after Thanksgiving, a new moon, and am trying to stick with it until Monday morning. I’m not eating anything, only drinking fluids (mostly black coffee, cranberry juice, and lemon ginger tea) in attempt to clean out my troubled digestive system. I’m on an ancient Chinese method (as laid out in the herbalist’s Bible, “The Way of Herbs”), and have followed it closely, except for coffee, which is not part of the script. I have been taking the prescribed, horrible tonic of olive oil and cayenne pepper every few hours to draw the toxins and bile out of my guts, and this is harder than not eating. But I do feel differently afterwards, it brings a kind of a warmth to my empty stomach.
A little background is called for: I’ve had a nervous stomach for several years. I’ve been a vegetarian for thirteen or more years (I’ve lost track of exactly when I swore off all meat), and gave up milk and eggs about two years back. Weak stomachs run in my family, but I won’t say whom, as I haven’t asked for permission to talk freely about these individuals’ digestion. After a lousy bout with the H. Pylori bacteria in the fall of 2009, I lost forty pounds unintentionally and my digestive tract was permanently altered. (At first, I worried this was far too much information for a blog post, but decided to throw down nevertheless, in case someone with similar maladies reads this and finds some comfort). Despite eating very healthy foods and cooking a balanced dinner every night, I still have spontaneous episodes of losing breakfast, lunch or dinner, or just feeling crappy for the rest of the day. I should add I have a Yin constitution and keep mostly to a Yin diet—Yin people tend to be fragile, anemic, slow-pulsed, vegetable eaters with pale tongues. I don’t currently have health insurance, but even when I did, I didn’t find pharmaceuticals very helpful. Also they’re expensive and have irritating side effects. Keeping a food journal and having a medical marijuana card are the best treatments for my “condition”. (It doesn’t feel like a true sickness; maybe this is because I only see the effects when I’m slumped on the bathroom floor, exhausted and amazed by the strange new colors my guts have created).
And so I decided to try a four day fast, to see if giving the whole system a rest will help its overall well-being. I tried cleansing with wheatgrass for a few days last March, but usually the wheat grass came right back up, with interest. So this time, I’m following a five thousand year old prescription, and it’s not been easy. The hardest times of day not to eat are mid-morning and late afternoon, and I think this is a circadian fact. Since my brain is on the brink of panic, thinking it’s about to starve, it’s hard to concentrate on reading or writing, and I’m finding it harder to communicate. I don’t have a scale, so I don’t know if I’m losing weight, but my bones are poking out a little more than usual. More than any other thought or feeling, I keep thinking about people who are unintentionally fasting, out of necessity. The people who only get to eat once a day, or less, the people going hungry. To be constantly on edge, slightly afraid and forgetful; after two days I’m feeling that way, I can’t imagine going months like this.
This is certainly long enough for one piece. I’ll write another post on Monday, once I’ve broken my fast. To any family members reading this and freaking out, let me reassure you I’m okay, this is a voluntary experiment and my cupboard is well stocked, for which I feel very blessed.