Hope is being able to see light despite all of the darkness.
- Desmond Tutu
In 2009, former President Barack Obama entered the presidency when the country and world were in great turmoil and much discord. The economy was failing, people were without jobs, and businesses were closing. He took the nation's reins in an arduous hour, yet he spoke about hope and change. In his inaugural speech, he shared these words:
“Our journey has never been one of the short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those that prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long rugged path towards prosperity and freedom... With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter...”
While his speech was about the road to economic recovery, the language he used applies to any situation where something is broken and needs fixing - or a true, foundational change for a more sustainable and healthy future. We can repair some of the damage by making minor adjustments, yet other restorations take patience, time, and a lot of effort.
In relation to our bodies, health, immune systems, and even future generations, many of us can say we are in peril. For some, it is a chronic health condition that they have struggled for years to overcome; for others, it's the constant stress and anxiety they have wrestled with for decades, and yet others it's a toxic relationship or job that leaves them depleted, angry and unmotivated. Each of us has an area in our lives that likely is broken and needs healing. In times of uncertainty, these areas seem to rise to the surface and become more apparent. Now in the face of this global pandemic, many are recognizing the need for change. The question, though, is how.
The answer has always been here...
Take a look - pull the top 10 self-help books off the shelf, what do they say? Read through the various Holy Books and spiritual guidance literature. There isn’t much new out there. The information may be worded differently to speak a particular audience, but the premise is essentially the same:
Follow your heart
Don’t let fear stop you
Step out in faith trusting doors will open at the right time
Don’t be moved when things seem like they’re falling apart- it’s just life putting you in exactly the right place
Trust in a higher power
Why do people keep searching for a different solution?
It's simple. We humans often look for the path of least resistance. Remember the story about the almonds in a past health tip? There was healthy food right there - free and at their disposal - and yet they walked past it because it took too much effort to access the 'fruit.' Life may be speaking to you loud and clear about areas in your life where you need to make a profound, foundational shift. It's also possible that you may be thinking that the effort required is more than you can handle, or things are 'too far gone' to make a change.
I don’t always have the best eating habits....but it’s never too late to change old habits.
- Florence Griffith Joyner
The truth, though, is that it’s never too late. Our bodies have extraordinary regenerative abilities IF we take the time to treat them right. What is needed and how long it will take to bring healing in your particular situation is dependent on many factors; some of which include what you struggle with, how long you have ill-treated your body, your motivation, and willingness to bring about change, and to some degree, genetics. If you want to change, though, you have to start somewhere.
The work of restoration cannot begin until a problem is fully faced.
- Dan Allender
Too often we've become blinded to the chaos that reigns in our life....or we've just come to accept it as 'just the way things will always be.' Like this goat, we 'consume' garbage and tell ourselves lies that keep us in bondage to an unhealthy way of living. We may long for something better but trying to figure out the path to get seems impossible. There is so much information out there - often too much - so trying to figure out what will work for you is daunting.
This is when it's time to quiet the world around you and look within. You have to be willing to confront the truth and get to the roots of the issue. Often, though, this process pulls up 'toxic soil' and causes discomfort - sometimes actually making it seem as though things are worse. This is a normal and necessary part of the healing process. Until you face ‘your demons’ head-on, all other remedies are like Band-Aids - they cover the wound but don’t actually heal it.
Declare a fast
Fasting is a practice that has been around for centuries. There are many reasons people choose to fast - some medical, others spiritual, and others as a way to show honor or remorse. The purpose of a fast is to separate yourself from something to slow your body or mind down, giving it a chance to reset and heal. There are many types of fasts. Most think of fasting as a period of refraining from eating. Fasting can also be refraining from certain activities for a set period of time.
When it comes to food fasts, there are many options. Some people opt for a ‘total’ fast where they only drink water for the duration. Others may do a juice fast - a form of fasting in which limited amounts of fresh-pressed vegetable-based juices in and water are the only forms of nutrition to enter the body. The “Daniel Fast” - taken from the Bible (Daniel 1:8-14) - is one in which one abstains from meat, sugar, bread, alcohol, and any other processed foods. Intermittent fasting, where one refrains from eating anything for 12-16 hours, has recently received a lot of positive attention due to research findings showing it’s positive impacts on metabolism, lowering blood sugar, and lessening inflammation in the body.
The longer you fast, the more your body has time to restore, although doing a 'water-only' fast is not recommended for an extended period. A vegetable juice fast is a more ideal option as it brings nutrition to your body, pulls toxins from your system, and helps to reset your digestive system (if done right). Following the juicing with water helps to flush the toxins from your system. There are various options for extended fasts, but it is important to check with your doctor before embarking on any extended fasts, especially if you have any medical conditions or take medications.
Too often, we do not realize how much the noise around us starts impacting our stress levels and creating toxins in our bodies. Much of what we are ‘feeding’ our bodies when it comes to news, television, and even music creates fear, anxiety, and depression - especially in our young people. Even for those who only listen to or read the information on those ‘positive’ stations, the impact on our bodies can be overwhelming. Most of us operate on information overload and our bodies are screaming at us for some peace and quiet.
Non-food fasts are incredibly beneficial in these times. Identify an area life that you see you are either using too much of something or that activity/thing creates some tension in your life to determine what thing or activity to disconnect from. Common non-food fasts are technology, news, phone, music, and spending money. At times they include setting time apart from a relationship or people in general.
Often a combination of both types of fasts is most beneficial. A food fast helps to slow your digestive system down and give it time to rest. It also helps to flush out toxins and other foods that may be creating problems for your system. Combining this with shutting down unnecessary ‘noise’ - music, phone/computer/television - is like going on a mini-retreat without the high price tag!
The storm is inferior to the rainbow
- Matshona Dhliwayo
You should think of fasting as the catalyst to making healthier choices moving forward. It should be a time where you listen to your body and take note of how you feel, cravings you are having, etc. and then do some further inquiry/research to figure out what you need to do moving forward to address the issue. For example, if you are an avid coffee drinker and stop all caffeine during the fast, you will likely experience headaches, nausea, and crankiness. These symptoms result from stored up toxins being released into your bloodstream, working their way out of your system. If you genuinely want to heal and detoxify your system, you will need to find ways to work through the symptoms until your body has cleansed itself. If you can find ways of coping with the detoxification process's discomforts, at minimum, you will likely find you have more energy and clarity of mind.
Regardless of the type of fast you do, the transition from the time of fasting back to 'normal life' should be a slow process. This transition is known as 'breaking a fast'. I like to remind people that it's not 'breaking fast'. During a fast, your body has slowed down and begun to rest - it's just begun a healing process. If you abruptly go back and fill it with all the junk food, noise, and whatever else you were doing before the fast, your body will let you know what a mistake that was! Allow your body the time it needs to truly recover and continue to show you what it needs and slowly add back in certain foods, media, activities, etc.
As you transition from your fast, you may want to consider an elimination diet that extends for another 2 - 4 weeks. An elimination diet focuses on removing certain foods that are more likely to cause an allergic reaction or some intolerance. Below are some suggestions for foods to eat or avoid when transitioning from a fast:
Whole grains & legumes such as brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, beans & lentils
Fruits (moderation as even the natural sugar can be overwhelming to your system)
Water - lots of water—try adding lemon to your water, it helps keep you better hydrated
Herbal teas (no caffeine) (camomile, lavender, mint, cinnamon, ginger, lemongrass, etc)
Healthy fats—coconut oil, olive oil, flax oil, fish oil
Keep meats minimal and lean (i.e. chicken, turkey, fish)
Avoid for as long as possible Reintroduce the following foods one at a time
Dairy - Dairy
Carbs (bread, pasta, etc) - Eggs
Sugar - Peanuts
Caffeine - Wheat (gluten)
- Fermented Food
The foods listed in the second column are foods that commonly cause allergies or food sensitivities. Food sensitivities are often so subtle that we do not recognize our body has issues until we remove them from our diet for an extended period. You should reintroduce these items one at a time and wait 2-3 days before introducing a new food. As you reintroduce the above foods, if you notice bloating, headaches, stomach aches, or other general malaise after eating the food, you may want to explore further whether you have a sensitivity to that food.
As for breaking from a non-food fast, likely your body will let you know how quickly or slowly to reintroduce whatever you cut out. It probably will enjoy the downtime and start letting you learn very quickly when it’s had its fill!
Time spent in self-reflection is never wasted - it is an intimate date with yourself.
- Dr. Paul TP Wong
As part of this time of withdrawing and healing, you may want to consider spending some quiet time reflecting. Some people use this time to pray, meditate, journal, and/or connect with nature. Do something that is restorative to your mind and body and helps to process through any emotions that come up during this time.
If it's time for a change in your life, I encourage you, 'With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come.' Take that step to face whatever it is you've been struggling with, quite your world and listen to what your body needs to begin to heal. Then, 'let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter.'
Remember, there is nothing so broken it can’t be fixed. The journey may be long and hard, but it will be well worth it. Stay strong, build a support network, and have faith that your efforts are not in vain. In health, m