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Why, you may wonder, would anyone pay $245 to eat as little as possible?
Fasting proponents claim that fasting is good for cleansing or "detoxing" the body and losing excess weight. Although it's not generally recommended for weight loss, the majority of fasters I met do it for just that purpose.
"I want to get rid of my excess fat," says Misty Saker, a 24-year-old nurse trainee, explaining why she joined the class. "I usually keep up with exercise, but this semester has been really insane. I end up sitting around not going to the gym, grabbing food more than I would want to, eating at places like Moe's and Willy's."
Misty is a size five.
A veteran of the program, Misty is emphatic about the benefits: "I did the 21-day cleanse in June and it was amazing," she beams. "At the end, I went to a wedding in Florida, and everyone said they had never seen me look so good. My skin was radiant, I lost weight and I felt absolutely great."
Inspired by Misty's testimony, Zinn rhapsodizes about the importance of fasting: "Fasting is a great oil change for the body. It is natural. All the animals in the world fast a couple of days when seasons change."
"Children stop eating when they are ill," chimes Misty.
"Exactly," Zinn says. "Adults don't realize it is not always healthy to eat."
Ideally, she says, everyone should fast for seven days, two to four times a year: "Fasting is important as it gives the glands and organs of the body a much-needed rest," she explains. "During an intestinal cleanse, the body expels digestive waste matter and mucoid layers. When cleansed, a well-functioning digestive tract can help purify the blood, lymphatic system and other organs and tissues."
So not only do we have to pay attention to what we put in our mouths, we have to monitor what comes out. She also talks about the importance of enemas. "As toxins come out of the bloodstream, they must be eliminated."
Zinn tells us to carry bottles of juice and water wherever we go, and several layers of clothing, in case our body temperatures plummet. "I wore sweaters when I was fasting in Florida in June," Misty reveals. "Everyone thought I was crazy."
When we complete the course, Zinn promises, our skin will glow, our eyes will brighten and our hair will shine.
Before I leave the store hauling two bagfuls of fresh juices, Misty and I exchange phone numbers. "You need a detox buddy," Zinn says. "Remember, you are swimming upstream as far as society goes."
The next morning, I feel buoyant after drinking the pineapple, orange and ginger juice. It has an impressive kick. Shopping for groceries, however, deflates me. As I scan the aisles of my local Whole Foods store, I find myself looking at food in a new way. Rather than casually hunting for groceries that appeal to my taste buds, I am obsessively scanning labels and worrying about the minutiae of what I put in my mouth. Are the chickpeas in the organic hummus raw or cooked, I wonder? Is there salt in the baba ghanoush?
I return home to the delicious aroma of roast chicken. Not only has my husband, Rob, roasted two chickens, but he is reducing chicken stock. He reassures me that he cooked the chickens not to tempt me, but to create space in the refrigerator for my juices. Miserably, I prepare a salad of spinach, carrots, green peppers, radishes and pea sprouts, and eat it without dressing. Each bite tastes one-dimensional. Switching on the television in a vain attempt to distract my senses, I am bombarded with fried chicken commercials.
During the Two-Day Detox, I am instructed to drink a gallon of watered-down grapefruit, orange and lemon juice each day. After five glasses, I do not feel hungry, just nauseated by the tedium of the taste. I cannot bring myself to drink the whole gallon.
I do not have the throbbing headaches most fasters complain about, but I feel fuzzyheaded and faint. On the second day of my Two-Day Detox, I decide to inquire about the effect of all this self-deprivation.
"It depends on how long you fast," says Nancy Anderson, a registered dietician with Emory Healthcare. "After 24 hours, you're probably not going to have the energy to do the things you normally do, or even the brain stamina to carry out a lot of complex tasks. After a week, your body would be lacking sufficient fiber, calcium, iron or protein."
After four days, I have already gone down a dress size. Does she recommend fasting to lose weight?
No X 2
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