Fasting for Life

Sharing my notes on the 10-day Master Cleanser

Friends will often ask about my fasting experience and want to learn more about what I know, and how I go about it. So, I send them an email with the information below. Figured it was time to just post it all here for anyone who might be curious.

Every year I do a 10-day fast. This type of fast has its detractors with some who will assert that it is not safe or that it provides no health benefits. After 18 years, I can state with a degree of authority that the fast is safe and that most of what you’ll hear against it stems from anecdotes that can usually be attributed to breaking the fast improperly or not following the schedule.

As far as health benefits go, I should state upfront that this type of fast isn’t for weight loss. Yes you will lose weight, but unless your habits change, all of the weight you lose will come back after a couple weeks. That being said, new studies are showing an incredible upside for fasting. I’ve provided summaries of a few of these studies with source links at the end of this post.

Fasting is one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done. It’s a reset button for your body and a huge confidence-booster. It reminds you that YOU are in control. After Day 3 your body enters ketosis and you feel amazing. The world slows down and you become very mindful. One of the things you’ll notice is how sensitive your sense of smell becomes. Also, you’ll sleep like a baby. 💤

One of my favorite things to do while fasting is to visit Whole Foods and just admire all the food, taking in all the different scents from the various departments. This can be a very instructive time. Take note of different foods and pay attention to what cravings you have. You may find that foods you used to love will become unappealing and other foods you weren’t very interested in become very appetizing. Your body is trying to tell you something, and you should listen!

You can read more about the Master Cleanser HERE, but over the years I’ve made some adaptations. Here it is:

  • Organic lemons (Buy 20 to start. You’ll buy more.)
  • Real maple syrup (Dark)
  • Cayenne pepper pills
  • Cinnamon pills
  • Smooth move tea (or other senna tea)
  • Sea salt
  • Filtered water (NOT distilled!)
  • Every night, drink senna tea at bedtime.
  • When you wake up, drink a full glass of water to rehydrate your body.
  • Every morning, drink 1 quart saltwater.
  • Throughout the day, drink the lemonade whenever you are hungry (try for every 2–3 hours). Take two cayenne pepper or cinnamon pills with each glass.
  • Drink. Water. Constantly.
  • Before the fast — Begin with a 1-week vegan diet, moving to raw fruits and vegetables on the last couple days. This way you ease into the fast.
  • Senna tea — Drink the Senna tea before bedtime the night before Day 1 and every night thereafter.
  • Saltwater flush — Before you drink the saltwater, it’s important to first drink a full glass of water to rehydrate your body. Otherwise, your body will absorb the saltwater. Wait 30 minutes for the water to absorb (you don’t want to dilute the saltwater). For the saltwater, drink from a pint glass. Warm the filtered water. Add 1 teaspoon of sea salt and stir thoroughly to make sure it’s fully dissolved. Imagine you’re drinking soup broth, then shotgun it as fast as you can. (Drinking quickly prevents you from tasting it.) You’ll need to do this twice (2 glasses) in rapid succession to get a full quart. This takes practice, so don’t be discouraged if you struggle at first. Totally normal to gag a little bit. Keep a glass of clean water nearby and drink your saltwater over the kitchen sink.
  • Elimination — Stay close to a toilet after drinking the saltwater. At first, it may take a while for the water to pass, but by the end of Day 3 I find it usually only takes 20–30 minutes. You’ll want to block off a couple hours each morning for this routine to play out.
  • Lemonade — After the morning elimination is complete, have 1 glass of lemonade for breakfast. Wash the lemon before slicing, then use a lemon press to squeeze 1/2 lemon into a glass. Add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup. Fill remainder of glass with filtered water. Drink with 2 cayenne pepper or cinnamon pills. Drink lemonade every couple hours, or as your appetite calls.
  • Water — Drink water constantly!
  • Why cayenne and cinnamon — The cinnamon and cayenne may seem counter-intuitive, but as thermogenics they increase your metabolism and cause your glands and cells to secrete. This helps drain toxins stored in your body.
  • Days 1–3 are the worst. Detox is unpleasant and you’ll notice a coat on your tongue, you’ll stink, ache, and you may even get sick. Don’t take medicine. Symptoms pass after day 3.
  • Massages — Get as many full-body, deep-tissue massages as you can afford during the fast. At a minimum, get two 90-minute massages, one on Day 3 and another on Day 9 of the fast. Tell the therapist you’re fasting and you need a lymph-pump/drain. You’ll have to go to the bathroom during the massage. Don’t be shy and let your therapist know. The massage will release a lot of bad stuff into your system. Drink a LOT of water afterward and be amazed at how the color of your urine changes.
  • Hot baths, hot tub, and sauna. Get blood circulating & sweat out toxins.
  • Exercise — It may be tempting to lay around from lack of energy. Fight the temptation and get out for walks and do some light yoga and stretching. This is important to prevent muscle loss and to help move waste and toxins out of your body.

I cannot overstate how important this phase is. It is the most difficult part of the fast, and the most important. Did I mention it was important? Breaking the fast improperly can not only undo everything you just accomplished, but can actually cause real harm and leave you worse off than when you began. The anecdotes people spin about the dangers of this fast are almost always due to people who binged or jumped right into old eating habits after Day 10.

Remind yourself constantly that you’re eating more than you were during the fast. It helps to think of this period as an extension of the fast. A common mistake is to focus on Day 10 as the goal of the program and everything after that is gravy. A better way to think about the experience is as a month-long program: One week in. 10-day fast. One week out.

When you begin to eat again, your brain freaks out and your appetite comes roaring back. If you binge or eat foods your guts aren’t ready for, the food will sit in place and not move. Think of the cleanse as a process that strips out the bacteria that lubricates your guts. With no lubrication to help the food move along, it’ll just sit there and become toxic. This is dangerous! If you think this might’ve happened to you, STOP eating and drink a LOT of water. Drink the laxative tea at night and get that nasty stuff out of your body. Once the blockage has passed, resume with breaking your fast as described below.

  • Priobiotics — Find a good 30 or 90-day probiotic pill you can take each morning when you wake up. Take with water and on an empty stomach. Focus on variety and not the “billion” number. More strands is better. Also, be sure the probiotic you get is delayed-release. You want the pill to open up in your intestines, not your stomach (stomach acid kills all the bacteria). Continue to take a pill every morning until the bottle is empty.
  • Day 1: Orange Juice Only — Drink several 8oz glasses of fresh-squeezed organic orange juice as desired during the day. (Organic tastes much better!) Drink it slowly. The orange juice prepares the digestive system to properly digest and assimilate regular food. If there has been any digestive difficulty prior to, and during the change over, extra water may be taken with the orange juice.
  • Day 2: Orange Juice, Vegetable Soup — Drink several 8oz glasses of fresh-squeezed organic orange juice during the day — with extra water if needed. Some time during the afternoon, prepare an organic vegetable soup. Make enough for 2 meals. Have the soup for the evening meal using the broth mostly, although some of the vegetables may be eaten. Organic whole grain rye wafers may be eaten sparingly with the soup, but no bread or crackers. Needless to say, chew completely and eat slowly.
  • Day 3: OJ, Soup, Veggies, Salad, Fruit — Drink fresh-squeezed organic orange juice in the morning. At noon have some more of the organic vegetable soup. For the evening meal have whatever is desired in the form of organic vegetables, salads or fruit only. Do not eat meat, fish, eggs, bread, pastries, caffeinated tea or coffee, alcohol, sugar or milk.
  • Day 4–7: Back to Normal, Healthy Eating — Normal eating may be resumed. However, after eating is resumed, if digestive distress or gas occurs, it is suggested that the lemonade diet be added into your diet for several more days until the system is ready for food.
  • Day 8 and Beyond — You’re ready to resume your old diet (this is what I do) but use this opportunity for a new start and consider cutting out any guilty pleasures you know will undermine your health and happiness. Start slowly! Don’t dive right in with a mega burger and fries!! It’ll turn into a brick and just sit in your guts. Try to be mindful of when you want to eat and what you’re eating.

In addition to what’s listed below, I’ll add that one of the things you learn is the difference between habitual hunger, emotional hunger, and actual hunger. The other thing I’ve found is that the stomach shrinks substantially and you’re not able to pack in as much food as you used to. Think of it as a non-invasive and cost-free version of gastric banding surgery!

Recognizing that this is a TON of information, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below with any questions you might have.

Good luck!

I write about EdTech and education, but mostly this is where I rant about politics. On Twitter @prsmith2009

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