Allow me to disclose the downside of those fancily priced ashrams, spas and well-being retreats (funny no one calls them ‘fat farms’ any more): it’s impossible to live up to them when back in the real world. I’m not doing them down – I’ve learnt a lot from them – but not being able to stick with something sets you up for a what-the-hell, yes-to-a-third-slice-of-pizza attitude.
So I was intrigued by the idea of ‘guided home-fasting’. I know. The F-word elicits all kinds of panic, plus instinctive carb front-loading. Hard enough to fast when there’s a doctor in a white coat wielding a BMI calculator, let alone when your family are stuffing themselves with chicken korma. My guru would be nutritionist and fasting expert Sonia Wisinger.
I ask her, why call it fasting, given how off-putting that is for many people? ‘I don’t like the word diet,’ she says. Fair enough. Although she adheres to the principle of 80:20 alkaline- to acid-forming foods, eliminates sugar, alcohol, coffee, black and green tea, pretty much all salt and all processed ingredients, there’s no real deprivation.
After a two-hour consultation (at her Upper Wimpole Street practice or via the internet), Sonia tailors a personal 10-day ‘fast’. For an extra challenge, I asked her to make mine vegan and gluten-free. If you’re going to suffer… Actually, the recipes she sent were delicious, and although I had to buy in some ingredients, there was nothing very exotic. Apart from a DIY enema kit.
‘Did I not mention enemas in the emails?’, asked Sonia as she niftily manoeuvred a long tube and what looked like a colostomy bag. As it happens, she didn’t. OK, I thought. Never going to use that. Humour her. Sonia advises only mild exercise while fasting – and lots of rest.
She’s on hand to dispense advice (in person or digitally) throughout – and boy does she push hard on the enemas. I cannot pretend that by keeping the enema kit close it became my friend, but let’s just say that if some emergency ever calls for one, I’m your woman.
I felt truly well at the end of my 10 days – clearer skin and eyes, more energy, no bloating and I lost 3lbs
She’s on hand to dispense advice (in person or digitally) throughout – and boy does she push hard on the enemas. I cannot pretend that by keeping the enema kit close it became my friend, but let’s just say that if some emergency ever calls for one, I’m your woman. Sonia helped me with a post-fast strategy (apparently as important as the fast itself), and I learnt at least as much as I have at professional spas: zinc is good for hair; bananas are not good for sinus problems.
Skipping dinner twice a week can increase melatonin production, helping sleep – for distraction on those nights, Sonia advises a luxurious bath (made more spa-like with the help of relaxing oils and followed by circulation-boosting body brushing) and a good book. I can’t say it’s easy, though.
I also learnt that miso soup is high in sodium, so replace with Kallo vegetable cubes; star anise, fresh ginger and turmeric in hot water is a delicious green tea substitute; chlorella is excellent for the immune system; breathing exercises really help calm you; nothing raw after 2pm; chew thoroughly…
Spring is an excellent time to ‘fast’ by the way. But if you can’t quite summon up the enthusiasm, any of the above small changes can make a big difference.