No sugar, alcohol, or caffeine for six weeks. That's the fast my husband and I are on this year.
We've done this about five years now. Each year is slightly different in what we exclude but this year we're keeping it simple with the big three. We always start January 4th, the day after my birthday, and end around Valentine's Day.
The first couple years were hard and we cheated a lot. But it's gotten easier, because, bit by bit, it's changed our permanent diet.
Oatmeal, for example, before the fasts used to require spoonfuls of brown sugar. Now we just go with raisins and chopped fruit. (We eat oatmeal almost every day so this adds up to a lot of sugar!) After the first fast or two, I was sooooo happy to go back to my caramel-y sweetener. But somewhere along the line, I quietly realized I really preferred the fruit and just never went back to sugar.
And that's what it's about: small changes, year by year, eating better so you feel better.
In fact, health precipitated all this. I was starting to get allergies and I hate taking medicine. I thought changing my diet might help. So the early fasts took out things like wheat and dairy. This had no effect on my sniffles but total banishment of high fructose corn syrup and other GMO corn products has all but cured me. And of course, reducing my sugar intake always makes me feel better and improves my complexion.
I was hoping for these results and they please me. But they're not all I've gained.
For one thing, the self-discipline a fast requires makes you stronger mentally. We live in a society where we can have anything we want any time. We've almost forgotten how to tell ourselves "no." And I think that weakens us.
I also think being indulged makes us lose track of what's really important. I think that's why the fasts make me more grateful. They teach me to look beyond myself and my donut desires. They teach me to look more honestly at my life and see how perfect it is, even with no chocolate lava cake tonight.
And then there's the meal that breaks the fast. It's amazing. Jay and I talk for hours about what restaurant we'll go to, what we'll order, what it will taste like, how it's tasted in the past and how much we'll enjoy the wine, dessert, coffee, whatever.
The anticipation of this meal is every bit as delicious as the meal itself. In fact, the anticipation of this meal is so sweet, intoxicating, and energizing, I almost don't miss the things we've cut out...almost.