Although I don’t always remember my New Year’s Resolutions, I figured this year I would attempt to remember them by, well, making them more memorable. I pondered the standard resolutions including being healthier, losing weight, being a better person, etc., but those were a little too abstract (and cliché) to be accountably effective. This year, I made a resolution to be creatively healthier. Yea, as a large mammal, it is a bit of a cop out to make health creative. But I’m not making it creative; I’m just going to partake of options that are already creative. Of course, I’m talking about alternative therapies.
There’s a whole world of treatments out there, some relatively main-stream like yoga and acupuncture, and some virtually unknown like vibration therapy and Scalar wave treatments. For my resolution, I decided to partake in one “alternative” treatment per week until next year, or until my mind fries, I join a cult, and am found floating atop a punch bowl of Kool-Aid.
I found a great website that listed some of the top alternative therapies practiced in the world today at altmedworld.net. For this experiment I’m stealing their definition of “alternative” medicine or “alternative” therapy: “…any form of medicine that is outside the mainstream of western medicine or conventional medicine as practiced by a majority of doctors today. This term is loosely used to cover all forms of medicine except allopathy.” FYI, Allopathy is conventional medicine. It’s the standard, “you have this illness; this drug has the opposite effect, so eat it.” By the way, I had to look it up.
Since it was already post New Years, also known as the “try and drink your own body weight” holiday, when I made this decree, I figured a good old fast might be in order. Here’s a fasting definition: “Therapeutic fasting or fasting for health is a purifying and rejuvenating process by which toxic waste matters of the body are eliminated and regeneration of diseased tissues occurs.” The holistic believers say that fasting is a great way to rid the body of toxins along with other health and spiritual benefits. The naysayers call bullshit, saying the body is already efficiently designed to do just that, and starving yourself provides no health effects other than improving the taste of whatever you eat when you first break the fast. Since I had been through a fast before, once intentionally and once during a teenage heart-break, I thought it a good place to ease into my experiment.
My initial goal was to complete a five-day fast. I would allow myself to drink juice (seems to be the most popular fast) and water. Since this was a short fast, I purchased my juice at the Weekly Juicery here in Lexington instead of employing my own home juicer / wood-chipper. They have a great collection of flavors that are so delicious that you forget you are fasting. Well, maybe not totally, but it helps.
Day One was no problem. Day two sucked. The cravings returned and I felt nauseous. I chewed gum to thwart the sickness, probably ruining the fasting philosophy by reintroducing sugar so soon, but it was either that or WLEX would have a report on a hairless bear on a Girl Scout Cookie rampage. I also worked out pretty hard day one and two. Probably not supposed to do that. By day three, I had a light dinner with the Misses and felt much better. Day four, I juiced in the morning and afternoon. Then, after a long day, I met the Misses at Louie’s Wine Dive for an adult beverage. Why not? Wine is juice, right? I can almost hear the shrills from the holistic world, all dropping their twigs and burning their Whole Foods tote bags. After half-a-glass, I felt a little buzzed, so we ordered a meatball appetizer. Ok, now half the holistic world just fainted. “Cow and alcohol! How could you?” The combination seemed to return my delicate balance back to neutral. I felt great. I continued supplementing my diet for the rest of the week, never fully embracing the “juice” for this round.
By all accounts I failed miserably at my first attempt. But to be honest, I don’t fully subscribe to the “juice,” even though I have partaken several times. True, I reintroduced my body to some much needed nutrients, especially after the gluttony of the holidays. Also, it was a decent jump start to weight loss. And I did lose a little weight, although I felt I could (and gladly would) gain it back at a single sitting once the fast ended. Most importantly I learned this: if you have the discipline to fast, then you have the discipline to eat right the rest of the time. Not eating for even 24 hours is difficult in this country. We are constantly bombarded with food stimuli in the form of banners and billboards and neon signs and flashing advertisements. So employing the willpower to deprive oneself of food is a massive shield that should carry over to the much longer period when the fast ends.
Gandhi was a big faster. But Gandhi didn’t have a job; have to deal with driving in traffic, loud neighbors, bosses, kids, etc. He just hung out while people pre-mourned his death, hoping a compromise to whatever the issue at hand happened to be, so their champion could once again rise from the bed. I found a checklist to fasting Gandhi created. Here are a few of my favorite advices he offered:
- “Conserve your energy, both mental and physical, from the very beginning.” Kinda tough when you have a job, bills, responsibilities apart from deciding which round glasses to buy or which sheet to wear today.”
- “You must cease to think of food while you are fasting.” How the fuck can this happen? I mean, that’s the only reason fasting is difficult. Would Gandhi have gotten anything done if everyone could just stop thinking about food?
- “Take an enema regularly during fast. You will be surprised at the impurities you expel daily.” I’m a man. Gandhi, from one man to another, daily I already stand over the toilet surprised at what comes out of me. If you want to be truly “surprised” try a PBR White Castle combo!
- “Sleep as much as possible in the open air.” Can anyone do this without climbing onto their roof?
- “Bathe in the morning sun. A sun and air bath is at least as great a purifier as a water bath.” Again, can anyone else do this? I can only imagine what would happen if I were to stagger into the back yard, naked, and proclaim to the neighbors: “Don’t mind me. Just taking a bath.” They’d build a new wing at the psyche ward just for me.
I don’t mean to pick on Gandhi. I was a fan of the man’s work. And I know a five day fast is nothing compared to his 21 Day water-only marathons. I just doubt I would have the same religious experience as he did. I think sometimes, when the religious experience is more internal than external, like fasting, it needs a strong starting place. The fast was like an internal talisman.
Here’s the best example I can give: I started a small wine collection last year. Of course, I like wine so the collection dwindles more often than grows. But certain wines have special meaning to me. Maybe the Misses bought me a bottle of my favorite wine for Christmas, or maybe we got a bottle on a trip. Either way, that wine might be damn good to start with, but when it has a charge, a special energy like a memory or recollection of a place it becomes that much more amazing. The simple act of having a glass of wine becomes religious, a feeling that can’t be described or captured, but simply shared with someone who understands.
I entered this experiment with my standard Agent Scully skepticism, but already I am reading about Gandhi, writing about shared energies and talisman, and likening a bottle of wine to a religious experience. I may have just enough open-mindedness to continue on with this experiment. I may even come to believe some of the less conventional therapies and treatments are a viable alternative to main-stream medicine. Shit! There goes my simple little conventional world. Cue Cindy Lauper.