Summer Shape-Up: Day Four

As Healthy Eating Specialist for Whole Foods Market, in North Wales, PA, I am hosting a Seven-Day Summer Shape-Up, a gentle and easy-to-follow “cleansing” program. Today is the fourth day of the program.

Day 4: Thursday, June 26: Eat only fresh, raw fruits and vegetables and/or lightly steamed vegetables or baked sweet potatoes or potatoes. Drink only clean, purified water and/or gently cleansing tea. (Limit fruit to 2-3 servings per day).

Today we continue the challenge of eating only fruits and vegetables for two more days.

In my experience, the second day of a fruit and vegetable fast is often the hardest. Anecdotal reports across the Internet seem to agree with this view. Generally speaking, the first days of any diet are considered the hardest.

I don’t say this discourage you, of course, but to simply prepare you for a potentially challenging day.  And just remember: tomorrow is the final day. You only need to make it to Saturday morning, when you are free, within reason, to begin eating a more expansive diet. (We will talk about “breaking your fast” tomorrow).

Today, especially, you might find yourself bothered by hunger pangs or cravings for certain foods. In my experience with fasting, I typically begin to dream about food on the second or third day. Once, in the midst of a Master Cleanse, I found myself dreaming nightly of bananas.

Do not ignore your hunger. If you feel hungry, eat. If you feel you must eat more than fruits and vegetables, eat nuts. But moreover, do not ignore your hunger because, in a real sense, this feeling is exactly why you’ve found yourself here, now, in this moment.

We asked these questions before, during our 28-Day Challenge:

Why do we fast?

For that matter, why do we eat?

Why do develop cravings for food? It isn’t always food that we crave. What is it then?

By examining your hunger as it occurs, in the moment, you might discover new answers to these questions.

I stopped eating wheat nearly ten years ago–a decision that irrevocably improved my health. I did not come upon the decision easily. In fact, I believe I needlessly suffered years of symptoms simply because I told myself I’d never, ever stop eating wheat.

Why? Well, so much of my experience with food had been determined by my love of wheat. I had so many positive associations with wheat; so many joyful moments. In fact, I date my true love affair with food to a precise moment in Florence, Italy, when I discovered my first crepe.

As I wrote five years ago on FoodVibe:

“My life as a cook commenced at the age of twenty-one, on a curb in Florence. It was a warm afternoon in early April and I had just discovered an open-air creperie on one of the hidden streets around the San Lorenzo market. Poking my head under the blue awning, I ordered a crepe with Belgian chocolate. A greasy, good-looking woman with a full mouth poured the batter onto a cooking stone, spread the batter thin with her spatula, and flipped the crepe onto another stone. Fluid in her movements, she barely paid attention as she spread the chocolate on the crepe, as the butter sizzled and melted on the stone.

I paid for the crepe and sat on the curb where a line of students were laughing and waiting. I took a bite. Suddenly, powerfully, I was stirred. I took another bite, a wide mouthed chomp of pure boldness. Chocolate oozed onto my lips. The crepe was delicious, perhaps the most delicious crepe in Florence—no, in the world! I looked at the greasy crepe lady. She certainly was good-looking. Suddenly, I felt an inexplicable urge: I wanted to make my own crepe. And I knew only this: it must be the most delicious crepe in the world.

I’m still working on it. Ten years later, I have yet to reproduce the most delicious crepe in the world. But the pursuit has inspired me. I just can’t shake the indomitable bug that bit me that afternoon: the desire to create food.

That afternoon, I walked back to my pensioni, burdened with flour, fresh eggs, and a handful of chocolate chips. I spent several hours in the kitchen, trying to create, or rather re-create, the perfect crepe. Of course, I failed. And yet I did not suffer the sorrow of my failure. Later, lying in my bed, stuffed with batter and chocolate, I felt absolutely happy: I had spent the afternoon immersed in a creative venture, and the experience had vivified me.

This is the joy of cooking: the creative venture. I’m a writer. I’m also a cook. Both are forms of creative expression. Often, to me, cooking is the most powerful form of creative expression—an expression of love for those you cook for. When you mix the batter for a crepe, you are really writing a love poem.”


When I stopped eating wheat, I felt as if I had lost this person–this inspired, young man.

It took me nearly a year to understand that, in fact, I had only lost the crepe–or, in any case, future crepes. Everything else–the boldness, the desire to create food, the joy–remained.

It might’ve taken me a year to understand this, yet I felt the benefits of avoiding wheat within a day. This experience–as well as the experience of so many others–has taught me that we often hold onto ways of eating that no longer serve our needs. We do so because we’re in thrall of our former lives, all those moments that once gave us happiness.

A moment is not simply about a crepe, though.

And, of course, we change. Our bodies change. Our emotions change. Our associations evolve.

So: How do you feel now?

In the spirit of now, I’d like to offer a selection from Leaves of Grass, perhaps my favorite section of the entire poem.

Walt Whitman: Song of Myself: Part 44

It is time to explain myself—let us stand up.

What is known I strip away,
I launch all men and women forward with me into the Unknown.

The clock indicates the moment—but what does eternity indicate?

We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and summers,
There are trillions ahead, and trillions ahead of them.

Births have brought us richness and variety,
And other births will bring us richness and variety.

I do not call one greater and one smaller,
That which fills its period and place is equal to any.

Were mankind murderous or jealous upon you, my brother, my sister?
I am sorry for you, they are not murderous or jealous upon me,
All has been gentle with me, I keep no account with lamentation,
 (What have I to do with lamentation?)

I am an acme of things accomplish’d, and I an encloser of things to be.

My feet strike an apex of the apices of the stairs,
On every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches between the steps,
All below duly travel’d, and still I mount and mount.

Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me,
Afar down I see the huge first Nothing, I know I was even there,
I waited unseen and always, and slept through the lethargic mist,
And took my time, and took no hurt from the fetid carbon.

 Long I was hugg’d close—long and long.

Immense have been the preparations for me,
Faithful and friendly the arms that have help’d me.

Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing like cheerful boatmen,
For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings,
They sent influences to look after what was to hold me.

Before I was born out of my mother generations guided me,
My embryo has never been torpid, nothing could overlay it.

For it the nebula cohered to an orb,
The long slow strata piled to rest it on,
Vast vegetables gave it sustenance,
Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths and deposited it
     with care.

All forces have been steadily employ’d to complete and delight me,
Now on this spot I stand with my robust soul.