Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Out Campaign

As part of the Out Campaign initiative sponsored by American Atheists I’ve decided to formally come out (at least as formal as a blog post can be!) as an Atheist.  

I was raised in a conservative Christian family and I came to the (post-Jesus) light as a teenager after questioning the highly illogical teachings I was spoon fed at home & at Jesus Camp.  Since then, I have been joyfully embracing the beauty of living for this life, not some notion of an afterlife.  

I am happy and proud to say that I recently celebrated eleven years as a Free Thinker.  It wasn’t until this year that I stumbled across the secular community of Humanists and have since identified as one.  This does not conflict with my identification as Atheist as the two are not mutually exclusive. A lot of people wonder what the difference between Humanist or Atheist or Agnostic is.  To explain this, I did a little research and did my best to put together some simplistic definitions.  

Etymological Meaning
Agnostic comes from the Greek word Gnosis, which means knowledge, the ‘a’ in front changes it to mean without knowledge.
Atheistic also has its roots in the Greek language. Theism is equated to belief, the ‘a’ in front changes it to mean without belief.

However, there are also common usages of these words which many people identify with.  Where do you fall on this Free Thinker spectrum?  You may surprise yourself!

Free Thinker Spectrum
Spiritual (I identify as a member of an organized religion, but the God I worship does not have the same rules as the traditional God of that religion, ie: I’m a Christian, but I think people in the LGBT community should be able to marry/ I’m Jewish, but I eat pork/I’m Muslim, but I don’t think women should have to cover up) or (I don’t identify with any organized religion, but I believe in a god/higher power). 

Agnostic (I don’t know, but I believe in something) or (No one can know, so why bother about it?)

Agnostic Atheist (I don’t believe in a god but I can’t rule out the possibility that there is one just because I do not have knowledge that it exists.  Basically, I admit that my belief that there is no god is just as baseless as your belief that there is a god)

Atheist (I don’t believe in a god or gods and I don’t need knowledge or proof that there is no god or gods because it is on the believer to prove the existence of a god not on the nonbeliever)

Humanist (I believe that people can be good without a belief in god and am skeptical of  untested claims).  It is also inclusive of all the above categories. 

“…show me what there is, ethically, in any religion that can’t be duplicated by Humanism" -Christopher Hitchens

My recent identification with Humanism has reinvigorated my love for Humanity, albeit we are a rowdy bunch!  This love is what encourages me to speak out about some of the things I believe organized religion got wrong (but continues to do) listed below:

Science Denial
This has led to the stifling of education and research in the sciences.  We depend on the growth and development in our life sciences as a species.  We don’t have claws or fangs, we only have our minds to help us survive.  Science denial, such as refusing to teach evolution in classes or banning stem-cell research, stamps out the growth and development of the life-saving field of the applied sciences.

Faith Healing 
This is the practice that allows parents to let their children die from curable diseases, like tumor growths in their necks that slowly close their windpipes...these innocent children die horrible, and avoidable, deaths because their parents leave it up to God to cure them.  Think Faith Healing doesn’t exist?  Think again.  It is a legally sanctioned practice; in fact, thirty-one states have child-abuse religious exemptions.

               (Do you need any more reason for a separation of church and state?)

Abstinence Only 
Under President George W. Bush, a crusade to eradicate safe sex was waged.  Unfortunately, this led to the dramatic rise of teenage pregnancy and STD incidence rates during Bush’s presidency.  If you are thinking that this just isn’t a good enough reason to teach teens about safe sex, think about the effects of this policy in other parts of the world.  This evangelical “no-condom = ready for sex!” attitude is reiterated by the Pope and various Western proselytizers who have influence in many AIDS ravaged African Nations.  What’s worse than a peak in teenage pregnancy?  Thousands upon thousands of babies born HIV positive.

           Fear and Hate Mongering 
While many of the organized religions that dominate the Western World (Judeo-Christian and Islam) purport to teach to love thy neighbor, these large religious institutions are mutually exclusive.  Put bluntly, this means that, by their own doctrine, these religious followers condemn everyone outside of their religion to Hell when they die (and if they don't condemn everyone else then they fall on the Free Thinker Spectrum).  Like burning forever in a pit of fire, HELL!  How’s that for teaching love?

Blind Faith
And perhaps worst of all, religion teaches people to be satisfied with the nonexplanation of things.  It is only because people fostered a healthy sense of skepticism that humanity has managed to accomplish so many things, including the development of a vaccine for polio,  the civil rights and women’s liberation movements, outlawing slavery and walking on the moon.  It is my deepest wish that people never succumb to a faith that denies them the right to ask why,  instead, let them foster a love for knowledge and when they are told not to question, to always respond by asking “why not?”

On this note, I ask you, reader, to consider honestly your theological beliefs this season.  Do you believe in all the tenets of the religion you subscribe to (including the bit about the World being just a little over 6 thousand years old) or do you pick and choose which parts to believe in?  It is my hope that Free Thinkers of all kinds will come forward, come out to your friends and families and start living an authentic life.  You have one life to live and I urge you not to be satisfied on your spiritual journey until you find things out for your self.

PS. Many Atheists celebrate some version of Christmas (which was originally a Pagan holiday to celebrate the solstice!).  There is nothing wrong with gifts, trees, singing and (most of all) family togetherness.  None of this requires the pretense of a belief in a God.  I believe the holiday season should include honesty -- with oneself and loved ones.

 I wish you an abundance of peace this holiday season and in the new year. 

John Lennon's "Happy X-Mas (War is Over)"

Friday, December 23, 2011


Have you ever wanted to fly?  I remember dreaming of flying like a bird night after night as a kid.  I remember thinking to myself that when I grew up, I wanted to fly.  The closest I have come to fulfilling this childhood dream is AntiGravity Yoga…it gives you wings (and not the Red Bull kind).

Doesn’t sound familiar?  If you just shook your head and thought “what is AntiGravity Yoga all about?”  Then you can count yourself as being a part of the majority of people who have yet to experience AGY.  It is an art form that is in its infancy.  It is so new, in fact, that it doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia page yet (!)  Not only is AGY a new art form, but its development has created a new genre of exercise, known as “suspension fitness” and involves the use of Hammocks which are securely suspended from the ceiling and function to allow people to hold challenging poses longer, build cardiovascular and muscular strength, and decompress the vertebrae of the spine without strain. 

I am fortunate enough to intern at OMFactory, one of the very few yoga studios in NYC that offers AntiGravity classes.  If you are lucky enough to take an AGY class there with AGY certified instructor, Josie Say, she will probably give you a brief history of the practice.   Last Thursday, she informed our class that AGY was dreamed up only about 20 years ago by Christopher Harrison, the founder of AntiGravity, Inc, an acrobatic entertainment group based in New York City.  She explained that AntiGravity Yoga is a hybrid practice combining traditional yoga poses with aerial arts, Pilates, and dance.  I can attest that elements from all of these arts were a part of the 75 minute class. 

The class moved at a steady pace, with enough time in each pose to really feel the muscles activating.  If you are familiar with yoga, you will recognize that AGY classes move through the familiar poses, but the extra element of swinging in a hammock adds an entirely new dimension to the yoga practice.  Everyone began in a seated position in which the soft silkiness of the AGY Hammock envelopes your body.  This is called, “Womb” and is considered a levitating meditation or, in Sanskrit, Badda Konasana.  That was followed up with a zero compression inversion.  Josie very carefully guided us in and out through a series of simple progressions, while rhythmic music hummed softly in the background.  My second favorite pose was “Monkey” (my first being the “Screaming Cannonball” … it’s nicer than it sounds).  “Monkey” is one of the simpler inversions in which our legs carry the weight of our body as our bodies swing weightlessly upside down. 

The remainder of the class was dedicated to hydrating joints through mobility exercises, elongating and strengthening the muscles, decompressing the spine and fine-tuning proprioceptors for better agility through swinging exercises. At times, people needed a little extra-boost of confidence to make it into a pose & Josie seemed to have a sixth sense at these times and was able to say exactly what we needed to hear to move us forward in our AGY journey.  She and her assistant did a tremendous job of providing moral support to each of us, even giving hands on assistance when needed.  Believe or not, everyone was successful every time.  We finished with a “Floating Savasana” meditation where one seals in the positive effects of their practice.

Before I left the class, Josie and her assistant were nice enough to humor my questions about AGY and were even willing to help me into a few advanced poses.  This is our version of “Double Lotus”. 

You can see that I am enjoying my new relationship to gravity!  I can’t wait to do it all again next week.  As to whether or not you will take the leap and try AGY is totally up to you but I will leave you with a quote from AGY instructors to help you make up your mind: "The class emphasis is to have fun while learning new skills and experiencing a total body workout." -OMFactory


Thursday, November 24, 2011


Holding down two part time jobs (yes, one of them is at a yoga studio! ...the other is not so fun, it involves legislation & policy research) while attending grad school full time has a way of eating up all my time, so I’m staying in NYC to get work done this holiday. I'll be honest, a little part of me is glad to avoid the terror that is Chinatown Bus, but I am truly going to miss spending time with my friends and family. When I graduate summa cum laude, this will all be worth it (at least I keep telling myself it will be).

But there is an upside, I get to check out the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, have a nontraditional sushi t-giving dinner with a good friend in (ironically) the meatpacking district of NYC and don’t have to come up with an excuse for why I won’t eat the turkey.  I’m not a vegetarian, but I have a hard time eating meat that was inhumanely treated when it was alive (that’s right, I’m one of those people).  It isn’t like I get on a pedestal everytime I see someone eating street meat, it’s just that I become physically ill at the prospect of eating chicken that at one time was a little creature living in a tiny metal box with no beak, an oversized breast so large it cannot stand up on its own and eating the remains of its fellow chickens (OK, I’m not sure about that last part, but it helps paint the picture).  Anyway, we have all seen those PETA films (and if you haven’t, you can check them out here although I would suggest waiting until after T-Giving dinner). 
                                         (there's animal cruelty, and then there's animal cruelty)

It was while studying medical ethics in undergrad that I came across a philosophical belief that, quite frankly, astounded me.  It is the idea that because animals have no souls, we can basically do whatever we want to them (the guy who tried to sell this idea was a huge believer in live dissection).  While I try to respect other philosophies, I am having a hard time tolerating this one.  Firstly, I’m a Humanist, (no, we aren’t a religion, just a community of non-believers, but more on this in another blog) and one of the basic tenets of our Humanistic belief is that we are skeptical of untested claims.  Obviously, we can’t test if animals have a soul, gosh we can’t even find the soul in people, so right there this philosophy is debunked.  Also, the assumption that in order to feel pain one must have a soul is just not so. I don’t believe I have a soul, but believe me when I tell you that I felt my ankle snap like a twig when I broke it some years ago.  I definitely feel pain, like all animals do, and think that some considerations for this should be made in the treatment of animals. 

A friend of mine from work told me her philosophy on the subject.  She said that all those animals experience pain, anguish and terror for months, sometimes years, before they are slaughtered.  She said what we are putting in our body, is all that pain and terror, all that bad energy and that there is no way this can be good for us.  Although I may not fully believe in the whole transfer of energy idea, I think she has a point.  Everytime we buy and eat cow or pig or chicken meat from factory farms, we are making a choice.  We are choosing to subsidize the grossly negligent and cruel treatment of animals, and if I can help it, not one cent that I earn is going to pay for the torture of animals.  Until factory farms adopt more humane principles, I’m eating free range and organic.  If we all did this, how long do you think factory farms could stay in business?

Ps. Cracked fun fact of the day: Did you know that the day we celebrate Thanksgiving is determined by the day the retailers decide will make a good Black Friday?  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gov't biz

Some people argue that the government ought to be run like a business.  I implore them to consider the implications of this.  Any programs that did not bring in a profit would be shut down, so this would mean the end of public libraries, national parks and even emergency services, as we all know these services do not bring in a profit.  Next, the government would, like any business, try to maximize their revenue, so this would manifest as the over-taxation of all goods and services.  It would try to decrease costs and what is the easiest way to do that? Outsourcing!... and you thought going to the DMV was bad now.  Oh and who cares whether or not the customers are represented in the business’ management?  Say goodbye to Congress.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Storm Yoga

Storm Yoga, who lives up to their motto of "Take Your Life by Storm!" by practicing yoga outside, rain or shine, is a Not for Profit organization based here, out of NYC, that just started up early this summer.  I have been with them from the beginning and like to think that I have helped a bit in the start up process.  I manage the account, promote every chance I get, support students who are new to the practice and have even gotten some PR people involved (check out the Life Styles and Charity article about Storm Yoga here).
Storm Yoga is founded on the principle that yoga is an integral part of a broader movement to transform society, and, to that end, offer free classes in the city.  How can you get better than that?  Have I mentioned yet that we spend at least 50% of our classes focusing on partner yoga?  Or that we put on Yoga Flash Mobs around New York City?

                                      This is 'bird' in partner yoga, and you can totally do it too.
For those of you who do not know me, I have been practicing yoga, on and off, for 7 years now.  It was only this summer that yoga became like the food I eat and air I breath.  It is hard to define in words the transformation...but this short, and entertaining, video might explain it better than I can, and it will show you just exactly what kind of shenanigans I have been up to all summer long.

Here are a few questions my good friend, Laci, asked me while doing some PR work on behalf of the group.  (ps. Check her blog, La Femme FIT-alle, out!)

1. How did you discover Storm Yoga and what about it appealed to you?
I was sitting out in Sheeps Meadow in Central Park with Ian on a Saturday in May or June,  just when it started to get warm enough to go out again, and I noticed two people who looked like they were having a ton of fun doing acrobatic moves together.  I saw them doing what I thought of then as the 'superman' but now realize it was 'bird'.  I watched them for awhile, and just let their joy soak into me.  I loved how playful it looked, and was immediately hooked on the idea.  Whatever it was, I had to find people who did this and try it out for myself.  So, that night, I went home and did research.  I had no idea the art of 'Partner yoga' or 'Acro yoga' (the two are interchangeable) existed, so it took me awhile just to find the keys terms.  When I did, I typed them in to and viola!, there was Storm Yoga.

                                                                     (serene, huh?)

The aspect of community appealed to me, and Miles' openness and willingness to teach, and the location and timing all really appealed to me.  Miles is our fearless leader, who is leaving this autumn for a second round of yoga instruction in India.  He will return as an even more skilled yogi, and Storm Yoga will come out of hibernation this Spring.  As the classes take place primarily outside, during winter we are all taking a hiatus, snow blizzards, unfortunately, don't typically lend themselves to yoga practice ;)

2. What have you gained or learned from practicing with the organization?
I have gained self-confidence and a sense of community, as well as the more typical yoga benefits, such as stress relief and strengthening of the core.  I have never seen anything meld people together in a community quicker or more honestly than partner yoga.  The nature of the practice is such that you have to be trusting and constantly communicating, whether it be through words or touch, it kind of helps people to open up.

                                             (He looks like he is really enjoying this pose)

3. How did you feel participating in one of Storm Yoga's flash mob gatherings?
See above :)  Also, I felt like I was having an impact on a larger sphere, I was bringing awareness to yoga to people who had maybe never seen it before and didn't know what it was.  I think I was also transforming what yoga, itself, is.  Here, in the West, yoga is too often viewed as just another way to shed some pounds.  For me, through the Yoga Flash Mobs, it became a medium of self expression and a community building activity.

4. Please finish this sentence for me: "If everyone practiced yoga, <BLANK>". 
Personally, I'd say, "If everyone practiced yoga, there would be no war."
I know, kind of an idealistic outlook, but hey, I think it's probably not too far off the mark.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Juice Fast

Inspired by a documentary; I decided, in my usual “dive right in” fashion, to go on a juice fast.  The juice fast was propagated during the gritty and determined documentary by Australian native, Joe Cross, a onetime grossly overweight millionaire with a debilitating autoimmune disorder (called chronic urticarial, for those of you extra curious folks).  Basically, he could break out into ugly, painful hives at any moment and was on a ton of pills, steroids mostly, to try to combat this response.  The stirring film is entitled Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, but don’t let title scare you off, it is much more uplifting than it sounds.  As a matter of fact, I think the bluntness of the title adds to the transparent and genuine format in which the film is produced.  In it, Joe goes on a cross country venture drinking juice, losing weight, talking to regular people about health, and ends up, well, I won’t spoil it for you.  But, if you have Net Flix, you can watch this movie right now for no charge.  If you happen not to have been stricken with the Net Flix addiction, here’s a link, to the promo site, which, be warned, has a bit too much of an infomercial feel for my taste, (I’m blaming this on the business minded piranhas that surely overtook Joe’s promotional duties as soon as they smelled money).

Juice comes in many forms.  One can garner juice from greens, root vegetables, fruits, etc.  I have found fruit juices, freshly pressed from the source, to be refreshing and mildly sweet.  Vegetable juices, however, have a rather different effect on the palate.  For example, a carrot, beet, and kale juice is not as palatable as say, a pineapple, melon, strawberry juice.  I’m not talking about bottled juice drinks here; I’m talking about all raw fruits, straight from the Whole Foods dirt layered organic section, with no added sugar, dyes or preservatives. There were many recipes that were offered up to followers of Joe’s signature ‘Reboot Your Life’ Juice Fast.  To take my shiny new Breville’s juice virginity, I selected the Great Greens Juice, from the long list of choices.  Its unpalatable mixture is made up of: 2 Green Apples, 2-3 cups Spinach, 6-8 leaves Swiss Chard, 1 Cucumber, 4 stalks Celery, 1/2 Fennel Bulb, and 1 bunch Basil.  This boils down to a sum total of 329 kcal of calories, 16 g of protein, 2 g of fiber, no fats and no preservatives, or, as it is revered by some juicers who have literally drunk the juice, as the elixir of life.  Unfortunately, rather than tasting like the ambrosia of the Gods, it made me puke.  And not just once, on three separate occasions during my first two days of juice fasting I ‘tossed my cookies’, as they say, while slurping on a mouthful of green drink. Wikipedia defines juice fasting as a type of fasting and detox diet in which a person consumes only freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices.  I define juice fasting as hell on earth.  When I first heard the term ‘juice fast’ I found it to be a bit oxymoronic.  I equated fasting with refraining from all food, even in juice form, for the duration.  I saw the use of the word ‘fast’ in ‘juice fast’ as kind of a cheat, a way to make things sound more dire than they actually were.  Five days on the juice fast readily changed my mind. 

The concept of fasting is not new to me, having been raised in a family saturated with religion, I was only too aware that my fasting could be, in some twisted way, associated with that old testament story about Jesus fasting for 40 days and nights.  I was careful to make sure my efforts weren't confused with non-secular purpose and inspiration as it was the month of August, the Islamic month of Ramadan, in which participating Muslims regrain from eating, drinking and intimacy with their partners during daylight hours. In the old testament, this was a test of Jesus' lotalty to god.  In the Muslim faith, its meaning, to teach Muslims about patience, spirituality, humility and submissiveness to god, has a similar ring to it.  I had no such pios motives in this fast.   
                                                   (Can I eat it if it looks like Jesus?)

On the second day, I passed out momentarily while lounging around my living room.  This is an opportune time to note that it may be a good idea to avoid having obligations for the first few days on the fast.  I, myself, felt sick enough to stay home from work during the first two days.  This was probably due to the fact that I wasn’t keeping enough food down.  There is a careful balance that one needs to strike between the fruit and veggie distribution in juices.  Fruit juices are faster burning, while vegetable juices are slower burning.  Therefore, in order to maintain energy throughout the day, it is necessary to implement vegetable juices in the diet.  I, however, was adding vegetables, like fennel bulb and collard greens, that had never before been introduced into my diet, and I was definitely suffering from the shock my system underwent.  I wised up on the third day and started adding more fruits to my juices.  As a matter of fact, I developed a new rule for myself, for every veggie that was put in the juicer, a fruit would follow it.  This way, I would always have a delightfully light and sweet tasting fruit to balance out the grassy dirt flavor of the green/root/veggie.  Unfortunately, this had more the effect of spraying a fraternity boy’s bathroom with flower scent to cover up the odor of urine, but it allowed me to ignore the overwhelmingly pungent flavor of the juice long enough to get it down and keep it down.  Another trick I used was holding my nose, one thing this fast taught me was just how large a role your nose plays in your sense of taste.  Incredibly, I could hardly taste anything at all if my nose was plugged up!  Unfortunately, as soon as the nose was free to smell again, my taste buds became livid with the repugnant taste of grass-dirt.
                                                    (Apparently, it's an acquired taste)
My favorite juice, the ‘All Fruits’ that contains a heaping double handful of blueberries, strawberries, 1 pear, 2 green apples, 2 handfuls of pineapple chunks, mango, cantaloupe and honeydew, was not enough to convince my body into fully functioning.  A small part of me was convinced that I had contracted spinach salmonella and these were the first manifestations of the illness.  A small swelling of my left and right neck lymph nodes, which I still do not know what to attribute to, was present in the fourth day and led to the credibility of the rather wild assertion of illness that was surely a manifestation of my hypochondrias.  I had had a full physical check up just a month prior to my juice fast, and was given a clean bill of health.  A larger, more rational and a bit more hopeful part of me thought that, perhaps, I just wasn’t taking in enough calories. 
My form of measurement was my hands and the level of juice that was mashed out into the smallish pitcher at the end of the juice dispenser tube.  Not all juicers are created equally, and the Breville is a superior animal even among top line juicers.  However, it is not without its imperfections.  While it does what it attests to in its advertisement slogan of “minimal effort, maximum vitality”, by turning a firm green apple to juice in no time with very little effort, it says nothing about the cleanup involved.  In order to clean the juicer, there are five parts that need to be separated and cleansed.  Two of the parts trap quite a lot of food particles, as for every ounce of juice there is a few inches of dry pulpy mass left over.   I haven’t found a use yet for this dry pulpy mass, although there were tempting links on the ‘reboot your life’ website that lead you to ‘vita-mix’ recipes which proclaimed to have a use for the fruit and veggie by-product.  For me, this dismantling, wiping and rinsing is something that needs to be done after every juice use, as I do not find the idea of leaving large pulpy masses of food sitting out appealing.  The upside to multiple washes a day is that the Breville is relatively easy to clean, as its smooth plastic curves lend themselves to being easily wiped.  It may even be Rachael-proof, as there are no sharp protruding blades on which one may easily be sluiced (this is not so for my blender, aptly named the “Ninja”; it is fully stocked with 10 blades, each seeming to project its knify-ness more than the last).

                                     (Not to be confused with the Blendersaurus)

Day four, I definitely felt the fatigue, deep, debilitating fatigue.  On the web site, which proffers up the catch phrase, “Reboot Your Life” in big bright bold letters and is associated with the Juice Fast in Fat Sick and Nearly Dead, there is a support community of people.  They have an open forum in which people write about their experiences with the fast.  Thanks to the twitter feed and Reboot Community, I’ve been privy to comments spanning from “Any advice on headaches? I don’t want to take any medicine during this reboot, but last night was pretty miserable …” to “I’m on Day 11 of RAW FOOD living. Feeling good 11 days has flown by!”  Which of these is a more accurate depiction of the juice fast is hard to guess; suffice it to say that everyone experiences the fast differently.
Most of these people, however, and the persons included in the documentary (Joe Cross recruited a few people to join him in the Juice Fast) were in agreement about one thing, the joys of getting past day 3.  Either these people had become happily deluded by day three, or I have a very different body composition to them, (which is a viable possibility) but day four did not lead to some great break through.  I was as hungry, tired and fuzzy headed as ever.  Actually, I was feeling a bit worse off.  I woke up feeling hung-over, as if I’d been on a five day drinking binge.  My throat was dry and sore, my head pounding, all of the muscles in my body ached and my mind refused to clear.  It was terrible.  The fog did not leave after the first juice of the morning, as I had counted on.  Although, on a positive note, I was finally keeping the juices down.
                                                  (Are lol catz still even funny?...yes.)

Lets talk about cravings.  According to Dr. Naomi Neufeld, an endocrinologist at UCLA, most adults need about 2,000 calories a day. Those calories make energy, or glycogen. Neufeld says it doesn't hurt — it might even help the body — to fast or stop eating for short periods of time, say 24 hours once a week, as long as you drink water.  That this actually allows you to “re-tune the body, suppress insulin secretion, reduce the taste for sugar, so sugar becomes something you're less fond of taking," Neufeld says.  Sugar was something I didn’t crave past the second day; however, my savory taste buds were a different story.  I’ve never been a big meat eater, but for some reason during this stint I could not stop dreaming about BBQ ribs.  Dripping in juice and BBQ sauce, this image was central to my night-time dreams as well as my food porn filled days.  While the idea of mastication, using my teeth to chew, had never been something I considered during meal-time, I distinctly missed the sensation of food between my teeth during this fast. 

My saliva glands also started working overtime.  At the very sight of food, my mouth would fill with the stuff.  I dreaded my walk to and from work, NYC may be the worst place to fast with its vast array of restaurants whose delectable smells leaked from their front doors like molasses oozing off pine trees.  Lunch at work with coworkers was torture.  Not only was I busily pretending to be very satisfied with my orange juice, I had to explain what a juice fast was and why I would choose to subject myself to something so socially unpropitious.  Also, the dirty looks and snide remarks I received from the overweight girl who sat next to me at work became more frequent.  I never got used to navigating social situations while on the all-juice diet and so did my best to avoid them. 

Originally, I had gone into this fast assuming it to last 7 days.  After a rigorous day one, my boyfriend (who was as eager as I was to give the fast a try after watching the documentary) and I decided to keep it at a resoundingly mediocre five days.  And really, it was more like 4.75 days as we celebrated our detox with a light dinner out the following Friday night (the fast began on Monday, Aug. 1st).  I have to admit, after passing out on the second day, I made the decision to supplement the juice with a red bell pepper or bread with pb/jelly once a day.  Ian, although not suffering from blackouts and chronic, um, upchucking, was suffering from migraine headaches and fatigue and made the decision to add peanut butter to his juice smoothies.  On my part, this supplementation was more to save my job than due to caving in to cravings.  Had I not had to move from my couch during the 5 days, I may have been just fine on juice alone, but in order to garner enough energy to make it through New York City streets (check out my  blog post on NYC streets to understand the need for energy) and into my place of work, my body would need a little more than 800 calories a day.  
A little note about weight; while many think losing weight is a mystical art that only dedicated dieters, on the level of Buddhist monks, are able to master, it really just boils down to your body expending more calories than it takes in.  I kept pretty close notes on the amount of calories I was taking in, but could only use my level of fatigue to measure my caloric output.  I assumed I was losing weight while on the fast, but did not see any visible changes in the way my clothes fit me etc.  While my intention was to detoxify my system, rather than to lose weight on this diet, I was curious as to the impact the juice fast would have on my body mass index.  The juice fast seemed to be a sort of crash diet for the documentary film maker and his faithful followers in the movie.  Each attested to losing many pounds during the fast, as did the tribe of people who were inspired enough to tweet their results online.  Thanks to my Wii fit, I was able to record at home my weight and BMI prior to and after the juice fast.  I lost 1.5lbs of weight during the fast, this is probably not water weight as I read that one typically retains water during the first week of a juice fast.  I am unsure how my decision to supplement my juices with a pb&j sandwich after 9PM may have altered the outcome.

While I am not wholly won over by the juice fast idea, (I think it may have been developed with an above healthy level BMI in mind) I have made the decision to implement juicing in to my daily life.  Mark Mattson, a scientist with the National Institute on Aging, says that when we convert food into energy, our bodies create a lot of byproducts we could do without, including free radicals.  He explains that, "These free radicals will attack proteins, DNA, the nucleus of cells, and the membranes of cells," Mattson says. And even if you don't fast, Mattson says that simply limiting the calories you consume may be beneficial. He points to studies where rats and mice were fed every other day. Compared with those fed normal daily diets, there was a reduction in disease among the rats that were severely restricted in their food intake. Mattson says those findings hold promise that humans could also benefit from partial fasting.  I would only recommend the extreme form of dieting known as juice fasting to fellow sadists.  Rather than fast to detox, in the future I plan on refraining from alcohol, uptaking my intake of water and cleansing my spirit with extra helpings of yoga.  A diet of healthy whole foods and juices to supplement my vegetable and fruit intake may just be the kind of balanced relationship with food I’ve been searching for.
3 Weeks later…
I had such an intense physical and emotional reaction to the juice fast experience that I wanted to wait a little while to let my mind and body take a breather before I posted this blog.  I am happy to say I am still an avid juicer, albeit juice is only a part of my diet now.  I am also happy to report that the past weeks have given me the opportunity to experiment with different types of juices, and I have found some types that I can tolerate much better, or even enjoy.  Such as the Spinach, Apple, Kale juice, which I am thirstily drinking down at this moment.  All in all, this fast was definitely worth the effort, and perhaps we will see another cleanse in my future :)

                                                                 (Don't judge me.)


Retune The Body With A Partial Fast by Patti Neighmond.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


This morning, like all mornings, I prepared for my morning commute by locating the latest BBC World News podcast on my smart phone, shoving in my ear phones & putting on darkly tinted sun glasses. These are my weapons against the onslaught of solicitation, catcalls, jeers and the clamor of traffic that Manhattan offers its pedestrian commuters. As I stepped down the three flights of stairs to my apartment building's front entrance; I realized I was running late, very late, and the executive director was back from vacation today. It is possible that she, in her neurotic haze, could potentially notice my tardiness.

That possibility, compiled with the thought of having to wait in line to buy a new unlimited metro card (they cost $100 for 1 month and my month had just run out) led me to make a snap decision that is rather out of my character, I decided to fork over the $10 taxi fare and get a quick ride into work, shaving a good 25 minutes off of my commute. As a side note; to explain why this choice was out of character; had my metro card not been expired, I probably would have taken public transportation, regardless of how late I may have arrived at work. I attribute this apparent lack of consideration for timeliness to the fact that I get a bizarre enjoyment out of being economically efficient. Sometimes, on the weekends, I will use my monthly unlimited metro card to take me to a new place, merely because the more I use the card the more value I get from the money I spent on it.

I digress. Upon making the decision to take a cab, I took off my armor, as one needs all their faculties about them when hailing a cab. They don’t call New York City a concrete jungle for nothing. Everyday is a battle against the elements, and you are either going to fight or fail miserably at city life. Hailing a cab is just one of the many rites of passage. My face sans sunglasses and earphones felt open and vulnerable, but I held tight to the belief that no incident would occur in the short few yards between me and the corner where cabs can be hailed. All around me, there were people. High school kids clustered on stoops necking and aspirating smoke, laborers dumping and shoveling trash, busboys hosing down the sidewalk outside of their respective restaurants, yuppie types striding by in business suits, gay and straight couples picking up their miniature sized dogs’ poop in little plastic baggies. All this taking place within a couple of yards around me, I could practically reach out and touch any one of them at any given time.

It was while walking past one of the groups of high school students, the members of which were obviously enjoying their tardiness more than I was, that I heard a jarringly loud noise directly behind and to the right of me. It sounded like the word “BAT!” but it was not used in the context of, “Oh my, there is a rabid BAT flying towards your head.” Although, that would have been appropriate for the volume that the word was thrust out at me. Nor was it used in the less known, and more vulgar, acronym version of the word BAT, breaking down into the slang flattery of “Big Ass Titties”. No, it was born more in the form of an onomatopoeia, like those used in the original Super Man comics, 'BAM!’ ‘POW!’ and ‘WHAM!’. In this case, the word, used for the purpose of startling passer-bys, had a much less grandiose purpose than those in the comic, which were used to accentuate the fighting blows between villain and hero.

                            (An example of BAT's mulitple uses)

It did, however, work, and I was thoroughly startled, but not so much out of fright as out of annoyance bordering on anger. Can’t I walk ten paces down the street without being targeted for some petty assault? From my undergraduate psychology courses, I knew enough of the psychology of the bully to know that the only way to stop being targeted, would be to stand up to the bully. This would mean a further delay in my commute and an effort to identify the assailant. In order to get a better vantage point of who my attacker was, I moved aside from the main traffic path of the sidewalk, to the less used edge, and waited. It may seem obvious to you, reader, that the high school group was the culprit, as they were the group I had most recently walked past. I thought they might be also, but I try not to jump to conclusions, especially when the judgment would fall on someone(s) who remind me of a younger version of myself. So, I decided to wait for empirical proof before I made a judgment.

Thankful, for once, for the high rates of foot traffic on the city sidewalks, I didn’t have to wait long.  After a young Hispanic woman passed by me, a young Caucasian blond woman, dressed in a smart business skirt and blouse, breezed by. The wayward group of highschoolers sat silent, grinning on their stoop as the Hispanic woman passed; however, as soon as the blond was a footstep beyond the stoop, one of the high school grinners abruptly blurted, “BAT!” and, indeed, the blonde was startled enough by this outburst to take a mis-step and trip. The whole gang broke out in laughter, giving each other superior smiles and knowing looks. I stood for a moment, stunned into silence, which, if you know me, know, also, that this is a rare reaction.

It wasn’t so much the blatant disrespect directed at the blonde woman, and myself, which affected me. I could write that off as typical teenage revolt against an older generation and even to male posturing, as being the clown of the group can garner him status and upgrade his position in the adolescent pecking order of their social circle. What I could not accept, however, was the fact that this small outcropping of highschoolers, all who happened to be of Hispanic descent, let the Hispanic woman walk past unmolested. Racism, in any form, turns my stomach. While I am painfully aware of the fact the my “white” skin lends me all the white privilege that society presents me, and I am also aware that I do not appreciate this fact as often as I should, I was still astounded to see this apparent racism embedded in the hearts and minds of such a young group of individuals. For me, this explicit form of racism, in which white women are targeted but Hispanic women are not, turned an innocuous prank into the manifestation of a particularly abhorrent society-wide issue, racial tension. This mild stoop in my neighborhood was transformed into a festering pore on the indignant face of intolerance, a source of exit for the community’s infection of ignorance.

The fire within me at being targeted by a bully was suddenly cooled. Left in its place was a thick, heavy knot. This was turning into an issue too big for me to fix with one fell swoop of backbone. Still, I knew I had to approach my assailants, the high school is on the block that I live on, meaning I pass this same group of students everyday on my commute to work. Alas, this is a concrete jungle, and, so, like any other animal, I had to assert myself, or else be over-ridden by a stronger animal. I approached the group, straight backed and squinty eyed. Quickly, I stated what I had to impart on them, namely my opinion that what they were doing was rude. While the admonishments did include words like “inappropriate” and “don’t you have anything better to do?” I did not bring up the issue of race.

The alpha male did his best to stare me down, maintaining his innocence and grinning at the other boys, but, in the end, he was first to break eye-contact.  However, this triumph was bitter tasting; I was too chicken to bring up the fact that they were targeting white women, and did not feel like it would be appropriate for a white woman to lecture them on why they should do their best to treat all races equally, (I am sensitive to the fact that they too, have had to live their lives in a world with white privilege, and for them, this means that they are given the short end of the stick more times than not).  Developing tolerance is going to be a life long endeavor, that I can do best through example, and cannot expect to fix in one rushed encounter on city streets.  I did, however, win a tiny victory for myself, as one lowly little animal standing up to a pack, on the sewage strewn streets of Manhattan this morning.