Are you game for a challenge?
My friend Jenny called me an „ambitious challenge type” … More than once, actually. My reaction was: „Really?!” Funny enough, I didn’t see myself as one. But on closer inspection, she is absolutely right: I have a thing for proving and testing what my mind and body can do. I’m deeply fascinated to observe how I react under special conditions, how my body (and mind) changes, and to learn what’s good for me and what I have to struggle with.
Sport is the classic field for such challenges and in fact, I’m right in the middle of a crazy running challenge right now: I set the goal to run 100 miles (= 160 kilometers) in one month. As I didn’t take it too serious in the beginning (I was also a little weakened by a juice cleansing I did earlier this month …), I now have to run 53 kilometers in 5 days to catch up and make it. That’s more than a marathon! Completely crazy … Anyway, you get the picture: I would say, Jenny absolutely nailed it. (By the way: in ayurvedic terms, I am a pitta-vata type and these types seem to love challenges …)
Also very popular are the many spiritual challenges, such as the 21 days of Abundance by Deepak Chopra, which I did too, obviously … Then there are challenges which don’t really deserve the name, as I find that you don’t really have to push yourself to do them. I once took part in a really beautiful 21 Days of Dance-Challenge, initiated by the Kundalini Yoga teacher Juliane Allen and still sometimes dance to the playlist today.
Another classic area for challenges is nutrition, although fasting and detox cures should actually not happen under pressure or be driven by the motivation to prove anything to anyone. Nevertheless, the framework of a challenge can be of great help to stay focused and motivated. Especially if you do the challenge with friends or other people. Also, ideally, the end of the challenge is not the end of it all: If the new routine is good for you, you might integrate it into your new, healthier lifestyle.
The Kitchari Cleanse – an ayurvedic form of detoxification:
Spring is the classic time for fasting and cleansing and in late April I felt it was time for me to try something new: the so-called „kitchari cleanse”. This is a relatively short and rather gentle detox cure stemming from the Ayurvedic tradition. Over a short period of time – usually one to five days – you eat the same dish for breakfast, lunch and dinner: the so-called kitchari.
Kitchari is a classic Indian one-pot dish of mung bean dal and basmati rice with soft boiled (root) vegetables, many warming spices (cumin, cardamom, turmeric, cinnamon …) and sophisticated toppings such as sesame, coriander, ginger, coconut flakes, lime.
I personally found the dish incredibly delicious and had no problems to eat it three times a day for three days. Not even for breakfast. In fact, I am so addicted to it that I still make it now and then. If you have problems eating something „savoury” in the morning, you can have porridge for breakfast instead.
The purpose of such a mono-diet with an easily digestible and at the same time nourishing meal (soul food in its proper sense) is to give your digestive system a break, so that the body can detoxify all by itself and in a very gentle way.
My inspiration to do this 3-day cure came from my friend Christiane, a wonderful woman and creative Ayurvedic cook, who had invited her followers on her Instagram profile @Goldenlifekitchen to join her for this spring cleanse. As I’m very interested in Ayurveda I was immediately hooked. I know my doshas (Pitta-Vata), know what’s good for me and what isn’t from an Ayurvedic perspective, and a few years ago I even spent two weeks in an Ayurveda hotel in Sri Lanka. I also have quite a few friends who actually managed to heal or improve physical issues with the help of Ayurvedic treatments.
After I had stocked up with all the necessary ingredients from the wholefood store, all I had to do was finish some last „unhealthy” things from my fridge which wouldn’t last over the three days, store the opened oat milk in the freezer and the coconut-kefir grains in the fridge and I was ready.
Christiane suggested a recipe she found on the blog Oh, holy basil by Dillon, who writes about vegan nutrition, macrobiotics and Ayurveda and shares various delicious recipes including valuable background information. She prepares her kitchari not in one but in two pots because she finds it more appealing to have fluffy rice („the best rice ever”) with the liquid dal. If you prepare everything in one pot, as goes the tradition, you end up with a uniformly mushy kind of dish, which might be a bit dull if it’s all you eat for three days in a row. I couldn’t agree more.
I think that such simple little details really make a huge difference and contribute to making the whole experience a beautiful one. Our food should always be a feast for the eyes as well, it just makes everything so much better. Just think of all the beautifully decorated bowls you find on Instagram!
I really loved to turn the plating into a little ritual into which I poured a lot of love and attention. I arranged my plate as nicely as possible, grabbed my favourite spoon and off I went to the balcony where I ate in silence, enjoying the view.
Contemplative cooking sessions – my little kitchari morning routine:
I had set out to make these three days a really nice experience from start to finish. So I copied the recipe by hand on a piece of paper which I stuck on the fridge (all lists of ingredients and recipes can be found at the end of the article).
This way, I could leave my phone switched off all morning. That’s one of many little tricks I can give you to instore more islands of mindfulness into your daily life. You can read the full article here: “What you can do for your well-being now. My Top 20”.
And so I began my days in silence in the kitchen where I indulged in an extended cooking session, undisturbed by my phone or any music. These mornings were like a really beautiful, almost holy morning ritual. A full hour of contemplation, care and self-love which all poured into the food I would later eat.
When everything was prepared and the dal had to simmer for another 40 minutes, I did a short morning meditation of 15 to 20 minutes. To be on the safe side I lowered the heat under my pot of dal and it all went well.
On day 2 I knew the recipe almost by heart and on day 3 I had it. And by the way: for the three days of the cleanse, I really only switched on my phone after breakfast. That felt really good.
Powered by emotions – riding the rollercoaster like a wave:
Although the kitchari-cleanse is a gentle form of detox – at least in contrast to fasting (read more on that here) – you might still encounter some detox symptoms, including emotional rollercoaster rides. All fasting and detox cures can intensify your emotions and bring out emotions you didn’t expect. In went through a kind of wave with two ups and one down:
Day 1 was all normal and smooth sailing: My mood was good and I felt energetic. I really enjoyed the food, which probably contributed to my good mood. The portions felt satisfying and I wasn’t hungry for three hours, after which I drank some of the detox tea, to cut my hunger, and ate the next meal after approx. another hour (four in total).
Day 2, however, was quite exhausting. I felt very tired, thin-skinned and emotional. I was cold most of the day and although I had slept 10 hours the night before, I had to take an extra nap of 1,5 hours in the afternoon.
These could be the mentioned detox symptoms and also be due to my dosha constitution: As I said, I am a pitta vata type and they say that vata types should rather not fast, as this can increase their tendency to emotional imbalance, stress and anxiety.
On day 3 everything was fine again: I felt stable and good, both physically and emotionally.
All new, all the same? What’s changed:
I haven’t lost weight in that time, but that had also not been my goal. The cure is primarily about cleansing the body from the „winter ballast” in order to prepare yourself for spring.
The fact that I didn’t lose any weight may also be due to the fact that I’m generally a rather healthy eater. If you’re into sweets, convenience food, processed food and eating greasy and late, you might lose some weight through the kitchari cleanse.
What I did notice, happened rather on the mental level: After the cure, I felt super sharp, very awake and present and I guess that there might be a connection.
And I got rid of some old habits: I cut the snacking between meals – there is no snacking at all during the kitchari cleanse and I didn’t miss it. Now, one month later, I’m back to snacking a little but still less than before. Instead of snacking I now try to drink tea or water to satisfy my appetites.
I’m also less „addicted” to coffee now. Directly after the cure, I didn’t drink any coffee for a few days, then I had about two coffees per week, and now I drink coffee every other day again. For me, that’s completely okay. I just really like and enjoy coffee, so I don’t mean to cut it completely out of my life. It’s just important for me to know that I’m not dependent on it and that I’m fully functional without my daily dose of caffeine.
Tips and tricks:
The container – creating a safe space:
In contrast to other fasting cures, you don’t have to plan any preparation and readjustment days for the kitchari cleanse, and you also don’t have to do a colon cleansing as your digestion doesn’t stop. On the contrary: the kitchari helps to lubricate it very nicely 🙂
So you see, you can do the cleanse any time without taking a vacation or doing it over the weekend – although you still might want to do that in order to focus fully on the experience and the cleansing. That’s especially true if you have never fasted or done a cleanse before. In that case, be extra gentle with yourself and don’t make any plans. Take it easy and take it slowly, go to bed earlier than usual, exercise only gently, get enough fresh air and go out into nature as much as you can. Clean out your closet, read a nice book, treat yourself to a massage … create a framework for your cleanse which also nourishes your soul.
How to integrate the cleanse into your daily life:
Bear in mind the time you need for the preparation in the morning – about an hour. This may seem a lot at first, but that’s all you need to cook for the whole day which actually helps you gain a little time.
If you’re working or if you have other business to do away from home, just take your kitchari for lunch and/or dinner with you. You can warm it up as often as you like or even eat it cold. It still tastes good when it’s cold and is still easily digestible.
You can even still have a dinner date with friends: Just invite them to your place and declare it to be an „Indian evening”. Then just cook some more than just for yourself and this way, nobody even has to know that you’re doing a cleanse. Although I always like to share my experiences and maybe your friends will be interested in trying it out for themselves as well 😉
The indicated amounts are easily enough for three times and I was never hungry at the end of the day. You may eat as much as you like, but you should also not stuff yourself. Which is actually not so easy if you like kitchari as much as I do 🙂 And if on the evening of the first day, you find that you need a little more, just take a bigger cup for the next two days.
For whom the Kitchari-Cleanse is not suitable:
Even if it’s a gentle cure it’s not necessarily suitable for pregnant women and women who are menstruating, as this might increase any symptoms and cause additional irritations. It#s better to wait a few days until your cycle is over.
If you like kitchari as much as I do and you feel like it, you can easily do a kitchari day every now and then. Or you do the three days once every month, depending on what your social allows. Actually, I find that it is rather easily compatible.
Ingredients and recipes from Oh holy basil with some changes and tweaks from my side:
- If you don’t find yellow mung beans in your shop (as happened to me when I wanted to do the cleanse again for my boyfriend), you may also use red lentils. However, these are don’t have the same ayurvedic qualities as yellow mung beans and you should really only substitute them if you cannot wait another day to start with your cleanse. Try to find the mung beans for the second and third day. You will very probably notice a difference.
- As I know that turmeric needs heat, fat and black pepper in order to work best, I added a little bit of black pepper to the dal.
- mustard seeds and cumin: I have used one full teaspoon as I’m a huge fan of spices.
- Experiment with the vegetables in order to make your cleanse a little more diverse: I used kohlrabi on day one, carrots on day two and zucchini on day three. The kohlrabi version was my favourite.
Enjoy your cleanse and enjoy the food!
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