In my 34 years of eating solid food, I have made many stops on the Diet Train. I have been in The Zone, eaten a Big Mac sans bun, and squeezed many lemons into my magical maple syrup-cayenne pepper elixir. I have eaten more cabbage than half of Ireland, can recite the foods most beneficial to my blood type (liver, mutton, and beet leaves), and can say with certainty that saving all your Weight Watcher points for a six-pack of Miller Light (18 pts.) as a replacement for food never ends well. I even made up my own diet in college with my partner-in-crime gal pal Krystin: The Melon-Condiment Diet. It ended with us hurling a cantaloupe out our dorm room window into the middle of the quad…and I still gag at the site of a Heinz yellow mustard packet.
I am happy to report that I no longer fall prey to diets that promise radical weight loss by eating a specifically timed combination of hot dogs, cottage cheese and peanut butter-not because I am so highly evolved and intune with my body, but because dieting takes way too much energy and only one person sees me naked.
So I was a bit leary when I caught wind of a cleanse my yoga teacher Deborah Williamson had developed called the Yoga Body Cleanse. The word “cleanse” immediately makes me think of coffee enemas and kelp. That being said, Phil and I both felt the need for a post-holiday detox, and I really trust Debbie so….what the Hell.
The 21 day cleanse is described as non-restrictive: you are given a framework, but nothing is “off limits.” I had mixed feelings about this at first. Ambiguity makes me nervous. I want rules, dammit. Give me an inch, and I am already half-way through Phoebe’s soft pretzel. So, I figured I would just stick to the plan of juice, soup and salad and not worry about that whole mind-body intuition business (says the poser yoga teacher).
We dug the juicer out of the garage and got busy. My first realization was how lazy I had gotten in the kitchen. It felt good to buy different foods and experiment with new recipes…until I had to clean up. Juicing can be messy venture….and until you get the hang of it, a little time consuming. I almost had a heart attack when I tripped over a matchbox car while holding a hard earned glass of lemon-cucumber-apple-celery juice. It brought back a memory of pumping breast milk at a family BBQ only to spill 4 oz. on my niece’s bathroom counter…which I then syphoned back into the bottle. That shit is liquid gold.
During the first week I experienced a fair share of resistance. At one point I may have considered eating bread out of the garbage…but I didn’t. Another low point was the time I saw this extension cord plug sitting on the counter and thought it was chocolate. For that one nanosecond, I was truly excited.
My recently colon-less GI tract also needed some time to adjust. I learned on Day #1 that if I drink the juice too fast, it sounds like an Amtrack Accela barreling through my small intestine. On more than one occasion Phoebe has turned to me and said, “Mommy that you? That your tummy? Mommy, you have a wookie in that tummy??”
Guttural rumblings aside, here a few lessons I learned while cleansing:
Commitment. By the second week we really started to find our groove with the shopping and meal planning, which typically is not our greatest skill. I have always found the time and effort required for meal planning/preparation totally overwhelming. I end up at the kitchen counter surrounded by cookbooks only to come home from the grocery store pissed off that I forgot to buy gochujang. You can’t make kimchi jjigae without gochujang! So I just make mac and cheese. This cleanse, while a commitment, actually made my life easier and dinner time less stressful. Not to mention the fact that when you know you have a yummy soup already made and waiting to be heated up, you are less likely to eat Pirate Booty out of your kid’s Snack Taxi.
Creativity. Last weekend Phil and I dropped the kids off at my parents in NJ and then drove up to Boston for a few days. I was nervous that traveling would throw us off our cleansing game, so we did our best to prepare by juicing ahead of time, freezing them, and then packing them in a cooler. Our intentions were good…but by the time we reached Cambridge our yummy pear-kale-apple-cucumber concoction looked like the moat surrounding Castle Greyskull. So we did the best we could to make good choices that resembled the cleanse menu. We also managed to find three places to get fresh juice, including a trolley car diner in Providence. They were kind enough to bring their Jack Lalane juicer out of retirement after our waitress called back to the kitchen, “Hey Jimmy! What’s the story with the juice-a?”
Flexibility. I think the key to my success on the cleanse has been letting go of the need to succeed. Once I got past the first few days of wanting to gouge someone’s eyeballs out if they didn’t give me a Tall Sugar Free Skinny Vanilla Latte, I was able to explore my “all or nothing” relationship with food. I now understand why this cleanse leaves out the forbidden food list. It’s like Toddler Psychology 101. The more someone tells you that you can’t have it, the more you want it. Even if, deep down, you don’t really want it. I let myself have a guilt free cup of coffee each morning on the cleanse, until one morning, I just didn’t really want it. Yet a couple of days later, it tasted really good.
Because I actually stopped to TASTE it. Now there’s a concept.
If only someone had told me that when I was sucking down mustard packets.