Today is the last day of my 14-day detox, which involves fasting from processed foods, red meat, sugar, gluten, diary, caffeine, and alcohol. Before each meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) I consume a “detox drink” of filtered water, cranberry and lemon juice, and apple cider vinegar to “prime the pump” and prep my liver to process food and flush all the toxins out.
Although the “D14” as it’s called is a fast, it is not a diet; no points, no calorie counting, no rigid schedules. I eat three meals and snacks, and I eat when I’m hungry: lots of whole foods, organic fresh fruits and veggies, protein from eggs and poultry, and snacks throughout the day. The folks who organize this detox also sell a series of nutritional supplements (shakes, capsules, gummies) that are part of the program, though these aren’t required.
It was interest in the supplements, Juice Plus, that initially piqued my interest. I have several neighbors who use Juice Plus and they rave about it. For the past year, I’ve been sluggish and bloated and a bit “down.” I blamed it on last year’s brutally cold winter, but that excuse wore thin once spring arrived. Being outside in the sun helped a little, but not enough to overcome the general malaise I was feeling.
I knew my eating habits sucked. I’m a fast food junkie, because it’s cheap and quick and takes no preparation at all. If I’m hungry, I can hop in the car and get lunch at the nearby Taco Bell, my guilty pleasure. Just typing the words “Taco Bell” initiates a craving. I tried taking a multivitamin last fall, which helped with the energy issue a little, but it was like running on empty and putting just enough gas in the car to get to my next destination – barely even maintenance.
So when my neighbor Rachel started talking up Juice Plus around Christmas time, I was ready to take notice. A group of people would be doing it together, supporting each other in a Facebook group, sharing recipes and tips, encouraging each other and holding ourselves accountable. I’ve had positive experiences with online support groups around pregnancy, house cleaning, and other issues, so I took it as an opportunity to explore healthier eating habits.
The fact that the 14-day detox would NOT start on New Year’s Day appealed to me. There were cookies and egg nog to consume, and a trip to DC with the girls that would surely include fast food and limited control over the ingredients at the hotel buffet. Besides, I like the New Year to envelop me gently, not body slam me with every possible resolution a person can make, all at once. (I tried that a few years ago when I attempted the “40 Day Miracle Proclamation” which is basically a fast from the “seven deadly sins,” and it reduced me to tears within days.)
The fact that the D14 would last for only two weeks also appealed to me. Not that I intend to go back to my junk-food eating ways; I do genuinely want to make a change to my lifestyle. But I believe in moderation, and I reject long-term deprivation. A occasional soda or piece of cheesecake, or a California Crunchwrap now and then won’t kill me, and a life of rigidity very well could.
Is this the voice of denial? I don’t think so. My unhealthy relationship with food has more to do with convenience than feeding or stuffing my feelings. It’s my unhealthy relationship with the idea of convenience that’s more likely a problem. More on that later.
Two other key components of this detox are rest and exercise. Bring on the 8-hour nights! I love sleep, and I love a good excuse to get as much of it as I can. Exercise is more of a challenge. With three school aged children and a job, finding time to exercise is hard, especially since I don’t belong to a gym. A few years ago I had a Y membership and made yoga and Zumba classes a part of my weekly routine, but that was before we had dance class two nights a week and religious ed classes on Thursdays and date night with the fella. This go around, I didn’t bother too much with the exercise part. I occasionally walked to the post office down the street from work, and did a few planks.
In my writing class (a New Year “detox” of another sort, sure to be the subject of published reflection soon), my friend and facilitator Sarah suggested I do more writing on why I’m doing this detox. She was especially interested in the spiritual side-effects of the process. The truth of the matter is, my main motivation for the D14 is not some deep, existential quest. It’s the food baby.
Those of you who know me in person are rolling their eyes, because I’m a little more than 100lbs soaking wet, and have a very slight frame. The doctor I went to last year told me in no uncertain terms that I should put on weight (although I’ve been this size for the better part of my life). How could someone so skinny be worried about a muffin top? Trust me, it’s there, and it’s the reason I don’t care to wear a bathing suit even though I’m a size 0.
In my 30s after having three children, I fully accepted my belly would bloat a little after big family meals; my abdominal muscles permanently separated during my first pregnancy. But more recently, the food baby hasn’t gone away after an hour or so post-dinner. The food baby has been there when I wake up in the morning with an empty stomach. I refuse to accept the food baby as my body’s new norm simply because I’m now 40. I’ve seen my neighbors’ D14 before and after pictures, and their bloat is gone. I wanted what they have (or in this case, what they don’t have).
And no, you cannot see my before and after pictures. But I can report that the bloat is gone. If I want rock hard abs, I’ll have to focus on the exercise part of the D14.
Ever my harshest critic, I can’t help but feel this is a superficial motivation for such a drastic step. However, I’m also scared of cancer, and I’m sure my unhealthy eating habits do nothing to ward off a disease that is taking its toll on far too many people I love. Far too many. I have a good friend who swears that radically changing one’s diet can actually cure cancer. I have a hard time believing this, given the complex nature of different types of cancers. But I fully believe that I can take reasonable steps to make it harder for cancer to take hold. So if drinking a putrid, bitter concoction before meals changes the chemical makeup of my body to make it inhospitable to cancer cells, I’m willing.
From a more spiritual perspective, I see this cleanse as a way to achieve balance. As I’ve written earlier this month, balance is my watchword for the year. Often when a part of my life is wildly out of balance, I go to the opposite extreme before I find my center, and this fast is pretty extreme. I know people who have weaned themselves slowly off sugar, or who have to avoid dairy or gluten, but cutting all three, and coffee, is a tall order. By God’s grace, I haven’t missed it. The hardest part was not eating that cheesecake the caterer brought to work on day one. I’ll admit, I cheated a little yesterday, taking a sip of my kids’ hot cocoa.
Fasts of any sort have the added benefit of being able to learn about habits we didn’t even know we had; for example, my addiction to convenience. I had no idea it was such a permeating quality, but now that I’m more aware, I see it popping up in how I relate to others, how I handle work, and even how I parent my kids. Convenience can be the gateway to a lot of self-centered behavior if I’m not vigilant.
I’ve learned I crave food when I take my kids to their dad’s house. Two weeks ago that might have meant an impromptu trip to McDonald’s for milkshakes, because I can’t very well go through the drive through and get just one for me. Last Friday evening, I was prepared. There was an apple in my purse that satisfied the urge.
I’ve noticed how good it feels to take care of myself. Planning meals and making my own lunches has built my self esteem, and having healthy snacks in the fridge and nuts in the car makes me feel truly cherished and cared for. There was a time in my life when I longed for and even expected a significant other to fill this role in my life, but it’s incredibly fulfilling to know I can do this for myself, although the fella certainly makes me feel cherished whenever he cooks for me, and especially when he encourages me in something like this fast.
Going to the grocery store was a real eye opener. Typically I go up and down the aisles, sometimes with a list, and purchase items from every section of the store. But with cutting out gluten, dairy, and added sugar, I’m pretty much limited to the produce and meat sections, and the “earthy crunchy” aisles. It makes grocery shopping a lot simpler, but it also makes me feel a little disgusted about what I was putting in my body before, and what we all eat collectively.
Prepping for this weekend’s snow storm was eye opening as well. I loaded up on produce and protein, and I didn’t even buy bread! I bought milk for the kids, and coconut and almond milk for me. Being able to feast on nutritious food throughout the duration of the blizzard has been wonderful. The old me would have been going stir crazy by now, anxious to eat at a restaurant after two days of frozen pizzas and ramen. Instead, I created recipes for butternut squash potage and a delicious maple vinaigrette for my grilled chicken salad.
I had some side effects that faded after the first week. Headaches (totally normal) and lots of peeing and gas and the urgent need to poop. I was tired, not in an exhausted way, but in a restorative way, like when my babies were newborns. I was so good at practicing self-care in those early days, making sure I ate and drank to keep up my milk supply, and sleeping when the baby slept. I can’t really sleep like that now, but I’ve definitely been gentle with myself, not pushing my body or my mind too hard.
I also lost weight. About 7 lbs. I think the doctor was wrong. Pre-detox, I regularly skipped lunch and rarely ate breakfast. My diet consisted of processed foods, drive through fare, and whatever snacks or cookies I could find in the pantry, with an occasional home-cooked meal about 2-3 times per week. On the detox, I’ve skipped a meal only once, when I was at a workshop last Saturday afternoon, and I ate plenty of nutritious snacks to make up for it. I’m certain I’m consistently eating more calories and certainly healthier calories that usual.. But I lost weight? Even I was surprised. I don’t expect I’ll get much lighter, though.
My first thought as I began this journey was, why have I waited for a D14 detox to take such good care of myself? Being successful requires a lot of advance planning – making daily menus, buying the food in advance, including healthy snacks for the times I know I’ll be ravenous, packing lunch each morning. These activities are outside my normal routine. They are not convenient. Yet I have done these things before without doing a fast, and my life is a lot more pleasant when I have a week’s worth of written on the calendar. Taking care of myself, whether through a detox or not, builds my self-esteem immeasurably. It’s the single best step I can take to reduce stress, particularly at 4:00 in the afternoon when I’m freaking out about dinner or at 2:00 when I’m feeling guilty about my side trip to McDonald’s on my way to pick up the kids from school.
So today is my last day of the bitter beverage that I’ve grown to like, if not love. When I started two weeks ago, it took all my will power to finish that first 9 ounces of lip puckering hell. I’m amazed at how my feelings truly do follow my actions and my habits. That’s another lesson of the detox. If I “just do it,” as Nike says, instead of letting my feelings dictate my eating habits, I find I actually have more control or at least empowerment when it comes to my body and my emotions. It turns out eating whole foods heals the whole package.
I wanted to give people a practical look at exactly what each day looked like, meal-wise, so I’ve been keeping a food diary. If this is a “diet” then it’s a diet that I can definitely live with, because I never felt deprived. Quite the opposite. I feel nourished by every meal, with the added benefit that nothing I put in my body will betray me later.
Breakfast: Steel-cut Oatmeal with honey and dried mulberries
Lunch: Mixed greens topped with grilled salmon, banana
Snack: Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt KIND Bar (this is my one occasional cheat)
Dinner: Field greens & Grape tomatoes with balsamic dressing, apples and organic peanut butter
Breakfast: Chocolate JP shake w/almond milk and banana
Snack: Nuts & vegan cookies
Lunch: Steel-cut Oatmeal and fresh cherries
Snack: Turkey Chili (a few bites)
Dinner: Turkey Chili
Breakfast: Vanilla JP shake w/coconut milk, strawberries and blueberries
Lunch: Turkey chili, cooked green beans, banana
Snack: ½ chocolate banana peanut butter shake
Dinner: Rotisserie chicken, steamed carrots
Breakfast: Vanilla JP shake w/almond milk, wild blackberries and oats
Lunch: leftover turkey chili, fresh cherries
Dinner: Tuscan chicken stew & roasted asparagus
Breakfast: ½ chocolate and fresh strawberry JP shake
Lunch: Panera Chicken Cobb salad
Snack: Apple and nuts
Snack: Leftover Tuscan chicken stew
Dinner: Pork chop and roasted cabbage steak w/fennel seeds
Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs and orange slices
Snacks: banana, nuts, kind bar, hibiscus tea with honey
Dinner: curry coconut soup with chick peas and carrots, carrots and humus, fresh cherries
Breakfast: banana and green tea
Lunch: curry soup with chicken added
Snack: kind bar
Lunch: large salad of mixed greens with chicken
Dinner: vanilla and banana shake, carrots and hummus
Lunch: small salad with chicken and chopped avocado
Dinner:prepared foods from Elwood Thompson, kind bar
Lunch: salad with chicken and chopped avocado
Snack: carrots and hummus
Dinner: roasted veggies and grilled chicken
Breakfast: can’t remember
Lunch: Avacado chicken salad on lettuce with tomatoes, apples and peanut butter
Lara Bar for evening snack
Dinner: quinoa and roasted asparagus and fresh tomato
Breakfast: chocolate banana oatmeal smoothie
Lunch: butternut squash soup
Dinner: turkey tacos with lettuce wraps
Breakfast: scrambled eggs with pico de gallo and guac and OJ
Lunch: leftover squash soup and turkey taco on lettuce wraps
Dinner: mixed greens topped with grilled chicken and maple vinaigrette
Snack: Apple and peanut butter
Breakfast: oatmeal with fresh blueberries
Lunch: Black bean soup, tortilla chips & guac
Snack: JP chocolate and banana shake
Dinner: Maple vinaigrette chicken with roasted veggies