In extreme ways I began this cleanse. No solid food, no wheat or dairy or sugar. No caffeine, alcohol, or cigarettes.
As suddenly as I severed my habits, I have gradually welcomed them back into my life. Most of them, anyhow. (Smoking is bad and I am officially back to being an occasional smoker.)
Tomorrow marks Day 10 of my cleanse. Some would consider my cleanse a failure: I had a drink last night (a casual screwdriver – delicious), I have smoked a cigarette or two, I had toast and coffee this weekend, I gave up on the lemonade-only Master Cleanse by Day 4…
Criticism aside I feel proud and enlightened. I embarked on this cleanse as a quest of self-discovery, to test my self-discipline, to gain awareness, to be rid of meal-planning for a week, to really cut back on some unhealthy substances. I achieved all of these things, and learned some fascinating lessons.
1. I am not all-or-nothing; I function best in moderation.
Cutting all the consumption-vices out of my life at the same time felt like standing on the edge of a great precipice: I was at once terrified of falling over the edge (plunging into a retaliatory binge) and exhilarated by the view (my life without aforementioned vices.) This wobbly limbo was unsustainable. A gradual inclusion of a coffee, or one drink, or some wheat, was preferable.
2. Not eating food for 48+ hours sucks.
[see Day 2 and Day 3 posts.]
3. People love talking about food.
In my generation (I am 26), people love talking about food. I overhear diet-related conversations as often as I hear people talking about the weather. And every time, people speak with the authority of one educated in nutrition.
We talk about diet fads, protein-to-carb ratios, and healthy fats; weight-loss, vegetarians, vegans, and omnivorous variations; how to fend off illness, and how treat it; how to eat for energy and how to eat before bed; how to eat to adjust one’s libido, or correct hormonal imbalance.
What struck me was this duality in food-related conversations, where on one end, people feel that diets are a casual topic. Everyone feels entitled to share, if not preach their dietary knowledge.
On the other end, what we eat is incredibly personal.
People get defensive and emotional when they feel their dietary choices are being challenged, whether directly, or merely by virtue of being different from someone else’s diet choices.
When someone says, “I don’t eat gluten,” someone else replies, “Why? Do you have Celiac’s disease, or is it a health-thing?” (with undertones of ‘to lose weight’ or ‘because it’s popular’.)
Why does it matter what someone else is or isn’t eating?
It matters, because no one wants to be wrong. They don’t want to be eating the wrong thing. They don’t want to realize that for years they’ve been eating the wrong thing. That it’s making them gain weight, or increasing their chances of cancer, or decreasing their fertility, or any multitude of supposed food-correlated facets of our health.
People’s dual obsession and sensitivity to food-related discussions comes down to self-confidence, and responsibilization – the process by which people are convinced that they are individually responsible for their health, and will be held accountable for it.
The media in Canada bombard us with health news, and whether or not you consciously pay attention, the facts trickle around your ears, you pick some up, and may or may not apply them to your diet. These ever-morphing food-facts are packaged in a greater message that it is our responsibility to do our homework and keep up to date with what is and isn’t healthy.
When I told people I was doing the master cleanse, some responded with innocent curiosity, some with concern, some with support, or admiration, or envy. And some responded with disdain, and even anger. It’s so odd that my temporary, relatively safe dietary decisions would incite such emotion and consideration from people who otherwise show little concern for my personal life.
I realized people were scrutinizing my eating habits as vehemently as they do their own.
4. I do not want to be a model.
I have seldom experienced a job more dehumanizing than being a model. I am grateful for the experience, as I can now put to rest some 10+ years of pondering about a modelling career. (You grow up as a tall, skinny, big-eyed girl, and people make comments, you get scouted, blah blah blah. You think about it. I know I did.)
I am an artist. I live to speak, to solve, to create.
Being a model is so far from the creative end of a fashion show I actually felt like a prop. When people came over to check my hair, my face, they were at once looking at me, and looking through me. I’ve never before had someone look so intently at my eyes without looking into them. My makeup artist didn’t introduce herself. My hair stylist – who did a great job with my hair – didn’t give a shit who I was. I spent hours in silent contemplation, sinking into a secret puddle of self-loathing, wishing I was thinner, younger, more involved.
I left feeling so sad and lonely. But it’s okay, because now, I know, and I can safely steer my ship towards self-acceptance and a thriving musical career.
Plus, I got some great photos, like this one.
5. Most of the time, I do not need caffeine. It is a useful tool, and a bad habit.
Caffeine is a quick fix that worsens my already poor circulation, and frequently keeps me up too late. But sometimes, a hot Americano with liberal amounts of cream is heaven. Pure heaven. After this cleanse, I am more conscious of finding energy in adequate sleep and energizing foods, and would like to avoid the coffee-a-day routine.
6. I may be lactose-intolerant and/or wheat-intolerant, and would like to know more.
Doctors have told me I have IBS.
IBS is what doctors tell you you have when they can’t explain your persistent digestive problems. I passively accepted this for many years. Only coming out of this cleanse did I notice how awful I felt 20 minutes to 2 hours after consuming dairy, processed sugar, and wheat products. Before I accept a lifetime of daily stomachaches, headaches, acid reflux, bloating and indigestion, I’m going to consult a registered dietitian and find out if certain foods are to blame.
7. I intrinsically enjoy exercise.
I love exercise because of how it makes me feel. The long-term benefits (extrinsic motivators) of a better body and longer life are not actually as motivating to me as the enjoyment of the activity itself.
During the first few days of the cleanse, I lacked the energy to exercise, and I hated it. Even though I believed the Master Cleanse was improving my health and would make me lose weight, I didn’t care. I just wanted to go run, or do yoga, or lift weights, because I love working out. This was a satisfying discovery, and I have returned to physical activity with gratitude.