I’m done. Yup –done.
The yoga teacher training program I lead challenges participants to go through a cleanse about 10 weeks in. This cleanse is based on the Quantum Wellness Cleanse by Kathy Freston and asks you to absolve from alcohol, sugar, caffeine, gluten and animal products for 21 days. The intention is to build awareness of how these products can own you, affect your well being and impact your everyday choices.
I’ve done many cleanses before. I’ve done this cleanse. I’ve been vegan (for 3.5 years). I’ve been gluten-free (for 8 years). I’ve ditched sugar. I’ve even, believe it or not, gone caffeine free. I’ve juiced for weeks. I’ve gone raw (for 3 months). I’ve developed metabolic efficiency. I’ve embraced healthy fat and lower carb. I’ve followed Paleo for months and the Whole30 for, well, 30 days. Yes, I was close to the ice cube diet many times…
But, for what? None of these efforts kept me feeling better for a sustained period of time. None of these styles led to weight loss.
In fact, I was grouchier, more tired, vitamin and mineral deficient and a royal PITA during most, if not all, of these episodes. I had cravings and lived in a state of denial – always refusing foods that I truly wanted but believing that if I just did “better” my energy levels would soar and my body would thrive.
So, a week into this cleanse and I said – nope. Granted, I didn’t put forth my best effort. I am still caffeinated. I dove into sugar day 3. I had a glass of wine on day 6 and even a bite of gluteneous cookie (a double whammy) one morning. I stuck to no animal products for a week until yesterday I had the ultimate burger emergency, after which I felt far better than I had all week. I’ve also had a margarita, ice cream and black and white cookies – and no regrets. I don’t feel like a failure…I feel free.
The purpose of a cleanse is to refresh, and even reset, taste buds so you enjoy healthier choices and improve health. Upon starting the cleanse, I immediately felt grouchy again, was eating too much – because I’m never happy with my choices – and simply irritated with life. I love the idea of veganism, as I adore what it does for the environment and our dear animal friends, but somehow it’s not for me or my digestive health. I’m also not sure it’s all it’s cracked up to be for the earth.
For so long I thought if only I made my diet pristine – just ate a little better and then better and then better still – I’d find the pinnacle of health. Cleanses are good at sales. Their allegations that you’re full of nasty toxins and poisons, that your gut is tainted and your pH is off are super convincing. But, really these claims come from no basis in science. Yes, people who eat a junk-y diet consisting only of fast food and processed snacks usually feel better eating more whole food, but there’s a point at which eating clean has diminishing returns. If you’re so stressed and focused on putting just the “right” thing in your body – you may go mad from denial and self-judgment.
Prior to this cleanse, for the past 3 months, I’d completely let go of all my eating regulations. Yup. Nachos? Yes, please. Cake – a whole one for dinner? Ice cream, most nights. A margarita? Absolutely. Burgers oozing with cheese and guacamole? What time?
That’s not to say I don’t eat my vegetables, whole grains and lean animal proteins, but I’m not a zealot.
The results? My body aches less. I’m sleeping better. The bloating I’ve suffered from for years has subsided (until that vegan week). I’m running faster. I’ve lost 8 pounds.
Hmmm. What’s going on?
It’s not a tape worm. In fact, I am eating less – but not purposely. I’m satisfied with less, because I’m eating what I want. I’m not eating a bunch of food that may be healthy, but is frankly lacking in what my body truly wants.
I also think I’m just not worried about it. Studies have shown that limiting your calorie intake can increase your release of cortisol, a stress hormone that encourages you to hold onto extra weight in case of an emergency. I don’t think it’s a stretch to think that limiting your food intake to only foods that you deem “good” can be equally stressful. Sure, I’d feel superior at times to those people eating the chocolate cake or burger – but deep down inside…I just wanted a bite.
So after a lunch of a turkey, avocado and tomato sandwich on sprouted grain bread and two black and white cookies, I’m ready to tackle Halloween. There may be candy involved.