I finished my juice cleanse last night, and didn’t hop out of bed at midnight and get myself a bowl of shreddies as I longed to. I wanted to finish it properly, and make a ritual marking of breaking the fast this morning.
Which I did. I went out first thing to the farmers’ market that pops up every Sunday a few blocks away, and persuaded people to sell me amazing tomatoes and greens and beets and sprouted grains before they were even open. Then I went to the main supermarket for avocadoes and boconccini and a multi-grain half baguette and more sparkling water and some flowers. Then got a fancy coffee and came home and made poached eggs, toast and a salad with the tomatoes, avocado and cheese.
I wasn’t exactly sure what I hoped for from this cleanse, but I wanted to be self-aware and reflective about food and my body while I did it. I’ve been doing a LOT of eating because the food is there, and eating a lot of meat, especially while traveling in Brazil and Texas. I needed a pause.
I consumed the last of the “cleanse” while talking to my sister last night, standing at my kitchen counter wearing nothing but sweaty running shorts, drinking my last green juice and my evening fibre supplement after a hard, fierce run on the treadmill. My sister, being celiac, is a lot more open than I am to making health-through-food choices, and she’s trained my nieces to think of hand made kale chips as a delightful treat. (“My poor girls. They asked for bread and butter for a special treat,” she told me a couple of months ago. “That’s what they give people in PRISON!”). She laughed at me about my skepticism about the notion of “ridding my body of toxins.” I don’t really subscribe to the notion of wringing out one’s excesses through activity in the colon — but trying this regime in a week where a study about the value of organic food prompted what I thought was a wrong-headed conversation seemed accidentally appropriate. All of the media commentary seemed to centre on people not understanding that the value of organic food is *systemic*, not so directly about individual nutrition and health. I do believe that we should choose organic food whenever we can — it’s better for farm workers, and it’s better for the planet, and it’s better for us all on a grand scale. Organically raised farm animals tend to be treated more humanely. It’s pretty well established now the colony collapse issue with bees comes from pesticide use; having no bees to pollinate crops is a pretty dire issue for long-term food security. And we do not know the long-term cumulative effects of pesticides in our bodies, or in our environment, but they are definitely not good. Organic is better, and it’s just incredibly narrow-thinking to not recognize that.
I suspect this juice cleanse falls into some similar category for me of a more systemic than immediate effect. I don’t know what effect it might have on my body — maybe boost my immune system or something vaguely healthful — but I do know that the systemic effect is about my relationship to food. Engaging in this made me pause, made me think about what food means to me, track the effects of what I was putting in. I was really surprised that I only felt a low blood sugar moment once in the three days, and dealt with it by my one diversion from the pure cleanse, by adding half a banana and a teaspoon of (unsweetened) peanut butter to my hemp milk and making a smoothie. I was shocked at how full that made me, and how little it took to realign my sense of equilibrium. I make too many assumptions about what I need to eat, and when, and how much.
I thought of food countless times during the day — and it was a good exercise to experience cravings and know that I just wasn’t going to fulfill them, not right now. I wanted everything from curried chick peas and chicken to quinoa salad to oatmeal cookies. And it was interesting to watch these thoughts float in and out, a little parade of possibilities I could eat later, sometime, just not right now.
When I turned 30, I weighed nearly 25 pounds more than I do now. I lost somewhere over 30 pounds over that year, discovered running and moving my body and agility, and choice-making about food. I am still a runner, steadily but casually, but I’ve got very off-track with the choicefulness. One of my exes commented that I don’t run marathons anymore, but I eat as though I do. My 6.5 boyfriend noted that I can eat as much as he does. (I don’t drench it all in butter, I retorted — but I took his point). The trajectory on the scale over the past couple of years has not been good. I have a fear of turning into one of those short, squat 50 year old women teetering around on too-high heels trying to create an illusion of height. I need to retrain my eating habits — and when my friend Lisa encouraged me to do this at the same time as she was, I felt game. Not enthusiastic, but willing.
It was good to know I could do it — a really good reinforcement of the fact that I have a lot more choices about what I put in my body than I normally exercise. I found a few jellybeans at the bottom of my purse (from my airport layover last weekend), and realized I normally would have just popped them into my mouth. I found mentos on my desk and ditto. I feel like I’m generally gluttonous — I just shovel food in because it’s there, because I want my mouth to be chewing to keep up with my brain and energy. Not chewing for three days was oddly restful.
It was not easy, and I did not enjoy it, in the sense of pure delight. Both mornings on day 2 and 3 I woke up quite cranky and resentful, and the morning and evening fibre drinks were like revolting, lukewarm gruel.
But then I remembered that our kids in Uganda drink some equivalent of watered-down oatmeal for breakfast every morning. Pretty much this same thing.
I don’t know what kind of long-term effect this will have, or if I’ll do it again. But I’m glad I did it, and I “enjoyed it” in the sense of enjoying training or accomplishing something. The toil up a mountain trail. I need to retrain myself to be more mindful about what I fork into my mouth, to savour my food. To experience it, not just to wallow in it. I am privileged enough to be able to eat amazing fresh food, and in extraordinary restaurants around the world. I need to be present to that. And today, the tiny, fresh-from-the-farm tomatoes in my salad were the sweetest things I’d ever eaten.