If I had to pick one quality that I love most about myself, it would be the fact that I am always willing to try just about anything at least once. Whether it is a new hairstyle or a new restaurant, there is always something out of my norm that catches my eye. This does not mean that I have to fall in love with everything or adopt it as anything permanent, but I do like to step outside of my little box on occasion just to get some variety from time to time. Most of my try-something-new adventures center around food. It is amazing that I never became a better cook because good food, not junk, has long been my preferred drug of choice. I use good food to celebrate, to soothe, to remember, to forget and sometimes just to be a glutton if I am really honest with myself. My latest new thing to give a whirl is a 21-day cleanse that starts this weekend. It goes hand in hand with a 30-day yoga commitment I am currently doing at my neighborhood gym, so the two activities are meant to support each other.
As a guide for the cleanse, we are following a plan laid out by author Kathy Freston's book Quantum Wellness Cleanse. For 21 days, I will avoid what she calls the "big five". They include (in order of "Oh Hell No!") sugar, gluten, caffeine, alcohol and animal products. I purposely listed them in my personal order of difficulty, although others surely may have a different perspective. I amno stranger to Kathy Freston's books, so it was an added bonus that this experiment would follow a plan I was already kind of cool with. I have done similar stints like this in the past where I would eliminate animal products from my diet and was in fact a full-fledged vegetarian for two years before I got married. Why I became a carnivore again after marriage is still a bit of a blur to me. Somewhere along the way, I must have fallen into a beef brisket and never climbed back out. I still flirt with the possibility of going back to my old ways and even tried going vegan for a short while last year. Whenever I fall back into the habit of eating meat, I can never identify exactly why except to say that I become lazy and stop paying attention to what I eat. Mindless eating for convenience is going to be the death of me, literally.
There are a few factors that make this cleanse different for me. First, I have never done any type of diet of any kind with a group before. I usually hate all the gooey gushy sharing that takes place in group meetings, so my method has been to suffer in solitude and do my dieting alone. Hey, but like I said, I will try anything at least once, so here goes. I signed up at the gym and we will meet for an hour and half once a week for a month to offer support and swap healthy recipes. This is all being put on by the yoga department, so we are encouraged to practice yoga daily and record our experiences in a journal that we can share with others if we choose. Throughout the cleanse, I will be encouraged to give less importance to the foods that are eliminated and embrace new things that I normally would not be willing to try. Already this sounds like it will be right up my alley.
After you eliminate all added sugars, gluten and animal products, you are left with a mostly plant-based diet. The biggest pains about actually following a plant-based diet are the constant trips to the grocery store. Fresh veggies and fruits do not have a long shelf life, so you may find yourself in the store loading up every 2-3 days on average or else you will fall of the diet wagon. When I did my short vegan stint last year, I do cringe remembering the near constant trips to the store but I did enjoy the food. I remember the way I felt lighter and more clear-minded throughout my days. I remember how my weight starting to drop nicely without much change in my fitness routine. I remember my skin looking healthier and my hair being shinier. So if I remember all these good side effects from the veganism experiment, why the hell did I ever stop? Was it laziness after so many frequent store visits or having to plan and prepare meals ahead of time? Who knows.
Another factor that is motivating me is that fact that I am making some huge dietary changes all at the same time. In the past when I wanted to drop weight, I would eliminate meat or sugar or alcohol. I have never eliminated all these things at the same time, so I am curious about how my body will change when I play by all the rules at once. Will my system go into shock from being too damn healthy? In my quest to achieve a slimmer figure in the past, I would eliminate sugar or processed carbs and lose about 5 pounds. After that I would get bored, change up my efforts and accidentally scarf down a cupcake or something. Before you know it, after a single slip-up, I would throw in the towel and slowly let my dietary vices slip their way back in. I would end up right back where I started.
Also one sad thing to admit is that anytime I have cleaned up my diet in the past, I've always given myself an "out" or a Plan B, some sort of way to cheat and still claim to be on track to the outside world. I don't want to be that person this time. I want to follow the cleanse as closely as possible because I am truly curious what transformation my mind and body will go through. I actually want to be a good pupil this time and do what the teacher is requesting of me. When I seriously look at the plan through mature eyes, it does not look so scary. I mean, it is only 21 days. Come on, I've had college boyfriends that barely lasted that long.
Based on my experience with no-sugar/no-caffeine eliminations in the past, I can expect the first 4 days to be pure hell. Headaches, cravings, and plain old all around bitchiness are going to be on full display. I will have to keep reminding myself that these food eliminations are temporary and I am merely giving my body a break from all the toxins. My hope is that I will be able to leave some of them out of my diet even longer because ultimately they all contribute to my overall weight gain. I am carrying around an extra layer of Thanksgiving/Christmas/birthday partying pounds that I have chosen to ignore for the last couple of months. Now it is time to face the music and dig through those extra layers of pudge to find the body I want. I haven't seen that body in a while, but I know it will not remain hidden for much longer.