This story is simple. There is no surprise ending, no ironic twist of fate. What follows is the true account of a mere mortal, with a ravenous appetite for bread and cheese, trying to eat more green things and learning that a sense of humor is the perfect partner for change.
Phase 1: Resistance/Mourning
The beginning of any cleanse, characterized by mood-swings, inner complaints, and a lot of staring into your refrigerator.
Day 1. I find myself overwhelmed and unprepared. My fridge is full of delicious things I cannot eat and hardly any produce (cries to the heavens while supportive spouse does a grocery run).
Day 3. Rediscovers the magic of kale chips. I live for kale chips. I am a kale chip. Please don't take my kale chips.
Day 4. I adapt my regular recipe of cashew sauce for the cleanse and promptly put it on everything in sight. My food life now revolves around a single condiment.
Day 5. Feeling petulant and hangry. I did not know I could hate anything as much as I now hate rice and lentils (sadly eats a skittle off the floor in desperation).
Phase 2: Plateauing
The mopey adjustment period of cleansing where you start to notice your body actually feels better than it did previously. At this point, the participant begins to accept the benefits of the food program and learns to live within its structure.
Day 7. I am now aware of the basic “tools” in my fridge and how to use them well. I notice that while I still have cravings, they become something I can view from a distance.
Day 8. Oats, check. Green smoothie, check. Quinoa bowl, check. Off to work.
Day 10. Well intentioned humans keep offering me food I cannot eat and I easily say no. With less ease, I ignore the urge to throw things at these people. I observe my self-control and administer an inner high-five to my willpower.
Phase 3: Sad Epiphanies
In the void left by (insert favorite food), this stage of cleansing is filled with inner-monologues about the meaning of life and the cleanser’s relationship to food.
Day 14. My gut feels much better. Oh God… I should probably eat like this all the time. Mixed emotions. Single tear rolls down cheek as I remember my last piece of cheese.
Day 15. I realize that I literally cannot have unhealthy food in my house. I will seek it, I will find it, I will destroy it.
Day 16. How is it that I can push through eating something that makes me feel gross but not push through a bowl of lentils?
Day 17. Why on Earth do we think that eating must always be a transcendental experience? Why can it not just be mostly practical? Why is my enjoyment of food so emotional? I journal about the answers to these questions.
Day 18. I may never be able to go back to dairy again… I love dairy. I miss dairy. Reminds self of all the terrible environmental/physical ramifications of the dairy industry. Watches Cowspiracy on Netflix for comfort.
Phase 4: Transitioning
The final phase of any cleanse, characterized by decisions about how one will carry forward the lessons learned from the cleansing period.
Today, I am still figuring this last piece out. The past month has been emotional, invigorating, and decidedly funny. In order to keep moving forward and not fall back into negative habits, I decided to take stock of the benefits I have experienced from the cleanse.
· Reduction in cravings.
· Discovery of new recipes and healthy treats (so many kale chips).
· Noticed my food-habits and stress-eating triggers.
· Reduction in appetite and subsequent portion sizes in my meals.
· Weight loss.
· Reduction in gas, bloating, and stomach irritation.
· Consideration of my use of animal products.
· More emotional consistency, reprieve from cycles of food-based guilt.
As I near the end of this process, the lesson is not what I thought it would be. While I reinvigorated my relationships to food, did some gut repair, and lowered my environmental impact, I also learned to take myself less seriously. Making healthy choices doesn’t mean you sit in the dark, pondering your negative habits and meal-planning through tears. Writing these notes, laughing at myself, and sharing my struggles with loved ones ended up being as rewarding as the changes themselves. Suddenly, this way of consuming is something I’ve fought for, something humorous, exploratory, and uniquely mine. So, in the light of a new day, I can move forward armed with new habits and, most importantly, a little more self-love.