What a good cleanse will teach you

So the cleanse is a mere 4 days past, and...I miss it. I miss the way I felt. I miss all the vegetables, shakes, having everything planned out for me, all the support from our group, calls, leaders, fellow cleansers...and although I get why one shouldn't "cleanse" nonstop, there really are many a lesson to be learned from a good cleanse. This one in particular was filled with positive learning experiences. Here is what you can expect to gain from cleansing, should you be interested in joining up next time.

  • Vegetables are worth the extra steps and time in preparation. I finally conquered my fear of cutting a butternut squash. Yes, the peeling and turning and trimming and chopping takes a while...but roast that off in the oven with some onions and garlic and it is DELICIOUS! Some veggies take no time to prepare, though — I steamed some broccoli last night in 6 minutes — either way, go out of your way to purchase and prepare vegetables every day. They are nutritional powerhouses and you will be hooked on how clean and healthy you feel once you incorporate more of them into your diet.
  • Don't give up when the going gets tough. We've all had that Day 1 of a diet or lifestyle change and thought I can't do this. We've run out of time; we've forgotten to bring our sneakers to the gym; we've gotten too stressed out to meditate. That's when you need it the most! When things are difficult, you need more self care and you need to make MORE time for examining the thoughts behind feeling deprived, tired, angry or resentful. Cleansing or making any sort of positive lifestyle change can uncover all of these emotions and more. Do NOT give up. Push through it, and the reward will be great.
  • Eating healthy does NOT have to be expensive. During the cleanse, often times I was eating something different than what I prepared for my husband and kids, and yet I still spent the same amount on groceries as I usually do. And on top of that, when cooking at home I never felt deprived; we weren't short on food during the cleanse and in all actuality I still have a butternut squash left over, some rice, lots of the dried herbs I stocked up on, some vegetable broth and probably a few more things I'm forgetting. Cleanse food stretches a dollar, which was a pleasant surprise!
  • Food is meant to make you feel alive. Do you feel more open and alive when you drink coffee, or more closed down and shut off? How do you feel when drinking homemade, fresh-squeezed juice? Pick your poison. What are your favorite foods? If you say pizza and ice cream, I dare you to question that both further and more seriously. How do you feel after eating pizza and ice cream (besides nauseated and bloated)? Unless we're talking one freaking fabulous slice of gourmet pizza and a touch of decadent gelato after — in a piazza in Italy. I really don't think scarfing down Dominos and drowning your sorrows in a pint of Ben & Jerry's will make you feel alive, vital or vibrant.
  • Caffeine is not the be-all and end-all. I'm pretty sure that when I drink coffee all I'm trying to get out of it is the physiological comfort. The ritual. The sensation of warmth and familiarity. I didn't miss the caffeine one bit while I was on the cleanse other than the morning after a hellish night of teething with my 8-month-old baby. Unless you're drinking multiple pots of coffee a day, you'll get over it much more quickly than you think.

These are all very practical measures you can learn while detoxing, but there are also mental and emotional lessons to be learned. That first taste of deprivation can either make you or break you. If you get over the hump of "I can't" have this and "I can't" eat that, you will reap the rewards and you won't disappoint yourself  like I did. But either way — even if you do cave, cheat, slip up, make a mistake — there are nuggets of wisdom nestled in there, too. Which foods attracted you the most? What situation was the most difficult for you to be in while trying to resist the temptations of sugar, alcohol and/or gluten? How much thought did you have to invest ahead of time in terms of meal planning at home and while eating out? Did that get on your nerves, or did it serve as an opportunity to grow your knowledge of local health-food purveyors, vegan recipes and cooking techniques?

Whether you see it or agree with it, there is an emotional aspect to food and dining, and we all have some sort of attachments to the thoughts and feelings we associate with eating. A physician-approved cleanse will eliminate toxic foods from your diet — even if only temporarily — so that you can catch a glimpse of a different way of life, both physically and mentally.

If the opportunity arises I would do another cleanse in a heartbeat. Practice makes perfect, right? With adequate support and continued attention to your own individualized journey, removing things like caffeine, alcohol and sugar from your diet will show you where your feel-good baseline is...and you will want to go back there time and time again.


Filed under: Healthy living

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