I finished the 21 day Clean Program on Friday. After one week of detox and three of cleansing, I feel great beyond description. I did not anticipate the way in which taking control of food would make me feel so powerful and positive. Yes, I have lost weight (about 8 pounds), but the most important piece of the puzzle is the overwhelming feeling that I don’t have to go down the road of mindless eating ever again. I want to bottle this feeling and carry it with me in my pocket as a reminder. I want to be that annoying pyramid scheme perpetrator peddling my excitement. I want to use a bull horn and shout from the highest mountain.
What I have learned can probably be broken down into a few things:
- Food matters
I never really thought too much about what I was eating prior to the cleanse. Beyond consciously choosing to not eat beef, pork, or chicken for about two years, I ate pretty much everything wanted, when I wanted. Carbohydrates were my best friend. The glass of wine was in my hand as soon as I hit my front door. Now, I don’t need a pasta fix. If I want pasta, maybe I will sometimes choose to eat it. Now, there will be intentionality behind the occasional (much less frequent) glass of wine. I have also now gotten into the habit of actually reading the labels on food. (It is amazing what you you can find out.) Probably the biggest behavior change that I have experienced is finding my love of cooking again. I love the kitchen, and I have now dusted off my pots and pans. I am now on the hunt for clean recipes that taste good.
- I ate for the wrong reasons
I will admit it. I watch the occasional reality show on TV. One of my favorite reality show sayings is, “X is doing this for the wrong (or right) reasons.” Whether on The Bachelor or The Voice, this is usually meant to refer to someone being really serious about finding true love or becoming a better musician. It could be said I ate for the wrong reasons before the cleanse. Physical hunger had very little to do with anything. I ate when I was sad. I ate when I was happy. I ate when I was angry. I ate when I thought about being sad, happy, or angry. One of suggestions made by Clean program leaders is to try to become aware of when and why you eat while you are on the program, and I definitely did. I still feel all those emotions, but right now I am not running to the refrigerator, or making the wrong choices ate restaurants. I eat for the right reasons.
- Context counts
Surrounding myself with people and situations that support my better eating self is important. I don’t want to stop hanging out with people who binge on chocolate, drink beer, and eat pizza. I don’t want to be a wet blanket. I don’t want to be a problem guest at a dinner party. I do want to remain on my path, and encourage others to join me when I can. I am lucky that the people in my life have been truly supportive thus far. I have been able to hang out with chocolate binging, beer drinking, pizza eaters without incident. I have been flexible, and the people that love me have been flexible too. I think that will continue to be important.
- Don’t give up
Detox is hell. Old habits cling to the soul with the strength of a mother bear protecting her cub. We develop crutches to soften the harsh blows of life. We develop coping mechanisms to function when we can’t otherwise survive. The cleanse definitely unearthed my areas of weakness and frailty. It was important to not let the moments of pain and fear which frequently happened at the beginning of the cleanse keep me from continuing. I expect the same determination will be necessary going forward, especially as the ease of old habits creeps back into my consciousness.
- Start the journey
Just start. I think I learned that right away. Once I started, I knew I was in, and would not look back. Now being back to real life eating, just starting to live more cleanly is a lesson I take with me from the cleanse. Day by day. Minute by minute. Choice by choice. I now know how good I can feel.