One of my good friends is studying nutrition, and we have bonded over all things healthy food related (as well as all things raising a 3rd grade boy related). As I was browsing her Facebook page (Be A Healthy Mom) last week, I came across a 3-day spring detox plan she posted. I was intrigued, because it was a detox plan that included food and most of the items on the shopping list were usually in my fridge or pantry anyways.
Although I eat a lot of raw and vegan foods and juice regularly, I have never had any desire to try a completely liquid cleanse. Actually, I did try it once 8 or 9 years ago. It was not a real cleanse or a supervised cleanse. It had no nutritional basis whatsoever. It was just me and my husband seeing how long we could go drinking only Odwalla bottled juices. About 24 hours and one massive panic attack later, I decided I was done with the liquid “cleanse”.
Now that I’m not so young and foolish, I realized how silly my first “cleanse” was and decided I should be open to all the benefits that a properly executed detox offers. So on Monday, I committed to taking on the 3-day food-included detox with my friend. I’m not going to lie. It was hard. Although I felt like the plan offered a large quantity of food, and I often couldn’t eat the meals in one sitting, particularly the lunches, I was mentally freaked out that it was going to make me feel something I didn’t want to feel. As much as I like to think I am no longer an emotional eater, my dirty little secret is that I do still rely on food as my safety net. A LOT. If I am going somewhere new or to someplace that makes me a little uncomfortable, I always make sure I have a secret stash of food packed. It may only be an apple or a bag of dried almonds and apricots, but it’s there, neatly tucked away like a bottle of Xanax, waiting to help take the edge off.
Day 1 ended with me emotionally on the edge and jonesing for a bowl of tortilla chips and hummus. I bolted out of a training seminar I was at that evening because I couldn’t take being outside the comfort of my home any longer without a security snack in my bag. My husband arrived home about the same time as me and began unloading a bag of evening snacks he had picked up on his way home.
“I’m so hungry,” I said.
“Then eat something,” he replied.
“I’m doing a 3-day detox. I just want to do this. I want to be able to get through this.”
“Then don’t eat something. I just want you to be happy.”
“I think being able to stick with this will make me happy,” I decided finally.
I knew if I could just get to bed and make it through the night, there was a good sized bowl of quinoa with fruit and nuts waiting for me on the other side. I climbed into bed, had a fitful sleep, and woke the next morning to a growling stomach. I tore into the kitchen, whipped up my bowl of breakfast goodness, and then couldn’t fathom the thought of eating it. My nervous morning stomach had struck again, the morning stomach queasiness that always seems to appear when I am facing something emotionally that I am trying to pretend isn’t there. It’s a queasiness that seeps up into my chest and then eventually, with the right trigger, up and out my eyeballs as uncontrollable tears.
I had just signed up for a 21-day meditation program, so I logged onto my computer and pulled up the link to the day’s meditation, hoping I could find some peace, as well as my breath. Thankfully it helped and I found some inner calm, enough that I was finally able to eat my much anticipated bowl of quinoa and get on with my day. I sailed through lunch and dinner after that, feeling nourished and light and energetic. I ended the day with no craving for my usual nighttime snack and I went to bed thinking, “One more day and I’ve got this.” But I slept in fits and starts again and awoke with a raging, nervous morning stomach. I dragged myself out of bed and into the kitchen to prep my Day 3 breakfast, a cucumber, celery, romaine, kale, green apple, ginger and lemon juice combination that was identical to a juice I had been drinking almost daily for the past year and a half. It should have been easy. It was something familiar. Problem was, after drinking that very juice for the past 18 months, in my mind it was combined with a piece of fruit or some toast with almond butter mid-morning to get me through lunch.
Suddenly, I didn’t think I could do this anymore. I was done. Before starting the detox I had been feeling physically and emotionally stronger and more sure of myself than I had since our move to NYC. Ironically, that strength I was feeling was probably the reason I decided now was the time to embark on a detox. But on the dawn of Day 3, my emotional strength was sapped. I couldn’t take another day of nervous morning stomach. My husband’s words two days earlier echoed in my mind. I just want you to be happy.
In that moment, I thought the smoothie I had been having for breakfast in the days prior to starting the detox would make me happy. So I set my green juice aside and prepared a green smoothie instead. A few moments later, as the door to our apartment closed after sending off my husband and boys, I took a swig of my freshly prepared green smoothie. The smoothie that I thought would make me happy plunged me into darkness. In that moment it hit me. I had been standing toe to toe with fear. But I blinked. And fear won.
I collapsed on my bedroom floor sobbing and shaking, my heart racing, in the throes of a panic attack. I hated who I was in that moment. I hated myself for failing. I hated that I couldn’t accomplish something that people undertake daily. I hated that I was spiritually weak. I hated that I had to call my husband to come rescue me.
And rescue me he did.
“So you didn’t do the whole detox. So what,” he said.
“I wanted this to be my big breakthrough. I don’t want food to be so important to me. I wanted this to be the time I didn’t let my crazy takeover.”
“What’s wrong with food being so important to you,” he asked? “It’s who you are. We’ve all got stuff. I’ve got my stuff and you’ve got your stuff. It’s who you are. You’re not crazy. You’re normal. You’ve got to be ok with who you are. Stop fighting it so hard. You are doing this to yourself.”
And he was right. I was doing it to myself. Maybe, I decided, instead of working so hard at transformation, I needed to work a little harder at self-acceptance.