On the Other Side

This morning marked the end of a six week food overhaul and a five day fast.  I toasted myself with a glass of juice and a mug of green tea to ease back into taking calories in my body.  This process has been intense, to say the least.  

The lessons learned are still a little murky.  I am sure it will take weeks or months before I have unravelled all that needs to be.  No surprise, I have deep connections to food.  Not just the emotional fix kind either.  It is part of my core belief system, my passion, my profession, a part of my culture, my history, my future.  Almost every good thing in my life has been marked with a meal around the table with family and friends.  Separating what is healthy about that from the rest of it is no easy task. 

I expected this process to be hard, welcomed how difficult it would be.  Not sure if that is about a self imposed punishment for what I have put my body through or just the regular "change is hard" component.  What I didn't expect was how much emotional baggage our bodies physically hold.  I am intimately familiar with muscle memory and how the body holds on to physical trauma.  I have spent a significant amount of time on the table of craniosacral and massage therapists alike.  I am fortunate that my body speaks clearly and loudly during those sessions.  However, there were several moments during this process that I just dropped my basket.  Plumbing my emotions in those moments led exclusively to grief for me.  Not sure what that grief is about specifically, but it was big and it was buried deep.  Cathartic crying jags and emotional upheaval were never about one specific moment, just a general feeling of dredging the well to find this big general emotion down there. 

The process was absolutely necessary for me to finish.  Critical in fact.  My health was worrying me.  This feels like it was the big reset that I was seeking.  My body has been shedding dozens of pounds (dozens) of not just weight, but "baggage".  I feel like it reprogrammed my default settings the way it was supposed to do.  Time will tell how many things I can incorporate into my life on this side of it.  For now, I am going vegan and gluten free during the week and eating whatever I want on the weekends.  It feels like a good fit for where I am.  If you had told me I would be volunteering for vegan six weeks ago, I would have told you that you were crazy.  It feels amazing to burn so clean.  My energy is through the roof.  Sleep went from 8+ to 5 hours a night.  

The five day fast part was incredibly difficult.  Like I-don't-ever-want-to-do-this-again difficult.  I did water only for those five days and I was miserable from beginning to end.  The hunger never went away and I expected it to at some point.  I had heard by day four I should be feeling great.  Yeah that never happened.  I had a dull headache for three days and was starving for five.  I feel super detoxed, however.  Part of this process was to include colonics.  I had two and a foot detox and it was a lot to ask of my body.  I am glad I did them, but I was left feeling physically wiped out and emotionally fragile.  I know that is part of my particular response to body/organ invasions of any kind, but it was certainly more pronounced during the fast.  

One thing was certain- my support system is unequaled.  I had so many people calling and texting, messaging and well wishing for the entire process.  My tribe always humbles me.  Also my husband has earned sainthood several times over.  Putting up with my grumpy ass is no small task on a regular basis.  During this?  He was a rock star.

So now the How To portion of the blog.  I have had many folks asking about it.  Let me start by saying, I am not in any way a nutritionist or qualified to tell you how to do your own process.  It has to fit you and where you are and there are dozens of books to guide you.  My guidebook was The Tao of Detox by Daniel Reid.  This process made sense for me and my body.  The length of time I took doing this was very important.  It gave my body time to get each thing out of my system and re-calibrate to the new diet.  Each week you add an additional item to eliminate.  I would recommend consulting a doctor before you begin this.  It's hard core, kids.  

Week 1
Eliminate wheat and refined sugar from diet.

Week 2
Eliminate red meat in addition to Week 1 items

Week 3
Eliminate all dairy and animal/fish proteins except eggs in addition to Week 1 and 2 items

Week 4
Vegan only in addition to previous week's items.  Begin cutting caffeine.

Week 5
Eliminate alcohol (if you haven't already) and caffeine.  Vegan with juicing only 24 hours prior to fast. 

Week 6

Some advice on the food prep: avoid anything pre-packaged.  There is sugar and gluten hidden in just about everything that has already been made.  Read the labels.  Shop the outer edges of the store.  You know the drill.  Vegan/vegetarian cooking is way outside my wheelhouse.  It took some research to find good flavorful recipes.  Jamie Oliver's website had some awesome lunch options for me and I cooked Indian and Middle Eastern frequently because my body was craving the exotic spices.  Turmeric has a permanent place on my pantry shelf now.  The juicing recipes were totally veggie loaded and came from several websites after I googled it.  Find what works for you.

The biggest part of my success in sticking to this was to PLAN PLAN PLAN.  If you go into this with your old defaults in place and no plan, you are going to eat some bad stuff.   The process is too  long to throw it out midway.  I spent one day after work each week planning menus and shopping, Sunday cooking and prepping.  Having it organized keeps you feeling really in control of the process and able to weather those "I really need a cheeseburger" moments.  I can honestly say I don't miss much of what I have eliminated.  Especially not the sugar. 

If you are not interested in the fast portion, skip it.  Seriously- its awful.  After it is said and done, re-introduce what fits, adopt what works.  You are going to feel really bad for the first couple of days each week as your body detoxes.  It gets better.  I promise.  Stick with it.  The other side is pretty great.

The coming weeks here bring garden prep and an exciting event at a beautiful farm.  And, of course, more menu planning.  There is sooooo much to learn about vegan cooking.  Be well, friends.  And my heartfelt thanks for your unending support.

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  1. You are a rockstar - congratulations for seeing this experience through, and living to write about it.

    The fasting thing is no joke. I hope you were able pamper yourself in non-food related ways (i like massages and shoe shopping).

    I know parts of this journey from my own experience. Avoiding leeks most of my life, I never knew a it was a type of onion until I juiced one w/out adding a whole lot of other veggies, and then immediately threw it up because apparently my gut can't handle straight onion juice. I still squirm at just the thought of an onion.

    Such a process. Food and health and emotions and all the stuff we stuff down - both figuratively and literally. Good for you for having the courage to explore such deep-seeded issues.

    As a high-maintenance order-er ("can i get that w/ out cheese?" "do you mind putting the dressing on the side?" "can i get that broiled instead of fried?" "can you do the stir fry w/ shrimp? And no rice please"), I'm always up for a breakfast, lunch or dinner w/ someone who doesn't roll their eyes because I almost always ask for items not on the menu.

    Keep going!