My Yearly Food Cleanse and Why I Do It

There are a lot of questions about whether or not it's a good idea to cleanse. You have heard of people who do a juice fast or the Master Cleanse for seven to fourteen days. I admit, I did my first cleanse about two years ago. These are my first impressions:

  • I definitely felt hungry; there are very challenging aspects to not eating regular food
  • I realized that I eat way too much food in my normal routine, and my awareness to how often my day revolves around food became apparent
  • It created a defined starting point to correct some of my bad eating habits, so I decided to do a cleanse once a year

You know those nights when you go to bed, and you are very well-aware of the fact that you overate that day, or kept reaching for the wrong foods? I decided to remind myself that I don't have to feel this way with a yearly cleanse, and here is what it looks like. I go on a soft food only diet for about 2 or 3 days: overly steamed veggies, sweet potatoes and soup broths. Then for five or six days I drink a series of juices: watermelon and lime for energy in the morning; lemon, cayenne pepper, water, and maple syrup to curb my appetite (this is the Master Cleanse drink); cucumber and strawberry for inflammation; and finally, a pineapple juice. All are made fresh and are full of fiber.

Yes, I do lose a few pounds, but a week-long cleanse ends up doing so much more for me than just enhancing weight loss. Here is what I get out of it:

1. I respect food more. After abstaining from solid food, I approach eating food with a better understanding of what it's actually for. It's not to medicate me or soothe my sad or bored soul. The food is there to nourish my vehicle.

2. I notice what and how I am eating. As funny as it sounds, when I start eating again after the fast, I actually chew my food and notice all of the flavors. I'm not shoveling things into my mouth while doing three other tasks. Oh no! When you have the chance to eat solid food again, you take a moment to really savor it.

3. My sensitivity to smell and flavor are elevated. Not only do I taste every flavor in my food, but I even notice the textures and colors. My entire eating experience is enhanced.

4. I am more selective about what I put in my body. When you have just finished cleaning your house, don't you feel more diligent about keeping it that way because it feels so good? When you find yourself buried under a mess and you don't know how to come out from underneath it, the tendency is to just give up. But by clearing out your system and giving it a break, you become more mindful of your body and your desire to keep it that way. So you're more choosy about what you put into your stomach. You may even start asking, "How is that food going to serve me?" before taking a bite.

5. I appreciate that I do have such abundance around me. Even with my kids, I realize they don't have a clue about how blessed we are to always have enough, that we never have the feeling of real hunger and how fortunate that makes us. Just those little tinges of feeling hungry over the few days I'm fasting makes me humbled by those who wonder where they are going to get their next meal.

6. My mind and mood feel balanced. Besides being a little grumpy from feeling hungry, I don't get the mood swings that certain foods bestow upon me or the giant dips in energy from digesting big meals.

7. I think about other things. Since I am not obsessing about what we are eating or where we are going to eat, I free up my brain to think about other things. The week of the fast can be a very reflective time.

8. My pants are looser and my knees hurt less. Since a lot of the foods I like are acidic (red meat and sugar), the cleanse helps decrease some of the inflammation I feel on a regular basis, especially in my knees. I notice it right away.

9. I'm just happy to eat anything, even sprouts. Taking a break from my everyday foods for one week creates a great opportunity to develop healthy new habits. I'm even grateful to eat steamed brown rice, with fish and veggies, believe me. I realized that I spend a lot of time wrestling with food choices, but during the fast I'm just happy to eat, even if it's non-stop healthy.

Don't think of this as a weight loss diet or a science project. Recruit a friend and take one week out of your fifty-two to make new lifestyle habits. You won't starve, believe me -- it's amazing how little we really need to function. We, as a culture, overeat in general, and eat way too much of the wrong stuff. How about starting over, getting some good sleep, drinking lots of water, having good elimination, moving, laughing, reading? See how you feel after just one week, the time I need to get it all in check. Good luck, and don't try to take on other challenges -- just focus on your body. As you simplify your eating, simplify your life.

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