Fasting, “cleansing”, and “detoxing” are all pretty stereotypical yoga teacher things to do, and I generally try to avoid being a stereotypical yoga teacher. Also, in my opinion (disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nutritionist, or qualified in any special way to tell you how to eat), most of these fasts, cleanses, and detoxes seem too extreme to me, just fancy crash diets. When I still lived in Baltimore back in 2005, after my wonderful acupuncturist announced she was doing it, I tried one such program–the Master Cleanse (the lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and water fast). So many people swear by this fast, and maybe it does work great for some types of people. Not me. I got terribly ill on day 3 or 4 and quit. (Fortunately for my safety in that particular situation, the yogic idea of tapas– “burning effort”, “zealous commitment”, “austerity”–was not one of my strong points then [still working on that…]). I never considered doing another one of these detoxes again, preferring to make small dietary changes for the long term rather than shocking my body with lemon pepper water. And, for the most part, I’ve always been a healthy eater. I went veg at age 14 and stayed that way for most of the rest of my life, but I have always had a sweet tooth and a cheese tooth.
Fast forward to fall, 2012: my cupcake and Danish consumption has soared to a record high. I’ve been eating a breakfast pastry every single day for months, perhaps a whole year–blueberry scones with frosting, cherry cheese Danishes, orange chocolate chip muffins, or–my personal favorite–Foster’s Market’s butterscotch scones. Later in the day, after lunch, I have a vanilla cupcake or a cream cheese brownie from Weaver Street Market. In the evening, I’ll split a huge chocolate bar with my waitress friends while we’re working. I rationalize these decisions in a variety of ways–I remind myself that at least I’m consuming high-quality pastries and cupcakes made from good ingredients, I recount how much work or yoga or whatever productive thing I’ve done recently, or I tell myself the story that I’m not feeling at my best today and I just need a little pick-me-up. The last one is the clue that I am addicted to sugar. I’ve known this for some time, but have been reluctant to deal with it because sugar is my escape from uncomfortable emotions, my morning ritual, and my lifelong habit.
About a month ago, I started listening to Pema Chodron’s audiobook The Three Commitments. It was recorded at a silent meditation retreat she led a while back. One of the things she asked the participants to do was to refrain from one of their habitual behaviors for the length of the retreat. She went on to talk more about the practice of refraining, and how it is different from repressing. Refraining is a way of working with our habitual patterns and bringing mindfulness to thoughts, words, and actions. After feeling just a little icky and sluggish over the past month or so, I decided I should refrain from sugar for a while. So, on Tuesday, I completed the last day of Dr. Oz’s 3-Day Detox Cleanse, a sensible program of three fruit and vegetable drinks daily, along with a probiotic, omega 3 supplement, and multivitamin. The drinks are all tasty, though my favorite is the dinner drink–a thick shake of mango, avocado, kale, coconut water, blueberries, ground flax seed, and a dash of cayenne. Super yum. I will actually continue drinking this one.
The first day was rough–my brain seemed clogged with cotton, exhaustion overtook me by midday, and I was super duper cranky. I thought I would die from refined sugar withdrawal. But the fog lifted around late afternoon, and I survived. Day two went well. I wasn’t hungry–this plan has plenty of calories. On day three, I felt amazing. Seriously. I used to silently mock those who extolled the virtues of going off sugar, but I had more energy, felt lighter, and thought more clearly than I have in ages.
So, now what? I made it through the detox. Over the past few days, I’ve approached each food choice with greater mindfulness, and although I don’t think I’ll stay off sugar for good, I’ll certainly drastically reduce. My intention is to continue choosing my food intentionally rather than habitually and to examine what I really want when I want to reach for a four-pack of the Weave’s delish vanilla cupcakes.