A Time to Eat, A Time to Cleanse
Towards the end of the school year, I began to feel anxious about the job I had done with my students – did they learn enough? Did I do a good job of helping them to mature? Was I loving enough? Was I tough enough? Were they going to forget everything they had learned over the summer break? Because I teach only five students in a classroom for students with moderate to severe special needs, I knew my students like the back of my hand – their strengths, weaknesses, what they thought they could get away with, everything! This made me worry even more – was I letting them down?
These feelings made me eat. And eat. And eat. I would drink profuse amounts of coffee to stay awake from being so exhausted with worry and with excitement for summer break. I would have a snack of three pieces of toast with butter and jam. I would down a bag of pretzel M and Ms at lunch after everything I had brought from home. Any way you slice it, I was not making healthy choices in the eating department. To top it all off, I hadn’t been to the gym in weeks, despite the membership fees that were still being taken from my paycheck.
I had heard from a friend that she and her husband had completed a three-week cleanse and that they were feeling great about it and that they felt so much more healthy. I thought to myself, “That is exactly what you need to do to get all the school-year toxins out!” I was in a bit of time crunch, with school ending and my best friend arriving from San Francisco for a visit 11 days later, so I decided to re-format their three weeks down to 10 days. I thought about it a lot and decided that this was a good choice for me because I needed to re-wire my sources of comfort. Instead of automatically finding comfort in food, chocolate, my daily phone calls with Mom, E (my live-in boyfriend), my friends and my students; I wanted to find comfort in body movement, Mom, E, cooking, baking, my friends and students – all in that order. I recognized the importance of food and cooking in my life, because I am Italian and my mother instilled a great sense of pride in me about my cooking capabilities. However, I didn’t have to make that mean that I was eating all the time! I was ready for new, improved, healthy eating habits. And boy, was I in for some serious pain about it!
Over those 10 days, I followed the general guidelines of the 2012 Whole Living Action Plan Cleanse. I limited my intake by automatically taking out… caffeine, added sugar, starches/carbohydrates/gluten, meats, dairy, and alcohol (sniff, sniff). Because my plan was modified, I ate fruits, veggies, and nuts ONLY for the first three days. For the next three days, I added fish and beans/lentils. For the final four days, I added eggs and gluten-free grains. For anyone trying this cleanse, things I recommend would be: allow yourself decaf coffee for the taste and the morning routine, and make it fun by drinking lots of smoothies and eating tons of homemade popsicles.
In all honesty and truthfulness, the first day was terrible! I had head pains all over from having absolutely no coffee and having nothing with bread to curb my cravings for that full-tummy feeling. The tummy police were out to get me, but something I discovered that day and the days to follow was that it was okay to be hungry! I wasn’t going to keel over and die if I got a hunger pain – it is actually a good sign to have four hunger pains a day. You learn something new every day.
The second day I was in a cheating mood – I wanted to find ways to cheat myself out of the pain that I had experienced the day before. I wanted to pour a little milk in a little coffee. I wanted to have a little bread with my roasted veggies. I wanted to have a square of chocolate to make the nuts taste better. Ah! I had a real fight with myself that day, but luckily I added a gym routine to my schedule that day and I was feeling fly and fit after an hour of hatha yoga and a mile run.
By the end of the cleanse I had come to some serious conclusions about my health and about my wellness. First of all, my students would be fine, and I had done my very best with them this past school year. It doesn’t do anyone good to worry about things past or things to come, so I was able to let it go! As for my food reality, I had found from this experience, that I can make much better choices when it comes to food and REALLY enjoy the food I put into my body. Plant-based meals can be delicious! Frozen fruit smoothies for breakfast are filling and so yummy!
Because this next month is full of weddings and planning and vacationing for me and E’s family, I am putting the cleanse on hold, and I will return to making more vegetarian and healthy choices when we come back to DC for August. Over this break, however, I will still hold myself to one cup of coffee, little dairy, only one or two servings of bread a day, and LOTS of fruit and veggies! And, you know what? That will be wonderful and delicious, and NOT a diet.
Image from http://www.wholeliving.com/152235/week-1-recipes/@center/152870/2012-whole-living-action-plan