It was a spontaneous decision. I would embark on a 21-day dietary cleanse/detoxification. While Cleanses were not new to me, I had never committed to one for this length of time.
My first experience with a cleanse/fast was in 2003-4 during my study of Food Energetics with Roger Green and, subsequently, with one of Roger’s graduates, Karla Walter. Among other things, Karla is a nutritionist, classical Homeopath and Feng Shui Practitioner. As part of her Five Seasons to Wellness program, I was introduced to a spring fast/cleanse of consuming only miso soup, short grain rice and Bancha Tea (a Japanese green tea). The timing was very specific: between April 12-19th. I followed it every April for about four years, appreciating the opportunity to participate in an “internal” spring-cleaning.
Fast forward to Spring 2013. While visiting a friend, she mentioned a cleanse she was doing. Her comments triggered the memory of those past April cleanses, which had since fallen from my routine. I was excited to re-introduce a healthy, intentional spring body cleanse into my life.
What is a cleanse and why do one?
Body cleanse diets, also referred to as body purification or detoxification, claim to remove toxins from our organs, blood and digestive system and help maintain a healthy weight. While our body is designed to rid itself of toxins naturally, our daily exposure to pollutants, pesticides and chemicals can overburden that ability.
Cleansing diets, especially versions of fasting, are disciplined withdrawals from habitual eating practices. Interrupting the normal diet or foregoing food has been used throughout history for religious purposes and for healing. Cleansing the body was thought to open the way to enlightenment in some Eastern cultures. Early physicians used a variety of mono-diets, herb concoctions and simple fasts to give the body a rest and help cure disease.
In addition to an internal “spring-cleaning,” I wanted to modify some of my eating habits and, if losing weight occurred as well, all the better! I contacted my chiropractor who recommended this particular 21-day cleanse.
Why 21 days? It seems there is an ongoing belief that it takes 21 days to change a habit. Well, I was willing to try it and see what new habits I kept and what old habits returned after 21 days. More on that later.
The cleanse consisted of several supplements and all the organic fruits and vegetables I could eat for the first 10 days. Beginning day 11, I could add 2-4 servings (3 oz. cooked) of protein in the form of deep sea fish and lean organic chicken and turkey that was baked, broiled, roasted or poached.
I was motivated so I found this plan relatively easy to follow. However, the challenge was to eat twice as many vegetables as fruits. It is easy for me to eat fruit, but I quickly realized that, while I believed I ate a lot of vegetables, I was actually eating less than I thought. The first few days were spent discovering unique ways to significantly increase my vegetable intake, especially since they were a mainstay for 10 days.
Also recommended as part of cleansing is to get to as much fresh air and physical and emotional rest as possible and to stay well hydrated.
In 2004, I saw the movie “Super Size Me,” an interesting experiment in fast food consumption, that called special attention to the increase in obesity in our country and the diseases associated with it. While I take responsibility for the foods I eat and the calories I consume, I was amazed at a fact I had never considered: the vast increase in food portion sizes over the last 20 years! And not just at fast food places but all restaurants in general. Those increased portions also found their way into our homes.
“Between 1977 and 1996, food portion sizes increased both inside and outside the home for all categories except pizza,” wrote the study’s authors, Samara Joy Nielsen and Barry M. Popkin. “The sizes of the increase are substantial.”
The data revealed that over the past 20 years: Hamburgers have expanded by 23 percent; A plate of Mexican food is 27 percent bigger; Soft drinks have increased in size by 52 percent; Snacks, whether they be potato chips, pretzels or crackers, are 60 percent larger. Wow! Who knew?
To make this information more personal, read this post by divine caroline.
After watching that movie, I never used a dinner plate again when eating meals at home. Instead, I use a salad plate to control both portions and calories. And, interestingly, I rarely find myself going back for seconds, supporting the notion that my body can be satisfied with less.
I had no difficulty following this 21-day cleanse. I even had a number of lunches and birthday dinner celebrations in restaurants during that time and, by reviewing the menus of the respective restaurants in advance, I was able to make choices that allowed me to stay true to the cleanse. The only deprivation I felt was not being able to participate in alcoholic toasts with my dinner companions!
It has been three weeks since I concluded my cleanse. Did I lose weight? Minimally. I suspect that may be because my typical diet is not too far removed from this cleanse diet. However I feel lighter and have more energy.
Did I change any habits? A few: I have been able to give up my favorite between-meal snacks of chips or crackers with cheese or peanut butter. I hope this translates over time to a decrease in my waistline. I am also more mindful of eating as a sole activity. I am slowly creating a new habit of avoiding extraneous activities, such as texting or reading emails during meals in order to focus on and better appreciate my food.
And what, in fact, is the time frame for breaking a habit? Can it be done in 21 days? While some believe this is more myth than fact, current research seems to indicate the answer is both Yes and No. Some say sixty-six days is more realistic. Obviously there is a great deal of variation, both among people and among habits! Some people are more habit-resistant than others, and some habits are harder to pick up than others. What seems obvious, however is that the most important basis for breaking a habit is a true desire to change.
“We become what we repeatedly do.” ~Sean Covey
Interestingly, when I talk with people about my doing a cleanse, the most often asked question is, “What did you learn?” Initially, I was stymied by this unexpected question. I have since given it some thought. It isn’t so much about what I learned, but, rather, how this cleanse maintained my connection to basic Feng Shui principles:
- Nature is our model. To support balance and harmony in our lives, a daily affinity with nature is essential. Choosing locally grown food whenever possible is one way to maintain a healthy relationship with the earth.
- Your space reflects your life. In Feng Shui, we assess the affects of all the items in a home (furniture, artwork, etc.) on its inhabitants. Do those items reflect healthy chi, supporting the energies of who we are and where we are going in life? Or are some of them creating clutter and thus blocking our flow? Too much stuff in our home is not unlike force-feeding our home with too much stuff, creating an uncomfortable feeling of bloat and stagnation. Likewise, if our most personal environment – our body – is not reflecting optimal health then we may be over-consuming or filling ourselves with less than healthy choices. A seasonal body cleanse will benefit our health, flow and chi just as will a thorough seasonal house cleaning.
- Everything is energy. If, indeed, everything around us holds a certain energy that has either a positive or negative effect on us, consider the innate energy of our food and its influence on our over-all health and well-being!
- Intention is the power of Feng Shui. Choosing how we fuel our bodies on a daily basis is one of the most powerful intentions we can set.
“Our intention creates our reality.” ~ Wayne Dyer