by Molly Purves
I went on a cleanse diet at the beginning of last summer. I knew I was going to be working a lot, and I wanted to retrain myself to make better food choices even though I would be very busy. My friend, Dardy Slavin at Integrated Health, offers seasonal cleanses through her office. They include supplements, cooking classes with Jan Buhrman, and hot yoga classes at Tapas Yoga. She had one scheduled for the beginning of June. Perfect.
I would be cooking and going to yoga, and I would have the support of a group—people that I could call on when I really wanted ice cream. I would be healthy and have more energy, and I would be a better person. I signed up.
The cleanse was to last for two weeks. Here’s what I could eat: vegetables, fresh fruit (although I was to eat twice as many vegetables as fruit), one cup of lentils a day or half a cup of brown rice, and protein shakes with fresh fruits and vegetables (two to three shakes a day). Here’s what I could not eat: all my favorite foods and for the first week, no meat. You could add in meat during the second week, but it needed to be small portions of chicken or fish.
It started off well. At the first cooking class we made a big pot of lentils, some soup, sautéed vegetables, fresh juice, and salad. We made so much that we all took some home with us. I knew when I started the cleanse diet that preparation was key for this to work. I justify a lot of bad eating with the fact that I’m hungry and just need “something,” like chips or chocolate. I knew that the beginning would be hard, that I would be detoxing and my body would be regulating and adjusting to the new diet. I knew also that I might be a little grumpy. I have gone off sugar enough times in my life to know that like any addictive substance, once you take it away you may find that it has been covering feelings and emotions you may not have wanted to face. Rage, for instance. Four days into the cleanse my husband and I were sitting at Orange Peel Bakery’s pizza night over some pizza I was not eating, we were talking about the cleanse (it was all I talked about the whole time I was on it), and I was saying how hard it was. He said, “Don’t worry honey, after ten days on the cleanse,” I brightened thinking he was going to say, “your going to look fantastic!” And, “You will feel so good. It will all be worth it.” Instead he said, “One of us will be dead.” Apparently I was more than a little grumpy.
One week into the cleanse diet our refrigerator died. It took a month to get repaired. We used a dorm fridge and a cooler. We borrowed ice from a restaurant where I worked. For the rest of the cleanse diet I couldn’t prepare anything in advance because I couldn’t store it anywhere. I had to do all my cooking the day of. I stopped cooking for my family. I didn’t have time. I was sautéing vegetables, making shakes and salads, and working and ignoring everything else in my life.
It was a glorious day when I reached the point in the cleanse diet where I could eat meat again. I had more energy. I was perhaps a little less grumpy.
I never went to the other cooking classes, because I was too busy. I didn’t call or email anyone to check in because I didn’t have time. It was summer on Martha’s Vineyard and I was working. But I did make it to the end of the cleanse; in fact I stayed on it 21 days, one week after our class ended.
When it was over, my husband and I were both still alive, and I looked and felt better. I learned some useful things, namely that my life is tiring and stressful in the summer because I work too much and I have a young child, not because of what I eat. The cleanse diet taught me a lot about my relationship with food, like chocolate does not give me energy or make me happy. Brown rice tastes amazing when you are not eating any other starches. Fruit is sweet enough. Refrigerators are wonderful and necessary. I do not want to eat what nourishes me; I want to eat what I want. And most importantly, the summer is perhaps not the best time for me to do a cleanse diet.