Every spring, I like to do a cleanse to rid my body of the toxins accumulated over the winter months. Every autumn, I promise myself “This winter I”ll be so good about eating healthy and exercising, there won’t even be a need for my cleanse!”
But then the holiday season arrives. I make half-hearted resolutions to cut back on wine and cheese in the new year, and for a few weeks it’s not so hard. Along comes February, my vote for the coldest and most cruel month of the year–the month where I am tempted to order in instead of making a freezing trip to the grocery store. This year, I was feeling so bad about my winter willpower that I decided to begin my cleanse on March 1 rather than March 21–the much anticipated First Day of Spring. It’s nearly swimming pool season and I am determined to get a head start on my personal weight watchers regime.
What Does My Cleanse Entail?
I don’t go too crazy. Unlike the Master Cleanse, a popular (with sadists) cleanse involving two weeks consuming nothing but squeezed organic lemons sweetened with maple syrup with a dash of cayenne pepper, my cleanse is gentler and focuses on ridding the system of every day toxic substances like:
We all love our black magic in the morning. However, coffee is mildly toxic, causes malabsorption of nutrients and is certainly very addictive. I have no plans to abandon coffee entirely, but I have a habit (a good one this time) of becoming aware of when my habits are developing into dependencies. That was where I was with coffee, well, three days ago. Today is my third day sans caffeine and I can’t say it’s been easy. The first day went by pleasantly until just before bedtime when I was struck by a throbbing headache. Two advils right before bed don’t exactly scream “CLEANSE” but they had to be downed. Yesterday was…put simply, brutal. I was dead tired and the headache continued from sunrise to sunset. I am happy to report on day three that my breakfast drink of peppermint tea was extremely satisfying, my headache has subsided significantly and I felt more vitalized upon waking up in the morning than I have for months!
Taking a break from a substance you have come to rely on is always a good idea, if only to realize just how much your physical and psychological body pines for it once you do. (Physically, I felt dead tired and realized my digestive system had come to expect coffee in the morning to get things moving. Psychologically, I felt a little depressed and a bit apathetic.)
I’m starting with the two substances in my cleanse that are the hardest to give up. I don’t by any means consider myself an alcoholic, but I do like to unwind with a glass of wine and a chapter or two after the kids have gone to bed. My husband just happens to be a wine collector, so there is never a shortage in the house. Alcohol, in case you didn’t know, contains a LOT of calories. If you’re trying to lose a bit of winter weight like I am, alcohol is a huge no-no because the body burns alcoholic calories BEFORE burning any fats we may consume. Alcohol is also known to increase the appetite, whether you’re drinking with dinner or the next day when you’re recovering from a night out.
Unlike coffee, I am not so dependent upon alcohol that I feel withdrawal effects after only a few days. This is a hard one for me simply because I like to indulge in few glasses of wine a week, particularly when visiting with friends. Oh well, at least I can comfort myself knowing I’ll be in great enough shape this summer to do some home staging and then relax on our new patio furniture with a cocktail.
My kids remind me how far I’ve come with my sugar intake. I used to have an incorrigable sweet tooth as a child myself, sneaking ice cream and cookies every time my mom was busy enough with something not to notice. In my twenties, though, my sugar fixation (ok, ok, besides chocolate) thankfully diminished but I am reminded by Sam and April of the quick and easy comfort sweet and sugary tastes bring. The kids are forever begging for pop, cookies and McDonald’s which I am just not prepared to offer them. I feel mean sometimes but it’s for the benefit of their brains–and teeth! Sugar contains oodles of calories, provides a temporary energy burst which peters out leaving even less energy and causes health problems such as diabetes. Of course, I treat the kids once and awhile to an ice cream or candy–it’s part of being a kid–but they understand now that it’s a special treat.
I feel fine without sugar. I confess I have added honey to the tea I’ve been drinking…does that count?
I’m not allergic, but I do find that bread and wheat products make me sleepy and bloated on most occasions. Wheat has been proven to cause water-retention, and as moms know, we don’t need any more fluids hanging around inside us than absolutely necessary. Wheat is also overconsumed in Western society–it would be completely normal and acceptable to have toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pizza for dinner. That is simply too much!
After three days I do not miss wheat products whatsoever. I usually go light on wheat anyhow, favouring rice or quinoa over bread or pasta. Luckily, the kids love rice!
Dairy is the last item I will be avoiding while on my cleanse. To be honest, I think I may be allergic to dairy products, but I never had the heart to get that checked out by a doctor. I am already vegetarian, so cheese is… my meat. I have always loved the taste of cheese and the way it lends its flavour and character to so many different types of dishes: salads, mains, desserts. Mmm! But, while it’s absolutely delicious and a favourite of my whole family, I know that it upsets my stomach with gas and constipation. Studies show that dairy is completely unnecessary in a balanced diet, and I agree it’s a little weird to consume milk or milk products originally intended for baby cows, but… when this is all over you can bet you’ll be seeing me at Chris’ Cheesemongers in the St. Lawrence Market again.
So, twenty-one days of no caffeine, alcohol, sugar, wheat or dairy. I know I can do it because I’ve done it before, and I felt great when it was finished! I lost a bit of weight, felt lighter and more confident and also felt a huge increase in my desire to get some exercise (anyone want to take a dance class with me next week?)
Most important, I think, is learning how subtly addictive all these beverages/foods are. This diet forces you to concentrate on whole foods that don’t put a strain on the digestive system; how great you feel by the end of the 21 days should speak for itself. (As long as I haven’t had to hire a marriage counsellor–sorry Brian!)
I’ll blog more about my progress next week, and share some healthy recipes. I promise to be completely honest about the cheating that will most likely happen…
Come on, Spring! See you in 21 days!