DAY SEVENTEEN


cooking

Normally on St. Patrick’s Day, I am eating corned beef and cabbage. There has hardly been a year that I can remember when I didn’t enjoy that holiday meal. Throw in some Irish soda bread and I am a happy camper. This year, I didn’t even realize it was St. Patrick’s Day until I was in the car listening to the radio later in the day and they were talking about the crowds in New York City at the parade. It simply slipped off my radar. And, yes, this was the year without my corned beef. I didn’t even miss it.

What I consumed:

  • Cleanse Shake with strawberries, bananas and pineapple
  • Broiled salmon with mustard, lemon, olive oil, basil
  • Quinoa with roasted butternut squash and green onion
  • Sliced Orange
  • 19 gigantic supplement capsules
  • 64 oz water

This is the second time this week that my lunch was so filling that I didn’t have an appetite for dinner. I did cook up some tuna steaks to save for tomorrow. I am learning to love lemon – especially with fish!

How I felt:

I doubled up on the ambien again last night to help me sleep and it worked like a charm. I am going to back it down to one after last night because I woke up really groggy which slowed me down a bit in the morning. My hope is that having a few nights of solid sleep will get me back into a better pattern.  We’ll see. Otherwise, I feel great! I’m like the energizer bunny and seem to be able to get more done in a day than I used to be able to do in a week, which is very welcomed.

Physical Activity:

I had the best workout I have had in a very long time this morning. My friend joined me at the gym and he and I did a really fun core routine that I made up for us. I spent 57 minutes on the elliptical (broken into two segments – 40 minutes before core workout and 17 minutes afterwards). We then did a routine lasting one minute for each cycle that included: paired crunches passing an 8.5 lb. medicine ball including twists for the obliques, squats with 5 lb. weights, 30 second planks and 30 seconds of push-ups. We did that circuit twice (mostly because my friend hasn’t been to the gym in a while and he needed to stop – I would have done two more sets). Then I did a machines focusing on my shoulders and triceps. And then back to elliptical. I felt amazing afterwards and truly could have stayed at the gym for another 2 hours. I love paired workouts like that but I don’t often have a buddy at the gym with me so I usually have to do them myself.  I am now committed to creating a good circuit workout for myself! I will note, however, that by 8pm tonight, my body was really hurting, which actually felt great.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t really cook. I have been fortunate enough to be married to a man who loves to cook and does it well. Before my kids were born and I was juggling motherhood with my commute into Manhattan, I did a bit more of the cooking in our house but never fancied myself a good or adventurous cook. My repertoire was relatively limited to a few dishes and, now and again, I would experiment with recipes I would find.  Generally my big cooking was relegated to holidays and celebrations when I found myself motivated to tackle different dishes. When I first met my husband, in the very early days of us dating, I did make him a romantic dinner in my apartment and pulled out all the stops. He claims to have enjoyed it but it was the beginning of the relationship, the times when we aren’t always as truthful because we have ulterior motives. I don’t hate cooking but, over the years, I have found it more burdensome and time consuming, and my lack of ingenuity when it comes to pulling meals together has kept me away from the kitchen for a long time. On the other hand, I do love to bake. Here again, I have my staples that I make again and again but I love to experiment with baking and feel a bit more confident about my abilities because there are far fewer complexities (in my opinion, anyway) to baking than with cooking, in general. My best friend always teases me because I tend to follow baking recipes a bit loosely, not perfectly measuring everything out. I make it work though.

As I prepare myself for life after the cleanse, I have been trying to gear myself up for some cooking. Because I know some of what I might be eating will be strictly for me and different than what the rest of the family will be eating, I need to start being able to prepare my own dishes.  I’ve done a bit of cooking during the cleanse, creating a yummy lentil soup, trying out some sauces and dressings and getting more adept at cooking fish – something that has always eluded me. Today I spent some time on Pinterest looking for healthy recipes using ingredients that will be part of my post-cleanse life. I’m actually excited about the idea of cooking and having more control over what goes into my body. As the landscape expands and more foods are available to me, I am looking forward to trying out some new foods that never interested me before. As much as I love quinoa, for instance, I have never ventured beyond substituting it for rice. Today I found recipes for muffins and pancakes and oatmeal-like dishes – ways in which I never would have dreamed using it. It may sound silly and naive but I simply never thought that much about food before.  I just ate the things I knew tasted good and kept my diet pretty simple – albeit not entirely healthy.

I hoped at the beginning that 21 days would help to form new habits for me and, no doubt, it has. I still have four days left but I can already see such remarkable differences. I would have never believed it if you told me that I would feel this way in such a short time but now I am a believer!

DAY FOURTEEN


parenting

Wow!  Two weeks down and just one more to go. If it were not for this blog, I think I would have lost count of the days. I’m experiencing a new normal and am finding it easier and easier to adapt to this lifestyle. That’s not to say that I am not getting tested regularly like today when I was at Target and walking through the food section, wanting to buy nuts and chips and ice cream and all kinds of other tempting goodies. And then when I picked my son up from lunch with his friends and he got into the car with his leftover pizza. And again when we ordered Chinese food for dinner and I happily ate my steamed chicken and vegetables but longingly eyed up the fried rice and egg rolls that sat on the table. But I endured and, at the end of today, I will continue to feel really good about my choices.

What I consumed:

  • Cleanse Shake with strawberries, blueberries and raspberries
  • Lentil soup
  • 20 carrots
  • 2 clementines
  • Steamed chicken and vegetables
  • 19 gigantic supplement capsules
  • 64 oz water

How I felt:

I’m having some new sleep challenges. I seem to be dreaming a lot more and am waking up in the middle of the night, startled from sleep. I continue to take Ambien to sleep at night and am wondering if it is time to take a break for a while and see what my natural sleep pattern is. As a result, I am getting a bit more tired during the day and, today, I fell asleep at 5pm after struggling to keep my eyes open. It is not normal for me to take a nap during the day but my sleep pattern is leaving me a bit weary during the day. Otherwise, I feel great. Physically, I feel one million times better than I did just two weeks ago. Apparently, the cleanse is having some really positive side effects. I went to get my haircut today and when my hair stylist touched my hair she asked me if I am doing something different. I had been noticing that the texture of my hair was changing from its typical fine and flyaway to a little more dense and textured. It was great to have her reinforce the positive changes I have made with my health!

Physical Activity:

45 minutes on the elliptical. I had a short window of time to get to the gym this morning so I was able to squeeze in an abbreviated workout. I guess something is better than nothing. I feel like I ended the day in the plus column.

If I had to pick a theme for today, it would be parenthood. Certainly one of the defining aspects of my life is my role as a mother. Some days I get caught up in all the drama around my own angst and the stresses of work that I forget about my role as a parent. Even though I am parenting every day, I am not always as present and intentional as I would like. I definitely get distracted. Then I have days like today where my skills are put to the test. I have been the parent of a teenager for two years now and I can attest to the fact that this is the hardest job I have ever had and probably ever will have. Managing the delicate balancing act of trying to allow my son to gain his freedom and making sure he is safe and healthy is tremendously difficult and often quite scary.

I love being a parent and am grateful for the opportunity to raise two sons. I learned very quickly what my mother never caught on to, which is that your children have the power to fill you with more happiness and contentment than anything else you could ever experience. There is nothing that parallels the depth of joy that comes from loving your children. As much as I fantasize about the freedom that comes with being childless, there is not a universe in which I would trade being a parent for any other lifestyle. And, at the same time, I recognize that parenthood raises the stakes on everything else in my life. Every challenge I face is exacerbated by the fact that I have children to consider when making decisions. I cannot be impulsive and I always have to factor in the impact of my life choices on my children. My job is to raise happy, well-adjusted and healthy children and nothing can trump that.

Today, after my haircut, my son asked if he could go with me to Target with some of his friends. I agreed, grateful for some face time with him and some exposure to his friends. Despite the fact that we live in the same house and sit down to dinner nearly every night together, I don’t get to spend a great deal of time with my son. When he is home, he is either in the basement playing xbox or, more frequently, in his room with his door closed, skyping with his friends or listening to music. I grab any opportunity I can to spend time with him and observe him. At 14, I recognize that there is a lot going through his maturing mind and it is rare that he divulges his deeper thoughts. Whereas my 11 year-old son will come and sit with me and still share some of his musings,my teenager is locked down and strategically chooses what he shares. I feel fortunate because he is sharing anything with me and I credit me and my husband for our steadfast commitment to forcing an open line of communication.

My son usually only texts me when he needs something and today was no exception. While I was at the hair salon, my phone was constantly buzzing with requests for money, pick up times, additions to his gaggle of pals joining us on our Target excursion. Nowhere to be found was a please or thank you – just a lot of entitlement. Of course, when I needed to communicate with him, I got radio silence in return. As I was circling the block several times while waiting for him and his friends to finish up with their lunch, I wondered if I am too accommodating to my son and if I should be less agreeable to his requests. Here again, it is a fine balance as I don’t want to be the parent who is always saying no but I also don’t want to be the parent who is always saying YES. Setting boundaries with your kids is critical and extremely complicated. My son happens to be a child who always required structure and guardrails to help him navigate through his life so I am particularly sensitive to make sure that I do not give him too much latitude. He gets uncomfortable when he sees his friends behaving badly because their parents are too liberal with the rules. He asserted his need for rules and regulations as a preschooler when he regularly reported the class offenders and was labeled “class cop.” I adore this about my son and, simultaneously, struggle to make sure I am parenting him appropriately. Since I don’t have any kinds of role models when it comes to being a parent, everything needs to be learned. Of course, all parents, no matter how much support or guidance they might receive, have to learn for themselves how to be an effective parent for their own children (no, they do not come with manuals). For me, I lacked a lot of instincts and tend to question myself a lot more than I would prefer. I’m never quite sure if my approach is right but I tend to just go with it and hope for the best outcome.

After chauffeuring my son and his friends and managing to keep an appropriate distance while shopping at Target, I dropped the group at one of the other kids’ homes and left him there for the afternoon. Later, when he returned home and we were eating dinner, I could tell he was frustrated. We poked and prodded a bit and he confessed that he was getting a lot of pressure from his friends to smoke pot but was staying true to his commitment to not do so. I could tell how disheartened he was and, while he was resolute in his decision, he was feeling worn down and turned off by the growing number of friends succumbing. I am no longer shocked when my son talks about his friends smoking pot because it has been going on for a while and I know it’s become very commonplace amongst some middle schoolers and lots of kids in the high school. He has been very candid with us about his feelings around smoking of any kind and, because we have agreed to not intervene with the other kids, he has felt comfortable sharing who the offenders are. And, here again I am tested because I need to maintain my son’s trust so he will continue to share with us but I wonder if I should be sharing what I know with the other children’s parents. My commitment needs to be to my child and I also feel like I have a responsibility to the community of parents.

After the pot discussion, my son shared a video that the older brother of one his friends made. It was a rap video strewn with girls’ naked asses, kids smoking pot, drinking and making vulgar references to women. I am, by no means, a prude and still I was outraged and offended. My husband and I sat at the dinner table after the kids left the kitchen and just stared at each other with our mouths agape. The boy who made the video is a senior in high school and, even though I know they are pretty much adults at that point and that he was creating what might be considered art, I could not wrap my brain around the fact that he and his friends would create something so offensive or that his parents were ok with that. We wondered if their parents even knew about it. And I pondered what I would do if my son had created something so disgusting. In that moment, the reality of what types of influences my children are exposed to completely overwhelmed me. We work so hard to keep our kids safe and instill the right values in them and then they go out into the world and continually run into kids whose parents approach things very differently than we do. And there is nothing we can do about it but keep staying the course.

When I was a teenager I remember my mother saying to me that no matter what you do, you can’t guarantee a positive outcome for your kids. Her comment stuck with me because I perceived it, at the time, as a copout. She was making herself feel better when she saw kids that came from good upbringings become substance abusers because it seemed to minimize the less than stellar results of her own children. She unburdened herself of any guilt she might have felt with the consolation that, even if she had been a better parent, the outcomes might have been the same. I called bullshit on that back then and I call bullshit on it today. There is no question that some kids get derailed no matter how much love, guidance and support you provide. We only have so much control over what happens to our kids. However, I believe that sometimes we cannot deal with what is happening right before our eyes so we have to turn away and then we rationalize and minimize. And, with that, I pray that I am tuned in enough to be able to catch wind of my kids going astray.

Suddenly, all my other distress seems just a bit trite and irrelevant. Another reason why being a parent is so amazing- it is the perfect antidote for self-indulgence.

DAY TWELVE


accept what i cannot change

I’m in my happy place.  The weather is turning warmer and I have shredded my heavy winter coat for my light spring jacket. I’m thinking about pedicures and flip flops and, even though there is still snow blanketing the grass, I know there will be flowers blooming in weeks. My forsythia will be golden and my lilacs will be fragrant. Spring is in the air and it is boosting me up. I’m hopeful, as Winter gets ready to fall away, making room for its beautiful sister Spring to make her entrance, that along with my heavy coat and warm boots, I will shed some of the baggage I have been burdened with for far too long.

What I consumed:

  • Cleanse Shake with strawberries, pineapple and banana
  • Chicken with lemon, olive oil and shallots
  • Grilled asparagus
  • Sweet potato
  • Lentil soup
  • 19 gigantic supplement capsules
  • 64 oz water

The addition of the protein is both exciting and scary. Each new food that gets re-introduced lifts the tightrope higher into the air for me. The delicate balance of experiencing and enjoying more healthy foods and my fear of becoming out of control because there are more options for me to choose from intensifies with each day. Nonetheless, I am beginning to feel like I am returning to normal as I get to enjoy protein several times a day again.

How I felt:

Today was another good day. I love the rhythm of my days now. I feel free and independent, unburdened from the rigidity I had enforced in my life. Making a commitment to myself and forcing myself, each day, to make time for myself has been blissful. Even though I continue to be lost in my head, I am enjoying the dialogue much more, finding homes for things that once freely floated about. Some things make much more sense to me while others are still fuzzy and challenging. I have adopted a new habit of sitting down and thinking about things that puzzle me to literally move the pieces around in my mind and help them make sense. Where before they would randomly float through my mind as if there was an absence of gravity, now they become anchored into a spot, fitting into their rightful space. It is calming and peaceful. This provides me with the space to manage the bigger difficulties that still remain orphaned and homeless, for which I need to create shelter.

Physical Activity:

60 minutes on the elliptical. I bolted out of the gym as soon as I was done to get home for a call that ultimately got cancelled at the last minute. That was the theme of my day today. I had a web conference this afternoon that we got stood up for (and I had to get all dressed like a professional person for that one!). Today seemed to be the day to try my patience. But I prevailed.

This morning I was awakened at 4am by a reminder of how overwhelmed I am by this process and how threatening the pathway after Day 21 looks. Like Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road, I am not clear which is the right direction to head in towards Oz. There are dangerous forests and villains awaiting me and I am trying to find the bravery of the Lion and the brains of the Scarecrow and use what is clear in my heart like the Tin Man in order to guide me to the Promised Land. I awoke from a dream – the first dream that I can recall in weeks – that took place at a friend’s home. I was standing in their kitchen realizing that I had been eating all kinds of junk food. As the awareness of what I had done started sinking in, I was consumed with guilt and disappointment in myself. I had abandoned my commitment. For what seemed like hours, I was retracing my steps trying to figure out where and why I had gone astray. I wailed to my friend, regretful and angry with myself. I kept repeating over and over how I had made a terrible mistake and it felt like all was lost. I woke up startled, taking a moment to collect myself and determine if what had occurred was real or, hopefully, just a dream. A deep sigh of relief emanated from my chest when I realized that I had been dreaming. For years now, my morning wakeup ritual has included an assessment of my food intake from the previous day. Each day begins with a quick check-in of whether or not I had veered off course and, on those days that I had, I felt shame and disappointment. A characteristic of the many weeks and months preceding the start of the cleanse was the disgust I felt each morning, remembering the caloric escapades of the previous day. Like a substance abuser, I had to reconcile my misdeeds and remember who I needed to apologize to. Thankfully, I was the only victim of my bad behavior.

Of course, what I realized as I lay in the dark, staring at the ceiling, is that one misdeed will not determine my fate. Mistakes and poor choices happen all the time in our lives and we seek forgiveness from ourselves or those we have harmed. And, typically, we receive the repentance and carry on with our lives. I read an article today that suggested that people who struggle with their weight actually have more will power than those who do not have to worry about what they eat. That is because we are constantly engaged in the fight. We are always standing at the front line. There is never a time that we get to turn our backs because, when we do, recklessness ensues and we risk being shot and killed. Taking our eyes off the enemy almost always results in epic failure.

When I was driving home from the gym, I thought more about my rehab metaphor. One of the 12 steps of recovery is accepting the things you cannot change. And I wondered how i might relate that to my dream. What is it that I am not willing to accept that is continuing to haunt me and make me fearful of my journey ahead? Surely it is not anything external. Those around me who might disturb me or frustrate me are only small elements of my life. I have the courage and tenacity to take on any of that. I have tackled incredible burdens with my family over the years, regaining control of my fate and walking away from toxic and dysfunctional dynamics. There is decidedly nothing on the outside of me that can truly derail me. No financial woes, work challenges, interpersonal relationships can bring me down because I have already faced each and every one of those demons. The only disruptions that truly threaten my well-being come from inside of me. As I have said many times before, the enemy lies within. Of course, the internal demons are influenced by the external environment and experiences. And, as I have progressed through this process and recognized the need to set clearer expectations and boundaries, I also need to find ways to accept the things I simply cannot change in others – or move on. This way, I can turn my attention to the real battle that is raging deep inside of me.

I performed a little exercise today that I have used with women I have coached in the past. I took a bunch of selfies and stared at them. I stared closely. I wanted to see deep into my eyes and read what was happening under my skin. I tried to look past my nose that I find too wide, my teeth that are far too crooked, my cheeks that are starting to show their age and begin to droop ever so slightly, my neck that is beginning to wrinkle. I tried to see myself beyond my features. This is not a new exercise for me and I have tried before to see myself through other’s eyes to understand what they see. I wanted to imagine what my smile looks like on the outside. How does my face light up with joy? What makes me beautiful? There is so much more to me than what reflects back in the mirror and I just wanted to see inside to understand what radiates out. I have to believe that it is something incredibly extraordinary and, perhaps, if I could see that and feel the warmth of that glow, I could wrap myself up and brave the uncertainties that lie ahead. If I could accept what I know I cannot change, I might learn to love it.

DAY ELEVEN


phyllis diller

Today was a big day!  I made it to the halfway point and was able to introduce protein back into my repertoire of foods.

I remember when I was just getting started with the cleanse (a whopping eleven days ago), I had a hard time imagining myself at this point. I could not see myself progressing through the first difficult days and never believed I would ever actually fall into a groove. I assumed I would simply struggle through the whole process until I got to the end. Plus, the thought of managing through eleven long days before I could consume protein seemed unimaginable. Yet, tonight, when I sat down to dinner with my family and my husband kindly prepared a beautiful plate for me, I first dug into the broccoli and asparagus, the foods that have become my close companions over the past week and a half, before I dared to cut into the most delicious chicken I have ever eaten. It surprised me and was noteworthy. My taste buds have changed a bit and I have really grown to love the experience of eating this way. I would never have forecasted that outcome. My guess would have been this was an endurance challenge rather than a truly transformational experience. Color me surprised!

What I consumed:

  • Cleanse Shake with strawberries, pineapple and banana (this has become my go-to breakfast – love that pineapple!)
  • Lentil soup
  • Chicken in a lemon, olive oil and shallot sauce
  • Quinoa
  • Steamed broccoli with sea salt
  • Steamed asparagus with sea salt
  • 6 dates
  • 19 gigantic supplement capsules
  • 64 oz water

Today was the first time I had to have a business meeting in a restaurant since I began the program. It was just a meeting over coffee and I comfortably ordered a glass of water and did not make excuses as to why. Moment of pride for me.

How I felt:

Overall, today was a great day. I had some moments, which I will share, that were challenging for me but they were distractions from my positive experience. My body feels so good and healthy and I am filled with energy. When I was getting dressed this morning, I took a close look at my face in the mirror and I cannot believe how great my skin looks. My face has lost a lot of its puffiness and my skin is pink and healthy, even without makeup on. I had been experiencing some breakouts on my face last month (nothing like perimenopausal acne) but now my skin is clear and glowing. Even my hair looks more lustrous. Of course, none of this should come as any surprise because I am eating great, drinking tons of water and taking supplements. My body is receiving optimal nutrients.

Physical Activity:

I got to the gym early again today, which afforded me some extra time with the weights. I did 60 minutes on the elliptical and, at last, the 60 minutes are only troubling because I am starting to get bored rather than tired. It is a great workout but I can easily do another 30 minutes if I had the time or the desire. I spent another 20-30 minutes doing arms and abs.  My elliptical workout was targeted to glutes today so I got a good lower body workout in too.

I was speaking today with my friend who originally turned me on to the cleanse to hear about her experience as she is now on Day 1 of re-entry. She finished up yesterday and, like me, she was fearing the return of foods that she had given up on the program. And, not surprisingly, she was reluctant to introduce much back into her diet. I was excited to hear her mindset because I suspect I will be similar. She did not rush out to drink wine or alcohol or enjoy the foods she missed because she really wasn’t missing any of it. I suspect I will be eliminating a lot of foods from my regular diet once I am done because I do not see them as necessary and I don’t want to derail my efforts. I feel so good and am looking so much better that I would rather live without than fall back into a place that was not very good for me. It’ll be interesting to see where my head is in 10 days.

Emotionally, I seem to have gotten used to my disconnect from Facebook.  In fact, this afternoon, my husband gave me a quick update of some things I had missed (some of which were quite funny) and I realized, as he was talking, that I have forgotten what it is like to participate in the Facebook banter. I am not sure that I really want to go back there either. I kind of like my freedom and anonymity. It has opened up room for other things in my life, like spending more time at the gym. A much healthier diversion.

As I continue to mention, I am extremely plugged into my emotions and how and when I crave food. Today, I got very angry about a situation I was dealing with. I was struggling to find an outlet for my anger and found myself walking around my kitchen looking to eat something. I wasn’t terribly hungry and I knew that I was trying to soothe myself. I pulled a container of lentil soup of the refrigerator and filled a cup and heated it up. I turned to my husband and admitted that I was emotionally eating. Admittedly, I did not have a big lunch but I did not need to eat at that moment. But I did. Sure, it is not the worst choice of comfort foods and was completely on the plan but I would have preferred to have not succumbed to the food at all. I wish I could have identified a better way to manage my feelings. Clearly, still a lot of work to be done there. I love Phyllis Diller’s approach in the quote above and wish I could be that intentional and focused about dealing with my anger. It definitely consumes me in many ways. This is not something that will be remedied in 21 days but I think I am taking some good first steps.

DAY FOUR


healthy cake

Day Four. Also known as “the day when I am so damned sick of fruits and vegetables and really just want to eat some cookies.” I need to pull this together. 17 days remain.

What I consumed:

  • Cleanse Shake with strawberries and blueberries
  • Sweet potato with sea salt and pepper
  • Carrots and guacamole
  • fresh pineapple
  • roasted beets with sea salt
  • cauliflower with sea salt and pepper
  • homemade lentil soup
  • orange
  • 30 gigantic supplement capsules
  • 64 oz water

How I felt:

A little bit better today. Progress. I did find myself getting into a bit of a food rut and was craving snacks. I was getting some almonds out of the cabinet for my son today and I noticed a bag of trail mix which made me want to dive head first into them. But I didn’t. I know I will hit my stride with the food but today was definitely not my best day. Part of my problem was that I did not eat early enough this morning. I came back from the gym and raced out to a meeting and didn’t have a chance to eat anything but a banana before I left. So, I didn’t get to eat my breakfast until nearly 11:30am. During the cleanse, you cannot skip eating. Lesson learned. I felt really tired by the late afternoon and actually needed to lay down. I know my body is working hard to cleanse the toxins and I think it is really exhausting me. I feel a little bit like I did in the early weeks of my pregnancies.

Physical Activity:

60 minutes on the elliptical. I did a really tough hill climber workout which left me a sweaty mess. My legs were hurting in the afternoon which was a good feeling because it was a reminder that I am pushing myself and exercising hard. I have a torn meniscus in my right knee and I am sure the orthopedist is going to blow a gasket when he hears about my workouts lately but it doesn’t hurt too much while I’m exercising and I think the elliptical is the lowest impact exercise I could be performing with the exception of swimming.

Because my eating schedule got disrupted this morning, my hunger was out of whack today. The morning shake really does make a difference to me. As a result, I thought a lot about snacking which led me to study my mindless eating. On the cleanse, I have to be very intentional when I eat and I am forced to pay attention to what I am craving. I admit that I am a big snacker and grazer and would much prefer nibbling on a bag of pita chips (mmmm, pita chips) than sitting down and having a proper meal. Every time I eat now, I have to prepare the food. I can’t really just grab something on the go. I have to cut up and cook vegetables or fruit. I have to make the dressing for a salad rather than just pour some from a jar. I can’t just shove a piece of bread or a handful of nuts into my mouth. Sure, I can grab an apple and start munching away or chew on some carrot sticks but, of course, that is a completely different experience than just diving head first into a bag of pita chips or popcorn or crackers or cookies. Yes, in case you have missed this, I have a problem with carbs and sugar. 

I wondered, today, if part of my exhaustion was from the mental energy that normally gets diverted to eating. When I am eating mindlessly, I am using food to distract myself. When things get too messy in my head, food provides a diversion and calms and soothes me momentarily. Of course, I always feel badly afterwards but, in the moment, I can stop thinking about whatever is distressing me and focus on the taste of the food, the crunch, the sweetness. It sounds absurd as I write it and yet I know that I am not alone in this type of self-medication. I’ve written about and thought a great deal about the correlation between emotional eating and substance abuse. The roots of these addictions are the same. It is all about comfort, escape, distraction, numbing. The absence of the vice forces you to be mindful and present and work through whatever it is that is making you uncomfortable. I felt that strongly today. I felt the discomfort of not having an easy escape. No snacks means no abatement.

The last few months have been particularly stressful for me and, upon reflection, I notice that my mindless eating has been out of control. I can recall days where I was feeling completely stuffed and still putting food into my mouth just to ease whatever was disrupting my calm. I was consciously acknowledging that I had no desire to eat anything but believed that putting something sweet into my mouth would make me feel better. The taste and sensation always delivered as did the guilt and shame for being so reckless with my consumption. As I work through these days, uber-conscious of what I am eating, I am becoming more aware of how much I have abused myself. The awareness is hard to absorb and it is even more difficult to conceptualize how I am going to ever permanently change this behavior. These are patterns that have existed in my life since I was a child and I have not successfully managed them up to now. What will change? Can I change? These are scary questions that I wish I could easily answer but I cannot. Lots to sort through.

Now, it is time for bed. Hopefully tomorrow will bring more answers and fewer questions.

DAY ONE


oprah quote

Well, today is the beginning! I started my day with my shake and consumed a large handful of supplements to help with the cleansing process. While this program is focused on my eating and exercising, I am being intentional about including a  mental and emotional detox as well. This is an opportunity to take advantage of the clarity that will come from my purification to sort through my mental attic and decide what I want to keep, donate or toss. My expectation when I decided to start this cleanse was that I would come out the other end feeling better physically and, hopefully, shedding some unwanted pounds. Now, I am even more excited about the idea of unburdening myself from some unwanted thoughts and ideas.

This cleanse requires that you keep a log of your food and activity intake for each of the 21 days. As much as I love to write to process my thoughts and feelings, I loathe keeping a food journal. It seems invasive and shameful to me and evokes a potent memory of when I was 9 years old and my mother sent me to Baltimore, MD to spend a week with her sister and family over the Christmas break. I never liked my aunt very much, probably due to the fact that I sensed the tension that existed between her and my mother. As sisters, they struggled with an underlying competitiveness that was reinforced repeatedly by my aunt. She was the older sister and, despite the fact that, by all accounts, her life was far more successful, she could not restrain herself from continually positioning herself against my mother. My aunt had married a man who spent his career as a government official and, together, they raised a family, amassed wealth and my aunt was a prominent member of her community in Baltimore. On the other hand, my mother was the proud owner of multiple divorces, a dysfunctional and broken family and several trips to the ER after some thwarted suicide attempts. Throughout the years I would hear my mother lament my grandmother’s effusiveness and pride towards my aunt despite the fact that my mother lived closer and was often more readily available to care for her as she got older. My aunt walked on water, even though she was consumed with her life in Maryland and my mother was always viewed as the failure. The competition that my aunt manufactured ran deep and she often extended it to me and her son. My cousin and I were just three months apart in age and as close as we could be, only spending time together when they came up to visit our grandmother in NY.  He and I had wild imaginations and would pretend to be Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 or other mysterious characters as we set out on adventures inside and outside our grandmother’s apartment building in Queens. To keep us on our toes, my aunt would often create little contests between us to see who could read a book faster or quiz us to determine which of us was smarter. I dreaded her games yet felt compelled to participate. And, I was not about to come out on the bottom if I could avoid it.

I only visited my aunt and her family at their home this one particular Christmas and then again with my mother and siblings to attend my cousin’s Bar Mitzvah several years later. I was so proud of myself for traveling on the plane all by myself, overcoming any fears I might have had at such a young age. When I arrived at my aunt’s house, all my pride was immediately erased as I realized the true intent of this visit. My aunt, perhaps in cahoots with my mother, planned to subject me to her own customized fat camp to address my unacceptable chubbiness. Shortly after we arrived at the house, I was summoned to the bathroom to step on the scale and be shamed into revealing my dirtiest secret. I was an emotional eater, using food as a replacement for the love and comfort that was lacking from my family and, back then, no one cared why you overate or abused food, you simply needed to stop doing it and lose weight. My childhood was marked by the embarrassment of always being a bigger kid and the teasing and torment that I faced from the other children because of my size. Not surprisingly, when I do see the rare photos that exist from that period in my life, I was not as big as I remember feeling but it did not matter. Inside of me, I knew I was being held hostage by food and could not control what I put into my mouth because I was constantly looking to plug my holes with cake and cookies and whatever else I could find to ease the pain. My identity was completely wrapped up in my weight and, even if I was just 10 or 15 lbs. heavier than most of the other kids my age, I felt ashamed and wrong. The humiliation I was subjected to with my aunt only further reinforced that I was broken or damaged and needed to be fixed. Even my own family could not accept me as I was. Any fun that I would have with my cousin that week would we wiped away each time I was marched to the scale, leaving behind small pieces of myself in that bathroom.

I have decided not to weigh myself during this cleanse. I have a rough idea about how much I weigh but it is not relevant for me now. While I hope to lose weight, I am more interested in how I feel inside of my body. Gaining control over my eating is less about losing weight and more about removing the burden that has been buried deep inside me for 40 years. I feel inadequate and insignificant when my eating is out of control and, whether or not anyone else is judging me, I marginalize myself and let my self-image trump any other success I have in my life. My worthiness is often tied up in how well my jeans fit or how good I look in photographs. Just last night we had my husband’s family over for dinner and in the midst of dessert chat as we were laughing and sharing stories, a photograph of me and my children from three years ago caught my eye. I dropped out of the conversation and was lost in my disgust with myself because of how much better I looked in the picture. I had just lost a significant amount of weight and was working out intensely. I felt embarrassed to have the picture on display because, to me, it was living proof that I am not able to manage my weight effectively. I struggled to return to the group and abandon the negative noise inside my head.

I’m willing to track my food and exercise during the cleanse but am focusing on this activity as a measurement of matching my intake and output with how I feel. This is not an accounting of whether or not I am eating the right foods or spending the right amount of time exercising. Instead, this is an attempt to reprogram myself to understand how what I eat and how much I move affects how I feel both physically and mentally. I am trying to redirect the neurons to create a different experience. I’m excited to see if I can pull this off because it will be game-changing. They say it takes 21 days to make new habits. Let’s see if I can prove that theory.

More to come tomorrow….