A few weeks ago, I excitedly posted a sale from a company that makes fresh juices. I didn't want to do a cleanse, but was excited to add some fresh juices into my routine and take a break from juicing at home.
Later that evening, I got a message from a woman who'd seen the ad. “You've inspired me to do a juice cleanse!”
I was delighted and offered support on how to successfully transition on and off the cleanse.
“I already bought the juices," she said. "I start tomorrow.”
She assured me she knew what she was doing. Her diet was healthy and she was ready to start cleansing.
The next morning, I got a message from her:
“I posted the juices on Craigslist. I’ve been up since 5am and haven’t been able to stomach more than one.”
I hear this all the time from clients, family and friends. A day after they begin a cleanse, they get in touch saying they didn’t know what they were thinking. They swear that juice cleansing—and a plant-based diet—is not for them. They give up.
It’s easy to confuse plant-based for perfection but it really doesn’t have to be that way. Eating plant-based doesn’t mean you have to cleanse all the time or deprive yourself of the occasional cupcake.
If you’ve been putting off a plant-based lifestyle until you’re perfect, here are three easy ways to ease up on yourself:
1. Start adding—stop depriving.
You love your daily coffee or you get antsy at the thought of missing out on birthday cake. (It’s just rude to decline, isn’t it?) When I was trying to clean up my diet, I stopped depriving myself, and I started adding healthier options. I didn’t swap out my coffee for a green juice. I had my green juice before my morning cup of joe. Also, I ate the good stuff first: salads before burgers, pasta or pizza. I chopped up raw veggies and carried them with me everywhere. Over time, something strange and unexpected happened. The juice, salads and raw veggies became the good stuff. Burgers, pasta, pizza and the like started to slip out of my lifestyle. Even the coffee was no longer a daily indulgence.
2. Focus on net gain—not guilt.
Years ago, my boss decided to give up coffee for good. Every day, I'd walk in with my coffee from the local barista. As soon as he'd sniff it, he would give me a lecture on how toxic coffee is and what it was doing to my body.
Other than the daily coffee, my diet was pretty clean. So my response was always the same.
“Net gain,” I'd say with a smile.
He was never satisfied with my response and insisted that this cup of coffee would lead to my demise. Never during this time did I even consider giving up coffee.
But one day, I'd had enough of the guilt trip.
“Look. I appreciate your concern for my health. And I respect your decision to no longer drink coffee," I said. "But I would be grateful if you could respect my decision to drink coffee. It is my choice.”
At that point, my boss admitted that giving up coffee had been hard. His daily guilt trip was more to remind himself why he was doing it than anything else. He apologized and I drank my coffee in peace (and in a smaller cup).
Don’t give yourself a guilt trip and don’t let anyone else give you one, either. It’s your body. It’s your choice. Do what's right for you. Focus on the big-picture. If you eat healthy all day and have a piece of birthday cake, it's still a net gain. You want progress, not perfection.
3. Swap condemnation for curiosity.
Rather than wallowing in what you ate, get curious about why you ate it. I did this around coffee and realized my daily cup of java was much more than that. The aroma recalled good memories of enjoying coffee with loved ones, and especially my father. My father has passed on and I think, on some psychic level, giving up coffee was like losing a link I had with him. Silly? Maybe. But our choices and challenges around food run much deeper than we might think.
Is there a food or drink that you couldn’t live without? Take some time to get curious. What memories come up in relation to this? How does the food make you feel? Does it numb you or make you more vibrant? Put on your detective hat, you may be surprised what you discover.
As for my friend who tried the juice cleanse, I ended up buying her remaining juices (I do love a good deal) and I do hope that she considers, if not cleansing, at least adding more juices into her daily lifestyle.
Whether you choose to cleanse with juice or chug some coffee, be kind. Be curious. Stop striving for perfection.
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