I've done many cleanses in my life. There was the Master Cleanse with lemon water and cayenne pepper. I remember I wanted more than anything to quit smoking, but I was terrified of gaining weight. My body subsisted almost solely on coffee and cigarettes. During that cleanse, I replaced the coffee with “lemonade.”
I still practiced yoga during that week, which was crazy. I resembled a walking dehydrated vegetable — a slightly neurotic, angry one.
A couple years ago, I went to the hospital for dehydration during a 3-day fruit and vegetable raw food fast. It was in the midst of a 60-day yoga challenge, and though I didn’t acknowledge it, I was an alcoholic.
“Drinking doesn’t affect my life,” I’d say. Cognitive dissonance was the only way I could justify drinking 5-7 vodka sodas per night.
But one Monday morning, on my way to work, after a weekend spent alternating between yoga and vodka, my hands and feet curled up into gnarled fists that resembled my arthritic grandmother’s. When I pulled over to the nearest gas station, I could not open the door, which sent me into a full fledged panic attack. I used my thumb that was sandwiched between two of my white-knuckled fingers to redial my iPhone’s last call.
When my friend answered, I said, “Can you come get me?” and I proceeded to tell her the name of the gas station and street name. But, it sounded like “Illlllatqtoonquifldor.” My tongue felt pinned inside the quicksand of my mouth. I thought I was having a stroke.
I told her this on the phone, “Having stroke!” which sounded like the worst slurring she’d ever heard from me. And eventually she found me at the gas station and poured the green smoothie that was sitting in the cupholder at my side down my throat until my hands unfurled.
It was perhaps the most humiliating story I’ve ever had to tell an ER nurse. And two months later — probably in part because of the realization that I needed to clean up — I went to Ana Forrest’s 27-day yoga teacher training, where I sobered up and got honest about my eating habits — or lack thereof.
Recently, I did a traditional Ayurvedic cleanse with a local health coach.
I asked, “So how much kale should I be eating?” And she stared at me dumbstruck, like, Nobody ever got fat eating too much kale.
“Do you eat enough?” she asked.
I had no idea what “enough” was. I explained that I had a soy-free and gluten-free protein bar for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and a protein shake for dinner. In any given day, I was away from home for 14 hours or so, since I was finishing my master's degree at night.
“What was eating like in your home as a child?”
I've always feared being fat. My mother has been trying to lose weight for as long as I can remember: Low fat, Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers. But I grew up believing that Velveeta was cheese and that canned peas were vegetables.
At 10 pounds thinner than I'd ever been, having not had my period in six months, I looked like I was more in need of a cheeseburger than a cleanse.
She encouraged me to eat fish and chicken to balance my strong Vata constitution (I'd been vegan for some time). She ordered me to sit down to eat, to eat warm foods at night, to eat four times a day at the same time every day, and to eat until I was full.
Full? That was new to me. I'd been starving myself for as long as I could remember.
Next month I’ll be 30 years old, and I’ve finally started eating again. I’ve started feeding myself, nourishing my body as the temple that it's always been. Tonight, I had the opportunity to take Kathryn Budig’s authentic flow at a nearby studio she was visiting this weekend, and she asked us to put one hand on our heart and one hand on our least favorite part. Utterly stunned, I thought, I don’t have a least favorite part. Finally, I love my body in spite of its imperfections. That sort of satisfaction knows no number on the scale. That kind of satisfaction can't be found in a cigarette or a bottle of vodka or chocolate. It comes from within.
A friend recently asked me to do a cleanse with her, but I had to decline. At this point, the bigger breakthrough for me is to continue to eat intuitively, to resist the urge to control every morsel that I place in my mouth and indulge in a fine cheese (not Velveeta) or a cookie from time to time. It’s time for me to live from a place of fullness. I’ve wasted too many years starving.