(Please tell me I’m not the only one who totally hears that woman’s creepy voice from Poltergeist when you read those words.
Also, the house isn’t clean yet. DON’T BE RIDICULOUS.)
When I say that we go all out for the holidays, I mean it in every way possible, especially with food. And drinks. And more food. I’d love to say that I’m one of those people who is able to effectively moderate exactly what goes in my mouth between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, but with honesty being the best policy and all, I can’t.
Usually, I don’t mind. Without getting into the gory (or, more specifically, boring) details, I will say that I’m generally a pretty healthy person. I’m mindful of my diet but I don’t actually diet and I am strong and (more or less) fit. Because of this, I don’t normally sweat what I eat in December ’cause I know it will balance itself out in the end.
This year, it did balance itself out… but it balanced out on my end. Throughout autumn, I’d noticed that my pants were getting tighter – nothing monumental, but a little more snug. I told myself that, once the holidays were over and I was eating my usual fare and exercising my usual amount, everything would be good again. But when the waistband of my pants actually began to hurt, I knew that just “going back to normal” might not be enough. The pounds had packed on so slowly, a subtle adjustment was unlikely to make much of a difference.
Simply put, I felt gross. I was uncomfortable. Yes, I want to make long-term lifestyle changes to what I’m eating, but I also wanted to jumpstart the year with a more radical change so that I could, quite literally, be happy in my own skin again.
Nick, too, was feeling pretty blech after the holidays, so we decided to do something together to kick ourselves into gear. Having completed the disastrous juice cleanse last year that left us both feeling like angry, starving lunatics, we knew that pure juicing was out of the question… but we liked the idea of a strict eating regimen aimed at removing the extra crap from our systems and putting in only good stuff. Just without the rage. And all the juice.
Long story short, after some research, we decided to go for a ten day cleanse that combined aspects of the Reboot Lite plan (I appreciate how it tries to let us off the hook by saying that this reboot is good for people for whom straight-up juicing isn’t right, “maybe due to health issues or a rigorous workout routine”… or maybe because JUICING MADE ME A BITTER, MURDEROUS HAG) and the 21-day cleanse that is outlined in Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet book (we condensed it into ten days and didn’t fast at all, but whatever).
More specifically: fresh fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies, veggies, fruits, nuts, beans, and certain grains (quinoa, brown and wild rice, lentils) were in. Dairy, meats, sugar, breads, carbs, anything processed, any beverages other than water and herbal tea, and basically all other foods were out.
PARTY ON, AMIRIGHT??
I’m sure, to many, this sounds like pure torture. Before the juice cleanse, I probably would have said the same – but after that week from hell, even Nick agreed that this looked like a veritable smorgasbord. We also knew that we really wanted this; we wanted to feel better. We wanted to stop craving foods we knew weren’t good for us, to stop eating so much, to get a head start on a healthier lifestyle, so we felt pretty darned motivated to see this through.
And you know what? It really wasn’t bad at all. We were “allowed” to eat plenty of food, so we never really felt hungry. Just as importantly, the food tasted really good and completely filled us up — and not merely acceptable-for-a-cleanse food, either, but recipes that we’ll happily turn to again now that the ten days are up.
(For the record: I have discovered that I can’t get enough avocado or quinoa. I could eat them both every single day maybe for the rest of my life. Sweet potatoes and kale, on the other hand, start off well but don’t feel as good by day ten.)
Best of all, the cleanse did what we’d hoped it would. We became full much faster, meaning that we were no longer consuming too-big portions. I “reset” my sweet tooth so that almonds and dried cherries satisfied my desire for something to chew after dinner, rather than a handful of chocolate chips. I lost around five pounds and, even better, my pants finally fit comfortably again.
To be fair, this cleanse thing wasn’t without its drawbacks. Planning for it – what meals we’d eat and when, making the grocery list, making sure we had the necessary tools – took hours upon hours because I refused to have us consume the same thing day in and day out. Groceries were monstrously expensive because purchasing enough fruits and veggies to juice and to eat costs an arm and a leg. Also, when you’re consuming heaps of fresh produce, it runs out fairly quickly, so I made four trips to the grocery store in ten measly days.
Hardest of all, the girls weren’t participating in the cleanse but they still needed to, you know, eat, so I wound up preparing three separate breakfasts and lunches (one for Nick and me and one each for Annie and Ella because do you think they could possibly agree on a single breakfast or lunch choice? OF COURSE NOT) and two different dinners every single day. Nick helped as often as he could, but I was still in the kitchen – chopping and dicing and peeling, juicing, blending, cooking, cleaning, dismantling, doling out into containers, washing Tupperware, etc. – for two-and-a-half to three hours every day.
Just *some* of the dishes, pots, bowls, etc., required to do all of the peeling, juicing, blending, cooking, cleaning, dismantling, and doling out into containers. Every night, for ten nights. Not pictured: the freakin’ juicer.
Three hours in the kitchen is way too long to not come away with at least one batch of brownies or a glass of wine, y’all.
So, it wasn’t really the most practical of “diets” because I absolutely cannot devote that much time to food prep day in and day out. For ten days, though? It was doable.
I’d planned to come off of the cleanse very gradually, easing back into some of the foods we’d been avoiding (hello, Starbucks)… but, as luck would have it, the culinary arts center that’s only 30 minutes from our house was offering a gluten free baking class on the ninth day of the cleanse, and I had a gift certificate to the center that was begging to be used, and Nick could stay home with the girls because it was a Sunday so…
Really, there was no other choice. I was practically obligated to attend.
The baking was a blast and the recipes were spot-on, but – to both my delight and my frustration – I quickly learned that I was not able to consume the fabulous goodies that we’d prepared in class. I don’t mean that I didn’t want to (oh, I wanted to!), but that I couldn’t: after eating just two bites of the quiche and one bite of pizza, I was so stuffed, I felt sick to my stomach. Over the course of the week, the girls and I slowly made our way through the bounty and all was well, but it definitely felt strange to become so full after eating just one baked good.
A small portion of the delectable spread that awaited us after class…
From left: pizza, quiche Lorraine, pumpkin whoopee pies (OMG SO GOOD), chocolate-covered macaroons, and flourless chocolate chip cookies.
This past weekend was our ultimate test when we went away for two nights with some of our best friends and their children. Although, by that time, Nick and I had introduced meat and dairy back into our diets, we’d kept our portion sizes reasonable and snacking to a minimum. By contrast, each night that we were away, we deliberately chose to throw caution to the wind and eat whatever we damn well pleased – pasta and burgers and cheese and wine and beer and dessert. We did become full more quickly than we would have, say, a month ago so we didn’t really eat all that much, but still – it was more than we had been eating, and it was certainly food that would be considered “unhealthy.”
The good and the bad news is that it caught up with us big time, sending both of our stomachs into knots, causing tremendous pain and discomfort, and costing us a lot of time in, um, the bathroom. Apparently, we did such a good job shocking our systems back into order that, upon being fed the “wrong” food, they revolted. Which is neat, in that the cleanse obviously worked and now it’s pretty clear what constitutes “good” food — but which also sucks because if I want to eat a piece of cake, damn it, I’m a grown-up and I don’t need my body giving me hell for it. (Likewise, darling offspring, I do not need to be accused of “using drugs” each time I pour a glass of pinot . Thanks, D.A.R.E.)
So, here we are – post-cleanse, feeling better, knowing that eating poorly will result in feeling poorly, but also seeing that the level of diligence (and amount of produce) we’d been maintaining isn’t possible long-term. Hence, we’ve decided to compromise and… wait for it… eat better. Crazy, I know. But, now that we’ve gotten started, it seems much more reasonable – even enjoyable. More veggies and salads. Less dairy and meat. More “clean” snacks that don’t come out of a package or a box. (Much) less processed food. More tea. Less “low fat” food. More real food, full fat and all. Less sugar. Fewer carbs. More water. Less soda. Lots of quinoa and avocados.
And, of course, some bacon and chocolate and wine and Starbucks thrown in there, too – just maybe not in the same night. Except for birthdays and weekends with friends and evenings when the girls are in bed and asleep before 9:00 and there’s no hockey on and a fire in the fireplace; then, all bets are off.