Beyond the Detox: the Bigger Picture of Diet

vegetable-755723__180There’s a difference between diet (the food that one eats) and dieting (restricted intake of food).  I haven’t tried the latter since I was 16 years old (lasting about 2 weeks), and I don’t pay much attention to other societal dictates around female beauty (fashion, cosmetics, hair, pedicures, the spa). But I am very interested in diet in terms of what I’m consuming, and how it affects me and my environment.  I am not at all casual about food.

So it bothers me when I do not follow my better intentions around eating.  I eat quite healthfully, but often to the point of being stuffed, and I’ve often wondered if I’m just plain addicted to sugar.   I sometimes don’t even enjoy or really taste the big bowl of chocolate almonds or ice cream that I’ve been reaching for on a regular basis:  I’m just downing them.  I know why I do it:  misplaced gratification, pacification, fatigue.  And habit, especially habit.  I’ve been on a bit of a downward spiral that’s been hard to stop.

I decided to do something about it.  Take ownership, if you will.  There are many roads to Rome, but for me, a general desire to eat sensibly most of the time, and consciously enjoy occasional treats, just wasn’t taking hold.  I needed a jumpstart, more structure, something with a little flair.  I needed a tool. So I’m doing (currently on!) my very first detox.

I’m in the first week (of four), and have been eliminating alcohol, caffeine, gluten, dairy and sugar.  I was most worried about giving up my sugar, but actually it’s the gluten I’m missing the most – I really love a good bread and it’s wonderful filling feeling.  But when I feel limited, I think about what I can eat:  rice, corn, potatoes, eggs, seafood, meat (although I don’t), nuts, legumes, quinoa, soy, all fruits and vegetables (and I am eating plenty of all of this – no calorie reduction here), and at this point the concept of deprivation becomes a bit absurd.  (I just read The Little House Cookbook after Nathalie recently mentioned it on our blog, and the book is an eye-opener on what a restricted diet actually means.)

In addition to creating a sharp break in the habit of crappy eating, I wanted to see if the detox could reveal anything about how my body responds to certain foods, so I really like the idea of eliminating certain foods for a short period (2-3 weeks) and re-introducing them one by one.

I am in good health overall, but I no longer have the bravado of my 20s (when I was really quite fit and eating well) nor the nonchalance of my 30s (when I was riding the coattails of my 20s).  Why is it that my knees hurt as much as they do?  Is mental alertness a thing of the past?  More basically:  why don’t I feel that good most of the time?

I actually suspect that sleep and lack of exercise have more to do with the way I feel than the five foods I’m eliminating for three weeks.  In a nasty flashback to baby/toddler days, my 7 year old woke up every hour or so last night for no better reason than a common cold.  But this I don’t have much control over, unlike the foods I put in my mouth, many of which haven’t been helping matters.

I used to feel really good.  I remember the vitality of that.  I’m not a believer in turning back time, but I want some of that energy again and know with some work that I can have it.  I also really, really want to avoid finding myself in a medical office of the future, beseeching some doctor to take care of my body when I haven’t done so myself.

Focusing energy into one’s diet and well-being can be a liberating thing.  Liberating from old habits, a slump, and if you really do have an intolerance, from a lifetime of discomfort or worse.  I see the detox as an invitation to help me live closer to my intentions – there’s a bigger picture to the smoothies.  I’m not talking about manipulating myself toward some skinny idyll in the media (which I hardly tune into).  I’m talking about feeling great in my own body.  Diet is a necessary part of this goal, and I’m in.