If you read my alter-ego, SuperWoman from The SuperWoman Chronicles, you’ll know I’m on a 21-day cleanse recommended by a medicine woman, in which I have to forego sugar, coffee, alcohol, gluten, and a host of other tasty things (strawberries! tomatoes! peanut butter! shrimp!). It’s actually not as hard as I thought it was going to be, because I was ready for it. I needed to lose a few pounds anyway, after eating too many grilled cheeses and snacking too much before dinner, and succumbing to my biggest downfall, eating out. The cleanse, I hope, will leave me feeling clean and flushed, free of toxins that normally distract me or cause disruption to the normal ebb and flow of my body’s rhythms. What I’m noticing most, though, is how much food has been an addiction for me, rather than simply a source of nourishment.
We all know that in America, we are grossly unhealthy, with too many fast food restaurants or quick dinners we can pick up at the store. We’re busy–always busy, always working–and our waist size sees the result. But even as a relatively healthy person who eats hummus, yogurt, chicken, fish, and guacamole instead of burgers and fried food (although I am a sucker for fries), I still love food. I hate having to give it up. Giving up some of these indulgences makes me feel different than the rest of my culture, when a big part of me wants to connect more deeply and feel like I fit in. If I can’t do the same thing on a Saturday night that everybody else does–drink wine or cocktails and eat good food–where do I go? Where do I belong?
In the yogic chakra system, the second chakra is the house of the reproductive system, the place for desire and appetite, which is connected closely with the first chakra, one’s connection to survival, stability, protection. These two energetic houses, particularly the first chakra, deal with our relationship to food. When our lives shift, when things change, we may turn to food as a way to comfort ourselves, or to open the doorway to another kind of life. For me, I feel like for years I’ve been looking for my sweet spot, something special to help me escape the mundane. Had a hard day at work, a hard week? Follow it up with a glass of wine, maybe two. Throw in a margarita. Eat a healthy dinner? Good, now where are the cookies? Want to get some writing done? Go to a cafe and buy a coffee loaded with sugar and a sweet treat. Always, the message I have underlying in these moments is, treat yourself. But underneath my desire to treat myself is this feeling that I’m lacking something. Perhaps I have trouble accepting exactly where I am, so I need to search outside myself for something that will make me feel better, even if that thing is only temporary, fleeting. And then, I’m led back to the cycle of seeking and seeking again. Often, through food.
So what’s the big lesson learned in my cleanse (which I hope will be successful, since it isn’t yet over)? That what’s already in front of me is my treat. My breakfast–an apple and almond butter–is a treat, simply because it’s my breakfast. I don’t feel that I’m lacking at all. In fact, I feel more in control, more empowered, because I’m making a choice to take care of my body.
And in the absence of sugar, I’m finding my sweets somewhere else. In my morning tea. In the feeling of the sun falling on my arms. In the chirping of birds, or a good conversation with a friend. Walking into a bookstore and doing something I haven’t done in years, since the advent of online book-buying: finding a book I never heard of and buying it. Feeling relaxed after a good, sweaty yoga class. Discovering new things to eat, like roasted chickpeas or beet chips, or Kombucha in my tea.
It’s likely that once I’m finished the cleanse, I’ll continue to withhold a lot of the same things from my diet, limiting my bread and cheese consumption, drinking Yerba Mate instead of coffee, holding off on the alcohol unless it’s a special occasion. Foregoing these things makes me feel sad, because they are so much a part of our culture, a part of what we do and the habits I’ve formed with friends, but feeling clear-minded and clean inside–at least right now–is more important to me. Instead of seeing what I lack in my body, I’ll focus on what I’ve gained. Instead of seeking an escape from each moment through the wonder of my taste buds, I’ll try to find the kind of balance that will keep me measured, calm, and content.
Are you interested in trying this too?