Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mindful Eating

In the wake of my detox I'm trying to discern the lessons I've learned from the entire experience. As far as cleanses go, the CLEAN program is relatively mild. There was no serious fasting, I got to eat solid food every day, and the list of allowable foods was not so restrictive that I couldn't maintain the challenge for four weeks. That being said, it was still a struggle at times as I found myself staring longingly at forbidden foods and craving bread, sugar and eggs (brioche bread pudding, anyone?).

I read an article in the February issue of Yoga Journal about one woman's experience with reducing the quantity of food she at, which in turn helped her to become more aware of her own body's needs and more mindful of the food she was actually eating. (I cannot find the online article, but here is a link to an interview with her about her book Ravenous: A Food Lover's Journey from Obsession to Freedom. I really related to what she was talking about as far as mindfulness and awareness go. Here are the lessons I've learned:

1. I am more discerning about what "hunger" means to me. I used to think I was hungry all the time, so I was constantly snacking and never giving my digestive system a break. Now when I feel the urge to snack, I take some time to re-evaluate what I'm feeling. I drink water and if I still feel the need to eat I try to have something small and nutritious, like a few apple slices with almond butter or a sheet of nori. I thought I would experience a lot of hunger during the detox, but the truth is, I was surprisingly satisfied with the small amount of food I ate.

2. I'm more aware of the need to eat vegetables as my main source of nutrition. I used to think I was eating a lot of vegetables until I started this detox. I found myself needing to go to the market three or four times a week (instead of my once-a-week visit) to restock on veggies and fruit. Instead of filling up on carbs I am eating way more plants. Despite feeling a bit like a rabbit sometimes, it has been wonderful and mind-opening to be getting so much nutrition.

3. I used to take pride in my appetite and the fact that I didn't have to worry about my weight and could eat anything I wanted (I am not a junkfood eater, but I also don't shy away from high-caloric items like cream, eggs, or oils). I've realized that my pride was driving some of my food choices and now I'm more careful about keeping it in check.

4. I'm more careful about avoiding acidifying foods (dairy, meat, sugar and most grains) and focusing on alkalizing foods. It's been an experiment in self-control and self-understanding to acknowledge my desire for the kinds of food that are not in my best interest and then to either forego them or eat them sparingly. I feel more empowered now as a result of the combination of knowledge and the power to act on that knowledge.

5. Obviously, I've become much more mindful about what and how much I am eating. I am trying to take the time to really enjoy my food and think about where it came from and what it is doing for my body. I have always loved eating, but now it is almost a spiritual experience. (Can you believe I just said that?)

I started this detox in an effort to re-balance my body. I've struggled with excruciating pelvic pain (attributed to endometriosis and mittelschmerze syndrome) and infertility (due to a luteal phase defect?) for most of my adult life and the traditional western modes of medicine just don't mesh with my world view. It just didn't make sense for a healthy young woman like myself to have these issues and I couldn't help thinking that there is something I'm doing to myself, something in my environment, that is unbalancing me and causing these problems. I was angry at my body for a long time and then I had a revelation that I needed to channel that anger into working to make a change in my body, to do as much as I can and then once I can literally go no further, to then call in the big guns (IVF is my last option). So, this detox fell in line with the things I've learned in traditional Chinese medicine and I decided to try it out.

No miraculous results yet (aka, I'm still not pregnant) BUT I feel lighter and cleaner, more emotionally stable, and the debilitating cramping seems to have lessened, if not disappeared. So, I'm kinda converted to this now... and I'm proselyting!


Kumi said...

I am trying to do the same, but it is so hard for me not taking any sugar, nor soy product, including miso and soy sauce.

ginger said...


Emily said...

I love your blog and find it very interesting. This post is very is so hard in American culture to be so aware of the food we eat, really. It is something most people never think and especially talk about. Thanks for sharing your insights!