In a moment of profound wisdom or total insanity, I upped and volunteered to join a group of fabulous women to cleanse my body of the big five–caffeine, sugar, alcohol, gluten and all animal based products for three weeks.
Why you might ask (I certainly asked myself that every day)? Four reasons.
1) To manage inflammation and its resulting pain and discomfort without pills or shots (or surgery).
2) To prepare differently for my annual check-up to see the results of my blood work
3) To lose weight
4) To see what it’s like, given all the increasing research and hype around modern diets and nutrition (explorer in me).
What was it like?
You know, it wasn’t bad. Once I got through the first few days of feeling pretty sluggish, a side effect of giving up sugar, it was pretty easy. The real upside for me wat that I could eat all the time (and I did) and still lost weight. The hardest part was eating out–finding a restaurant that could deliver a dish I could eat (salad greens with olive oil notwithstanding)–was a major research undertaking. The other really hard part was finding food that didn’t have sugar or gluten snuck in as a filler. I read labels til my head spun.
What did I learn?
Of those five foods, the one I missed most was caffeine. Whether that was the caffeine itself, or just the religious experience that coffee is for me, I’ll never know. But as soon as the cleanse was over, the first thing I put back was my morning coffee. At that point, with my morning coffee and nothing else was I felt the best I’d ever felt.
Giving it all up actually made eating easy. It reduced the choices of available food choices so dramatically it took the “what do I eat” question out of my life. In effect it replaces temptation with hard and fast rules that require no measuring or counting. The upside to that was that I could eat all day, snacking on fruit, vegetables, rice cakes and nuts. I don’t think I could have pulled this off without nuts as a major part of my diet, which would limit this for some. The downside to that is that most social life is not structured around these rules so you have to work hard to stick to them–read labels to the extreme, bring your own food to parties, always have snacks with you, do a lot of restaurant research so you have a reliable list of places where you can get something beyond salad greens with olive oil for a meal.
The relationship between hunger and satiation/satisfaction changed. Eating this way, I got full more easily with much less food but I was hungry much more often. I know there’s a lot of information out there that things like sugar (and many of its variants like corn syrup) additives and possible gluten disrupt your satiation mechanisms and have you wanting without hunger. For me, I believe it now and I have one miserable child as I make some changes in our diet as a result.
Finally, food is not just fuel, it is a major part of the social, sensual and religious fabric of our lives. Being part of that matters, a lot. For me, it is important to take a sip of wine and eat a bite of bread (assuming bodies can handle them) during a ceremony. I do want to take a bite of a cookie or anything else my child makes at school, at friend’s house, or undertakes on her own in mine. Whipped cream stays in the fridge (I’ll let you figure out why) although I may change it soy cream.
Did I achieve my goals?
I lost five pounds. Yeah!
My annual result blood work was better than it has been in several years. However, it still could have been better. I was happy that my doctor was happy, but I had hoped for more stellar results.
The pain associated with inflammation was no better but no worse than with the drugs. That leaves me with the question–Did both or neither work?
I had the experience and I’m making changes as a result.
Will I give all these things up? No.
Will I change my diet as a result of this? Yes. I already have. I’m buying differently, cooking more and will keep all these foods reduced in my diet. All in all, I find it easier to live without labels (e.g. vegan) but I have taken to heart what I’ve learned. I also found a lot of products without many of these things are just good .
What about you? Have you given up any or all of these? What was your experience?