I am not one to cleanse. I have always had an aversion to the word detox. It looks like the word diet in disguise—a quick fix, promising big results while delivering maximum deprivation.
If my teenaged and early adult years have taught me one thing, it’s that I don’t do well with feeling deprived or focusing intensely on what I am not eating. It tends to make me a little crazy.
And yet, when a recent offer for a two-day juice cleanse landed in my inbox, this time around I stopped, raised a suspicious eyebrow and clicked. Okay, part of it was the price (damn you, Groupon) but part of it was me. I knew I was not at my best. Anxious and reactive, I was in need of a serious, spiritual reset. And in that moment, I wondered if I could find it at the bottom of a Vitamix juicer.
If it had been a gloriously, warm day in July, I would not be writing this today. I surely would have said, no thanks, to the shiny Groupon and moved on. But it was a cold night in January. My tough month. My tough season. Not enough sunshine or warmth, I had been feeling stuck—a self-imposed victim of the cold, cruel winter months.
Unable to hunker down and embrace winter’s temperament, I was reaching for food, thoughtlessly, to help settle myself. And, to make matters even worse, every pang of real hunger I did have brought with it a heightened sense of panic—an urgency to fix the discomfort I felt deep in my body.
Why couldn’t I just relax? Everyday, I felt I was moving further away from the awareness I had worked so hard to cultivate around food and body. I knew I needed a reset, a mindfulness reset. I needed to get back to tuning into my body and my hunger, but bigger than that, I desperately wanted to ease the agitation I was feeling.
A tall order for a two-day juice cleanse, perhaps. But didn’t the ancient Greek philosopher Hippocrates advise us to ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food?’ With Hippocrates’ endorsement in mind, I clicked “Buy Now!” Easy as pie…that I wouldn’t be allowed to eat.
The plan: Days one and four would be regular meals, except, limited to fruit and vegetables. Days two and three would be juices and smoothies prepared by a local, raw food cafe. I picked up my juices, loaded them into the back of my refrigerator and set my intention: to come back to mindfulness and a sense of calm and ease.
I was nervous.
Nervous about not being able to eat at will. Nervous about the limited amount of food I could eat. But it was only four days. Surely I could do anything for four days. Right?
If I could have eaten my words, I would have. Literally.
The cleanse proved so much harder than anything I had expected. Hunger, both physical and mental, hit with a vengeance. The juices, though delicious beet, carrot and green concoctions, were not nearly enough fuel for my body. I felt tired, weak, lacking energy. I was craving calories and caffeine. Hippocrates was not my friend.
The sharp physical hunger was surpassed only by a relentless mental discomfort—not being able to have what I wanted, when I wanted it. Self-imposed, for sure. But I bought into it completely.
For once in my life, I simply felt like I had no choice. No choice but to literally sit on my couch, look out the window and feel what I did not want to feel—and empty uneasiness at the bottom of a hollow belly with no promise of sweet relief on the horizon.
That’s when I called on my best friend—yoga. “Breathe,” I told myself. “Breathe through it. Just as you do in pigeon pose in yoga. Breathe as if you were leaning back into hero’s pose. Don’t resist it. Soften into it. Let it be here. And just breathe.”
And like a subtle, soft breeze that is barely noticeable, something small, yet miraculous, shifted. Again and again and again. As I breathed, I realized for the first time, I wasn’t running. The hunger didn’t leave my body. The discomfort did not go away. But not fighting it meant the panic dissolved. “This too shall pass,” I told myself. And, in time, it did. One beautiful, slow breath at a time. My breath was my way through it, my companion as I befriended the feeling of ravenous hunger and a frustrated mind.
So what did I learn from my first and quite possibly last ever juice cleanse:
I learned that I can sit with discomfort. I can and I did, perhaps for the first time ever.
I learned when hunger strikes, I don’t need to run from it—I can wait a few minutes and I will be just fine, the now familiar discomfort no longer sounding the alarm bells.
And lastly, I learned I could feel spiritually full, while feeling physically hungry—perhaps the juiciest revelation of all.
My four-day foray into the detox world wasn’t pleasant, to say the least. But it did manage to disable the panic setting in my brain. And it did remind me yet again that my breath will always carry me though—through yoga, through life.
Could I have come to these bits of life-changing insight without going through a juice cleanse? Perhaps. But, the universe knew to reach me through Groupon. And I guess on that cold winter night, I was ready to listen.
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Assistant Editor: Brenna Fischer/Editor: Bryonie Wise