Battleground: Body - Reflections on a Spring Cleanse
The body is a battleground.
Just peruse any number of eating plans: Paleo, Atkins, Plant-based diets, Mark Hyman’s Anti-inflammatory Diet, Dr. Weil’s Pyramid, The Bulletproof Diet and you’ll see why. So many opinions about what is good for you. So many ways to feed yourself “the right way.”
Just over a week ago, the artist lover and I got the flu (in that order) and for a full five days, the house was a bin of misery. Fresh from getting rid of everything I’d eaten in the last 24 hours, I woke and announced: “It’s time for a cleanse.” Why not? I thought, I was half way there. Besides I usually do a little bodily house-cleaning every spring to reset my system because (this is more important) I think it’s good for me. But secretly (and rather smugly), I thought, I’d have a leg up on losing a few pounds of winter weight.
So in came the detox tea and out went dairy and gluten, things I avoid anyway. The biggest sacrifice was wine and the arid maw of 10 whole days of not drinking. On my preferred cleanse, I cut out animal proteins, but because I have recently begun to see dairy and grains as more dangerous inflammatory factors in my diet, I decided to stick to lean organic meats and good eggs and protein shakes. Plus, the artist lover with whom I share meals was more than a bit put out by the prospect of eating veg and beans for a week or more.
What’s funny is that I normally run my system, with the exception of wine, on pretty high-octane ingredients: I eat lots of veg and fresh fruit, avocados and almond butter. Still, when the cleansing phase (usually the first few days) didn’t feel devastating, I was kind of disappointed. And this is important: I kept waiting to be punished—to see evidence that my system was toxic. Why wasn’t I suffering more? Imagine being raised Catholic, a state of mind that goes hand in hand with the idea that something inherently bad or sinful about me needed to be purged, and you’ve got a smidge of an idea of what my mental state regarding food is like.
After a week of eating salads and protein and lots of good fats, nothing happened: My body didn’t feel incredibly different and I didn’t shed one ounce. What I did notice is this: I was being really hard on myself. I should feel if not great, then better, I thought--and I didn’t. I should lose at least two pounds eating only “good” things, but nothing happened. I’d given up chocolate and choice, why wasn’t there a result? I fumed.
Then I realized I was mad at my body.
I have carried extra weight all my life. I’m what is more gently called a big woman. And even though I exercise regularly and am willing to bet I eat healthier than about 90% of my friends, I still have the body I do. Well-meaning, but clueless Doctors tell me to see a nutritionist or write down what I eat as if I couldn’t account for every single thing that passes my lips. I know some people look at me and think I eat candy bars or donuts on the sly or that I must be lazy to a fault or really unfit. In short, there must be a reason I’m not skinny. And not being skinny means I’m out of shape and out of control.
The heaviness of this idea weighs far more than the 50 pounds I could lose.
And the problem is, I’ve internalized the cultural bias against my body type. During exercise, I find myself pushing as a way to punish my body for how it looks. (Even though we all know skinny people who don’t jog or go to the gym and couldn’t survive a 90 minute yoga class). When I avoid certain foods as I do just about every single day of my life, I do it to punish my body for not being “normal.” No wonder it doesn’t respond. It’s being told over and over again (by me), that it’s bad.
I don’t need to cleanse my body, what I need is to cleanse my mind.
The detoxing has to happen at the cellular level, along synapses that equate my body size with my lovability and worth. Instead of punishing my body for not being what I want, I need to celebrate its health and strength and flexibility: I don’t have one major health problem--my blood sugar and blood pressure are normal, which is more than I can say for my parents (and many of my friends) at my age.
Now, I just wonder, if there is a tea I can take for this.