Seeing as how the busy-ness and abundant foodstuffs of the Holidays are only a few weeks away (well, 6, but lately time has been FLYING), my good friend and I decided to embark on a 10 day cleanse & reflection period together to nourish our bodies, gather our wits, and weed out some bad habits. Anyone who wants to join us can hop on board… We still have 7 days to go!
So what is this “cleanse”, you might ask? Well, basically we decided that we wanted to eliminate some foods (read: mostly beverages) that have a grip on us, spend less time on our smartphones (more on that later), and devote energy to pursuits that we care about (in theory) but never make the time for in real life. So we met at Lake Ave Restaurant on Tuesday night to hash out our strategy (plus we had to indulge in wine and dessert one last time). Our cleanse is somewhat based on the Four Winds Holistic Cleanse (in truth it’s only very loosely related… like a great uncle through marriage). The Four Winds Cleanse is awesome but is for the Zen Masters among us. I’m more of a white belt in the area of self-control, so I caved on my second day when I tried it a few years back. But the intent is there in our modified version — slow down, reflect, eat less inflammatory foods, drink lots water, and take care of ourselves!
So here are the ground rules:
GOOD FOOD: We’re focusing on eating lots of vegetables and fruits and eliminating the nonessential stuff like added sugars, alcohol, and caffeine. So here’s the list of foods that we agreed were off limits: No chicken, red meat, pork, shellfish, clams, refined sugar, grains (except wild rice and quinoa), potatoes (except sweet potatoes), corn, coffee, dairy (except plain yogurt), alcohol, carbonated beverages, and chocolate.
Because I am a meat-itarian we decided to allow fish, plain yogurt, and eggs… I am literally the worst vegetarian on the planet and the one time I tried to give it up ended in me having dreams about stealing meat and eating it in a dark corner where no one could see me. So I am not ready for an animal-free cleanse, yet (maybe never). Most of these suggestions are from the Four Winds Cleanse that I mentioned earlier, just in slightly less restrictive forms.
Almost three days have gone by on this cleanse and I can tell you that giving up sugar was quite a shock at first. I was STARVING (and sad) the first day and exhausted the next. But I wasn’t surpised, many people experience withdrawal symptoms when they quit sugar cold turkey. Probably this is because we eat so dang much of it! According to data from the U.S. in 2008, people are consuming 76.7 grams of added sugar (not naturally occurring in fruits / vegetables) per day, which equals 19 teaspoons or 306 calories. According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amounts of added sugar people should eat are only 6 teaspoons (25 g, 100 calories) for women and 9 teaspoons (37.5 g, 150 calories) for men. So on average we are consuming 2-3 times MORE added sugar than is healthy for us. Sugar is being linked to all sorts of health complications, and our cleanse virtually eliminates all added sugars. It also focuses on anti-inflammatory foods that are easy on your body. There’s lots of information out there on the anti-inflammatory diet — if you haven’t read about it but suffer from chronic illness like arthritis or have a history of heart disease, you might want to read up on it. But this cleanse isn’t only about food! Read on…
LOTS OF WATER: We’re trying to drink 8+ glasses of water a day (actually for me it’s 4+, as I am the size of a nine year-old). After all, water is good for your whole body! And we don’t always remember to drink up… in fact the average American only drinks 2.5 cups of water daily. So imbibing a little more H2O seemed like a logical goal of the cleanse!
FITNESS: Our aim is to work out for at least 20 minutes, 3 times a week (again, I am a newbie… you may be prepared for higher intensity or frequency when it comes to physical activity). I’m sure you don’t need to be told that working out is good for you… It’s just that pesky little practice of transforming knowledge into action that often gets in the way of fitness.
This is a huge area of struggle for me, so I’ll let you know if I have any breakthroughs this week! I can say that getting a FitBit this January did help me realize just how little I was moving on a daily basis. And I do try now to reach my “step” goal (it registers large movements in my wheelchair as steps) — but true heart-pumping workouts still feel like pulling teeth to me. Any suggestions?
CONNECTING WITH SPIRIT: Another daily goal for the cleanse is to meditate, do a devotional, or practice yoga daily (whichever floats our boats that day). Meditation’s power to transform the brain is hardly debatable at this point and yoga has its own litany of health benefits. But beyond any healthy boosts these practices provide, we also just want to make more time to pause and nurture our inner spirit. Otherwise life can fly by pretty quickly!
GRATITUDE: We are aiming to write down three things we are grateful for each day. Why? Because it has been scientifically been proven to be good for you to appreciate the blessings in your life. In one gratitude study, “researchers asked all participants to write a few sentences each week, focusing on particular topics. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week. A second group wrote about daily irritations or things that had displeased them, and the third wrote about events that had affected them (with no emphasis on them being positive or negative). After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.”
Don’t have lots of time for writing? There’s a simple app I’ve been using called Attitudes of Gratitude that makes this task easy and quick!
READING FOR PLEASURE: During the cleanse, one of our goals is to read more books for pleasure. We ultimately decided to read a few simultaneously so we’d have something fun to discuss, rather than just complaining about how much we miss coffee. We picked “Through Time into Healing” and “Messages from the Masters” by Dr. Brian Weiss and also “Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God” by Rainer Maria Rilke).
The point of this piece of the cleanse is to build in some pleasure. After all, it’s about nourishing yourself! Obviously if you’re not into reading you could aim to work on another oft-neglected hobby, or try a new one!
LESS PHONE TIME: This is a biggie. We are attempting to limit phone use to less than 2 hours a day, and to keep them stowed away for 30 minutes upon rising and 2 hours before bed. Oddly enough, this has been way harder for us than we expected. You may be surprised to learn that a recent study found the average smartphone owner uses their phone for 3 hours and 16 minutes every day. Another study found that, in particular, young women averaged 10 hours a day! Increased phone use has also been linked to poor fitness, a fact which is common sense in some ways but also easily overlooked.
Perhaps you are reading this thinking, “I don’t have a problem with my phone – I can turn it off whenever I want!” But I would challenge you to do some unofficial research before you declare yourself to be free from a smartphone addiction. Awhile back I installed an app on my phone called Phone Usage Timer and was appalled to learn that my own phone use over the last 30 days averaged 4 hours and 42 minutes a day… that’s getting into seriously unbalanced territory! I am tired of having my phone permanently attached to my hand… What other awesome things could I be doing with my life and the people around me if I wasn’t always checking social media or answering emails all day long? If you (like me) need some help avoiding the technological black hole that is your phone, you may want to install the app FocusOn, which allows you to block apps and even certain time-sucking websites like Facebook for a specific amount of time or on a schedule of your choosing. So far I really like it!
ACCOUNTABILITY AND DAILY IMPROVEMENT:
One key ingredient that has always been missing when trying to start something new was accountability. So this time around, my friend and I decided to create a shareable spreadsheet on Google Drive so that we have to record our progress and thus stay accountable. Here’s mine from the first 2 days:
As you can see I am not batting 100… But I have kept up with the food, water and reading goals, so that makes me happy! You gotta start somewhere, right? Luckily there are still 7 days left of the cleanse (and of course the rest of my life) to make progress — in this case, the goal is a closer alignment of my values with my daily actions. The journey towards congruent living is never easy or without setbacks. But as motivational author Brendon Burchad reminds us: “We must remember that the power to direct our destiny comes only from a mindset that makes us willing to struggle through learning, effort, and growth. You have a clean slate every day you wake up. You have a chance every single morning to make that change and be the person you want to be. You just have to decide to do it. Decide today’s the day.”
I don’t know about you, but I love the idea of living for enrichment of self and others. As I’ve written about before, enrichment is all about making your life “rich or richer, especially by the addition or increase of some desirable quality, attribute, or ingredient”. This looks different for everyone and varies during your lifespan. When you’re a baby, enrichment might be passive as you benefit from the love and physical care of your parents in your relatively helpless state. As a child, enrichment can be both passive (the good food your mom cooks you) and active (the awesome games you make up as you run around outside that nourish both your imagination and your physical body). As an adult, enrichment is often an active pursuit – how can I live in a more healthy way so that I can enjoy this experience in my body as much as possible? How can I keep learning to expand my mind? What fun activities can I pursue just because they bring me joy? These are all questions I ask myself often at this stage in life (and a huge motivation for the cleanse). As we experience illness or approach death, we may once again be the beneficiaries of passive enrichment – a good meal fed to us with compassion, having someone provide us with dignified physical care, receiving comfort from our friends and family. It makes no difference where we are on the life continuum — enrichment matters for everyone because everyone can appreciate enrichment.
So maybe you aren’t the kind of person who feels a cleanse would be enriching to your life – that’s totally fine! But if you do feel that a lifestyle change or a shift in focus might do you good, then seize the day! The first step is to take some time to figure out what it is you REALLY believe in and what you desire for your life. Then you can begin to look for ways to fulfill these goals and express your values in your day-to-day experience. And of course you’re invited to join in on the cleansing fun this week… the more the merrier!
“This must be our day to define the best of who we are and what we will stand for. Tonight, in the glow of gratitude for our free will, let us write down the words and phrases that describe our ideal identity. Put them on beautiful paper and in ink. Carry them everywhere. Look at these words, memorize them, verbalize them—become them. The more we align our actions with this identity, the more free, motivated, and whole we shall become. Life will feel brighter and more our own, more deep and satisfying. Destiny will smile on us and we will be welcomed into the gates of heaven as people of purpose and integrity.” – Brendon Burchard