I went on my first diet (Atkins) in the 8th grade. By high school, I sampled South Beach, Weight Watchers, “miracle” soups, “miracle” salads, and under eating all together. In college, I went through similar cycles of counting calories, points, carbs, and grams.
My obsession with ying-yang dieting continued well into my twenties. However, three years ago, I completed my first detox from gluten, sugar, dairy, and wheat, which was a breakthrough in curbing strong cravings and hunger pangs. Since that liberating experience, I’ve been a stable clean eater, continuously drilling down on nutrition, physical health, and soothing the soul.
This is all great on paper, except our relationship with food, like any other relationship, will always change. Moments of highs and lows will test the strength of our eating habits. And if they prove to be week, we lose focus, and begin to knock down the very stones that hold up our towers of happiness, health, and wisdom.
To my own surprise, I overestimated the strength of my more recent eating habits, since in the last year, I’ve fallen a bit off the wagon. Thankfully, my links have been tested from a place of pure joy (meeting Yonatan, traveling, and having the freest of summers). But still, I lost focus, gained some weight, and an unhealthy obsession with food quickly returned (“it’s too carby, too caloric, it’s passed 7:00pm, must burn this off…”).
And then, a gift…
Last week, I spent five days detoxing on a raw, vegan, and organic food diet, coupled with a two-day juice fast. I sat in on almost a dozen lectures on lifestyle, cooking, spirituality, consumption, and of course, our relationship with food.
At first, my mind began to race! I grew doubtful of some of my decisions on food, despite how well informed I thought I was. I grew pressured about what part of the program, if any, I would take back to Tel Aviv. And, the actual detox from meat, sugar, dairy, caffeine, AND smoking caused all kinds of absurd side effects. These included random outbursts of crying, bad dreams, and pealing skin on my palms. In short, a tremendous amount of internal noise accumulated during those days, all triggered by the biological and mental rehabilitation that was taking place.
I returned to my apartment overwhelmed. A stench from the streets agitated my replenished sense of smell. My fridge resembled a sad tree trunk. I felt like crying and sleeping all at once. Now what?
But like a storm before the sun, my mind and belly were gently hushed to silence in the middle of the night. From that morning on, there has been a soft spring bouncing in and around me. And during these past few days, several extremely important lessons from Mitzpe Alummot sunk in:
1. Even the best of nutrition will not nurture a man if his soul is ill. Likewise, the fat man on the grill who loves life and laughs hard – everyday – will likely outlive a miserable vegan. Start with the soul.
2. Feeling a little bit of hunger is really ok! It’s biological, and it’s the true green light before resuming our next meal. Most of us eat because others are eating, we have nothing better to do at the moment, or there’s an anticipation of hunger. Eat less food, it’s all right.
3. Detoxing from all the crap-food (which are innately addictive) can break other sever addictions, such as nicotine. I’ve quit and picked up smoking nearly half a dozen times in my life, and never has it been so easy to quit than this time around. Detoxing destroys addictions.
4. Honest-to-god, I do not feel like eating any dairy, meat, or sugar at the moment. I also don’t feel like smoking, or overeating. My diet has been simplified, therefore I don’t struggle with what may or may not enter my mouth next…and I’ve never felt so liberated. Simplify your life.
I reserve the right to eat meat, dairy, and sugar at some point again. And I reserve the right to fall off the wagon (I expect to fail for greater breakthroughs). But I’m certain that I will always want to feel exactly how I do now. I’ll remember how much I loved creating little miracles in the kitchen with nature’s scraps. And, I’ll yearn for the sobriety from all my addictions so that I’m no longer my worst enemy, but rather, my purest remedy.