Resetting my eating habits with a cleanse

We’ve had an indulgent run these last few months. Mardi Gras season in New Orleans ended in late February, then blurred into March, when John and I both celebrate our birthdays with week-long festivals of enjoying what we love.

It’s time to hit reset.

veggie grid

After a stretch of eating and drinking too indulgently, my diet is much heavier on fruits and veggies at the moment. This photo by twistedstringknits used under a Creative Commons license.

Last year after we came home from Mardi Gras, when we appropriately ate and drank too much, we recalibrated with a three-week cleanse. We abstained from sugar, refined flour, gluten, meat, dairy and alcohol, instead eating lots of fresh fruits and veggies, with gluten-free grains like quinoa and legumes, following a meal plan with portion-controlled recipes.

The restriction that concerned me most was giving up caffeine. I’d been drinking a cup or two of coffee a day for years, and much to my surprise, I did fine without it.

A year later, our lifestyle shows some permanent changes, even though we’ve returned to a less austere lifestyle. Most mornings we have a green smoothie for breakfast, a big switch for a girl who always loved cereal, oatmeal and toast. When we make coffee at home, it’s one quarter caffeinated, three quarters decaf. Some of the cleanse recipes have earned a spot in our regular rotation, from a baked sweet potato topped with tangy kale slaw to pesto made with basil, nuts and kalamata olives.

In New York, the word “diet” seems out of vogue, while everyone is doing a cleanse. Some people might like the notion that it clears built-up toxins from their bodies. I don’t know about that, but I do like the idea of rebooting my diet.

Here’s what I liked about our three monastic weeks last year:

  • I wasn’t hungry — John’s done juice fasts throughout our marriage and I’ve never been remotely interested. I get hangry and headachy too quickly. But our meals and snacks left me full, with the exception of one night’s thin soup that wasn’t very satisfying.
  • The food was delicious — It’s easier to forget what’s missing from your plate when what’s there is colorful and flavorful.
  • It reminded me I didn’t need to eat so much — I love food and it’s hugely tempting to keep eating just because I’m enjoying it, even though I’m no longer hungry. Our meal plan called for modest portions that often didn’t look like enough, but almost always were. Sometimes I even skipped the recommended snacks because I was still full from the last meal.
  • Three weeks felt just right — Instead of trying to gently moderate by cutting back on indulgences, I figured I’d go cold turkey because three weeks just didn’t seem that tough. On the flip side, it seemed long enough to perhaps set some new habits. That’s turned out to be the case for smoothies and cutting coffee.
  • It made me mindful of my choices — I think this was the biggie. We’d gotten into a routine with lots of dining out, lots of cocktails, lots of desserts. Learning to say no and realizing the pang of desire would quickly dissolve was helpful. It also pushed me to make different choices. Instead of meeting friends for a drink, what else can we do?

I went for an annual checkup midway between my birthday and John’s last month, with no sign of our fun letting up. My doctor remarked on my low cholesterol after his nurse called my blood pressure perfect. So the point for me isn’t that I’m in terrible health. I am carrying five more pounds than I’d like, but after this winter, who isn’t?

Instead it’s about reclaiming control of my eating habits and feeling good about what I’m ingesting.

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Categories: food and drink

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2 replies

  1. I’d love to see the recipes for baked sweet potato topped with tangy kale slaw and pesto made with basil, nuts and kalamata olives!

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