Some of you might know that I started a 21-day cleanse diet on Monday. This is probably not “church news,” but I wanted to explain some of my thinking because I am looking at it as a spiritual practice.
I should start by explaining what it is. It is vegan, but that’s not all. It also eschews alcohol, caffeine, carbs, gluten, and anything processed. No fake meats or cheeses, no eating out. It’s basically fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, all organic. It’s also a lot more meals, though small.
This was not my idea. Y’all know I like to eat all the things. Lisa wanted to do this for her own reasons and I was skeptical. I don’t really believe in a “cleanse.” As WebMD says, your liver does that. Sure, you can overload your liver and feel crappy – that’s what a hangover is – but that is a temporary condition that is “cleansed” by drinking water instead of wine. That is, whatever the temporary physical benefits of eating clean, they will disappear as soon as you stop eating clean. So I’m not doing this for any physical benefits, though I expect there will be some.
Instead, I’m doing this for two reasons. First, relational. Those who know Lisa know that she is unlikely to be dissuaded from this project. I could fight her, but that will make the next 21 days absolutely miserable for everyone. I figure it will add about three hours of food prep labor to her day, which she just does not have. We never see each other as it is due to radically different schedules and her demanding job. So I decided to join her. I figure we can help each other with food prep – she makes smoothies in the morning and leaves it for me, I prepare her lunch and snacks for the following day – and, at worst, we are in this together.
Second, the essence of any spiritual practice is time and attention. As with dietary changes during Lent, it can shake up your routine and force you to pay attention to what you are doing. I mindlessly eat a lot of things, especially at night after Lisa has gone to bed. Even when I’m not hungry, I will make a bowl of guacamole and pour a bowl of salsa and eat an entire bag of chips with whatever is left of the wine from dinner. This reinforces my crazy schedule; I’d rather eat and drink than go to bed. Of course, that means I’m unlikely to exercise when I get up, which also feeds into the cycle. I need a change. I need to pay attention to what I’m doing and break some habits that are wearing me down. I need a spiritual cleanse in the guise of food.
It’s only been a few days, but I feel pretty good. My schedule is still off, but I’m trying. I notice that I’m tired when it gets late, so I go to bed earlier, but I’m sleeping a lot, so I’m still getting up late. Because I’m supposed to eat five meals a day, plus a couple of special drinks, I’m having trouble fitting it all in. That means I’ve probably cut my caloric intake by about half to two-thirds, which is not good. I do feel more focused and alert, except in the afternoons about an hour before dinner when I get a little foggy.
I’m really enjoying the food. One of my other ruts has been in my cooking. I make the same meals every week, primarily for efficiency. I know what to buy at the store. I know exactly how to prepare it and how long it will take. They taste good and are pretty healthy. Part of wanting to do this plan was to remind myself of some flavors, textures, and techniques that I have neglected. Fresh fruits and vegetables, often raw. Nuts and seeds blended into a fascinating array of milks and creams and dressings. I’ve added a little salt to some of the recipes, but far less than I thought I would. I think some of these recipes will stick around. Maybe some of the habits will, too.
I’ll post an occasional update as this process brings things to mind. Food is a big thing in this church, so I would like to be thoughtful about it.
We would appreciate your prayers.