Yesterday I started a cleanse where you basically eat the same meal for every meal for a set amount of days (oh lord). I’m not going to go into details about cleansing, why it’s good or how this specific cleanse works, because well... I have much more interesting things to talk about (in my opinion).
All you need to know about the cleanse for the purposes of this post is that:
- It’s not a fast. You still eat 3 meals a day.
- The point of this cleanse is to give your digestive system a break and allow your body to break down any gunk that’s gotten stored in your system.
- Cleansing isn’t part of my work with clients (yet). But, I’m talking about it here because I think it illustrates some really important lessons when it comes to understanding our relationship to food.
- I don’t recommend doing a cleanse if you are really struggling with your relationship to food. It’s just not a good idea (read this post for just a couple thoughts on my experience with this).
With that said, let’s get into it! Here are my top three takeaways from cleansing.
1. We have so many attachments to food
SOOO many. Food is love. Food is comfort. Food is companionship. Food is community. Food is fulfillment. Food is a distraction. As one of my teachers so eloquently put it, food is a pacifier.
When baby cries, we feed her. This loving act of the mother nursing the child serves as nourishment, connection, security and love.
Being fed as a baby means that we will continue to receive what we require to survive. Someone is taking care of us.
In this way, food becomes so much more than food.
Depending on our unique personality and life circumstances, we all have vices that we use as pacifiers into adulthood in order to self-soothe, gain a sense of security, comfort and maintain emotional equilibrium.
For many of us, that pacifier is food.
We lean on it in distress. We celebrate with it in joy. We connect with people over food and it’s something we share together.
Food, unlike love and companionship, is accessible to us whenever and wherever we feel discomfort or pain.
We may not even realize it, but we use food to maintain our emotional equilibrium all the time.
And that’s NOT bad.
But what happens is, when you do a cleanse, allll of that comfort is gone.
Food isn’t fun anymore because you’re just eating the same thing over and over. There’s no excitement. No looking forward to your favorite food. No collapsing at the end of the day into your favorite ice cream and tv show (and obviously no drinking or smoking either).
It’s just you. And the same meal over and over. With your thoughts and feelings.
Ya. It’s uncomfortable. Which leads me to my next major takeaway.
2. When we remove those foods, a lot of SHIT surfaces
Sooo much surfaces when we take away our pacifier.
When we hold certain attachments to food (which we all do, whether you struggle with your relationship to food or not, we all do this to a degree) and then take that away, it’s amazing what comes up.
It’s almost like you don’t have any extra cushioning between you and life. If you haven’t been paying a lot of attention to how you’ve been feeling or how your body has been feeling, it’ll certainly come up now because there’s nothing to draw your awareness away from how you feel (food, sugar, drinks).
If you get upset, your food of choice isn’t there to soothe and take it away.
This creates a unique situation where during a cleanse, you become incredibly present with your feelings.
In addition to the cleanse causing you to become frustrated, more easily upset, tired, short-fused and emotionally raw (this is why you always rest and take it as easy as possible during a cleanse) there’s no food to then turn to to make it better.
Can I also say real quick- this is why people can’t stick to diets. It’s because you’re so used to maintaining your emotional equilibrium with food that when you try and change your diet, you’ll revert back to your old diet again and again because you're not equipped to handle what’s surfacing emotionally when you take away the pacifier (and this isn’t your fault, you just haven’t learned the tools to do it - this is exactly what we learn in my program).
Cleanses do the same thing. During a cleanse you are (lovingly) forced to process the emotions that you’ve tied to (or been avoiding) when it comes to food.
Or, you can break the cleanse and give up, which leads me to #3.
3. How we choose to respond to that shit is what defines us
How we choose to respond to the discomfort that arises is what will eventually define us. Because it’s these seemingly small responses to something like the emotion that surfaces during a cleanse that either affects change in our lives or perpetuates us doing the same shit over and over.
Most of us are so used to being on autopilot that when discomfort arises, it’s so unnoticeable that you don’t even realize you’ve already reached for the ice cream and eaten half the tub until it’s already happened.
Or you try a cleanse, but before you’ve even started you’ve decided it’s not going to work so after one day you give up.
It’s these small, seemingly insignificant, almost automatic decisions and events that create who we are over time.
It’s these almost unconscious decisions that over time, paint the picture of what we believe about ourselves, how we feel about our bodies and impact our future actions.
When we choose to respond with awareness and slowly get off autopilot, learn to allow uncomfortable emotions like anxiety, discomfort and frustration (that surface during a cleanse) to just be there, without pushing them away or instantly grabbing something that will take us out of it, we literally alter the trajectory of our health, relationships and life.
It’s the difference between doing what you’ve always done because it’s easy and comfortable, and doing something challenging in order to become the person you want to become.
It’s NOT easy. But it IS simple.
OK this post about a cleanse just got REAL deep so I’m gonna stop now :)
What are you still doing solely because it’s easy and comfortable?
Sending massive love!