“So I’m doing this cleanse—no gluten, no dairy, no wine—ugh!”
“I’m doing all green juice for three days—that’s all. Gotta give my body a break from food.”
“After this is over, I’m so having pizza, I’m starving.”
What is the significance of these quotes? These are things people on cleanses say.
Cleanses are all the rage and I get asked about them often. Let me be frank: I’ve never liked them much. They seem rather odd to me. And the people doing them seem miserable.
Therein lies, I believe, the misguided appeal of cleanses. Here in the States, especially here in New England, we live with a large Puritan hangover. We love pain. We pride ourselves in our ability to bear a wicked Nor’easter. Not only do we love pain, but we grant it a holiness capable of bringing great tidings. That is, suffer well and you’ll be rewarded. Deny yourself the evil pleasures of the world and you will be rewarded by none other than the gods.
So this is how we take care of ourselves. We identify the bad guys, we steel ourselves with willpower, and we cast them out of our lives (for three or four days). People do this with foods (and even more scary with food overall) and with other villains like television watching and Internet meandering.
Sure, eating certain things, especially food-like packaged goods (a.k.a. processed foods, food products) is detrimental to our well-being. I hardly ever watch television. And I’ll never waste hours in front of my computer when there are all these beautiful beaches and art galleries and, um, people, all around me. So don’t get me wrong, there are behaviors that are best avoided by those like us seeking to thrive. It’s the avoidance, not the behaviors, that I’m making a case against.
Avoidance doesn’t work. And it feels lousy. In mountain biking, when you’re riding down a rocky trail and wanting to stay on your bike, it takes real focus. But what do you focus on? One option is to focus on the rocks. You might say to yourself, “Don’t hit the rocks, don’t hit the rocks, don’t hit the rocks.” I can tell you, this sucks. It’s tension-filled and no fun at all. And, it doesn’t work. When all you’re thinking about is the rocks, what do you think happens a lot? You ride right into the rocks! How could you not? It’s all you’re thinking about. The other approach is to focus on where you want to go, in this case to the clearings between the rocks. You might say to yourself, “Ride through the clearings,” and focus your mind firmly on the clearings where you can continue to ride smoothly. This is much more enjoyable and much more effective.
When you cleanse, it’s a weekend or week or month of, “Don’t eat gluten, don’t eat gluten, don’t eat gluten.” No fun at all, and equally as ineffective as trying to avoid the rocks when mountain biking. You won’t fall off your bike, but you’re destined for a few bread benders at your local bakery. What would be the eating-well equivalent of focusing on the clearings in mountain biking? It could be many things. One simple approach could be to focus on eating lots of local vegetables, fruit, and fish, along with other whole, natural, real food. In this anti-cleanse, you focus on eating these nourishing types of foods and real food overall. The beauty here is that when you do this you will eat less, maybe even no gluten (and/or something else you’re wishing to avoid), but that was not your focus at all. You didn’t have to steel yourself against an enemy. You see, being well is not about denying ourselves the “bad things” and fighting against them, it’s about relishing in and enjoying the amazing treats of life including real food. It’s about nourishing ourselves.
And so, ladies and gentleman, you have what I’m calling, wait for it: the nourish. I just invented it today, so I know, it’s still a bit clunky, but I think it may catch on. I may even win over a few of my Puritan neighbors. When you do a nourish, you spend a few days nourishing yourself, not denying yourself. You identify the various behaviors (to include, but not limited to eating-well behaviors) that you know will boost your wellness and help you thrive and then you get to the business, or better yet, play, of nourishing yourself.
Here’s what I’m going to do the next few days for my nourish:
- I’m going to pick vegetables from my friend’s garden (she’s away for a few weeks) and my own garden and make meals from those vegetables.
- I’m going to watch a movie at a really cool outdoor venue with my friend.
- I’m going to do some fun marketing work for my business and collaborate with three of my friends to get their feedback.
- I’m going to walk around a local mountain with three of my friends.
- I’m going to drink water throughout the day each day.
- I’m going to sleep nine hours each night.
- I’m going to take photos of all the beautiful stuff I see both in nature and in the city.
How does a nourish sound to you? Better than a cleanse, right? If so, make up your own nourish to do for the next few days. Then lather, rinse, and repeat. That’s good living. That’s thriving.
Remember your mantra for today: NOURISHING MOVEMENT, NOURISHING FOOD, NOURISHING LIFE.