Recently I undertook a 10-day detox. Facilitated by a yoga teacher, and wife of one of the Ethical Co-op members, I was drawn to it after my colleague’s tales of his wife’s boundless energy. “I want some of that”, I thought.
Besides the obvious what does the detox consist of?, I’ve had two common questions about the experience. Firstly, how much is it?. And secondly, why do YOU need a detox? This latter question intrigues me, as it displays one of those disconnects between the way we view ourselves, and the way others view us.
To my mind, I’m an unhealthy wreck, recovering from 30 years of abuse. A childhood diet of nothing but meat, chips, custard, Coke and ice cream, where literally, barely a vegetable passed my lips. After cutting down on meat starting around 10 years ago, the junk stayed the same, and I probably made it worse by switching to pizza and pasta to fill the gap.
It’s amazing how long I took to realise something was wrong. I suffered from fairly frequent migraines from about 13, and, more recently, intolerances to caffeine, wheat, and had strong reactions to sugar. My energy was frequently low. So many of us assume that our own ailments are normal – they are not – we should all be in great health. I remember, while working in an office job in town, going to Kauia for a healthy lunch, and invariably slumping into exhaustion in the afternoon, barely able to function. I attributed it to lack of sleep and working too hard, which was quite likely a factor too. Only long afterwards did I realise that the ‘healthy’ wheat sandwich was the culprit. Feeling fatigued about half an hour after consumption was only one of about 10 unpleasant reactions I had to wheat.
However, to others I am the picture of perfect health, a health nut that eats almost entirely organic food, has been practising tai chi for 13 years (minus a few gap years), meditate, and have an unstressful life having given up my office job. I almost never get sick. Some wouldn’t be surprised if I said I drink fresh spring water shipped in from Antartica, infused with a wonder berry from the Himalayas, am able to direct the chi at CERN-like pace, and am about to master levitation and ascend to the heavens. How could I possibly be unhealthy?
Only since my son Dorje was born have I started to eat healthily, as well as cutting down the high risk activities such as scaling bottomless pits in a mountain with a dodgy torch, or hanging onto cliff faces with no ropes having decided to explore a new route – funny what responsibility does.
Our health is entirely personal, and comparisons are fraught. We have to realise for ourselves where we have problems, and where we can make improvements. Being told that Coke is terrible for you doesn’t mean much unless you have an awareness yourself of what it does to your body. We can quite easily fool ourselves, or slip into old patterns, but only once we make a connection between a particular food and feeling bad can we easily change our habits. Food is particularly tricky, as we invest so much emotion in it. Rejecting a particular food is seen as rejecting someone’s cooking, their sense of self, as an attack on their own life choices, or at the very least extremely impolite.
And sometimes it is. I’ve had to learn to curb my sneer of contempt when someone offers me something I don’t approve of, realising that not approving of it in my own body should not become disapproval of the food, or of the person offering it. We always need to realise that others don’t see things in the same way. When my nose begins to turn up in disgust as someone offers me a ‘health bar’ containing corn fructose from the ‘health shop’, and my reaction is been the same as if someone offered to inject me with heroin, I need to realise that very often they’re trying to accommodate me, and my perceptions are so different from their’s that it’s not easy.
The detox was fantastic.
It involved mostly eating a raw fruit and veg diet, with a few monofruit days, where I could only eat one kind of raw fruit. There were two salt water cleanses, which consisted of about an 18-hour fast beforehand, drinking 8 glasses of salt water, various guided yoga postures, and then grabbing a good book and sitting on the toilet while, shall we say, detoxing. There was much more to it than that of course, and please don’t try drink 8 glasses of salt water without getting the measurements exactly right!
I had it easy, as I wasn’t actually that toxic. My main problem is a weak digestion, stifled from years of putting it to work on undigestable gunk. Where others have skin eruptions, and serious headaches, I felt low energy for the first four days, and suffered a mild headache on the 4th day. Compared to the migraines, it was like a pin prick against an amputation. After that, it was smooth sailing, and I was much more energised than normal. I’ve maintained this feeling, continuing to feel much more energised, and have broken a few unhealthy patterns from before. After reintroducing other foods, I’ve also made the connection between some of these other foods and various symptoms, and am slowly making some more adjustments. I haven’t suffered any migraines since. Although I have felt similar early-warning symptoms, it’s been great for them not to build up into anything beyond mild discomfort.
Perhaps I’ll be a raw food vegan before too long after all.