Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Jumping Off The Master Cleanse Bridge

It wasn't long after the new year that the topic of cleansing became de rigueur at work.  If someone in the building wasn't mid-cleanse, someone's wife was, or a candidate was, and pretty soon my work partner Lauren was carving away ten days at the beginning of February to enter The Master Cleanse.  

The Master Cleanse is a liquid diet created almost 70 years ago by Stanley Burroughs, who may not have been a pioneer in fad diets, but certainly made his mark on the fashion and entertainment industry of this decade after Beyonce's remarkable 22-pound-in-14-day loss for her role in Dreamgirls.  During the cleanse, you spend 10 days or more on a tonic of organic lemon juice, grade B maple syrup, and cayenne pepper.  These days are to be bookmarked by a couple days of juicing/raw foods in an effort to prevent system shock going in and out of the cleanse.

Watching Lauren, the perennial optimist, moon over the magical effects of the cleanse before, during and after her journey, I found myself losing my trademark skepticism.  Lauren felt like she had re-calibrated her entire body: I wanted to feel my body re-calibrate.  Lauren lost 10 pounds: I wanted to lose 10 pounds.  Lauren fell in love during her cleanse: I wanted to fit into all those pants I've bought on faith of finally getting in shape.  I thought about it a lot.  How fast does 10 days go by anyway?  I finally got to where I couldn't get the cleanse out of my mind, so I chose a day (a Saturday), read a few websites (though none of the warnings), found the best price on organic lemons and grade B maple syrup (People's Co-op), and had a final meal of braised kale and popcorn.    Also to my credit, I withdrew on coffee and sugar the week before. 

Challenging? Yes. Stupid? Yes.  Enlightening? Yes. Depriving oneself of their raison d'etre (in my case, not just eating and cooking but thinking on, researching and discussing food) has led to some intense moments of introspection...and boredom, loneliness, and despondency.  First and foremost, most social interaction revolves around food.  Or alcohol.  Or coffee.  Take away eating and drinking,  you take away visiting with friends.  I venture to say that at this point in my life I'm almost purely a food-socializer.  I don't go to shows, readings or lectures, I go out to dinner or I orchestrate gatherings around food.   Sure, ten days can go by in regular life without a dinner party or restaurant rendezvous, but without a friendly coffee or quick trip to the rice-and-bean cart at lunch?   Secondly, when I am home alone, in my element, well if the tv isn't on, I'm usually reading a cookbook, food magazine or curating my recipe collection.  And when I'm not doing that, I'm probably cooking something.   Which brings me back to the impetus for the cleanse in the first place--to live without food for some time is to realize its importance, and hopefully to raise it to a more esteemed level.  Separating it's superficial hold over me as a compulsive obsession and giving it the thoughtful attention it deserves.  Learning the difference, possibly for the first time, between authentic hunger and boredom.  

What I've learned: in regular life, I'm often not as hungry as I think I am.  Also, I do enjoy a certain feeling of internal cleanliness, though all told, I think I'm pretty goddam healthy with a balanced diet that does include wheat, dairy and meat. It's towards the end of Day 8, with 2 more days (plus tonight-and night is always the hardest time) to get through.  Though I've been taking this journey literally one hour at a time, I do believe I'll make it to day ten, unless my fear of success prevents me from meeting that feat.  

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