A couple of weeks ago I did a spring cleanse where all of the usual things that I might eat were laid aside for 5 days of eating a mono-diet consisting of rice and greens. Morning, noon, and night. Personally, I love both. But I have to tell you that at some point, it gets old. Really old. Where all you want to do is to rip into something truly satisfying like a cheesy pizza, a fudgy brownie, a turkey burger with avocado and mayonnaise or a glass of ginger ale. At least this is where my mind went to as I contemplated another round of rice and greens.
Interestingly enough, I couldn’t even tell you what was a legitimate call from my body, craving something it truly needed, and what was the fabrication of my mind born out of boredom, old habits, and food choices used to dull emotional experiences too difficult to be with. And this is why I cleanse. I cleanse because I recognize how often I lie to myself about what I really and actually need in the food department. How much it is that my body requires, and which choices would serve it best.
You might think, as many of us do, that this is about right or wrong, good and bad foods, rules, caloric restriction, shame and guilt. It’s not. It’s about honoring ourselves. It’s about being honest and true to ourselves. It’s about showing up for ourselves in caring and supportive ways.
It puts me in mind of something a friend recently said. That being, “When you stop lying to yourself, you start to see what you are all about.” How many of us hate liars, but lie to ourselves every day about what and how we are eating? How many of us make promises to ourselves about what we will change in this department, but never seem to get there? Beyond guilt or shame, can you take in the message you give yourself every time you do this? The disappointment. The let down. The betrayal. Not intentionally or consciously done, but done just the same every time we lie to our one and only self.
What would it take to change this? What would it take to give yourself a chance to really see what you are all about? I’m a big fan of every once in a while shaking things up around how you eat, not as a punishment or a deprivation, but as a way of seeing what happens when you take something out of your diet that you do all the time. For instance, how about sugar, coffee, take-out, alcohol, or anything else that you use for less than nourishing reasons?
And then, watch what happens. Count on being distressed. It could be a little. It could be a lot. You might even think of the amount of distress you are experiencing as being the equivalent of how much this food choice is helping you to lie to yourself. If you notice this, try not to do so with criticism, but more with a sense of what might be possible if you let yourself discover what is underneath this choice or habit.
What I am proposing here is not easy. We all develop maladaptive habits for very good reasons. Often because, quite frankly, this is just what we have always done. Perhaps we do not even know we have the capacity to do anything else. Challenging something long-standing like this by going without for a time becomes the very place where the magic happens. For when we choose something different, and are able to do it, even for a moment, we create a new pathway. We set the template down for a possibility that did not previously exist. A new way of being presents itself. An opportunity to see what we are really all about arises. Along the way, we might even surprise ourselves in the process.
And if you really want to add some power to this, set an intention for the experience. For instance, “I willingly set (fill in the blank) aside today in the service of being more honest with myself about who I am.” Make it big. Lofty even. Putting a focused effort behind anything we do, creates a kind of strength to hold us through the difficult times, while serving as both the space and the catalyst for seeing what we are all about in bigger and more unexpected ways.