And You Shall Be Cleansed

June 4, 2008


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“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.” 

Well, as we round the final corner of this Total Health course I’m taking (only two weeks left–where have the past seven weeks gone?), the class has been asked to embark on a “cleanse” (detoxifying diet) as our final piece of homework.

Our teacher, the very embodiment of “tranquility,” has asked each participant to eliminate something from her/his diet that would ultimately lead to a cleaner, less toxic and healthier body. Each one of us, she suggested, should begin exactly where s/he is right now; for the instructor herself, this might mean embarking on a water fast (something she’s done for up to 10 days at a time in the past).  For one particular participant, this would mean cutting out red meat for the week (and retaining the rest of the animals on his plate). And for me?  Hmmn.  Hard to say.

I’m reminded of a lecture I once attended at the University of Toronto many years ago.  As I recall, the gist of the talk was “how we interpret past customs in the present day” or something to that effect. What I do remember is one speaker in particular, a very liberal rabbi in his thirties (tall and lanky, he wore a black leather jacket and Levis–clearly, not your typical rabbi)  who happened to be a vegetarian.  He related a story about a somewhat obscure religious ritual that he likened to Lent, in which Jews are asked to give up all meat for a period of time (sorry, I don’t remember how long–though I’m pretty sure it was less than 40 days). 

As a vegetarian, he figured he might substitute another food to create a similar spiritual impact (since he felt the intent of the observance was to experience self-denial in the name of penitence).  He met with a more conservative, elderly rabbi, an expert in this area, to ask what else he could give up instead. 

“I already don’t eat meat,” he told the senior cleric, “So maybe I could choose something else, to observe the intention behind the rule. How about tofu? Or what if I give up beans?” 

The rabbi appeared pensive, stroked his beard a few times, then replied: “No.  The tradition decrees that you must give up meat.  Give up meat.”

“But I already gave up meat,” the younger guy persisted. “Isn’t the point to sacrifice something? Aren’t you supposed to miss it just a little, so you can appreciate it more?”

The older man became a bit annoyed at this point.  “Give up meat,” he repeated.  “That’s what the custom says. Give up meat.”

“But isn’t there a substitute I could use?”

“No.  Meat.”



Well, much like our young rabbi friend, I’ve already given up many of the foods that would represent a great sacrifice to the other members of the course (meat, eggs, dairy, sugar, wheat, etc.). The problem is, I haven’t given them up permanently, nor even consistently (what springs to mind is chocolate–a substance which, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard somewhere, contains sugar).

Attempting to decide on the specifics of my cleanse got me thinking back to the first year I learned about the NAG diet. Like a bride on her honeymoon, in those early days I hung on my teachers’ every word. Each time we learned about a new diet, from Ayurveda to macrobiotic to raw to vegan, I immediately went home and tried it out. I loved incorporating more greens into my diet, loved the increased flavor intensity I discovered in organics, loved trying new and ancient grains, loved the array of natural sweeteners–loved them all. If I were still consuming a similarly (exclusively) healthful diet, I’d be in for a water fast at this point, too.

In the past couple of years, however, the purity of my diet has been sullied considerably; even though I continue to consume all the healthy stuff, I am still occasionally drawn back to the unhealthy side of the spectrum as well, and that’s what gets me into trouble: cookies, cakes, chocolate, candy–all can be highly toxic (even the vegan, spelt-and-maple syrup kind, if eaten in excess). 

And so, I determined (with a little pang): I must cut out grains in all their forms for the week.  I had considered simply giving up “flour” (which would effectively eliminate any baking during the cleanse), but all grains made more sense.  Since I’m the type who might overdo something as healthy as a Quinoa and Buckwheat Salad or Millet and Pepper Pilaf when the cravings hit, to avoid any carbohydrate temptation, no grains it will be.  For one entire week.

Unfortunately, this ban will also affect other dishes that harbor grains-in-hiding, such as my tofu omelette or fritatta, or even a delectable nut roast (which contains some breadcrumbs and flour).  What the heck will I eat for the next week?  Well, I’m guessing I’ll return to some previously enjoyed raw dishes, since almost none of those feature grains (and where they do make an appearance, it’s sprouted). Since the weather will supposedly (and finally!) be hot and sunny this weekend, there should be a good variety of fruits and vegetables available to me at the local market.  I’ll also feast on beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.  Why, it’s a veritable cornucopia! And if I feel desperate for sweets, there are always raw desserts like fruit sorbet, carob-cashew pudding, or LaRAW bars.  Gee, there’s just SO much choice, I might even have TOO much to eat! 

(Repeat to self as required: “I am happy and satisfied eating my veggies and fruits.” “I feel comfortably full and content with my measely nuts and seeds.”  “No, there is no sense of deprivation whatsoever without oatmeal for breakfast, or pasta, or muffins, especially when the HH doesn’t need a cleanse and gets to eat whatever he wants, at every meal.” “Of course not, I totally don’t feel those insistent, gnawing cravings that eat away at me like rats in a prison cell that wear me down like stones at the seaside that force me to leave my home at 11:00 PM and drive to the convenience store practically in the middle of the night just to satisfy the aching desire, the ineluctable urge, the desperate NEED for chocolate. . . . Oh, my.  This may prove to be a little more difficult than I anticipated. (Help).

During this week, I’ll still post recipes that I find tasty and worth eating, though I’ll do my best to avoid anything too “out there” (but since I’ve already posted about cultured vegetables, what worse could I throw at you–except, perhaps spirulina bars?)

(“Mum, please don’t get stressed about this cleanse; we will be happy to eat your portion of the grains this week.  Oh, and remember that patting your dogs will help lower your blood pressure.” )


12 Responses to “And You Shall Be Cleansed”

  1. Romina Says:

    Good luck Ricki! I’m sure you can do it. One week isn’t so long, is it?

  2. Lucy Says:

    Crossing everything I can for you, love. I reckon it’ll actually be easier than you think. I mean, you’ve GOT all the knowledge. And it’s only seven days.

    Am thinking I should try and give up wine.

    But, ya know…

  3. kathryn Says:

    A week without grains. Hmm, that’s a tough one Ricki. You do go in boots and all don’t you! Good luck and I’m really looking forward to reading what you come up with. It’s forced creativity isn’t it.

  4. shellyfish Says:

    You can do it! Your calcium post has really had contemplating the amount of sugar which has been creeping its way back into my family’s diet. And coffee. I’m not as addicted as I used to be, but I still drink an espress every morning. Sigh. It might be time to let the coffee go…
    Can’t wait to see what raw you share with us, Ricki!

  5. VeggieGirl Says:

    Just two weeks left!!! I KNOW you’ll get through it all, Ricki – you’re determined, and very inspirational.

  6. Lizzie Says:

    Awww! Petting your girls will lower you’re blood pressure — they must do their reading. Good luck, Ricki. I know you can do it! And do blog about the trials and tribulations; we’re here for you!

  7. Hope Says:

    Hi – I LOVE your blog. If you have never checked out the place I used to work (and wish I still did), you should – it is dog heaven. As to the diet, I have been vegan for about a year, but I see things that are unhealthy sneaking in as you say they do, and I want to change that too – I have been thinking about giving up gluten – or white sugar, or flour, not sure, but chubby so I know I need to give up something – ha ha! Anyway, I will be following you all week with great interest – keep us posted – LOL!

  8. aTxVegn Says:

    Two tricks I remember when you feel the urge to cheat on a diet – 1, eat a pickle or 2, brush your teeth.

    Good luck!

  9. Courtney Says:

    Good luck! You can totally do this…just focus on all that you CAN eat and not what you can’t. The week will fly by! With your creativity and awesome cooking skills, I am sure you will come up with lots of tasty dishes!


  10. Johanna Says:

    Your rabbi story reminds me of catholics who give up meat during Lent and then indulge in a seafood feast! I did wonder what you could give up but grains is pretty brave. However having tried your fig and cherry bars I am sure you will find some delicious and creative alternatives. And if you want a grain fest at the end I can recommend the tomato four grain soup I made last month!

  11. Ricki Says:

    Thanks so much! And I totally agree–I’m feeling as if this week will fly by. 🙂

    Funny, even though I love me some good shiraz, giving up wine would be one of the easier things for me to do. Thanks for the fingers crossed–I’d never turn down anything that might add luck!!

    Well, it was that or go to a blended foods and juice week–this seemed the easier alternative! So far, so good. . .looking forward to sharing some neat recipes.

    Thanks so much–I really appreciate the confidence you have!! I know how you feel about the sugar/coffee–it can be a very slippery slope. I haven’t had coffee in almost 10 years and totally don’t miss it. But sugar, well…

    Aww, thanks. And so sweet of you to say!

    Thanks so much. It really means a lot to get that kind of comment–great motivator! (And yes, my Girls are very smart 😉 ).

    Thanks so much, and thanks for your comment! It is much appreciated. I did check out your former employer–wow, no wonder you didn’t want to leave! Gorgeous. As to gluten, flour, etc.–any of those things can be very addictive and cause low level allergic reactions or sensitivities–it’s the things we crave that we are apprently most addicted to (which is why they’re so hard to give up!).

    I’ve never heard of the pickle trick–must give it a try! (And I’m going to have the cleanest teeth. . . ) 😉

    Thanks so much for the boost and the faith in my cooking skills (we’ll see on that one. . . ). It really means a lot!

    I am now totally looking forward to that soup! (Well, and anything else with grains). But I do know that my digestive system and liver will thank me for this!

  12. Debyi Says:

    Good for you! I always have the intention of doing a cleanse, but I never seem to do it. Maybe this is the inspiration I need to finally do it. My cleanse would also be with grains. I hope all goes well for you.

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