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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

About Cleansing (for Ann)

Most people who cleanse do so in the spring, which is the ideal time to slough off excesses after eating, eating, eating, and hibernating during the winter. I mean, that's what winter is for, but then we need to adjust for a new phase of the year. A few people also cleanse in late summer, when there's an abundance of fresh veggies.

How do you decide what to eat on a cleanse? That's a toughie. There are ten thousand ways to cleanse. In a warm climate--Hawaii, California, Arizona--some people elect to do all juices, nothing but juice, juice, and juice. This is only good for certain people (fiery constitutions) in certain climates (Alaska and New England need not apply). Some people eat only raw foods for a few days. Macrobiotics eat only brown rice. A yogini friend eats a rice-and-lentils combo for cleansing (only that).

I did my first cleanse 2 springs ago under the direction of an acupuncturist. It was a classic model. Two days of nothing but fruits and veggies (and herbs, olive oil, and herbal teas), then adding back in selected grains (ones that do not form much mucus in the colon), and finally integrating protein--at different meals than the grains. It was a good cleanse, but I hated the recipes in the cleanse book, which were all quasi-Japanese flavored: lemon and soy, and lemon. (This is partly because lemon is very cleansing.) I was pretty angsty the first few days until I started modifying familiar recipes to suit the cleanse.

Oh yeah, and daikon? Tastes like rot. It's very cleansing and I was game...until I tasted it.

Last year, prepping for my wedding, I only got in only a day of cleanse. But I did get a very helpful eBook from a health coach. It took a more reasonable approach to cleansing, and suggested all manner of cleanses, from just giving up caffeine or sugar or processed food, to eating soup one meal a day, to a fuller cleanse like I'd done before. This eBook was willing the meet the cleanser where she is. (If anyone wants a copy, I'll tell you how to get it.)

This year I went back to the basic cleanse model from the first year and put my own twists on it. I chose my soup recipes from the Chopra Center Cookbook, which is wonderfully Indian flavored. Because my digestion is not the strongest (Spleen dampness and deficiency, as we say in the biz), I elected to keep jasmine tea on the cleanse because it tonifies the Spleen, and to eat almost entirely cooked foods. I'm eating barley, a very cleansing grain for the Liver, rather than doing pure fruits and veggies for the first 2 days. I'm eating very little raw food because it's also harder to digest.

The most important aspect of cleansing is probably setting your intentions for the cleanse--identifying your reasons for doing it. Sets the whole thing in a good frame.

Because cleansing is only for a short period, and because you bring certain intentions to it, it does not feel like a Diet. It's a way of taking care of yourself, not of beating yourself up.

Bonus cleanse tip: Avocadoes are very filling.


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