By Fiona Robertson
It all began innocently enough.
Ten years ago, while travelling in Thailand, I spent a week doing a colon cleanse on a tiny, remote island as a personal challenge and even ‘dare’, thinking here was something I would never ever do again once I got back home. How wrong was I?
I became hooked and started doing two week-long cleanses a year. For a while that was good enough – until I decided it wasn’t anymore, and added in a pre-detox week and post-detox week, meaning I was now doing two three-week detoxes a year.
Did I stop there? Oh no. Before long I’d added in regular liver cleanses, regular juice-only weekends and anything else I could think of to feel that I was clocking up what most die-hard health enthusiasts would consider a good year’s worth of detox in considerably less time.
Why? Because I can’t get enough of that feeling of wellbeing that comes from living in a pure, clean body. I love the extra energy. I get a buzz every time I discover a new detox plan, method or treatment.
In fact, whenever I read about a new practice that can aid in purification I will try and incorporate it. So my daily “must do” list just for the period after waking might include tongue scraping, oil pulling, a litre of spring water (sometimes cold and with a dash of apple cider vinegar; sometimes warm with lemon), a fresh green juice, a wheatgrass shot, yoga and dry skin brushing. After all that I might be ready to focus on non-detox-related matters by, oh, around midday.
So I admit it. I am a detox addict. There’s no doubt my addiction to detox has made me healthier but I also know it is not entirely positive. Any addiction will stress the body at a cellular level – one reason being the feelings of guilt, shame and fear that are always part and parcel of any form of dependency.
Being strict with ourselves to a point where we judge ourselves when we don’t match up to our impossibly high and exacting standards – and also, most likely, judge others too – is not loving and nor is it healthy.
You may have heard an obsession with dietary purity labelled as an eating disorder called orthorexia. Here is a quote from Stephen Bratman, M.D. who invented the term:
“Orthorexia begins as a desire to overcome chronic illness or to improve general health. But because it requires considerable willpower to adopt a diet that differs radically from the food habits of childhood and the surrounding culture, few accomplish the change gracefully.
Most must resort to an iron self-discipline bolstered by a hefty dose of superiority over those who eat junk food. Over time, what to eat, how much, and the consequences of dietary indiscretion come to occupy a greater and greater proportion of the orthorexic’s day.
The act of eating pure food begins to carry pseudo-spiritual connotations. As orthorexia progresses, a day filled with sprouts comes to feel as holy as one spent serving the poor and homeless. When an orthorexic slips up (which may involve anything from devouring a single raisin to consuming a gallon of Haagen Dazs ice cream and a large pizza), he experiences a fall from grace and must perform numerous acts of penitence. These usually involve ever-stricter diets and fasts.”
Ah yes, the slip-ups… This brings me on to my next confession. I have another side that is desperate to break free of my regimented, holier-than-thou lifestyle. This side is spirited, cheeky and rebellious, and it wants to live life on the wild side, where adrenalin flows and all rules are there to be broken.
I hear some people on raw diets talking about how they went off the rails because they ate – shock horror – some hummus or a baked potato (or both!) But when I go off the rails, I do it properly, consuming crisps, chocolate and other trashy junk foods – in vast quantities. These foods leave me feeling uncomfortable, sick, tired and bloated and only serve to remind me why they are less than favourable for me.
But despite the number of times I’ve given myself this reminder, I know it’s only a matter of time before I’ll be doing it again. I’ve noticed that the more pressure I put on myself to stick to clean, pure eating the more my rebellious nature struggles to come to the fore, and the wilder my next transgression will be. I will always find ways to sabotage my best efforts and spice things up.
I now recognise this and I am seeking my balance by adding in some non food-related spice, like horse-riding and long hours of dancing, both of which I love, and both of which give me the adrenalin rush I crave. Another key: finding ways to nurture myself so I don’t need the false “comfort” offered by chocolate, crisps and other empty carbs.
I am still seeking my balance in all of this. In taking this journey with awareness I am discovering things about myself that have lain hidden for years. Thanks to opening up and clearing away much of the rubbish (literally) that has kept me closed, I can now in all honesty face my demons head on.
Yes, being a detox addict has its disadvantages. But do I regret going down this path? Not at all. I have bad days as well as good days, but the good days far outnumber the bad. No, I don’t have it all figured out yet, but I am learning. One thing I do already know for sure is that living in a clean body you experience a physical wellbeing and mental clarity that are not possible any other way – and that’s why I wouldn’t change it for the world.