anatomy of a cleanse

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There is a core group of semi-health fiends in the home office. We trade dietary and exercise tips, discuss our respective body dysmorphias and occasionally embark en masse on some trendy little bout of weight-loss insanity. Since the agency holiday pot luck/don’t-call-it-Christmas party is on December 20, we decided that the week prior to the pot luck would be the perfect time to defile our bodies go on one of those trendy cleansing diets.

In this case, the defilement cleansing diet in question is the Eat Your Heart Out Diet, which is less diet and more suggested pattern of eating over the course of seven days. There are no caloric, carb or fat targets, vague ‘DOs’, few ‘DON’Ts’ and a promise of weight loss that only seems reasonable if a person has been eating a standard (READ: terribly unhealthy) Western diet for a significant period of time before following this diet. How this diet will treat a group of people who are already on one form of restrictive eating habit or another is unknown.

But we’re game; our health insurance at work is pretty awesome, so if we all land in the hospital our collective idiocy will not cost us much.

I have a particular concern that poses a challenge for this diet – I am pre-diabetic. Having been diagnosed with gestational diabetes whilst carrying #2 Girl in 2007, I live with the awareness that I have an elevated likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes. I know that I continue to live with impaired fasting glucose; where the average person wakes in the morning with a blood glucose level less than 90, my waking level hovers near 105. The prospect of spiking my blood glucose above that, with the introduction of fruit in the AM, and the resultant lightheadedness and nausea that accompanies such a spike, is not something I feel masochistically inclined to do.

For the past 14 months, I have generally practiced intermittent fasting. The science behind it is simple and reasonable: restricting the time period for food consumption puts less stress on the pancreas, which produces the insulin needed to process the calories we consume. Humans evolved on this type of dietary habit: lots of time spent hunting/gathering food, little time spent consuming it. It was only in the last half-century or so that ready-to-eat, high-fat/high-carb food became widely available at all hours – and we as a society began partaking of it at all hours.

So, embracing a more natural eating pattern for the species has not been difficult. Most days, I start eating at 2 or 3 o’clock and have my last bite around 9 in the evening. I’m not restrictive in what I eat, but I make the effort to eat a salad and a green vegetable of some sort each day. I do have periods when I go off the rails for a while, usually during periods of boredom when I don’t fight that boredom with culinary exploration. I know, right? Cooking is a strange way to combat overeating. For me, though, overloading my non-taste senses with food works to curb my psychological appetite as effectively as actually eating. But I digress.

Over the last 14 months, I’ve lost about 20 pounds, my knees no longer hurt, I have more energy and my engagement ring fits for the first time in four years. I don’t intend to depart from IF during this little foray into idiocy. To the contrary, it should help me get through Day One without putting myself in a diabetic coma, simply because I’m already in the habit of not breaking my fast (in a literal sense) until the late afternoon. I should be able to handle a few servings of fruit that are on the lower end of the glycemic index, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I am looking forward to all-I-can-eat veggies on Day Two.

Still, I’m not going to go into Day One like some fucking diet martyr, dragging a cross of sacrifice and suffering to my ultimate surrender of pounds. No, I’m going to have some fun with the day, and try out (to the extent allowed) a recipe that has intrigued me since Season Two of Top Chef: Sam Talbot’s summer fruit salad with chimichurri, hold the spinach until Day Three, when I can enjoy the dish again in most of its glory. Day One of the cleanse (or the night before), I’ll post my version of the recipe and a photo of the end result.

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