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The Power of the 3-day Break-Up

I love what I do. The whole process makes me happy--buying the produce, juicing, bottling, delivering, and being part of someone's health transformation. It keeps me so busy that I rarely have time anymore to juice for myself, which is fine. But, occasionally I need to experience this process. I need to practice what I preach and really understand what happens during a 3-day juice cleanse, so that I can better counsel my clients and advertise my business. I need to detox, too. We all do. I recently blocked out a few days to do just that, and I learned some powerful lessons in those three days. Yes, I lost weight, I felt lighter, energetic and sexy, but it was really breaking up with food for three days that taught me the most. It is said that "short term strategies yield short term results" which I believe, but it's what I learned about myself and my habits during those three days that made this a truly sustainable transformation.

Let's talk about the gut for a hot minute...

Your body is getting completely nourished during a juice cleanse. It's getting flooded with potent antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, and it's getting thoroughly hydrated. The process of digestion consumes around 30% of our energy, so most people, including myself, report having more energy to exercise and think clearly and creatively throughout the day. Giving your gut a break from digesting food is SO important. If I have learned anything over the years, through all my research in the field of holistic health, it is that the health of your gut largely determines your overall health. We need to nurture the gut and treat it with great care. This is how we take in nutrients and filter out and remove toxins. Our neurotransmitters (like serotonin!) are created in the gut. Most of our immune system resides in the gut. Our microbiome lives primarily in the gut (the friendly bacteria that help keep us healthy and thriving). It is the second brain! Do you get butterflies in your tummy when you get nervous? Do you have to run to the bathroom before speaking in public? Those are familiar examples of the gut-brain connection. When we nurture the gut we are also nurturing our brains. Giving it time to rest and renew can be quite helpful. We have a protective mucosal lining in the gut that helps prevent leakage of undigested proteins and pathogens into the bloodstream. The gut and its precious lining takes quite a beating from the Standard American Diet (SAD)--think refined and processed flours, sugar, alcohol, and chemicals. When that lining is damaged, autoimmune disease can sometimes occur as well as other nasty health complications. Fasting, or cleansing, can help to strengthen and renew the mucosal lining. We humans don't hesitate to drop hundreds on facials, peels and treatments to make us look younger and beautiful on the outside. This is a treatment to pamper your INSIDES, which most definitely affects your outward appearance at the same time.

Back to the lessons...

Hunger, Habits and Head games

I learn a bit about myself each time I do a 3-day cleanse. It's a time to really contemplate my relationship with food and my reaction to hunger.

Hunger is a natural hormonal signal our bodies give us when we need fuel. It might be uncomfortable, but it doesn't hurt. Many people have a lot of anxiety around the feeling of hunger. We treat it like an emergency. We try to stay ahead of it with snacks in our purses just in case we get stuck in traffic, and God forbid, that devilish hunger rears it's ugly head. When I was pregnant with my first child, I treated the slightest feeling of hunger like it was a DIRE emergency--I mean, another life was in my hands, right? If I felt hunger, the baby needed food, too, so I responded quickly. And, I gained 40 unnecessary pounds throughout the pregnancy (55 total!). We need to make friends with hunger and master it. If we only ate when we were really, truly hungry, or when our bodies really needed fuel, we would eat MUCH LESS FOOD. We need to get comfortable with the discomfort, and this takes practice. Yes, your body is being nourished during the 3-day cleanse, but you will occasionally feel hungry, and it is a perfect time to practice mastering your hunger.

We humans turn to food for so many reasons OTHER than needing fuel. We eat for entertainment, we eat when we need a distraction, we eat to procrastinate, we eat to comfort ourselves, we eat to reward ourselves, and the list goes on. During my recent 3-day breakup, I really tuned in to how I was using food. The handfuls of this, the bites of that, the reaching into the freezer for this "because I deserved it". These were all habits that I had convinced myself were normal and healthy. What was I really hungry for? Not only did I realize that I had been eating WAY more food than necessary, but I was also using food to meet emotional needs. It is incredibly powerful to be able to identify your emotional connections to food. Eating for distraction and comfort are bad habits for me, personally, so post-cleanse, I decided to seek out a hug from a family member or take a 10 minute time-out on the couch with a book instead of that handful of cashews. Sometimes a quick, loving text exchange with a spouse or significant other can fulfill a need instead of reaching for the mini kit kat. Right now, as I write this and struggle for words, an old habit would lead me to the pantry for a nice distraction. Not anymore. Awareness is key, my friends. We have all drowned our sorrows in a pint of ice cream. Does that ever make you feel better? Probably worse.

I felt like I was not only surviving, but thriving during this recent breakup with food, a.k.a. cleanse. I feel renewed strength, inspiration and motivation that I can thrive on way less food, I can honor my body's true need for fuel rather than the emotional head games that trick me into thinking food is the answer, when it clearly isn't. I feel detached from the bad habits and feel committed to treating my body with great love and care. Our bodies are amazing and resilient. They perform functions constantly that keep us alive without us asking them to, and they will fight to keep us healthy.

A 3-day cleanse is a gift to yourself. It's a rest for your body, a contemplative time, an exercise in will power and incredible nourishment. The lessons you might learn can help you jump-start a lasting transformation. Contact me if you feel like you need this, because I would love to help you.


Heather McDonough

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