In the last chapter (January 12 issue) my 15-year-old son had wrenched the pesto jar out of my hands in Week 1 of my 28-day post-holiday detox. The culprit? Parmesan cheese. Taboo that first week: all dairy, added sugar, caffeine, processed foods or beverages, wheat/gluten, eggs, peanut products, fruit juices, soy, and corn. That was the price I paid for a cream-laden, alcohol-induced, sugar-laced holiday.
My goal: to follow the detox plan, as laid out in the January issue of Whole Living magazine. By the end of week one I feel lighter, cleaner, and more attracted to yoga babe than ever, the lithe blonde who illustrates the yoga moves I’m supposed to do every morning. Daily mind detoxers, like 21st century cross-stitched bon mots, are delivered via E-mail: Day 5: Catch yourself complaining (and stop). I fail Day 4 — avoid office gossip.
Some raised their eyebrows. Oh ye of little faith. At a reception after a benefit concert I told my friend Dan why I was passing on the champagne, cupcakes, and musical-note-shaped chocolates. “No sugar? No alcohol? No Pringles?” he asked, wide-eyed, then threw his hands up, rolled his eyes, and said, “I’m out.”
I’ve taken an informal poll and not one person I’ve asked thinks they could go 28 days without a drink. I even asked a Presbyterian.
So, while you’ve been watching J Lo and Steven Tyler on “American Idol” and eating Cool Ranch Doritos, check out my world.
Week 2. Reintroduce one verboten food item each day: wheat, eggs, dairy, soy. Day 8: Start a simple meditation routine. I look around the living room for something to use as a meditation cushion. Nothing. Dog bed will have to do. Bad idea on so many levels. I set the kitchen timer for five minutes then zoom onto the dog cushion. Breathe in for two, out for four. Lily, the beagle, wants her cushion back. Go away, Lily, I hiss. I hear a crunching noise beside me; Lily is chewing loudly on a wooden Christmas ornament, looking daggers at me. The Buddhists say do no harm, and already I’ve hurt a beagle’s feelings before 8 a.m.
That evening I make the Southwestern Egg Scramble and Polenta Soup with Spinach to save time in the morning. Have been late for work every day due to massive morning food prep; kitchen looks like hell. At bedtime I continue to read food magazines to satisfy my cravings. I find that if the writing’s good, it’s just as satisfying as actually eating. I settle in with Saveur magazine’s 25 greatest meals, penned by famous writers and food luminaries. I travel to Lyon with Gael Greene to visit a restaurant whose chef is seeking a third Michelin star. “Inside the air is buttered with expectation. Dessert, excruciating overkill, strikes in dazzling waves.” I drool into my pillow. I want her job.
Day 11. At the gym I find the perfect meditation solution. I meditate in the sauna. Quiet. Cedar aromatherapy. Warm. No beagles. And it’s multitasking. Surely the Buddhists will understand. Isn’t sweat purifying? All’s well until a woman comes in and starts talking on her cell phone about an upcoming trip to her sister-in-law’s in India — “she has servants!”
Day 12. Make my own invention for lunch — lentils, brown rice, steamed and sauteed vegetables. The Food Network will want me to come on right after Cupcake Wars. That evening I run into friend Anna at an art opening. In support of me she says she is trying to quit sugar. “I’m on day six but on day four I sat on the kitchen floor and cried, clutching a sweaty fistful of chocolate chips.”
Day 14. “Make a household chore meditative by giving it your undivided attention.” I tackle the most depressing task of the year, taking down Christmas decorations. I play Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and try to think pure ashram-like thoughts as I tuck a beautiful hand-blown purple glass ornament, purchased on a trip to New Orleans three months before Katrina, into its own box. I feel unpure thoughts rising in my throat at the memory of Barbara Bush at the Astrodome, saying: “And so many of the people here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this is working very well for them.” I consider sending her one of the mind detoxes: Explore creative ways you can give back to your community.
Week 3. At the gym the TV monitor announces brightly, “Exercise can cleanse your body of holiday errors!” I think of chocolate covered pretzels washed down with pomegranate martinis at a Christmas bash. Error. Nigella’s Spruced-Up Vanilla Cake with six eggs. Error.
Week 4. On Day 24 I have a true epiphany. I discover that I have no energy for anger anymore. As my friend Deb says, there’s no there, there. If I add up all the time I’ve spent angry, say, just in the last two years, it will equal many weeks or even months, time I will never get back. I feel like my vision is only capable of going forward like the prow of a ship. The anger is the wake. I am in the finest hour of my mind detox. This is very good. Does Oprah know about this?
Cannot face any chopping for dinner. Feed husband and child leftover pot roast and make banana-chamomile tea smoothie. Brave husband asks for sip. Pulls a long brown stringy thing out of his mouth. Apparently I have put whole banana avec peel in blender. Compromised brain power or blurred vision caused by too much healthy food. I fantasize about the first sugary thing I will eat when detox is done. York Peppermint Patty, but I worry it may send me into anaphylactic shock.
The next day I make a new smoothie with carrot juice, frozen mango cubes, and fresh mint. Husband makes brilliant observation, “Looks like bile.” Having already forgotten the brown stringy incident, he asks for sip. He likes it!
Next to last day. Take son to Philly for private tap class. With an hour and a half to kill I go in search of food and discover the Green Eggs Cafe. With dishes like vegan chili and quinoa porridge, it’s tailor-made for a girl in my situation. It does not smell like a health food store, and there is a gorgeous man sitting kitty-corner to me. Life is good. I opt for the homemade mixed berry granola with fresh berries, berry compote, and organic yogurt. It arrives, resplendent, in a gleaming white coffee cup. I realize I have found the ultimate detox dish — one item from every color of the rainbow: red strawberries, orange cantaloupe, yellow pineapple, green fresh mint leaves, and blue blueberries. It tastes amazing, and I realize that my taste buds have actually been retrained to prefer healthy food — if prepared well and with panache and very fresh ingredients. Major problem: I do not have a personal chef, and all the menu planning, food shopping, and food prep have consumed every free minute. I will have to drop back and punt. Do what I can. Leave the rest.
Though I have chopped until I dropped and worn my blender out, I am inspired to carry on the detox dictum: spend money mindfully, spend time with people who energize you, trade toxic thoughts for healthy mental habits, and eat two cups of leafy greens and one cup of fresh fruit every day. Instead I pick up my son and take him to the Franklin Institute, where, I cannot tell a lie, we buy astronaut food — a freeze-dried ice cream sandwich — and split it in the car on the ride home, first stopping at Ikea to spend money unmindfully. I do solemnly swear to increase the plant-to-animal ratio in my diet. After a cosmo and a York peppermint patty.