I mentioned in my No Fear Party post that for a month in October and November we cut out all sugars or sweeteners of any kind. We also cut out all grains except brown rice, all dairy, all nuts, all seeds, all beans, all soy, all vinegars…you get the picture. We ate meat, vegetables, and fruit. You would be surprised how well you can eat with those restrictions. I’m not saying you don’t miss the other stuff, but that short list includes some seriously good food. Some people really do not see the point of what we did. They think it’s hypocritical or something. “If you don’t do it all the time, then why do it? Aren’t you pretending to be healthy or something?” I find this logic slightly odd. There are a lot of good things we don’t do all the time, but we still try to do them on occasion or in certain seasons of life. There are also restrictions that are good for your body for a period of time but not long-term. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. You address the needs of your body as they arise. It is the discipline of fasting which cultures and religions all over the world have recognized as spiritually, mentally, and physically beneficial for thousands of years.
This “cleansing” choice is something that John and I began making years ago, spending some time yearly or twice yearly doing this. The list of things it accomplishes is quite extensive. The first time I did it was for a much longer period of time. It was a total of sixteen weeks with some of the foods like nuts and beans being added back in starting at eight weeks. I did this to address a particular health struggle I was having. There is absolutely zero substitue for diet change when wanting to address issues in your body. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. It’s our fuel, our batteries, our tools that allow our divinely created systems to do their jobs.
This time, however, was a first for our family. For the first time we did this as an entire group. Mom, Dad, and all four solid-eating children (which means Natalie technically did it too, I guess). No exceptions, even for the kids. By not making any exceptions you allow yourself to really and truly remove allergens and triggers from your system. When people say they’ve tried eliminating gluten, dairy or other things from their diets, I always ask if it has been complete elimination for several weeks. Otherwise there are still lingering intruders working their way through your system that might confuse your diagnosis of the issue. Then, when you add those allergens or irritating substances back in, it’s obvious. It will mess with you. You often realize that something you’ve been living with as “normal” was in fact completely avoidable and is a symptom you no longer choose to accept. Food tastes good, but if it takes away from your quality of life, it just isn’t worth it. I will make no claims to be an expert on any of this, but I have been extremely blessed to be taught by people who are. And it is a topic dear to my heart because I have seen it work. It gave me myself back when I was fighting through a haze of sadness, exhaustion, dizziness, nausea, and crazy emotions as the mother of three small children. What we choose to do on a day to day basis is a huge topic for another, or many other, posts, but for now I will just share what this month did for us.
“Depriving” ourselves and our kids for four weeks…
- Reset our taste buds. It is crazy how quickly you begin eating things you didn’t think you liked when you take out your fall-back foods. I expected my kids to do better after a few weeks. No, the FIRST meal they ate plates of things they hadn’t wanted to touch in months.
- Made us grateful. When you go for a period of time without things, they become more valuable to you. Certain tastes, the ability to eat out at a restaurant and order what you want, the joys and smells of baking all went from things we take for granted to noticed blessings. The ability to buy groceries that heal and nourish our bodies became something we thought more carefully about again. The simple and yet so enormous sensation of being full of anything. How many didn’t experience that today?
- Allowed us to see if certain things were affecting our digestion, sleep, moods, or behaviors. Watching skin get clearer, sleep get deeper, tummies get calmer, and emotions get under control will make a believer out of anyone.
- Provided us with at LEAST a year’s worth of health and nutrition training for our kids. How do certain foods affect our bodies? What is that ingredient and why do we avoid it? What are things we consume unintentionally in small amounts that add up to large problems? What are things that can be good for our bodies but can also be good things to fast from in certain situations? How can we consume foods more closely to the way they were designed to be eaten? My eight year old knows how to read a label. He knows that the daily allowances can be skipped while he goes straight to the list of ingredients. He knows that if he can’t pronounce it, it should be questioned. I don’t want them to know Mommy had a list of “yes” and “no” foods. I want him to know that he was created in the image of God. He is the one in charge of his own health. He will be the one who will need to learn to make his own decisions because he will benefit from or pay for his choices.
- Showed us John V’s strength and maturity. John V has situations where he is in places without us. There is food around him and offered to him. We sat him down at the beginning of the four weeks, explained how this would work, explained why making exceptions would cause all of our hard work to be less effective, and then told him that the choice was up to him. Only he and God would know what he chose when we weren’t there and we weren’t going to question him. It was so sweet to me the bonding that came out of this. He was our little man. He would come back and talk about the cupcakes or pretzels where he was. How it was “Kind of hard not to eat them. You know, Mom. But we’ll have them again.” We were very open with our struggles and allowed them to be open with theirs. And we all grew closer through our “team” effort. He has been my pickiest eater because I didn’t start soon enough with him. This situation challenged him to rise up as a leader. He tried and tried new things and by the end was enjoying several foods he wouldn’t eat before. I am solidly sure he ate 500 apples.
- Showed us Kailey’s desire for health. Kailey is six but she is better than I am about recognizing something will make her feel crummy and choosing not to eat it. She is far more in tune with herself than I would have believed possible at that young. She was eager to “be more healthy” and has been the most consistent in wanting to stick with better choices once we were finished with the four week period. If there was an avocado shortage around the first of November, Kailey caused it.
- Showed us Levi’s will power in a truly positive light. Levi can be a hand full. Let’s just say that whenever possible, you really just want to choose to be on his side. Being on the opposing side can be an exhausting place to be. I know there are great things in store for him as that strength gets channelled into his purpose and calling. He took that same determination into this cleanse. Eight capsules? Swallowed in two swigs. Kale? Yes. Carrots? Yes. Chard? Yes. He can’t have that? Okay. It was staggering. I sort of felt embarrassed sometimes. He made me feel like a total wimp. He ate and went on with his life. Truly mind over matter with that kid. I have never, ever seen someone put away that much zucchini.
- Showed us Mitchell’s flexibility. I thought he would be the hardest but he wasn’t. He ate what everyone else did. Which made me realize how much of two year old pickiness can actually be blamed on my own choices. If the right things are available and the wrong ones aren’t, it’s amazing what gets put away. Bananas and roasted kale, otherwise known as “dinosaur food,” were his favorites.
- Reminded me again how grateful I am for a husband who can be a real man. He leads in this area just like any other. He doesn’t ask his kids to do what he won’t do. He backs me up. He helps me teach. He is not afraid of beet juice, spirulina, or a world without bread. He is awesome.
- Showed me how often I make a choice because I “don’t have time” when, with a little preparation, it is actually quite possible to eat much, much better even with a busy schedule or while out and about.
- Revealed addictions. I think it’s interesting how Americans classify addictions. An addiction to drugs or alcohol is bad. We should stop. But an addiction to food, sugar, coffee, soft drinks, or anything else is fine. They may have differing levels of impact on our health or lives but they all cause us to use a substance to handle heart, health, or life issues. To bandaid choices that need to be made about priorities, time management, and other problems. It’s a tough one for SURE.
- Took us back to other things instead of food to: 1)Combat exhaustion. We slept instead of eating when we were tired. 2)Combat emotions. Somehow eating a pear does not replace your need to handle emotions. 3)Combat stress. Again, a carrot stick simply won’t perk you up. You have to deal with the stressor and move on. It also highlights how we use it to do everything from celebrate to entertain ourselves to socialize. While there’s nothing wrong with much of that, it is important to see it for what it is. It helps us to make better, more purposeful choices.
Suddenly “deprived” doesn’t seem like the right word anymore, does it? We removed something from our lives that we thought it would “hurt” to give up in exchange for growth, change, and blessing. If that doesn’t sound like a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is. I think that the God who recommended regular fasting for His people must have known what He was doing. Showing us more of Himself. I am extremely grateful for the ways that God has taught me how to care for my family over the past several years. It has been an interesting journey and is certainly one that is still in progress. I make lots and lots of mistakes. I get weary. We will continue to grow. I will change my mind. The teachers will change their teachings. Our needs will change. But I love knowing that just as He always has, He will put the right wisdom in my life at the right time to show me what we need and how to strengthen us. Because it’s really not ever foremost about what we’re putting into our bodies but about how we are feeding our souls and equipping ourselves for the real work. And what we’re putting into our hearts and into our bodies do often travel hand in hand.
Levi during our cleanse: “Dear God, thanks for Mom making this good food. And that it’s not lots of sugary stuff. And that we don’t talk about gross things. Amen”