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What I learned from cleansing

My excitement for participating in the annual Yinova cleanse disappeared by day two. I live a healthy lifestyle, cooking most of my meals, practicing yoga daily ,and reading wellness journals for fun. As someone who understands the value of cleansing and caring for your body, a ten day cleanse shouldn’t have been too hard.  But it was.

When I tried restricting my diet the old habits and anxieties that once consumed my thoughts came back.  While revisiting a past mentality was overwhelming, it has also shown me how far I’ve come.

I started “playing” with food in middle school. Challenging myself to wait to eat; throwing my meal in the trash half way through; choosing “diet” or “fat-free” options; picking everything off my salads. I seesawed between restricting myself and over-indulging. By high school bingeing and purging had become a habit.

My senior year of high school I worked with a counselor named Bobbi. Instead of saying I had an eating disorder, we said, “Kelsey has anxiety towards food.” Bobbie gave me two pieces of wisdom, among other things of course, that changed my relationship with food and my body:

Instead of thinking about what’s wrong with your body think about everything it does for you. 

When I looked in the mirror (always from the side) I would sometimes feel as thin as paper and other times feel too big to leave the house. We tried to stop that. Instead I would say, “My body allows me to the walk the hallways of school, dance on stage, play tennis, kiss boys, go to the beach, and drive.”

Take the energy you have towards food and channel it into something healthy.

An alcoholic can stop drinking, but someone with an eating disorder can’t stop eating. Not thinking about food wasn’t realistic, but putting a positive twist on it was. I began looking up recipes, going grocery shopping and learning to cook. My energy towards food found a purpose and thinking about eating became fun.

It wasn’t easy. It got worst before it better. It resurfaced during stressful times in college. But, doing the work to find a healthy relationship with food is the best investment I’ve made in myself.

Food is still a huge part of my life, but now it brings me joy. Experimenting with new recipes and ingredients is a hobby, and learning about nutrition and understanding how to nourish my body empowers me. I’m connected with my body’s needs and I believe I function best with many small meals through out the day that are high in protein and made with “real food.”

So the ten-day cleanse wasn’t for me. Eliminating eggs, cheese, quinoa, beer, nuts, meat, coffee and spontaneous offers of free baked goods made me feel deprived, tired and anxious. While technically I failed at cleansing because I didn’t finish, I’m proud to say that the days I participated showed me I no longer view food as something that should be restricted. I’m happy to be knowledgeable, thoughtful, and invested in my health. Some look to the cleanse for nutritional guidance, however, through the cleanse, I discovered that I already had the guidance that I needed and so this year’s cleanse taught me a very different lesson.


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