04/12/2013 08:16 am ET Updated Jun 12, 2013

Mindful Lessons From a 10-Day Cleanse

A 10-day cleanse? I've been teaching and guiding mindfulness in eating workshops for three years now, and yet have fallen short on applying these techniques to my own life and family. In keeping with the speed and multitasking nature in which we live, it seemed high time to tackle not one but two large goals at once! Goal one: Detox and shed some some winter weight. Goal two: Model mindfulness ASAP before it's too late. You see, my son is a senior in high school and leaving for college in September, and I have two teenage daughters who lead busy, active and full lives. Suffice to say... time for modeling mindfulness is scarce at best and running thinner by the minute.

I needed a serious and immediate plan of action. In came the 10-day cleanse. Time to walk the walk, talk the talk and put my money where my mouth is, as Lucy from Charlie Brown would undoubtedly advise. It's time to uncover your personal truth! I'm the mom, I'm the model, wellness is my business. Unleash the Swedish Fish from the car console and let the games begin. It was time to wipe the slate clean, start from scratch and acquire the self-knowledge and latest food science information out there needed to get the job done. I was curious to observe how various foods affected "the body" -- well, not just any body.... my body! It was also an opportunity to bring mindfulness to my life, my dinner table, and my family.

Here's how it went -- the 10-day cleanse in a nutshell:

  • Day One: No refined sugar, alcohol, caffeine, "flesh foods" or anything processed.
  • Day Two: Eliminate everything from day one, plus dairy and eggs.
  • Days Three and Four: Eliminate everything from days one and two, plus gluten grains (that means bread, wheat, rye and barley). Acceptable substitutions were quinoa, beans and legumes, and all vegetables.
  • Day Five, Six, and Seven: Eliminate everything from days one through four and heavy up on "cruciferous vegetables" -- such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts -- and red and green lettuce, spinach, endive, apples and pears; drink a detoxifying shake three times a day.
  • Days Eight, Nine, and 10: Re-introduce all other foods from days one through three except caffeine, alcohol, sugar and dairy; reintroduce flesh foods one at a time to give your body a slow and steady experience.

I was prepared! Drank the recommended 64 ounces of water daily in a rather large and assuming plastic jug that said to others, "Watch out, she's cleansing." Had an array of vegetables on hand to roast with olive oil and a pinch of sea salt when the depths of hunger struck. And the pièce de résistance, for visual distraction, a whole sweet potato on the cake pedestal in the middle of the kitchen island to hold court in case a cookie tried to climb in. I asked myself: What after all this really matters?

1.) Environment Matters.

Who you sit with, dine with, stand with, and share food with all matter. Where you are when you eat and what is around you -- all of it matters. I observed when eating alone, on autopilot, I was totally unaware of the amount, speed, and often food selections. I longingly missed the conversation part that happens when eating with others. Our family dinners were falling into the abyss of busyness, like ships passing on the stairwell, we dined alone approximately 10 minutes apart. So family dinners were reinstated. Actual face-to-face conversation was in and of itself pleasurable, and led to a greater appreciation for the preparation of the food as well as a slower eating experience. Granted, the dinners lasted only 15 minutes -- however, it did give us all time to check in and practice eating and talking together. Ironically, something we used to be quite adept at.

2.) Understanding Food Matters.

The coolest thing! Due to the 10-day span, I saw some real notable and pleasing changes -- watching the swelling in my body go down, my skin tighten, my energy stabilize and my mood lift, having more energy, interest, and drive to move the body was positive. I think of carbohydrates in a different way... I think. Foods vary in their density of carbohydrates and how quickly they are digested and affect your blood sugar. For example, most vegetables are light and slow to digest, making you feel fuller for longer. The body works so hard to produce enough insulin to digest the sugar from refined carbohydrates such as bread and pasta. Eating foods that provide a slower rate of absorption like veggies, some fruits, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds is a way to stay satiated for longer periods of time.

3.) Support Matters.

We all need people and support. I did eat out for lunch and dinner while on this mindful adventure and I decided to come clean with those around me. I was inspired by the support that my flat-out confession "I'm on a 10-day cleanse" ignited. It wasn't quite "pass the butter," however, cleanses are becoming more mainstream and not totally outlandish. I found that every conversation with an interested party lifted me up, made me laugh and gave me the support to carry on. My husband and kids asked many humorous and specific questions about the cleanse, and to show their support -- I think? -- unless they were conducting their own mindfulness study on me and gathering data on my very serene state of mind. A highly supportive nutrition counselor sent encouraging emails and answered my questions throughout each day, such as, "Can I eat a daikon radish even though it's white and looks like a potato?" She was a cheerleader and an informant all in one. I enjoyed, valued, and relied on the support of others and quickly realized how important it is to have many avenues for our individual stories.

Health is a highway! It's not when or how you fall off that matters -- apparently that's inevitable -- but how long it takes you to get back on. Here's to getting back on the road.

Please share your tips, stories and humor with me.

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