February 16th, 2017
It’s my 44th birthday and I woke up naturally at 6:18am feeling alert. My skin looks shiny and clear, my body light, I’m ready for the day. I’m on Day 14 of a 21 day cleanse. I sound foreign to myself because for the last, at least five years (since I started having kids) I’ve been dragging myself through the day in a state of low grade lethargy and exhaustion. I usually dread the alarm and have to will myself out of bed to make it to the coffee pot.
At the beginning of 2017, after spending the last few weeks of the year sick with a sinus infection, my main new year’s resolution was to figure out what’s going on with my body and why I’m so tired most of the time. Aside from the heavily caffeinated morning hours I always feel like crawling back into bed. Here I am starting a website for women encouraging them to squeeze the juice out of their lives and I’m so low energy I can’t even be present with my kids. I knew I had to do something different.
I work from 7am-1pm three days a week and through caffeine and adrenaline I am pretty energetic at work. However when I get home to start my other full time job of being a mom, I feel this heaviness descend upon me. I work around the house, throw in a load of laundry, make the kids lunch but have one eye on the bed. How fast can I get Pippa to nap and Shepard on the iPad so I can lie down?
My goal was simple – to wake up in the morning feeling good and keep that energy at a steady hum all day so I can accomplish all I want in this short life.
Here’s the thing, I think I’m pretty healthy! I have many good habits already. I eat mostly whole foods – local, organic, free range and grass fed whenever possible. I usually go to sleep by 10 or 11 and I love my naps. I’m no sloth! I take care of my kids. I cook. I clean. I get up at 5:30am for work three days a week. I teach and do Pilates. I ride my bike everywhere. I take Vitamin C, D, Fish Oil, a probiotic and Magnesium every day. I don’t have too much stress in my life. I think I keep things in perspective.
I do have my vices though and obviously they’ve gotten out of whack. I drink wine every day. I pour a glass while making dinner for the kids and fill it up again while we eat. Not too bad, right? I eat dessert everyday. I’ve been known to destroy a bag of Fritos in one sitting. I don’t monitor my dairy or gluten consumption. I don’t think I eat tons of either but I know all of the above are energy robbers. But that’s not that bad, is it? I mean I still think I’m mostly healthy. I do a lot! But all of it is a struggle and I’m always tired.
I went to my primary care doctor for my annual physical. My blood pressure is good, my blood work came back perfect, my annual mammogram came back clear. She said from the stand point of my labs I’m a perfectly healthy woman. “You’re a mother of toddlers. Of course you’re tired!” I think there’s more to it.
I talked to some of my Pilates friends who seem to have the boundless energy I crave following The Whole 30 plan. I consulted a nutritionist and I started reading a book called The Brain Fog Fix by Dr. Mike Dow. The consensus to having more energy and a clear mind is to alter my diet and eliminate all the blood sugar spiking and inflammatory foods at least for a period of time. The Whole 30 is for 30 days. The Brain Fog Fix and my nutritionist’s program are 21 days so I went with the latter.
All the programs are very similar, cut out sugar, wheat, dairy and alcohol. I’ve made the executive decision to not omit coffee in the morning but limit myself to one black cup. I’ve given it up in the past on various cleanses for an interminable couple weeks and felt horrible only to go right back to it. Dr. Dow sites that coffee is rich in antioxidants and can actually stave off dementia! To me, coffee is not a vice. I look forward to it so much. It gets me out of bed in the morning and makes me feel clear headed and awake so as long as I can be moderate with it I’m not giving it up!
So back to feeling amazing, you know, getting rid of all that stuff in your diet just works. It was hard for me to give up booze and terribly hard for me to give up sugar. Dairy and gluten, less hard but still not easy. But there’s no denying how light and almost buzzy I feel now. I haven’t taken a nap since the first couple days of the cleanse and as I’ve mentioned I am a major napper!
I made it! 21 days. The Brain Fog Fix is not just about altering diet. It also encourages you to limit media consumption especially at night, play memory games, meditate, learn new skills to stay sharp, exercise, respect the circadian rhythms and go to sleep earlier. I do think my quality of sleep has improved during this time aside from my one or two times getting up to go to the bathroom. Maybe a discussion for a different post.
I’ve just returned from an awesome birthday trip to the desert in Joshua Tree National Park where I woke up with the sun, refrained from all media, hiked, biked, ate healthy food and sat by a campfire at night. I don’t think I’ve had a totally sober vacation since adulthood (except when I was pregnant) and it was pretty cool to wake up so early feeling so good. Not a single nap was taken.
I’m finishing strong but going to an Oscar/Birthday party tonight where there will be gluten, dairy and sugar galore. I’ll probably have a celebratory cocktail as well. I’m feeling a little nervous about entering normal life again. I want to hang on to this feeling yet I am looking forward to incorporating some of my favorite simple pleasures back into my diet and see if I can maintain this energy.
Update, What I learned..
Since the cleanse in February I’ve kept some of the good habits and managed the not so good ones. I’m far from perfect but my alcohol intake has been reduced. I see that it was just a habit. At the end of the day I would always pour myself a glass of wine without really thinking about it and even if I wasn’t getting drunk, those two glasses affected how I felt in the morning. A little groggier, a little crankier. So now I’ve relegated drinking to more of an occasion.
I’ve added a little cream and dash of sugar to my coffee which makes such a difference in my happiness. I brought back my favorite bleu cheese dressing on my salad. Dessert has also become a once in a while treat. I now finish a meal like I did when I lived in Paris with a French family, with clementines and a few nuts. Perfect.
I don’t feel as buzzy alert as I did when abstaining from everything but that’s okay. I’ve incorporated some good habits into my life and I’ve reduced the less productive ones. Overall I feel better which was the goal. I love going out with my friends and don’t want to think about what I’m eating all the time. I can live with a little less energy on the mornings after I’ve had a fun night out. I’m human and not willing to even attempt to have a perfect diet. Life’s too short!
My plan going forward is to do the best I can and sometimes the pendulum will swing one way too far and I’ll fall off track. Maybe I’ll do a cleanse two or three times a year to reboot as I have here and just get back on the horse.