I feel blech. So awfully yuck. A kind of toxic, sluggish malaise has taken over me and I sleep too long and struggle to get out of bed in the mornings. Which is not me and tells me something is not quite right because I’m normally the energizer buddy. Though, I must admit, I haven’t been feeling energizer for a while. What I have found, as I’ve gotten older, is that there are certain foods my body really does not like, and wheat is the worst culprit. Within half an hour of eating that ciabatta I can feel my system regailing. It just makes me feel ill. And I have to face facts – that I was simply not designed to process grains. I don’t want to feel blech. I want to leap out of bed and feel amazing, and I know I can, and I know it’s about changing my diet. Which is not bad, but there is definitely too much toast and cheese going on. And coffee. And nachos. As I lie in bed, Enos under the belt for the huge sandwich I had at lunch followed by a steak pie for supper, I make a decision: starting the very next day, I’m going on a raw food detox. Just to see what happens.
Since this has been a rapid decision I don’t have the right foods in the house, and breakfast has to be a small bowl of raw oats and sunflower seeds with apple juice. It’s been so long since I had anything as healthy as oats, I find the box crawling with small, brown goggas which I (not very painstakingly) pick out. I have my normal cup of filter coffer with milk and a quarter spoon of sugar because last time I did a detox the headache was so bad I couldn’t function. I SMS my raw food genie friend, Beatrice, and ask her if she has tips or tricks I should know about. She orders me to hot foot it to her shop, Raw and Roxy, where she hands me a cup of dark green, freshly pressed (not squeezed, there’s a difference) veggie juice which contains greens, the juice of two lemons and magical things things I can’t remember. It’s tart and delicious and tastes like it’s just what my body needs. This is followed by a thick, darkly red cleansing smoothie of sour cherries, berries, chia seeds, dates and about 100 other special ingredients to make me feel well again. When I get home I start to realize I feel odd – bouncy, sort of, and a bit hyper. I SMS Beatrice from the loo (where I’ve been three times in the last hour) and say it feels like the 90s and I’ve just had a line. I’m tempted to put on eighties music and have a shot of something, but I have to fetch the kids. She says she feels the same, having finished the leftovers of my various brews. I tell her her potions are powerful and that’s she’s the good witch of Woodstock.
I wake up feeling awake. And, bizarrely, not wanting coffee. I’m a coffee fiend, and nobody must even look at me before I’m a half-cup in. I go with it and make myself a cup of hot water with lemon instead. I fear the headache, but decide to listen to my body. I’m amazed at the difference one day can make, but I think my detox process was accelerated somewhat by yesterday’s potent elixirs. I’m a bit mood-swingy, alternating between feeling light and energized and a bit edgy and irritable. For breakfast I make a mulch out of grapefruit, apples, a banana, linseeds I’ve soaked overnight and a tablespoon of chia seeds topped with gooseberries and dried pomegranate. By 11am I can feel a headache starting in my temples. I’m not really hungry, but at the same time I feel like want to eat. I make myself a small salad of cucumber, mint and lemon followed by a huge salad of spinach, cauliflower, grated carrot and a lemon-tahini dressing. I’m thirsty and drink glass after glass of filtered water. By 4pm there is a Tokoloshe perched behind me where I lie prostrate on the couch intermittently smashing my skull with a traditional weapon. I understand why people lose weight on this diet. It’s only day 2 and already I have lost the will to live, never mind rustle up another bowl of raw vegetables. I whatsapp my husband and demand to know why I’m doing this. He says he has no idea but suggests I have another glass of water and go for a walk. Clutching my head with my free hand I drive to the promenade where I hobble along the walkway, squinting and whining quietly to myself.
By the time I got into bed last night I had the most severe headache I’ve ever experienced. Meningitis has nothing on this. On google I discovered it’s because caffeine restricts blood flow to the brain. Go off it and the blood flows like god intended, but the change can cause pain of monumental proportions. No wonder I’ve been forgetting everything for five years – I’ve had no blood to the brain. The sensation is of a throbbing whoosh above my eyes which a head massage with peppermint oil only seems to make worse. I mean, peppermint oil? Morphine would be more appropriate. Realizing I wouldn’t sleep a wink and that the following day was not one I would survive without sleep in desperation I took a single Panado (I know, I know) and managed to get some shut eye. This morning the headache is better, but there. Insanely I have agreed to have four children to play today whom I’ll have to drag around the shops to find a birthday gift for a friend, I have people coming to install a fence and a gate whose unprofessionalism has been a headache all on its own and then my cousin who’s going through a tough time arrives with her two boys for dinner and a sleepover. And I have two big jobs due by the end of the day. I stand at the kitchen counter weighing my options. A day of agony or more Panado or a weak cup of coffee to slow down the detox process to more manageable proportions. I go for C. Within 10 minutes I feel right as rain, and I realize that that innocuous-seeming coffee I throw back all day long is one serious mutha of a drug.
The headache seems to have eased up which I’m relieved about. I’m also immensely relieved that my mom is having the kids for a sleepover because I’m not exactly in Mary Poppins mode. My mood is still swinging wildly as I vacillate between feeling happy and light and so immensely furious I could murder somebody with my bare hands. I sit through two hours of ballet Eisteddfod rehearsal watching the other moms swig away at XL polystyrene cups from Vida E, and it’s not like I crave the stuff, I’m quite smug about the morning’s hot lemon water and fruit mulch, but I would like to feel a bit normal. I tell myself to be patient and that this misery will pay off. On the way to drop the girls I stop at Atlas Trading in Bo Kaap and buy myself the detox and kidney teas Beatrice recommended. I have my first cup at my parents’. It contains buchu, and no words can describe its foulness. It’s like sipping rancid grass flavoured with urine. I’ve started to feel bad. Like you do when you’re coming down with flu – aches throughout my body and funny, shooting pains in my joints. I google detox symptoms, and apparently feeling like you’ve got flu is normal. So that must be it. I spend the rest of the afternoon under a blanky on the couch, sipping my vile teas and sort of enjoying how sick I feel. I read somewhere that the level of discomfort you experience during a detox is directly proportionate to your level of toxicity. Clearly – despite a regular wheatgrass shot and boot camp class – I was a human version of Chernobyl. Who knew?
The flu symptoms have lessened, but I’m definitely not at the point where I moonwalk to the bathroom. It’s foggy on the sea front and the lighthouse siren has been sounding all night. I read the night before (yes, I’m reading a lot) that a brisk walk can help alleviate the symptoms, so I dress warmly and head to the promenade, considering a steamy, cleansing sauna at my gym afterwards. Ten minutes into the walk I’m so exhausted I have to turn back. A sprightly 75-year-old eyes me pityingly as I hobble back to my car and return to the sanctity of the couch, sauna plans long forgotten. Come lunchtime, the rain is pummeling down and I can’t face another plate of grated carrot. I need something warm and soothing. I google a recipe for detox soup with ginger, garlic and fresh turmeric, reckoning that the badness of cooking the veggies will be outweighed by the goodness of the ingredients. It’s delicious, and immensely comforting eating something hot. I go to bed at about 7:30pm aware that the geriatric from the promenade is probably dusting off her dancing shoes and getting ready to go on the razzle.
Something quite astonishing (even through the pain) is the sense of clarity I am experiencing. It’s hard to describe, really, but it feels like the world has come closer, in a sense. Things seem more immediate – almost like there’s been a barrier between me and reality which has now melted away, and things have shifted into very (startlingly) clear focus. I don’t know how to explain it, and I’m the first one to pooh pooh all this talk of ‘toxins’ because, frankly, it’s immensely dull, but I suppose in the same way alcohol and drugs (like caffeine) alter our perception of things, maybe the nasty components of a so-so diet also fuzzy up our reality. In a very unscientifically proven way (then again, there are realms science can’t explain), I know I feel different, and it’s a good feeling and I want it to last. All the aches and pains have gone, and I’ve started to look forward to my morning lemon water and fruit. In five short days my taste buds have changed. Before, I couldn’t abide sweet things in the morning. Now, my plate of black grapes, chopped up naartjie with cinnamon and banana tastes completely delicious and I can’t wait to eat it. Go figure. There are a lot of salads happening, but you sexy them up with things like dried pomegranate, dried olives, good dates, fresh figs and, always, lashings of avo smashed up with lemon, cherry tomatoes and coriander. And I love that I can eat nuts and nut butter with wild abandon and not worry about the calories.
So, this is the last designated day of my detox, only it’s not the last day at all because I like the way I feel too much. I’m light and clear in my head, I sleep well and wake up awake, I don’t crave coffee at any point in the day. I’ve learnt how easy it is to make my own linseed crackers (I like to add pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and organic coconut flakes) which I pop in the toaster instead of bread and have with avo or peanut butter. Instead of milk from a cow my nighttime drink is warm almond milk with a few teaspoons of almond butter and a swirl of raw honey. I love that I can eat as much as I want of whatever I want and that I still feel light and energized and, despite eating more or less non-stop have lost 3kgs in a week. And the food all tastes delicious.
This is a hard diet to follow 100%. It’s difficult to socialise and stick to it and boring to explain what you’re doing because everyone thinks you’re mad. And I refuse to be the person who goes to someone’s home and won’t eat the food they’ve prepared for me with love. Anyway, I like my meat and I don’t store iron well or absorb the kind you get from supplements so I need the odd rib-eye (with chips, because not having the chips is wrong on every level). So, my conclusion is this: I will continue eating raw indefinitely because it makes my body (and therefore, me) really, really happy. And my skin has never looked so good – I think it’s the high level of healthy fats. It’s kind of plumped up and glowy. But I won’t do it 100%, I’ll aim for 80%, maybe slightly more. At dinner parties and in restaurants I’ll eat what I feel like and give in to cravings, listening to what my body tells me because I’m a lot more in touch with it now. I’ve learnt about some amazing foods I’d never heard of and that I really enjoy (chia seed porridge is the BERRIES), and I know now how to eat filling, satisfying meals that don’t contain any part of a grain. I never get that blech, toxic feeling, and I’m happy to be off the coffee. It’s been an interesting experiment, and it’s kind of changed my world.