Monday, March 24, 2014

Getting Clean, Inside and Out

I'm one of those people who just can't focus if my home is feeling dirty or messy. Call me OCD, but I feel restless and unhappy if there's clutter everywhere, or if balls of cat hair roll around the floor like sagebrush in a Western. Nothing makes me happier and more content than a clean home. When the apartment is clean, I feel light and carefree, and I actually get more work done. I can also actually relax and read a book on the couch, because I'm not too concerned about how much fur is getting stuck on my clothes or how I should be doing that giant pile of dishes.

Naturally, the same goes for my body. There's nothing like 5 weeks of post-HIMYM celebratory face-stuffing. Seriously, I've eaten more calories in the last month than I probably have all year, including multiple pizzas, pastas, cocktails, sushi, sandwiches, cookies, donuts, cakes...It was all delicious. I gots no regrets. But it's left me feeling pretty gross. My sleep has gotten progressively worse, my skin is breaking out and so dehydrated that I suddenly have forehead lines (!), I've been feeling slugging and slow, and my stomach has been hurting almost every other night. I've been suffering from stomach pain since my teens, and no gastroenterologist or drug has ever been able to cure what ails me. It's gotten better with some dietary changes, but it always comes rushing back every time I go on one of these junk food benders.

The most LA thing I do is probably the occasional detox cleanse. It's a habit I picked up when, a few years ago, I read the book Clean, by Dr. Alejandro Junger, on the recommendation of a few different friends.

I'm not one for homeopathic potions and elixirs, and I'm always a little skeptical about the logic behind your body having to "detoxify." After all, isn't that what the kidneys and liver and all your organs are made for? Why would we have to do something extra to get rid of "toxins" in our bodies? Aren't cleanses just fads designed to make money for companies cashing in on gullible, health-conscious folks?

Well, some are, for sure. Many are pricey and useless, capitalizing on people's desperation to get thin quick. But not all are like that. What got me on this book was that Dr. Junger, who's got an MD from NYU (one of the nation's top med schools) and did his fellowship in cardiology at Lenox Hill, is an actual practicing doctor with a background in Western medicine, as well as having studied Eastern medicine in India. He has a well-rounded grasp of both medicine and holistic health, and his research and conclusions are backed up with legit scientific studies and explanations.

Enter Clean. It's hard. It's not fun. It's 21 days of hard-core dietary restrictions -- no caffeine, no added sugars, no alcohol, no preservatives, no red meat, no eggs, no dairy -- only whole, organic fresh foods and tons of water. And you don't have to buy anything extra beyond the $12 book (although they do have powders and supplements if you want to). It makes me antisocial (I'd rather stay in than have to sit at a restaurant watching others devour their pasta) and cranky (when I'm deprived of sugar and pasta, I get pissed). But every time I've successfully completed the Clean Program (and not every time has been successful), good things happen in my life. Part of the program is also making time for your mental health -- meditation, rumination on why your body is reacting one way or another, on whether your hunger is emotional or actual hunger. And by the third week, I'm usually feeling much better. My skin glows, my energy levels are high, my sleep is deep, and my stomach...gasp! It stops hurting. And when I mean good things happen, I mean these things that I am doing are actually making me feel better about myself, and most likely, affecting how I deal with things in the world and how I present myself. I go into auditions feeling stressless and free. I feel good about myself. I've booked jobs, signed with new representation, relieved depression, enjoyed days without pain, gotten a new lease on life -- all in the wake of my previous times doing the Clean Program.

Of course, it could all be mental. But who cares is if it is? If eating better and naturally for a few weeks can help me approach life differently, more positively, then why not? It's not for everyone, but for me, taking the extra effort a few times a year to pay attention to my body and what I'm putting in it, and to remember to breathe, is worth it.

Today is Day 1. I started with a mango, kale, and almond milk smoothie, and since I was still buying necessary groceries today, I took a short cut for lunch and went to the awful Whole Foods prepared foods bar to make myself a salad of quinoa, black beans, guacamole, organic chicken, and beets. Morale is still high. Usually, Week 1 is the time when I feel like I gotta choke a bitch. But so far so good! Let's hope by the end of the week I'm not all Wayne Brady...*

*Mobile readers, the video won't pop up so you'll have to use the good old computer.