Clean, from the inside out

Dear Uma: I know I have been remiss in our correspondence, but I have the best of reasons: I have been a week travelling in a foreign land, experiencing strange sights and sounds and so subsumed by what was more of an ordeal than an adventure that I had

Dear Uma:

I know I have been remiss in our correspondence, but I have the best of reasons: I have been a week travelling in a foreign land, experiencing strange sights and sounds and so subsumed by what was more of an ordeal than an adventure that I had no energy or heart to write to you or anyone else.

I am back in my familiar territory now, but the experience has left me frail and shaken; I guess you could even say I am recuperating. I really don’t believe that would be too dramatic a word to describe how I have spent the last two days. I have been, literally, recovering.

Cee, my best Watson Lake friend, decided to go on a “cleanse.” This was not just to jump start her spring weight loss regime, but was designed to put her in touch with her relationship to food and, hence, to the Earth. I always want to laugh when she talks of these “relationships” and though she must see my stifled amusement, she is a good sport and doesn’t reject me on the basis of different ways of looking at things.

Mostly out of curiosity, I agreed to do the seven-day herbal cleanse with her, but only after being reassured it was not a regime that demanded starvation of the participants.

Cee ordered the kits from a health food store. These kits consisted of various containers containing various herbal stuff in various forms. There were pills, powders and liquids, to be taken at different times of the day and with or without food, or sometimes before or after. It seemed incredibly complicated, but Cee said I would soon find the rhythm of it as she handed me the list of foods that would be forbidden for the next week.

Uma, everything I know and love about food was on that list! I glared at Cee, feeling tricked and trapped. I knew I was going to do the damned thing because I had paid $60 for the kit, and I had promised her. After all, I reasoned as I went home laden with herbal goodies, it was only seven days; how bad could it be? But deep in my soon-to-be-spring-cleaned gut, I was conscious of a familiar feeling of foreboding, of having gotten myself once again into a situation that could only result in some level of unpleasantness for me.

The very first morning was hell, as I did without my good English breakfast tea in order to sip at a murky yellow concoction that was going to gently remove toxins from my stressed liver. The morning meal, which I could not have until a half hour had passed from the time of the yellow stuff, consisted of a blueberry and banana smoothie. Now this is a drink I am ordinarily quite happy to have, but which had now been transformed into something strangely coloured and oddly textured by the addition of two tablespoons of powder from one of the many brown glass bottles than now occupied my kitchen counter.

I called Cee to tell her I didn’t think I would be able to do this; I needed to have something recognizable to eat. I was told to read my diet sheet carefully; there were lots of good things listed there. She sounded snappish, leading me to believe she was no more pleased than I was by our morning repast.

Indeed, upon closer reading, there were many things to eat, but few of them were things I really liked to eat. There was mention of eggs, however, and it was the thought of a toasted fried egg sandwich with mayo that kept me going till lunchtime.

More yellow stuff. Sighing, I sipped, finding it less repulsive the second time. As I drank, I read more of the information provided with the kit. I read about how wonderful it would be for my poor belaboured innards to be rested and cleaned out and I could not help but feel this might actually be a good thing. It certainly could do no harm, and I chanted my mantra “it’s only seven days” as I read on.

The sandwich was all wrong: first, it was fried, which was a no-no. Secondly, bread was one of the forbidden foods (bread? Isn’t that the stuff of life?) and mayo? Well, it should be thrown out of the house. Mayo was processed and any and everything processed was utterlyverboten.

I ate a poached egg, with a sort of cracker Cee had given me, a piece of cardboard that had been cleared by our new food police, and with more pills. I was allowed herbal tea and I drank pots of it in order to make my belly feel warm and full.

I was glad Pete was not home; as the long days dragged on, I became unfit for company, human or otherwise. All I could think about was hamburgers, french fries, tea with milk and honey, mayonnaise and apple pie with ice cream. I dreamed of ketchup and beer; I dreamed of Pete finding my wasted body under a pile of blankets on the couch and hoped he would remember my desire to donate my organs and cremate anything that was left.

This led me to remember the artist who works in glass and who has been known to incorporate the ashes of the dear departed into the making of beautiful beads. Maybe I could be beads, I thought, or maybe I would have my whole body plasticized by the German artist who caused such a sensation a few years ago with his Body Worlds exhibit.

What other things did people do with human remains, I wondered dreamily, as I sucked on a carrot stick. Then I remembered a little ad I had seen in the Yukon News classified section: “Native brain tanned moose hides.” Now there is a novel use for those who have passed. And they were available at “reasonable prices,” I recalled, implying there was no shortage of native brains to use in the process of tanning the moose hides, and with this comforting thought, I fell asleep, one of those long deep sleeps Cee had promised would be mine when I’d embarked on this adventure.

Many people ate like this all the time, Cee informed me the next morning on the phone as I mourned bacon and pancakes; they did it in support of the planet and its diminishing resources, or they did it for health or as an anti-corporate gesture. She promised I would feel better by the third day, so I spent the second day in bed with a good book, getting up only to eat steamed vegetables and the cleansing stuff.

Day three was not nice. The actual cleansing part happened and it left me feeling sweaty and weak and thoroughly scrubbed out. I’d lost three pounds in three days and I broken out in a rough red rash.

I did it, though. I stuck it out, and I was true to the instructions. It helped that Cee was going through a similar experience and we could talk about it, a lot. No one not involved would have been able to stomach the descriptions and details of what our bodies went through in that week. All conversations took place over the phone; neither of us felt well enough to venture out of our houses for the whole week, nor did we have the energy to make ourselves presentable for company.

Pete arrived home on the morning of the eighth day and I wept when he suggested we go to Sally’s cafe for breakfast. There was no talk as I scarfed down my enormous breakfast and some of Pete’s, making little moaning noises of sheer happiness at the tastiness of all the wonderful food.

Of course I was violently sick halfway home, which demanded explanation from Pete, which led to one of those talks that go from being full of noise and energy to total silence.

I now devote myself to spring cleaning the trailer, a little bit at a time as my abused body regains strength.

Cee looks terrific, and she reports feeling more in control of her eating habits as well as more in tune with the Earth. Good for her.



Heather Bennett is a writer

who lives in Watson Lake.

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