Saturday, 14 February 2015

Detox: the decision

I’ve decided to go on a detox.

I like to think of my relationship with food as a love affair. There is passion, yearning when I am deprived of a food I’m craving, intense satisfaction when the desire is fulfilled, the occasional bad experience that shakes me to my core, making me wonder if I’ll ever enjoy food again…and then before I know it I’m back in the saddle, feasting once more.

But lately, the relationship has been turning sour. I first noticed it during Ramadan, when daily fasting plays havoc with my body anyway. It got me thinking about how much what we do (or don’t) feed ourselves affects our every waking moment. It occurred to me that I couldn’t remember the last time I felt truly energised, nor could I shake the feeling that a general inertia, or sluggishness, interspersed with occasional mania, was the normal state of being not just for me but for many of the people I know. The feeling that every activity was an effort to be psyched up for, physically and mentally, and that a nap would always be welcome. A feeling that I’m certain I’m not supposed to be experiencing with such regularity this side of fifty.

Like many people, I consider myself healthy. Healthy enough, anyway. I eat vegetables. I go to the gym. I dance. I don’t binge eat Lindt chocolate bunnies (except at Easter).

But I hardly ever get enough sleep. 2am on a weeknight is not a rarity for me, or anyone in Cairo – truly the city that never sleeps. My days and nights are constantly crammed with activities. My time is badly organised. Otlob (Egypt’s online food delivery service) is both my best friend and my worst enemy; I order from it every day. I consume a lot of caffeine – sometimes more than six cups of tea and coffee in a day. Finally able to shake the shisha addiction I acquired shortly after arriving here five years ago, I started smoking the occasional cigarette as a substitute. So nights spent with friends who smoke (many – this is also the city that never breathes clean air) quickly turned into beer and cigarettes for all.

This feels like Alcoholics Anonymous. My name is Lucy, and I am not as healthy as I think I am.

So, I decided to detox. I felt that I needed to do something radical, to shake myself out of at least some of the bad habits, or at least reduce the impact they were having on my life. I’m sick of feeling tired all the time, of catching colds that last for a month and of feeling that many of the things I most want to be doing (writing, new ideas for work projects, further education, conversations) have to be put off to some indefinite time in the future when I have enough energy to tackle them. I have had enough of feeling as though I am sleepwalking through my life.

And there are more tangible health worries. Watching friends who have faced cancer scares, some very serious. The fear of aging. The realisation that despite growing up in the English countryside, surrounded by cats and horses, I have somehow in the last few years developed an allergy to both. Noticing that the hayfever I’ve had since I was a child now causes me to wheeze when the pollen count is really high.

Knowing that I stood no chance of sticking to the detox plan if I embarked on it alone, and wanting the guidance of someone I could trust, I contacted Anni, the founder of Pure Scandic, who I had met socially and who I knew offered tailored juice cleanses and detox programs. She recommended a 19 day program: seven days of a raw fruit and vegetable diet either side of a five day juice cleanse. Cramming my body to capacity with nutrients and eliminating all the bad (but delicious) things. Supplementing all the fruit and veg with some protein, but eliminating all meat, alcohol, caffeine, processed carbohydrates, added salt and sugar.

So this is what lies ahead of me for the next (nearly) three weeks. It’s quite a feat for a girl who would happily live on sticky rice and koshary if left to her own devices. Let’s see how this goes!

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