Sluggish. Tired. Losing focus. No matter how much sleep I got, I was barely making it through the day. I knew something had to change.
I had been working on a film with a crew from Bollywood, India’s version of Hollywood. The 12-14 hour days were punctuated by heavy, starchy meals that showed up later as pimples and pounds over the course of the 6-week project. To cope, I began drinking coffee every morning, a drink I normally had a few times a month.
In the aftermath of the film, I was exhausted, drowsy, and couldn’t maintain my focus. A week after I started a strict regimen of 10 hour beauty rests and mid-afternoon naps I was still feeling groggy and could barely focus for more than a few minutes.
To add to my first-world dilemma, going cold turkey on heavy comfort foods we had on set wasn’t easy and I often found myself eating even when I wasn’t hungry. This would leave me feeling even more groggy and often turned a quick afternoon nap into a two hour food coma.
I knew something had to change.
Having addressed my sleep pattern, I turned what little focus and energy I could muster to my diet which hadn’t improved since the film. I knew from experience that gradually changing my diet didn’t work for me so I was going to have to do something a little more drastic.
Yes, it was time for a cleanse.
Cleansing isn’t new to me. I had done one the spring just to see if I could do it and had made it out okay. Having gained a little bit of confidence, I decided that this time I would cleanse to regain focus and hopefully lose a few pounds the curry had padded my waist with.
What I learned about my diet and its effect on my focus has changed how I approach eating and productivity.
I regained my focus and then some
The first thing I noticed was that by the afternoon of my first day, I had more energy. I even skipped my afternoon nap! By the third day, I was not only getting up earlier, but I was able to focus on projects longer.
I attribute this largely to drinking a gallon of water every day. This should come as no surprise. Studies have found that being dehydrated by just two percent impairs cognitive skills, memory, and focus. Did you catch that — just two percent! Drinking water has been stressed for as long as I can remember but it wasn’t until I decided to hydrate more, specifically with water, did I realize how much I had been missing out.
If you take one thing away from this let it be this: drink more water.
I wasn’t really hungry
When the cleanse ended and I started eating again, all it took was a handful of nuts or fruit to get me thinking about my next meal or snack and where it would come from. Before I realized it, I was in the kitchen or at the drive-thru getting my next fix. I wasn’t really hungry, but eating even the smallest snack reminded my stomach about food, which told my brain I was hungry. What helped me most was that this helped me understand how often I thought about food which allowed me to address if specific moods triggered thoughts of food as well.
Studies have shown that eating while distracted can cause you to eat more food than if you were focused on your food and cause you to feel less full.
My skin cleared up
A month and a half of greasy, spicy Indian food, snacks, and daily pizza can really do a number on your. By the time the film wrapped, I was dealing with daily breakouts and permanent dark circles under my eyes. Cleansing helped get rid of that. At first, I had a fit of breakouts but eventually the pimples and dark circles started going away for good.
My juices were packed full of vitamins naturally occuring in the kale, apples, broccoli, parsley, and other fruits and vegetables used for my juices. Vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E all have been shown to promote healthy skin and packed a powerful punch to my acne to help it clear up.
I no longer thought about food/I had time for important things
When I first fasted in the spring, my biggest concern was eating and energy. I could barely last for a few hours without having a snack. How would I survive for entire days without food? Wouldn’t I need at least a snack to get through the day? Long story short: I lived. How much time do you spend thinking about, preparing, or eating food each day? This isn’t to try and shame you for doing anything with food, but just to illustrate how much time is spent concerning food. Food is often a gathering-point for people and it’s hard to deny it as a common denominator.
I often ate while distracted, or on a break while working. Studies have shown that distracted eating can cause you to eat more food than if you focused on the meal. If I was convinced that I would die if I didn’t eat, I would drink water. Often you’re dehydrated instead of hungry.
I slept better
The biggest benefit of a cleanse was that I slept better. Because I slept better, I woke early and refreshed. No more 10 hours of sleep and a two hour nap; I was waking up naturally after six hours of sleep and was able to go through the entire day without getting drowsy or taking a nap. If I did decide to take a nap, it was the extra boost of energy I needed it to be instead of a crutch that I limped through the rest of the day on.
My bloating disappeared
There are some things I aspire to have as a natural part of my appearance but bloating certainly isn’t one of them. It had become so normal for me that I couldn’t quite remember what it was to not be bloated. Over time, I became less and less bloated and I even began to see where abs might have once existed in the B.C. (before curry) era.
I attribute this not just to the fact that I added more fruits, vegetables, and water to my diet, but also to the elimination of certain foods such as dairy and soda. It helped me understand that I have a lactose intolerance, if only slight, like many people.
I lost my taste for sweets and fried foods
By the end of the cleanse, I was committed to being vegan. (At the time that I’m writing this I’m not, but that’s another story.) Because I wasn’t pumping artificial and unnatural sweeteners into my body, I was able to appreciate the natural sugar in the fruits and juice that much more. Apples and bananas were my staple and tasted so yummy. I can’t imagine how delicious mangoes and berries might have tasted. When I had a brownie a week later, it was so sweet it gave me a headache.
Cleansing can be a good way to regain focus and thank your body for being there for you, despite all the gunk you eat regularly.