I’ve lived in the Los Angeles area since 1993, and still I don’t think myself a native. Nonetheless, in some small ways I seem to go a little more of that native every year. There was that time a while ago when I gave up the t-shirt peeking out from my collars, or even earlier, when I moved on from rugby shirts. I learned to live without American League baseball (sorry, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). Lazy lunch became a burrito, not a chicken box. Heck, I even got used to being a member of a racial majority.
One thing I never thought I’d do was cleanse. It’s practically a personal-care tradition out here, as normal as foregoing carbs or asking for dressing on the side, but the idea of turning a week or two over to cabbage soup or apple cider vinegar or something like that struck me as… silly.
Until we got back from France. After a wonderful trip, enjoying all kinds of meat and cheese and wine and digestifs, I came home and went to Krav and felt… awful. Awful in the way that you sometimes feel awful after a really good massage, when everything’s all acid and toxic feeling. And then I got allergies and a cold to boot. I just couldn’t shake the thought that somehow that ill health was related to all of the crap I’d been (justifiably, and deliciously) putting in my body. Maybe even worse, I couldn’t shake the sugar and fat addictions; my typical dinner diet went from a moderate meat portion; a moderate-sized complex carbohydrate dish; a large cooked vegetable dish; and a giant fresh salad; to burgers, fries, and cookies.
So I figured I’d try the trendy thing: I did a cleanse. On my wife’s recommendation, I went to a method involving mostly vegetable soups with some fresh fruit as well. Vegetable soup not being a very calorie-dense option, eating a lot all of a sudden became a top priority, and cooking a lot followed along in turn. After all, I needed not only a bunch of soups to eat, I needed variety in my meals. (Thanks to all of the walking we did in France, I hadn’t actually put on any weight, so I wasn’t trying to cut calories and lose weight; in fact, thanks to feeling so miserable, I’d actually lost some pounds already. Weight maintenance was my primary caloric goal here.)
Part of the question became, of course: how many soups can one cook? We made a cauliflower-leek soup, and a velouté of zucchini, and an asian-flavored soup with mushrooms; we made more of the velouté, a recipe we got from friends in France, because it was so good; and I made a delicious pea soup. (Hot tip for those on diets: peas are surprisingly calorie-dense, almost all thanks to sugar. Spread their good flavor out with some cauliflower.)
I also cut out soda, and replaced it with iced tea that I brewed myself — some green tea, lightly sweetened with agave, and an herbal concoction I brought back from Vietnam. Given that I typically drink green tea all day long at work, this added up to a lot of tea. Those antioxidants had better be as good for me as advertised! If they’re one of those things that they discover in 20 years turns out to be awful for you, like milk and steak for people with ulcers, then I’m boned.
Anyway, with all of this liquid, I knew I needed some kind of solid to mix in. At first I tried to make it on shirataki, but not only are they low-carb, but they’re almost entirely free of nutritional content, including calories. They filled me up but didn’t, um, cancel out the inevitable effects of eating so much liquid (and so many fruits). That is to say, I pooped. I pooped for days. So I had to add something in, and finally broke down and got some lovely quinoa salad from my neighborhood gourmet healthy food joint, the Curious Palate. That set things straight.
OK, so I stuck with it. The first day was tough; the second was worse, probably especially for my wife, who had to put up with my cranky, cranky attitude. Such are the wages of a modern sugar and fat addiction. But it got easier from there, and I really did feel better, physically, starting on about the third day (this was probably around the time that I actually started to accept just how much I actually had to eat). My head cleared, my muscles felt fresh, and my stomach placid.
And now I feel great. I don’t wish I had a ton of cheese, or a delicious bacon cheeseburger from Jack in the Box down the street; I splurged and poured myself a glass of wine tonight, and that was enough. Snacks? No cookies for me, I’ll have a fruit or maybe some nuts. And after krav? Well, I’m sore and exhausted from all of the Turkish get-ups, but not from the crap I’ve been putting in my body. It’s a nice feeling, one I plan to keep. I’ve brought back a wider diet, but still I’m keeping it heavy on the fresh fruit and vegetables. The long LA summers are perfect for it. I guess this practically makes me a local.