Why You May Want to Avoid a Cleanse This New Year

My mom was admitted to hospice in August 2015 and died three months later. As a self-proclaimed sugar addict, her final months afforded me any and every excuse to justify my daily cake, cookie and cocoa intake. I had no issue foregoing any and all other temptations (booze, booty etc.), but that daily kick of sugar was an absolute must. It was my crutch in surviving the seemingly neverending “groundhog day” spent by my mother’s bedside. 

Cleansing in Grief

After my mom’s passing, my sugar frenzy reached new limits – bags of kettlecorn and boxes of donuts simply vanished in my presence. Sadness left me with incredible lows and oftentimes my only hope for relief was that of a sugar high.  But, upon ringing in the New Year, I, along with nearly every other young woman on Instagram, pledged it was about fucking time to cut the crap! Enter, the cleanse.

A seven-day cleanse seemed like a surefire way to help me in finally saying sayonara to the sucrose. I had done this cleanse before after all – with fantastic results! So maybe, just maybe, a cleaner diet would help my bereaving brain feel lighter and brighter as well as my belly? 

Turns out, not so much! After seven days of cleansing I can safely report the effects were close to disastrous - emotionally, mentally and physically, I felt like a huge pile of total crap.  The cleanse, which had previously encouraged clarity and increased energy, seemed in the wake of grief to do exactly the opposite. I felt physically unwell and emotionally unhinged.

Hole-Hearted at Whole Foods

On day five of said cleanse I stopped by Whole Foods for some green juice and instinctively wandered over to the bakery section for a vegan thumbprint cookie (if you haven’t had one you’re seriously missing out!).

Upon remembering my sad state of affairs, I stood in solemn silence trying to figure out how the heck I ended up here? In the middle of Whole Foods about to lose my damn mind. Over a baked good. How did I wind up on a restrictive regimen, freaking out over whether I, a grown-ass woman, can or cannot have an afternoon cookie!? My mother is dead. Gone. Never to return – the weight of which was only just beginning to leave its imprint; and yet, this, thumbprint cookie had become the bane of my existence and the focus of all my energy!?

In that moment I realized I had reached a low unparalleled. If I broke down and bought the cookie, the voice in my head would never let me hear the end of it (he’s a complete jerk). But, if I didn’t - how on Earth was I to get through the next hour, evening, day? I really wasn’t sure if I could. Soon enough the ridiculousness of it all sank in and my voice of reason came booming down like Morgan Freeman, “It’s. Just. A. Cookie”. A breath of relief escaped me and, looking once more at the sweet concoction, I walked away.

I decided that I would not let a cookie get the best of me that day, but I also decided that a cookie is allowed to be my saving grace during this trying time - a time of isolation and extreme sadness. Of feeling as though no one understands and knowing that nothing will  be quite the same. Yes, in the midst of all the pain if sugar is what helps get me through, then it should be my prerogative to allow it – without guilt or shame.

So...You May Want to Avoid a Cleanse if You're Dealing with Loss and Grief this New Year

I’m in no way advocating that falling off the rails and ignoring your health is a path well chosen. But, if you're in grief and, for a time, a daily dose of something sweet helps heal the heartache well, I’m all for it. I yearn for the afternoon treat that keeps my mood somewhat stable and assists me in getting through yet another day in the absence of my mom. Without that little hit of sugar, I've learned, life amidst loss is simply too bitter. xo R

NarrativesAnita Cheung