Eating a Hair Shirt

Is anybody ‘doing a cleanse’ this Christmas season? No? Thought not. That hair shirt is for January.

Cleanses are for people who believe their body stores toxins from food. I’m not that person. I subscribe to the liver and kidney theory – that they will clear toxic stuff away. That’s their purpose. Ask anyone who doesn’t have a good one of either.

True, we are asking these organs to perform stellar duty these days. We give them too much processed food, too much alcohol, too much sugar. Especially at Christmastime.

But a cleanse is no way to clean up December’s excesses. How about just ceasing being excessive? It’s too hard to sustain a life of everything all the time, anyway. Besides, not being excessive is what most of us do in January.

Here’s what the Mayo Clinic says about cleanses. The Guardian newspaper has been writing about debunking the cleansing myth for several years. Maybe you’ll read these, maybe you won’t. It seems that those that believe in a good cleanse just believe. They believe in the same way that anti-vaccers believe their thing. Science is never going to win over emotion.

One of the motivations for cleansing is guilt. We have so much food in our culture and other cultures have none. We go ahead and eat too much of the wrong things (the devil’s food – sugar, fat, salt) and ignore the good (halo food – quinoa and kale). We abuse our bodies so we have to purify them. But with a cleanse?

He Believes

A Catholic friend I know does a cleanse whenever he feels those awful toxins have taken over. And he plans to do one when the excesses of eating his way through Christmas is over. In other words, he will approach it just like confession – do what he pleases and accept that there will be a penance, which (and this is important) will be later.

Cleanses are a way of rectifying the bad, a ‘look at me, I was bad and now I’m good’. Cleanses are the hair shirt of eating.

Nobody, but a scant few like Gwyneth, really enjoys a diet of only halo food (a cleanse is only halo food). Everyone knows it is critical that we eat halo food, after all it’s good for us. But do people know it’s also critical that we eat a little of the devil’s food?

My Grandmother Wasn’t Wrong

The problem, as my grandmother, who was born in 189something and so long gone, would have said (without evoking a religious theme), is that we are outright feasting on the devil’s food and too much ignoring the halo food. We can’t do that.

My grandmother couldn’t afford much bad (which maybe was her saviour) so bad food was treated as a treat. Remember the concept of treats? Bad was never out the scene, just put in it’s place. This is called moderation and seems to be a memory, like treats.

The Side Show

My friend’s particular cleanse means that for ten days he doesn’t drink alcohol and eats a lot of vegetables. He spends $80.00 to be instructed in getting a toxic-free body. I don’t ask what he gets for his $80.00 and I don’t ask what all the vegetables do because I already know (as do you). I suspect eating the vegetables is the cleanse, which we could do on our own and save dollars.

But ante up and you can participate in a boxed cleanse. Just spend $80.00 (or more). Never mind that cleansing is never done in places where staving off malnutrition and staying alive is the focus. A cleanse company couldn’t make any money there, but they can and do flourish in western culture. The US detox industry is worth billions and billions of dollars (something like 60) and growing. With three times a day, every single day, there is an opportunity to make people feel inadequate and guilty and therefore cleanse away their shame (and toxins).

Purity or Pleasure?

I get the quest for purity and that guilt is an operational imperative for many. But really? Cleansing?

Be thankful we have so much joy, indulge in it for a short time, but forget the hair shirt.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.