This time last year I was standing in the cold misty rain, surrounded by a thousand green revellers, drinking a pint of Guinness. I had just arrived in Ireland and was ringing in St. Patrick’s Day in the heart of Dublin. The chaos, the crowds, the drinks, the newness of it all. It was exactly what I had been craving and what I thought I wanted. So why was I feeling so sad?
As I came to realize during my time in Ireland, my mental state was abysmal for a variety of reasons. I was heartbroken and unhappy, my job was isolating and sedentary, my social activities consisted of binge drinking and carb loading, the climate seemed too cold and wet to run, and eventually I simply gave up. I slowly got less and less healthy and gained more and more weight. After six months of partying, unhealthy behaviour, questionable relationships and non-stop travelling I realized that none of it was making me happy. Admittedly I felt less sad than before and I was often distracted from the terrible, overwhelming ache in my heart, but my lifestyle was not healthy – physically or emotionally.
I left Ireland to go backpacking and spent a month in Southern France volunteering with two rural homestays. While living, working and eating off of the land, everything became clear. I felt healthier and happier than I had in a long time. I realized that watching tv, drinking to excess and eating crap doesn’t make me feel me best – shockingly! I came away from the experience knowing I wanted my future to be filled with hiking in the mountains, eating from the garden, running along country lanes and breathing deeply.
Just as importantly I realized that after six months working abroad and 4 months of solo travel, I had changed and grown in so many ways, but I hadn’t mended my heart. Perhaps it was because I never try to heal, I only tried to move on. While I am incredibly grateful that travel gave me a clean break and a million engrossing moments, I know now that I need focus on myself and that I am finally ready to do just that.
Now, a year later, I am back home and my pint glass is filled with a very different kind of drink – a fresh, living, vegetable juice. After watching a series of documentaries (Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead; Food Matters; Hungry For Change, Forks Over Knives) and a reading number of books (including WheatBelly, Your Personal Paleo Code), I decided I wanted to completely eliminate gluten, dairy and processed foods from my diet. Such a drastic change required a major mind shift so I decided to embark on a somewhat controversial 10 day juice detox. The goal was to increase my nutrients while decreasing my anti-nutrients and giving my brain time to adjust. After the 10 days, I would return to eating by choosing whole fruits, vegetables, meats & seafoods and nuts & seeds.
After finding a program and buying a juicer, I somehow convinced my sister and her boyfriend to join me. The shopping list for three people juicing for ten days with six juices each per day was INSANE. Like 60 oranges, 108 green apples, 24 bunches of kale insane. Three trips to the grocery store with a minimum of two filled carts per trip and about $750 total spent (which amounts to about $25/person/day) we committed ourselves. It was a fair amount of work making the equivalent of 18 juices a day but we managed to do it as a team.
Did it make me feel happy? Did I find the inspiration I was searching for? Did I even survive? Well, I was definitely less hungry than I feared and I didn’t experience any of the rumoured side effects such as stomach upset, exhaustion, or extreme cravings. I did feel overall less tired, less bloated, and like my skin was beginning to heal. I did lose some weight and importantly I do feel that I was able to conquer my cravings for grain and dairy. My ultimate goal was to regain some control over my wellbeing and I’m happy to say after 10 days of juicing I feel much more empowered. I know I can prioritize myself and my health. I know I can make a commitment to myself and stick with it. And I know that it does get better and I have the power to make it happen. I finally feel ready to take my life back and to take control of my own happiness. It is still going to be a long, slow road but I feel like I’ve taken the first step.
Today I say yes to health, happiness and healing. To experimentation, drastic change and big, scary goals. And yes to myself, just me.
Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. – Martin Luther King Jr.