For about seven years I ran my own marketing business. While I loved my work, I ultimately chose to let it go when I had my third child, hoping for more time to focus on my family and home.
It wasn’t long before I was recruited into leadership and committee work at our church and preschool. I was putting in more hours than ever before, and I didn’t know how to slow down.
Between the parent associations and after-school activities, I had trouble keeping up with laundry and getting food on the table. My husband helped when he could, but his full-time job left him strapped for time. So when the school year began in 2014, I took a step back from my obligations.
In November, we went on an all-inclusive family cruise, and it felt like the perfect time to indulge, so I did. Once we returned home, the holidays were upon us, filled with happy hours and tempting treats.
I kept meaning to start eating clean, but something would come up — a special event, or a weekend vacation. I’ll start next week became an oft-repeated phrase in my mind.
I knew I needed to improve my lifestyle; I just didn’t know how to start. I had free time now that I wasn’t volunteering, but I struggled to find something meaningful to do with it. Instead, I spent that winter sitting at home, putting on weight. By springtime, I was more unhappy with my body than I had ever been.
Thankfully, I’d maintained one healthy habit: I had been going to yoga class, which is where I learned about a detox program that would change my perspective on health.
Committing to Change
In April I signed up for a 21-day detox program at Life Time that included a weekly yoga class for program participants only. The night before we began, my LifePower Yoga instructor, Sloane Park, sent an email telling us that we would start with a 24-hour fast.
I had never fasted a day in my life. What have I gotten into? I thought. Is this really going to work for me? In that moment, I wondered whether I’d be able to change. I’d given up before. What if I was in for more of the same?
This time, though, I had accountability. My husband always supported my efforts, but Sloane was my yoga teacher; she’d know if I didn’t go to class. And she’d sent the email to our whole group. I wouldn’t be able to look them in the eye if I wasn’t following the program.
I decided I’d never succeed if I didn’t try. That was the moment I committed to change.
Incredibly, once I dedicated myself to clean eating, it wasn’t hard. I woke up excited on fasting day, eager to jump-start my new regimen. Though I felt a bit hungry, I took the day one moment at a time. After our fast, we ate only vegetables and fruits. We could cook them, or dress them with certain oils and seasonings, or make juice. Sloane even gave us a book of recipes.
Later, after day 12, we incorporated some protein sources, like beans and tofu. Thanks to the recipe book, I tried many foods that I wouldn’t have eaten before, and the variety helped me feel satisfied.
Every Saturday, we met for our restorative yoga class. Sloane would encourage us and ask about our progress. The supportive community made it much easier to stay on track.
Discovering Healthier Habits
The program required meditation and activity, so each day I had quiet time and movement. I went to a heated yoga class three days a week, and I played catch and Frisbee with my kids. My body felt lighter, my energy was high, and my attitude had shifted. I felt more powerful, more purposeful.
I was taking that power and purpose to my mat by trying new, complex poses. With Sloane’s encouragement, I touched my knee to my forehead in downward dog. I was amazed to realize that I could go into tree pose in a handstand. Before, I wouldn’t have believed I could do it, so I wouldn’t have risked trying.
I was also eating more mindfully, and I was satisfied with smaller portions. When I wanted something to snack on — if I was bored or watching TV — I would think, Do I really need to eat now? I realized I used to snack out of habit, but now I was checking in with my body to decide what I really needed.
Peace Under Pressure
My new conscious-eating mindset led to clarity in other areas of my life, too. I found myself feeling calm and confident in circumstances that would ordinarily have caused me anxiety.
During my cleanse, my mother was hospitalized for an infection that she’d contracted while undergoing chemotherapy. While my father spent time at her bedside, I stepped in to care for my sister, who is disabled.
Typically, this stress would have left me reaching for my comfort foods: Diet Coke, wine, and chips. I would have hit the frozen-food aisle, seeking convenience, too overwhelmed to plan healthy meals.
During that challenging time, I knew those things wouldn’t make me feel better. Physically, I already felt great, and I didn’t want to derail my progress. I was concerned about my mom, but I wasn’t stressed because I was taking it to my mat. I felt at peace, knowing I was caring for myself so I could be there for the people I loved.
I lost 8 pounds during the cleanse, and have since lost 7 more. More importantly, I’ve found my optimal health by eating — and living — more mindfully. I’ve kicked my Diet Coke habit for good. Now I know what it feels like to be at my best, and that motivates me to make healthy choices.
Yoga and meditation made an incredible difference. In those quiet times, I was able to bring my priorities and desires into focus, and some really important things emerged for me.
I have always been a writer, but it was during this year on my mat that I realized my desire to reach a wider audience. I’m working on a science-fiction novel and a family travel blog. I submitted the story of my 21-day cleanse for a contest with Life Time, and I was featured on their website. I never would have entered before.
But just as I did when I started the detox program, I thought, You can’t succeed if you don’t try. This experience has helped me take more risks, put myself out there, and move closer to who I want to be and what I want to do.