I’m not sure The Guy In The White Coat or his colleague, the nutritionist, knew this when they handed down my four-week sentence — AKA the elimination diet — back in June, but it turned out that it was not about food at all. It was simply a mindfulness exercise.
Grinding through a month without alcohol, caffeine, sugar, wheat, and dairy was a lot easier than I thought it would be, once I figured out that I didn’t have to avoid any of these things. That might sound like some Zen riddle, but it proved to be true. I just needed to consciously decide any time I felt the urge to eat them. So the test, if there was one, was more about attachment to certain rituals than about cravings for certain foods.
Ritual Versus Craving
I used to brew a cup of chai every morning, season it with a dollop of honey and a dash of cream, and savor it while reading emails (at work) or the morning paper (at home on the weekend). This was, I discovered, all about ingesting a warm beverage as a way to ease into the day — no caffeine required — so it didn’t really matter what I was drinking. Herbal tea served the same purpose. No problem.
My Lovely Wife and I pedal over to a coffee shop most Saturday afternoons to get a little work done while observing the social customs of people more culturally relevant then we are. I used to enjoy sipping a frothy latté on these occasions — my one interaction with the popular bean each week. But I was never tempted to rekindle that relationship, because, to be perfectly honest, a frothy cold glass of beer always seemed to be the more satisfying option.
Yes, that would be alcohol. What’s most interesting to me about these past four weeks has been the seemingly counterintuitive fact that I’ve been more liberal in my alcohol consumption than any of the other verboten items on my list, while at the same time practicing more mindfulness and intention around this any of the other taboos. The new regime has been simple and surprisingly comfortable: We just don’t drink at home. No beer on the patio after work, no wine with dinner or while lounging on the porch before bed.
This has been the single most significant product of this four-week experiment. (And, most likely the reason why both MLW and I have shed some poundage.) We’ve enjoyed a glass of wine or two when we dined out during the past month, but we’ve completely shaken up the routine on the home front.
It’s completely unlikely that we would’ve made this shift to a more mindful approach to food and drink without the proscribed restrictions handed down by TGITWC, so I have to give him that much credit. But, what transpires from here on out will have less to do with nutrition or health concerns than with my ability to honor intention more than ritual.