This morning I read Jenn's post over at the Green Phone Booth about "The Junk Food Dilemma." I guess it touched a nerve, because I started writing a comment to her and then kept writing, and writing, and writing, and writing. In fact, when I finally went to post the comment, I found out that I'd exceeded the comment limit. I'd never realized there was a comment limit in all my time blogging. And I've written some seriously long comments.
But, ya know, that's what I have my own blog for. So, read her post, and then read my response. If you want.
Sometimes I have serious concerns about the enviro/foodie movement. The vibe often seems to be that you can eat whatever you want as long as it's not processed junk food and it's local, organic, etc.
Couple reality checks here:
1) The problems with animal products aren't just with the meat. Raising animals is an energy-intense process, and that goes for both dairy cows and cows for slaughter. Most enviros, even non-vegetarians argue that we need to cut down on meat consumption. We eat too much meat, no question, but I would argue that we probably also eat too much animal product period. I'm not a vegan, hell, I'm not even a vegetarian, but I think it's important for us to recognize this point.
2) Even organic whole wheat chocolate chip cookies are bad for you. Yes, you can eat some in moderation. But, honestly, moderation does not mean you can eat three cookies a day. Or even two cookies a day.
I changed my diet because I felt I had to. I got the results of a cholesterol test back and they were alarmingly high. So I began to add a ton of fiber to my diet (I already ate a good amount of fiber, but now I eat double the daily requirement.) I only eat non-fat dairy. I also eat about three or four servings of fruit a day and try to eat three servings of vegetables a day. I eat a lot of hummus and guacamole. I eat a lot of lentils and beans. I rarely eat red meat (aside from bison which is super high in omega-3). I eat a lot of fish, and a little poultry. I probably average three vegetarian days per week, and then two days with fish.
I cut out cheese entirely. And butter. Occasionally I will eat a bite of cheese at a restaurant but it's rare. (When we go out to pizza, I ask for an individual pizza with no cheese.) Likewise, I'm sure there are times at a restaurant where I accidentally end up with something with butter, but it's not something I use to cook with at home. I eat chocolate sparingly: sometimes in dark chocolate form, and sometimes in the form of low-fat frozen yogurt. But it's not a daily treat by any means.
I do miss cheese and butter and ice cream and all the rest. Sometimes I long for some mac and cheese. BUT, by eliminating things, I think it actually makes it easier than if you try to figure out "moderation." Moderation is hard, because it's so easy to slip back into old ways. There's a reason alcoholics are told that they can never drink again.
And most of the time, I'm happy. I love fruit. I love hummus and avocado. I have found a ton of super tasty, healthy veg dishes. And yes, I allow myself the occasional slip up. I also allow myself (though I know I should not) a couple vices: since my problem is cholesterol which has to do with fat, I let myself have soda and juice which you know, are really just sugar. I also let myself have sugary candies occasionally like sour patch kids. I know, I know, I shouldn't do that, but sometimes I'm just dying for something bad! And, for me, (not a diabetic) this is not THAT bad.
In the process of this new diet, I've lost about ten pounds. I feel super energetic (although that's probably also due to my exercise regime).
And frankly, now that my body is acclimated to healthy non-fatty stuff, a little fat goes a long long way. The other day, a friend offered me a mini banana-nut muffin he had baked. It was all warm from the oven and looked delicious, so I couldn't resist. I had half of a mini-muffin and felt really satiated.
I've also noticed that I've become very sensitive to butter and cheese and stuff. A little bit starts to feel like a LOT to me. So I enjoy it, but only in very limited quantities.
Anyway, that's my very long-winded response to your post. My advice to you: don't do a cleanse. Instead, do exactly what Chile suggested. Choose only healthy foods for a month. Eat no unhealthy foods. Then gradually add the unhealthy stuff back in. HOWEVER, whenever you sit at the dinner table, take stock of your plate. It should be one half veggies. The other half can be composed of carbs/protein/meat/dairy. But fully one half of it should be veggies. This is a tip a nutritionist gave me, and I think it's pretty brilliant. That means the occasional Alfredo pasta is fine, but make sure you are also eating a ton of broccoli, etc, that day as well.
Hope this helps!