I recently did a 21-day sugar detox and although I expected it to be interesting, amazing and at times even harrowing, I never expected it to be the topic of a blog about spiritual activism.
The program I chose calls for three weeks with no sugars or simple carbohydrates of any kind, not even most fruits or juices, as well as no wheat, corn, potatoes, soy or dairy. I was inspired to start this adventure by a friend and her sister, who were engaged in the process in a very public way on Facebook. Their vivid chronicles, complete with photos of their various meals, resulted in a dozen or so of their connections also jumping on board around the same time as I did.
I figured that we’d go through some sort of withdrawal symptoms and maybe experience weird, unsettling cravings. After all, sugar is in so many foods, including savory sauces, salad dressings, even added to naturally sweet foods like dried fruits these days. I’d been reading articles about how most of us in the USA are hooked on sugar in ways we don’t really understand until we quit cold turkey, and learning about how the interplay between sugars and starches can wreak havoc in our bodies. But I expected to experience the sugar cleanse from a health and nutritional standpoint, noting a change in my energy level, skin and maybe even my waistline.
Instead I stand before you and posit the following: eating well is a spiritual act of Divine Communion, and when we choose well, what’s on our dinner plates brings us closer to God!
We’ve all heard the expression “you are what you eat” but my experiences during week three of the detox took my understanding to a whole new level—a spiritual level. I was steadily cleaning things out inside my body, as well as taking probiotics; ingesting billions of microorganisms associated with better digestion, intestinal flora and overall gut health. These are living beings that we humans play host to, hopefully live in symbiosis with, when all is in balance in our digestive tracts.
I was experiencing the early stages of a healthy ecosystem inside of me, and when I ate a raw Thai Coconut Soup at a west coast restaurant called Café Gratitude I’ll tell you this: all heaven broke loose inside my belly. Seriously, I could actually sense the interplay between the healthy gut flora and this healthy raw soup, not as ‘digestion’ but as an experience of love and friendship occurring inside me. There were these really tiny animals who, rather than just tolerating one another, were mixing it up down there in an act of camaraderie that I could actually sense. It felt kind of like when you are standing next to a group of strangers who are celebrating something exciting, and as if their happiness is contagious. Only this was occurring inside of me at a really teeny tiny party. I felt at once both connected to their joy, but even more shocking, I felt more connected to God. I felt like by eating ‘right’, by playing hostess to this wondrous, raucous Kirtan in my belly, I was engaging in an act that brought me closer to Divinity, in the way that I know prayer, meditation, yoga and other contemplative practices can. And literally, I cried tears of joy right into my soup.
In my quest to create and maintain peaceful cohabitation with God and with other animals and plants on the planet, I’m focusing ever more on ecosystem management programs for these critters in my innards. Check out this reading about a series of fascinating studies over the past few years that have definitively linked gut health to brain health! Although researchers have known about the connection between the brain and the gut since the 1920’s, recent studies have begun to see positive results in treating depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD and other behavioral and psychological conditions with probiotics and dietary changes.
I must confess I had an opposite experience about two weeks after the detox, as I experimented with adding foods back into my daily rotation. I ate a starchy, sugary item and within a few bites—as my stomach started to grumble—I felt a feeling of being further away from God, sensing that there was something unlike love going on in me as this food went down. The contrast of these two experiences was all I needed to know.
I’m a believer now, and I realize that the key to inner peace may be in my lunch box.