I am one week into a three-week detox. That’s 21 days of no caffeine, no alcohol, no dairy, no eggs, no sugar, no wheat. And a few other random no-no’s, like tomatoes, citrus, and soy sauce.
No, I have not gone insane and no, I am not hungry all the time, to answer 99% of the questions you will immediately be asking about this process. I got inspired to do the cleanse after months of feeling tired, stressed out, heavy, and headache-y. Would surviving on a liquid meal for breakfast and dinner and a small, wheat, dairy, and sugar-free lunch do the trick? That was the experiment.
I have to say so far it has been fantastic. I miss coming home to a yummy dinner (cold carrot ginger soup, anyone?), but I have twice the energy, none of the headaches, and am almost completely relaxed even though work continues to be hectic, stressful, and speed-of-light fast.
So it may not be crazy to do a detox, but what about doing one in a country without salad bars, health food, or the concept of eating dinner before 9pm? A breakdown:
HURDLE: My detox book (“Clean” by Alejandro Junger) includes 21 recipes at the end for all the smoothies, cold soups, and healthy lunches you will need to make on the cleanse. The recipes are full of ingredients like quinoa, buckwheat noodles, sprouted chia seeds, and blueberries. Yeah, right.
ADVANTAGE: The recipes are also full of ingredients like mango, coconut water, and nut milk. Instead of spending lots of cash on packaged, stale versions of the last two, I turn the bounty and resources of Pakistan to good, detoxing use. That is why my dining room table is filled with a mound of actual coconuts and bags of almonds, from which my housekeeper painstakingly extracts pure coconut water and sweet nut milk every evening in time for the morning shake. I cannot picture this scenario in the United States, for lots of reasons.
HURDLE: Social activity in Pakistan, as it does around most of the world, centers around eating. (Expat social activity for the most part centers around drinking, which is why I had a lot of quality time with my puppies this weekend). Showing up at a luncheon buffet at a work function in Peshawar with all the business leaders of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and refusing the food is a no-no. Filling your plate with banned items, picking at it convincingly, and then stashing it somewhere uneaten is not the way I’d ideally like to spend this moment. But there you go.
ADVANTAGE: I am already a foreigner in unfamiliar territory, so is it really going to shock people when I exhibit weird behavior? When I whip out my green smoothie on the way to work every morning or scour the city looking for liver support pills, I don’t have to worry about my driver thinking I am strange. I already have dogs in a Muslim country, take photos of goats on the street, and furtively slurp noodles in the back seat during Ramadan. That ship sailed long ago.
HURDLE: Sticking to a plan is all about setting your life up so it’s easy to follow. There is very, very little room for improvisation here, as I cannot breeze into Whole Foods and pick up a detox-approved lunch, or head to a smoothie bar so they can whip up my breakfast. Everything has to be planned out meticulously in advance so that each meal is actually possible.
ADVANTAGE: Did I mention I have a housekeeper, cook, driver, and a staff manager? Having this kind of staff to oversee and wrangle is actually much less appealing than it seems, and that’s the subject of another post altogether. But, it must be said that, even with the hiccups, putting out a list of groceries alongside a recipe in the morning and coming home from work to find it made and stacked in little containers in your fridge is heaven. And a godsend when you’re not really allowed to eat anything else. I don’t have to rely on Whole Foods and smoothie bars: I have Adeel, Adil, Nisar, and Sajjid.
HURDLE: I’m living in a stressful environment. I work super long hours, the job is often exhausting, I travel with a bodyguard for security reasons, and I’m very far away from family and lots of my friends. This makes it seem like doing a detox and giving up all those comfort foods is just too difficult.
ADVANTAGE: The opposite is true. Unless you have your health on your side here, you just won’t make it very long. This gives you the urgency and the resolve to stick with a plan: the intense environment requires intense focus on strengthening your body and mind so you can handle it and flourish anyway. Oh, and a couple more things that make it easy, recommended strongly by the detox book: deep tissue massages for $30, private in-home yoga lessons for $15, and a great sauna at the Serena Hotel if you can sneak in to their gym. No excuses.