The Longest 26 Days of My Life

It started out innocently enough. I just asked my brother how life was in Hawaii. Simple. So simple.

Then he tells me he’s on the last few days of a detox. I’m intrigued. He tells me all of the health benefits. I’m more intrigued. He tells me where to find the resources, says he feels great, he recommends it. I talk to my down-for-anything husband, and we decide to start it the following week. We like healthy things! Why not?

You know when you think something is a good idea but then you completely underestimate the difficulty?

Yeah.

A 26 day detox is like that.

The first four days were a b s o l u t e l y terrible, but after that, it was bearable. Still bad, but at least I could (sometimes) think about something other than food. The third week was hard again, but the fourth week felt fine. Now that I’m half a week removed from the…character building experience, I wanted to record some of the lessons we learned throughout. Some of them are inherently spiritual. Others aren’t really. It was a long 26 days. 

We are Salt

I’m a savory person, hands-down. And salt was not allowed once for the entire detox (not even a little bit). Which felt unfair: at least people who prefer sweets could have fruit! And Kenyan fruit is the sweetest. And, for the record, lemon juice is not salt, even though it tries really hard sometimes. 

David and I would often remark how good something smelled when we were cooking it: garlic-lemon potatoes, vegetable soup. It was intoxicating. Surely it would taste good! How could it not??

But as soon as we took a bite, we realized our folly: it smelled great, even looked great. But it tasted like nothing. Without salt, it was disappointingly bland. 

This reminded me of something Jesus said about us as His followers: “You are the salt of the earth…” (Matthew 5:13)

Salt has a lot of attributes. It’s healing. It preserves. Too much in one place is hard on the tastebuds, but when it’s spread out just right, it brings out the flavors of everything else in the meal perfectly. 

With our experience, I realized something else: salt’s power is not in its visibility but in its effect. You don’t really smell salt when a meal is cooking (unless something is too salty), but you immediately know it’s missing after one bite. An entire well-seasoned, well-made meal can taste like a failure without the inclusion of salt. 

It reminds me that I’m not a Christian to just appear good, but to be an influence for good. The goal is not to draw attention to myself, but to bring a blessing wherever I go. The goal of salt is to make everything better; being a Christian is that way, too.

Brains need food to function

Before the detox, I had done intermittent fasting (where I fasted for 17-20 hours a day) consistently for a year and a half. I’ve fasted for multiple days for spiritual reasons.  I know how to deal with hunger. But I was unprepared for the kind of hunger that would consume me on this detox.

Lest you think this is anorexia thinly veiled as a detox, we barely moved to preserve energy and lot of the goals were to give different organs a rest, so less food was necessary. I get it. I understand. 

But maaaaan, five days with food but not enough is worse than IF and a few days without any food. At least to me. 

It took me over a month to finish a software engineering course that normally would’ve taken me 4 days max. I would sit down to write and couldn’t focus. I’d suddenly find myself scrolling on websites about vegan recipes. 

Nothing deep here. I just hadn’t realized how badly our brains — not just physical energy-exertion — need food. I almost feel like I’m a genius with how well my mind is working after the end of the hard days on the detox.

*Disclaimer: there were maybe 7-8 days total spread throughout the detox where we had to eat this way. Not the whole time. But man those days felt LONG. 

Photo by Max Delsid on Unsplash

You can change

David and I are pretty healthy people. I’ve been vegan (with a few meal exceptions) for a decade. My idea of a great meal is a huge salad. I love vegetables. Yet, I found myself struggling to stay awake after nearly every lunch — filled with food that made me crave a two hour nap. What in the world?

Surprise, surprise: veganism does not equate health. It’s a great start! And it can certainly lead to a lot of healthy decisions and habits, but it doesn’t necessarily. I knew I needed to change, but wasn’t sure how (and even less sure that I really wanted to).

Nothing like 26 days of radical change to make you wish you had just made the small changes on your own! But even now, on the other side, I’m eating so much healthier but thoroughly enjoying every bite of food

Diet is one of the most personal and thus controversial changes we can make about ourselves. You can look up an article that defends or vilifies every. single. food. in. existence. It’s a bit ridiculous. (e.g. Is coconut oil pure poison, or are there ten reasons why you should start eating it today?)

But the main thing I want to point out is that we sometimes feel trapped in who we are. Maybe you’ve eaten the same way for decades, wanting to feel better and take better care of yourself, but you “just are the way you are.” I don’t buy that. We can all change. Hey, if a 26 day detox helps you, then do it! It sure helped me. But you don’t have to make radical changes for a month in order to take care of yourself. Small consistent changes do a lot more than a radical month (especially if you just return to business as usual). 

Accountability works

There is no way that I would’ve completed this without my husband. Not only his encouragement, but his presence and accountability. The first night after we started the detox, he had a dream that he was in my mother’s kitchen (while we were still on the detox) and I caught him eating donuts. He said my look of disappointment and betrayal kept him on the strait and narrow. 

Although I didn’t have dreams like that, I knew I wanted to push through and encourage David by my staying the course as well. 

We all struggle with different things. Maybe your struggle is with something else entirely: gossiping, masturbation, lying, anything. I’ve learned the hard way that keeping it to yourself out of shame does not help in overcoming. One of the most powerful gifts that God has given us is community. This doesn’t mean that you have to share your struggle with the entire church; but prayerfully find someone to confide in, to confess your faults to and pray with, to grow with. This leads to healing (James 5:16).

It will end eventually

I remember the first meal we had on the first day; and I distinctly remember my feeling: 26 days…of this? I’m going to die. 26 days felt like an eternity. But here we are, on the other side of it and already starting to forget the details of the experience. 

One of the ways I deal with the throes of anxiety and depression is to remember that no matter how long this lasts, it won’t last forever. There are better moments coming. And that gives me courage.

The darkest experiences of my life — whether due to mental illness, the abuse of others, or my own decisions — have all ended. I’m on the other side now. Someone once said you have survived 100% of your bad days so far. You have!

And even when the experience lasts longer, I know the Glorious Other Side is coming in Christ’s return. I know that will end all suffering, struggle, and heartache. And what a glorious day that will be.