I was at a party, drinking rum-infused lemonade and eating a rice-cooker cake slathered in Nutella, when I agreed to do this detox with three other teachers.
I knew little details and had never done a detox in my life, but readily agreed to this month-long pact in June.
It was appealing in the way a bride freakishly prepares for her wedding day. WE HAVE OUR HOMECOMING IN TWO MONTHS. I wanted to reverse the aging effects that culture shock had on my thirtysomething body, literally overwhelm myself with nutrients, that would lead everyone to believe that Japan actually possessed certain magical youth powers. My willpower would be strengthened by healthy eating allies.
Also, living in Japan requires of total submission to any control you think you have. In a way, this was reclaiming our power.
So I thought.
The other teachers are actually doing a more extreme diet than myself. Lots of vegetables and protein. No fruit. No flour. No legumes. No sugar. (But they can have cheese and coffee, unlike me.) I wanted to be able to eat beans and lentils over here.
Eric, another teacher and our diet sensei suggested I detox before starting anything. (In retrospect: Why did I listen to him?) The first week would be eliminating all the things we know are bad for you.
NO WHEAT PRODUCTS
NO SUGARS (fruit, okay)
NO PROCESSED FOODS
Alcohol. The beer in Japan is NO Hill Farmstead Ale. I would have no trouble giving up alcohol for one month.
Wheat products, processed foods, and dairy. Not popular in Japan anyway.
Sugar. Okaaaay. This one I like.
Caffeine. Despite drinking more water and green tea, I always go back to coffee. The hardest.
Verdict: I thought it would be difficult but doable.
WEEK ONE: A WAKE UP CALL.
Culture shock + illiteracy + working with just under 900 high school students a week requires a certain feverish stamina. Little did I know that I was surviving my days in Japan on massive amounts of tea, coffee, chocolate, cookies, rice, and frozen pizzas and only a little bit of vegetables and lean protein.
My first five days of this detox were HELL. I had all sort of withdrawal symptoms. Sharp headaches that lasted days. Fatigue. Insomnia. Irritability. Overly-overly-dramatic mood swings. Often times, I felt like what I imagined a heroin addict going through in the first few days, even though I’ve never touched any hard drugs (unless you count CAFFEINE and SUGAR).
I’d think, Is this what Eric Clapton went through? (Who’s read Pattie Boyd’s biography Wonderful Tonight: George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me?!?!) See, I’m dramatic.
I felt rough. The workouts that I had finally built up the stamina to do almost-daily ceased to exist. I would slowly bike home from work and collapse onto my futon.
Cheese, some cocoa powder, a little peanut butter, a small amount of maple syrup, and a bit of flour in the form of okonomiyaki batter made its way into my “detox” diet but I stayed off caffeine.
Here’s the nitty-gritty.
PRE-DETOX: The Last Supper
Friday evening: We agree to meet up for beer, burgers, fries and onion rings at SXSW in Toyama City for our “Last Supper” as we were calling it.
Followed up by walking around (and eating more) at a festival down the street.
Nomnomnomnom. I got back to Takaoka stuffed and ready to conquer detox day 1.
DAY 1: Of course, there’s a party tonight!
Saturday, June 1
Morning: My alarm goes off at 5:15 a.m. I drink some herbal tea and eat one hardboiled egg. I didn’t make them very well, so the yolk is kind of gooey. Blech. Catch the train to Kosugi for an early morning kettleball workout with some other teachers.
I keep asking if this is Crossfit, and they keep saying no, but it feels like it. I won’t get into the details because whenever I read a Crossfit workout as a non-Crossfiter, my eyes glaze over. We did stations. Lots of squats. Lots of kettlebell swings. Something called Farmer’s Walks. Push-ups. Pull-ups. Some sprints, except I only sprinted about 10 feet before my quadriceps seized up. I sit and stretch while the others sprint.
Afterwards, I eat the whites from two more eggs since the yolks are not cooked all the way though. Drink more water. I go to over to Eric’s because he has the best blender in the prefecture and make enough smoothies for the next five days. The smoothies are random: strawberries, bananas, grapefruit, golden kiwi fruit, hemp protein powder, coconut oil, dates, ice, and water.
Afternoon: Salmon, salad, and lentils for lunch. I made My New Roots Best Lentil Salad vinaigrette. It’s good. I can hang with this salad.
Evening: Melissa and Diem text me from The Art Thing that they didn’t bring enough food. They need me to bring some snacks. I eat some baked chicken, cucumber, and green beans at home, then bike to the cafe with with broccoli, egg whites, and salad.
At The Art Thing. SO MANY TEMPTATIONS. Pizza. Fries. Fried chicken. Beer. I drink water and eat some green beans. By this time, 12 plus hours without caffeine, I have developed a dull throbbing headache. People keep asking why we aren’t eating and drinking. Melissa and I feel like LAME-O’s explaining to everyone about our month-long healthy eating pact.
DAY 2: Of course, there is a birthday party this afternoon!
Sunday, June 2
Morning: Drink my smoothie (ahhh, it’s thin but refreshing) and meet Melissa and Chelsea in the park for yoga. The headache persists. I want coffee.
Afternoon: Make lentils, eggs, and roasted broccoli for lunch. An hour later, I am still hungry, so before heading to Alex’s birthday party at the beach I have a piece of chicken. I arrive to see two swiss roll cakes, crackers, potato chips, and beverages covering an entire picnic table. I stare at the cake while I eat green beans and almonds. I don’t think I have EVER not eaten a piece of anyone’s birthday cake.
Evening: The group is going out to eat at a non-healthy friendly restaurant, so Melissa and I split off and decide that going out for okonomiyaki “should” be okay. It has a little flour, but otherwise full of vegetable and meat….
It is so f-cking good that we order a second one.
Later that night, I drink more herbal caffeine, but my headache lingers on.
DAY3: Of course, there is omiyage on my desk!
Monday, June 3
Morning: Another smoothie and more herbal tea. I still want coffee. It feels like no amount of herbal tea will do the trick. It never becomes coffee-ier.
I bike to work and see omiyage on my desk. It’s some weird cosmic Monday morning detox test. A teacher left me a yummy looking piece of bakery bread. Droooool, and yet I can’t eat it. This is when I realize that if I did not have other people with me in this “game” I would eat that piece of bread. With coffee. Right now. Detox. Over. (Instead, I stash it in my bag and freeze it later that day to eat on my FREE DAY this Saturday.)
Late morning: Snack on more herbal tea and almonds.
Afternoon: Salmon, lentils, and salad. The dressing doesn’t taste as good as before. I need a new vinaigrette.
Evening: Dee hosts a healthy dinner. It’s DIVINE, full of a bunch of healthy dishes that I have no idea how to make but find delicious. Kimchi tofu soup. Chinese beef and broccoli. Hardboiled eggs with a tamarind dipping spice. Some kind of flavorful sauteed chicken.
Headache still lingers…
DAY 4: I’m tired.
Tuesday, June 4
Morning: Smoothie and tea. I still want coffee. Busy morning teaching…no time for a snack. I take a bathroom break and go out of my way to stare at the coffee vending machine.
Afternoon: I’m hungry. I still have a slight headache. Luckily, lunch is a good one. Lentils, 101 cookbook’s orange chicken (sans maple syrup), asparagus, and green beans.
Late afternoon: Another piece of chicken and seltzer water.
I put on yoga clothes, sit down and fall asleep for an hour and a half.
Evening: I wake up hungry from my nap. Try to make an almond flour okonomiyaki. Epic fail. I flush it down the toilet. Eat another piece of chicken, a cucumber, and peanut butter. I find some parmesan cheese in the back of my refrigerator, and even though there is no dairy on this detox, I think that parmesan is a hard cheese, therefore better for you than soft cheeses? Right? Easier to digest even for lactose intolerant folks? Eat half of the block while browsing blogs for new recipes to make on this diet instead of the bland food I’ve been eating.
Then make myself workout. I do some weights for chest and arms from a 1993 workout video. Is that officially a “classic” in workout video lingo?
Late evening: Make a protein shake with a banana, water, protein powder, peanut butter, and some cinnamon.
DAY 5: I’m even more tired.
Wednesday, June 5
Morning: Smoothie and tea. Boring.
Late morning: Chicken and lentils. Boring.
Afternoon: Real okonomiyaki, made with a little bit of real flour and lots of cabbage. NOT BORING.
Evening: Sausage and broccoli. I have intense chocolate cravings, so I take to looking at old pictures of my baked goods. Especially the decadent chocolate cake I baked last year with Jen for the Downton Abbey Season Two finale. To Instagram or to not Instagram? It’s not even a real question because who cares about this cake I made over a year ago?
It gets Instagrammed.
Afterwards, I get sleepy again and fall asleep from 6:30 p.m. – 9: 45 p.m. What the whaaaaat? I never need naps.
Late evening: I wake up, do some yoga (Body by Bethenny), clean, pack my lunch, shower, and make a protein mug brownie to curb my chocolate cravings. Pre-detox I would think it tastes horrible, but now, I sit in the dark and creepily whisper to myself, This is amazing.
DAY 6: I’m grumpy.
Thursday, June 6
Morning: Out of smoothies (NOOOOO!) and my blender can’t even properly puree a ripe banana, so I make eggs and throw in leftover vegetables and sausage.
Afternoon: Sports Day school bento. I forgot I had signed up for one. I’m giddy with delight. RICE! MYSTERIOUS FRIED THINGS!
Evening: Salmon, broccoli, and more leftover okonomiyaki. I do some more of the 1993 workout video, but felt sort of blah and grumpy. Afterwards, I make another protein mug brownie. It’s even more amazing than yesterday because I add a scoop of peanut butter on top. I am feeling a little guilty that most of what I ate today is probably not detox appropriate….
Are you eating lentils? No.
Are you eating nuts? No.
Are you eating dairy? No.
Do you have any headaches? Not really.
DAY 7: The longest week ever. Thank God It’s Friday.
Friday, June 7
Morning: Omelet with two whole eggs and two egg whites.
Afternoon: Salmon, broccoli, and cabbage. Bland. So bland. I need to find some new recipes.
Late afternoon: I had four classes and a quick lunch. I’m hungry and thirsty and tired. Make a banana-peanut butter-protein powder shake. Contemplate going for a run, but after being riddled with headaches and fatigue for most of the week, I decide to just relax and download the most recent issue of Us Weekly on my iPad.
Evening: Chicken cooked with some fresh orange juice, soy sauce, mirin, ginger, and garlic with green beans. I think I have eaten four pounds of green beans this week…
COMING NEXT: Tomorrow we can have a free day. I’ve been plotting my free day food for days now. It involves zero chicken or green beans and a doughnut, cake, and naan. Then, next week I cut out fruit. EEEEEEK. Ganbarimasu, ne.
Inspiration!! Eric Clapton, clean and happy, playing Layla. The song was supposedly originally written to profess his love for Pattie Boyd in 1970. When Boyd rebuffed his advances later that year, Clapton fell into heroin addiction and self-imposed exile for the next three years.