Montreal used to be proud of its decadent reputation. We would smoke almost anywhere, down enough cocktails to send us swirling into a drunken stupor, eat late night poutines to our hearts' content and then do it all over again the very next night. But somewhere along the way, things changed. In the last few years, Montrealers have started getting healthy. At first I thought it was just a phase-that we would get over it. But we didn't.
Everyone knows about the new non-smoking law being enforced in all bars and restaurants; that in itself has been a factor in changing people's unhealthy habits. Instead of polluting indoor public spaces, the tried and true smokers now stand huddled together on the sidewalk and enjoy an invigorating breath of fresh air while they suck on their cigarettes. But many Montrealers have gone above and beyond the call of duty and are taking their health very seriously. They're buying organic fruits and vegetables, participating in hot yoga classes and consulting herbalists and naturopaths before visiting their family doctors. It feels like we're all grown up now and desperately trying to repair the damage caused by years of bad eating, drinking and smoking habits.
Lately, it seems that every person I speak to is detoxing or has just finished a detox. A detox, or herbal cleanse, is supposed to get rid of all the toxins and impurities that linger in our bodies from all the processed foods and chemicals we ingest. Herbal cleanses are strictly regimented programs that involve swallowing a cocktail of herbal capsules, drinking massive amounts of water and eating minimally (or sometimes not at all). A cleanse can take from three to ninety days, depending on the type and intensity of cleansing you're after. The health benefits include weight loss, increased energy levels, higher immunity, rejuvenated skin and the relief of allergy symptoms.
Now, detoxing takes a certain amount of commitment and willpower. Last summer, I decided to do the ReCleanse Seven-Day Detox-it seemed like a good idea at the time-and I did very well drinking my water, taking my herbs, and steering clear of certain foods and all alcoholic beverages. But after the first few days, I realized that I had inadvertently timed my detox to coincide with the annual St. Laurent street sale; I quickly discovered that my desire to eat spicy Hungarian sausages and drink oyster shooters was greater than my desire to lead a healthy lifestyle.
So I'd failed once, but this year I was inspired to try again. A few friends of mine did an intense and very trendy ten-day detox called the Master Cleanse. This cleanse was formulatedsixty years ago by nutrition guru Stanley Burroughs. According to an article in the Detroit News, "The Master Cleanse is among the most extreme [of detoxes]. For one to two weeks, dieters are allowed tea at night and a salt flush in the morning, and throughout the day they drink only a watery concoction they call lemonade-it's water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. They swear it tastes great. They'll typically drink about sixty ounces a day, and that's all they get."
On finishing the Master Cleanse, my friends proclaimed that they felt fantastic, had lost weight and were bursting with energy, so another friend, Rosella, proposed that she and I should try a cleanse of our own. A friend of a friend of a friend declared that she had discovered the Cadillac of detoxes-the Isagenix program. This nine-day program promised to help us shed pounds and inches, and leave us feeling great.
One week and about $200 later, we got started.
The first two days were basically a fast. We drank a special nutrient rich "delicious juice" four times a day, and on top of that, four litres of water. We ate nothing but these little round chocolate flavoured "snacks" at specific times of the day, followed by the optional two (yes, two) almonds.
On the afternoon of the second day, I received a text message from Rosella. It read: "Well I'm stuffed. I can barely finish my second almond."
After we got over the hunger and caffeine withdrawal, the rest of the detox was actually pretty painless. On days three to seven, we were able to eat one meal a day and our "delicious juice" was replaced with a "delicious shake." I actually did feel energetic and slimmer, and surprisingly not hungry, even though I was consuming much less food than usual. More importantly, with each passing day I felt confident that if I could see this through to the end, I could accomplish anything.
By days eight and nine, we were back on liquids. All I did was fantasize about that first cup of coffee I would have when it was all over. I counted the hours and minutes. I went to bed obscenely early each night so I could have a few less hours to think about all the different dishes that I longed to indulge in.
By the time that magical day arrived, I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. I shot out of bed at 6:00 a.m. and ran to the kitchen, where I proceeded to lovingly brew the best cup of coffee and the most delicious scrambled eggs and toast I would ever taste. I savoured every precious morsel. It was then that I came to the realization that I love food. The best part of the cleanse was the fact that it was over.
That was on Friday morning. By Friday night, I was out for dinner and a couple of glasses of wine. By Saturday afternoon, I was struggling to resist temptation at a two-day wedding extravaganza. A delicious three-course meal whispered sweet nothings into my ear, free-flowing vodka sodas lovingly called out my name; but what finally did me in were the wedding cupcakes-they were so small, cute and innocent looking-it didn't count if I had just one or two, right? All this to say that by Sunday morning, I had thoroughly retoxed in a whirlwind of food and alcohol. It felt good to be so bad. But now, I'm left feeling guilty about falling back so easily into my old ways.
Guilt aside, I had a fantastic time at the wedding. This lead to my second post-detox realization-while a healthy lifestyle is good for the body, a little dose of decadence now and then can be good for the soul.