My mom and I just started a detox. That’s a fancy way of saying we spent $400 at Whole Foods yesterday.
If you’ve never done a detox before, the concept is that you eat from a highly restricted list of foods that are generally deemed “good for you” to give your body a chance to recover from all the crap you usually put into it. Some people do liquid detoxes, which means they don’t eat ANY food for several days. There is a specific term for this type of detox: torture.
This is my first time doing a detox. My mom has done them before, so she’s the expert going into it. In the 80s she did a detox that involved eating nothing but pineapple for a week straight. I like pineapple, but not enough to be in an exclusive relationship with it. This is also the case with 95% of the men I date.
The particular detox we’re following is a 10-day program concocted by Dr. Mark Hyman, a well-known doctor who coined the term “pegan”, a play on the words “paleo” and “vegan”. Dr. Hyman has written a series of books on nutrition, advocating for a whole foods-based diet that benefits both your health and the planet.
I decided to buy one of Dr. Hyman’s books, Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?, after finding him on Instagram. The book is a journey through the modern diet, with chapters that break down each food group and explain, well, what the heck you should eat.
I have Celiac disease and a host of other food sensitivities, so I’m generally pretty conscious about what I eat. Or so I thought. For 400 pages, I listened intently as Mark Hyman lectured me on exactly how horrible my “healthy” diet really is. By the last page, I knew it was just a matter of time until I met an early demise brought on by diabetes or cancer. Or both.
After finishing the book, I offered it to my mom. She devoured it. “I’m never buying 2% milk again!” she proclaimed. “And forget about grocery store chicken. Did you know that stuff is straight antibiotics?”
The final chapter of the book lays out a 10-day detox plan that requires cutting out grains, sugar, and processed food, focusing instead on organic vegetables, responsibly farmed meat, and healthy fats. “I almost want to do his detox after reading this,” my mom said.
“Why don’t we do it?” I suggested.
Now, I’m not normally the 10-day detox kind of girl. In fact, I’ve always been inherently against the word “detox” because it implies that your body needs detoxifying. As if you didn’t have, you know, a liver or kidneys.
But quarantine has made me lazy. On busy writing days, I’ll sometimes eat entire meals at my laptop that consist of nothing but Skinny Pop and protein bars, both of which apparently contain enough chemicals to be declared a cure for COVID-19 by the Trump administration.
A detox sounded like a great opportunity to break my packaged food addiction and force myself to eat more vegetables. Plus, my therapist supported the idea, so that settled it.
Later that evening, my mom marched into the kitchen. “We’re doing a detox!” she announced to no one but my dad who, having just cracked his 5:05 PM beer, was sitting at the table munching on Wheat Thins. “Do you want me to tell you about it?”
“I’ll hear about it, but I’m not gonna do it,” grumbled my father, a carbohydrate worshipper.
To be clear, I’m not saying that my dad is unhealthy by any means. He runs at least five miles on most days, hates fast food, and, according to my mother, was even vegetarian at one point in his life. John Bernardi is not afraid of a home-cooked Mediterranean meal. He just feels that it is his God-given right to enjoy that meal with a glass of wine and a cheese board.
The next 24 hours dissolved into a flurry of meal plans, grocery lists, and sorting the refrigerator into two categories: healthy food and poison. Instead of throwing out the latter, we left it for my dad to eat. He watched in silence, clearly bewildered by the chaos unfolding around him and yet not daring to say a word about it.
But last night, as we sat at the table enjoying a dinner of turkey meatballs, quinoa, and cauliflower, my dad’s confusion finally started to bubble over. Armed with an arsenal of new knowledge, my mother took on his questions one by one.
“So why are we eating quinoa?” he asked. “I thought you don’t eat any grains on this thing.”
“Actually, Mark Hyman says quinoa isn’t technically a grain,” my mom chirped. “It’s a seed.”
“So theoretically, could you eat these meatballs on top of rice?” my dad probed.
“No,” my mom said, losing her patience. “Rice is a grain.”
My dad raised an eyebrow. “Well, what if we just called it a seed?”
My mom pretended not to notice the sarcasm with a certain tact that only comes from 35 years of marriage. She launched into an explanation of how a lot of carbs aren’t really all that great for you, that your body essentially processes them as sugar, and that you should really be eating more healthy fats.
“Apparently you don’t even need carbs to live,” my mom concluded.
“But who would want to?” my dad asked, swirling the remaining red wine in his glass before downing it in one gulp.
As my father tries to accept the fact that the women in his family have clearly gone insane, one thing has become clear: the man is tired of hearing Mark Hyman’s name being spoken in his home.
Three days into the detox, my mother has completely memorized Dr. Hyman’s book from cover to cover. In fact, I can say with relative confidence that she is currently the leading global expert on Mark Hyman, above even Mark Hyman himself. Any time a specific food is mentioned, she will gladly recite Mark Hyman’s opinion on that particular item.
“Mark Hyman likes blueberries,” my mom said approvingly as my dad dumped a handful of them into his yogurt one morning.
“Mark Hyman is really not a fan of peanut butter,” she cautioned when he grabbed a jar out of the cupboard.
“No, don’t buy those!” she exclaimed over my shoulder as I added eggs to our online grocery order. “Mark Hyman says to buy organic pasture-raised eggs. Those are regular pasture-raised. See,” she pointed her finger at the screen, “these ones.”
The verdict is in. There’s a new man of the house, and his name is Mark Hyman.
All jokes aside, the detox has been a lot easier than I predicted. A few days in, I’m feeling slightly more focused in the morning and less lethargic as the day goes on. The recipes we’ve tried are so delicious that I don’t even miss my usual go-to processed snacks. Best of all, cooking a fresh dinner together every night has been a great bonding experience with my mom.
I don’t know that I’ll necessarily stay this disciplined with my diet once the 10 days are up, but I can certainly see myself thinking twice about reaching into the pantry for a snack in the future. My mom says she’ll be paying more attention to the quality of the food she buys and where it came from.
She does, however, plan to reward herself with a piece of homemade chocolate cake at the end of the detox. “There’s not even that much sugar in it,” she explained. “It’s mostly butter. And Mark Hyman says butter is okay.”
As for me, I have a bottle of prosecco waiting in the fridge for when I cross the finish line.
I wonder what Mark Hyman thinks about prosecco.
Psst! There’s more coming.
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