To Detox or Not to Detox? a Self-Examination and Accounting of My Myriad Bad Eating Habits

Let’s say I’ve been “inspired” by my yoga teacher, who has completed a 4-week liver detox program recently. She got off caffeine, sugar and most interestingly (to me), she was able to discontinue her regular pain medication. This last aspect appeals to me, since I have a 200 mg-a-day tramadol “habit,” owing to 13 years of chronic lower back pain.

My pain doctor scolded me for skimping on it for a long time, as I tried to tough it out and get by on minimal doses. After a sleepless night of withdrawal and accompanying worse-than-even pain, I decided not to discontinue it, and I finally began taking it earlier in the day to head off the buildup of pain that becomes overwhelming around 2 pm if I don’t take medication. I have this ambiguous relationship with pain medication. It is an admitted crutch, and since tramadol is a so-called opioid, it puts me in the league with so-called “drug addicts.” But it also makes it possible for me to do housework and mow the lawn like other people. So, despite my reservations, I have never completely eschewed it.

Lately I’ve come to suspect that this long-standing pain in my lower back (and hips/legs!) has something to do with my diet, namely, my equally long-standing addiction to that most dangerous and seductive of all foods: sugar. This brings me back to the idea of a liver detox diet. Personally, with my eating habits as they are now, I don’t think I’d last one day on a “detox” anything.

But this does give me the chance to evaluate just what my unhealthy habits are.

First: I drink really strong coffee. And I mean REALLY strong. A huge 12 oz. mug, morning and afternoon, from a perker. And I let it get very dark before I turn it off, too. Although I will sometimes add sugar and coconut milk to my afternoon coffee, I don’t do it every day, and the sugar is organic (like that makes it any better!). Otherwise I down the stuff hot and black.

Second: I love sugar, and I mean “love” as in “attached pathologically to” sugar. I can’t go a single day without it as it stands. My favorite is ice cream, real, full-fat, regular sugar (no HFCS!) ice cream. I scoop it out by the cup, not what passes for a measly “serving.” To my credit (I need all the credit I can get!), I did manage to give up the chocolate syrup. I take my fatty, tasty ice cream straight up now. Other sugary addictions include Peppermint Patties, donuts, well, you name it. I think you get the idea.

Third: I love meat, whether it is lean or fatty. My husband and I have made it a practice to grill regularly (that has its own dangers, I know!). I soak gobs of chicken breast, round steak and those fat, tasty little heart attacks called “chicken wings” in marinade for 24 hours or more and watch them slowly grill as they turn lightly brown and then carbonize on the outside. There’s nothing like that taste!

So, am I going to die from my eating habits? Well, we all die, some of us sooner than others. Since diabetes runs in my father’s side of the family, I do think that I really need to do something about the sugar addiction. I’d rather make it to old age in the pink of health than dependent on the stick-finger and insulin. I’m 46, so perhaps this is my mid-life crisis. Or perhaps I’ve just accumulated enough information and experience to realize what the solution to my long-standing problems might be.

After suffering from undiagnosed, idiopathic (no discernable cause) back pain for 13 years, perhaps I’ve hit upon the answer. Or not. After all, I’ve tried lots of things, including physical therapy and yoga, and the pain has come and gone in intensity over those years. When someone asks, I attribute the pain to a serious car accident I had 13 years ago, but I’m not all that sure I can blame it on that, as the pain didn’t really begin until about 6 months after the accident.

So, what’s the harm in trying out some weird flush-out-your-system diet? Perhaps none, but I’m typically ideologically opposed to the concept of “diet,” and plus, I have little to no willpower. The weight loss strategy I used last year seemed to work because it was so gentle and almost unnoticeable. I simply cut out the breakfast sweets and had massive protein and fat in its place. In 6 months, I had lost 25 lbs.; but Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas triple whammy derailed me, and I rediscovered my sugar addiction with chocolate skulls and colorfully wrapped little Peppermint Patties, as well as the in-laws’ interminable (read: irresistible) pumpkin pies.

I’m lucky in that I’ve managed to keep the weight off (except for a nagging 5 lbs. which comes and goes regularly) through my long-standing love affair with swimming, yoga and weightlifting. Plus, the back pain abates for short periods if I just get up off my article-writing butt and walk around a bit. As for the detox question, well, it’ll have to wait until I finish this bowl of ice cream.

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