I’ve been aware of my body ever since I grew boobs and an ass: its measurements, its image, its power. I can’t help it. It’s been made abundantly clear to me that as a woman, it’s part of my net worth and will affect how successfully I make my way through the world. It should be lean but not without curves, sculpted but not too bulky. And thin. Above all else, it should be thin.
But now it seems that skinny is no longer enough—now you have to make it to those 00 jeans cleanly. You have to meditate on your third shakra in order to find your inner goddess while you honor your light by sitting in chair pose next to your composting machine while eating gluten-free gluten. Or something.
And guess what? Marketers are on to us. They realize that while the goal is essentially the same, the vehicle to get thin has gone green. So that despite the fact that I’m an absolute ogre and ridiculously dramatic when I’m hungry, last month I decided that a juice cleanse was the way to go for me. Because, well…cleanse! It’s right there in the title, dummy. This wouldn’t be the same thing as grapefruits or cabbage soup—this would purify me, rid me of all those nasty toxins that my “dirty” living has deposited in me. And obviously I’d spend enough money to ensure maximum health benefits, and upgrade to the package that includes wafer vitamins and vegetable pills. I mean, I’m not an animal.
What could possibly go wrong?
I’ll tell you.
DAY 1: I wake up excited to be smaller! Cleaner! I gather the ingredients and make my “breakfast:” a blended deliciousness of cucumber, kale, apple, lettuce and spinach. I fill up one of my newly purchased water bottles, take one sip and immediately spit the green liquid out and begin to retch. I didn’t realize something so clean could taste so horrendous. After some deep breathing and encouraging affirmations (“you are a winner and you can do this”) I plug my nose and gag the drink down.
I feel skinnier already.
After a refreshing mid-morning juice made of apple and pineapple, and a surprisingly enjoyable lemonade with cayenne pepper, I blend my dinner: carrots, apples, ginger, lemon juice, and beats—with the greens still attached. More deep breathing, more affirmations, more gulping, more retching. Before I know it, it’s time for a nice refreshing bedtime treat—cashew “milk.” Raw cashews soaked in water for 8 hours, blended with more water, agave nectar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. It’s basically a cup of water with cashew backwash in it. What a positive step I’ve taken with this cleanse.
I go to bed as early as I can to end the horror of day 1.
DAY 2: See Day 1, except with headaches, fatigue, listlessness, and obscene stomach noises. I try to focus on all the negativity that’s being purged from my body. And weight loss. Obviously the weight loss.
Day 3: Upon awakening from a fitful night of sleep, I raise my fist in defiance and decide that I shall no longer be a slave to some mysogynistic ideal of beauty, nor will I let my sense of self-worth be determined by how much flesh is wrapped around my bones. I decide to quit the cleanse in the name of all women everywhere.
Then I get on the scale and like what I see, so I’m back in.
Day 4: As the roof of my mouth begins to burn from all the cayenne pepper in my lemonade, I get a text from my boyfriend telling me that I’ve been distant the past few days and he wants to feel closer. Um, I’m in the middle of this purifying journey and may literally die at any moment, and he wants to feel closer to me? I’m not distant—I’m fucking starving! How could anyone be expected to be close to someone else while being deprived of their basic human right to food and sustenance?? Would he ask a starving child in Ethiopia for more intimacy? Idiot. I apologize and say I’ll try to do better.
Day 5: In an effort to feel closer, my boyfriend tries to touch me. I unhinge my jaw and glower at him as he then slowly—wisely—backs away, knowing that I might just be hungry enough to eat his soul.
Day 6: I wake up to find that I’ve gained back a pound and quit for good, spending the rest of the day eating anything in my sightline. I feel like a failure and want to punch someone.
Day 7: I return to normal eating and go online to research any other quick weight-loss fixes that are on the market.
I wish I was cool enough to dismiss the equation that’s been fed to me my whole life: skinny=desirable=worthy. But the honest truth is, I’m not. It’s pretty goddamn hard to re-wire such a deeply ingrained belief, regardless of what my better self might know to be true.
But what I can do is try to slowly chip away at that equation, so that in time the paradigm might begin to shift. And that starts with getting honest: regardless of words like clean orpurify, the juice cleanse was just another starvation tactic dressed up as something healthy. I wasn’t trying to get healthy, I was trying to get skinny, and if I want anything to change, first I have to own that. So I do.
(This post originally ran on Sum of My Pieces.)
About the author: Dani Fleischer is an aspiring memoirist, newly minted blogger, a seeker and a smart-ass. Someone once told her to aspire for grace and dignity in all her actions and so she does, despite constantly falling short. Her blog, Sum of My Pieces (sumofmypiecesblog.wordpress.com) is for grown-ups like her who don’t have their shit together. She writes about her messy life because laughing is fun and she is never more herself than when she is writing. Connect with her on Facebook (Facebook.com/sumofmypieces), Twitter (@DaniFleischer), and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/sum_of_my_pieces/). She welcomes feedback of any kind—for someone new to the writing game, it’s incredibly helpful to know that your work is landing somewhere.