Kicking the Bad Food Habit

Kerri - Marshfield, Massachusetts
Entered on April 5, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I am guilty of food abuse.

I buy too much, eat too much, and waste too much. I eat processed foods with chemical additives harder to pronounce than any dinosaur that ever walked the earth.

I eat fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed with God knows how many or what quantity of pesticides. I eat because I’m bored, or tired, or don’t want to throw something away. I eat foods that do nothing to nourish my body, and most likely have the opposite effect.

So I undertook a voluntary weeklong fast to clean out the system and start from scratch. With an empty belly, I found that food was always on my mind.

The first day was the hardest: to not consume any of the scraps left on my children’s breakfast plates, to not place a single cracker or raisin in my mouth at snacktime, to turn down an offer for take-out food.

I drank a special lemonade, made with organic lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and water. It’s relatively tasty, although each day I drank less and less of it – holding out for stuff that could be chewed, I guess.

Smelling food became a total body experience. I paused in the kitchen with my nose in the air, like a rabbit at the edge of a summer-ripe garden. Inhaling the aroma of melted butter and maple syrup atop toasted blueberry waffles, I found I could almost taste them. Even non-culinary scents seemed stronger.

This fast tested my will power. It left me physically lighter and mentally stronger (even though I did cheat in my dreams).

And believe it or not, I craved healthy foods – fruits and nuts and vegetables. Specifically bananas and cashews and broccoli. I’m not sure why those three items; maybe it’s because I knew they were in the house, just waiting for me to sink my teeth in.

I didn’t want potato chips or French fries, a large coffee, or a greasy pizza. It was rice and beans and a great salad with lots of crunchy vegetables that made me drool. And no disrespect to any meat eaters out there, but the thought of ingesting a dead animal was even more repulsive than before.

Amazingly, my energy level stayed high enough to take a rigorous yoga class and chase after two toddlers all day. It got me thinking about how little a body really needs to survive.

After seven days without eating, I felt good and I felt strong. What I didn’t feel was the urge to reach into a box of something concocted in a far-away factory.

And today, over a year later, I still don’t. Fasting cured my food abuse.