A few weeks ago, my friends asked me if I was interested in joining them in a 21-day diet called the Adventure Cleanse. In this truly horrific exercise of resilience, one must abstain from meat, caffeine, sugar, gluten, dairy, alcohol, and many other major cornerstones of my diet. No candy. No pretzels. No buffalo wings, steaks, milk, or coffee. No beer, cigarettes, ramen noodles, Chunky Soup, or Jolly Ranchers. In my eyes, that pretty much narrows it down to fruits, vegetables, and oxygen. With all the water your empty little tummy desires.
Eager to test my self control, and anxious to walk a mile in my herbivore friends’ shoes, I agreed.
With two minor stipulations:
- I could start the cleanse AFTER the following weekend
- I would participate in the Adventure Cleanse for only 3 days
I had it all planned out. I was going to write a guest blog post titled “Anything for 3 Days: A Carnivore’s Journey Towards Health and Wellness”. I’d begin with a mildly amusing introduction and background about my current eating habits, followed by my activities throughout this three day hunger strike. In the end, according to my plan, I’d learn a thing or two about self-control, cleanse myself of all unhealthy habits, and eventually I’d be well on my way towards becoming a better man. A healthy, glowing, rice-cake-eating shell of a man.
My journey was not a successful one.
All is well. The pineapple was pretty sugary but Mariah assured me this was OK. She insisted that the urges I was feeling were completely normal and were to be expected. Energy levels were high, despite the lack of caffeine in my bloodstream. Confidence level: Strong.
- A carrot
Now here’s where the story starts to get interesting. Returning from my lunch break, with a belly full-o-celery, I was somewhat proud. Energy levels were up, although not nearly as high as anticipated. I had a glimmering hope that maybe, just maybe, I’d make it through to the other side without incident.
My afternoon task at work was to review and prepare stock photography for a Foods website. French fries, chicken, tortillas, soups, ice cream, chicken fingers, and a host of other old demons stared at me from my computer screen like a parade of scantily clad women in a burlesque house. The familiar urges rushed back to me in a swirling, chaotic wave of unquenchable hunger. Panic set in. I knew I was in trouble, so I did what any red-blooded meat-addict does in these types of situations.
I called my sponsor, Sara. She was very supportive, and even offered me a solution. A quick fix. She was kind enough to loan me some rice cakes. I was overjoyed. Cashew butter? Yes please! She entrusted me with her sleeve of cakes, cautiously expecting their safe return. I assured her I’d return the sleeve as soon as I’d finished one or two.
I skipped back to my desk, merrily anticipating the delightful binge upon which I was about to embark.
I sat down and began eating the rice cakes in small bits. It tasted like styrofoam-flavored popcorn. It was fun. All was good. As I flipped through the almost pornographic carousel of food photography, I imagined these rice cakes as buffalo wings, the cashew butter acting as my bleu cheese dipping sauce. Confidence level: Average.
Within 20 to 30 minutes, the entire sleeve of rice cakes was gone. What had happened? The last half hour was such a blur, but surely there was no way I was capable of eating an entire sleeve of rice cakes in such a short time period. Or—was I?!
I broke the news to Sara. She was disappointed with my actions, but hadn’t given up on me just yet. Because technically, I hadn’t broken any promises I’d made to myself or the Adventure Cleanse community. I had—up to this point—stuck to the diet.
After the rice cakes went dry, I began to sweat. The invisible bugs under my skin began to crawl, and no amount of scratching would relieve the itch. The hallucinations started around 3:30 CT. My lamp had turned into a piece of pizza, my mouse was a steak burrito with jalapeño salsa, and my computer monitor was a giant wedding cake. The world was spinning. As the clock ticked, seemingly in slow motion, I began fantasizing about the leftover Papa John’s pepperoni and sausage pizza in my fridge. I projected myself there, acting out my deepest, darkest urges in my mind. Dip the slice into the garlic butter, lift, and shove into face. Repeat. Dip, lift, shove. Repeat as necessary.
5 o’clock didn’t come soon enough. My eyes were darting all over the place as I raced home. The hallucinations got more intense–the light poles were giant celery sticks, pointing and laughing at my hungry ass. The gingerbread houses whizzed by my car as I weaved in and out of the dense rice cake traffic. I was losing it. I needed meat. And bread. And I needed it now.
I pulled into the garage and threw my car into Park before it had come to rest. I sprung out of the car, raced inside and immediately flung open the fridge. Papa John himself awaited inside, smiling, presenting the beautifully crafted cardboard box to me.
I slammed the fridge door. “Must…be…strong. Keep….it…together,” I muttered to myself through clenched teeth. The bugs began to crawl again. Confidence level: Unstable.
I tried to remember everything Sara and Mariah had taught me. I was powerless over my addiction, yet I had to find a way to maintain my Adventure Cleanliness. I felt myself slipping into the bottomless void we addicts call relapse. I was sobbing hysterically, realizing in my mind what I was about to do. In my state of sheer desperation, I slowly opened my fridge, reached in, and pulled out the pizza box. My Pavlovian mouth began to water. I was both excited and horrified at what lay before me.
And then, just 9 hours into my Adventure Cleanse, I relapsed. Confidence level: N/A.
After three of the longest minutes of my life, the microwave finally beeped. I lunged at it, wildly swinging the door open. I pulled out the white-hot plate, turned off all the lights, swaddled myself in blankets, crawled into a corner, sat down—alone and crying—and began shoving boiling hot pizza into my face. Dip, lift, shove, weep. Dip, lift, shove, weep. Repeat as necessary.
After I finished using, I wasn’t satisfied. I quickly grabbed the big bowl of leftover halloween candy, and barely found enough time to unwrap each piece before ingesting. Before long, the bowl was filled with nothing but empty wrappers and fresh tears. Wiping tears from my eyes, I rummaged through my cupboards and found a bag of microwave popcorn. Still famished, I hit the popcorn button and became distraught when I realized there was no fast forward button on the microwave. *Grumble* Settle down, belly. You’ll have to wait another two minutes and fifty five seconds for your next fix. I washed the popcorn down with a giant two liter of Cherry Coke. It was at this point of bliss that I finally felt normal again.
In the following days, I continued my downward spiral of indulgence. I drank as much coffee, ate as many sweets, and consumed as much meat as humanly possible. Burger King was involved. On more than one occasion. There were also multiple bags of beef jerky. Hell, I might have gone through an entire cow if you sit down and do the math. Somehow I disguised my relapse from Sara and Mariah, but it wasn’t long before they started noticing changes in my behavior.
I’ve written this account not as an endorsement to what I’ve done, or will do in the coming days. Rather, this story should be considered a learning tool, so that future recovering carnivores may learn from my experience. I wanted to prove to myself and to the world that I could do anything for three days if I really put my mind to it. I failed. And I have to live with that for the rest of my life.
My name is Mike. And I only lasted 9 freaking hours.