Heater, Mother of Lance


Last Thursday was day four of my cleanse, and at about 3:00 PM that afternoon my caffeine-withdrawal headache subsided for a few hours and I got a rush of energy that I had hoped would be an indicator of things to come. But that night I did not sleep a wink, and I felt like puking all day Friday. Saturday morning I woke up with a sinus infection to end all sinus infections that I tried to ignore, but by that afternoon I was lying prostrate in bed moaning in pain. By Sunday the entire right side of my face was paralyzed, and I could only chew food with the teeth at the back of the left side of my mouth. Which basically narrowed down my food choices to whatever would fit through a straw. My dead grandmother was allowed to eat more than I was.

Monday morning Jon said that if I didn’t call the doctor to get some antibiotics he was going to call up there himself, except he wouldn’t say it was because his wife had a sinus infection, he’d say it was because his wife needed a lobotomy. Did they have any spare q-tips? How about some cotton balls? Could he borrow a pair of dull-edged scissors? So I made an appointment for that afternoon, hauled my miserable body up to the clinic and told my story to the doctor. He nodded, said, yep, sounds like another sinus infection, and as he picked up his pen to start writing me a prescription I casually mentioned that I had started a diet cleanse a week earlier. Not a crazy one, no. It’s not one of those cleanses that requires you to shove a garden hose up your colon, so you can stop worrying that I am going to poop right here on the table in your examination room.

He stopped himself immediately, set down his pen and was all, you’re doing what? So I repeated myself and listed off all the things that I had not eaten in almost eight days. He shook his head silently, leaned over so that his elbows were resting on his knees and said, “Do you want to know my medical opinion about that?”

“That depends,” I said, not sure yet if I wanted him to agree or disagree with me. Here I had gone almost eight days on this cleanse without slipping up once, and if he was going to tell me that he thought I was crazy then I might just have to poop on his examination table. Because DO YOU KNOW WHAT I HAVEN’T EATEN IN ALMOST EIGHT DAYS? I COULD GIVE YOU A LIST BUT YOU’D GET BORED AFTER PAGE 200. But if he thought that what I was doing was fine, then oh my god, I’d have to go how many more days without sugar? Thirteen? I can’t even count that high.

He continued to shake his head. “I am absolutely certain,” he continued, “that the reason you have this sinus infection is because you’re doing this cleanse. And my opinion is that you should stop.”

I almost kissed that man on the lips.

I hadn’t gone into that room looking for a reason to stop the cleanse, but when those words came out of his mouth I realized just how miserable I had been all week. And because my emotions were so out of whack it felt like he had told me that from now on when I peed, one hundred dollar bills would fall out of my vagina and into the toilet.

So I got in my car, drove to the grocery store, dropped off my prescription at the pharmacy and then walked over to the British foods section, picked up a package of Hobnobs, and ate one right there in the aisle BEFORE I EVEN PAID FOR IT. I had to grab hold of the shelves to balance myself because I experienced a full-body orgasm.

And then Mama had a glass of wine with dinner.

But the interesting thing has been that I haven’t gone off the cleanse all that much. In fact, I tried having a cup of coffee yesterday morning, but it tasted rancid. And all day today my meals have been meals I would have eaten on the cleanse. So I think that what I experienced and learned in those eight days has made a huge difference in my attitude and awareness of food. I’ve already made the decision to give up artificial sweeteners and to cut back dramatically on milk, cheese, and bread. I’m also excited to eat more of the foods that I found that have no added sugars (pasta sauces in particular, and I’m loving pasta made with brown rice), and am ready to cut back on all meat that hasn’t been raised ethically (yes, I know, many of you will have so much to say about this in the comments, I can see the adjectives now). This means I will most likely go without meat for long periods of time which doesn’t seem like such a big deal to me now that I’ve found The Sweet Potato. Also, I don’t see myself ever being a regular coffee drinker again. That’s a huge change in just eight days.

The biggest difference I noticed and continue to notice is how much better I am at handling my anxiety, it’s almost like night and day. I’m knee-deep in the middle of making revisions to the manuscript of my second book that comes out next year, and because I’m looking squarely between the eyes of a deadline I’d normally wake up feeling like I’d just swallowed a box of razors. And I haven’t felt that in over ten days. It’s been a refreshing break from the dizzying nausea that usually greets me in the morning.

My friend Carol had been doing the cleanse with me, and she got just as sick if not sicker than I got, so when I was driving from the doctor’s office to the grocery store I called her from my cell phone, something I don’t normally do because if it were legal I’d carry around a gun and shoot people who drive and talk on their cell phones at the same time, but this was important, I was about to change someone’s life. When she answered her phone she sounded like she was on the verge of dying, so I told her what my doctor had told me, and I thought I heard the faint whisper of a tear roll down her cheek. “Thank God!” she said. “Thank God you got sick and went to the doctor!”

And then we agreed that we should both send him flowers.

  • Blaine

    2008/06/25 at 9:13 pm

    Congratulations on the revelation!
    And ethical meat is the way to go.

  • Jessie

    2008/06/25 at 9:14 pm

    I want to thank you for being so honest and descriptive about your anxiety. It is a little ray of sane sunshine to me when I am loosing my own marbles.

    oh, and also?

    FIRST!!! Woot!

  • Jessie

    2008/06/25 at 9:14 pm


  • houndrat

    2008/06/25 at 9:15 pm

    Yep, this is all the proof I need to know that caffeine and sugar are intergral staples of any mother’s diet.

    And now, any time I start coming down with a sinus infection, I’ll take it as a sign that I need more Cold Stone (love it size, of course).

  • Anonymous

    2008/06/25 at 9:16 pm

    Dang, you closed comments on yesterday’s blog, and that’s the reason I’m here. I heard you on KUER…sat in my car finishing my iced latte before going back to work. I thought you handled the whole interview thing quite well. So I figured I’d find you and lo and behold a blog I read regularly mentioned your site! HOORAY! I didn’t have to figure out how you spelled “deuce”, um “dooce”. Anyhow, she (blogger) is going to do the cleanse to. Wonder if she’s reading this today. ::giggle::

  • holly in detroit

    2008/06/25 at 9:17 pm

    It’s almost like you tried the diet and gave up for me…

  • Emma

    2008/06/25 at 9:17 pm

    Why is it that milk chocolate digestives make life so much better?

  • jonniker

    2008/06/25 at 9:17 pm

    Thank God. I will admit, as I said to Carol, that I am relieved. I’m glad that perhaps you got what you needed out of it in such a short time, but GOOD GODDAMN, I hated that it was making anyone sick. Because no matter how toxic caffeine and/or sugar might be, the fact that you got SICK from this is … well, dude, it doesn’t seem right, I’m sorry. Plus, I know Carol well enough to know that the woman was ALREADY careful and thoughtful with her food choices, whether she realized it or not. And I’m imagining you were much the same.

    I guess what I’m saying is that you should both give yourself a lot more credit for your existing behaviors. Take what you need to take from this, but also be kind to yourself.

  • Melanie

    2008/06/25 at 9:17 pm

    Good for you.. I am glad you found a happy middle ground.I always think I will have the will power to try a cleanse out but then I wake up in the morning to six lovely((but very,very wild))children, a husband , and a full time job.. can we say Macchiato anyone? The willpower immeadiatly shrinks.

  • Mothering Two

    2008/06/25 at 9:17 pm

    Good for you. You tried it and it did have a good affect on your awareness of what you are putting into your body. I think that is what the author of that book was going for, more than anything else. Even though I eat *mostly* vegan (always vegetarian) I just can’t/don’t want to give up my 2 cups of coffee in the morning. That in and of itself is a big deal!

    On a side note, I’ve been reading your blog on and off for about 3 years now. I always come back to it because of your honesty and humor. I do appreciate the time you put into this! So, thanks for being so candid all the time.

  • jonniker

    2008/06/25 at 9:19 pm

    Also, have you discovered The Roasted Carrot? I can’t stop proselytizing about it. Peel and cut a whole carrot into thirds, drizzle with salt, pepper and olive oil. Roast at 425 for 25 minutes. Consume. Die of happiness. The end.

  • Anonymous

    2008/06/25 at 9:20 pm

    A few years back I had a serious case of hives. In an effort to deduce what was causing them, my doctor mandated that I go on a chicken and rice diet. I could eat chicken. I could eat rice. I could eat chicken with rice. No oil, no spices, no flavorings. That was it. I lasted about 8 days (the hives didn’t go away), but after about 48 hours my brain started doing very very very bad things. My nerves were shot, I cried all of the time, my emotions were crazy: I was on the verge of taking a hostage at all times. It was the worst week of my life. I marvel at your ability to last as long as you did on your cleanse!

  • Andrea

    2008/06/25 at 9:20 pm

    I’m confused. I know that cleanses can make you sick, but isn’t that just the toxins leaving your body? Based on what you said you were giving up … sugar, bread, alcohol and caffeine, this certainly was not a deprivation diet. So I am confused why the doctor told to stop?
    At any rate, I checked out the Quantum Health book myself, and while I don’t have a strong opinion about vegetarianism, or sugar or almost anything, I must say that the author is way off in recommending tofu as a substitute for almost everything. I love tofu, but do a Google search. It’s a processed food of the highest order that somehow continues to be widely perceived as a health food because of some incorrect notion that Asian people eat a lot of it. (actually they don’t … google it)
    Anyway, I am glad you are feeling better. Not usually so preachy, but it does bug me when people who claim to know a lot about health push tofu.

  • HouseofJules

    2008/06/25 at 9:21 pm

    Congratulations on coming out the other side of your cleanse with a new attitude about food and the ability to see the difference it made while you were on it. I wondered if you doctor wrote you a prescription for Hobnobs, and if so, I’d like him to be my doctore, too. By the way, I have heard the word cleanse more times since Oprah announced she was starting her own cleanse than I have in my entire life.

  • Rebecca

    2008/06/25 at 9:22 pm

    So… feeling sick wasn’t your system ridding itself of toxins? It was your immune system shutting down? Good to know. Maybe someone should email that Quantum Wellness women to share your doctor’s advice. Or maybe your story could be added to the testimonials on her web page. In any case, it supports my theory that you shouldn’t trust someone who calls herself Dr. So-and-so when she isn’t an MD (a la Dr. Laura).

  • Addie

    2008/06/25 at 9:22 pm

    Thank goodness. Kudos for listening to your body, woman – feeling that awful is not a sign of progress or adaptation. Your body was telling you to cut it out, and you did the right thing.

    Good for you for making positive changes in the way you eat and live. I agree with your feelings about meat, and we’ve been able to make the switch to local, humanely raised meat. Ask around at your farmer’s market and I bet you’ll find something.

    All things in moderation…

  • Megan

    2008/06/25 at 9:23 pm

    Whew, you did it! Sort of. Good enough, in my opinion. I gave up caffeine and alcohol for 10 days and it alone was enough to make me want to see a psychiatrist, so kudos to you! I hope you got what you needed and wanted out of it, now on to some bourbon and nacho cheese doritos.

  • Kate

    2008/06/25 at 9:24 pm

    Hi Heather – I have been reading your blog for about 2 years now and ALWAYS smile or chuckle or nod my head in agreement while reading. I wish I had read your blog right after my son was born (he’s 3 now) as I think I had some post partum going on there but didn’t really want to admit to not being incredibly overjoyed at the whole new Mom thing. It dissapated and I’m fine but reading your archives makes everything seem clearer. You’re a brave woman going through what you did and then letting the WHOLE WORLD know about it. Please know that it makes us all feel so much better. Leta is super cute and I love your monthly newsletters. I think when she turns 18 you should print them all in a book… Anyway – do you know what prompted me to write after reading for 2 years? HOB NOBS! I love Hob Nobs and they’re such a rarity and I’m like that’s what I’d eat first after a cleanse – if I could get my hands on some! Have you tried the dark choclate ones? Yum!
    Anyway – sorry it’s taken so long to say something but know that you’re appreciated everyday and thought of as a real inspiration to Moms everywhere!

  • Anonymous

    2008/06/25 at 9:24 pm

    Please Dooce, check out http://www.kateharding.net. Kate and her co-bloggers spend a lot of time blogging about relationships with food and learning to listen to your body and eating what it needs/wants to eat. You’ve had your ephiphany, but I think it would be worth it to learn more.

  • @manda

    2008/06/25 at 9:25 pm

    YAY FOR QUITTING DIETS! That is the best feeling EVER! LOL
    Hope you get feeling better!

  • Ozma

    2008/06/25 at 9:25 pm

    This is so interesting Heather. Because of some health issues (e.g., almost everything I ate except vegetables made me fat) and trying to get pregnant, etc. I accidentally discovered something like this last summer.

    My recipe was no sugar, alcohol, white flour or low glycemic processed foods plus tons and tons of vegetables and some fruit plus sunlight (easy in the summer) plus levity vitamins plus less stress plus yoga actually made me a happy person. I mean, HAPPY.

    Levity vitamins–you can google it. They are just normal vitamins. Their effect is really inexplicable. Also, fish oil pills. The vegetables are truly key though.

    I could not keep it up because unfortunately, half measures do not produce the same effect. I did not go totally off the reservation. I cannot avoid high levels of stress in my job and these seem to throw things out of whack.

    I know this is a boring ‘me too’ comment. It was sort of interesting to discover my insanity might be a physical thing, not only a mental thing. You might want to experiment with this. It hasn’t lasted because my life is too insane to maintain it.

    Because I am an early commenter I want to say something fascinating and existential rather another mundane health comment. But anyway…if you do find out more about this, I’d be interested to know about it. We don’t have to think Tom Cruise is right or anything.

    I will make this existential point: I became very optimistic for a long period of time. Now I am back to my usual tormented self and really, I think that happiness was kind of scary. What will happen if I don’t live in constant dread? Am I suffering from some kind of delusion the world is not a terrible place. But I think I’ll go for it again this summer just for the hell of it. A little trip to joysville

  • Jodie

    2008/06/25 at 9:27 pm

    I’ve been on a simmilar cleanse, thanks to my natropath, except I’m allowed small amounts of white meat and am not allowed to eat breads. At all. However, I let myself minorly slip up about once a day and I’ve been feeling SO great. It’s alla bout realizing what makes your body feel good and your tastebuds are a part of your body! So, kudos!

  • Brooke

    2008/06/25 at 9:27 pm

    I’m so glad that the cleanse did end up having a long-term impact for you! I also hope that you feel better soon. I’ve been tempted to do a similar cleanse, but is a life without caffeine and sugar worth living? I guess it’s time I find out!

    Oh, and I’ll probably never, ever, EVER look at a Hobnob the same way again 🙂

  • Lisa

    2008/06/25 at 9:28 pm

    Americans (myself included) eat like shit! Any cleanse or diet (or pregnancy) that helps you take things out that you can live without are great experiments in strength. The things you took out, and will continue to leave out, are the same ones everyone knows about, but very few have the courage (or time, or energy) to eliminate. Thankfully you brought wine back in though… I mean, that one was a little ridiculous… even Jesus had wine.

  • Maya

    2008/06/25 at 9:29 pm

    I wonder what could cause such a strong reaction? The no sugar, no caffeine or no meat part? Also, no traditional medical doctor would understand such a diet. On a different note Sinus Problems according to Louise Hay: Irritation to one person, someone close. True?

  • kitty

    2008/06/25 at 9:29 pm

    And here I was contemplating doing my own cleanse! Back to my three cups of coffee and random food I suppose.

    Seriously, though, I’ve been better about my intake lately, partly because I am on a diet and partly because I want to eat better and enjoy what I eat instead of scarfing it down. It’s hard when you’re on a diet and you want to scarf everything down, but it really *does* give me a greater appreciation for food. Anyway, I am happy to read a post from you as always!

  • darcie

    2008/06/25 at 9:30 pm

    amen for trying. amen for quitting!! 🙂

  • Lara

    2008/06/25 at 9:30 pm

    Sorry you’re sick, but I’m glad to hear that you’ve had an epiphany, blah, blah, blah…but the real revelation that I wanna hear more about is that you’re writing another book! I actually made it through the whole radio interview (listened while cooking dinner tonight) and after hearing how you described the process of writing the first one, I assumed there wouldn’t ever be another. Thanks for being willing to tackle another book project for the edification of us devoted readers. Hope you feel better very soon!

  • Stephanie

    2008/06/25 at 9:30 pm

    Sweet jesus. Dooce is back. I think it actually takes more courage to walk away from it after committing to it in such a huge way here.

    If you’re interested, there is a lot of cool research coming out about how malnutrition can work as a natural antidepressant. Combine diets with someone who is already anxious and you’ve got the recipe for an eating disorder.

  • so NOT cool

    2008/06/25 at 9:31 pm

    Wow. I would have thought the opposite … My nose stopped making snot when I gave up dairy ten years ago. Maybe your nasal cavity was going through a little withdrawal, or just throwing a tantrum.

    Kudos for the changes you’ve continued to make. I hope that I do as well when I start the cleanse on Friday. One thing that worries me is that I keep accidentally calling it a “fast”. o_0

  • cristina

    2008/06/25 at 9:31 pm

    Oprah is doing a 21-day cleanse I read online. Why only eight days?

  • ozma

    2008/06/25 at 9:32 pm

    Oh, yeah. Andrea is right about tofu. I encountered this view on the internet and scoffed since I lived almost entirely on soy. Then my thyroid went crazy. Tofu’s OK in moderation. The problem is probably that so many foods have such a high soy content. I cried when I had to stop drinking soy milk. But my thyroid levels went back to normal as soon as I did this.

    Just like sugar. I stopped eating sugar and must shamefacedly admit that the hippies were right. DAMNIT.

    I always looked down on those people who thought about everything they ate and were all proud of their millet and spelt recipes and their amaranth pancakes. (As a person who lived in Berkeley for a while, I admit that I developed a taste for muffins with the consistency of clods of dirt but I hated to admit it to myself.) Now I’m one of them.

    I still shave my underarms though.

  • bradleytee

    2008/06/25 at 9:33 pm

    Did you say Mama had a glass of wine with or FOR dinner? The mood seemed to be so celebratory I must have missed it.

    Kudos on yesterdays interview. Doug Fab can be a HJ(from Sara)so I thought you and Jon did a great job.

    BTW, since you and Carol are sending flowers, can you add my name to the card?

  • Stephanie

    2008/06/25 at 9:33 pm

    Did the doctor say *why* the cleanse was making you ill? What mechanism is at work? Too big of a change? Too sudden? Missing nutrients? Would it be better to ease into such a thing or would it be a bad idea and make you ill no matter how you started? (I’m just curious. I have no intention of doing anything similar myself. Although I am weaning myself off Diet Coke. Again.)

  • Mrs. Wilson

    2008/06/25 at 9:35 pm

    Wow. I cannot imagine the self control it takes to do a cleanse for 8 days. I’m glad your doctor told you to get off it though. I’d kiss the guy.

  • Anonymous

    2008/06/25 at 9:35 pm

    You are inspiring anyway.

  • Jen

    2008/06/25 at 9:36 pm

    God bless the Sweet Potato, for he is probably the best food ever. Especially in fry form.

    Sucks that ‘the cleanse’ didn’t work out. Personally I’m an ‘everything in moderation’ typed girl, but went vegan for ethical reasons and wouldn’t go back unless it was actually killing me. To be fair, I took a ‘vegan break’ every six months for the first year, so yeah… everything in moderation. Since then, I’ve felt better than I have in the past six years, so I blame the lack of coffee. Or Doug Fabrizio. But kudos for sticking it out – for eight days there you rocked my world more than usual, and we’ll always have the food porn to prove it.

    And hey, a PhD earns you the title of Dr. too! Just not the kind of doctor that should be doing your physical. Med school be damned.

  • leigh bee

    2008/06/25 at 9:39 pm

    I want to say kudos to you on your cleanse AND the fact that you’re not going straight back to SAD (standard american diet) right away.

    I’m betting your doctor is exactly right, but I just want to say from my rough understanding of the philosophy of natural therapeutics, that sinus infection is really just a sign that your body is cleaning out all the toxins. Symptoms of illness are just a bringing to a head of the toxins that are sitting around in your body. It should be a sign that the cleanse is working and furthermore, the acuteness and strength of your sinus infection is an indication of how strong your vital energy/life force. The harder you get sick/the shorter the illness = stronger life energy/healthier person.

    Everything in moderation, eh? I’m glad to hear this cleanse has turned you on to better food and less anxiety. From my heart to you, I hope the trend continues.

  • Andra

    2008/06/25 at 9:40 pm

    Hallelujah for your doctor, and for implementing the changes that work for YOU.

    No diet is a blanket solution for everyone.

    That being said, I’m a happy pescatarian (mostly shrimp, salmon, and tilapia) with amazing skin and a sharper memory. Yay for Omega3 fatty acids!

    And yay for more DooceLit!

    PS are you still signing books if we send them (return postage included)? I finally got my hands on a copy.

  • Kecia

    2008/06/25 at 9:40 pm

    Yeah, Yeah, what she said…why did the Doc say you were sick..specifically? Oh and woooo whooo to the wine and treats!

    human test words: Carso Drive … huh?

  • sheasy

    2008/06/25 at 9:41 pm

    So I am not the only one whose body prefers to be drrrrrty on the inside….

    Good call. Plus now you can eat CANDY!

  • Amanda

    2008/06/25 at 9:42 pm

    Thank you for writing about your experience with this cleanse. I have anxiety as well, and while I’m not strong enough to do even a 2 day cleanse, it’s great to learn that you are noticing differences.

  • Dy-Anne

    2008/06/25 at 9:42 pm

    Heather I love that you can be so honest about this– you tried something and it sucked so you stop and take away from it what is really important instead of berating y ourself and feeling like a failure.

    now for the commenter before me (Jen) If My daughter had been as sucessful at weaning herself from breast-feeding as I have been at weaning my self off of Coke she would still be nursing at almost 10 years old!!! I think Caffeine in the form of super sugary and wonderfully fizzy beverages is the worst form of addiction. I’m thinking SDA (Soda Drinkers Anon) meeting would be a good idea.*

  • Anonymous

    2008/06/25 at 9:42 pm

    Have you read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver? It totally changed the way I think about what we eat and where our food comes from. I love that you’re awareness is spurring you to action!

    And sweet potatoes are seriously the best. Just roasted with a little olive oil and salt. mmmmmmm.

  • Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves

    2008/06/25 at 9:45 pm

    Again… I wanna mention how moved I was by what you wrote last week… a quick fix it will not be, and it probably won’t have much to do with what you do or do not shove down your pie hole.

    “I want to be a better wife, a more conscious and present mother, a more loyal friend, and a better listener. I’d like to handle my anxiety better. I also want to be more organized because I’m tired and fed up with not being able to find anything.”

    The stated above is a search we all have within us. We just have to have the courage to find it and the courtesy to share it with others. I’m still on the search sista… and as of yet, it is not there in yoga or religion or vitamins or any of those other things we cling to because we can’t figure it out. The only thing I’ve seen that even comes close is looking into the eyes of my son. That is my only perfection…

    And even he is a pain in my ass sometimes.


    2008/06/25 at 9:45 pm

    Bossy and all her worst habits thank you from the bottom of their hearts.

  • Iver Jane

    2008/06/25 at 9:46 pm

    I believe we can eat meat and do it without cruelty, but I don’t know where to turn. So I’m excited to hear what you come up with. “Ethical meat” is a concept I’ve been hoping to find a solution to for a while.

    I’m starting the cleanse Monday; I hope I don’t get sick, too.

  • Shaun Paddock

    2008/06/25 at 9:48 pm

    I am so impressed that you have been able to stick with your plan. Even if you cannot stay with it to the degree you originally planned, isn’t it great to know that you do have the willpower to do it? I wish I had some willpower. My family is leaving tomorrow for 9 days without me (YIPEE) and I am afraid the first thing I will do is go buy some chocolate fudge Pop Tarts. God help me.

  • Anonymous

    2008/06/25 at 9:49 pm

    You stop eating unhealthy things and your doctor says, “No, stop that”?

    um, what?

  • J. Bo

    2008/06/25 at 9:49 pm

    Sometimes a (brief) severe regimen can jump-start a (long-term) mindful plan. Sounds like you just experienced exactly that.

    I raise my glass in your direction, toasting good nutrition, good health, and good vibes, whatever that means for you and however you manage to get there!

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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