By Sarah Gianelli EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – Fall is the time of year I feel most up for a challenge. A pointed determination and rare sense of discipline comes over me, and I have no question that whatever I’ve committed to I will see through to the end.

Last year it was walking 600 miles across Spain. Ten years ago it was the faddish Master Cleanse, where you consume nothing but a beverage of water, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup. Now I’m in the middle of another 14-day cleanse, of a much more gentle variety, led by Callie Stoltz of Big Sky’s Santosha Wellness Center.

Based on the Ayurvedic philosophy that optimal health necessitates restoring balance between the three elemental substances, or “doshas,” the program entails four days of “clean” eating—no oils, processed foods, meat, fish, dairy or gluten; and of course, no alcohol, caffeine, recreational drugs or tobacco. A bounty of herbal supplements, selected specifically for each individual’s constitution, is taken before and after meals.

On day five, we start a solid week of eating nothing but an Indian-spiced rice and dal (or lentil) dish called “kitchari”—the idea being that the simple, easily digested dish allows the body to expend its energy on detoxifying the blood, lymphatic system and organs. The last three days of the cleanse will be the same as the first four.


Light meals of vegetables and whole foods are eaten before and after the main cleanse. PHOTO BY CALLIE STOLTZ

I was excited during the days leading up to the cleanse. I knew that I needed it. Every day had become a party to some degree and I was feeling polluted, and frankly, I needed to prove my willpower to myself. It was also just before my birthday, a great time to hit the reset button before heading into my new year.

The first three days were an adjustment, but being an all or nothing person for whom moderation does not come easy, giving up all of my vices overnight suits my temperament.

Cooking cleanse-friendly food as part of my job at the Hungry Moose, I learned ways to circumnavigate the seemingly impossible feat of cooking without olive oil. There was always avocado, and unadulterated tahini was allowed. But I pretty much existed on steamed vegetables with acceptable grains like quinoa and lots of beets and apples.

Besides the sluggish, foggy-headedness due to the lack of caffeine—and shamefully I admit, tobacco—the hardest part in the beginning was altering my social routine. I had made lists of activities and projects to occupy my free time, but felt entirely unmotivated to tackle any of them. I pretty much became a hermit and retired to bed by 9 p.m.

On day four, I woke feeling like I was settling into the cleanse, becoming used to the constant slight hunger—or just not feeling as sated without the fats and protein I was used to.

Despite all the apprehension about eating only kitchari for the next seven days, on the morning of day five I felt peaceful and calm as I prepared the yellow mung dal, basmati rice and spices. There is something liberating in options being taken away—that what I would eat for the next week was settled. All the time and energy we spend thinking about food—buying, preparing, serving and eating it—could now be directed toward other things.

Drinking hot butter water first thing in the morning took some getting used to. Ghee, or clarified butter, is supposed to aid the detoxification process and help reset the body’s metabolism of fats. Thus far, I have enjoyed the warm bowls of spiced rice and lentils and have found them comforting and satisfying, if a little bland.

Then again, it’s only been three days. Check in with me in the next edition of EBS to see how I feel about it then.

Read part two of Sarah Gianelli’s community cleanse chronicle in the Oct. 30 issue of EBS.