When I moved from Auburn, Alabama to Portland, Oregon in the summer of 2015, I think I left with two middle fingers in the air. I was one cliché away from every punk song I listened to on repeat in Middle School, and somewhere in the midst of that drama, I all but cut ties with my own family. They were less than enthused about my moving to a state in the exact opposite corner of the country, and I hadn’t found a way to disagree lovingly.
So I found myself behind the wheel of my trusty Camry, driving the few belongings I had to my name through hills and valleys all the way up to Portland. The next two years were a typical blur of any 20-something doing the messy work of finding a place for self love and care. But one day in that weird, dramatic, Middle-School-song part of my life, the record made that scratchy noise that happens in sitcoms when everything is about to change.
My husband and I got married overlooking Mobile Bay at a place we had gone to often throughout our relationship. We danced until we were breathless next to the people we loved the most, sweaty and thrilled, with drinks in hand. I think it was somewhere in the middle of the Chainsmokers’ “Closer” that I looked around and felt the weight of all the love we had for and from our friends and family in Alabama. Fortunately, there is no cap on how much love you can fit in one backyard wedding reception, because if there were, we would have maxed out long before the key change.
That night set into motion a plan we weren’t yet aware of, and eventually we found a way back, closer to those people. We came home for a visit that was actually a job search, told our parents we were moving back to the tune of “Sweet Home Alabama,” and soon we were behind the wheel again with white knuckles, trying to keep a giant moving truck between the lines on cross-country interstates. It was a true homecoming, a giddy three days of straight driving, snacking on truck stop food, taking turns behind the wheel, ending in a perfect welcome home to our tiny green house.
Coming home didn’t just mean a new home and a new routine, it meant living next door to my husband’s grandfather, a block away from his father, and just a short drive away from his mom and more grandparents. I had a whole new family within reach, and they all welcomed us with open arms and our favorite Southern foods.
Enter Mema, my grandmother-in-law. Every time we visit her and Pepa, we leave full of grilled food of some sort and plenty of wine. They are the ultimate hosts, and we are always breaking out extra chairs to fit more people around their dining table. When Withal asked me to try detoxing with a grandma, I initially wasn’t sure who to turn to. It’s sometimes difficult bridging generational gaps, and I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, trying to bring what I thought was my “modern” view together with a possibly more “outdated” one. I landed on Mema as my partner in this, mostly because I thought it would be funny to try to do something like this together. After all, she’s my husband’s grandmother, so I missed all those years making her do weird things just because she loves me, and I liked the idea of catching up on that. When I asked Mema to try an apple cider vinegar detox with me, she was understandably reluctant--and had no idea what I meant by detox--but ultimately, she was compliant.
I chose an apple cider vinegar detox because frankly, it was one of the few trendy detoxes I was familiar with. The definition of the word “detox” has always escaped me; it seems intentionally vague. But I’d experimented with ACV in the past, and I had intentions of trying it long term anyway. I have a major sweet tooth that I’m always fighting to keep under control, and among the many articles praising its benefits, curbing sugar cravings is among the most common.
Apple Cider Vinegar Hot Toddy
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 cup hot water
- 1 tsp honey (or more, to taste)
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Pinch of turmeric
Before we dove right into a full few days of detoxing, we decided to do a taste test, and I’m still not sure if that was a good idea or not. Apple cider vinegar is quite nice in recipes and salad dressings, but there’s something about drinking it that feels a lot like trying to drink pickle juice straight. In fact, I think Mema actually finished her cup first. For all my love of off-the-wall tastes, I struggled at first.
As we sat down to talk about it, I found that she had seen something about drinking apple cider vinegar in passing but hadn’t given it much thought, given there is somehow no limit to how many health crazes you can scroll past on Facebook in one day. “It’s hard to know what is just a fad and what is actually good for you," she said. I couldn’t help agreeing.
On principle, I’m rarely the first one to jump on board when a new health trend comes around to me. It’s often an internal backlash against the pressure I sometimes feel as a young woman trying to take advantage of every opportunity to be at the peak of my own health. And don’t get me wrong, I do often give in to the small trends that make sense for me: I’m an avid OrangeTheory participant, I gravitate toward Whole30-type meals, and I avoid sugar when possible. But there’s something about 2018’s jade-egg-loving, dry-brush-obsessed, facial-serum-filled self care culture that makes it hard for me to feel confident in how I care for myself, and so I usually take my time to come around.
Peyton - Struggled to drink in the morning, didn’t notice much change throughout the day. Drank less coffee, likely due to the taste being enough to wake the dead.
Mema - Evening dose, not a great way to end the day.
Peyton - Surprisingly, forgot my coffee at home and didn’t notice until midday. Sugar cravings felt minimal, and energy felt pretty steady.
Mema - Maybe less sugar cravings. Less hungry during the day.
Peyton - Forgot to make the drink this morning and did notice pretty soon after. Drank later in the day, which is more difficult to measure.
Mema - Have not noticed any significant changes in the way of weight loss, etc.
Peyton - Similar results to day 2; sugar cravings decreased and felt fuller in the morning.
Mema - So happy to be done! Couldn’t have done this for much longer.
While Mema didn’t wind up loving the experience, I think I’ll probably whip up an apple cider vinegar toddy once a week or so in the future, and I’ve already had a couple since our trial period. For one, I liked how satiated it made me feel in the morning. I wake up ravenous and am most hungry before lunch, and it was nice to not have to hunt down a snack an hour after eating breakfast.
In the end, I don’t think either of us will stick with drinking the toddy on a daily basis, but for me, it did feel like a nice way to replace coffee and control cravings after eating a lot of sugar. By the end of our four days, Mema was tapped out, but it was fascinating to hear how her perspective on health and self care mirrored so much of what I hear around me: “What makes you feel good is the way to go.” It’s often just as simple as that. Sure, some things just make more sense--you wouldn’t likely feel great if you had coffee for dinner, or cupcakes for breakfast, but I get the sense that with a mindset for making healthy choices, we actually know what works for us just by how our bodies respond to it.
In many ways, I’m learning this same principle applies to so many other things in life: what makes sense for you is what you should do. Moving to Portland in 2015 was exactly what I’d needed to do for me. Moving back to Alabama? Also perfect for me. There were plenty of voices I could have listened to along the way, and to this day I’m most grateful my own was the loudest. I looked around at Mema’s living room and kitchen, places we had spent a lot of time in recent months, and felt the beauty of coming home on my heart. Like every type of “self care” trend you might find out in the wilderness that is the internet, it isn’t for everyone and it can take some getting used to, but it can be surprisingly fulfilling. And getting to catch up on years I never had with Mema? It’s just right for me.