I've never been one for detoxes, cleanses, or fasts. As everyone says, your body is naturally wired to detoxify itself. But in the new year, I'd been feeling like nothing but an old lady: sluggish, tired, ridden with problems from nighttime allergies to a hard time focusing. I work in the food industry, and between tradeshows and heavy meals, I felt nauseated whenever I even smelled rich food. My digestive system hated me.
I was inspired by Michele's experience with the Remove program. I was inspired by how she'd felt, but didn't have a few hundred dollars to spare. I came across an old edition of GOOP, Gwyneth Paltrow's newsletter, that talked about a 7-day detox sans coffee, sugar, alcohol, gluten, dairy, soy, fatty nuts, red meat, shellfish, and nightshade vegetables. Before I knew it, I'd committed to myself to trying it out.
- The detox is based on a book, Clean, by a western doctor named Alejandro Junger who also happens to believe in the principles of Eastern medicine. I bought his book and thought it was a wonderful read. I'm always looking to reconcile the two schools of thought, and this was a perfect marriage of them both.
- The basic principles of the cleanse: Eat a liquid meal for breakfast (juice or a smoothie), a solid meal for lunch (steamed fish or chicken, always all-natural), and another liquid meal for dinner (soup). Be sure to allow 12 hours between dinner and breakfast to allow your body to focus on restoring itself, rather than digesting food. Drink enough water so that you are hitting the bathroom at least once an hour. Also recommended but not required: A shot of olive oil daily to stimulate the liver, slices of raw garlic, herbal laxatives (a bowel movement a day is required), gentle workouts, sauna visits, and skin brushing. I tried to do as many of these as I could.
- A typical day's diet included a blueberry, almond milk, whey protein, and probiotic seaweed smoothie for breakfast. Then coconut milk and tea mid-morning, and steamed, wild salmon with steamed vegetables for lunch. Dinner was a puréed broccoli and arugula soup topped with olive oil, sunflower seeds, and pepitas (pumpkin seeds). If I was in want of a snack, I munched on pepitas and sunflower seeds.
- The first day, I felt like Charlie Sheen in rehab and wanted to pull my hair out. I had a headache, and felt mentally dull from the lack of food and sugar and caffeine. But by the second day, my body was acclimated to it. By the third day, I'd slept soundly for the first time in ages, and discovered it was easier to wake up and get my day started than it used to be with all the caffeine in my life. For the first time, paying attention to my body in this way allowed me to recognize the difference between hunger and appetite. By the end of the week, I'd felt so great that I decided to continue my detox to make it a total of 14 days.
- The advantages: After 14 days, I experienced a ton of benefits. They included but weren't limited to: sound sleep, alertness, little to no energy spikes, no bloating, gas, or off-smells in the bathroom, a smaller appetite, seven pounds of weight loss. Also, I no longer had that undercurrent of frenetic energy I'd always experienced (a negative side effect of all that coffee I was drinking).
- The disadvantages: I'll admit that I had cravings that were hard to curb. In fact, one night I spent hours surfing food porn on the web, just so that I could eat with my eyes! Going out with friends was rare and difficult; once I watched a friend down an entire pastrami sandwich while I sat there and drank my water. I disliked the probiotic seaweed powder that I added to my morning shakes, and cooking every single meal from scratch was time-intensive. So was hitting the gym and the sauna daily.
- In summary: I'd definitely do this detox again, based on how it made my body feel. It's time-intensive, so be sure to plan ahead and choose a schedule that will work for you — maybe not during Chinese New Year and the Super Bowl, which just happened to be the inopportune time frame in which I decided to do it. But it's well worth the effort.