As a fitness editor, I get offered the experience to try a lot of detoxes and cleanses. I'm not sure if that's a good thing, but I can tell you that I pretty much suck at them. My attempts at juice cleanses usually last until lunch, mixing powder into water and calling it a meal is bizarre to me, and the idea that a two-ounce tonic is going to erase a night's worth of cocktails just sounds like a load of crap. In all of my failed attempts, I've come to realize that I love food — a lot. So the idea of giving it all up for the promise of a few pounds or the best energy of my life is not something I've needed. Until I went gluten-free and vegan for three days.
I eat mostly healthy, most of the time. I also eat everything, in the sense that I don't really subscribe to a specific diet. Like many, my healthy-diet downfall tends to happen on the weekends and on vacation. So when Project Juice offered me a go at its three-day Clean Cleanse just a week after getting back from Mexico, I was all in. Unlike most cleanses I know of, this one sounded appealing because it was real, actual food, the kind of food you chew. What the cleanse was missing was gluten, artificial sugar, dairy, and meat. Beyond that, most days on the cleanse were pretty similar: start the day with a wellness shot, follow that with a green juice before a filling breakfast of oats or chia pudding, a couple more cold-pressed juices before the afternoon snack of trail mix, a filling salad of some sort for dinner, and end the day with a rich and creamy nut milk plus another wellness tonic.
The cleanse promised a lot for three days: improved energy, better digestion, elevated mood, reduction in body fat, mental clarity, "and more!" Did I feel all of these things? I think so? To be fair, I wasn't coping with a lot of these issues, so my base of comparison wasn't great. It's likely that someone who was looking to revamp their entire lifestyle would probably feel much more immediate benefits. Despite this, I loved doing the Clean Cleanse. Not only do I plan to follow another clean-eating diet after coming home from my next vacation, but I also learned a lot about myself and my eating habits that has made me healthier overall in my day-to-day omnivore ways.
Deprivation Is Not a Bad Thing
I've never been too keen on cutting out an entire food group. I also think food is too good to constantly live your life in a cycle of deprivation. I still mostly believe this, but I've realized that in order to get back to that place of moderation, you sometimes need to first go cold turkey. Ten days in Mexico was enough to disrupt my normal routine, giving me a new normal. Despite my best intentions when returning home, I found it hard to get back to big salads for lunch, nightly workouts, and the occasional happy hour. I needed an intervention. Because I had a set plan, nothing was up for negotiation in my mind. That inner voice telling me "just one bite" or "a sip won't hurt" was gone. I was laser focused on sticking to this plan, and as a result, it was super easy to transition back into my all-things-in-moderation mantra once it was over. The mental aspect of following a strict plan was exactly what I needed to get back on track.
When I say deprivation, I should also clarify that I simply mean eating super clean. I was never left hungry, and took in about 1550 calories each day, which was enough to sustain me, even during workouts. It also helped that everything tasted delicious, so it's good to know that being on a cleanse is not the equivalent of eating dirt and mushroom powder.
Planning Is Essential When It Comes to Eating Healthy
The week I got back, I ate just about every meal out; my energy levels and wallet suffered big time. Having my meals ready to go was a reminder that meal planning is essential for staying on course. Before my cleanse was even over, I headed to the grocery store to make sure my kitchen was stocked, so once the cleanse was over, I'd be less likely to order delivery or grab something from my nearby bodega. Yes, having someone prep my meals for three days was a definite luxury, but it inspired me to do the same on a more consistent basis, which has made my body and bank account better for it.
Clean Eating Is a Gateway Drug
Once I started eating clean, everything else seemed to fall into place. As soon as my cleanse started, I was right back into my fitness routine. I also felt more mindful. I found that I was going to bed at a decent hour, watching less TV, walking more, and remembering to wash the makeup off of my face — every. damn. night. When I eat better, I feel better, and it makes me want to extend that feeling into all aspects of my life. This mind-body connection was huge for me. Now on days when I feel sluggish, moody, or uninspired, I take a quick account of what I've been eating. More often than not, I find that my off days are connected to fatty foods, refined carbs, or alcohol.
A final word on giving up meat, dairy, and gluten: from a personal standpoint, I didn't feel a huge difference from eliminating meat or gluten from my diet. If anything, I missed having an easy source of protein from lean meat, as I do find it hard to get enough of the nutrient while following a plant-based lifestyle. I've pretty much kept off of dairy and found that my digestion and skin appearance have both vastly improved.