Our Editor in Chief embarks on a rigorous (and safe!) month-long cleanse program—and delivers weekly diaries in the meantime. Follow her progress here.
DAYS ONE THROUGH SIX
In an effort to feel healthier and cleaner with the holiday season approaching, I decided to act on a recommendation to start the Clean Program Cleanse. To be clear, this is not your average cleanse—you can unroll your eyes now. There are no green juices or wheat grass shots, and yes, there’s food. Lauded by Gwyneth Paltrow and Rachel Roy, the twenty one-day cleanse is centered on a supplement and shake powder diet. For breakfast and dinner I’m required to mix a cleanse shake powder with fruit and veggies of my choice. At lunch I’m encouraged to have a hearty meal that must contain grains, veggies, and a protein. Of course, there are restrictions…the Clean Program makes you cut out dairy, gluten, soy, peanuts, bananas, all nightshade veggies, and more, in an effort to get your body back to its natural state. The end goal is to remove toxins, replace them with vital nutrients, and then understand how your body reacts to certain types of foods once the cleanse is complete. It’s also been known to improve skin, sleep, digestion, energy, mental clarity and reduce bloating and joint pain—so I guess it could be worth cutting out my usual late-night pizza for 3 weeks.
Ed note: I know that cleanses like these are a point of contention in the health and diet communities. Let me say that this cleanse was recommended to me by somebody who found it both safe and effective. It’s not for everybody, but sometimes, a little regulation is just what your body needs.
My first few days were telling. I had immense trouble with the taste of the cleanse powder and spent my first day incredibly nauseous, but full. I usually down a protein shake in under 30 seconds (my roommate is a witness to this incredible event) but I ended up only drinking half of my first shake and couldn’t even finish. And even though I was uncomfortably full, I had the sweet tooth of a ten year old. I decided to stay in the whole weekend and let my body rest and adjust to the change in diet. I did light yoga on Friday and Sunday, which was felt great and allowed me to fall asleep easily at night. I felt terrible for being so lazy, but the body needs all its energy to focus on the cleansing process during this time, so in bed I went.
On Day 3, I really began to see how my brain thinks about food, in a pretty bad way. At any inkling of hunger, I was in the kitchen within thirty seconds snacking on something. The Clean Program urges against this and stresses the importance of checking in with what your body really needs in a moment of hunger. My body really needed a Hu Kitchen Simple Chocolate bar. But I feel like I’ve gotten over the hump of mental snacking in just my first few days.
On Day 5, I’ve finally begun to control my hunger and ease into my food routine. I feel strong enough now to begin working out more intensely. My sugar cravings have definitely calmed down and I feel my appetite beginning to shrink. I allow myself a snack between lunch and dinner—apples with almond butter or carrots with vegan hummus—just so that I’m not swayed to an early dinner circa 6PM. I’ve noticed that my skin is glowing and the whites of my eyes have definitely become brighter. After just 5 days, I feel lighter on my feet and much calmer and relaxed. I don’t know if it’s the yoga or the lack of processed foods that I usually put in my system. Honestly, I better at least look skinnier after this.
Half of an avocado
Handful of spinach
Handful of kale
Clean Shake Powder
Frozen raspberries and mangos
Mix in a Vitamix (or similar) and serve immediately.
DAYS SIX THROUGH THIRTEEN
This installment: beauty benefits, a little cheating, and a redemption story.
Ok, I’ll admit it. I totally cheated. But when your best friend comes into town and asks for a sushi date night, would you say no? At least I got 11 days in before I sealed the deal and broke my vow to health. Today is my 13th day on the cleanse, and despite my minor oversight, I’m feeling better than ever.
The first week was definitely tough. I noticed my energy was low, I was down because I wasn’t permitted to go out at night and see my friends (cleanse's rules, not mine) and my body felt bloated and uncomfortable. It’s amazing how so much of our social interactions are based around food! Especially in New York. My friends and I are always eating somewhere or drinking something, so I’ve been keeping to myself (Hi friends, I’m still here). I knew my body was just adjusting to the new diet, so I kept pushing forward and following it. I’ve loved waking up each morning not dreading my previous days’ eating decisions—no extra cookies from the office or indulgent dinners to feel guilty about. The whites of my eyes had become brighter and my skin totally cleared up...definitely not going to complain about that.
I also noticed my body completely decompress. The Clean Program makes you take out foods that are proven to potentially cause allergies within your system, so there’s definitely something that I shouldn’t be including in my everyday diet. I used to feel very puffy and swollen, but now I feel free of toxins, and a few pounds lighter, too (not a goal of this trial but a welcome side effect).
One thing I’ve struggled with is cold-like symptoms that come with cleansing your body of toxins. I’ve had an incredibly sore/dry throat for about 10 days now and wake up with a congested nose each morning. I’ve been drinking tons of green tea to help soothe my throat and give me an extra kick of caffeine—coffee, I miss you most—which has also helped calm my appetite in between meals.
Although the past 13 days have been a rollercoaster of missing my weekly spaghetti and pizza nights, the Clean Program has turned me on to so many healthy habits that have made me feel like a completely new person. My cleanse is set to end next Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and I’m thinking of eating clean even after its over… with a few cheat nights here and there, of course.
Liv rounds out the end of her cleanse with a Q&A from the doctor who started the program—why an extended cleanse works, how to eat healthy on a budget, and other healthy eating tips (just in time for your resolution).
DAYS THIRTEEN TO TWENTY-ONE
Today is my final day of the Clean Program. Although it was tough, I’ve never felt healthier and more at peace mentally and physically. The swelling in my body has completely disappeared, my skin has cleared up, and I’ve noticed a complete shift in the way I think about food. The Program helped me to appreciate clean eating and showed me how to do it (while still getting to indulge every now and then!). Although I could tell you more of my personal experience, we decided to bring in the big guns. I got in touch with the creator of the cleanse himself, Dr. Junger, to answer any lingering questions and hopefully inspire you to go clean as well!
Why is this type of cleanse healthier than a juice cleanse?
I used to work at a detox spa in Palm Springs, so I’ve known quite a bit about juice cleansing. In a spa setting, where you’re resting most of the day and are removed from many of your daily stressors, juice cleansing can be very beneficial. But for the majority of people leading active, busy lives, juice cleansing can quickly fall short. For many, relying only on juice during your normal routine is not enough to provide the energy necessary to maintain balance and manage stress—in these situations, binging is common.
Why 21 days?
Research suggests that 21 days is the minimum amount of time you need to really develop a new habit, so I tried to work that into this program.
What’s the best way to eat clean on a budget?
Sometimes, clean food can seem expensive and unaffordable—but that thought is misguided. Sure, if we compare the immediate cost of eating clean to the immediate cost of eating junk, eating junk will almost always be cheaper…but that’s only part of it.
If you hang out at the register at most natural food stores across America, you’ll notice that the majority of foods that drive up the checkout total aren’t whole fruits, vegetables, and meats. The foods that cost the most are processed or boutique health foods like organic kettle cooked chips, strawberrymelon kombucha, glutenfree oatmeal cookies, and raw food maca bars. These foods taste great, but a diet of packaged natural foods isn’t what clean eating is all about. Clean eating is about focusing on a solid foundation of fruits, veggies, natural meats, and other whole foods.
Also, restaurants are expensive. Sometimes especially clean ones. Simply to make almost half of our monthly meals is one of the easiest ways to ensure that we’ll keep a regular food budget.
What’s in your fridge right now?
Simple foods. Vegetables, greens, chicken, fish, almond and coconut milk, berries. In my cabinet. I keep almond butter, Braggs Liquid Aminos, Dr Schulze’s Superfood Greens for salads, and different types of sea salt. I make my daily shakes with my Clean Program mix and whatever fruit I have around.
What’s your best advice for first time cleansers?
Jump in and do it. Almost everyone can benefit dramatically from a balanced detox program. I don’t mean a purely juice or liquid program—I know people can get nervous, but when you look at what you are actually doing during the 21 days, you’re feeding your body the best quality stuff. You can’t go wrong with that. I’ve seen so many people transform their life from a good 21 day program, and I really want you to succeed. I’ll do everything I can to get you there.