Written By: Kat
Following this past holiday season, I was feeling generally yucky. I was sluggish, my skin looked terrible, and I wasn’t ever full after meals, so I kept on munching sugar and cheese well into the night. I had entered into a cycle of bad eating which almost felt like an addiction. Not to mention my 3-5 cup per day coffee habit.
With my body begging for a change, in the middle of January I began a 2-week initiative to break my self-negligent eating habits, and flush the “blah” from my system. I did some reading up, and incorporated elements from a number of diets into my cleanse but, for the most part, it was about just simplifying. To be clear, this was not a weight-loss plan, my primary goal was retraining myself for mindful consumption. I eased into each step, so as to avoid both shocking my body physically, and the emotional distress that comes from cutting off all your favorite foods at once. Quick background: mostly vegetarian, occasional pescetarian; alcohol-free; no known food allergies. Disclaimer: I am by no means a nutritionist.
Goals for the first week:
-Eliminating refined sugars– especially HFCS
-Eliminating all dairy
-Finding alternative protein sources
-Caffeine down to 100-150 mg/day
-Focus on vegetables and whole grains as centerpiece of diet
-Drink eight 8oz glasses of water per day
-Significantly reduce intake of enriched carbohydrate products and foods with gluten
Ideally, I wanted to be eating a diet high in whole grains, beans, and primarily raw foods. The hardest part here is getting sufficient calcium and proteins, as I removed my beloved cheese from the menu. Also, drinking that much water each day is surprisingly challenging!
- Suggested Calcium-Rich Foods: soybeans and soynuts, bok choy, broccoli, collards, Chinese cabbage, kale, mustard greens, okra, sesame seeds, almonds, flax seeds
- Suggested Protein-Rich Foods: lentils, peas, lima bean, navy bean, kidney bean chick-peas, tofu, seitan, tempeh, almonds, cashews, filberts, hemp seeds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, Barley, brown rice, buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, rye, wheat germ, wheat, wild rice
Goals for the second week:
- Raw foods only
- Transition toward juice fast (I followed a DIY version of the Blueprint Cleanse)
Note: I strongly recommend educating yourself before you try anything like this so you know what you are getting in to. Adjust everything to be realistic with your own body and lifestyle.
By the end of the first week, I can honestly say I felt amazing. I had learned to prepare a number of new raw food meals, sprouted quinoa became my new favorite thing, and I was even making my own salad dressing. Easing off of coffee was the hardest part, but by the middle of the second week, I was caffeine-free, dairy-free, sugar-free and my body was thankful. Every time I ate, I felt energized, and I was eating larger portion sizes without feeling weighted down. And my skin… it glowed! My face was more clear than it has been in years, and my nails and hair had better texture.
The second week was more challenging, as I began eating exclusively raw foods, and then transitioned to the juice fast. Originally, I had planned on two days of raw fooding, three days of juice fast, then two days of raw food again before easing back into cooked items (and cheese!). A few friends expressed concerns about my plans for a 3-day juice fast because of my weight, and I do not want to be the cause of alarm for anyone, so I ended up doing only one day of liquid diet. During that day, I did not feel hungry once, especially after the blended cashew “dessert” drink at the end.
To be perfectly honest, by day 12, I was bored out of my mind with salads, and preparing every single meal you eat takes a lot of work! I just started cutting up fruits and veggies and eating big piles of them for lunch. I was not only eating better food, but I was eating probably 50% more food than usual.
I can not overstate the effects of this dietary alteration. It was really incredible. Trust me, there was no ease in forgoing my favorite foods, it involved a lot of self-discipline. Plus, in the dead of winter, produce is no cheap-ticket item in western New York. But it was absolutely worth the inconvenience and first two days of crankiness for the invigoration and level-headedness I experienced during this two weeks. I felt so even-tempered and good, from the inside out. The whole experience made me reexamine my relationship with the things I eat, and I learned a lot about food as fuel. This was both good and bad, as I love food and the cleanse did make eating feel like a chore.
I highly recommend doing some research on raw foods and juice fasts before deciding to make any major dietary changes. I would definitely not recommend jumping feet-first into a juice fast, as the people who do that are the ones who report major headaches and symptoms mirroring drug withdrawal. I have every intention of doing this cleanse again, and imagine it being much simpler in the springtime when fruits and veggies are in season.
Have you ever done a cleanse? Was your experience similar to mine?