I’m finally getting clean.
It’s not what you think. Well, in a way it is. I’m cleaning out my gut. And yes, that sounds totally disgusting, but it’s also kind of awesome.
Before we start using code words like “elimination” and “move,” let me ease you in slowly.
A few months ago my friend Stacy was extolling the virtues of eating in a clean manner. I was all, “You mean with a napkin and such?”
“No, no, a cleanse, the Clean program. It’s two shakes and a meal every day — but also this amazing mental journey. For the first time in about 10 years I am controlling my eating habits, they are not controlling me.”
Well, sign me up.
She’d lost about 10 lbs. on the cleanse, more after the cleanse was over, and it kick-started some other positive health changes for her — the results were evident in her glowing face.
When I think about a cleanse, I envision Beyoncé and Gwyneth Paltrow on California patios sipping hot water with lemon sprinkled with cayenne pepper. Or wafer-thin friends who’d complained to me about caffeine deprivation-induced headaches.
My typical food routine starts ambitiously with a fruit and yogurt, a hearty salad or sandwich for lunch, and then is trashed by a long day at work and a late-night dinner out with my husband, more often than not to Morgan’s BBQ in Brooklyn for some ridiculously good fatty brisket. I mean, they call it fatty brisket.
Something needed to change.
I’d tried the 3-day, liquids-only Blueprint cleanse once, with my husband, and we ended the last day in a movie theater drinking our cashew milk bottles with a giant bowl of buttery popcorn. You can’t imagine how disgusting that was. Maybe you can.
The idea of two shakes and a meal was enticing. There was the potential to uncover my food triggers, expel toxins, and, hopefully, reduce the inflammation in my body that I know is high (per a sedimentation rate blood test and knee injuries). Plus, there is a doctor at the helm of this cleanse, a former Lenox Hill cardiologist.
I was game — once I got over the sticker shock. The 21-day Cleanse (there is a 7-day version as well) costs $425 for the supply of shakes and supplements.
We don’t even think about the globs of gunk we’re stuffing down our throats, but it’s like a chemical reaction — for better or worse.
For three days before the cleanse I did a pre-cleanse, eating three actual meals that followed the Clean protocol: No alcohol, coffee, gluten, dairy or sugar. Chicken and fish are great. Nuts and nut butters are fine. Brown rice and lots of fruits and veggies also get the check of approval. I stocked the fridge with more kale, spinach, frozen berries and peaches and mangoes and avocados than it had ever seen. I invested in some Maca powder, flaxseed oil, cacao powder, and chia seeds. My kitchen was becoming a veritable health food shop.
The coffee restriction worried me the most. A 3-cup-a-day-er type, I assumed I was an addict. So instead of going cold turkey on coffee, I had a half-cup in the morning and afternoon on the first pre-cleanse day, a smaller half-calf cup on the next day and none on the third but got a giant green iced tea from Starbucks. Thankfully, green tea was very much allowed. (It’s the acidity of coffee they want you to avoid.)
But. On the first day of the actual cleanse, whilst making my inaugural shake, my blender started smoking. This was a blender I’d received from someone (sorry, person!) for my wedding several years ago and had used maybe twice, so I couldn’t blame it for going kaput. So, that afternoon, I went shopping and bought a Vitamix.
Note: People had told me about the life-changing properties of the Vitamix, but I didn’t believe them. Those suckers are at least twice the cost of a regular blender. But HOLY SHIT VITAMIX. Really. I got the smallest version, which has a smoothie preset, and the thing blends perfectly every single time. It can even grind down almonds into almond milk.
You’re probably thinking this all sounds off-the-charts expensive. Well, yes and no.
As I started to explore all the crazy things I could eat in liquid form, I was amazed how much I actually ate the things in my fridge. In “LBC” (life before cleanse), I’d buy apples and peaches and a big box of triple-washed salad and more often they rotted or wilted before I got to them. Now I was eating everything in the fridge. And eating mainly fruits and veggies and almond milk, I figured I probably halved my food costs. My solid meals were mainly hearty salads with chicken or fish with just really good olive oil as dressing or salmon, avocado, and brown rice plates. I learned to appreciate the deliciousness of eating an avocado almost every day with just a little lemon and sea salt.
And the mental and literal time saved. Having a fridge full of goodness influenced my meal decisions to always be healthy ones and “crowded out” the toxic foods— everything was so SIMPLE.
My husband has been opening up the fridge and staring at it like it’s an unknown species. He hasn’t been interested in joining me, yet. I’ve slipped a “purple haze” smoothie his way once or twice, and he’s loved it. He tells me, while gnawing on a piece of string cheese (a last remnant of LBC), that he’s proud of my perseverance and willpower.
For the first couple days, I was a bit lethargic but in a pleasant, easy kind of way — not exhausted. The lack of coffee probably had something to do with that, but it never gave me a headache. The green tea was my antioxidant crutch. Then my energy started to pick up, so much so that I had a little trouble sleeping some nights. Who needs sleep when you’ve got flaxseed?!
And that elimination thing: When one is on a cleanse, you tend to spend a good bit of time looking back at the toilet. If you’re doing it right and drinking lots of water, you’re peeing almost every hour. And in the robust Clean community discussions, there’s a lot of poop talk. I can report that I’m essentially shitting odiferous-free salads.
Outings haven’t been too bad either. I got myself through Memorial Day Weekend, forgoing my brother-in-law’s Moscow Mules and a “Caftans and Casseroles” party where eating is kind of the M.O. Friends and family have been overwhelmingly supportive.
But the best part was my knees, which were a throbbing, stabby mess LBC. Now, my heavy-breathing trudges up the subway stairs have magically disappeared. Seriously. In one week. In two weeks, I was down eight pounds, which had to have provided relief. (You’re not supposed to weigh yourself, but who can resist?)
Food is an amazing, powerful drug. As they say on this cleanse, it’s “information” and it’s “medicine.” We don’t even think about the globs of gunk we’re stuffing down our throats, but it’s like a chemical reaction — for better or worse. The Clean program isn’t a low-calorie program (don’t look at the calories in an avocado), it’s a teach-my-body-to-love-and-want-only-the-good-stuff program.
So far, I’ve learned that:
- I don’t need coffee to get through the day.
- If I stop eating sugar, I almost never want it.
- Eating my big meal at lunch is much easier than I thought and eating less at night helps me to feel less sluggish in the morning.
- There is plenty of food to eat that I love and adore and tastes good and makes me full and doesn’t make me feel deprived.
- Not to cheese out on y’all, but I learned that I. Can. Do. It. Yes. I Can.
I am on Day 21, the last day of the cleanse. I can either choose to stop entirely, keep going for another week, or start the reincorporation process where I add back in one possibly toxic item at a time — gluten, dairy etc. — and chart my reactions.
Stacy says bread and coffee turned out to be her culprit; I’m guessing sugar might be mine. I haven’t cooked much at all.
But I’m going to wait to find out.
As excited as I am to find out what stuff is creating havoc in my gut, I think I’ll keep going. Just one more week.