I finished the Clean Detox programme a few weeks ago but am only just now sitting down to write my thoughts on the experience, both in doing the detox and in life post-detox. First, here are my general feelings about the Clean Detox itself:
- It’s very easy to follow. The rules are simple: eat two liquid meals per day (ideally for breakfast and dinner); don’t eat processed food, dairy, eggs, soy, sugar, alcohol or caffeine. (There are a few more rules but that’s the gist of it.)
- You can do the detox without buying expensive supplements or protein powders (thought you can do so if you wish!)
- I didn’t feel deprived. There are no calorie restrictions and the “diet” allows for lots of delicious food, including loads of yummy vegetables, fruits, beans, pulses and fish.
- I felt great after week one, and awesome by the end of week three.
- I lost about 5 pounds during the three weeks (the objective wasn’t weight loss, but I certainly didn’t mind this side effect).
- I came to really love breakfast smoothies so much so that I continue to have them for breakfast almost daily.
- It isn’t socially excluding – I was still able to have meals with friends, at home and at the pub, without ever having to be that annoying person who’s like “oh none for me, I’m doing a detox!” (except perhaps during the dessert course and the drinks round!)
- I felt less stressed as a result. I didn’t expect this but in general I felt more relaxed about work, life, everything.
- I didn’t miss a lot of things, even foods that were usual staples of my diet – particularly eggs and tofu. I didn’t even miss alcohol very much, even when going to the pub! This probably has a lot to do with my own mental readiness – a real feeling of NEED – to do the detox.
- No bananas? Bananas are a no-no on the Clean Detox and this is the ONE food that used to be a staple in my diet that I have not returned to. I used to use them in smoothies all the time but said smoothies often made me feel bloated and gross (that may also have been the whey protein talking). Since getting rid of bananas (and whey) I haven’t had these issues so I haven’t either of those foods again since!
Things I found challenging:
- Eating soup for dinner all the time can get boring. I like soup, but think of it more as a lunch food. And without the pleasure of crusty bread to dip into the soup, I found dinner soups kind of boring.I often found myself excessively garnishing my soups to the point where they were more garnish than soups, and using baby gem lettuce leaves in place of bread.
- I didn’t have much energy at the gym. I often felt like I really had to “push” myself to get through a weights session (swimming was easier). I think this comes down to nutrition – I was doing this detox on a primarily vegan diet even though fish was allowed. However, as a result, I think I was lacking on good protein that my body could have used.
- I didn’t plan for life after the detox.
I want to talk about that last point a little.
My real mistake with the detox was that I didn’t have an exit strategy. I didn’t plan at all for the fact that right after the detox, I’d have friends and family in town for several weeks and holiday trips to Cornwall and Marrakech. Detox be damned, it was time to retox, or so I behaved. And how easy it is on holidays, special occasions and even regular life to slip back into habits like wine every evening, daily desserts, afternoon snacks and so on.
Then what’s the point of “detoxing”?
I realised last week that I didn’t really tackle any of the issues that led me to want to detox in the first place. I know I felt a certain sense of exhaustion. I was still exercising regularly and eating “healthy vegan” foods most of the time. But I also found myself prone to going “all out” during moments of celebration to the point where it took me days to recover and days to “get back on track” with exercise, sleep and general feelings of awesome. Sometimes, by the time I recovered, it’d be time to “celebrate” again, and those feelings awesome became fewer and fewer. I was getting diminishing returns from celebration. How wrong!
I’ve always been very conflicted on these matters. I spent a long time being extremely strict about diet and exercise – probably too strict. I eventually learned that I could “celebrate” from time to time and having a piece of cake or a beer once in a while wouldn’t make me balloon. It took years of practise, but I’m now able to celebrate “with gusto” and I love it. Being in the moment, living without reservation, with friends and people I love. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Who can begrudge a cheese course at every meal? Or cake?!
The problem I’ve encountered in recent years, especially since my career has leaned more and more towards food, is that these celebrations can easily happen all the time. Sometime for days in a row. Hence my inability to catch up and get back to feeling awesome.
The unfortunate thing about eating well all the time is that your body has a harder time dealing with delicious but indulgent foods like sugar and alcohol. At least my body does, anyway. I need to learn that even on holidays, I can’t “celebrate” all the time because yes it’s possible to have too much of a good thing and there are those diminishing returns again creeping into every day life!
Detox Take Two: It’s not about food
Underlying all this talk about food is actually stuff that isn’t about food at all (thanks to my sister for helping bring this to my attention). All of the things that brought me to the detox – and I’m still figuring out what those are – have nothing to do with food but more to do with my decisions and my social behaviour.
So I’ve decided to do the detox again but with a few tweaks:
- I’m going to try to put as much focus on mental awareness (clean thinking?) as I do to clean eating.
- Over the next three weeks I will develop an exit strategy for life post-detox. I have no idea what that means, because I hate the concept of “rules”. But I guess rules are strategies wrapped up in, well, rules, so maybe that’s a good thing.
- I’m going to eat more fish (clean protein) in hopes that it will help my energy levels at the gym.
- I’m not going to be fussy about not eating tomatoes (I know they are among the “nightshade” vegetables that are often rich in alkaloids that can be mildly toxic, but I’m pretty sure I don’t have a problem with them).
- I’m not going to begrudge my use of garnishes on soups, but I will try to stick to eating soup for dinner and having my solid meal at lunch.
- There might be a few soy or egg products here and there, if only because I still have them left in my fridge and I can’t stand the thought of foods going to waste.
Maybe I’m being crazy. Maybe there’s nothing wrong with the way I live, eat, exercise and celebrate. But if I feel the way I do, then something IS wrong and I have to fix it. I don’t want to lose my ability to celebrate without inhibition. But I want to be able to do that without losing track of everything else. Sometimes I really do feel like I’ve “fallen off the wagon”. So maybe that whole “without inhibition” thing will have new meaning once I figure all this out.
All energies on positive non-foodie things!
One thing I’ve considered is that my obsession with food is not always a good thing and I wonder if things like doing a detox is just a way of avoiding real issues while I obsess over soup and smoothie recipes. I’m going to try not to do that, and instead focus on simple meals, less cooking and more productivity in my personal and professional life. To that end, I have started knitting! I am also working on a new eBook about breakfast smoothies (ok, I know that’s about food but it doesn’t involve me cooking or eating so I think it counts). To that end, I will need recipe testers so if anyone out there would like to make some smoothies with me, please let me know by leaving a comment.
Any and all comments, questions and sense checks on the above are most welcome. Thank you for reading!