I’ve never done a cleanse. To be honest, and this may sound silly to many of you, this is something I’m a little ashamed to confess. I’ve studied detoxification, counseled individuals on their own cleansing decisions and of course, as much as any nutrition student, subjected my body to a barrage of dietary experiments. While some likely had a detoxifying effect, I felt like I was missing something, having never taken part in a diet plan designed specifically as a “cleanse.” Unfortunately I can’t say I’m thrilled with my first attempt.
Just so we’re all up to speed, a cleanse or detox diet can be loosely defined as a dietary regimen designed to aid the body in purging built up environmental toxins (pollutants, heavy metals, pesticides, food additives and more). While this is a natural bodily process (for nerds), the magnitude of toxins to which we are exposed combined with our American diet (heavy on the meat, light on the plants) can leave our livers overwhelmed and under-supported. Benefits of cleansing may include boosted energy, improved digestion, deeper sleep and clearer brain function (all results I have witnessed in a clinical setting). However, most of us view them as short term and very productive weight loss diets (also witnessed, but not an approach to weight loss that I endorse). There are hundreds of commercialized cleanses – think Master Cleanse, Blue Print Cleanse, Fat Flush Plan – many selling books, some accompanying supplement products and others expensive kitchen appliances. The rules vary widely from strictly scheduled supplement protocols to simple dietary restrictions.
So I’m about one week into my three-week program (inspired by the Whole Living Magazine 2012 Challenge), and after six straight days of eating strictly fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds I find myself wondering, “Am I cleansed yet?” Given my standard, unrestricted, omnivorous diet, I expected, almost hoped, that I would experience some drastic result after a week of cooking all my own food and going without animal products, grains, beans, sugar, preservatives, additives, caffeine or alcohol. But to my dismay, I don’t really feel any different. It’s an ironic frustration, because to wish for a drastic improvement is essentially to wish that either my body is shouldering a large toxic burden or that I have an intolerance to one of the foods I eliminated. Alternatively, I may just be impatient and making this judgment far too early in the process. Or I need to try a different cleanse.
Either way, through my reflections this weekend, and as my resolve to complete my program wanes, I’ve drawn a few valuable takeaways.
Cleanse with a purpose! It can be tough to stay on track. You’ll need a clear goal and intention to keep yourself motivated, whether it’s to relieve some physical symptom or just reconnect with a healthier lifestyle. Set your intention before you start, ideally in writing. If you cannot come up with one, perhaps it’s not the right time to cleanse.
Find the positives. Turns out, even if it didn’t make me feel superhuman, this week put me back in touch with my kitchen. Eating only fruits and vegetables forced me to experiment, learn some new techniques and try some new recipes. I’ve got a fridge full of leftovers and homemade soups to show for it. That connection was something I had been missing in my life as of late. For that I’m thankful of this experience.
Anyone have any cleanse experiences they’d like to share? Please do so!