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In Which Nikki Decides to Come “Clean”

When I offered my fiction writing instructor one of the cupcakes I had brought to share from my then-workplace and she declined because of being “on a cleanse,” I was immediately struck by both curiosity and awful flashbacks from days of pandering to the kale-munching clientele of my then-then-workplace. I’m all too familiar with cleanses–the good, the bad, and the ugly. From behind the Whole Foods coffee bar, I watched people ring up all manner of detox supplies, from simple kits consisting of daily pills to a noxious combination of bottled water, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, and maple syrup, against which I have a personal vendetta. (Ask me one day about the Master Cleanse, or, as my manager put it, “why you should never follow dietary advice from a book that looks like it was printed out of the back of a van.”)

That brief foray into spicy lemonade hell, however, had been my only personal exploration of the detox fad thus far. And while I’ve never been sure if I would say that it’s anything more than just that–a fad–I have to admit that the concept has always intrigued me. The fasting element, the severe elimination of many, if not all foods, appealed greatly to me as an approaching-overweight New Orleanian with emotional eating issues.

That night, after I yet again ate too much crappy food and failed to fit into yet another dress that hung loose on me last year, I decided to bite the bullet. I e-mailed my instructor and asked her what kind of cleanse she was on, and how it was working out for her. What she outlined to me was not what I expected: a strict, but not overly restricting, scientifically-backed, practical 3-week cleanse program developed by a certified M.D. I ordered Clean on Amazon that night and started it the following week.

There’s a ton I could say about the book and the program. It’s full of sound, clear, common-sense information about how your body works and what you can do nutritionally and lifestyle-wise to help it do what it was created to do. Our bodies want to function well. They are designed to be lean, mean health machines, and if given the chance, they will be. But our modern American diet and lifestyle has pretty much buried all of our body’s cries for help under a huge pile of corn syrup, red meat, and Jersey Shore re-runs. I don’t know if everyone in the world would agree with this assessment, for me, it resonated profoundly with what I’ve felt convicted about in my own lifestyle choices lately.

What was worse was the realization of just how badly I was addicted to sugar, carbohydrates, and excessive amounts of dairy (can we say cheese much?). Really, with all that Whole Foods training, I know how to eat well for my body. I know what foods to choose. But my every attempt at moderating my “bad food” intake–of having only half a scone, or skipping the queso at the restaurant–had failed miserably because my all-or-nothing brain couldn’t wrap my mind around it, and the strung-out receptors in my brain were screaming “ALL!” with all the desperation of a character in Spun. I knew I needed a different approach. I needed food rehab.

The Clean book recommends that before you try the official 3-week cleanse (consisting of two liquid meals a day and one regular meal), you step down gradually by going on the “Elimination Diet” for 1-2 weeks first. On this diet, you can eat your three meals a day, and there’s no strict portioning or calorie counting. You just have to eat foods within these guidelines, and abstain from the prohibited foods:

And if you skim over that list real quickly, you’ll see that the Elimination Diet is far from “gradual” for most people. It completely changes the types of foods you eat and the ways that you combine them. And for me, that worked incredibly well. The list was simple and un-cheatable. Can I eat this? If it’s on the yes list, sure. If it’s on the no list, back off. I couldn’t fudge it or second guess if I was going about it the right way. As long as I stuck to that left side of the page, the program should work.

And I’m happy to announce that so far, it most definitely has. After only the third or fourth day of the diet, I found myself having way more energy, barely any sugar/carb cravings (believe me, that one astounded me), and genuinely enjoying the healthy foods that I used to have to coerce myself into eating. Kale? Delicious. Brown rice? Bring it on.

The few drawbacks have been that yes, it does take a good bit more time and forethought to shop for and prepare my meals, and it’s much harder to eat out in restaurants. But for me, I was at a point where I was so unhappy with myself and how I ate that it’s a welcome trade. Well, except maybe for the whole peeing all the time thing. That’s really annoying.

Since I’m visiting Nashville until the end of the week, I’m going to continue with the Elimination Diet until I get home, then start the actual cleanse. I’ll post some updates periodically for anyone that cares to use me as their guinea pig.

How about ya’ll? Has anyone else tried this particular program, or a different type of cleanse or detox? How did you feel about it?

Toxically yours,

Nikki

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