Two Thursdays ago ended my first-ever dietary cleanse and I already know it will not be my last. The idea started a few months back when Cindy and I tossed around the idea of partaking in a juice cleanse. Somehow the idea evolved into a period of time where we would eat healthy foods only. This quickly became lacking in any meaningful structure and being a man who values his borders, I needed more. Cindy being a woman who needs a good plan got on the case and found us the right formula. Gone was the idea of being all about juice. So what did it become? I’m glad you asked.
What was out:
– Processed or refined sugar
– Yes, even cheese
– All breads
– Non-tree Nuts (peanut butter, etc)
– Soy products
– Anything processed
– Coffee – I drew the line here. I had black coffee without remorse
What was in:
– All fruits
– All veggies
– Coconut milk
– Whole grains (quinoa, steel cut oats, etc)
– Beans (ideally fresh, if not rinsed thoroughly)
– Olive oil
– Raw tree-based nuts (Almonds, Pistachios, Pecans, etc)
– Dried, no sugar added fruits
Here’s what a typical meal plan for a day was:
Breakfast: Green smoothie (spinach, frozen peaches, coconut milk, plant-based protein powder, flax seed, chia seeds, ice)
Snack 1: Fruit and 10-12 almonds
Lunch: Sliced veggies and hummus, quinoa salad
Snack 2: Fruit and almond butter, more raw nuts
Dinner: Baked/Grilled fish, pan-seared veggies in olive oil, something with beans.
Dessert (12 hours or more before breakfast): Almond butter, dates, apple slices
So what was the “so what” of it? Overall it was a good thing but clearly not something sustainable long term for me. I simply missed cheese too much. While interesting I found it also took some of the fun out food. We tended to hide our cleanse from the outside world (although work peeps did pick up on my new habit of bringing my lunch) and avoided the numerous temptations presented when eating out. While tough at times, the cleanse did bring a few eye-opening benefits:
1. I was MUCH more alert during the day from day 3-10
2. Given most of the food was fiber-rich, I was hungry very quickly after eating most snacks and meals
3. It felt like I was snacking all day
4. I slept amazingly well
5. Did I mention I missed cheese?
6. It did reduce my strong nightly desire for dessert
7. Daily meal planning required more time/effort
8. You must re-enter the world of dairy carefully (trust me here).
In summary, I am taking away good things from the cleanse. Michael Pollan’s mantra of “eat real foods, not too much, mostly plants” was further emphasized as a great way to address food. The cleanse proved that real food can be prepared simply, taste good and satisfy while giving you plenty of energy to live a full day of activities. The cleanse also made shopping very simple, although not necessarily more affordable. Most food shopping was limited to the produce section – far fewer choices. I enjoyed having a partner (Cindy) to keep me honest and support the process (note I also didn’t mention her “being out” after Day 8 of our 10 Day Cleanse).
The cleanse is something I’d like to do 3-4 times a year as a reminder to tighten up my eating habits and help force myself to remember normal portion sizing behaviors. It will help me make better decisions when eating out and look to drive down the amount of processed food choices that can be made in a day. Oh yeah, and I think my running thanks me for it too!