Hello! It’s Day 7 of my cleanse, so I’m officially at the one week point. As usual, I’m both loving it and struggling with it. Loving it because my body feels light and truly “clean” while I’m on the plan, and struggling because…well….I’m human and I miss eating solid food at dinner, and I miss my vegan desserts! But there’s more to it than that. And so I wanted to take today to answer some questions I often get about this whole thing.
Remember, I am not a certified nutritionist, nor do I have any formal education in a health-related field. However, I am a huge nerd, and so I’ve been reading about this stuff with nearly the same attention I give to my actual graduate school studies. So take it all with a grain of salt, and know that I speak best about what works for me. So here goes!
Q: Why detox at all? Don’t our bodies clean themselves?
To answer this, it’s important to explain the science behind the pH levels in our body. Kris Carr’s book explained this most simply to me. Basically, our bodies have a very narrow pH range, and the food we eat will either put our insides closer to the alkaline side or closer to the acidic side. Most people are closer to the acidic side, since things like crap food, lack of exercise, stress, cigarettes, alcohol, etc. are acid forming. The reason this matters is because, as Carr notes,
“Everything from a runny nose to skin eruptions, heartburn, eczema, inflammation, arthritis, poor circulation, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, a weakened immune system–even cancer–can be traced back in some way to an acidic inner terrain…..
An acidic condition is also a breeding ground for bad bacteria, yeast, and fungi, while an alkaline environment helps keep these critters in check. We assume that colds and viruses happens when we “catch” a bung. In fact, many common infections are actually caused by bacteria that are part of the normal flora already present in our systems. When our diet and lifestyle choices suck, we create a fertile ground for them to multiply and revolt on the inside.” (p. 23)
So this detox actually clears out your guts to allow for that awful stuff to go away, and enables a foundation for optimum health. We can control our health through what we put in our body! That’s so
Q: Do you get hungry on the cleanse?
The only times I get hungry are when I don’t make smart decisions. Nothing about the Clean plan would necessarily require that you be hungry, since it’s not calorie restrictive. That means if you feel really hungry at meal times, you can have more than one serving of whatever you make. You can also snack on clean food (that means a lot of apples w/ almond butter, carrots w/ hummus, etc.), but Dr. J recommends that you keep that minimal so the body has time to digest the meal that came before. If I get hunger pains it probably means I worked out too hard and didn’t compensate with enough calories. Of course, sometimes before dinner, my tummy will start to grumble, but Dr. J reminds us that that’s a GOOD, healthy feeling: it means our stomach has actually digested our last meal and that we should be ready for the next.
Q: How can I do the cleanse if I’m busy? It seems like preparing meals is so time-consuming.
In some ways, yes, meal prep on the cleanse does take time. But Dr. J gives a good anecdote in his book; a woman who was suffering tremendously with digestive issues came to Dr. J for help, and started the cleanse. She came back a few days later and said, “I can’t do this. I’m a single-mom, I just don’t have time.” Dr. J asked her how many hours of her life she’s spent in hospitals due to her IBS and related discomforts. She got the point and made time to do meal prep, and had *amazing* results (her IBS disappeared). I think that’s really important to remember; that we can make time for things that are important to us, and our health should always be top priority–not just for ourselves, but for those around us too.
If you have a job that requires you to leave the house early and come home late, my number one suggestion is to invest in mason jars! Those babies keep left overs so fresh! So, make your lunch meals on a sunday and put them in five mason jars for the week. Make a big thing of soup for the week, which will likely last you until the next weekend. Juices and smoothies stay good in mason jars for about a day, so if you make double servings of smoothies and juices, keep the second half in the same jar and drink it the next AM. Have healthy snacks on hand by packing those in transportable containers at the beginning of the week too.
Q: How can you possibly maintain a social life while on the cleanse?
I have to admit, this is one of the most challenging aspects of the cleanse. A lot of Clean-ers joke that they wish the world would just stop for three weeks, so we can do our cleanse without missing out on anything. Alas, it doesn’t work that way, and so we have to practice will-power and make some tough decisions about what’s important to us more: a vodka tonic, or a recharged system and new healthy lifestyle?
That’s the key thing; this cleanse is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change. I started drinking less and less alcohol before my first cleanse because I care too much about having good AM workouts to drink, and had too much school work to deal with hangovers. But after being on the cleanse, my occasional drinking became even more rare, because my body fell in love with feeling healthy. The same goes for sugary treats: I am QUEEN of eating sweets at parties, and I often “break vegan” to try a delicious looking birthday cake, or epic cookie. And while that’s certainly still happened post-cleanse, it’s far less common and I honestly feel like refined sugar is poison (which is why I prefer to bake with agave, maple syrup and coconut sugar). I also adapted my lifestyle to go to bed earlier, ending the night with a Natural Calm hot water w/lemon, and waking up early to enjoy a hot water with lemon–all of which aids in digestion.
My point is that, yes, you’ll have to make sacrifices. That might mean going to parties and feeling really tempted to eat or drink things that aren’t clean, or making the decision to skip the party altogether. But it’s only three weeks, and when you go back to that party post-cleanse, it’s quite likely you’ll feel less deprived because you can have that drink, but that you actually won’t want to!
Another tip for party-going (something I’ll be practicing this evening, actually), is to bring your favorite soup or smoothie with you to eat while you’re there, so your mouth can be occupied while everyone else is eating and drinking the party stuff. If you have a supportive group of friends, they’ll understand. They might tease you a bit, but they’ll understand. (And if you don’t have friends that want to support you on getting healthy, you might want to reconsider the company you keep! Another good tip for support system is to join the Clean Community Forum online. Such an amazing resource!)
Q: Can you never go out to eat?
I have definitely gone out to eat on the cleanse. Ideally, you should try to make restaurant trips around your solid-meal lunch time, but if you absolutely have to go to a restaurant dinner, Dr. J suggests switching your liquid and solid meal, so you’ll have liquid all day, and have your clean meal at dinner. The trick is to know what you can eat and be willing to ask for modifications. The first day of my cleanse, Mike and I had brunch, and the menu had a “Healing Plate” with brown rice, squash, greens, and tempeh, but because I can’t eat tempeh, I asked for a little extra squash. They were happy to oblige. I also double checked to make sure that the balsamic reduction that came on top didn’t have any sugar in it–it didn’t, and they were happy to double-check for me!
Q: Okay, this sounds cool, but I’m still not ready to do a full-blown cleanse. What could I do to make a gradual step in that direction?
Good question! Dr. J recommends the “elimination diet” (ED) for everyone pre-cleanse, whether that means you’ll be doing the cleanse in a week or a year. The ED simply allows you to try out eating clean foods and eliminating all the foods that are often the source of health problems. After listing all the stuff you can’t eat (alcohol, sugar, most meat, some fruits and veggies, grain, wheat, gluten, soy, peanuts, potatoes, dairy, etc.), people often say “What can you eat?!” Well, truthfully, lots. Here’s a list from the CLEAN Community Forums that breaks it down. It’s helpful for a shopping list:
Fruit: Whole fruits (including lemons and limes), unsweetened, frozen or water-packed, diluted natural juices
Dairy Substitutions: nut milk made from “clean” nuts (hazelnut, almond, walnut, pecan, brazil), unsweetened brown rice milk, seed milks like hempseed, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, coconut milk (unsweetened and in small amounts)
Grains: Brown rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, teff, buckwheat
Plant based proteins: Split peas, red and green lentils, all legumes and beans (except edamame and peanuts)
Nuts and seeds: walnuts, sesame, pumpkin, brazil, sunflower, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax, nut and seed butters
Vegetables: everything except nightshades (eggplants, tomatoes, peppers and potatoes and no sweet potatoes or yams) consumed fresh/organic/local, raw, steamed, sauteed, juiced, roasted
Oils: Cold pressed olive, coconut, flax, sesame, almond, sunflower, pumpkin, walnut, coconut
Beverages: Filtered or distilled water, green tea, herbal teas, seltzer or mineral water, yerba mate, coconut water, kombucha (in moderation if you’re already consuming it), fresh juices
Sweeteners: Brown rice syrup, stevia
Miscellaneous: apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, ume plum vinegar, rice vinegar, all spices (but try to avoid large amounts of red pepper, chili, cayenne, chipotle pepper), coconut amino acids, wheat free tamari, sea salt, all herbs (basil, cinnamon, cumin, dill, garlic, ginger, oregano, parsley, rosemary, turmeric, marjoram, cardamom, thyme etc. ), carob, raw cacao, miso, mustard (without sugar or preservatives)
(*Note: I took out the meat section because I don’t even want to have that on my vegan blog, but if you do eat meat and are curious, let me know and I’ll tell you what’s approved!).
Label reading is super important. And, it’d be helpful if you didn’t actually buy anything with a label at all (this is easier said than done, I know). But beware: SUGAR EXISTS IN ALMOST EVERYTHING! It’s horrifying. So read carefully.
Q: You are so classist. No one can afford this food. Who do you think you are, you bourgeois piece of garbage?
Okay, so maybe a lot of that is my own guilt-ridden self-talk, but it’s important to address. First of all, I am not rich, and if you know me, you know that I’m very proud of my working-class background. However, I am at a place in my life where I have enough disposable income to spend on things that are important to me, and right now that means: yoga and healthy food. In order to afford this I make sacrifices elsewhere: I don’t go to bars to drink, I rarely eat out, and my clothes purchases are few and far between. Maybe that sounds dreadful to some of you, but it’s made me feel healthier and more consistently happy than ever (note: sure, when i think back to the days that i spent more money on going out and getting drunk, i can say i may have had more “fun”, but those fun nights were usually followed by depressing days, and so my low-key lifestyle is suiting me far better…).
But even if you don’t have extra cash, you can make this “diet” (lifestyle) work anyway. Most everyone buys groceries, so it’s just a matter of allocating those funds on food that serves your body. Because if you don’t eat well, you’ll end up spending way more money on medical bills, anyway; so in the end, this is a deal! First, buy in bulk: grains (rice, quinoa, millet) in bulk; beans (if you have time to soak them); nuts. This will reduce your cost immensely. Second, memorize the “dirty dozen” and the “clean 15” list, which refers to what produce you should buy organic, and which food you can skip buying organic. Third, stop buying shit from boxes. It’s processed and full of garbage, so don’t waste your money.
Granted, I know that advice still only applies to a certain portion of the privileged population, and I’m not denying we have a long way to go before real food justice prevails. However, if you have any interest in being a part of that movement, you need the energy to stay motivated, and eating clean will help you do that.
Hope that brought some clarity to things! I’ve been lazy about picture-taking, but more meal posts will be coming in the following weeks!