Written By Brianne Cook
Two Flowgi’s share their experience of the 21 day cleanse as laid out in the March Book of the Month, ‘Clean’ by Alexander Junger.
Want to make someone laugh? Tell them you’re doing a cleanse. Of course not everyone will laugh. Some people are supportive and interested. Some people are terrified. Most people tell you why they could never cut certain foods out of their diet.
When Chris first mentioned that she was going to follow the cleanse in March, I was intrigued. I’ve found there are big misconceptions about what it means to cleanse. Most people think you have to starve or only drink juice. I’m not really a fan of either of those methods which is mainly why this cleanse appealed to me. I was still carrying a few extra pounds of winter weight from the holidays and stress eating after a recent move and more often than not I felt a strong pull toward food as comfort and pleasure rather than nourishment. My body felt sluggish and heavy. My mind felt unfocused and my food cravings were occupying too much mental space.
Food and healthy eating are two areas of my life that I focus a lot of energy on. A long history of disordered eating, unhealthy attachment to certain foods and using food as comfort has made me hyper aware of how, what, why, and when I eat. This specific cleanse seemed like an opportunity to explore my attachment to certain foods while still feeling nourished.
Most of my diet was already in alignment with the cleanse way of eating. No gluten, no dairy, no problem. Lots of fresh veggies + fruit? Easy peasy. No sugar.. no coffee.. now that’s a different story.. I knew what areas would be my biggest challenge before I began.
The book asks you to write about your biggest concerns/fears before you begin the cleanse and my biggest fears were letting go of my all day, every day coffee habit, not having enough energy to work out and constipation. Never one to shy away from a personal challenge, I jumped on the chance to cleanse with a friend. After all, support is one of the best ways to guarantee success on any new program.
My very first meal on the cleanse was a mango, coconut, chia seed smoothie. I took one bite and exclaimed to a friend ‘Oh I can totally do this! I could eat this every morning.’ My love affair with that particular smoothie lasted about 3 days. Lucky for me, the book comes with several different recipes and I enjoyed the variety of flavors offered.
The first week was a piece of cake [oh the irony!]. I felt more energetic, less anxious, my moods were more even keeled. I slept better and my digestion was the best it’s been in ages. My hair was vibrant and my skin had a constant glow.
Did I get hungry? Yes! And I embraced my hunger. I thought about it, I sat with what hunger felt like. I even journaled notes about how my hunger affected my physical and mental state. And then sometimes I just ate. Out of comfort or hunger or both. I learned more from those moments of impulsive, instant gratification then the days when sitting with my hunger was easy.
I loved emailing with Chris to see how we were both feeling, what recipes we’d tried, what improvements we noticed. Days 5-8 I got angry. Not hangry but true anger I’d been holding back from feeling for a long time. It felt good to release those feelings without seeking food to comfort or distract me.
The second week of the cleanse was the hardest for me. For three days I was tired, irritable, sluggish. I felt weak and discouraged. I found it helpful to reach out to Chris and other friends who knew I was cleansing for motivation to keep going. I stuck with the program and by that Friday I was feeling great again. Clear headed and energetic. I saw one of my best friends at the end of that week and she said I was glowing. She even bought the book herself and is planning to follow the cleanse now!
The biggest challenge for me was my cravings for coffee. Not physical cravings, but mental cravings. Ritual, habit, comfort. I love coffee. The smell, the taste, the warmth. Green tea is just not the same and yes I’ve tried dandelion brew.
This cleanse allowed me to practice non-attachment and let coffee go from my daily routine. I learned to keep a curious mind around my cravings rather than indulging. We live in a world of abundance and all too often we forget how fortunate we are to have such easy access to food. My days no longer revolved around my next meal and I was able to reintroduce myself to gratitude for what I was eating and how much access I have to healthy food. Food tasted better. Mango’s were sweeter, veggies popped with flavor. My food was vibrant. Colorful, flavorful, filling. I made it through the entire 21 days and not once did I feel deprived or malnourished.
My first day after the cleanse, I was meeting a friend at a coffee shop and I spent the entire morning thinking about what coffee I’d order when I got there. On my morning run I spent at least a mile debating between espresso or cappuccino. Much to my own surprise, when I got to the coffee shop I only wanted water. I was surrounded by the one thing I had craved the most. The biggest crutch I had been holding onto before the cleanse because I needed coffee for so long and I suddenly didn’t need or even want it. Imagine that!
So, did I lose my winter weight? To be honest, I’m not sure. Somewhere in the middle of week one weight loss stopped being a goal for me. I broke up with daily scale weigh in’s many moons ago and the thought of adding that habit back into my life never appealed to me. I snacked most days. I ate nuts, mango and avocado daily. Based on the fit of my clothes, I shed a few pounds but nothing major. I could have cut out the snacking and I probably would have lost more weight but all that mattered to me was how I felt, and man I felt good! Snacking became a way for me to maintain my energy rather than a cure for boredom or an escape from my emotions. Physically, I no longer felt sluggish or heavy. I didn’t have to stop working out or practicing yoga, even taking 3 classes in one day for the first time ever [although, I do not recommend trying to make that a regular habit]. Except for those three days during week two, my energy was solid and I even started training for a half marathon.
Would I do it again? Absolutely. Know thyself. I truly believe in the importance of curiosity and challenge when it comes to furthering my personal growth. Cleansing taught me a valuable lesson in non-attachment and the art of letting go. I found personal growth in recognizing my habits and cravings without indulging. Character building.
Am I ever going to drink coffee again? Or eat sugar? Or chocolate? Of course. I do plan to continue mostly eating this way for the foreseeable future with a little more food to support my body as needed and a few indulgences. Everything in moderation, including moderation.
Should you cleanse? I don’t feel qualified to answer that. Cleansing isn’t always easy and that was one more reason for me to give it a try. Challenging yourself through a cleanse can provide invaluable insight into your food attachments and how you nourish your body. Do I recommend reading the book? Absolutely. Do your own research, self evaluate, trust your own intuition. After all, you know yourself best.
If you decide to try the cleanse and want support, let me know! I love hearing about other people’s experience. We can swap recipes! Talk about bee pollen! How good we feel! Or how bad!
Please note, I am not a registered dietician, nutritionist, Doctor, naturopath or anything else you can think of. I am simply a [mostly] humble flowgi sharing my personal experience and opinions.