As some of you might know, since the beginning of April I’ve been doing the Clean program. Clean is a 21 day detox consisting in 2 blended meals a day (breakfast and dinner usually) and a solid meal (lunch). During those 21 days you give up coffee, alcohol, bread, processed food, red meat, dairy, tomatoes, eggplant, oranges, strawberries, peanuts and some other ingredients you can find here. And the reasons to why not eat them here. When you follow the Clean guidelines, you are basically giving your stomach and intestines a holiday in terms of avoiding long and heavy digestions and also eliminating from your diet the toxins that take a toll in your whole body.
What sounds as an impossible program to follow turned out to be in reality a very fun, didactic and life changing experience. I’m gonna explain you all about it, the good, the gross and the amazing, but it will be a true #longread. Are you ready for it? Good, here we go:
My first contact with Clean came this February for my birthday. I was visiting my friend Sergio aka the Andarín Gallardo in Costa Rica as he was in his second Clean week. What a shock when I saw him: Sergio always looked good, but he was looking fantastic! I witnessed with curiosity how he was managing to stay so in line with the Clean program and at the same time have fun with our pretty wild holidays. He made it to his 21st day without messing with alcohol, coffee, sugar or forbidden foods during the detox. My man!
On my side, I was feeling pretty fantastic during my 30th year birthday holiday celebration. Here’s me on what at the time felt like a glorious picture of an amazing moment in an undisclosed beach in the Pacific Ocean.
I still see myself looking good in that picture, but I do know now how much better I could get. I left Costa Rica thinking Clean was a great program, throwing it mentally in my bucket list for “sometime soon”. But I had noticed how the Clean planning and execution looked quite time consuming, I didn’t have the tools at home for the preparation (blender and juicer) and well, I still had to buy and read the book.
So after the holidays relaxing effect wore off, I was back to my old habits and I still hadn’t bought the book. I was drinking a couple of beers or wine glasses at least 3 times a week, quite some of the same offenders on the weekends, always choosing the big fat meal, craving my chocolate snacks. The usual for many of us, I’d say. But at some point I realized that even if I swim and run quite a lot, what I was eating was messing with my head and my body. I don’t really know if it was in one of those hangovers or after trying to wear some clothes that didn’t fit anymore. All I know is I finally bought the book.
It took me exactly 5 days to read it and convince my flatmate to join me for the ride. She eats much better than I do and actually half of the ingredients we needed were already in her food shelves at home. But we both agreed that Berlin is a dangerous place concerning cheap food and drinks, and also losing some weight sounded appealing to us. So we started Clean just in time to finish it before MyFest :D
You can browse the Facebook pictures to join the visual ride and see the evolution of my face. If you like what you see, get the book for a great schooling about food, toxins, chemistry and why good food calls for even better food and life in your years. The best thing about reading the book is how much you learn about your body and that it gives you plenty of reasons for each food you eat and stop eating, which keeps you motivated. It’s well written, enlightening and entertaining. And keeps it clear: if you feel like only doing it 1 week, it’s absolutely fine. But I can tell you that once you go Clean, you never go truly back again ;)
HOW WE DID IT
- We bought first the blender and the juicer. If you ask me, with only the blender you are good to go. Our choices were not the cheapest ones but also not the most expensive. Find whatever your budget allows. We saw it as an investment in health and it definitely is well spent money.
- We decided to buy as many ingredients on the Clean Shopping List as possible but use the recipes very loosely. We basically ended up doing the combinations we thought made sense and experimenting with ingredients and flavours. That’s one of the most enjoyable parts! Also, we didn’t follow much the quantities: we ate as much smoothie and solid food as we wanted.
- Buying local and organic takes a bit more time and it is a bit more expensive: YES. We bought our fruit and vegetables in the Wedding Turkish Market to a farmer that has his little shop with local produce. And then the supermarket stuff such as quinoa, nuts, hazelnut milk, frozen berries, fish and chicken in the bio shelves of Edeka or in BioCompany and Alnatura. Your supermarket expenses will be higher, but also your expenses on drinks and eating out will be MUCH lower. So it balances out.
- We prepared our dinner to go in the morning. Usually breakfast was a fruity smoothie, so for dinner we chose a green smoothie with mostly vegetables. At start we reused glass containers from sauces, now we upgraded to the KeepCup. We love it because you can choose your colours online, it’s very easy to wash and it doesn’t leak. Also it doesn’t look like a tupper container, it’s just a fancy cup, which saves you a couple of weird looks in the U-bahn or wherever you drink your smoothie.
- The 12 hour window. Clean asks you to leave 12 hours between dinner and breakfast to give enough time to your body to complete its daily detox tasks. That’s why many times dinner had to be before we arrived home, at least before 20h. You can manage as you want, but having dinner out of the way early worked really well for us. Carrying it already prepared and having it before any event also ensured you wouldn’t touch finger food or drink that drink, destroying all your hard detox work.
- The no alcohol policy. We were invited to plenty of parties during Clean and we substituted the drinks with tea: take a cocktail or wine glass, put some ice in there and pour your tea. Depending on the tea, it looks like a rosé or a white wine or some strange cocktail. But having a glass in your hand stops the questions about how come you are not drinking.
- We discovered meditation. The Clean program asks you to do a 5 minutes meditation every day. We didn’t achieved that, but having a couple of sessions where your mind finally shuts up and you can enjoy mental silence is priceless. I like swimming and running exactly for that reason: to block everything and stop thinking for a steady period of time. Well, meditating achieves that faster and any time you need it.
- Losing cravings. This is for me the most important goal I achieved during Clean. Giving up sugar means also losing the sugar cravings. Almost all of us get crazy at 11-12h or 16-17h with sugary snack cravings, but few give it too much thought. Why all of the sudden you need your sweet kick so desperately, otherwise you cannot keep thinking? As soon as you stop taking sugar in your coffee, tea or snacks, slowly you stop having those cravings. And with Clean, it becomes clear to you that sugar is just another drug. After a couple of days, not snacking between your morning smoothie and lunch makes just sense: the smoothie keeps you full while making you feel light until well past 13h. So you just don’t snack. Same thing after lunch: not drinking your coffee keeps you away of the sweet companion aka cookies or cake. Final result: no snacking, no sugar, no cravings.
- Putting coffee in its place. I’ve drank coffee since I’m 16. I love coffee. I missed coffee during Clean and I’m still missing it. But I do recognize now that coffee makes you tense, nervous, in alert and doesn’t help you to focus at all. It stresses you out when there’s no need to be. Someone told me years ago that we didn’t need coffee to wake up, and I looked at him in disbelief murmuring: you don’t need as much help as I do to wake up then. Well, he was right: eating good means waking up is easier for me these days. I’ve had 3 coffees since I finished the detox one month ago and I can tell you the fun of it is not worth the pain it brings in the long run to your body and mind.
- Improving my relationship with alcohol. I never drank any alcohol until turning 19, which is rare in Spain, and never tried the hard stuff (vodka, gin, rum…) until my Erasmus, with 22. But living in Berlin changed that a lot. Going out is cheap and at some point you start feeling socializing without a drink is pointless. Well, I got back to my first year of University when I was able to say no to drinks and still have the greatest fun plus be hangover free next day. I remembered how good it felt and why I was so proud of not needing alcohol to be the craziest gal around :D Also, it saves you lot of money and that’s something the Catalan in me really appreciates. In any case after Clean now I’m much better at saying no to things I know won’t contribute to feel amazing and if I go out, drinking one drink is more than enough. That’s a great improvement!
- Discovering what works for you. I’ve done diets before, never a detox. The goals are different, that’s true. But during making a diet, you follow rules you just accept, no questions asked. With Clean, there’s an explanation for everything. In the book, you find a comparison of the detox with other cleansings, diet fads and trends in nutrition. What I can tell you is: many of other diets I’ve done said no to avocados or olive oil, which I can’t live with. Looked in perspective, what I did with other diets was just stupid. Clean worked for me because I knew exactly what and why I was eating and how it was working out. Another great advantage is that after you take out all your “enemies” from your diet, you start eating some of them again and you can identify which are not as bad and which are really really bad for you. All that in an individual basis. You discover your own food rules for years to come.
- Boosting your performance. My doubt when starting Clean was: can I keep up with my schedule of work and exercising while doing the detox? The book talks about having more energy than usual, but without eating that much? I soon realised I was eating quite a lot and that I had no trouble running more than 10kms, following my fitness and pilates class or finishing my day with plenty of energy left. On top, I slowly got calmer at work and had somehow a clearer mind. My battle with procrastination is still there, but I got a couple of very good creative and aha moments since I started. The type of moments you usually get only when you stop the noise, the to-dos and doing without thinking too much. But I got them this time in the middle of the noise, and I blame it to Clean.
- Sleeping and waking up. Going to sleep with your digestion done is something we all should do. But eating out late almost always messes up with that. With Clean I had a regular empty belly when heading to bed and that helped me a lot to sleep better and having less trouble to wake up. I still find it hard to leave the bed, but not at the levels I’m used to.
- Happiness. If you know about nutrition or you actually read the book, you’ll find it there. Serotonin is made in our digestive system and without the proper care to it, we stop producing it. Which makes you feel shit, and won’t help you if you are depressed. Many people with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) get antidepressants prescribed, many people suffering depression never get checked on how they eat, but nobody really gives it too much thought. The book gives you all the info about it, I’m just gonna say: I’m a happy person and you all know it, but I haven’t been this happy, in this deep way, since maybe my childhood.
- Gross stuff. You really wanna know? Let’s talk in private! My TMI bits of the detox are quite interesting :D
- Losing weight. I know you are all interested about it and I left it for the last so you will read the rest. Because I think it is the most visible part of the experience, but not the most important one. Learning about food as I never had before, realizing how important is to take care of my body and provide the fuel that it needs (aka things that grow in trees, not things we process in factories) and finding an easy path to keep myself healthy in the long run are my big takeaways. But if you want to know, I was around 78kgs in that picture in Costa Rica, I started the detox at around 74kgs, I finished the program with 68kgs and now I’m at 66kgs. According to the standard tables, I should weight between 60-62kgs to not to be considered overweighted. That’s why I didn’t really stopped with Clean. I did eat a couple of tasty dishes for the MyFest weekend (Jerk Chicken, Gözleme, Schnitzel), I ate some hummus (allowed food!) with some Turkish pide (NOT ALLOWED!) and some beers here and there. But I still see some room for improvement, I can keep losing some more weight without dropping the olive oil and the avocados and well, I’m having too much fun with my new best friends quinoa, hazelnut milk and kale, to name a few. So my goal is to hit the 60gks if I can before October, so even if the winter brings me 4kgs back, I’ll be still not so far away of what should be my regular status.
So yes, as stated in the title of this blog, doing Clean has been a life changing experience. In my previous attempts to eat healthy and create new habits, I wasn’t that successful. Probably because I got a list of things to not to eat, but not a list of new things to discover and love. I’m definitely craving other foods and since those make me feel great, I really think this time the good habits will stick.
I can imagine for some of you reading this the idea of keeping away coffee, alcohol, bread, white rice and pasta or sweets seems impossible. Not worth living without them. Less fun. I thought the same 2 months ago. But it took me less than a week with Clean to see what I was missing. I would just describe it as getting new friends and these ones make you feel better in every aspect of your life.
On a last note: Clean worked wonders for me and many people I know that have been following the program. Whatever nags you in health, the solution is most probably in the foods you eat rather than in the meds you take. But if you are on regular meds or you have any condition, read Clean AND talk to your doctor about it. I’m no doctor, but I know doing Clean improved my health and I’m quite certain there is no risk on starting with Clean other than looking and feeling too good. But each person is different, so when in doubt, talk to your specialist :)
Are your questions not answered in this post? Leave them in the comments or hit me at @smonicats :)