Sometimes, you have to take the good with the bad—and this cleanse had both. Fortunately, the positives outweighed the negatives! Here’s what I learned.
Yesterday at sundown I concluded a 21 day cleanse. It has been my first time eating vegan, caffeine, gluten and sugar free in my entire life. Regular readers know I am an off again/on again dieter, so I thought trying a cleanse where the point was more about eating things to feel better—rather than focusing on weight loss—might be a wise way for me to get a healthier relationship to what I eat. This has not been an entirely positive experience for me, but the positives definitely outweigh the negatives, so I thought I’d take a short topical detour on my blog to share what I’ve learned.
First, the bad news:
Some substitutions just don’t cut it. I’ve craved coffee, bread, butter, sweetness, and animal protein and have been cranky at not having it. No amount of “healthy substitutions”—dandelion tea for the bitterness & nuttiness of coffee, coconut oil for butter, small amounts of maple syrup & honey—take the place of these things. Apparently I am not satisfied with what I have eaten unless I get coffee, or bread & butter, or something sweet.
I do not feel better eating vegan. Nope. Even eating the prescribed amount of nutty proteins, tons of veggies and never feeling hungry I often felt low energy (even lower than normal), emotionally frail and had what I like to call “cloudy brain.” Could this be all the nasty toxins evacuating my body? Sure. But the truth is I didn’t feel even remotely better until adding eggs into my diet during the last few days of the cleanse.
I use food for comfort. I figured this was the case—sometimes after a hard day, I crave a hard cider or chocolate—but I didn’t realize how prevalent it is. I’ve used food to soothe away stress and when I don’t get the foods that release endorphins while eating them, I’ve been extra weepy and cranky.
I don’t like salads. I knew this going in, but I didn’t realize how much I disliked them. Without cheese, eggs or croutons, you’re just eating a bowl of veggies and that just doesn’t cut it for me. Also, I take a long time to eat salads. Like 40 minutes, minimum. This is just not OK when you’re trying to get back to work. Don’t get me wrong. I recognize that I need to get far more veggies into my diet. But even though they fill up my stomach, I am never satisfied with what I have eaten until I have one of the items listed in #1.
It is a rare vegetable recipe that I like. By the beginning of week 3 on the cleanse, I had to throw the recipe options out the window and just make myself green smoothies. There were only 2 non-smoothie recipes on the cleanse that I would make again—a beet soup and a cauliflower soup, which I made according to America’s Test Kitchen recipe, just without the butter.
On the plus side:
I can eat less. This morning I fixed an amazing French toast for breakfast and it was so rich, that I only ate 1.25 pieces. That would not have happened when I started the cleanse. I would have plowed my way through both pieces, because doggone it, that’s what was on my plate. I think my stomach has shrunk a bit (smaller meals more frequently, dontcha know) but I also began to stop eating when I was full while on the cleanse. I hope I can retain this going forward.
I can now drink enough water. The authors of this cleanse recommend putting all of the water you need to drink for the day into a pitcher so that you have a visual cue on where you’re at with your water drinking for the day. By the middle of the first week I was getting through the full amount, and by the middle of the second week—with proper pacing—I wasn’t having to go to the bathroom every hour. There were definitely times when I wanted a snack and instead I just dove into my water and then had enough in my tummy. If this was the only thing I managed to learn, I would be worth the 21 days!
I don’t need as much protein as I think. Because John’s doctor wants him to have a substantial amount of protein, I’ve been making sure we eat a lot of meat. Yet two weeks of eating nuts as my sole protein with just a few eggs in the final days showed me I don’t need the breakfast/lunch/dinner protein setup that I thought I needed.
I don’t need to be vegetarian/vegan/gluten free/caffeine free/sugar free. Today, I feel SO much better than the whole time I was on the cleanse. Granted, my ½ cup of coffee caused excessive jitters, but my delicious French toast (see below) and coffee has made me more alert and satisfied that I’ve been all month. I finally feel wide awake and satisfied with my meals so far today, and my energy level with gluten and caffeine has been maintained is higher than on the cleanse without major spiking.
I like nuts. Nuts were the primary source of protein on weeks 2-3 of this cleanse. I got so I really enjoyed them. I need to find ways to incorporate a healthy amount of nuts into my diet.
I didn’t feel deprived by going vegetarian. This was my biggest fear going into this cleanse. While I was rarely satisfied with what I ate, I always felt full after a meal and knew—even in the midst of cravings—that I didn’t need to eat any more. And when I did have a craving, I would say to myself “Lisa, you can eat that in X days.” As a measure of how little I feel deprived, I have not binged on anything so far today. That’s a real battle winner!
I can go vegetarian/vegan. Honestly, I didn’t think this was possible for me before I did this cleanse—and I may never willingly do this again. But I am so grateful for the self-control I learned doing this cleanse and I will consider doing some modified version of this cleanse as a means of fasting during Lent.
I don’t have any major issues that I cover up by eating. I’m a pretty self-aware person. I knew there was the potential for me to uncover some deep, dark, unhealed place that was hiding out behind me the comfort food. Instead, I discovered the cranky/sulky place and overreacted at a long-standing issue in John’s & my relationship, namely, how to make plans with a person while a disability. That isn’t resolved, but we’re talking about it again. I’m sure “comfort eating” will remain something I need to watch out for, but my current issues appear to be run-of-the-mill stresses and I’m grateful for that.
I lost 9 lbs. I guess that speaks for itself!
I’m sure there’s more, but so far that what I’ve learned on this cleanse. Later this week I’ll share how I’m changing my relationship to food as a result of this cleanse.
Brioche Almond French Toast
Four ¾ – 1” thick slices of brioche loaf bread (I got mine at Aldi as a loaf)
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup half & half
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp brown sugar (you can use honey or maple syrup if you like)
¼ tsp salt
1 cup sliced almonds
Put a skillet with a tablespoon of butter over medium heat on the stove to preheat.
Mix the eggs, cream, half & half, cinnamon, brown sugar and salt in a pie plate or casserole dish.
Spread the almonds onto a separate plate.
Put 2 slices of brioche into the pie plate and count to 20, then flip them over and count to 20 again. Transfer them to the almonds and coat both sides. Place in the skillet.
Repeat step 4 with the other 2 slices of bread. When you move them into the skillet, flip the first set of slices.
The slices are ready when you press down on them and they no longer feel squishy. If the almonds are toasting quickly, you may need to reduce the heat.
Slather butter on & serve–no syrup needed!
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