Now that I’ve finished my four-week cleanse from Tony Horton’s Bring It, I’ll share some thoughts about the process. First, I’d like to say that I don’t believe in “going on a diet,” and I didn’t consider this a “diet.” I simply thought, as someone who thrives on to-do lists and goals, that a structured cleanse would be a good tool for me to use to reduce the amount of “junk” I was consuming. I would be eating a wide variety of whole foods, and I didn’t think that sounded questionable or too gimmicky.
Some GOOD things that have resulted:
I have been drinking so much more water! Now that I’m not downing diet sodas all day, I am drinking water all day. I’m really pleased about this.
I haven’t had any soda/caffeine in over four weeks! This is huge for me! If anyone else enjoys their coffee and/or soda, I have no problem with it. I just recognize that it’s not good for me, and I am proud of myself for going without it.
I am sleeping more! I was notoriously sleep-deprived, propping myself up with caffeine. I am so glad to be giving my body the rest it needs.
I went three weeks with no added sugar. I had sugars, of course, as they naturally occur in foods, but no added sugar. This feels amazing to me! I had pretty much resigned myself to the “fact” that added sugar was inevitable in my diet. Think about it. It’s just about everywhere! I actually feel empowered, knowing that I really can control the sugar in my diet.
I went three weeks with no processed foods. Well, my husband and I debated what “processed foods” actually means. He rightfully pointed out that freezing food or even cooking foods are ways of processing them. For purposes of this cleanse, I am pretty sure Tony didn’t mean we couldn’t use frozen vegetables or couldn’t cook. I took it to mean prepackaged foods with a lot of ingredients, particularly ingredients that I don’t recognize as foods.
For the cleanse, I avoided certain foods that I do consider processed, but would not ordinarily avoid. For example, I will eat tortilla chips. The ingredients are corn, oil and salt. That’s pretty good, in my opinion. I’d rather not (though I can’t claim never to) eat chips that contain all kinds of unrecognizable ingredients. For the cleanse, I didn’t eat tortilla chips. Or crackers. Or bread. Or canned vegetable broth. Etc. Etc. If someone else had made it and put it in a package, I didn’t eat it (see my one glaring exception).
I would have willingly eaten crackers, chips, bread, or broth that I had made from scratch, but I didn’t make any. I didn’t care to run out and buy alternative flour when I have a few pounds of wheat flour at home. And the vegetable broth? Well, I just didn’t make any.
My one glaring processed food exception: I ate a Larabar during a long run. Since I was avoiding caffeine, I needed to find something other than Gu. Larabars were the most natural option I found for a good, portable form of fuel to take on a run. It contained dates, almonds, and unsweetened cherries. (I suppose I could have simply taken along a baggy of nuts and unsweetened dried fruit. Alas, that didn’t even occur to me. Well, now it has.) Again, this is the type of technically processed food that I don’t feel bad about eating, although it may have broken the cleanse rules. I made an exception for the Larabar.
Some things I feel NEUTRAL about:
I didn’t have gluten for three weeks. I am not convinced that gluten is a toxic food as Tony claims, at least not for someone who does not have a gluten-sensitivity. However, when I wasn’t eating it, I noticed that I grabbed an orange or apple for an evening snack instead of a plate of crackers and cheese. Nothing wrong with cheese and crackers in my book, but I think I’ve gotten more nutritional bang for my caloric intake with the fruits. (I think. I’m not a nutritionist, but I think it’s better for me to eat a piece of fruit than a several hundred calorie plate of cheese and crackers when I’m relaxing in the evening.)
I didn’t have dairy for two weeks. Again, I’m not entirely convinced that dairy ought to be avoided, healthwise. I did notice less upset stomach when I wasn’t eating dairy. I have been wondering if there was any connection between too much (for me) dairy and indigestion, but hadn’t really put it to the test. I think that might actually be the case. Then again, it could have been gluten or one of the other things I was avoiding.
I didn’t have meat for one week. This was not a big deal to me, especially when I was in control of my meals at home, almost the entire time. It may have been an issue had it been a longer period of time.
I didn’t have alcohol for four weeks, with the exception of communion wine (which amounted to about 2 to 3 ounces over the course of the four weeks). I don’t drink much alcohol anyway, and the only time I thought about it was when my husband and I went out for a date. I felt that I would have liked to order a drink. Not a big deal.
After a few weeks of this, I felt deprived about not going out. It really hit me on the day my husband and I had a babysitter lined up so we could have a date night. We were seeing a movie in a theater that serves real food and alcoholic drinks, but I wasn’t going to have alcohol or sugar, and I didn’t trust the food to be wholesome.
How I responded to these feelings: I arranged to go out to lunch as a family that day at a natural foods restaurant where I could find something to order that fit within the cleanse. Since then, my children and I ate at another little natural foods place that was near a field-trip location. I would like to find more options of places to eat out where I do trust that wholesome, natural ingredients were used. If they are from local sources, so much the better!
I do not plan to go back to soda, diet or otherwise.
I will be less rigid about it, but I do plan to avoid added sugar much more than I did before the cleanse. I won’t stress out about foods that someone else has prepared or when I’m eating out, but I intend to very much limit the added sugar in anything that I prepare. I will still bake sometimes and enjoy other desserts, but I will try to avoid sugar in places where it doesn’t logically belong. (I’m telling you, sugar is in almost everything!)
As far as “processed foods” go, I plan to eat some, but to aim for those that have the most natural ingredients when I am the one buying and preparing the foods.
I am going to go back to eggs. Totally. As before, I will look for eggs from free-range chickens that were not given hormones and antibiotics.
I am going to go back to eating meat as I was before the cleanse. That means some days I will eat meat. Some days I won’t. When I buy meat, I will try to find meat from animals that haven’t been given antibiotics and hormones.
I will go back to drinking alcohol occasionally.
I will eat gluten again, but probably not as much. I have expanded my use of other grains, and I don’t intend to ditch them just because I welcome wheat back into my life.
Dairy is a tougher one for me.
I missed my Greek yogurt. I plan to buy some unsweetened Greek yogurt to try, as part of my effort to reduce added sugar on a continuing basis. I’ve never been one to eat plain yogurt before, so we’ll see how this goes.
I also want to go back to eating cheese, but it will probably be less. This is what I suspected of causing indigestion, after all. I found that olive oil and the right herbs satisfied my desire for “savory,” so I know I will rely less on cheese to curb that craving.
I think I could go either way with milk – cow milk or almond milk. I am not sure what I’ll do about milk yet. Realistically, what I choose today may not be a lifelong decision anyway. Am I right? I do believe I am.
So, what did this cleanse mean to me?
Did I truly cleanse my body from toxins? I think I probably did. The caffeine headaches (which thankfully have passed) will vouch for me.
Do I feel so much energy that I’ll never go back? Not exactly. I do feel pretty good, though. Better than before.
Do I think it was a good experience to take control of what I eat? Absolutely!! It feels wonderful to look back and know that I did not eat junk for at least three weeks. That I can avoid added sugar if I choose to. That I can function without caffeine.
Now, if you see me reaching for a soda, I give you full permission to call me on it!!