The end of the year is a notorious time for over-taxing your system – overeating, eating poorly (dips, cheeseballs, cookies, eggnogs, anyone?) and over-imbibing. Between friends’ outings, family gatherings, and workplace celebrations, not to mention the stress of holiday shopping, it’s hard to maintain a balance, let alone squeezing in a workout here or there. The result is always the same: you end up feeling sluggish, bloated, erratic, and mentally and emotionally spent.
That’s why, when I had the opportunity to try a three-day cleanse right between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, I jumped on it. Once committed, though, I began having second thoughts.
My idea of what a cleanse was, was based off a cursory knowledge of the notorious Master Cleanse, and consisted of a diet of lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and deprivation that may or may not include shamanic visions brought on by delirious hunger. I was on board with all of that, even if I was a little apprehensive that I’d be able to resist holiday temptations if they presented themselves. What freaked me out the most was the concept of no caffeine. For three whole days.
When my box arrived via Fed-Ex from Raw Girls Memphis, a queer-women-owned catering and meal plan company, I was surprised by how substantial my plan for the three days actual was. The cleanse I was doing, the Raw Girls Juicy Cleanse, included two fresh, cold-pressed juices, a smoothie, a master cleanse drink, and two pretty substantial vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free, non-processed meals per day (a total of six different meals were sent), plus several daily natural supplements, including enzymes, probiotics, and something to get things moving along in the digestive tract. The box also included detox and bedtime herbal tea, and a packet of relaxing bath salts.
Rather than feeling deprived, I briefly wondered if I’d have any time over the three days to be doing anything other than consuming foodstuffs.
The first morning of the cleanse began with me drinking, as per the included instructions, a tall glass of warm water with fresh lemon juice, followed by my choice of morning juice – I chose a beet-blend juice that included apple and lemon, and then downed my morning allotment of supplements. This was followed up mid-morning with the protein smoothie: a very tasty and definitely filling but somewhat gritty blend of hemp seeds, maca root, almond milk and banana.
So far so good, although I was jonesing for my usual three-cup-per-morning coffee fix. By lunchtime, those cravings had pretty much passed. For lunch, I selected a salad of Yukon Gold potatoes with peas and radishes over a bed of local-to-Memphis-sourced arugula, and a green juice comprised of fennel, granny smith apple, lemon, and spinach, that was super refreshing, herbal, and tart. The other juice option provided was a carrot and orange-based juice: also very, very tasty.
Lunch also, included half of a daily lemon turmeric master cleanse concoction, which, sweeted with maple syrup, tasted like the most delicious lemonade ever. If this is deprivation, I thought, go ahead and deprive me.
During the mid-afternoon, I had a mug of detox tea, which tasted pleasantly of sarsaparilla root. My first dinner was lentil soup – an extremely well-seasoned and hearty portion that was actually too much for me to eat all at once.
By this point I was wondering whether I understood the instructions wrong – was I really supposed to be eating two meals a day, or just one? Wasn’t I supposed to be falling out from hunger by that point? A quick check-in with Raw Girls co-owner Amy confirmed I was on track.
Despite (or because of) the bedtime tea provided with the fast, I had a somewhat restless sleep that night – I had to get up and go to the bathroom four times. The first three were just pee. By the fourth time, everything had started moving.
On day two, along with my breakfast I had a cup of green tea, after I read in the instructions that some caffeine was not a deal-breaker (hurray!). Plain green tea, as opposed to my usual creamed up coffee, seemed like the caffeinated option most in spirit with the idea of a cleanse. Funny thing is, that one green tea did me just fine for the whole day.
Day two… What else did I notice? For one thing, my ass wasn’t dragging as much as I feared it would be. In fact, I felt bright and energetic. It seemed to me that my always-aggravated sinuses were not as annoying as they usually were. Also, on this fast anyway, I never felt hungry. Dinner time until lunch was the longest I went without any solid food, but I’m not a huge breakfast person, anyway.
This really got me questioning my idea of what a cleanse was all about and what it was supposed to accomplish. For me, I wanted to give my system a break from having to process toxins so they could take a mid-holiday breather and restore themselves a little bit. And, I wanted to clear out of my body any old, difficult-to-digest matter such as meat or cheese that didn’t really need to be hanging around in my guts any more.
So many of our body systems rely on each other to function properly, by helping some of them (namely the liver, kidneys, and digestive system) function better, I could help all of my body systems function better. Through getting rid of all toxins in my diet (except for that caffeine in my green tea), and encouraging elimination, I allowed all of my body systems to do their jobs better. I didn’t have to starve myself to accomplish that – I just had to eat more cleanly than perhaps I ever had before.
Days two and three followed the same pattern as day one in terms of diet and regiment. Other meal choices in my plan included veggie chili, a beet and fennel salad over arugula, potato leek soup (although the emphasis is on raw foods, not all of the foods in the plan are completely raw, and the soups can be warmed), and a toothsome black bean pasta (the pasta is actually made from black beans) with jalapeno pesto and a corn and tomato salad. I will say this for Raw Girls: all of the food and juices provided – without exception – were incredibly tasty, well-balanced, and well-seasoned, and felt very nutritive and restoring. Also, by day two, my sleep returned to normal, and by day three, I slept like a log.
On day three, I felt energetic enough to head to the gym. About a mile into my planned three-mile run is when my stomach began to gurgle and, let’s put it this way, my feet weren’t the only parts of me that were moving.
Up until now, I’d pooped maybe a little bit more than usual (an evening poo was added to my daily routine), but I wasn’t a bad pooper to begin with. The addition of vigorous exercise to the fiber, roughage, and herbal supplements of the cleanse amped things up bigtime and I was grateful for the private bathrooms at my gym! Of course, I knew this was part of what the cleanse was supposed to do, and by day three, it was definitely working. And after a short, and rather urgent, detour, I was able to finish my run.
When the cleanse was over, I was sad to not have any more of Raw Girls’ juices to drink or meals to eat. I wished I could manage to nourish myself like that every day, always. Other observations – my sinuses continued to function better than usual, and by the end of day three, my skin looked just great. I’d go so far as to say radiant. Even my wife mentioned it. Which just demonstrates what I said before about our body systems all being connected. Treat one well, and all of them will benefit.
And so, the verdict is that my idea of what a cleanse is and how it can benefit me has been significantly altered by trying the Raw Girl Juicy Cleanse. In short, I loved it, I recommend it, and I look forward to doing it again.