Greetings from the other side of the 21-Day BIG Heal Detox Program! It's nice and chill over here. I've just completed one month without animal products, coffee, gluten or refined sugars. I also haven't drank alcohol in almost 3 months. The first few days without coffee were tough. But I generally enjoyed the experience as I felt it was exactly what I needed to bring my existing healthy habits to the next level.
For me, the cleanse was manageable (i.e., I didn't suffer through it): I already loosely followed a 12-hour fast between dinner and breakfast, made myself smoothies in the mornings, had light dinners, and I've been a vegetarian mostly for about 2 years. The biggest challenges for me were completely eliminating my morning coffee & toast ritual, sweets (I love my sweets) and animal products (I was 70% there).
So the foods we could eat were generally already things I enjoyed eating, and Bianca provided a bunch of easy (and delicious!) recipes that I will definitely continue to use going forward. If you're interested in exploring your relationship with food, I highly recommend you try this or any other detox/cleanse that you align with.
Anyway, here are seven things I learned while detoxing:
I actually have more energy without coffee. After week 1, I noticed that the drained feeling I'd usually get around 3pm every day dissipated (likely because I no longer depended on the coffee high) and I had better, more sustained energy throughout the day, instead of "peaks" at different points of the day.
Healthy food doesn't have to be boring. Wow! Between all the creative smoothies and the delicious sauce recipes I was pleasantly surprised by how fun the meals were. I learned how to make a coconut pizza crust and I made a brown rice pasta with cauliflower bechamel sauce and they were both delicious. I normally think pizza and pasta are too heavy for lunch, but I did not feel a food coma afterwards, which I guess gluten causes. Bianca's recipe book even comes with "Clean approved" chocolate chip cookies! (Which of course I would have, in moderation, for dessert.)
Cravings are programmed in the mind! My cravings for sweets were very real... especially right after lunch... even in Week 2, maybe not so much Week 3... but I opted for the Clean cookies or an approved tea whenever I felt the desire to have something sweet and that helped me move past the feeling of "I need a sweet snack." The idea is to notice how your mind is telling you that you "need" something, then realizing that you can make different choices that are more beneficial to you, and then nicely telling your mind to shut up.
Meal planning is key. I had to put a lot of thought into the food for the following week: what ingredients do I need? how many grocery stores do I need to visit to find this ingredient? (that one's for the PR people...) while making time to create a menu, shop and prep the meals. I realized that this was key so that I'm not scrambling at the last minute to figure out what I'm going to eat, which usually causes me to eat something not so nutritious.
Read the labels. You would be surprised how many things have weird additives, dairy and/or sugar in them. Vegetable broth! Beans! Dates! You name it. It was a challenge finding a dairy-free yogurt or milk without sugar or gums. I got very accustomed to reading every label before putting anything in my basket... And then there were the multivitamins... I ordered multivitamins on Amazon and when I received them the label read: "processed in a manufacturing facility that also processes dairy". Since I was also taking the cleanse as an opportunity to eat a strictly vegan diet, I decided not to take them. Instead I offered the multivitamins to the other ladies in the cleanse group to see if anyone was interested in buying them from me - Yay for repurposing!
A cleanse is meant for you to rest. Believe it or not, self-control and willpower are finite resources and when in the middle of a detox a lot of the body's energy is directed at curbing your cravings, stopping yourself before you grab a snack, respecting the 12-hour fasting window, meal planning, etc. Not to mention your body is actually working to... eliminate toxins... All this energy that could be directed towards something else is compromised. It is totally normal to feel tired and not want to "go above and beyond" with work or in your personal life. I decided to tell myself: "Stay with whatever energy you have, rest, and keep going."
Moderate exercise and breathwork helps. Since the body's energy is compromised, a challenging long-distance run is probably not the best idea. But physical movement increases the mobility of the organs to perform their normal detoxifying functions. Yoga is a perfect exercise to maintain during detox as it incorporates physical movement, breath and sweat all of which naturally eliminate toxins! By the way, I'm offering online group yoga classes Wednesdays at 7pm and Fridays at 7:30am as well as private yoga and distance reiki sessions. Check out all of my services here!
In conclusion, I really enjoyed this experience. I took advantage of this time to focus on eliminating anything that no longer served me. My daily yoga and breathwork routine supported my detox process. I also received a distance Reiki session from the lovely Veronica Lombo, which helped me release energetic blockages.
This cleanse helped me discover new ways to cook, like substituting wheat pastas for gluten-free options (like brown rice pasta - my new favorite), to trade out sugar for other natural sweeteners like dates or coconut sugar, and to liven up my smoothie game which up until the cleanse was just the same pack of frozen fruits every day... Thank you Bianca and the rest of the group for sharing your process!