The Cleanse

A few weeks ago, we cemented our decision to do a 10-day cleanse.

Why? Well, we both kept having unusual cravings for sugary treats and snacks all through the day. A cleanse would help us detox. It was not for weight-loss (although I wouldn’t complain if it happened). Plus it was an opportunity to teach us self restraint.

Knowing it wouldn’t be easy (and to reduce temptation), we waited until the World Cup was over and would start on a Monday so only one weekend would be covered.

We followed JJ Smith’s Green Smoothie Cleanse book which gave us the guide for 10-days of eating. In short, you have a smoothie for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In between, you can snack on raw fruit, veggies, nuts, or hard-boiled eggs. And water, lots of water.

This means no coffee, no beer, no candy, no chips, no nothing…

Each smoothie recipe include a “green” base of kale or spinach or other greens. Throw in a mixture of fresh or frozen berries, some flax seed, and some protein powder and there you go.

Did I mention, no beer. I mean, I have a keg of Two Beers Brewing ISA on tap. I have a beer about oh… seven days a week. Could I make it?

In advance of The Cleanse we made a run to Trader Joe’s and stocked up on Kale, Spinach, various types of frozen fruit, and nuts… lots of nuts. I was figuring that the nuts would be my savior. Cashews, Almonds, Pecans, Walnuts… all raw.

At this point, we were good to go.

smoothie cleanseDay 1– I found that the smoothies were surprisingly filling. I nursed the brekky smoothie for about two hours and the lunch smoothie for about 90 minutes. Around 2p the cravings started to kick in. Thankfully I had the nuts… and boy did I do work on the one-pound bag of raw almonds at my desk. That did the trick.

However, after I got home from work, I was beat. I was exhausted; and it was just a typical day. Around 6:30 headaches started to come on. I’m guessing that was from the lack of coffee. The book says you can ween your way off of coffee, but I went cold-turkey. I took some ibuprofen and was good to go.

Day 2– was pretty similar to Day 1, the headaches came on a bit earlier, but it was nothing that the ibu couldn’t handle. The hardest part of the day was prepping Jasper’s dinner. I made him a chicken sausage, and when I cut into it, the wonderful aroma of sausage went through my nasal passages. Mmmm… My stomach growled in anticipation. In this usual routine, I normally eat the ends as I am cutting up his dinner. I caught myself as I put the fork towards my mouth.

Since running the Portland Marathon 12 years ago, I really haven’t put my body through a test. I wasn’t going to cheat for these 10 days.

Through the first two days, I probably ate about a half pound of nuts. That was WAY more than snacking, but it got me through.

photo2Days 3 through 5 we got into the routine. Cravings came, but restraint held steady. On Saturday, this included going to the Sounders vs. Tottenham friendly- no beer, no kettle korn, just a fun time as we took Jasper to his first* Sounders game.

*Technically it was his second, but the first one was when he was 3 months old, so we’re not counting that.

At this point, the lack of coffee wasn’t bothering me anymore. And surprisingly, I hadn’t even thought of going to the basement to pour a glass from the kegerator.

I had a hard challenge on that Saturday night. I needed to work through the night on a project deployment. And like all late night software launches the goodies were out in full force. I’m taking EVERY POSSIBLE TEMPTATION was out in full force… Red Vines, Cool Ranch Doritos, Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips, pizza, orange Fanta, cookies… name the unhealthy food option- it was in the office. And from Midnight through 8a all things go. But I made it through snacking on my smoothie and my trusty almonds & cashews.

The new week started and we were in the home stretch.

I had begun feeling different earlier in the week. I don’t know how to explain it, just felt like I had more energy. And that I felt, “fresher”.

At this point, we had our routine. It sucked that our family dinners were Me & K with a smoothie and Jaspy eating dinner, but we survived. (One other benefit of The Cleanse was we didn’t have to run the dishwasher that often through the week!)

I wasn’t eating or snacking as much anymore, but I did start day dreaming of food and thinking about what we were going to eat at the end.

On Day 8, I had another long night at the office and the treats were abundant, breakfast sandwiches, cinnamon rolls, muffins, donuts, pizza… and I survived. At this point, everyone on my project teams were super supportive, although most didn’t get it.

photo3We finished The Cleanse yesterday and had our first real meal last night. I never thought that grilled chicken, corn salad, bread, and BEER would taste so good. But it did, and a little bit weird.

Dipping the bread in olive oil and balsamic was a shocker to my taste buds at first. And salt? oh yeah… delish! The beer tasted a bit weird at first. but went down quite easily.

So what surprises did I learn? 

  • I learned that I don’t have to give in to my cravings. For me that is the biggest thing. We eat really well at home; K does an amazing job of menu planning and our dinners are really well balanced with meat, veggies, and grains. We really don’t have crap in the house. But I just have a hard problem of being ok with eating gummy bears or sour patch kids through the day.
  • I can still put my mind over my body. During the college rowing days, I had mastered that fact. Then I was able to rekindle that ability when I ran the Portland Marathon (and finished 5th in my division) without training. But since then? Nada.
  • The smoothies didn’t taste that bad, and they did fill me up.

Would I recommend it? 

  • Sure, why not. It’s pretty simple, but does require a change in your schedule. You’re making your smoothie for breakfast & lunch in the morning as well as making your snack pack of veggies. There is also a modified cleanse where you only have smoothies for brekky & lunch and then a “good” dinner.
  • Make sure you have a good blender. Our Blendtec was perfect for the job, but I’m sure a lesser-quality one may lead to smoothie-preparation-frustration. I’m sure if we encountered any hurdle in making the smoothies, it would have been easier to give up.
  • I can only say how easy it was to do with a partner. The recipes are for two smoothies, so you can always share. More importantly, there was no one else snacking around the house which would have made the task extremely difficult. I owe a ton to K for bringing up The Cleanse idea and for the planning, mutual support & encouragement to get through it.
  • In the end, for us it wasn’t about weight loss. Ultimately I probably lost 12-15 pounds, but more importantly I feel better all-around. I’m more energetic, I’m more awake, my skin feels better… this sounds weird, but I just feel healthier.

Would I do it again? Without.a.doubt. I think there is also a strong likelihood that we incorporate a smoothie for breakfast mantra into our everyday routine when we’re not on The Cleanse.