Diary of the Clean Cleanse

*Before you start this (extremely long) post, do yourself a favour and grab a snack – you’ll be thinking non-stop about food in just a moment and it’s good to be prepared!

Hi. My name is Laura, and I am susceptible to pretty much any health fad which promises ‘life changing results’.

The first time I ever heard about the Clean cleanse was in a GOOP email from my good friend Gwyneth Paltrow. The premise seemed simple enough (2 liquid meals a day with a healthy lunch for 7 days) and I was convinced I could do it with ease.

Cut to 5 years later and I finally got around to actually doing the cleanse. And it was not as easy as past (cocky) Laura thought. There were moments of hunger (though fewer than you’d expect) but I actually managed to restrain myself from eating everything I craved which was unprecedented (confession time: I ate 4 Oreos during the 30-hour famine in high school. My head still hangs in shame.)

I learned a lot in the seven days of the cleanse but before I share my ‘wisdom’ I thought I’d share my journey…

Day 1:

I’ve been looking forward to the start of the cleanse so I’m up bright and early to make my first shake and feeling excited to start this challenge. I combine all the ingredients, battle my blender until it’s actually blending (stupid non-working machine) and then pour my first cleanse meal into a tall glass to enjoy. I had made the smoothie previously just to try it out and it was delicious – I mean, look at this yummy recipe:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 3 pitted dates
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 packet Cleanse Shakes Vanilla or Chocolate
  • optional: 1 tablespoon ground flax seed

I had thought the addition of the cleanse protein powder wouldn’t change anything.

I was wrong.

There’s a distinct, slightly chalky vanilla taste that changes the overall experience. It’s not terrible…just unexpected. I do my best to adjust.

I finish the shake, down the supplements with a massive glass of water (start as you mean to go on!) and head out the door into the day.

I make it to lunch without any hunger pangs (hurrah!) and I’m excited to try my first ‘Clean’ meal – Mushroom and Artichoke Heart Millet ‘Risotto’ – which I had successfully helped make the night before.

I should have known things were headed south when it slid out of the Tupperwear in a single lump.

I heated it up and the first few bites weren’t bad. Millet is not nearly as chewy and comforting as risotto but the resemblance is close enough that I could convince myself they were one and the same. I made it through lunch (accompanied, as always, by a packet of supplements – this meal’s pack came with two bonus tablets which I saved rather than taking).

After an afternoon of many glasses of water (gotta keep hydrated/trick your stomach into thinking it’s definitely not in need of a mid-afternoon snack!) I took a boxing class after work and then headed home for my evening shake.

I opted for a smoothie with cocoa and almond butter and chocolate protein powder because I was convinced it would taste like a peanut butter cup.

It did not.

Is there such a thing as a smoothie that’s too sweet? Yes, yes there is. It was a bit like a quadruple chocolate mousse and I ended up eating it with a spoon, taking large gulps of water between each bite.

I went to bed feeling like I’d gotten past the worst of it – I’d survived Day One!*

*Ah, the blind innocence of the ignorant…

Day 2:

I’m up before the sun to make my smoothie and take it with me to enjoy after my morning workout. (A key part of the cleanse is leaving yourself 12 hours between your evening and morning meal so your body can not only digest but also start repairing the damage you’ve inflicted with all the delicious sugar you’ve enjoyed over the years.)

The workout nearly killed me but the morning smoothie is, dare I say it, enjoyable! This delicious recipe:

  • 1 cup water
  • 2 giant handfuls of spinach
  • 1 mango, peeled and diced
  • 1 packet Cleanse Shakes Vanilla
  • optional: 1 tablespoon ground flax seed

Mid morning the first stumbling block lands and all I can say is whoever invented the office treat shelf is cruel. I bypass the chocolate Hob Nobs and digestives knowing that I’m making the right choice and I will emerge healthier and happier for it in the end.

The second day of millet risotto is definitely more trying than the first. I make it through half before abandoning the bowl and opting to fill up on water for the afternoon.

Dinner is another unpalatable creation that promised to taste like cinnamon and chai but decidedly did not.

I brush my teeth early to avoid the temptation to have something else and repeat my cleanse mantra: ‘you are stronger than this. You will survive. You can have peanut butter M&M’s in less than a week!’

Day 3:

The first weekend day of my cleanse but I’ve packed it with activities to keep my mind off what I am and am not eating. I head to a workout (I’m determined to live as healthily as possible during the cleanse so am simultaneously doing a workout challenge at 1Rebel. It seemed like a good idea at the time…) and then to the salon for a treatment and then home for lunch. Determined to eat something I actually like I opt for simplicity – chicken in olive oil with some salt and pepper, brown rice and half an avocado. It is delicious. And I usually don’t even like chicken!

When dinnertime rolls around I decide it’s time to learn from my mistakes and opt for the same smoothie as yesterday morning because it was tasty.

Day 4:

Two workouts today (WHY, past Laura, WHYYY?) and then some time at Grace Belgravia using up a free pass I got at a work event. I have lunch at the restaurant and do my best to enjoy the miso-glazed chicken and seasonal greens when all I really want is pancakes and french fries and hot chocolate and…

I spend the afternoon taking it easy, watching movies (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is just as awesome on the small screen) and trying to convince Graham that just one peanut butter M&M won’t count as cheating but he stands firm and I end the day grumpy but just as healthy as I started.

Day 5:

This morning’s smoothie is actually delicious. I went back to the original recipe from smoothie 1 on day 1 but I skipped the flippery and simplified:

  •  1 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon flax seed
  • 1 giant handful spinach
  • 1 packet Clean Chocolate Shake mix

No dates, no vanilla extract…just things I know I like. It’s literally the best shake I’ve had yet. YUM.

The morning passes quickly and though I’m not hungry I CANNOT stop thinking about bread. And pizza. I miss them desperately. Instagram has become a no go zone as every other picture seems to be temptation personified.

Lunch is the trusted chicken/rice/avocado and I eat every bite.

I make it alive through a boxing class after work (I pretend the bag is my common sense and beat it for deserting me) and fill my evening smoothie full to bursting with pineapple to try to drown out the now familiar vanilla ‘shake taste’.

Day 6:

I’ve hit on the winning breakfast combination! Recipe:

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 giant handful spinach
  • 1 tablespoon flax seed
  • 1 chocolate Clean shake packet (the chocolate makes all the difference!)

Look at me really* mixing it up! I’m practically a masterchef! (*not really)

The morning flies by in a whirl of work and suddenly it’s lunch. For my last two cleanse lunches I’ve created a random combo – spinach, rice, beans and avocado salad with tamari sauce.

It’s tasty (mostly the rice and avocado bits, let’s be honest) but I’m left desperate for a cookie or croissant. JUST GIVE ME ALL THE CARBS ALREADY!!

Despite the temptation I manage to stay strong and persevere, smug pride fuelling my determination.

My final ‘Reshape’ class at 1Rebel leaves me on what feels like the edge of death. (If you need a visual – imagine the seventh circle of hell…but with leggings) I limp to the bus and head home for my third last smoothie and the sweet relief of sleep. We’re in the final countdown.

Day 7:

I wake up feeling super proud of myself for making it this far. Only three meals and one boxing class stand between me and success!

Breakfast is my chocolate fruit delight and I can’t help but think it tastes better knowing this is the second last smoothie.

The clean box is looking pretty empty once I take my supplements and have the last probiotic and the realisation that I’m thisclose to be able to say ‘oh the Clean cleanse? Yeah I did that. So easy’ is making me a bit giddy.

The morning is one long meeting and then frantic catching up on emails but mid-afternoon the world stops.

Have you ever found yourself pondering what your worst nightmare looks like when you’re cleansing? (….Just me then?) Well, friends, I CAN TELL YOU IT LOOKS A LITTLE SOMETHING LIKE THIS:

Every time I walk by the bowl for the rest of the afternoon I pick one up, put it in my desk drawer and whisper ‘tomorrow’ to myself as silent tears stream down my face.*

(*This is not entirely true but it MIGHT AS WELL BE)

After one final boxing class which leaves me sporting bloody knuckles (like a true champ!) I head home to my final smoothie and go to sleep with a feeling of real accomplishment.

The Aftermath:

Though I thought I’d be ravenous the first day after the cleanse I actually find it a bit odd to be preparing something other than a smoothie to start my day. It’s weird how quickly something can become a habit!

I’m really proud of myself for having finished the cleanse but I don’t know if it’s something I would do again, primarily because it makes more sense to incorporate the learnings from it in my everyday life – drink more water, give your body proper time to cleanse overnight by not stuffing it with a roast dinner at 11pm, move everyday (if you work up a sweat even better), take time for yourself and make more conscious choices about what you ingest.

In the end I lost 7lbs, my skin looks great and I learned my willpower is a lot stronger than I ever thought. Not bad for a week’s work!

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