“You can’t give what you don’t have,” someone wisely pointed out to me a few months ago. She was right of course, but this time the words took on pointed meaning for me. I’d made a decision to do a 30-day clean eating and detox program, which is a part of my business. But I was also sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.
For the past few years my overall wellness has gradually declined. Nothing major but the little signs were there. A few extra kilos had snuck up on me and refused to budge; my energy levels were up and down; I was more prone to viruses and not recovering quickly from them; one of my many crutches – alcohol – was suffering from what I referred to as scope creep in terms of consumption; my exercise was haphazard; and I’d go through patches of feeling foggy, overwhelmed, frustrated and grumpy with myself.
I suspect a lot of people as they hit their forties can relate to this. It’s a gradual decline we either don’t notice or just learn to work around because we’re busy. I wasn’t prioritising me because I perceived that I didn’t have time and there were too many other things to get done. But the truth was I was starting to run on empty and my body was trying to get my attention!
Soooo I started the 30 days clean eating detox with a simple (and vain, I admit it) goal of finally losing weight before Christmas. I was over my wobbly bits. While I had fears and hesitations about stepping away from my BIG 5 Inflammatory Friends: dairy, wheat, coffee, alcohol and sugar for 30 days, the feeling of ‘enough is enough’ made me crack on.
Here’s what I learned…
The first 4-5 days are shit
I can’t sugar coat this. A padded cell with a TV would have been appropriate. I had a headache the size of Texas that arrived – minus the benefit of a party the night before – on about day two. I had zero energy. I initially blamed the caffeine but I also think it was a sugar/wheat withdrawal, and I’m no sweet tooth.
So my advice is to time this bit when you haven’t got much on, perhaps over a quiet weekend. Drink lots of water, but frequently throughout the day (don’t drown yourself in one go) and don’t bother with exercise. Rest and ride it out! It’s only 4-5 days. Anyone can do that.
I didn’t miss coffee or alcohol as much as I thought I would
Shock horror. I must have built this one up in my head! My morning coffee ritual was like a good friend and a reason to get out of bed. My nightly wine (and it was never just one) got me through ‘shit hour’ when you’re wrangling stuff on the home front, tired after a big day. While initially I propped myself up with herbal teas and B12 energy sticks, after 2-3 weeks I just stopped thinking about them. That seriously surprised me.
Wheat is my crack
Yep. Turns out I’m addicted to wheat. I now know this because when I completely steered clear of bread, crackers, pasta, wraps, cous cous etc. for 30 days, I ate much less. This is because I didn’t experience the usual cravings for my wheat-based buddies once I’d broken their spell over me. A breadstick used to sit in the kitchen and call my name until I relented. Now I can be hungry without the usual crazy thoughts. It’s a game changer.
There’s some science behind this too. Today’s high-yielding wheat crops are genetically and biochemically completely different compared to 50 years ago. According to the book ‘Wheat Belly’, modern wheat products increase your blood sugars and can cause a range of other health impacts.
It’s what you chew, not what you do
With wheat out of the way, I had no choice but to increase plant foods in my diet. I’d become a bit lazy with my own intake of vegetables over the past few years, too often opting for something easy like toast and a glass of wine because I was knackered and hungry. While exercise is great for strength, toning and cardio fitness, the reality is flat tummies are made in the kitchen.
However the rewards are immediate. Thanks to the big wave of micronutrients and increased fibre flushing through my gut, changing my microbiome for the better, I experienced more energy, better sleep, less stress, more clarity, better digestion and definitely less of ME full stop. I noticed this pretty much straight away after week one.
Our bodies are like a bath with a plughole
My body had become sluggish from trying to process the running tap of my lifestyle choices (fun as they were) and my system started to overflow. Explains why I couldn’t ditch the extra weight. Once I pulled the plug out and cleared out the drain by giving the BIG 5 a wide berth for a while, I really turned a corner. My system was able to do more efficiently what it was designed to do.
So if you’re wondering about a clean eating and detox stint, I highly recommend you give it a go. Don’t give it a second thought. It’s never a perfect time to do one but the results are incredibly worthwhile.