Photo courtesy of evergreen.ca
A short recap – When I started the 21-day cleanse outlined in Dr. Junger’s book, Clean Gut, I was constantly congested with a runny nose and itchy eyes. I blew my nose frequently throughout the day, to the point that it had become second nature. This lasted from early spring to the end of fall and sometimes even carried over into the winter. I also had severe allergies to pets, which would cause sneezing, itchiness and difficulty breathing. I would lose my temper if I had gone too long without eating and then feel lethargic and drowsy after meals. I often felt bloated and had difficulty losing the baby weight from my second child, who was 18 months old at the time.
On the first two days of the cleanse I experienced headaches, brain fog and fatigue. I’m pretty sure this was coffee withdrawal rather than anything to do with the new diet. Also, I was the only one in my family on the cleanse so I craved everything they were eating (pizza, bread, fries) and had difficulty maintaining self-control.
However, by Day 2, I blew my nose only once in the morning and then, my allergy symptoms disappeared completely. Even after I resumed eating the things I had given up during the 21 days, the allergy symptoms almost never return to this day! This is pretty incredible given the fact that congestion and sneezing have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.
By Day 3, I started feeling energetic and didn’t experience any negative symptoms before or after eating. By Day 8, I was starting to develop a sense of wellbeing – a feeling I had only ever had during the second trimesters of my pregnancies (and probably when I was a child although I can’t remember it – I started smoking when I was thirteen and only quit when I was pregnant with my fist, which probably explains why I’ve never felt this good). I also went to my mother-in-law’s house that day. She owns a cat and I was miserable whenever I visited. While I sneezed a couple of times, I felt almost normal and was actually able to enjoy myself. It was unbelievable…
This is not to say that after Day 8, there were no difficulties. Once in a while it was hard to resist foods that I had loved and there were a few days near the end where I needed a slice of pizza! But I had also developed a newfound appreciation for fresh vegetables and actually craved them when they were missing from my meals. By the end, my mood was stable, I felt very energetic, and had lost five pounds.
One major advantage of this type of cleanse was that I never felt deprived or hungry and I didn’t have to feel guilty eating healthy fats (coconut milk, olive oil, nuts, even the skin off my roast chicken). Better still, I also lost the urge to binge on junk food. Whenever I craved dessert, I would have a bowl of wild blueberries topped with coconut cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Once the cleanse and reintroduction phase were over, I did go back to eating grains almost everyday and ended up regaining the few pounds I had lost despite eating relatively well otherwise. However, like I said before, my allergy symptoms never returned.
Photo courtesy of cbc.ca
I decided to do the cleanse again because I had fallen off the wagon and was indulging in fried foods and sweets on more than an occasional basis, which was accompanied by the bloating and feelings of lethargy I had managed to eliminate over the summer. It also helped that by this time, I had discovered the Whole 30, which is a similar program that lasts for 30 days (hence the name), but allows for black coffee, fruit and starchy vegetables like potatoes and squash. So I didn’t have to suffer through the caffeine withdrawal symptoms this time around and could fill up on comforting starches during the cold winter months.
I started on January 4th and have continued to eat a mainly grain, dairy and sugar-free diet to this day, allowing myself treats on occasion and total food freedom when eating out. I also incorporated a regular exercise regimen, which I hadn’t the first time around (more on that next time). I feel great and look healthy, and this way of eating has become an enduring change in lifestyle. My husband decided to incorporate the Whole30 principles into his diet too and having his support is definitely helpful. Although it is relatively easy to maintain, it does take mindfulness and commitment. As I realized the first time around, if you start indulging in junk food and sugar again on a regular basis, it is easy to fall off the wagon – a very slippery slope.
The beauty of this cleanse though, is that it is accessible, relatively easy and fuss-free. There’s no calorie counting, feelings of deprivation or strange and expensive concoctions to buy. Unlike the extreme and quickie cleanses that promise fast results that are ultimately short-lived, this one has the potential to change your life with lasting results.
Stay tuned for Part III with helpful tips and meal ideas to get you started too!