I just completed 21 days of the CLEAN Program. Wow. That was tough, and wonderful, all at the same time. For those of you that aren’t familiar with CLEAN, it is a program created by Dr. Alejandro Junger, to “restore the body’s natural ability to heal itself.” But it does much more than that. By removing common allergens from your diet for 21 days, you give your body a chance to reset. When 21 days are over, you slowly add those allergens back into your diet, one at a time, with several days in between. Doing this allows you to truly pinpoint which of these allergens effect you personally. This method is actually much more accurate, not to mention less expensive, than typical laboratory/blood allergy tests.
So after 21 days of eating a completely CLEAN diet, I will start by adding wheat back in first. Part of me wants to go crazy and eat wheat all day long, but apparently that’s not necessary. The book makes it clear that just a little bit of wheat will do. Apparently after 3 weeks of eating CLEAN, it won’t take much to notice if you have a sensitivity or not. Now I’m nervous…
This is the second time I’ve gone through the CLEAN program, but the first time I’ve done it completely and correctly. I started the last time too soon, I hadn’t read enough information and was accidentally eating some of the allergens that were supposed to be eliminated. So this time, I made sure to gather all the information prior to starting. Day 3 was probably the best, at the start of the program. I had so much energy, I was on top of the world. Excited about what was to come and the benefits I would receive, I was going, full force ahead. I started to break out a bit as these toxins were released, but all in all, that first week was great.
Then came the second week. Dun, dun, dun. Things started to get a little tougher. My thoughts switched from “This is awesome, I should do this more often” to “What in the world was I thinking?” Since I eat a pretty clean diet regularly, I felt that I could easily justify quitting early, since I’m “pretty healthy.” However, I started to think about how crappy I was feeling, and that is what really made me realize that I needed to see this through. If I was THAT healthy… this wouldn’t be affecting me as it was. So… on I went.
Days 11-16 were the worst. I had no energy, I would sleep for 12 hours at night and it still didn’t seem like it was enough, had terrible nightmares (many including food), my otherwise awesome drive, motivation, focus and productivity was lacking, I didn’t feel like myself and I was HUNGRY. Like, really, really, hungry. Thankfully I had been tweeting and facebooking about my CLEAN journey, and EVERY SINGLE tweet or post that I made was responded to by at least one member of the CLEAN team. I cannot say enough wonderful things about these people, they are amazing. They truly care about your journey, well-being and outcome, and they are so supportive and responsive. I wasn’t even asking them questions… just posting things like “Gosh, Day 12 sucks…” and they would respond with “You’re doing great, hang in there, this is where the magic happens” kind of thing. It was so uplifting. I didn’t realize it at the beginning, but I realize now how much I really did need their help and support. They pointed me to their web community, where you create a free profile and log your journey, ask questions, join forums, talk to other members, etc., and that was amazing as well. Just when you think you’re the only person struggling or experiencing one side effect or another, you jump online and see that you are most definitely not alone. Hundreds if not thousands of other people are there to help you through it, as they are going through the same things. It’s also interesting to talk to people at different phases of the program. That was helpful, knowing that there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
When I woke up on Day 17, and it was like a fog had been lifted. If you’ve read CLEAN, they talk about this pretty frequently. I’m excited that I now know exactly what they are referring to. I felt like Melissa was back. I saw that light at the end of the tunnel and knew I would finish this program strong. Every day from there on out got better and better. By day 19, I felt like I could do this forever. Yesterday marked Day 21, and today is 22. There’s something about getting through something that you weren’t sure you were going to. The sense of accomplishment you have is so much greater after a struggle like that! The benefits I received were outstanding. I could go on and on about them, but I’ll just list some key benefits I experienced below.
- Allergies disappeared — No allergy meds in the entire 3 weeks. It should be noted that I am allergic to pretty much everything that lives and breathes outside, changes of the weather, etc., they all affect me negatively. I’ve been on allergy medication all my life, including inhalers, the whole nine yards. I’m currently taking NOTHING and feel allergy-free. (Especially incredible since the weather in Texas is currently crazy).
- Increased energy — I made it through CLEAN while training for a half marathon, as well!
- Reduction in appearance of varicose veins
- Younger, clearer skin
- Less inflammation in my body, less pain
- Reduced anxiety (Bikram Yoga has definitely helped this as well)
- Better mood, mental clarity — I feel less “cluttered”. I feel like I have less distractions in my life, and inside my body… in my emotions and all. (also yoga)
- Weight loss — Please note, that was not my purpose in this journey, but it’s more of a “nice to have” benefit. If you don’t have a lot of weight to lose, you will not lose much weight… it’s not an indication that the program did or didn’t work.
- Increased patience
- I feel healthy and strong — I have a renewed sense of purpose and my intentions are more clear.
Here are some quick tips that I have for people who embark on their CLEAN journey, which of course, I highly recommend!
- Remember that everyone is different — Therefore everyone will react differently to CLEAN. For those that have a healthy diet to begin with, you can probably jump right in. If this is going to be a huge departure from where you are now with your eating habits, I (and more importantly, Dr. Junger) suggest that you do a short Elimination Phase, which basically means you remove the common allergens as you do in CLEAN, but continue to eat three meals a day. When you enter CLEAN, you will swap out breakfast and dinner meals with soups and smoothies, and lunch will be your only solid meal. You are permitted to snack throughout the day if needed, thank heavens!
- Join the online community — You can get a free account from mycleanprogram.com. The support and knowledge you will receive is amazing.
- Read the book first if you can — If not, be sure to read the guidelines for the Elimination Diet (this refers to the foods you are and are not permitted to eat while on CLEAN. So basically, the Elimination Diet is what you eat for lunch and snacks).
- Recruit a friend — I did this alone, but I’m pretty sure it would have helped to do this with someone else! If you are married, try to get your spouse to do it with you, but realize that if they’re not interested, you should not force them. People will only make changes when they are ready to, which may not align with your schedule.
- Do not quit — Even if you make a mistake or cave for a moment, or even a day, it is not wasted! Yes, it’s tough, but if it were easy, everyone would do it, everyone would be healthy, everyone would be happy.
- Do what YOU need to do to keep yourself on track — If that means skipping social outings, do it. It’s 21 days of your entire life. It’s not that long in comparison, and it will truly change your life. Be committed.
- Make lunches, smoothies, snacks in advance, and keep them on-hand — Keep some raw almonds in your purse, car, desk. If you get hungry and you are somewhere without access to “clean” food, you are putting yourself in a compromising situation that you could have avoided.
- It helps to have something to look forward to, so keep your meals interesting — Or, if you find a recipe that you absolutely LOVE, as I did with the Pineapple Avocado Gazpacho, eat that! I had it almost every night for dinner. It’s amazing, and I looked forward to it every single night!
- Make sure you sweat — Seriously, go exercise, and sweat. I did Bikram Yoga three times a week on CLEAN (I do it anyways, but I saw my practice improve by the end of the program). But sweating is going to release those toxins even more than you would had you not sweat.
- Make sure you poop — Yes, I said poop. It’s impossible not to talk about when you’re discussing a cleanse. If you don’t poop, the toxins you have released in your body will be reabsorbed, and you will get super sick. ‘Nuff said.
- Get your nutrients and probiotics — In order to keep your intestinal flora healthy and ensure you’re getting the vitamins/minerals you need to have a successful, rebuilding cleanse, you’ll need to add supplements and probiotics to your diet. If you do the book version of CLEAN, you don’t need to buy anything through them. You make recipes from the book, etc. But… you will need to purchase some supplements and probiotics on your own. You can also purchase packages through CLEAN, and these things are provided for you, you don’t have to go buy anything else.
- Be prepared to change your habits, for good — Once your 21 days is over… you’re really just beginning. Don’t go back to your old habits!
So there’s my short recap on my CLEAN journey. Although my 21 days have ended, the real journey is truly just beginning. I’ll definitely write another post in a couple weeks with my findings after I test out these allergens! Wish me luck, and of course, best of luck to those of you embarking on your journeys to a cleaner, healthier, happier life!
Note: I am not a doctor, so please consult one before embarking on this journey or before starting any other cleanse or detox program. I am also not being paid in any way to endorse CLEAN, these are my own thoughts and findings.