Sunday, January 10, 2010

Spring cleaning: part two, week one

Blueberry smoothieCleanses don’t have the best reputations. Sometimes for good reason. In fact, my first experience of detox/cleanse was really unpleasant. And it was third hand.

A friend fell into the Master Cleanse—mostly a water, lemon, maple syrup, cayenne drink until you drop—while crushing on a girl from yoga. By day three he was, well, overwhelmed by the squirts (not to mentioned grossed by the salt water he had to drink), and apparently no amount of feelings for a bendy girl really outweighs the squirts.

I heard all about it, in graphic detail, from my friend Jeff and never wondered why it was called a “cleanse” again.

Then I discovered’s abbreviated weeklong post-holiday cleanse last year. It was a balanced meal plan of mostly smoothies and soups with a collection of solid meals that delivered carbs, protein, fats, vitamins, the works in a way my normal diet just doesn’t.

Whole, natural ingredients nixed sugar, high sodium and processed gunk. Regular smooth meals eased work on my stomach. The whole week left me feeling energetic and, for lack of a better word, clean.

But I’ve said all this before.

One week into my second cleanse, a three-week detox, good feelings are back. Most mornings start with lemon water, tea and a delightful smoothie; lunch is a solid meal containing most of the day’s protein; and dinner is a veggie-based soup after a post-work snack of something like probiotic yogurt or almonds.

What’s different with this cleanse is that a) it’s really blimey cold outside; b) I’m still cooking dinner for Neil; and c) I’ve started training for the Pittsburgh Marathon in May and the Rev3 Ironman in September. At first, I wasn’t sure it would work.

Training, however, blends well with cleansing: the hard breathing and sweating removes toxins and eases stress (which releases poisons of its own) in a way that plain old good eating and healthy thoughts just can’t. What’s more: I’m more dedicated to yoga practice and deep breathing during heavy training cycles, which helps kick out the bad schtuff even more.

To illustrate, here’s a few days in the life:
On rising: lemon water
7 a.m. Herbal goji berry tea
8 a.m. Kale, pineapple and flaxseed smoothie (at least 12 hours after last meal)
Lunch: Balsamic grilled chicken w/ rosemary wild rice
After work: 25 min cycling
Snack: 20 almonds
Dinner: Carrot-ginger soup
Part of the detox process is giving your body time to digest, kick into its natural detoxification process and recover. Alejandro Junger, doc-author of Clean, explains that digestion takes up to four hours, followed by eight to rid the body of toxins, and that we should give our bodies at least 12 hours to complete the cycle.

Putting the solid meal in the middle of the day and a smooth meal at night during cleanse, Junger suggests you’re giving your system greater time to recover with ease of digestion as it heads into daily detox.

Because I cook for Neil (last time he fended for himself), I had to strategize—no way he was going to dig carrot-ginger soup for dinner. How would I do solid lunches?

Easy: time shift.

Starting on Sunday, I cooked dinner for Neil, packed away half for lunch, and whipped up a soup for me. The next day I reheated the Balsamic chicken with rosemary wild rice (on Tuesday it was roast salmon w/broccoli rabe quinoa; Wednesday had Moroccan lamb w/harvest grains and spinach) and repeated.

Neil was a little put off by our different meals, but I’m thinking the deliciousness should eventually distract him.

Alongside feeling great, I enjoy how just one week of cleansing makes me feel in control of my appetite and my diet (and, as opposed to my friend’s Master Cleanse, my bowel movements ;-). Sure I have the occasional fantasy about cookies and cakes, but I’ve already shook the self-consuming cravings.

Could I go for some dulce bread pudding? Sure. Will I have some? Nah. I think I’ll have a smoothie with mangoes, almond butter and spinach instead.