Recently my friend Tania and I embarked on a four day guided cleanse; a collaboration between Huckleberry and Feel Fresh Nutrition that promised to reset our systems after the winter season. It did that, and then some. Guided by the little nutritionist legend that is Abbie O’Rourke the programme included over four days worth of organic groceries, recipes, daily newsletters and a Facebook support group for endless virtual high-fives.
The programme formally kicked off on a Thursday night at The Nest, the new yoga and events space above Huckleberry New Lynn, with a welcome evening. A group of 16 who had signed up gathered together to take our instructions from the cleanse team, and share about our intentions for the cleanse. We each took home two gigantic paper bags full of Huckleberry produce, our recipes and a 10 litre box of Lemurian Springs alkaline water.
For me, an aspiring integrative health coach, the driver was to start ‘walking my talk’. I know that I can only take my clients as deep as I am willing to go myself so I encourage myself to be the student on this coaching journey as much as I can.
Although I naturally make pretty nutritious choices when it comes to food, I definitely have a sweet tooth that is partial to any form of refined carbohydrate and I had found myself becoming more reliant on coffee to give me energy throughout the day. Over the course of my coaching studies my diet had progressively become more vegetarian, with organic meat being the supplement instead of the main feature, but I was curious to experiment with how my body felt being entirely plant-based.
Two weeks prior to the cleanse I cut refined sugar from my diet; I felt that if there was any cleansing handicap I needed, it was the white poison. I suffered the usual withdrawals of headaches, irritability and that general spaced-out feeling, but the positive side effects were a significantly reduced hunger, mood stability, and more energy. The mandate to give up my beloved morning coffee for four days was almost beyond comprehension, but alas, I accepted the challenge. Mostly.
DAY ONE: SATURDAY
Probably the most considerate day to start a cleanse. The day prior, I had stopped in to my local Honey Bones for a final flat white hurrah and declared to Hugo and Dylan that they wouldn’t be seeing me for a few days. By 11:30am Saturday morning aka THE SAME DAY, after climbing the walls all morning and wielding the blade of an axe in my temple, I walked through the door of my favourite coffee shop and placed my usual order; a thick cloud of shame hanging over me.
The rest of the day was delightful. I devoured the green smoothie, pleasantly surprised with the addition of a whole lemon flesh in it. Had the Rainbow Bowl with Green Tahini Dressing for lunch (recipe here) and the Stuffed Kumara & Slaw for dinner (recipe here). Despite the lack of protein, I felt entirely satiated after each meal. And the quantities allowed for leftovers, should you need a further mini-meal before the next main meal. One thing I did miss was my Lindt 90% dark chocolate.
DAY TWO: SUNDAY
I decided I wasn’t going to have coffee at all and survived the day on green tea which I hate with the fire of a thousand suns. It literally tastes like dried horse shit. Breakfast was a Coconut Chia Pudding; lunch - the leftover Stuffed Kumara & Slaw; and dinner - a Veggie Stir-Fry. Dinner didn't really hit the spot so I took myself to bed early in an act of defiance to my recurring thoughts about bread. I still had a bit of a headache, but I remained stoic and distracted myself enough for the day by going to acupuncture and yoga for a little extra detox support to my system. It's advisable to only do really light exercise during a detox, which I was more than happy with.
DAY THREE: MONDAY
Still no coffee, and I was no longer thinking about it every hour on the hour. Although feeling slightly tired from the detoxification my body was undergoing, overall I felt lighter, happier, and my digestive system - usually sluggish - was on point. Breakfast was the Clean Green Smoothie again. Lunch was last nights Veggie Stir-fry turned into a salad, and dinner was a Buddha Bowl (similar recipe here). Surprisingly this meal actually contained half the amount of iron needed for the day and was super high in calcium, iron and fibre.
I always sleep well, but I feel like I was really sleeping well. Like one of those instagram models who wakes up smiling and not bloated.
DAY FOUR: TUESDAY
Still no coffee, but it's imminent. I could probably just have one now, but I hold out. I don't even know if I want one? Decisions are confusing sometimes, you guys. Particularly when they're taken away for you.
Breakfast was another Coconut Chia Pudding (my tummy didn't entirely enjoy that level of coconut cream), lunch was a Reset Salad which I don't think I actually made because there was still SO much leftover from my Buddha Bowl from the night before. Maybe I was finally eating like a skinny person. Who would know.
It’s actually really interesting to experience what baseline health feels like. With the amount of caffeine, alcohol, sugar and processed foods we hammer our bodies with every day, many of us never actually get to feel like that. Never get to experience the clarity, the calm and the focus that comes with eliminating all of the inflammatory foods we so regularly and unconsciously consume.
Wednesday, with the cleanse officially over, I had a biscuit and within ten minutes I hit a wall. It’s actually alarming how fast it works. I had a decaf coffee, because I missed the actual ritual and taste of coffee at my desk in the morning. On the Friday of that week - so one week after cutting coffee out of my diet - I gave in and made myself an almond milk flat white at work and ten minutes later I was rushing to the bathroom every 20 minutes, and felt anxious and nauseous for the entire day. It just goes to show the hold it can have over you if you desensitise yourself to caffeine. If you love to geek out on the science behind what coffee does to you, watch this 8 minute clip that Abbie sent me. Essentially, coffee doesn't wake you up, it just stops your body from fatiguing; which is an essential process when you need to wind down before bed.
That was over six weeks ago now and I haven't had a coffee since (only decaf). I no longer eat any dairy. I drink Lemurian springs water all day err'day. I eat very little meat. I drink a lot of herbal tea. I consider how foods feel in my body, and for the most part - I feel pretty great. All in all, it was money very well spent and this is something I would try to incorporate each season.
So my 10 takeaways from the cleanse and advice for anyone wanting to try one:
Have friends who will support you. While I think it's important to harness intrinsic motivation when trying to make lifestyle changes, many people prefer to have an accountability buddy to keep them on track and celebrate the wins together.
You don't actually need coffee to wake you up in the morning and you are not going to die from the headaches. It's okay! Replace your morning coffee ritual with something else, such as a turmeric latte or a hot cacao (Ceres make an incredible enlivened cacao mix here.)
Mindset is everything. Adopt an abundance mindset and be grateful for all of the incredible foods you can still have. If you maintain a scarcity mindset where you fixate on the fact that you can't have coffee, you're going to literally think about nothing but coffee. The more we "can't have" something the more we want it.
Create white space in your schedule for downtime. When you eliminate several of these inflammatory foods at once, your body goes through a heavy detox period, which can also make you a bit more emotional than usual. Prioritise self care and listen to what your mind and body needs. There's less temptation to stray from your detox when you're alone.
Go to sleep earlier than usual. I started using the Sleep Cycle Alarm Clock app a few months back so I can track and monitor my sleep quality. Our liver detoxifies between 1 and 2am every morning, so if you can see in your sleep cycle that you're awake during that time, that's a sign that your liver needs some love.
Keep a journal. Track what's working and what isn't. Track how much water you're drinking and how your moods and cravings are.
Enlist other alternate remedies if available to you - I'm a big fan of acupuncture, osteopathy, meditation, yoga and epsom salts baths. Probs not all at the same time, but you just go ahead and make your own milkshake, babe.
Listen to what your body is telling you. If you feel lethargic, irritable, have heart palpitations or you are in pain straight after a meal - that isn't normal and that particular food doesn't agree with you. Stop accepting it as normal because it isn't.
Use this opportunity to look at your skincare products and consider upgrading to non-toxic, paraben free and organic skincare that isn't putting additional toxic load on your liver. There will be a blog post on my favourite products very soon, I promise!
If you slip up, you haven't ruined everything. Just get back on track, today (not tomorrow).
I hope this has inspired you to think about doing some sort of cleanse, even a mini-cleanse, just to see how good you can actually feel.
If you would like my help with quitting coffee, sugar, dairy, or just generally feeling more happy and healthy, book a chat with me (the first one's on me!) and we can chat about your goals, because, if there's one thing I bloody love, it's helping people do things they think they can't.