clean by alejandro junger

clean by alejandro jungerHave you ever woken up one day with the realization that maybe you don’t feel as good as you could?

Tired of weird stomach issues and feeling bloated and zapped of all energy, I took to the internet one day searching for books about healing yourself through your food choices. I poked around for awhile before putting six or seven of them on hold at my local library, determined to make a change.

While all of the books were interesting, I was totally pulled in by Alejandro Junger’s Clean and its message of restoring your body’s ability to heal itself by getting rid of inflammation and toxicity. The more I read, the more I nodded my head. I’ve experienced so many of the symptoms discussed in the book and couldn’t think of a good reason not to give his 21-day cleanse a try—especially since I could do it and be done in time to indulge in a big, fat brownie on my birthday. 😉

Now, this isn’t one of those hardcore starvation cleanses. It’s really just an elimination diet (which removes a lot of the foods that cause inflammation) combined with a cleanse that aids digestion—basically, you have a liquid breakfast and dinner (which can be a smoothie, green juice or soup).

Being a relatively clean eater in the first place, I didn’t expect to have too much trouble—although I was afraid of my sweet tooth and tendency to closet binge when stressed. I kept a diary to track my progress and any changes I felt and thought I’d share it with you guys in case you have toyed with the idea of doing something similar.

Warning: I’m going way out on a limb here and sharing detailed statistics (both pounds and inches) and before and after photos. Be gentle. 

Day 1: 149.5 lbs, Thigh 24.5″, Hips 40.25″, Waist 30″, Bust 35.5″, Arm 12″

I feel like absolute shit today. Not sure if that’s a good way or horrible way to start this thing, but I’m going whole hog either way. Upside? I’m not really hungry so I don’t miss what I can’t eat.

Day 2: I expected today to be brutal. But, honestly, aside from a few passing longings for chocolate, it was kind of easy. I’ve got this.

clean program snack: no bake brownie bites

Day 3: I miss chocolate. Luckily my brownie bites work and I can use them to pretend I’m experiencing the sensory mouth explosion that is a good piece of dark chocolate. Also, I have a slight headache that’s been lurking in the background all day long. I invite it to leave me.

Day 4: I woke up in an incredibly chipper mood. Throughout the day my husband, mother, and oldest daughter all made comments along the lines of “Wow, you’re in a good mood!” Was I raging bitch before?

Day 5: I love apples. Like, lustfully. I could live off of their sweet juicy goodness.

Day 11: Today I want snacks (preferably of the chocolate variety). And I want a dinner I can chew. I think that’s the hardest part about this whole thing. The elimination diet isn’t too awful. Sometimes I crave old crutches, but more often than not I have been able to find something to substitute. What I can’t work around is when it comes time for liquid dinner and I just really want some rice crackers to dunk in my soup—or anything that involves chewing! That part sucks.

clean program snack: apple with homemade vanilla coconut cashew butter

Day 12: I’ve been craving a green apple with vanilla coconut cashew butter and unsweetened carob chips ALL DAY. I can’t get over how amazing and strange that is. I’m usually sitting here biding my time until I dunk my head in a bag of chocolate chips because I want them so bad. Today my mouth has been watering since I woke up and it had nothing to do with processed sugar. SCORE ONE FOR THE TEAM.

Day 13: Truth be told, I’m not feeling as fabulous as I think I should. After my original burst of energy and awesome mood, I’ve returned to normal. I’m tired. I’m bloated. My skin still hates me. The only thing that I can think to tweak a little is my nut intake. Maybe they’re not agreeing with me? Who the hell knows. I’m going to try eating less of them tomorrow to see if I feel any better.

Day 16: I realize it’s late in the game for this, but I tried a green juice for the first time today and was amazed by how fantastic I felt afterwards. I’ve been putting off trying them because I don’t own a juicer, but with a little bit of Googling, I was confident in attempting the process without it. My first juice was carrot apple spinach, because that’s what I had on hand, but I’m excited to experiment with them further!

Also, I think the most powerful part of this whole thing is that it teaches you to be more in tune with your body. I didn’t do that great a job of eliminating nuts from my diet (they’re so good and I’ve been avoiding meat so I need to get my protein in), and I’ve actually felt good. What I have cut out (completely by accident) are grains and I’m wondering if they were causing some trouble. My skin is clearing, the bloat is gone, and my energy is increased. I’m gonna keep on keeping on.

Day 21: I have to be honest. I’m totally disappointed. I have eaten so well, followed this cleanse to a t and still, I feel like absolute crap. I was expecting to be glowing and radiating pure, unadulterated energy. Instead, I just got back from the doctor’s office with a sinus and/or chest infection and a prescription for bloodwork to find out if I have some type of autoimmune disease. My energy level is so, so low and I feel totally defeated.

Final Thoughts:

144 lbs (-5.5), Thigh 22.5″ (-2), Hips 38.5″ (-1.75), Waist 30″, Bust 34.5″ (-1), Arm 11″ (-1)

In all honesty, I don’t think this little experiment was a total bust. I may not feel more energetic or like a new woman (you generally don’t when fighting off an infection), but that might not have anything to do with how effective the cleanse was. Take a look at the before and after pictures (please ignore weird faces, the lack of makeup and my messy surroundings. I am not a model and I am the mother of small, messy humans):

clean program before and after side view

clean program before and after front view

I can definitely see and feel the loss of inches, even if it’s not as apparent to outside eyes. While I didn’t do this cleanse with weight loss being my number one goal (I’m a big believer in slow, steady life changes over quick fixes and “diets.” I looked at this as more of a system reboot than a way to take off weight and keep it gone), it was interesting to see where it just falls off when you choose whole, unprocessed foods.

I definitely learned a few important things:

  • Every body is different. Just because some people have extraordinary results doesn’t mean that I will. If I have a health issue that’s not being dealt with, I’m obviously not going to feel fantastic. But the fact that I’m not bursting with energy doesn’t mean this was a waste—especially since I didn’t squeeze in as much exercise and sleep as I should have.
  • I absolutely feel more in tune with my body. I have more than doubled my water intake and feel thirsty more often than before (or maybe I’m just recognizing it as thirst when before I assumed it was hunger).
  • I crave healthier foods. My first day officially off the cleanse, I didn’t eat much differently than I had been. I had a solid breakfast because I could, but it was an apple with vanilla coconut cashew butter. And chocolate wasn’t even the first thing I ran to. I had a little honey in my tea in the morning (which was not allowed on the cleanse) and didn’t hit my chocolate supply until late afternoon. Even then, I found it strangely unsatisfying. Yes, it tasted heavenly. But it didn’t make me feel full like the snacks I’ve grown used to.
  • I really believe in “fasting” overnight (which means you don’t eat until 12 hours after you finished your dinner). I had a less difficult time getting up in the morning when I didn’t eat terribly late and I had a nice, full energizing breakfast once I could eat. I’m definitely going to keep this part up.

What do you think? Have you done a cleanse like the Clean Program before? Have you considered one? Do you think they’re crazy? I want to know!

Written by Jennifer Garry
Jen is a freelance writer and girl mom from New York. When she's not knee-deep in glittery crafts and girl talk, you can probably find her sprawled across her couch in the middle of a Netflix marathon with dark chocolate smeared on her face. The struggle is real.