I Tried The 21 Day Clean Program—And Here's What Happened

By Sam Negrin

One week into January 2018 and I was desperately in need of a detox from all of the bread, dairy, SUGAR and alcohol that I had been consuming since practically Halloween. Most of the chatter in the office was about the same thing, as soon as we re-emerged from the holiday break. In an effort to break the cycle of "treat yourself" and my terrible sugar addiction, I wanted something more sustainable than a quick 5 day cleanse. Something that could truly change my cravings and the way I thought about food. Even though I'm the editor of a wellness site, that doesn't mean I don't love me some french fries and chocolate cake.

Clean Program
credit: LEAFtv

I had heard so many success stories around the Clean Program's 21 Day Cleanse, but was pretty terrified to try it (I've never eliminated anything from my diet for that long, I generally stick to "everything in moderation"). Here's the gist of the program:

  • No dairy (substitutes: almond, hemp, hazelnut, quinoa, coconut, rice milk)
  • No grains except brown, red and black rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, teff and buckwheat
  • For baking, the accepted flours are brown rice, teff, millet, tapioca, amaranth, garbanzo bean, coconut, chestnut and sorghum
  • No eggs, raw fish, pork, beef, veal, sausage, cold cuts, shellfish, bacon, smoked meats (leaving the accepted animal products: chicken, turkey, buffalo, salmon, lamb, cold water ocean fish, water-packed canned tuna, sardines, anchovies)
  • No soy or soybean products
  • No peanuts, but any other nuts and seeds OK
  • No nightshade vegetables (tomato, potato, eggplant, peppers) or corn, all other veggies OK
  • No butter, margarine, processed oils, canola oil or ghee (leaving the accepted oils: almond, flaxseed, coconut, olive, sesame, sunflower...)
  • The approved fruits are: apples, berries, stone fruit, cherries, figs, kiwi, melons, papaya, mango, nectarines and kumquats
  • Vinegars like apple cider, balsamic, red wine and rice OK
  • No alcohol, coffee, soda, black or oolong tea or fruit juice (leaving: herbal, white, rooibos, green and yerba mate tea, kombucha and fresh fruit or vegetable juice)
  • All spices, herbs and adaptogens OK
  • No sugar at ALL except from coconut, date, stevia, yacon syrup, lucuma powder or xylitol
  • No condiments (unless made from scratch with the accepted ingredients above!) except nutritional yeast, wheat free tamari, miso, mustard, and nama shoyu)

You have a Clean Program Approved shake (including one of their shake packets, chocolate or vanilla) in the morning along with a supplement packet and probiotic. You have a Clean Program Approved meal along with a supplement packet for lunch, and another shake for dinner with the last supplement packet of the day.

I rallied up some motivation at work, convincing our Production Coordinator Branché to jump on this journey with me. We journaled every day to truly measure how we were feeling, and the findings are pretty interesting. Here are a few excerpts:

Day One

Sam: Super excited to start this morning, I had "Becky's AM Shake" and took a walk which was a nice distraction against my beloved eggs. I made the Clean Program's Vegan Shepherd's Pie last night which is good to bring to work for lunch. Around 2PM I had terrible cramps and had to leave work, I'm getting my period but the pain is not normally this rough. Went home and rested all day. Instead of just the shake for dinner, I had some sliced radish with a cashew curry "nut butter drizzle."

Branché: Feeling fine today, besides extremely tired because of the lack of caffeine (no headaches though!). A little bloated and definitely missed sugar around 2/3 PM. I'm hoping I will start to feel energized and a lot less "heavy," I'm also hoping my chest and back will clear up more now that I'm back to excluding dairy.

Day Two

Sam: I woke up feeling pretty good and worked out lightly. I had my shake and supplements and by the time I got to work my stomach pain was back. I borrowed a heating pad and felt better, then took my supplement packet with lunch and felt terrible 45 minutes later and left work early. I contemplating quitting (it's only day 2!!!) and ordering pizza, but I refrained. I had some chicken broth and brown rice crackers with hummus before my night time shake.

Clean Program
credit: LEAFtv

Day Three

Sam: Starting to think I should stop taking these supplements, I've been sick every day so far. Emailed my Clean Program wellness coach to find out what's going on.

Branché: I woke up incredibly sad. No clue why, definitely trying to view it as my body releasing everything. One thing I notice is that because lunch is my only warm meal, I feel like I'm gorging. The psychology of it isn't the healthiest at this point. Still pretty bloated and extremely exhausted, but not hungry. I had a small sliver of chicken and 1/2 tsp brown rice before dinner tonight, plus the shake.

Day Four

Sam: Woke up feeling good and did a workout, skipped the supplements as advised by the wellness coach and didn't get sick at all today. Side note: The support of the wellness coaches at the Clean Program is extraordinary.

Clean Program
credit: LEAFtv
Dandy blend with steamed almond milk and cinnamon.

Day Five

Sam: Lots of cake and donuts at the office today and I resisted, it was SAD. But I feel proud that I actually said no thanks. I skipped supplements all day except the 2 enzymes at dinner and I was hulled over in the bathroom one hour later. No more supplements for me. Am I still cleansing? (Wellness coach says yes, but I'm worried.)

Branché: Amen!!! Finally about to try Dandy Blend for my morning coffee and it has saved my life. I made an almond milk creamer with it, which I liked. Less tired today but very bloated.

Day Six

Branché: Hardest day so far. Digestion issues, but going to drink more water and continue taking magnesium (Eliminate) at night.

Day Seven

Sam: Did a great workout this morning and my skin is super glowy and clear. I've had issues with acne on and off for awhile so this is a great feeling. But, I'm super bloated.

Day Eight

Sam: Like clockwork, got my first zit this morning! Woohoo. My tastebuds feel a little off, salmon is making me queasy. Pretty sick of smoothies, too.

Clean Program
credit: LEAFtv

Day Nine

Branché: I started feeling cold symptoms but I'm aware this is part of the detox process.

Day Ten

Branché: One of the best parts so far has been how well I've been sleeping. I have been sticking to the 12 hour window of fasting, which I think has helped the most! This is something I definitely want to continue to try after the cleanse.

Clean Program
credit: LEAFtv
Rice cakes with almond butter and shredded coconut.

Day Eleven

Sam: I miss eggs and potatoes, not even sugar or caffeine. I also feel like I'm starting to understand the "stop eating when you're full" thing. This seems all-too-obvious but it's hard in an office environment when there's always leftover catered lunches from meetings in the main kitchen (after you've eaten your own).

Branché: I miss my morning ritual of having coffee, but have been subbing it with Dandy Blend. I still need to be better about drinking more water, but so far, I'm noticing that I feel more physically and mentally "open!" I deff miss tomatoes :)

Clean Program
credit: LEAFtv

Day Twelve

Sam: I had a loaded matcha and chicken bone broth, then took a LONG (3.5 mile walk) to the Promenade. Skipped the A.M. shake. Went to lunch at Malibu Farm but I'm noticing that going out to eat is really hard. Most places have soy, honey or corn in everything - especially the health-minded stuff. I had a bland piece of salmon with vegetables and took two fork-fulls of the white rice that came with it. Oops :(

Day Thirteen

Sam: Pretty exhausted today, I'm starting to get full faster. I had a dinner meeting at Cafe Gratitude so I had a salad and cup of soup, no second shake today. I knew about the dinner meeting but couldn't bare the thought of having only a shake while sitting at my desk for lunch. Direct quote from my journal: "Cooking is easy, going out to eat sucks!"

Branché: After cleaning and organizing my apartment this weekend, certain things are coming up for me, themes of forgiveness and peace. I didn't realize that things like gluten or sugar (my guilty addiction) were actually blocking me from accessing more parts of myself. I love that this is also a mind/spirit cleanse. My favorite shake so far is the "chai" flavored one with vanilla extract, almond milk and almond butter. I like it as an evening treat. Also, I have struggled with chest acne since 2011. This is the clearest my skin has ever been. I could cry! Being Black, I suffer from hyper pigmentation so as you know its such a cycle. This has given me hope. Now I'm just nervous to test and see what things I can keep in my diet. Dairy hasn't been an issue but like I said sugar and gluten (not so much bread but being more mindful of pastas) will be interesting to see.

Day Fourteen

Branché: I've noticed that the great sleep I've been getting has been shifting. I'm still sleeping through the night but I'm not feeling as rested anymore. I am looking at it as just part of the process. While I feel fatigued, I don't feel heavy or light which is good!

Day Fifteen

Sam: Woke up STARVING and had to have a spoonful of almond butter to accompany the clean shake. Branché and I found out that Kippy's Ice Cream in Santa Monica serves cleanse-approved ice cream, THANK YOU! Went to the gym after work and my handstands felt much easier, maybe it's because I'm feeling "lighter"?

Day Sixteen

Sam: Absolutely sick of smoothies. Feeling some FOMO for being a total hermit at night recently. At least I'm indulging in self-care like working out and masking. I'm really excited to be social again, though.

Branché: I tried making a curry chicken with brown rice but I need to definitely practice my curry making skills :) Salmon and chicken are my favorite proteins so if they weren't included in this cleanse, I'm pretty sure I'd die. I've tried lots of brown rice pastas during this cleanse and I'm excited that I don't think I'll be going back to any other kind after this!

Clean Program
credit: LEAFtv
Brown rice tortilla with avocado and everything bagel seasoning, cooked with avocado oil and topped with parsley.

Day Seventeen

Branché: Sam showed me how to make a really yummy brown rice tortilla with avocado & the glory that is the everything-but-the-bagel seasoning from Trader Joes. SO GOOD. I actually like to make it right after work as a little snack before the dinner shake. Yes and more yes! Still feeling really tired but I know it's just my body adjusting to lack of caffeine and sugar. Still sleeping through the night!

Day Eighteen

Sam: Only a few days left YASSSS. Also just discovered the Bulletproof Cafe's hot cocoa. It is AMAZING and a total treat (but cleanse approved!).

Day Nineteen

Branché: Currently craving: the date "ice cream" Sam and I had a few weeks back! Maybe it will be my post-cleanse treat! I'm also finally feeling back to my normal self, energy-wise. Still making dandy blend in the morning but no longer feeling like I need coffee or caffeine when I wake up! Miracles happen.

Day Twenty

Sam: I am so happy that I've had the ability to come this far, even with a few minor set backs like not taking the supplements and the minor cheats. My parents are getting into town two days after the cleanse is over, so I most likely won't be able to slowly re-add ingredients to my diet to see how each one effects my body (which is recommended). But, I feel more in control of my appetite and choices. My skin is definitely glowy but I actually haven't lost any weight.

Day Twenty-One

Sam: DONE!!! (Almost) I'm not craving coffee or sugar at all. My energy levels are so even, I don't even think I need to go back to drinking coffee. Though, I've been having matcha every morning which definitely has caffeine in it so I haven't gone cold turkey. Literally all I want is a breakfast burrito with eggs, potatoes and tomatoes. The hardest part for me was breakfast, I didn't really miss dinner that much. My go-to if I wasn't feeling like a shake was coconut water and the chocolate shake mix... it was kind of like chocolate milk. Not as nutrient-dense as what's preferred but it was the only thing I felt like having some nights.

Branché: I DID IT! This has been a really incredible experience. I really was shocked/surprised by how much of mind and soul would come up for me during this cleanse. It was a really powerful process. I have fasted in the past for religious reasons, also for 21 days, but not with this regimented of a diet. This helped me realize that many things were even blocking me from "feeling" my true self: especially sugar and gluten. I still don't think we were meant to live our lives without tomato sauce BUT I would generally encourage everyone to keep matcha and dandy blend in their pantry. I have to admit, I missed raw honey! The hardest part was definitely dinner time. When you come home, you want something warm to eat. But having this kind of diet also made me step up my game and make sure I was taking great care of myself by always having my lunch prepared for the next day.

Clean Program
credit: LEAFtv

RECAP:

Sam: This cleanse has made me more self-aware than I've ever been. Aware of my cravings and my crazy addition to gluten, that was the hardest part between everything (coffee, alcohol, sugar, dairy included!). I also realized how my social circle is so dependent on drinking, I want to expand that because I felt really "lonely" during the cleanse most weekends (which is good and bad). I worked out a lot and I'm not sure if that hindered any weight loss opportunity, but the wellness coach said that "your body uses so much energy to detox, when you start working out you re-direct that energy." But, it was the only thing I could do on the weekends to get out of the house! I'm a little concerned why my body couldn't handle the supplements (I know so many people who have done the program and had zero issues) but I'm just continuing to pay attention and be mindful. Overall, I'm extremely happy that went on this journey and would recommend it to ANYONE that feels they need to hit the reset button, on not only their diet but their entire life.

Branché: I would definitely encourage anyone to do this cleanse, giving you a chance to really experience what your body feels like in a cleansed state. I'm proud that I was able to do it seriously without cheating! I'm grateful to the Clean Program for this experience; it was my first official cleanse and I benefited so much in various ways. I would definitely do it again, or even for a short 3 or 7 reset version later in the year.

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