The Hungry Girl's Guide to a Wellness Cleanse
Remember back in high school when once a year, everyone would attempt the World Vision 40 Hour Famine to raise money for hungry and displaced children in third world countries?
Well, I was one of the kids that would just be smashing through packet after packet of Barley Sugars because they were the only "approved" snack incase you were struggling and needed a sugar fix.
My point is that I love food. I've always loved food, always been a big eater and definitely the most adventurous when it came to trying new foods in my family. As I've gotten older however, I've seen my appreciation for food take on a world of it's own.
It's not just the food anymore, it's the ceremony of eating. It's picking the cuisine or new restaurant you've been dying to check out. It's making note of the fit-out, the branding, the menus, the bathrooms. I want to hear the waiter's recommendations, I want to see the specials, I want to thank the chef. I'm one of those girls who make weird noises and do a little dance in their seat with every mouthful.
On top of that, it's the social aspect too. I'm a social little butterfly (okay, maybe more of a moth) and I love nothing more than breaking bread with friends.
So, with that in mind, the idea of doing any kind of "cleanse" whereby I swap my delicious food for juices or soups for an extended period of time sounded like literally the last thing in the world I would ever want to do...and even if I wanted to do it, I doubt I'd last very long.
Did I want clearer skin? Yes. Did I want to feel clear headed and focused? Would make for a nice change. And let's be honest, did I want to drop a few kg's in a matter of days? Sure.
But was I willing to give up food for all of the above? That's a no from me.
However when the guys at Mr Perkins got in touch and mentioned that their new Wellness Cleanse was a combination of soups, broth and smoothies...and that unlike other detoxes, the six-part cleanse was rich in fibre, which would keep the body feeling nourished rather than deprived...I was intrigued.
My girlfriend and fellow blogger Lisa Hamilton from See Want Shop had just completed a 5 day, juice-only cleanse and was raving about the results. She wasn't hungry. She felt great, energised even. And she'd dropped a whopping 5kgs*.
(*I'm going to put a note here about how weight loss is not and should not be the number one goal from doing a cleanse. There are at least 7 other, more important benefits that I will touch on later.)
Just as I have always loved food, I've also always been quite competitive. If Lis could smash out 5 days just drinking liquid, surely I could manage 3 eating delicious soups? I agreed to give the Mr Perkins Wellness Cleanse a go and decided to document it on my social media channels...mainly so that I was held accountable.
I ordered a large, oily, cheesy pasta the night before. I guzzled down a can of Coke. I went to bed feeling apprehensive but excited for the challenge.
I woke up and went straight to the fridge. 3 cardboard boxes starred back at me. I grabbed one of them, cut her open and began familiarising myself with my diet for the next 3 days.
All cleanses are different, different brands focus on different objectives. Some are for detoxing. Some are for gut health. The Mr Perkins Wellness Cleanse has been designed to flood your body with easy to absorb plant-based nutrients. The soups are nutritional powerhouses, made from vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes.
They're loaded with vitamins and nutrients, high in fibre, calcium and protein. Some of the benefits (that don't include weight-loss) are:
- Heightened energy
- Improved digestive function
- Enhanced lymphatic flow
- Increased immune function
- Mental clarity
- Clear, glowing skin
- A balanced, mindful approach to food. (More on this later).
Reading though my very detailed instructions I realised I was supposed to have "reduced my consumption of processed food, sugar, meat and diary for up to a week beforehand". This was to help kickstart cleansing and reduce detox symptoms.
First drink of the day was a 500ml of warm water with half a fresh lemon squeezed into it, which promotes alkalinity, reduce inflammation and promote healing. It's also apparently "surprisingly energising". Yeah, right.
From there, my day went like so:
- 7-9am Green Smoothie, served cold.
- 9-11am Shitake Broth, served hot.
- 12-2pm Green Soup, served hot.
- 2-4pm Strawberry Gazpacho, served cold.
- 6-7.30pm Root Vegetable Soup, served hot.
- 7.30pm-9pm Berry & Chia Parfait, served cold.
Upon first glance that seemed like a lot of liquid and I was right. The green smoothie (in fact my first green smoothie EVER) went down pretty well. The shitake broth was delicious, just tasted like a really yummy mushroom pho. However come the green soup at lunch time, I was struggling.
The soup itself was yummy, I was just so full of liquid. I couldn't finish it.
3pm came around and by this point I was starving. I opened the fridge and started eyeing off weird combinations of food I'd never normally eat. I looked at the jar of jam in the fridge and thought about all the bad things I would do for a spoonful. I was also battling a persistant dull headache that had been following me around most of the day.
The strawberry gazpacho had so much potential. The strawberry and watermelon part could have been such a delicious treat but the tomato and basil and salt made it taste weird and the texture was a little gag-worthy. I found it best to use a straw and drink it like a thick smoothie than trying to eat it with a spoon.
Come dinner time, I was excited for my root veggie soup. The fact that soup is considered a "normal" dinner-time meal and something I would pick myself during a cold winter Melbourne made me feel better about missing out on anything else. For a second I forgot I was doing a cleanse, and instead just thought I'd forgotten to buy my usual crusty bread to go with it.
Later that night I wasn't even hungry but felt I should at least attempt to finish all my jars. I took the berry & chia parfait out of the fridge and stared at it.
I'll be honest, I've never been a fan of chia puddings. There is something off about the look of it...the texture. It reminds me of being a kid and collecting frog eggs out of the pond in our backyard, watching the foamy mess grow into tadpoles.
I grabbed a spoonful, put it to my mouth like a toddler avoiding the zoom-zoom-Food-Aeroplane and decided it wasn't for me.
My friend Mr Headache woke me up and it dawned on me that I had another day of liquids ahead of me.
I was meant to head to F45 for a 7.30am training session but I didn't have the energy. I also felt a bit sad, about what in particular I wasn't sure.
Had my hot water with lemon. Downed my green smoothie. Really enjoyed the broth again and before I knew it, it was green soup time. Today, I poured my soup into a big mug rather than using a bowl and spoon. Just seemed to go down easier that way.
3.30itis hit again and I was dying for something to nibble on. I didn't feel like the strawberry gazpacho today so I made a green tea instead (allowed) and noticed I was actually feeling super clear headed and focused.
I smashed out a bunch of emails and was really productive all afternoon, ticking off tasks I'd had sitting on the To-Do list for weeks. I was feeling proud of myself for sticking to it and happy to see some of the positive benefits after a foggy first day...until I remembered I had an event that night.
How was I going to manage to say no to a glass of champagne? Pass on a tray of delectable canapés? I left it as late as possible to eat my root veggie soup, hoping it would keep me full and satisfied for the remainder of the night.
The event was a burlesque show at Crown, sponsored by a champagne brand. I could smell the sweet, sweet bubbles the moment I hit the red carpet.
Thankfully, my girlfriend had decided to drive in as well so she could only have the one champagne anyway and I didn't end up feeling too left out.
Walking back through the food court to get to my car was painful but I put my head down and breathed through my mouth and hoped that the smell of McDonald's fries wouldn't follow me out.
Changing into my PJ's back at home I noticed my stomach was considerably flatter, and the couple of spots I had on my face were almost cleared up. Coincidence? Who knows but I was feeling ready to tackle the last day of the cleanse.
Skipped the green smoothie this morning and went straight for the shiitake broth for something a little lighter. Whilst it's great the soups and smoothies are packed with so much fibre, their consistency can make them tough to get through... especially after 3 days of the same flavours!
I was hungrier than normal come lunch (probably shouldn't have skipped the smoothie) so ended up having both the green soup and strawberry gazpacho (definitely best served cold, right out of the fridge) which was actually quite refreshing after the creamy soup.
By this point, I was feeling a little lonely. No food meant no breakfasts or lunches with girlfriends, so I'd spent most of the week so far alone. I was also missing chewing, I thought about getting some gum but gum has sugar in it so decided against it.
As I sat down to watch The Bachelor with my last mug of bright orange root veggie soup I felt pretty smug. I'd managed to get through 3 days of not eating, no snacking. I hadn't faltered. I hadn't given up. I hadn't touched the 6 or so blocks of Cadbury chocolate I'd accidentally discovered in the kitchen. I went to bed feeling excited to wake up and see the final results.
The Day After
I woke up to messages of congratulations from my friends. "HAVE YOU EATEN YET?"
No, I hadn't. And to be totally honest I wasn't even hungry. I hopped on the scales (lost 3kgs) and took myself to breakfast. I ordered my favourite thing on the menu and a fresh OJ and when it arrived, I looked at it for a bit.
I thought I'd be famished and would dig in, animal style. Licking the sauce off my fingers but honestly, I was full before I'd even finished the plate.
Later that day, I found myself thinking a lot harder about my food choices. As I mentioned earlier, while I did notice clearer skin, mental clarity etc etc I think perhaps the benefit I noticed most was "a balanced, mindful approach to food."
The cleanse had forced me to take a good, hard look at what I eat every day. Was it necessary? Was it helping or hindering my body? Were there better choices I could be making?
The biggest take-away I found was that the cleanse had connected me with my body, helping me to identify unconscious and unwanted habits that no longer serve me.
Why did I always order a can of Coke at restaurants? Did I really need one? Or was it just an old habit?
Yeah, fast food is quick and cheap but if I have food in the fridge, I wouldn't need to side trip to the drive through.
By taking all my food away from me, the cleanse had made me really think about and reassess what I'd decide to re-introduce and to me, that was the biggest breakthrough.
To sum up my feelings on the cleanse, I'm glad I did it but I don't think I'll be doing another one any time soon.
I'm happy with the results, the soups and smoothies were actually very yummy and I would definitely give it another go if I was feeling particularly sluggish or needed a refresh but the joy I get from food, from sitting down across a table of girlfriends and digging into something delicious is far more important to me.
I'll take what I've learnt about my relationship to food and use it to make wiser, healthier options but when I order that high-protein, plant-based dish, you best believe I'm washing it down with a mimosa.
(NB: This is in no way a sponsored or paid post.)