Saturday, January 4, 2014


At the end of November, my friend Danielle contacted me and asked if I'd be willing to participate in a 21 day, whole foods cleanse that she was developing as part of her expanding nutrition consulting business.  Danielle's cleanse is designed to eliminate food cravings and pretty much revolutionize participants' relationship with food.  Now I've known Danielle for over a dozen years and she has always been passionate about eating healthy, whole foods.  In fact, Danielle was eating organic local foods, drinking green smoothies, juicing and supplementing with flax and chia seeds, long before they were the "cool,"  trendy things to do.  After thinking about it for all of about 3 seconds, I agreed to be a guinea pig and help her work out any kinks before she offered her cleanse to the public.   Thus, on  December 2nd I began the cleanse, which turned out to be a fantastic forcing function for me not to not go crazy with Holiday binge eating--like I've usually done in the past.

photo from Google Images

I'd like to share my experience, but before I do, I probably should tell you why I agreed to do the cleanse.  First, as much as it embarrasses me to admit, I have gained more than 25 pounds over the course of the past decade.  I put the weight on somewhat slowly--only 2 or 3 pounds a year, which doesn't sound like a lot, BUT after 8-10 years, it certainly added up.  There was no getting around the fact that I was getting fat.  To compound the matter, the weight didn't want to come off.  It seemed that no matter how hard I tried to lose it, I couldn't...and the few pounds that did come off when I'd diet, I'd regain seemingly overnight.  Something--whether it was age, hormones, diet, lifestyle or a combination of all of them--was clearly amiss.  Secondly, I've always been a pretty fanatical exerciser...and I still am.  For years--throughout my 20's, 30's and early 40's, I could eat whatever I wanted in large, copious quantities, and my weight wouldn't budge more than a pound or two.  However, something happened when I hit 43--I still exercised (albeit less than my hardcore adventure racing days), but the pounds began to slowly creep on.  And truth be told, it's not as much fun trail running when you're carrying the equivalent of two extra bowling balls every step you take.  Similarly, it's certainly a lot more work climbing a hill on my mt bike, saddled with all that extra weight, than it would be if I weighed 20 pounds less.  Lastly, I felt like I should begin going to a weekly support group meeting and introducing myself like this--"Hello, My name is Maureen and I am a sugar addict."  Seriously, I've always had a sweet tooth, but I knew it had gotten pathetically out of hand when shortly before the cleanse, I made a batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies and intentionally hid most of them in the freezer, so I could have them all to myself and not have to share them with Bob and the kids.  I could go on...and on, but you probably get the point.  I viewed this cleanse as a way to once and for all, get my diet and ultimately, my health back on track and I was eager to begin.

The cleanse began with us getting a two page list of foods we could eat in pretty much unlimited quantities. Additionally, we learned about good fats and bad fats and were encouraged to eat at least one avocado a day as well as plenty of coconut oil.  Danielle taught us that 50% of our calories should come from good fats.  She also told us what we should eat and why, as well as explained the benefits of intermittent fasting (which was a completely new concept to me).  She provided a number of yummy recipes--curried lentils and veggies, spicy chickpeas, mole chicken chili and a delicious steel cut oats dish I had for breakfast many mornings.  The cleanse was designed to eliminate any potential allergens and cravings, so there was no soy, corn, gluten, sugar (aside from a very limited amount of honey and maple syrup), dairy or carbs allowed.  I will be honest, the first few days were tough...I was craving chocolate in the very worst way, but once the sugar monster was subdued, I felt amazingly energetic, lean and healthy.  In fact, the first week I lost 6 pounds without even trying.  The second week I lost 1.5 pounds and the third week I lost another 2.5 pounds for a total of 10 pounds!

The weight loss was nice, but three really remarkable things occurred as a result of the cleanse.  First, the cravings are gone.  Before the cleanse, I NEEDED chocolate and sweets every single day.  I craved them morning, noon and night and needless to say, I indulged those cravings.  I don't crave sweets anymore and in fact, it disgusts me to think about just how much sugar I consumed before.  Second, I am much more knowledgeable about how to fuel my body.  I always thought I was a pretty healthy eater (in spite of the sugar addiction), but the truth of the matter is that I wasn't.  I am eating a variety of new foods and dishes that never were on my radar before and consequently, my family is also eating much healthier.  In fact, despite the fact we're spending more on groceries, we're saving money overall because we aren't eating out nearly as much as we used to.  The food I'm making is healthier, less expensive and tastes better!  Lastly and best of all, I have adopted a modified version of the cleanse that I think can become a permanently sustainable diet for me for the long haul.  I won't get into it too much yet since it's all still very new, but I'll report back in 3-4 months and let you know if it's really working on a longer term basis.  All in all, the cleanse truly was a transformative experience that did revolutionize my relationship with food!

I'd like to put in a plug for Danielle and her cleanse.  If anyone is interested in participating in an upcoming cleanse, please contact her at  Danielle is giving a 50% discount for folks referred by previous participants, so feel free to let her know I sent you her way.  I should also mention that she is extremely knowledgeable about nutrition.  Danielle has an undergraduate degree in Exercise Science, a Masters Degree in nutrition and she teaches nutrition classes at her local community college.  She also has her own nutrition consulting business and regularly appears on public television teaching viewers everything from how to ferment foods, to how to makeover their refrigerators.  In short, she knows what she's talking about.