Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Conscious Cleanse Review

Several weeks ago, I was contacted and asked if I was interested in participating in the Conscious Cleanse*. I had never done a cleanse. In fact, I have never really followed a diet or an eating plan (put together by someone else; I plan my own meals all the time).

I briefly looked through the website for the Conscious Cleanse and noticed I would be able to eat whole foods and that the focus seemed to be on eliminating coffee, alcohol, sugar, and processed foods. Plus, the idea behind the cleanse is to continue eating that way most of the time once the cleanse is over. This all sounded good to me as I knew that there were things that needed to be cleaned up in my diet. I also knew that I wasn’t likely to take on this endeavor on my own and looked forward to the built-in support the program offers.

One thing I had been overdoing big time was coffee. Several years ago, I had worked very hard at limiting my coffee intake to one cup a day. And I did drink one cup of coffee per day for quite some time. Until life got stressful, and then it increased to a lot more.

The Conscious Cleanse is a 14 day cleansing program, with five transition days before the cleanse starts. During those days, participants are asked to do one thing a day, such as adding more veggies and fruits, eliminating everything with added sugar, and, yes, eliminating coffee. I had a few days to completely “get off” coffee, but it was rough, and I had a terrible headache and was in a fog for a few days. But by day 3 with little/no coffee I was amazed by how good I felt and that I was able to function without coffee. Who knew?!

One important part of the Conscious Cleanse is the built-in community and support system. There is a private Facebook group of only current “cleansers.” While I was in all honesty not a very active participant in terms of posting and responding to posts, I loved getting the Conscious Cleanse group updates whenever I logged into Facebook. It was a way to reconfirm and recommit to this process throughout the day. It was also great to see that others had similar questions and struggles, and it was very helpful to get questions answered right away.

There are also four teleseminars throughout the cleanse. The first is the day before the cleanse starts and goes over all the basics. The basics of the cleanse can be found in the manual participants have access to. It explains what you are allowed to eat and what you cannot to eat, includes a grocery shopping list and recipes. Participants can call in with questions or submit them online.

Participants also receive daily emails from Jo and Jules, the creators of the cleanse, that encourage them to go “deeper.” Suggestions include journaling first thing in the morning, really paying attention to how different foods make us feel, a list of foods that can be taken with you, encouragement to be active throughout the day, eating out suggestions, gratitude reminders, and more. Jo and Jules also encourage participants to email them with any questions throughout the cleanse.

In the past, when I had heard the word cleanse, I thought of lemon water or juices and no food, and that scared me. The Conscious Cleanse is different. While participants are asked to give up coffee, alcohol, added sugar, dairy, corn, eggs, soy, gluten, and processed foods (plus some known allergens), there is plenty to eat on this program.

The day starts off with 32 ounces of warm lemon water. I started to really look forward to my lemon water every morning and plan to continue doing this. For breakfast, lunch, and dinner there are many choices, including chicken, fish, or bison if you like. Breakfast for me was often a smoothie with plenty of greens, a little fruit, and hemp seeds for protein. I loved them, hubby pretended to love them, and the kid declared one day they made him lose his appetite for the rest of the day, which wasn’t true at all! But we got his point and figured out his favorite smoothie combo (a banana, frozen mango pieces, spinach, and a carrot). Hubby and the kid did not participate in the cleanse but there was plenty of food that I made for the cleanse that they ate and enjoyed a lot, especially during the second week when I did a better job planning.

I made some recipes from the manual – and there are many excellent recipes in the manual (plus a few I didn’t care for too much, but they weren’t bad, I just wouldn’t make them again) – but I also made some of my own recipes, adapted for the cleanse. For example, I made a big pot of my lentil/vegetable soup but I left out the tomatoes (which are off limits during the cleanse). I also made many simple salads with some chicken or fish on the side. This is what I often eat anyway.

In addition to the conscious eating plan briefly described above which participants follow during the week, there are also two purification days on the weekend. During the first purification weekend, participants were instructed to eat as many fruits and vegetables as they wanted, drink unlimited fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies, and drink a special broth made with vegetables. You are encouraged to clear your schedule on those days and take it easy. At first I was skeptical, and I didn’t like the idea of “starving.” But the first round of purification days was actually much easier than I thought it would be, and I had more energy than expected. The purification days are optional, and you are only supposed to do them if you can take it very easy on those days. For the second round of purification, you are only supposed to eat pureed/juiced veggies and fruits (juices, smoothies, blended soups). I did one day of the second purification weekend as I had too much going on.

How did I feel?
After the coffee withdrawal, I felt really good. I was actually really amazed that I was able to function so well without coffee. I did have some bloating and discomfort at the beginning of the cleanse, which apparently is normal (partially because of the increase of veggies). After that, I felt really good and had a lot less bloating and stomach discomfort than usually. I was however weaker during my workouts. My sleep was also affected in weird ways. During caffeine withdrawal, I woke up before 3 a.m. with a headache every day. As a result, I went to bed really early which may have led to a vicious cycle of going to bed really early and waking up really early throughout the cleanse. But I woke up refreshed and ready for the day, still 3 a.m. was a bit early. Judging from the Facebook group posts, how people felt on the cleanse varied widely, from no/very mild withdrawal symptoms and tons of energy right away to really bad struggles with cravings, headaches, etc.

How doable is the cleanse?
Because you are allowed to eat, I think the cleanse is very doable. Plus, I eat many foods that are suggested on the cleanse already anyway. Someone who eats a lot of processed foods and/or fast food could have a very different experience. The biggest challenge for me was to plan ahead. I got on board kind of late and therefore felt a bit rushed before the start of the cleanse. I would suggest to make a meal plan (like I do every week) and then write a grocery list. Some participants apparently bought pretty much everything on the shopping list that is provided in the manual, which list all the foods that are allowed on the cleanse. That is certainly not necessary and would get very expensive.

I also would suggest getting The Conscious Cleanse book and reading it before signing up for the cleanse (I didn’t buy the Kindle version of the book until the cleanse was more than half way over, and I would have definitely liked to have it at the beginning.) In fact, you can do the cleanse without signing up for the group cleanse by just reading the book. However, you’d miss out on all the support, which I found very helpful and motivating, especially the first time doing a cleanse. It didn’t even occur to me to give up, and I’m not so sure if that had been the case had I done this all on my own. Daily emails before and during the cleanse, four teleseminars, and a Facebook support group may not sound like much, but they really made a difference for me. Knowing that others were doing the same thing at the same time not only made me not even think about giving up, it also made “cheating” out of the question for me. If you want to do the cleanse with just the book, maybe you can get a “cleansing buddy” and you can cheer each other on and do daily check ins. You could also do a weekly “cooking day” and make some meals for the week together. A lot of the recipes in the manual and in the book make a lot of servings and could be shared. That way you could eat a wider variety of foods.

Did I have cravings?

Surprisingly, I really didn’t have cravings. When I saw people eat or drink things I couldn’t eat or drink, I did think “too bad” a few times, but I really never had a craving. I know some of the people who were doing the cleanse had cravings. It seemed to me that many of them were used to certain foods at a certain time of the day – for example, a piece of dark chocolate in the afternoon, etc. I don’t really have a ritual like that, so maybe that’s why I didn’t crave anything. As I mentioned before, the food on the cleanse was actually pretty similar to what I normally eat so that may be another factor. I was a bit surprised that I didn’t crave cheese since I eat a small (or not so small at times…) piece pretty much daily and really like the taste.

Did I lose weight?
Honestly, I don’t know for sure because I didn’t weigh myself before I started the cleanse. Doing this cleanse was not about losing weight for me, and I made sure to eat enough food to be satisfied. Judging from my “keep me honest pants” I can assume however that I did lose some weight. I was mindful the entire time I was on the cleanse and ate healthy foods. I plan to continue eating very similarly to the conscious eating plan now that the cleanse is over.

How is the book?

The book contains everything that is in the manual participants get at the beginning of the cleanse and the information from the daily emails and teleseminars but in a more comprehensive form. It also includes many more recipes than the manual, which is really great as you want to keep things interesting and eat a wide variety of foods. Plus there are suggested daily sample meal plans. I didn’t follow any of them (and really enjoyed that I could do “my own thing”), but I know that some people really like to have things planned out for them.

Why did I do the cleanse? 

As I stated above, it was not to lose weight. I wanted to pay closer attention to what I am putting into my body and also figure out how certain foods affect me. I eat pretty healthy anyway and not that different from what I was eating on the cleanse. But I knew I was eating some processed foods that I could do without. In a way, I wanted to get back to a “true baseline” of veggies and then just see what I really needed to add. I also knew I had to do something about my coffee consumption, and this was a great way to do it. Finally, my gallstones affect my digestive system in weird and uncomfortable ways, and I was hoping to figure out how certain foods affect me. At the end of the cleanse, you are asked to reintroduce the foods you eliminated during the cleanse one by one to see if you have any food allergies. So far I have reintroduced only eggs, and, unfortunately, they didn’t sit too well. I had actually suspected that for a while. We’ll see how I’ll do with dairy, gluten, and soy.

What happens after the cleanse?
Jo and Jules recommend that cleansers strive to eat according to the conscious eating plan 80% of the time and add in other foods 20% of the time without guilt. I think that is a very realistic goal and something I plan on doing.

If you are interested in sampling some of the recipes that are part of the Conscious Cleanse, you can download Jo and Jules’ free e cookbook: A Taste of the Conscious Cleanse: 10 Fresh and Fabulously Simple Recipes.

Questions: Have you ever done a cleanse? If so, what was your experience? Would you ever consider doing a cleanse? Before doing this cleanse, I had never really considered doing one. To be honest, I am kind of rebellious (I can’t even follow a recipe!) and being told what to eat and not to eat scared me. Plus, during many cleanses you don’t eat at all. I don’t think I would want to do that. But this cleanse was really a way for me to take a good look at what I was putting into my body and be more mindful. It was definitely a good experience, and I am really glad I did it.

Be well,

*Disclosures: I received access to the Conscious Cleanse program  for free to review on the blog. The following is an honest review of my experiences during the cleanse. Since I didn’t receive the book on time, I purchased the Kindle version of The Conscious Cleanse book with my own money. After the cleanse was over, I also received a hard copy of The Conscious Cleanse book for free. A few months after doing the cleanse for the first time, I became an ambassador for the Conscious Cleanse, and I earn a small commission if you sign up through one of my links.