The Clean Program and Why I Keep Coming Back
Seven years ago I was introduced to cardiologist and functional medicine practitioner, Dr. Alejandro Junger, and his 21-day cleanse, the Clean Program. At the time, the longest “cleanse” I had ever done was a 3-day juice cleanse from NYC’s Liquiteria, so truthfully 21 days sounded like an unfathomable mission. That being said, those who know me well know, I love a challenge. I accepted, and my then boyfriend — now husband — and I decided to cleanse together. My life, the way I looked at food and my understanding of digestion and gut health changed forever.
It was through this cleanse I first realized that there was an actual direct correlation between what I put in my body and how I felt overall. Until then, I had no idea how many things were so heavily impacted by our guts AKA “our second brain.” I also finally understood why my grandmother has avoided common foods like tomatoes or red peppers all these years. Everything from mental health, to immunity to skin issues all depend on a healthy functioning gut. You are what you eat.
Not only did I make it through the 21-day program but I took the information and tools and successfully made several lifestyle changes. I have continued to do this cleanse annually around the same time each year (minus when I was pregnant and nursing). I truly feel better while on the cleanse and the changes in my mood, my skin and my sleep are very evident.
I genuinely believe that committing to detoxify your body will change your life like it changed mine.
What Should You Know About The Clean Program?
The most important thing to know about the Clean Program is that it’s not a crash diet. It wasn’t designed to be a temporary fix-it plan and the program’s goals aren’t centered around weight loss (although experiencing some weight loss while on Clean is a nice little extra benefit). Clean is a detoxification program, and the goal is to remove toxins, restore nutrients so that the body can naturally heal itself and thus rejuvenate not only your body but also your mind. The program aims to reset your body and assist in jump-starting your journey to a long-term healthier lifestyle.
How Does It Work?
It’s all about eliminating foods that are mucus-forming, highly acidic, difficult to digest or potential allergens. Say goodbye to dairy, gluten, processed packaged foods, refined and processed sugar, alcohol, coffee and many others for 21 days. Eliminating all of these at once is helpful to identify which foods you may be sensitive to once you reintroduce them.
Equally important is what you put into your body. So for 21 days, you’ll start your mornings with a probiotic, a supplement pack and a packet of the Cleanse Shake (in either Vanilla or Chocolate) to add to a smoothie.
For lunch, you have a sensible meal consisting of any whole foods that are on the approved list. Lots of green veggies, lean proteins and healthy gluten-free grains like quinoa or brown rice, with another packet of supplements. This makes the cleanse do-able, in my opinion. You’re not trying to survive solely on liquids for weeks.
For dinner, you’ll have another smoothie (or you can incorporate the Clean Shake powder into soup, but I haven’t had much success with that). You’ll also have another supplement pack. The supplements are there to aid in the detoxification process.
Then there’s the 12-hour window rule, which gives your digestive system a break, allowing detoxification to happen. According to the program, “the body sends the signal to go into deep detox mode approximately eight hours after your last meal… and then needs another four hours to do a deep clean.” So basically you want to have 12 hours between the last thing you had for dinner and the first thing you have for breakfast the next day.
It sounds harder than it is, but trust me the program is really easy to follow. You’ll find a rhythm and love the routine until about day 17 when you’ll probably finally get tired of drinking shakes, but at that point, you’re so close there’s no turning back.
What Are The Benefits Of The Cleanse?
There are several benefits like better digestion, mental and emotional clarity, reduced bloating, regular bowel movements and many more. I can personally vouch for almost every claim the program makes but here’s a quick list of my favorites.
Energy and Clarity. While the first few days slow you down, after about day five your energy levels spike and you wake up crystal clear. It’s hard to explain, but I’ll never forget the first year I did the cleanse way back when I had zero idea what that type of clarity felt like. One morning I just woke up supercharged and I could see things like texture and color from across a room in a way I had never seen before.
Weight Loss. While weight loss is not a goal on the cleanse, many people do lose weight. The amount of weight I have personally seen has varied. I have encouraged many friends and family members to try this cleanse and have seen some lose 10 pounds and have seen one friend lose 15 pounds. I think the cleanse aids individuals in losing the amount of weight their specific body might need to lose. For example, I personally have lost anywhere between 6 – 7 pounds but never anything more than that. I think that’s because my body hasn’t needed to lose a more significant amount of weight like say, 15 pounds.
Reduced Cravings. Another benefit is that the cleanse will reset your cravings and taste buds. Things you once ate before, when reintroduced, will taste extremely sweet or extremely salty. Also since you just spent three weeks putting real whole foods into your system, your body has learned to crave those foods. You walk away with new healthier eating habits. This was the second year my mother did the cleanse with me, and I think she said it best when she text me, “I just ate a sweet potato like it was creme brulee.”
Glowing Skin and Vibrant Eyes. Last but not least is the very visible change in your skin. If I’m completely honest, this is my favorite benefit from the cleanse. That sounds so vain but I’m a sucker for glowing, clear skin. Somewhere along your 21-day journey, for me it is usually at the halfway point, you will discover illuminating, glowy, poreless skin. Puffiness decreases and I kid you not, people will compliment you, questioning what you’ve done differently. Every year I am amazed at not only how smooth and vibrant my skin is, but also how insanely bright the whites of my eyes get. This is all due to detoxification.
The Clean Program is definitely an investment but do consider that you are getting two meals a day for three weeks and all your supplements. I can also tell you that there isn’t one person I’ve recommended this cleanse to who hasn’t agreed that it changed them and their relationship with food and their body.
I keep coming back to the cleanse year after year because it works. I genuinely believe that committing to detoxify your body will change your life like it changed mine.