What I learned from raw cleansing (and what I would do differently next time)

I spent this past week visiting a high school friend in North Carolina. We both chose to work in the schools, so summertime is our vacation time. Needless to say, the busy school life makes your summers feel a bit empty and void, especially since she’s making a big move abroad in a few weeks and I have no idea what my next year’s placement will be, so I can’t prepare any materials yet.

We decided that when I was visiting, we would both stick to a strict “cleanse” diet, where we ate only raw fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Herbs are allowed, but we didn’t use any dried spices or flavorings. I honestly didn’t know if I could handle this extremely strict regimen of eating only raw foods, but I learned a few things about myself along the way.

Prep Day: Monday

I spent this day traveling from Florida to North Carolina, so in the morning, I was less strict than I should have been. I decided to start my day with a coffee and a Lärabar, which I deemed acceptable because the variety I chose was gluten free, dairy free, soy free, non-GMO, vegan, and kosher. Was it raw? I don’t know, but it sure beat the junk in those vending machines at the rest stops. I packed myself 2 bottles of coconut water, a few blocks of cheddar, and some fruit. I know it wasn’t the BEST way to kick off this raw cleanse, but I also needed to use up some expiring food, so I settled.

When I arrived in North Carolina, we made some sort of vegetable dip in the blender from avocados and other assorted vegetables, so this is officially when I kicked off my portion of the cleanse.

Verdict: I technically didn’t begin until the evening, so I didn’t count this day as a cleanse day.

 

Day 1: Tuesday

The cleanse officially begins. We start the day with a raw smoothie of assorted fruits. The natural sweetness of all the fruits wasn’t as overpowering as I assumed it would be, but I definitely was missing coffee. We sprinkled our snacking throughout the day with raw nuts and fresh fruits, which were doubling as poolside hydration. I found myself extremely thirsty, which I have begun equating with the hotter southern temperatures that my Pennsylvania blood is still acclimating to.

I normally wake up to a walk, run, yoga, or bike ride, do about a half hour of strength training, and then another half hour of cardio in the evening or strength training, if I didn’t complete it in the morning. I knew my muscles would begin to feel cramped and neglected, so I made sure to at least keep them minimally active.

Lunch and dinner were some sort of dips, which we “tricked” our bodies into thinking were crackers with the crunch of raw nuts. We also used carrots and cauliflower, but my favorite was using raw almonds. We didn’t restrict ourselves to portions, either. Whenever we felt hungry, we ate. I absolutely think this is why I never felt like “cheating” on the diet. I bought myself a blender!!!

I had fleeting thoughts all day about being a raw vegan. It was kind of fun and refreshing to not cook anything, and I felt like I was doing my body a world of good by eliminating all the processed, fatty garbage that is disgustingly everywhere these days. The other fleeting thought I was having was about the sheer cost of becoming a raw vegan on a teacher’s (SLP’s) salary.

Verdict: I didn’t feel hungry, and I wasn’t too far off from my day-to-day diet. I mostly eat fruits and vegetables, anyways, and try to cook as little as possible in the Florida heat.

 

Day 2: Wednesday

I was absolutely missing coffee when I woke up. I felt a bit sluggish and drowsy, but I expected this. We took a trip to Raleigh for the day, and brought along our raw nuts and some berries and grapes. I never knew I could crave water as much as I was this day. No matter what we did, I just wanted to be drinking ice cold water by the gallon. I loved eating berries and the raw nuts. I was learning that my body was loving the grapes and juicy foods more because of the higher water content.

One discomfort I felt on Wednesday was irregularity. I (of course) Google’d the crap out of “constipation + raw diet” (sorry if this is TMI…) and found that it’s not uncommon, but it’s not necessarily common, either. I attributed the discomfort to eating high levels of nuts, which supposedly dehydrate your intestines, and not getting enough protein from my usual protein powder add-ins and lack of meats. I also Google’d how to relieve this, and pretty much ate every raw food recommended. I also used my knowledge of peppermint tea as relief and brewed myself a cup of hot water with mint leaves.

One thing that surprised me was the sheer amounts of food we were eating were not adding enough calories to even reach my body’s Resting Metabolic Rate. I was very thankful that my energy levels were low so I didn’t feel compelled to bust out crazy workouts. We spent most of the day lounging around and shopping for produce.

Verdict: Energy levels were even lower. I felt like doing nothing that required any physical activity. I was missing hot foods and dairy. The tea definitely helped with my coffee cravings, but didn’t satiate my caffeine withdrawal. Foods that help with regularity, per my Google research: [ripe] bananas, mint tea, apples, and kiwi.

 

Day 3: Thursday

I woke up feeling clean on the inside, in a I-don’t-have-anything-processed-in-my-body-right-now kind of way. I’ve been trying to shift into an unprocessed diet, but it has taken a lot of research and baby steps. I was really happy to know that nothing with more than 1 ingredient was pulsing through my digestive system. We scheduled a trampoline fitness class for the evening, so we both thought another day of poolside laziness was in order. I made it a point to do yoga in the pool and stretch as much as possible. I was actually missing exercise. We both felt an odd sensation of either muscle pain or weakness in our calves and knees throughout the day. I assumed it was the lack of exercise. I couldn’t wait for the evening.

The trampoline dance class was SO MUCH FUN. I had a blast dancing like I was back in the college bars a few years ago. I couldn’t believe how amazing I felt to move and expel all my pent-up energy. I was exhausted and had an overwhelming feeling of tranqulity afterwards. It truly felt like my body was at its most pure state: using only raw foods for energy.

After the workout, we both still felt the sensation in our legs and knees. I looked up effects of raw cleansing, and deduced that it was the lack of certain nutrients that was causing our leg irritability. We vowed this was the last day of cleansing.

Verdict: We were both shocked that our once-a-month cravings of junk food and chocolate were gone, however, we both sorely missed cheese and coffee at this point.

Post-Cleanse: Friday

We woke up elated that we could eat hot foods. I started my day with a huge glass of water, and tried not to overload my system all at once. We ate pepper, onion, and cheese omelets for breakfast, and I drank 2 full cups of coffee. I should have monitored myself a little bit more, though, because my stomach was a bit sour for the next few hours. I supplemented with lots and lots of water.

For lunch, I eased myself back into my typical diet with a banana/kiwi/6 almond/coconut water/protein powder smoothie. Since I was driving home that day, I didn’t want any upset tummies during the 7 hour car ride. I took a banana, apple, and peach for car snacks.

For dinner, I had some mac ‘n cheese and a Riesling spritzer. I wasn’t necessarily craving alcohol, but I wanted a little something that was cleanse forbidden.

Verdict: The cleanse was intense, and I probably would have caved without a partner and a blender. I was amazed that my time-of-the-month cravings were null. I was beyond ready to eat something hot by the end, even if it was just hot fruits or veggies. I have noticed myself balancing my diet much more this weekend, though. I try to eat at least a cup of vegetables or fruits at mealtimes, with smaller portions of the “fatty” cheeses and meats. I’m trying to be more nutrient-conscious in my food choices, too. Everything I’ve been eating is mainly vegetables with small portions of meats, cheeses, or grains.

 

Would I do another raw cleanse? Yea, I probably would. I’m going to give myself some time to rebound, though. I lost a good 6 pounds in 4 days, and I want my body to regain muscle, too. I think this would be an excellent 1-2 day diet once-a-month to eliminate my junky cravings, however, I don’t think this would make a lifestyle.

 

Have you done a cleanse of any sort? Would you try it?

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