A few years ago, I had this really bad habit of eating a hearty breakfast, and then grabbing a marshmallow as I ran out the door, and by 9 AM, I was STARVING. As I shared this with our science teacher, she told me that was because marshmallows are simple sugars that our bodies break down quickly, and we feel hungry sooner. So, I stopped eating the marshmallow and, not surprisingly, my breakfast sustained me longer. As Americans, our diets are really, really poor, and I wondered how many of our health problems could be curved by simply changing our diets.
So, I decided to investigate and this week, I just completed a four week elimination cleanse (I say ‘cleanse’ because ‘diet’ often induces a negative connotation). The way it works it you basically eliminate a slew of food groups from your diet for two weeks, and slowly introduce them back in, one by one, monitoring and paying attention to how your body responds. Overall, I would say it was an enlightening and ‘positive’ experience in looking at my eating habits and how that impacts my body and my energy levels.
I’ve definitely had the notion many times before that I should “eat less sugar” (my dad contracted diabetes in his fifties because he drank his Kool-Aid a little too strong whilst we were growing up), but I never really follow through because I didn’t really have anything holding me accountable. I found being on the elimination cleanse made it easier to stay true because I had put so much work into shopping for elimination-friendly foods, prepping my meals, and monitoring how my body reacted that I didn’t want to cheat and reverse all of that hard work. I thought for sure I would crave my Snickers bar but in fact, the only time I craved one was after I ran a relay in Snowmass, and even then, the craving was transient and only lasted about seven minutes.
There certainly is a social fear when starting the diet. Just like having a baby, there is never going to be a good time to do the elimination cleanse because you will always have some kind of social function or holiday gathering to attend. But, I found that, once I told people what I was doing, everyone was receptive and no one pressured me to eat something that wasn’t on the diet. I found that, by pre-planning my meals and making sure I had a elimination-friendly snack on me at all times, I could show up to a social function and manage just fine (this is a great opportunity in practicing how to not bend to social expectations!)
I will admit–the first three days or so of the cleanse, I was HUNGRY. Because you are eating so many natural foods, I felt like my body was processing the fruits and vegetables very quickly and within an hour, I would need another apple or almond bar. Because my lifestyle is so busy, I find myself eating a lot of Chick-Fil-A (which most definitely is NOT on the elimination cleanse), so this forced me to schedule out my meals ahead of time and to make sure I always had a snack available–I’m hoping that post-elimination, I will remember this and not rely so much on Chick-Fil-A…
The most interesting reaction I felt was when I introduced coffee back into the diet. Interestingly enough, I found that I had a short hour burst of energy in the morning, and by the end of the day, I was dragging–hard. Dr. Gilcrest said that the Chinese Medicine Men do not like coffee for that reason–and to be quite honest, I’m not sure it’s really worth drinking for that one hour of energy. I think I’d rather suffer and do some jumping jacks or something to wake myself up…
All in all, I thought the cleanse was an enlightening experience on how my body uses and processes foods–I was introduced to new ingredients and recipes that I would have just passed by in the grocery store, and I definitely began feeling better and more revived after I surpassed the three day “I’m going to starve” hump. It is true that food is the fuel for our bodies (like, I caved in and ate a potato chip one day and that was a BAD idea…), so whatever we put in is the outcome we will receive.
Unlike other systems, Dr. Gilcrest’s plan does not require any additional supplements. He gives you the list of foods to avoid, ones you can eat, some recipes, you schedule out your meals, and you meet with him four times for lectures on the body systems and natural medicine. If you are interested in trying the cleanse yourself, or would like more information, check out Dr. Gilcrest’s website!