Completing the 21-day Clean Program is no easy feat, especially if you typically follow a Standard American Diet. Fortunately, the 21-day Clean Program is totally supportive. Completely sticking to anything for 21 days straight can be really difficult, whether that is completing a daily meditation practice or remembering to turn off the lights in your house before you go to bed. Change can be uncomfortable. Taking on this 21-day program takes consistent mindfulness, courage and discipline - so pat yourself on the back for giving it a go!
Eating habits can be especially hard to alter because we can’t just run away from eating. We have to eat to survive. So meal after meal, every day, we bump into “conflict”. We have to consciously make healthy food decisions, which typically takes a lot more effort than it should. Sugar, salt, additives, preservatives, gluten, soy and corn seem to slip into just about everything.
Additionally, food addiction is a real issue in our society. Personal empowerment and responsibility do play a role here, but the issue reaches farther than that. If our schools served fried food and were stocked with vending machines full of sweetened sports drinks and sodas, it’s no surprise that our habits and taste buds are wired to crave this stuff.
We are constantly bombarded by unhealthy food in unhealthy amounts. Almost every restaurant chain serves huge portions of sugar and fat and salt. Items we think are healthy, like yogurt and granola, can contain just as much sugar as a soda. No one chooses to have a food addiction. These behaviors arise from neurochemical reward centers in the brain that override normal willpower and hunger levels. Processed foods made of sugar, fat, salt, and caffeine are addictive, and we are biologically wired to crave them.
When on the Clean Program, we get rid of all of these highly addictive foods our brains are used to. In a sense, we are going through a withdrawal process.
HOW TO OVERCOME
Believe in yourself: First of all, we are much stronger than we give ourselves credit for - mentally, physically, and emotionally. The Clean Program is designed to support you. Thousands of people have completed this before you, and you can too.
Start with love: Completing this 21-day program is an act of self-love. Love to take care of yourself. Love to prioritize your own health. Love to heal the beautiful body given to you. Love to feel your best and develop healthy habits. This program is not an act of punishment. In fact it is quite the opposite. Let this experience flow from love, which is a force to be reckoned with.
Fully commit: Think about everything you have ever accomplished. Did you get there by giving fifty percent? Probably not. Do you give your significant other some of your love and trust? Do you meet work deadlines because you take your work somewhat seriously? You began this program for a reason - something needed to change. So commit to this process. Everyone here on the Clean Team has your back.
Replace: They say the easiest way to break a bad habit is by replacing it with a better one. A lot of potentially unhealthy habits have been stripped away from us - morning coffee, late night glass of wine, 3pm protein bar.
Instead of a morning coffee, have a morning matcha, a dandelion coffee or one of these other amazing alternatives. The brain and body crave the ritual, so replacing coffee with another warming drink can do the trick.
Substitute an evening glass of wine with a warm cup of tea. There are so many amazing herbal tea blends out there that will actually support a good night’s sleep. Experiment with different kinds to find which ones you like.
When that 3pm slump hits (which will most likely go away on the program!), try out one of the snack recipes on the Clean Program Blog. These 5-ingredient, cleanse-friendly brownies will satisfy any afternoon craving. Or better yet, step outside and go for a walk or do some light stretching. Sometimes all you need to get through the afternoon is a little fresh oxygen to the brain.
Go in Prepared: Rearrange your schedule to support your health journey as best as you can - schedule yoga and tea dates instead of dinner dates, try to complete the cleanse when you aren’t scheduled to go out of town, etc. Meal prep! This article on the blog really breaks it down for you. Don’t start the program when you have an empty fridge. Grab all the essentials and stock up beforehand. Fortunately the 21-day Clean Program provides you with almost everything you need, so preparation is super minimal. Lastly, expect for there to be a few minor bumps in the road! What in life actually goes exactly how we’ve planned it?
Healthy fats + protein + fiber: These are key to keeping blood sugar levels stable and cravings at bay. They turn off multiple hunger hormones in the body. Make sure to include them in every meal!
Utilize healthy distraction: When feelings to “cheat” occur, go do something to make you feel good. That is why you are on this program after all! Go for a walk around the block, read a few pages of a book you love, journal, or meditate for a few minutes. All of these things will help satisfy you on a different level.
Breathe: This may be number one. Sit back, take a few deep belly breaths, and reflect when desires to cave in hit. What are you really feeling? Be your own detective. Ask yourself, am I truly hungry? Maybe this feeling is stemming from anger, sadness, loneliness or discomfort. Sometimes we crave food (specifically sugar, carbohydrates and caffeine) because it temporarily numbs deep emotions that need our attention. Check out this article to better understand specific food cravings.
If you do end up “cheating” on the program, do it the clean way. It’s important to stick to the Clean Program food guidelines in order for our bodies to heal and accurately reflect any food sensitivities that we have once we begin the reintroduction phase.
However, sometimes life throws us curveballs. We have to play the cards that have been dealt to our best abilities. So if cheating is something that has to happen, do it the right way.
Choose tequila, vodka, or mezcal with a twist, on the rocks or with water/soda water and lemon or lime – and skip beer and wine. Beer and wine have a lot of sugar, potentially gluten, and feed the bad bacteria in the gut. Avoid the drink mixes, as they are loaded with sugar and even colors and dyes. Always avoid the added sugars and syrups too.
Desserts + Sweets
If you don’t have time to make your own clean-approved sweet treats, then look for short ingredient lists. If we’re talking about a chocolate bar, aim for over seventy-five percent cacao, organic or non-gmo ingredients, no soy lecithin, and sugar as one of the last ingredients. We love these brands: Eating Evolved (some are even Clean Program-approved!), Pascha, Alter Eco, Theo and Green & Blacks.
If you have to drink a coffee, drink it black or with a bit of almond milk and/or stevia. Dairy creamers and syrups create mucus and inflammation. Also, try not to drink coffee after 2pm to avoid the caffeine affecting your sleep.
Eating Out + Social Engagements
If going out to eat lunch, keep your handy clean eating guidelines on you to best navigate the menu (and look at the menu before you get there!). Chances are sugar or additives will sneak into your meal, but when in doubt shoot for veggies + clean proteins + healthy fats.
If you know you are going to eat out for dinner, then have your Clean Shake for lunch instead. If that also isn’t an option, don’t sweat it. Stick to the Clean Program food guidelines (the small business card-size list that comes with your program is a lifesaver), and pick up the liquid meals the next day.
At the end of the day, we all do the best we can with what we have. Guilt, shame, and stress are arguably worse for our health than a bit of processed food here and there, so let’s ditch them. If you need extra help, reach out to a Wellness Coach, keep moving forward, and remember to take your supplements!
Written by Hannah Aylward