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BA BA BUM. Or is it MU Mu MUH? Or DUH DUH DUGH? Whichever it is, cue the ta-da music as I am done done done with my 21-day cleanse. I’m all done being clean. Time to get dirty!

Preparing my wine bottle bendy straw as you read this.

Fitting to start the cleanse on April Fools Day (if I changed my mind I could always say Ha ha, fools, you thought I was cleansing) and finish on Earth Day. Part of me wants to continue this break from coffee, not because I think it’s terribly bad, but it’s sort of nice to be removed from the habit. And I forget how good tea is when coffee’s around. Tea is charismatic coffee’s quiet, earnest cousin. I like tea just as much, but coffee is needier. It needs me. I might have a cup tomorrow. But just one. Maybe. This cleanse has left me feeling rather flaky.

All this discipline and restriction and now exiting the tunnel doesn’t feel  so climactic. My diet will basically stay the same, plus a few treats. MoonPie bought me a super dark bar of aerated chocolate to celebrate. I’m keeping it at arm’s length when not petting it. I don’t understand why aerated chocolate isn’t more popular here. I love the crumbly texture and you taste the chocolate flavor better with a little breathing room in every bite.

Once the coffee head aches stopped, I stopped thinking about the cleanse and just stuck with it. It definitely helped to plan meals ahead and make large batches so I wasn’t constantly cooking. Kitchari is a favorite one pot comfort dish with lentils, veggies, rice (I used brown) and spices all cooked down. Easy to make once you have the spices, it’s one of those dishes that makes you feel like building a house. The big batch cooking also made it possible to have dinner around 6 so I could stop eating for the day by 7. There’s a purpose to a cleanse and its to rest the detoxifying organs. Early dinners help achieve this, but I normally eat dinner around 8 or 9 so it was a challenge.

I snacked on a lot of edamame, cucumbers, bell peppers and pumpkin seeds. Also phkali, this crazily delicious Georgian spinach + walnut + pomegranate sort of dip. Desserts were missed, but sometime I had a square of dark chocolate because it’s not like I was being punished.

After a cleanse, there’s supposed to be a gradual transition back to a normal diet so you don’t overtax the system. My normal isn’t so different from what I’ve been eating these last three weeks, just a little lazier. That’s one of the biggest benefits of doing a cleanse. Aside from riding the highs and lows, getting all clean inside and tasting sharper flavors, I was reminded every day what difference a little more effort and thoughtfulness in the kitchen can make.

I’m always interested in seeing how the long cleanse will affect my running, but it really doesn’t. I did a longish run at least once every week of the cleanse, the longest being 13.4 miles last Sunday. For runners curious to give this a try, I just say prepare. Know what you’re getting into. My calorie intake dropped because of the morning fasts during the first week. As a result instead of running in the morning I went in the afternoon when I had some energy.

If you’re training for a race, research recipes before the cleanse begins and stock up on ingredients to make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need without feeling deprived. (Granted, you’re bound to feel a little deprived and cranky at first.) There are a ton of resources, my go-to is still Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet. But it’s common sense stuff – diversify what’s on your plate, eat lots of colorful veggies and have a few reliably tasty, healthy meals in your pocket. It helps to refer to a comprehensive list of alkaline and acidic foods and strive to swing your cleanse food to the alkaline side, at least 60/40 alkaline. My aim was 80/20 because I wanted to make it worth cutting coffee for.

For me, smashed pinto bean burgers with avocado and Scott Jurek’s weirdly yummy Incan Porridge were easy default food choices when I was hungry and didn’t feel like another salad or green drink.

Outside the body:

Prior to the cleanse I looked up my lotions, shampoo and other products on the Environmental Working Group’s database and was disappointed to find they score crappily on the hazard scale. My sunscreen, too! Skin is the largest organ we have and it absorbs what we put on it. It doesn’t make sense to eat clean and organic if I’m putting moderately toxic products on my skin. Should there be such a thing as moderately toxic? Isn’t toxic toxic? Some of the high concerns listed for my products on EWG include organ system toxicity, carcinogenic and neurotoxicity. I actually paid for these products.

There was also a daily 10 minute meditation, daily yoga, a greening of my house cleaning products and renewed appreciation for my natural don’t-call-me-a-hippie DIY skin care routine. I’m a big fan of honey. I use it to make my almond milk & honey face mask and baking soda & honey exfoliator. Coconut oil serves as my night face lotion and shea butter for the body.

And now I’m good to go. The last 21 days were long ones at times, but I’m glad I did it and will definitely do it again. Oh and I took the Google Earth Day quiz and learned I am a giant squid. They ask what I look for in a partner and I said MoonPie. Surprisingly that was one of the choices.

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