The time I gave up meat, dairy, soy, nuts, gluten, sugar and caffeine

I’ve considered working with a nutritionist for a long time. Over the last few months, I’ve felt sluggish and had frequent headaches.  I’ve been wondering if my diet might be the cause.

Because let’s be honest. I’ve picked up some undesirable eating habits lately, like mindlessly snacking at work and ending every meal in dessert. I typically make smart choices during meal time, but supplement my food intake with day-long candy and carb binges.  So there was plenty of room for improvement.

Working with a nutritionist be can be expensive, and I wasn’t ready to make the commitment. I was ready to dip my toe in the water and impose a little structure on my free-wheeling ways.

My friend Tracey (Kale with a side of fries) is a nutritionist and every quarter she runs a “detox jam” aimed at resetting your food habits. This seemed like the perfect way to jump start 2017 and clean up my diet. The detox jam cost $200 and is a two-week commitment. I signed up and paid up.

winter detox

The general structure of the two-week detox is this:

Week 1: Totally vegan (no meat or dairy), no nuts, no soy, no sugar, no gluten, no caffeine
Week 2: Nuts and healthy meats are added back in, but everything else remains the same

The goal is to cut out everything that is hard for digestive system to process and see how you feel.

Tracey provides everything you need to get started. There are three group kick off calls, detailed meal plans with recipes and shopping lists and a private Facebook group where you can find support and ask questions. I asked so many questions.

The first week required a lot of prep work because I would be cooking more than usual. I placed a giant Fresh Direct order based on the recipes and shopping lists Tracey provided. Fresh Direct (use that link to get $25 off your first order!) made this experience a lot easier because I was able to tinker with my shopping list for a few days  on the site and make fewer mid-week trips to the store. If you live in Manhattan going to the supermarket isn’t the breeziest experience. (When I visit my parents and go to their suburban store I am overwhelmed by the personal space.)

One big note: I am a coffee drinker. But the week before the detox started, I suffered a bit of a food poisoning (skip the tacos in the Mexico City airport next time, Haber) and coffee irritated my stomach. So I quit coffee a full week before the cleanse. Pre-detoxing from caffeine made this whole experience a lot less challenging for me, I’ll be honest. The week before, I suffered caffeine-withdrawal headaches and it was helpful to be out of that stage when I was testing other food dependencies.

Matt participated in the detox, too. This helped because it meant I had someone to eat dinner with every night who was making the same food choices. During Week 1, we cooked dinner every night, made smoothies for breakfast but purchased lunch. In her massive instructional guide, Tracey explains what you can order at a number of common NYC lunch spots, as a back up to cooking. Mostly, I ate salads.

Worth noting, you’re meant to cook all of your meals, but this wasn’t realistic (or desirable) for me. Maybe if the program was a few weeks longer I could’ve gotten behind making my own lunch, but in two weeks it was too much change for me to take on. I used Tracey’s back-up lunch options as my guide.

not a flattering photo of me or the smoothie

The toughest part of the challenge was that it fell over MLK Jr weekend, and we went skiing in Vermont, and stayed in a house with a group of friends. At our apartment, there was no food temptation. But in Vermont I had to turn down plates of cheese and slices of apple pie purchased from a farm stand. It was tough but I stuck with it. The act of following a set regimen works for me. I didn’t have to make the choice “Do I want a piece of cheese (that will inevitably lead to a pound of cheese and also a stack of crackers)?” Following Tracey’s plan cheese was completely out and that made it doable for me.

stratton lunch

I know this act of abstaining isn’t for everyone. Julie at PB Fingers wrote a great post about the different styles of dieting between two types of people: abstainers and moderators, that rings true for me. Some people can choose to have just a taste of their favorite snack or sweet. Not me.

Week two was much easier. Adding back in nuts, nut butter and meat opened up my meal options in a big way. I felt like I could keep up week two for a long time. We were also able to eat out, thought we mainly continued to eat at home, since it was nice to know every ingredient used to stay true to the detox.

So the big question: What happened?

  • I stopped getting headaches. I have three kinds of headache medicine in my work desk. I haven’t taken a single pill since starting the cleanse.
  • I lost a few pounds. Maybe just 2 or 3, but I feel better.
  • I got into a habit of cooking. Before the detox, it was not uncommon that 2 of my meals (each day) were provided by Seamless.com. The fact that they don’t have a loyalty program is hurting me. But since the detox, I broke the “cooking takes too long” fear and got back into it. This is not an ad for Fresh Direct (though it could be, hi, FD!) but I got in the habit of ordering groceries for the week and knowing what I could cook and just doing it. Having the ingredients waiting when I get home for work is much easier than needing to go to the store AND cook on a week night. Cooking each night has been relaxing.  It’s tactile and it’s time away from the computer, TV or iPhone.
  • I am rethinking protein. A key part of the detox is getting enough protein and getting that protein from non-animal sources. Since the detox, I’ve tried to eat more fish and lentils and less red meat and chicken, which isn’t so hard. (Chicken sometimes freaks me out, but that’s neither here nor there.) I am also remembering to eat protein in every meal to make sure I have enough energy and feel satiated.
  • I still don’t have a simple carb solution. I’d like to eat less bread. But the truth is simple carbs like bread and pasta give me the most energy during a run. I ran and worked out during the detox, but I missed the energy I get from a simple piece of toast in the am.
  • I learned I do not need coffee. I never felt tired in the morning or sluggish in the afternoons. Eating additive-free, whole foods makes you feel pretty energized (I remind myself this while looking longingly at Kix cereal and PopChips, my old office snack vices.)  That said I’ve returned to drinking coffee because I love the ritual of it.  I have switched to almond milk (from whole milk) and I’m totally OK with the swap.
  • I would totally recommend doing this detox. Tracy runs the detox 4x a year. Click here to see the full schedule of events.

Have you ever done a cleanse or detox? What was it like? What were your goals?

4 Comments

  1. February 5, 2017 / 4:42 pm

    I love this! (And would love to know more about some of the dinners you made!) I’m planning to stick with the no dairy thing for a while — I’m definitely an abstainer, like you — and would love any great recipes you enjoyed!

    • Nicole
      February 5, 2017 / 4:47 pm

      yes! some of them were pretty basic (roasted brussels w/ olive oil and salmon marinated in ginger, olive oil and garlic was one of my favorites). what helped was all the prep. I made a ton of quinoa at the start of the week and a ton of lentils. That way if I was hungry, I had a healthy and hearty starting point to flavor from. I also made turnip fries which were surprisingly delicious.

  2. juanito
    February 7, 2017 / 7:36 pm

    great work, nico! (and you too, tray!)

    • Nicole
      February 7, 2017 / 8:30 pm

      thanks, Juanito!!!

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