Recommitting to Healthy Eating

Healthy Eating

Lunch on Day 2: Butternut squash and kale with roasted pumpkin seeds and lentil salad with fresh herbs.


I lead a very healthy lifestyle. My sister lived with us this summer for the month of August and she said at the end, “I don’t think you realize that most people don’t live and eat like you do!” And she’s right, I forget sometimes. Especially since I live in the bubble that is Madison, WI – where in fact I do know a lot of people who live like I do.

What I consider my “normal” life may be to many people something that’s a far cry from the typical American lifestyle. My health is a top priority. I’ve been a vegetarian for many years and many days I eat vegan meals. I wake up at 5am 2-3 times a week to attend classes at my neighborhood Y with crazy names like Insanity and P90X. I walk, bike, practice yoga, cook from scratch most nights of the week, and eat boatloads of vegetables.

Yet, when you read this blog post on Sunday morning I’ll be on day 5 of the yearly cleanse I do with my husband. (5 years and counting!) I won’t be sitting and reading with a cup of decaf coffee or cooking up a delicious Sunday brunch. I’ll be nursing my smoothie and a cup of mint tea instead while I cuddle up with my current pile of books.

Even for me, someone whose life revolves around food, a yearly cleanse is quite a commitment. (My husband likes to call it a dietary pause.) It’s not easy to schedule in 2-3 weeks to intensely focus on my eating habits. During that time my husband and I are not that fun to hang out with. We can’t really go out to dinner, meet up for a beer at a local bar, or have a cup of coffee with a friend.

There are many things we can’t eat or drink when we’re on the cleanse: caffeine, sugar, alcohol, wheat, citrus, dairy, glutinous grains like wheat, red meat, soy, peanuts, corn, chocolate and many more.

For breakfast we have a smoothie, lunch is a larger meal from the list of approved foods, and dinner is either a fresh juice or a salad. Snacks are things like nuts, dried fruits, rice cakes and nut butters. We can eat as much as we want during the middle of the day, but we’re supposed to eat lightly at night and in the morning.

We don’t do this to lose weight or to punish ourselves. (In fact, my husband is already so thin and active that he needs to be careful to eat extra food during these weeks so he doesn’t lose too much weight.) We both have our different reasons why we choose to do this cleanse each year.

I like how it encourages me to examine my eating habits. And what I’ve realized from this exercise is how so very much of eating is exactly that – a habit. It’s also been helpful to eliminate foods that are potential allergens and cause inflammation. I pay extra attention to my body during this time. How am I sleeping? Are my regular aches and pains present? Is my digestion any different? How’s my energy level?

I’ve learned a lot through these cleanses. I now eat a smoothie for breakfast each morning during the week because I discovered that’s what my body likes best. I try not to eat too much bread or cheese because I find my digestion works best without them. I realize how much I love dark chocolate and that I should continue to eat it for my main source of sweets. Sadly, beer  sometimes gives me a headache if I have two, although I continue to drink it anyway (I love a bitter IPA on Friday night).

Some people have had amazing transformations on this cleanse. But, neither my husband nor I have had any major health revelations. For us, it’s a more like hitting the reset button. A subtle recommitment to our health and the role food plays in our lives.

It doesn’t feel like a realistic way to live, but it sure is tempting since we always feel so great. But, then the thought of not having a beer or a cup of coffee ever again jolts us into reality. I think we’ll aim for moderation instead…


Some of our friends and family have tried the cleanse and have had good experiences. You don’t need to purchase the supplements they advertise on their website. All you need is the book from the library or your local bookstore. We now do a combination of the Clean and Gut Cleanse because we’ve found it suits us.

Want to read the post I wrote about last year’s cleanse? It’s here.

Looking for a less severe version of our cleanse? I’ve heard good things about Whole30 and Simple Green Smoothies.

I’m happy to answer questions. Leave them below.


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  • Hi! I think I really need to do something like this despite the fact that I would need to do it solo while still cooking “regular stuff” for my family.

    I’m curious whether you do the official cleanse or just follow the spirit of it. As much as I’d rather not spend the money and am a bit suspicious of “packets”, im wondering if that’s my best chance of success.

    Any advice you can share would be appreciated

    • Hi Lisa- Doing it solo while having to cook for the rest of your family does pose an interesting challenge! But, I know people who have done it that way and were successful. We do the official cleanse because we find the structure is good for us. It’s too much work to try to decide what to eat or not to eat each day. We just consult the list and eat what’s on that. There are a few subtle differences between the two cleanses and we’ve done them both. We now combine their lists of allowed foods to give a us a slightly wider range of choices. Have you thought about starting with something like Whole30? I don’t know much about it but it seems easier than our cleanse. You can eat full meals, there’s just certain things you can’t eat. You could also try his 7 day one and see how that goes. Keep me posted!

  • G Maliszewski

    So, what is your reason for the cleanse? If you know certain things make you feel bad, why do you only avoid them during this cleanse time? Sounds like you are eating a whole foods plan.
    Perhaps I’m misinterpreting?
    Anyway, I am proud of you for sharing your healthy efforts and interests.

    • Hi G- I discuss some of the reasons I do the cleanse in the post – a break from eating habits, a body reset, a way to check in to see if I’m having any adverse reactions to the things I eat regularly. Why do I eat and drink things that I know aren’t good for me? I guess the same reasons we all do – I’m human, they taste good, it’s hard to say no when you’re at a party, out to dinner, or at an event. Part of the point of the cleanse is to try to figure out if what you’re eating actually makes you feel bad. It’s hard to tell until you stop eating them. Thanks for reading!

  • You go girl! Sounds awesome!!! I eat unlike others as well. Embrace your pallet

  • Thanks for your inspiration, you must be well beyond the halfway mark? I’ve been curious about cleanses but thought they seemed extreme. But trusting your advise, I looked into both cleanses by A. Junger. I decided to go with the gut cleanse since one liquid meal a day sounded more appealing, It was the only one my husband would consider, and we love eggs! I did order the supplements he suggested. Did you ever look into his resource for water filtration? I did briefly – sounds expensive. What do you drink for your water source? Thanks, Mary

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