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I Tried (And Survived) Sakara's Level II: Detox

I think we can collectively say that “detox” has become such a loaded and overused word these days. The connotations alone—of deprivation and restriction—can shoot up our cortisol levels and hinder us from ever feeling like our best and brightest selves, defeating the initial purpose entirely.

Plus, it’s important to remember that our bodies are incredibly intelligent machines, with systems in place to detox daily. Our liver, kidneys and lymphatic system clean every corner of our bodies to help us feel great, give us energy and prevent disease. It’s incredible!

Despite this, food is information. And if the information we’re sending to our body is muddied with processed foods, alcohol, caffeine, sugar, In-n-Out... then our bodies get confused, and rightfully so.

Enter, the Sakara Level II Detox, (or as I like to call it in my notes, "Level 2: Electric Booglaoo") designed to clear away the clutter and reveal a cleaner, healthier you. Here are my four personal takeaways from five days of deep greens, healing superfoods, medicinal broth, and coconut kefir (the lifesaving afternoon treat), while also saying goodbye to the following:

-meat

-dairy

-sugar (even from fruit)

-grains

-nightshades (tomatoes, eggplants, white potatoes etc.)

-soy

-gluten

-nuts

-alcohol

-caffeine

 

1. You’re Hearing Your Body, But Are You Listening?

If you are even vaguely an acquaintance of mine, you know my kryptonite is popcorn... I'm talking the whole bag and then some. But does my body need it when I reach for it during my 3pm slump? Or when I'm home, Netflixing on the couch? These are the types of questions that I reflected on quite a bit during the five-day Detox, as I tried to separate what my physical body needed versus what my spirit craved. 

I used these five days to re-evaluate patterns—even beyond food—that were not serving me but which I had established out of habit, stress, boredom or fear of the unknown. My absence of snacking made me nostalgic for my afternoon apple and almond butter, but also introspective on why I enjoyed that every time it was precisely around 11:00AM? I found it powerful to document my emotional state throughout the week, which fluctuated dramatically as I experienced extreme sluggishness, intense pride for sticking to such a regimented plan, and deep reflection over why I ate the foods I did on a regular basis.  

 

2. Food is Complicated

Even beyond just simple micronutrient cravings, this week woke me up to the fact that feeding myself goes way beyond just fuel for the next few hours. It's tied to everything. I feel that I, and so many women I know and love, engage in an internal dialogue about food. Wellness culture benefits greatly from the constant obsession with what we eat, seeing how we stack up amongst our friends, if we’re eating “right” or “wrong.” There are so many decisions revolving around food to be made every single day, disordered habits can arise from even the most level-headed, body-loving people I know.

Food is so intricately intertwined with relationships and adventures and memories. Because of this,we crave certain foods, unknowingly, to recreate certain moments. Food is emotional, spiritual, and a source of a lot of connection-- which I think is what makes going on these kinds of nutritional journeys very isolating. It's a real feat to take yourself out of the noise of your friendships and routine and hone in on your own healing and reset. 

 

3. This is About the Long Game

The positive changes in my skin, muscle tone, brain clarity and GI tract were subtle but powerful. I am still feeling the tweaks spill over in the weeks following, even as I’ve reintroduced coffee, my nut butter obsession and dark chocolate nightcap. It cannot be stated enough that once we feed our microbiome the plant food and nutrients it needs, the entire body transforms. A very loved and dog-eared book in the Sakara office is Dr. Raphael Kellman’s The Microbiome Diet, which underscores the impact of balancing your gut. In it, he writes, “When we eat the foods that keep this inner world in balance, our metabolism runs at peak efficiency. Our bodies almost effortlessly maintain their ideal weight...feel more vital and energized than ever before...develop healthy, glowing skin and hair.” The clarity and suppleness of my skin alone, despite a Manhattan summer of subways, smog and sweat, was reason enough for me to say “yes!” to Level II.

4. I Cheated A Little Bit -- with salad (and lived to tell the tale)

Maybe someone put a little truth serum in my matcha as I write this, but on the evening of the fourth day, I was starving. I was sluggish as I got on the subway and I felt mentally fatigued. Even though I was hellbent on sticking to the Detox, I caved—and ate a salad. Instead of an exhaustive deliberation, I went for it-- while still keeping the principles of the cleanse in tact. I didn’t ravenously throw caution to the wind, but I did mindfully choose to supplement the program. I didn’t want to push myself farther than I could comfortably go… and I didn’t feel guilty about it or like a failure. In order to have some perspective, I thought of Dr. Aviva Romm, the functional medicine doctor whose elimination diets were a model for our cleanse. Her protocol is extremely disciplined but it doesn’t avoid the fact that over-restriction can hike up cortisol, causing even more inflammation and belly bloat than the aftermath of a wolfed-down Snickers. I tried to keep that philosophy in mind as I went about my week, making a concerted effort to stay positive and nurture my mental state. 


There’s no skirting the issue: stripping down my diet to the bare essentials of nutrition and briefly putting my love of french fries, overly-priced dark chocolate bars, or summertime sangria on hold was tough. However, there is merit in taking a step back, re-evaluating our patterns, and figuring out how food can be a choice stemming from habit, convenience, stress, and emotion instead of with intention and self-care. The five days were a mental journey of enlightening myself about what my body needs to function. I embraced ancient modalities of eating well, and tried to remember that my breakup with 2017 convenience and indulgence, was only brief. I learned valuable lessons in abundance, and found strength in meditating on how I was giving my insides an internal hug with herbs, adaptogens, chlorophyll, and plants, plants, PLANTS.

I wouldn’t call my week on Level II a detox, in the traditional sense-- but instead, I focused on mental transformation and how I was able to hit pause on my habits. The program also offered me permission to create space for new rituals around food and nourishment. It wasn’t easy. But that isn’t to say it wasn’t a valuable, personal exercise in tearing down walls and building a stronger, cleaner me.

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