I love food. I love wine. I love chocolate. (Are we soulmates yet?) This past holiday season, though, I lost some boundaries in a way that was making me feel deeply exhausted. Two glasses of wine most nights, a couple of delicious salted caramels after dinner, and a few too many protein bars instead of real-food meals were weakening me in subtle ways. My head was busy and cloudy, my workouts felt sluggish and heavy, and my emotional state was fragile and way too vulnerable.
I knew I needed to push the reset button. But here’s the thing: I hate fasting. I’ve done juice fasts and the Master Cleanse spicy lemonade thing, and both of them left me weaker than a premature kitten. What I wanted was a cleanse, as if I could go into my body with a little toothbrush and some lemon juice and scrub all my cells clean until they sparkled and shone like diamonds. I wanted to get rid of “toxins” (even if it is the most overused word in the wellness industry), renew my energy on a metabolic level, and create space in my brain, my body, and my spirit.
Enter the Brown Rice Cleanse.
Our chiropractor mentioned doing a brown rice cleanse, and I was immediately intrigued because, well, it involved eating! I wanted to cleanse my body, not starve or deprive it. I need enough calories to be a parent, run my company, and do some form of daily exercise in order to stay sane. After a bit of research, I was convinced that a brown rice cleanse was worth a try.
The idea of the brown rice cleanse has its roots in both Ayurvedic and macrobiotic traditions. Brown rice is a nutrient-rich, whole grain food that is grounding and warming, making it perfect for a winter cleanse. Brown rice is rich in B-vitamins, iron, and magnesium, all of which are energy-restoring to the body. The week-long regimen is restrictive, but allows lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices. The idea is that while you will be abstaining from certain things like sugar and alcohol, you can still feel nourished and create meals that actually taste amazing.
There are many online protocols for brown rice cleanses. I looked at all of them and put together my own version, which is vegetarian, and not radically extreme. (I added eggs and wild-caught fish to the list - I don't eat fish, but lots of people do, and I think it's really healthy when sourced correctly.) As I said, my goal was not weight loss but purification, although my husband and I both lost a few pounds over the course of the week. I’ll outline the plan below, include a few recipes, and then tell you a bit about how it went for me.
EAT THESE THINGS:
- Soaked, cooked brown rice, up to 3-4 cups per day
- Vegetables (except mushrooms and corn), steamed, baked, or raw, organic if possible
- Raw fruit except oranges and bananas
- Green or herbal tea
- Almond milk (homemade if you have time)
- Honey, up to 3 teaspoons per day
- Sprouted, organic tofu
- Wild-caught fish
- Organic, local eggs
- Fresh herbs and spices
- Cayenne pepper
- Bragg liquid aminos
- Virgin olive oil
- Sea salt
DON’T EAT THESE THINGS:
- Processed food (anything that comes in a wrapper, for starters)
- Dried fruit
DO'S AND DON'TS
- DO start every morning with a glass of warm lemon water. This consists of the juice of ½ a lemon, 12 ounces of boiling water, and enough cool water to make it drinkable. Warm lemon water is a great way to get a jump on hydration for the day and to wake up your GI tract, as well as providing a little bit of Vitamin C.
- DO chew your food at least twice as much as you normally would.
- DON'T drink liquids with your meals, as they will dilute your digestive enzymes.
- DO allow yourself a cup or two of green tea per morning unless you really need a complete break from caffeine. Green tea is SO good for you!
- DO go to bed as early as your body feels ready – sleep is a HUGE part of this program.
- DO take some time for a brief meditation, gentle yoga practice, or a brisk walk each day. It will get your blood circulating and clear some space in your brain. If you're making the huge effort to complete this weeklong program, don't forget to cleanse your spirit, too!
- DON'T take supplements, over-the-counter meds, or sleep aids during the cleanse if you can help it.
- DO take your prescription medications as usual, unless otherwise advised by your physician.
THE DAY BEFORE
The day before your cleanse, soak 2 cups of long grain, brown rice (I used brown basmati) in 4 cups of water. You’ll do this every day, so the rice softens and the phytic acid, part of the bran in brown rice that can decrease the absorption of minerals, gets neutralized. Also, do your grocery shopping! You want to have everything you need so you don't have to do much shopping during your cleanse week.
THE NIGHT BEFORE
The night before your cleanse begins, eat only a giant salad for dinner. You want to jump start your system, and get your GI tract cleared out so it can absorb all the amazing food you’re going to eat over the next week.
THE MORNING OF
The first morning of your cleanse, start with your warm lemon water, and prepare your rice. To do this, strain the soaked rice and rinse it well in cool water. Then cook the rice in plenty of water, like you would cook pasta. Depending on the rice, it will probably take around 20 minutes, but you'll want to taste it to get the timing right. When it's cooked to your liking, strain it and rinse it with hot water, then cover the strainer and let the rice drain completely for several minutes before fluffing it with a fork. Cooking the rice this way reduces any natural contaminants found in rice (especially arsenic), making it safe and healthy for your seven days of cleansing. This is the rice you’ll use for the next day or two (depending on whether you’re eating it alone or with a partner). I leave it on the stove top at room temperature for the day, and refrigerate it overnight.
THE FIRST DAY
You’re off to the races! I’d recommend having 4-5 small to medium servings of food a day instead of three meals. I started each day with the cereal recipe below, and had multiple servings of the ginger-cilantro rice throughout the day, with the largest one at dinner time. Sometimes we added a handful of raw almonds or a green juice for an afternoon snack. Or an apple and raw almond butter. Or carrot sticks and raw tahini. There are plenty of options, but you have to plan ahead so you have a snack ready to grab when you feel hungry. And be sure to drink loads of water between meals - you need to keep your body really hydrated in order for the cleanse to be effective. If you're not peeing often, then you're not eliminating enough cellular waste.
THE REST OF THE WEEK
I had ups and downs, and you probably will, too. For the most part, I was able to exercise and function fairly well on this eating plan, but I was a bit hungrier than normal. In order to succeed, make sure you have a plan for the hungry moments - like any craving, it has to be acknowledged and moved through with intention. I either had a snack or took a walk or had a cup of herbal tea with a tiny bit of honey. For my evening treat, I would have a golden latte about 30-45 minutes before going to bed. Then, I tried to put away my electronics and take a bath with our Recovery Salt Bath. Bathing, especially in the form of hot baths, is an integral part of any detoxification program, increasing blood flow and filtering of the blood by the internal organs. It's a great time to make sure you're not using chemicals on your skin while you're trying to eliminate unwanted substances in your body - your skincare gets absorbed just like the recipes below do!
WHAT I LEARNED
I learned a few things, and the knowledge is applicable going forward, which added to the value of the experience for me.
1) I eat WAY more sugar than I realized. Even when I'm being conscious about not eating dessert or processed sugar, I still eat too much sugar. It's sneaky, hidden in things like protein powders or protein bars, smoothies, granola, and almond milk. And, even when it's a healthy sugar like honey or maple syrup, there's too much of it, effectively training your taste buds to crave and expect it in everything you eat. Sugar is dangerous stuff for our bodies, and we'd all be wise to train our tongues to appreciate flavors like ginger, cayenne, cilantro, and lime just as much (if not more than) the sweet things.
2) The "detox headache" is real. It's yet another seriously overused concept in the wellness industry, and I was having trouble explaining it to myself from a medical standpoint, so I decided it was a trendy concept with no sound evidence. On the third day of the cleanse, I learned otherwise. And while one migraine does not a body of evidence make, it was my first migraine in years, and it wasn't because I was dehydrated or calorically deprived. It happened at the end of day 3, and I ended up taking ibuprofen (technically not part of the cleanse) because it got pretty debilitating.
3) I don't chew my food. Have you ever watched a hungry dog wolf down a huge bowl of kibble in four seconds? That's apparently how I eat. The conscious chewing part of this cleanse felt like torture at first, but it's not really optional because you don't have a glass of wine or even water to wash down your meals. Once I accepted my fate as a bovine-esque chewing machine and used my teeth the way they were intended, I enjoyed the taste of my food more and felt less gastrointestinal distress after eating.
4) I don't sleep enough. I know, nobody does. But during the cleansing week, I gave myself permission to go to bed as soon as my body asked for it, and slept more than I had in months. On the third, fourth, and fifth days, my energy was really low. It was aliens-have-stolen-my-energy-with-their-energy-vacuum low. So I allowed myself to climb in bed as soon as my daughters were tucked in for the night, and the extra sleep felt like exactly the medicine my body needed.
5) Moderation is not my nature. I tend to do things to the fullest, whether it's killing a bottle of wine or training for a marathon. But, life does not have to be all or nothing. In fact, life gets a lot less stressful if you give yourself guidelines rather than rules. It turns out, in the weeks following my cleanse, that I actually can have just one glass of wine, a few times a week - who knew? And taking a day off from exercise without guilt is not only allowed, it makes me stronger, both mentally and physically. So, I'm going to work on not being such an extremist - at least not seven days a week.
So, what do you think? Is this a doable cleanse for you? Do you feel like you need it, now or sometime soon? It was a great reset for me in the new year, and allowed my mind and body to recover from the madness of the holidays. If you end up doing it, please comment below and let me know how it goes, or tag your pics on Instagram with #osmia7daycleanse so we can follow your journey to a cleaner you!
With love and sparkly cells from us to you,