Feeling bloated, unattractive, and teetering towards a severe caffeine addiction, I decided enough was enough. Armed and ready with Max Tomlinson’s seven-day detox plan from his new book, Clean Up Your Diet (Duncan Baird Publishers, 2007), I was going on a detox diet, and it was going to be fabulous.

Had I ever done a detox before? No. Did I announce this decision to everyone I knew? Yes. Did I thoroughly read all the instructions before embarking on this journey? No — and into the abyss I flew.

Fortunately, I had the sense to plan my menus and scour the city for health food two days in advance. Tomlinson’s detox is not a fasting plan — it’s a “pure foods” plan designed to infuse the body with lots of raw, fresh, energizing fruits and veggies. But within five minutes at the grocery store I realized how little produce was available in the middle of winter. I also realized I don’t own a juicer, or even a citrus squeezer. A bottle of ReaLemon found its way into my cart.

The uphill battle begins
On day one I found myself drinking psyllium husks at 6 a.m.: the indigestible outer shell of psyllium seeds (laxative products such as Metamucil are largely composed of psyllium husks). This was comparable to slugging back tiny bugs swimming in cranberry juice. If that didn’t kill my momentum enough, my Persian Rice lunch required me to caramelize my onions for 30 minutes; boil, skin and seed sad-looking tomatoes trucked up from Mexico; sauté even more onions while cooking brown rice. Who has time for this? I skipped half the instructions then proceeded to burn all of the onions together in the frying pan. By the afternoon I was defeated and indulged in green tea — not part of the diet but I was desperate for a whisper of caffeine. Dinner — Roasted Salmon with Beetroot Salad — was a tasty reprieve.

Days two and three fell on the weekend. I had time to make my meals correctly (e.g. Watermelon Salad with goat cheese; Ginger Chicken Skewers and Quinoa Tabbouleh; Three-Bean Chili with Avocado salsa) and slice up my “smoothies” — without a juicer I was just cutting up Tomlinson’s grapefruit/mango, pineapple/pear/ginger or spinach/parsley/carrot smoothies and eating them with a fork whenever I was hungry. I felt good, but worried about balancing my job with food preparation time during the week. As Tomlinson’s recipes are designed for two portions, I decided to switch around his breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes as outlined in the one-week menu plan. Repeating meals two days in a row would make things more manageable — and what could possibly go wrong?

Physically, I already noticed feeling better at night before bed. Clean — not restless or full of food.

Days four and five were good. Really good. Somehow I was bright and very focused in the morning at work without needing stimulants. I had lost a couple of pounds already, discovered how much I loved cooking, even grew to enjoy the morning bug drink. I hit the gym for an hour of cardio just to feel even more like a superwoman.

Page 1 of 2Crash and burn
Day six: the crash. That heavenly detox high crumbled away at the end of day five. I felt weak, couldn’t concentrate and was desperately craving fried food. I think this was all my fault for suiting Tomlinson’s menu plan to my convenience needs. On day six I should have had: Max’s Muesli, Persian Rice for lunch and Roasted Salmon for dinner. Instead, I had Fruit Salad, Soup au Pistou (bean and veggie soup) for lunch and 3-Bean Chili for dinner. Boring, boring, boring! The thought of snacking on yet another green apple was even less appetizing. I was irritable, unhappy and not at all interested in finishing the detox. I have heard that when body starts to truly rid itself of toxins, side effects like those I was experiencing would happen. But in my crabby mood I also decided this was a terrible lie and that my body was going to self-destruct. Regardless, I had just one more day so I toughed it out.

Day seven. I was finally eating Max’s Muesli and not another fruit salad. The toasting oats smelled like oatmeal cookies, and with each passing moment I grew feverish with desire to eat every last morsel. The recipe is for two, and after dividing the breakfast in half I began to spoon the delicious meal it into my mouth, faster and faster. Within five minutes I was finished and practically threw the empty bowl into the sink. I pounced on the leftovers, gleefully shoveling every last morsel into my mouth. Oh the shame. Had I just consumed a glass of water after my first bowlful and allowed the oatmeal to expand, I would have been fine. Tomlinson’s portions are exactly what I’m used to eating, so this was not a reaction to starving all week. This reaction was my greedy inner child, sick of being such a good girl. Pure and simple.

• Money spent on groceries: $250
• Time spent cooking: two hours per day (minimum)
• Sleeping patterns: greatly improved
• Skin and hair: the same
• Caffeine and sugar cravings: not eliminated, but under control
• Pounds lost: five

Would I do it again? Absolutely — in the summer when there is lots of fresh produce available. Tomlinson’s detox took more planning and scheduling than I had anticipated, and I certainly had my set-backs, but it was worth it to get my caffeine cravings under control, sleep better at night, and drop those annoying Christmas pounds.

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