A bottle of Malbec. Gourmet sweet potato fries. Alfredo pasta. Chocolate and vanilla cupcakes. This was my Saturday night dinner – it was my dad’s birthday – and I didn’t eat any of it.

Let me explain why. A handful of us ELLE Canada team members are taking part in a month-long detox. We’re not following an official program; we’ve cobbled together theories from various plans. No bread and pasta (white rice, white flour and pasta spike blood sugar). No sugar (because SUGAR). No dairy (some people find it hard to digest). No alcohol (because SUGAR). No processed foods (because high-sodium and little nutrition).

By cleanse-master Gwyneth standards, our choose-your-own adventure detox is hardly #hardcore. (She’s previously advocated the master cleanse, in which you subsist on lemon juice, cayenne pepper and maple syrup.) But for the rest of us mortals, it’s been a tough first week.

Sarah Laing, associate features editor: “Days 2 and 3 were so, so rough as my body realized it’s accustomed-daily infusion of Cadbury Dairy Milk wasn’t coming, and decided to plunge me into headachey, nauseous existential angst. Sugar withdrawal is NO JOKE.”

Carli Whitwell, health and beauty editor: “Since my social life revolves mostly around wine and cheese, I became a semi-recluse, only leaving my condo to go to the gym or to work. Goals for next week: find more hobbies.”

Victoria DiPlacido, associate beauty editor: “I’ve taken a Justin Bieber approach to this diet, meaning I claim to have the best of intentions but end up apologizing for stupid moves on the regular. (‘Sorry, I ate a package of Ferrero Rocher; sorry, I had this bottle of red wine.’) There’s always tomorrow, I suppose.”

Ciara Rickard, production editor: “Seven days in, I was feeling pure and saintly and healthy…aaaand then I fell off the wagon spectacularly when I could not resist the siren call of red wine and pizza. But I’m back in the game and aiming for 90% compliance, which is still an A , so I’m totally okay with that.”

So, what’s the point?
Sounds awful, doesn’t it? So why are we doing this detox? According to proponents, abstaining from ingesting sugar, processed foods and the like, flushes the system of impurities. (For most people however, it’s also an excuse to shed a few pounds.) We asked the experts if it’s worth it:

Jenn Pike, registered holistic nutritionist. “For me detoxing is more about giving your body – specifically your digestive and intestinal system – a rest. We are constantly bombarding these systems with excess calories, sugar, sodium, processed foods and usually not hitting the mark when it comes to more balancing, cleansing and detoxifying foods like organic fruits and veggies, fibre, plant-based proteins, herbs, spices and the almighty water. A gentle ‘detox’ can help you maintain healthy digestion and regular bowel movements, decrease your sweets cravings, manage your blood sugar and stress-hormone production as well as keep your immune system supported and resilient to colds, flus and infections.”

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Traci Mann, professor of psychology and author of Secrets from the Eating Lab “I haven’t done research on these types of diets. To me they just sound crazy. What exactly are these toxins that have gotten into people’s systems that are going to get out because you stop having beer or sugar. It sounds like the most pseudo-science thing I can think of.”

Tim Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta, and author of Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong about Everything? [Editor’s note: Caulfield tried a cleanse for his book.] “I lost nine pounds in three weeks, which isn’t insignificant and it was hard, holy cow. I did the Clean Cleanse [one of the cleanses] Gwyneth has done. I think one of the reason why these detoxes are so popular, is that it does give you the sense that you’re being proactive and doing something and it’s tough so if you accomplish it, you feel kind of proud. You’ve got a spring in your step when you’re done (plus you’re hungry). But there really is no evidence to support the entire industry.”

Check in with us next Tuesday to see how we’re doing on week two.

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