Clean: Week 3

We've finally completed our first cleanse!

Are you surprised that I put the word "first" in there? Yes, I'll admit right up front: Cleansing was a success, and we both plan to repeat this experience in the future.

Thankfully, the cleanse became pretty easy during Week 3: We were used to the liquid-solid-liquid routine, as well as the decreased food quantities at each meal. My irritability levels from Week 2 subsided, and my energy levels felt pretty normal. In fact, I improved on my 2-mile race time in the second Fidelity Fun Run Series event - down from 18:03 in Race #1 to 16:49 in Race #2 - and didn't experience the subsequent energy crash later in the day.

Here's a snapshot of our meal log for Week 3:

[click to enlarge]

Notes on the recipes listed above:
(1) See full recipe on the Clean Program website here.
(2) See full recipe on the Clean Program website here.
(3) Recipe taken from Clean, Alejandro Junger, M.D. (2009)
(4) See full recipe on the Clean website here.
(5) See full recipe on the Clean website here.
(6) See full recipe on the Clean website here.
(7) See full recipe on the Clean blog here.
(8) See full recipe on the Minimalist Baker blog here.
(9) See full recipe on the I Simply Love blog here.

I've color coded the chart as follows:
  • Dark green cells are the ones he raved about
  • Light green cells are the ones he liked
  • Light blue cells are the ones he felt neutral about
  • Yellow cells are the ones he tolerated
  • Red cells are the ones he ranted about (none!)
  • I liked almost everything (consistent much?)

Notice anything different in the chart above compared with Week 1 and Week 2?  You got it - more green! And I don't just mean more spinach and kale. I mean that more of the meals met with a thumbs-up response from my cleanse buddy than in previous weeks. The trick was to stay away from hemp powder, almond milk, and avocado. Those seemed to be the gag-reflex triggers for NS in the first two weeks. To each his own, I suppose. I was just relieved to win the will-he-like-this-liquid-breakfast battle most of the time.

After a suggestion from SM, we tried our hand at grilled fruit this week. Sliced apples sprinkled with a touch of cinnamon was hard to beat.

I'm thinking that a veggie grilling basket might make this a little easier, though. All those individual slices made for a tedious grilling experience.

But the result reminded me of warm apple pie, except without the guilt of all that butter and sugar.

For the second time, I made homemade pesto as a topping for salmon - one of the few affordable cold-water frozen fish I can find here. (Most fresh and frozen fish in Cayman are of the warm-water variety, which tend to have a higher mercury content and aren't recommended on the cleanse.) Pesto is incredibly easy to whip up in the food processor, using local basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and garlic.

But something that wasn't at all easy was shredding my own coconut.

I decided to embark on this endeavor so that I could make the Clean book's Creamy Blueberry Shake with something other than dried, unsweetened coconut flakes (which I had tried in Week 1). Although we live on an island where palm trees and coconuts abound, I took the easy route and bought two (local) coconuts at the grocery store and set off to crack them open and shred away. Not so easy.

Getting into the coconut was not intuitive, so I used the Google machine to review my options. Wikihow became my coach for the evening. The first order of business was draining the coconut of its water, most of which came out fairly easily after I poked the soft "eye" with a screwdriver. I should have taken the use of items from the tool chest as my first clue that this wouldn't be easy.

Next, I needed to crack open the outer shell. Wikihow indicated that hitting along the seam of the coconut with the back of a knife would crack the shell after a couple rotations. I did not find this to be the case. Tapping away I went, even resorting to using the edge of the counter at times, trying not to alarm the neighbors with the unreasonably loud pounding coming from my kitchen. I finally started to feel the coconut give way after I repositioned the knife to hit the coconut right where the blade meets the handle.

Finally, after a great deal of effort, I had opened the coconut, drained it of its water, and removed a wedge from the body.

But my work was far from over. Removing that white flesh from the coconut proved to be a challenge and a half, as it's attached to an inner shell that really doesn't want to part ways with the outer shell. After about five minutes of slicing the meat with a knife and using the knife and a spoon to coax it out, I had a small piece of coconut that looked like this:

The result after coaxing the outer and inner shells from separating, despite nature's best imitation of Elmer's glue holding them together.

After extracting several similarly-sized brown-backed pieces of meat, I used a knife to cut the inner shell off the white meat. Wikihow indicated a potato peeler would be the instrument of choice, but how to peel a 1-inch square piece of coconut without stripping my knuckles raw was beyond me.

It took me about 30 minutes to get a small pile of fresh, raw, local coconut.

In the background you can see the abandoned outer shell of my extracted coconut, as well as the remaining unpeeled half. My work was far from finished.

What I learned through this painstaking process: The high prices for organic, unrefined, raw coconut products are worth every penny.

Also, in speaking to a coworker after this harrowing experience, I've been told I'm better off trying to smash the outer shell on a rock or something concrete to fracture the whole thing. That way, I can get to the coconut's inner shell fully intact, and might have better luck with the potato peeler. Yeah, maybe.

In any event, I took my little pile of peeled coconut pieces and put them in the food processor to turn them into flakes. Finally - a machine to do the work!

About as close to snow-like conditions as the Cayman Islands will offer.

The next morning, I used the coconut flakes in the shake. All that effort led to just a slight up-tick in the approval rating for that blasted Creamy Blueberry Shake. We moved from yellow (dislike) to blue (neutral). Looks like I'll be finding a different recipe for that second coconut, which I've been avoiding like the plague. I've relegated it to the back of the fridge for the time being.

You'll notice that we ate lunch out on Tuesday. I used the opportunity to have lunch with the girls from work at Jessie's Juice Bar in Camana Bay - a great place for vegan and all-natural fresh food. I'd tried their signature juices before, but never for solid food.

photos taken by the iPhone 3G
My lunch was the wrap special, which included almond butter (reminded me of peanut butter in a sandwich - yum) and fresh veggies on a homemade wrap prepared from the fruit and veggie pulp that results from their juicing process.  So good!

photos taken with the iPhone 3G

One more food photo before moving on to the numbers: At the farmer's market, I discovered a new (to me) vegetable - a lemon cucumber.

The apt description of this light, slightly tangy, firm vegetable piqued my interest, and we served the lemon cucumber slices alongside hummus for our Thursday night dinner party. Delicious.

And now, the cleansing accountant's dream: A chart of our "numbers" before, during, and after the cleanse...

As much as this cleanse was not about weight loss for us, it's hard to deny that a decrease in fattening foods and sugars doesn't result in some physical changes. Not only did my insides feel absolutely amazing throughout the whole experience due to the avoidance of nearly all common food allergens, but we both noticed a general tightening of our bodies, especially between the knees and belly button. Can't complain with that!

The most dramatic weight loss was in the first two weeks, and then everything leveled out after that. We didn't do weekly weigh-ins (again, this wasn't a diet plan), but NS definitely dropped about 15 pounds from start to finish. I'm not sure about my total loss, since neither of our two bathroom scales work, but I know the weight I was hovering at pre-cleanse, and I know the weight I was hovering at near the end, and I'd say it was a loss of about 7 pounds (some of which quickly came back, as 7 pounds was actually too much weight loss for me). All in all, it was definitely eye-opening to see that a change in one's food intake has a whole lot more to do with one's weight than level of physical activity. We both decreased our respective exercise programs during the cleanse and still lost weight.

So at this point, I've shared with you our reasons for cleansing, how we felt during the process, lots of food photos, and the numerical results of the experience. Before I get back to blogging about "real life", here are a few final thoughts on cleansing and our plans going forward:

  • We've increased our water intake like never before. The book recommends drinking so much water that you're visiting the bathroom every hour. During the cleanse, I felt like I was drinking non-stop, and I still barely kept up the recommended pace, so I think I have some work to do.
  • We started snacking more deliberately and conscientiously. During the cleanse, snacking was allowed (as long as the food adhered to the Elimination Diet), but optimal cleansing happens when the body is not constantly digesting. I'm a five-small-meals-a-day adherent, but I'm trying to focus on snacking when hungry, not out of habit (or boredom).
  • Social interactions during the cleanse were possible but not frequent. We successfully had people over for dinner twice, and I visited with friends some evenings, but in general, food and drink are a really big part of the social scene in Grand Cayman, so sometimes it was easier to avoid social situations all together. 
  • By the end of the cleanse, we felt great and probably could have continued on if required, but we were getting a little bored of limited social interaction and a little annoyed with the constant restrictions on when and what to eat. It was nice to integrate back into normal, albeit healthier, eating.
  • Going forward, we're adopting many of the healthy habits we learned on the cleanse, like smoothies for breakfast; sensible snacks; far less dairy, sugar, and wheat; and maintaining a 12-hour window between dinner and breakfast. (That last one is the hardest for me.) I'm planning a future post with recipes I've tried in this post-cleanse phase. Be forewarned: I tend to get a little giddy over healthy, tasty recipes.
  • Like I said at the beginning of this post, this was our first cleanse. I can foresee us doing this about once a year, probably in the summer, once busy season and summer vacations have died down. The cleanse timing worked out well because we didn't have any house guests, NS didn't have any sports team commitments, and we didn't have any travel plans. 
  • It was good to set aside some time to focus solely on our health, educating ourselves on the best food choices and sources here on the island. I figured we could stick anything out for three weeks, and since Week 3 felt better than the previous two weeks, I'm glad we saw it through to the end.

Well, to be accurate, we almost made it to the end of three weeks. The very end of our cleanse was cut short by a day because of N's birthday. I couldn't really expect the poor guy to settle for liquid meals on his big day, so we celebrated with regular food.

#postcleanse #confessions
photo take with the iPad 3

More on that to come.


  1. i would really like to do this cleanse, but i think i would take the nate-approach and have a personal chef making all my meals for me :) wish i was still on island so i could have just lived with you guys for 3 weeks! can't wait to learn more health tips from you!

    1. Wait, I thought he DID have a personal chef making all the meals for him... :)
      You're welcome to come back and live with us any time!! :)

  2. My Chef's effort was second to none. She did a great job. There's only so much green you can expect when Reese's peanut butter cups aren't in the ingredient list! She may regret all these longevity efforts when she's changing my diaper someday!! :-)

  3. way to go on sticking it out with the coconut..I would have given up!

  4. The grilled apples look delicious! Good for you for doing this! Nate's comment is awesome. :)