Anyone who has ever tried to improve their diet knows that there is an endless amount of information, often conflicting, out there that aims to define what it means to have a wholesome, healthy diet. Do you cut carbs and fat? Do you eat for your blood type? For the moon cycle? Only raw? Or should you eat clean? Avoid gluten? Go vegan? Paleo? On top of simple everyday food choices, add to it the endless options for cleanses and detoxes. It is overwhelming to say the least.
I’ve been on what I call my “food journey” for a while now. When I moved to New York City six years ago, the intensity of life here magnified all of the not-so-great things my body was feeling. I had an inkling I had some kind of food allergy because most nights I ended up in bed with a super painful stomachache. When I was finally tested, a whole myriad of sensitivities came up, with gluten and dairy at the top of the list.
These were likely the cause of what was contributing to many issues I was having related to digestion, mood, sinus problems, and fatigue. I became fearful of food and the hidden things that were making me sick. Food = danger which is a super unhelpful outlook when you need to eat food to survive.
I’ve tried countless detoxes and cleanses over the years, most of which focus on what you are cutting out. But Sakara, a company best known for their organic meal delivery program, sets themselves apart with their detox philosophy. They “focus on whole foods and flooding your body with nutrients,” with the goal of shifting “the notion that detoxes equal deprivation.” This shift in mindset is something I was looking to embrace—food as medicine and support, not an annoying irritant—so I jumped at the opportunity to try their Level II Detox.
I had been feeling like I needed an internal reset for a while now, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. They do all the work in preparing your meals, give you a thorough step-by-step guide, and breakdown of the benefit of each element. Not to mention they assign you a health coach (who answered my emails at lightning speed) and literally deliver everything thing you need for the week to your door.
Sakara’s standard program eliminates all animal products, gluten, and refined sugar, but the Level II, created with functional medicine doctor Aviva Romm, MD, takes it up a notch by also cutting out grains, sugar (fruit), nightshades (eggplants, tomatoes, etc.) and nuts. It also includes daily supplements, probiotics, beauty water, digestive tea, and a dry brushing routine. The goal? “Eliminate common inflammation triggers to release years of toxic build-up, reboot your metabolism, heal your gut, and reveal a lighter, brighter, healthier you.”
Here’s how it went.
The Week Before
I decided that I would skip kickboxing during the detox week because on a regular food day it wipes me out. Instead, I opted for extra walking during my commute. Sakara notes that, “You might feel a little sluggish and not up for your normal workouts and that’s okay.” Adding that you should “trust that your body is hard at work releasing toxic build-up and consider taking a break.”
Super casual, short list of things I was hoping that this detox would help me achieve:
- Shift thinking to see food as a nourishment instead of a stressor.
- Decrease bloat
- Kick the sugar cravings (my one true vice)
- Clear up skin
- Improve energy and mood
- Eliminate most triggers from my diet to be able to figure out what my body is really needing
- Be able to listen and trust the things my body tells me it needs or should avoid instead of obsessing over what I think I should eat based on something I’ve read or seen or heard from others.
I woke up a little anxious and excited about how the next week was going to play out. I mixed up my Beauty Water Concentrate (it tastes like rose water) and set my intentions to for an effortless day. Next step was dry brushing before showering. This was my first time; the brush felt like it was scratching my skin. Apparently the skin is responsible for eliminating one-third of the body’s toxins and dry brushing helps stimulate your lymphatic system, exfoliate dead skin, unclog pores, and decongest skin. So even though it didn’t feel great, it seemed important to keep up with.
Breakfast was savory vegetables and a supplement pack—a definite departure from my usual smoothie or coconut yogurt. I set timers for meals and beverages for the rest of the day so I knew I had something to look forward to in order to quell some of the “when can I consume something” anxiety.
More vegetables for lunch—a nori wrap with superfood wasabi. I took my food and ate away from my computer like a civilized human. I tried to focus on the flavors and appreciate each bite. They encourage you to eat mindfully because “the thoughts you have while eating affect your digestion and absorption of nutrients.”
About an hour, after I found myself looking around for a snack but had to remind myself that I wasn’t “doing snacks” this week. I drank my second cup of digestive tea instead.
Around 4pm I started feeling light headed, and by 5pm I was starting to feel nauseous. I had an acupuncture appointment already on the books, and thankfully that helped me feel a little better.
Heated up my medicinal broth and took my evening magnesium supplement and probiotic. I tried to enjoy it and not think about tacos.
I got an email from my coach letting me know it’s normal to feel “off” and that the symptoms starting to come on are part of the process for many. “Detoxing is tough work for your body, as it’s helping to eliminate toxic build up and reset your systems. We recommend slowing down, listening to your body, and being patient as your body feels into this new shift. “
I woke up with a headache. I drank my beauty water and dry brushed before breakfast (more savory vegetables). After I ate, I took the morning supplement pack, which consists of a Vitamin B Complex Plus (for energy and mental clarity), Adaptogenic Adrenal Formula (for stress relief and hormone health), Triple Antioxidant Defense (to protect against DNA damage), G.I. Rebuild + Repair (for your digestive and immune system health), and L-Theanine (a “calming, brain-boosting amino acid”).
As the day went on, I started feeling super sluggish. I developed a stomach ache in the afternoon which I think was related to the beans I ate with lunch, which is something that I normally avoid.
The coconut kefir afternoon “snack” definitely helped with the 3pm energy slump. Being able to notice a food other than caffeine giving me energy was a first. What a magical feeling!
Dinner was the medicinal broth again, which, while not very filling, is actually quite delicious. It’s made with more than 20 medicinal mushrooms, healing spices, nourishing omegas, and ancient herbs.
By 9pm I was in bed and ready to crash.
Today was a real test of will power. I was tired, sluggish, and hungry. Breakfast was an umami-filed mushroom mix.
I looked to Sakara’s detox tips to power through the day. They point out that withdrawal symptoms from things like caffeine and sugar are common, and the supplements are intended to help with these symptoms. They also stress the importance of hydration during the detox: “As your microbiome, tastebuds, and cravings shift, we recommend drinking PLENTY of water and herbal tea to stay hydrated, and try to get some extra sleep during the program if you can.”
I spent most of the day dreaming of tacos and bread. I had to embargo looking at Facebook and Instagram stories because my feeds were basically one giant food trigger. I felt like I spent most of the day negotiating with myself about whether or not to eat the almonds in my desk. Self control prevailed! I enjoyed my cabbage dumplings for lunch instead.
In bed by 9pm again, which basically became my new bedtime for the week. I tried to remind myself that this detox was hard work for my body. Sakara notes that, “It’s helping to eliminate toxic build up and reset your systems. We recommend slowing down, listening to your body and being patient as your body feels into this new shift. Common detox symptoms include bloating, digestive issues, low energy, cold-like symptoms.”
DAY 4 “SOUP DAY”
Today was all liquids: water, green juice, tea, soup, juice, tea, keifer, broth. I definitely felt drained and a bit shaky. I some how made it through the whole day not as cranky as I thought I’d be. I tend to get “hangry” or stressed when I feel hungry and cannot eat for an extended period of time. So really patting myself on the back for not having any outbursts.
I skipped dry brushing in the evening because I developed a breakout on my legs (sign toxins are coming out!). I had trouble falling asleep because I was feeling anxious about keeping my willpower strong.
Really feeling ready to be done and feeling all of the awesome effects of my hard work. I woke up very excited to eat breakfast. I felt more energized after my squash frittata, but I still had a lingering headache.
This day had another layer of a challenge: Our team had an offsite upstate so I had to schlep all of my food for the day with me and exercise more willpower. I ate a kale salad for lunch while my colleagues chowed down on tacos, drank my coconut kefir while they had afternoon cocktails, and ate a macro bowl for dinner while they enjoyed the most incredible looking pizza made by an Italian grandmother at the orchard we went to. I think I deserve some kind of award.
I spent the ride home reflecting on what the week meant to me. I was really surprised and proud of myself for sticking to the program. I eat “healthy” by most people’s standards but also have that “treat yourself” mentality when certain things cross my plate.
I also realized my fear around having enough to eat or not having the right food available to me at all times (other people with food allergies can relate). I don’t normally allow myself to feel hungry, and I was definitely hungry all week and surprise—I didn’t die, nor was I the most cranky or unpleasant I have ever been.
All in all, this week was as much a mental challenge as it was a physical one.
The Week After
They say often the program’s most transformational results aren’t fully revealed until the days and weeks after the detox, so I decided to keep track of how I was feeling the few weeks that followed.
In the beginning I still felt a little out of it and low energy, but as a few days passed my energy levels started to come back up. I noticed that the acne flare up on my face was way less inflamed. I also felt a lot lighter and my pants were feeling loose, even as I have been eating more normal meals. I have also noticed that some foods I was never worried about may possibly be secret triggers to digestive issues.
I would definitely recommend the program to anyone looking to reset their internal system or change up their routine. Not sure if you need a detox? According to Sakara, some “signs of toxic build-up” include “digestive issues, low energy, poor sleep quality, skin breakouts, hormonal issues (fertility, irregularity etc.), brain fog, and mood swings.”
The one drawback is the price. At $749 for 10 days—five days of the standard clean meals and five days of detox program—it’s hardly attainable for the average person. So you need to be in a place where you can really commit to the program; at a high price point, you don’t want to cheat and negate all of the hard work you’re doing to get through the week.
For me, this detox was a great way to get myself back on track and reduce the inflammation in my body. Overall, I am definitely feeling better than when I started, and I now have some helpful insights into some unhelpful patterns I was falling back on.