For six days, I followed actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s plan for cleansing one’s body of toxins and holiday cheer (read “fat”) — salt,
sugar and everything that could make eating pleasurable — via the detox plan on her website, GOOP.
On this fourth day of food depravation, I hit rock-bottom. Headaches, sluggishness and melancholy were on the agenda. I sought the counsel of someone much more practiced in the art of detox.
Seven-year detox veteran Tracey Zeeck of Oklahoma City said the three-day “grinding headache” from coffee withdrawal is the hardest part of her yearly monthlong — yes, monthlong — sojourn into self-denial.
Each January, she and her husband set out to detoxify themselves of their bad holiday eating habits: no coffee, dairy, meats, fried food or white food. And all for what?
“In the end of it, I’m sleeping better, (and) I’m feeling better,” Zeeck said. “I don’t know why, but I feel better.”
Rachel Blundell, a dietitian at Norman Regional Hospital, can’t fully explain why Zeeck feels better, either. Not much exists in the way of medical proof for the effectiveness of detox.
“As far as really detoxing the toxins from food, it’s kind of hard to say,” she said. “If you’re following a healthy diet — eating fruits and vegetables and trying to stay away from too much processed food — then our body kind of does that job itself.”
The real benefit of detox may be all mental, Blundell said.
For her part, Zeeck said, come diet season, she and her spouse make most of their own food. I had to get similarly creative as I stared at the list of ingredients my dieter-in-chief, Gwynnie, had for me. Sadly, my stockpile of agave syrup and whey protein was surprisingly low.
I do not share Gwyneth’s idea of groceries. I attend a public university and live in an overpriced apartment, so I have macaroni and cheese, Cool Ranch Doritos and a box of Franzia.
Because I am not married to a member of Coldplay, or the star of such arthouse productions as “Shallow Hal,” I did not have the flow to check everything off the list. (Sorry, rice wine vinegar.) Still, I ravaged health food stores and produce sections. If you are what you eat, my groceries, once assembled, had me listening to Joan Baez.
The full week’s menu and my realtime observations are below. Suffice it to say I didn’t come out of the experience feeling rejuvenated, but it did open up my palate to a few healthier substitutes.
As Oklahoma Gazette is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.
Day 1: “Tonight, we dine in hell!” 8:40 a.m. – room-temperature lemon water It’s probably a bad sign I’m hungry already. 9:40 a.m. – herbal tea This raspberry tea’s relaxing, but it sure would be nice to chew something. 11 a.m. – blueberry and almond smoothie As breakfast finally arrives, I’m still going completely by the book. What I have created is a blueberry-almond milk-whey protein mixture that somehow smells like Play-Doh. 12:45 p.m. – coconut water Vita Coco claims its product is just like drinking from a coconut. If this is true, I know why Gilligan wanted off the island. Oddly sweet. 3 p.m. – salad with carrot and ginger dressing I don’t have the rice wine vinegar or the sesame seed oil called for in the dressing, but the gingerroot more than makes up for the flavor in this yellow paste. 4:30 p.m. – pumpkin and sunflower seeds 7:30 p.m. – broccoli soup The soup must go on, even without the arugula Gwyneth called for. I’m sure that peppery green would have made all the difference, but I can drink this broth through a straw.
And with a belly (not-even-close-to) full of chunky green water, I end Day 1, no less detoxified but more irritable.
Day 2: “The cheese stands alone.” 11 a.m. – lemon water My new strategy is to sleep in. If I’m awake less, my body needs less nutrients to run and I’ll have less time to think about this gnawing pain in my stomach. Genius. 1 p.m. – peach and almond smoothie Skipped the herbal tea, and not on purpose. The problem with this rigid agenda is becoming clear: forgetting one “meal” throws off the whole day’s schedule. 3 p.m. – teriyaki chicken This dull, ever-present headache makes it hard to enjoy the most substantial thing my stomach has seen in 24 hours. 8 p.m. – steamed kale This was supposed to be more soup, but I can’t bring myself to pop that top again. Sadly, the kale I forgot to eat with lunch seems the better option. Saddest. Dinner. Ever.
At the end of Day 2, I would sell my firstborn child into slavery for an Oreo.
Day 3: “But why is the rum gone?” 10 a.m. – lemon water Helping to cure my food hangover — shaky and dehydrated. 11:45 a.m. – oatmeal with almond milk Call me a Quaker — I love oats. This is the first time I’ve felt full in three days. 12:30 p.m. – coconut water Blech. 2 p.m. – oatmeal, part deux Screw the smoothie I was supposed to have. I have tasted food, and it tastes good. Look away, Gwyneth. 6 p.m. – cucumber, lime and basil juice My objection to this dish is threefold: 1. Juice does not qualify as a snack. 2. It takes forever to juice the cucumber, lime, basil and apple. 3. Most egregiously, Gwynnie bills this as a “detox-friendly Mojito.” Mojito, my ass. Give me the damn rum. 8 p.m. – super greens juice Oh, look, more juice! Overwhelmingly tart, the second juice is no more satisfying than the first. And this is what has to get me through the night.
Day 4: “Soylent Green isn’t enough to feed people!” 10:30 a.m. – lemon water 1:30 p.m. – oatmeal I’m no longer making apologies for deviating from the schedule and menu. I don’t have time to take my morning liquids at their prescribed times, which means tea has gone by the wayside. And I’ll be damned if I live on smoothies. 4 p.m. – pumpkin and sunflower seeds Subbing this for the handful of blueberries just out of spite now.
6:30 p.m. – salmon and green beans I couldn’t stomach the kale again, so I’m cheating with a substitute of nom-worthy green beans.
As the fourth day passes, I’ve decided the GOOP rations are just unreasonable. Also, I am not a sow and will not come to the trough for slop at anyone’s beck and call. I need that quiet meditation recommended by Gwyneth to control my bitterness.
Day 5: “Rumbly in my tumbly” 10:30 a.m. – lemon water 11:30 a.m. – oatmeal It’s not a peach and almond smoothie. So sue me. 2 p.m. – Carrots and green beans Just a radish short of the raw crudités on Gwynnie’s menu. 5:30 p.m. – beet, carrot, apple and ginger juice FYI, cramming a beet through a juicer is like trying to squeeze Augustus Gloop through the Wonka Factory chocolate tube. Keep the slices Charlie Bucket-sized. 8 p.m. – oatmeal Yeah. I did it. People do bad things.
Fifth day done. The scale says I’m down at least three pounds. I’ve lost even the will to be happy about that.
Day 6: “Is that a Snickers in your pocket, or am I just happy to see you?” 9 a.m. – lemon water 10:30 a.m. – blueberry and almond smoothie 1:30 p.m. – mixed greens with steamed salmon 4 p.m. – pumpkin and sunflower seeds 6 p.m. – teriyaki chicken I’d feel more triumphant if I felt any healthier than when I started. True, I lost weight, although it soon will come back. I seem to have missed the feeling-better part.
Ultimately, you don’t need any set-in-stone detox plan to live better. Folks, the main lesson is to eat reasonably and make time to take care of yourself.
“Think about variety and moderation,” Blundell said. “When we think in extremes and try to avoid certain foods, we tend to crave them.”
Most importantly, give yourself some credit.
“And you’re not ruining your life by blowing it for one meal,” Zeeck said.