With trendy new diets cropping up almost daily, separating truth from fiction can feel harder than navigating the kombucha aisle. Can a three-day raw-food diet really help clear your acne? Will chugging a magic shake once a day give you a body like Bella Hadid’s? Will you look like Kim Kardashian after following the low-carb, fat-burning Atkins diet? Probably not, but we’re game to try everything and report on the results. (No need to thank us—we consider it our civic duty.) Which leads us to the topic of detoxing—more specifically, the "anti-detox." Is there a way to reset your body, mind, and metabolism that is just as healthy and sustainable as it is effective?
After a month of full-on treating myself (for me, the cold weather necessitates more than just cuffing), I was feeling bloated, exhausted, and decidedly less glowy than usual. I knew it was time to get it together nutrition-wise, but I wasn't exactly sure where to start. On the same day I vowed to begin a juice cleanse, a fellow editor shed some light on the popular detoxing technique. I believe her exact words were, "Juice cleanses are absolutely bogus." And it's not just because it leaves you feeling unsatisfied and cranky, but rather because there's no actual science behind it.
So what to do? I wanted a plan that properly reset my body, mind, and metabolism but wanted it to be healthy (not starving myself) and sustainable (again, not starving myself). I reached out to Farah Fahad, MS, RD, dietitian and founder of The Farah Effect, to get started. She agreed there are few online sources that offer credible and user-friendly information to sustain realistic health goals. We discussed my objective—the anti-detox—to forget about fad-dieting and short-term tricks and create a plan that's genuinely helpful and good for my body. But—and this is a big but—there had to be visible results in just three days. Instant gratification (at least a little bit) is really important for keeping up my willpower. According to Fahad, "Biochemical nutrition is 10% physical and 90% mental." Fahad was quickly on board, and we got started.
In order to see results as promptly as I was hoping to, Fahad suggested we work on inflammation. We decided to focus on foods and ingredients that work to de-bloat, de-puff, and expel water weight. First on the list was taking a daily turmeric tablet in the morning. Research shows that consuming turmeric can help relieve symptoms of digestive inflammation, among a ton of other ailments.
Fahad had me detail my food and drink consumption on a normal day. I told her about my coffee with milk and Splenda in the morning, Caesar salad with chicken for lunch, and anything from Chinese takeout (my favorite) to Thai food to pizza, or, when I'm feeling really on top of things, a homemade salad or quinoa bowl for dinner. In between, I usually munch on free office snacks like popcorn, apples, and pretzels.
First, Fahad told me it was time to start eating breakfast: "It's important to eat in the morning for energy so your blood sugar doesn't drop. When your blood sugar drops below a certain level, you become irritable and choose to eat more throughout the rest of the day." She suggested for the duration of my detox I toast a handful of raw almonds for two minutes and eat them with my coffee. She came down hard on my coffee add-ins, explaining that there is absolutely no nutritional value to Splenda, and, in fact, it changes the way you taste sweets in general. While dairy is allowed on the detox (Fahad is fine with yogurt and cheese once a day), milk, she explains, leads to inflammation. Instead, she suggested I use almond milk, Manuka honey, or coconut oil.
My lunch held up pretty well against the detox standards. Aside from having to cut out the tortilla chips (they're processed carbs), Fahad said I could continue to eat my usual salad and even add brown rice or sweet potatoes to keep it hearty.
Rather than eating whatever snacks I could get my hands on at the office, Fahad suggested I only eat fruits and vegetables between meals—nothing packaged. She told me apples, grapefruit, and berries are great for this purpose because they have a low glycemic index.
Dinner, of course, was not up to par. Fahad told me to cut out the takeout and compile groceries at home so I would know exactly what I was eating. She did, however, tell me that if I went out, I could text her a photo of the menu to help narrow down the choices. That's commitment. She suggested an easy-to-follow but perhaps far less exciting equation for my dinners: protein plus vegetables plus salad. Other than that, the only other rule was I had to drink at least double the amount of water I had been consuming each day (approximately three liters).
The experience: I woke up day one of the detox and fixed my usual steamy cup of coffee. As instructed, rather than mixing in whole milk and artificial sweetener, I grabbed coconut oil from my bathroom—a product I usually only use post-shower—and added a tablespoon to my mug. I swirled it around until it was completely melted and took a sip. I kid you not, it was absolutely delicious. It felt filling and tasted slightly sweet but nutty. It reminded me of Bulletproof, a mixture of coffee, butter, and medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil meant to keep you fuller longer. This is going to be so easy, I thought as I toasted my serving of almonds. I was full until lunch, which isn't out of the ordinary, as I tend to not eat breakfast regularly. After lunch, however, all I could think about was eating package after package of the gratis string cheese we keep in the fridge. It goes against two of Fahad's rules—no packaged foods and only one serving of cheese. (I had Parmesan in my Caesar salad). I made it through the 4 p.m. slump only slightly devastated.
The standout meal: Breakfast. Yum—I'm never going back to milk and Splenda again. Bring on the coconut oil.
The experience: When I mentioned I was a sucker for Chinese takeout, Fahad nixed my favorite dishes: fried dumplings, fried rice, and scallion pancakes. But she said if ever I was really craving it, I could mix up an Asian stir-fry and stay within the confines of the detox. Suffice to say, the end of day two left me jonesing. "Keep it healthy," Fahad had said, and her voice rang in my head as I perused the online menu at my favorite spot (M Greenpoint, for those who live in Brooklyn). "These vegetables are good for everything from your immune system to your nervous system, eye health, skin, digestion, antioxidants, and your waistline," Fahad wrote of the stir-fry recipe on her website. "Make sure to top it with sesame seeds for healthy fats and protein to keep your brain and muscles in good condition."
I peeled and sliced butternut squash, zucchini, broccoli, carrots, green beans, and eggplant, and tossed them with low-sodium soy sauce and a little bit of olive oil. After roasting, boiling, and sautéing it all together—the entire process took about 20 minutes—I sat down with my meal and watched The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. (I didn't say I'd be giving up all my guilty pleasures.) It was filling, tasty, and satisfied my Chinese food cravings until the next morning. (I told you—Chinese food is a really important part of my life.)
The standout meal: My stir-fry. Not only is it the first time I've cooked for myself in a long time—longer than I'm ready to admit— but it also tasted like a cheat meal.
The experience: After indulging in my Chinese takeout–inspired dinner, I woke up on day three feeling satisfied and visibly less bloated. I listened to music while I prepared my coffee and coconut oil and imagined this is what it's like to be one of those healthy people. I even threw in a couple of stretches and sun salutations to really drive the point home. After a few hours in the office, I stopped by an event for Bobbi Brown's forthcoming book, Beauty From the Inside Out, where we (conveniently) sat around discussing healthy food. With the conversation came a gorgeous bowl of bright, healthy goodies prepared by Lily Kunin, a cook, health coach, and the founder of Clean Food Dirty City. I chowed down on all the freshly prepared, locally sourced ingredients, happier than ever about my newest lifestyle change.
The standout meal: Hands down, Kunin's bowl of lentils, avocado, cauliflower, squash, romaine, and watermelon radishes—all topped with a tahini dressing.
The Final Thoughts
My overall takeaway? Detoxing in a healthy and sustainable way is far easier than I anticipated. I was under the impression I had to eat less (in general and certainly in terms of my favorite flavors) to pull it off. Before I began, Fahad told me, "You will feel lighter, your face will look brighter (and your waist a little smaller), your energy levels will be better, and you should have improved digestion and sleep. This plan gives your body more nutrients, vitamins, and minerals than you were ingesting before."
I finished the third day feeling lean, happy, and properly hydrated. My jeans were roomier, and while I wasn't as worried about losing weight, I could tell I had. My oft puffy under-eye circles had improved, and my skin was glowing. How's that for instant gratification? After my successful three days on the program, I've decided to stick with it for three months. That's the amount of time Fahad suggests you take to break a habit—and trust me, I have plenty of those. "Over time, you will continue to see improvements," Fahad explains. "The body responds well to consistency—the more consistent you are with good eating habits, the better the results will be."
It dawned on me how much easier the entire process was because I had Fahad as my support system. She made herself available for late-night texts, menu questions, and a ton of valuable advice. Get a friend to go through the process with so you can hold each other accountable, or click over to Fahad's site for recipes and helpful information.