My sentiments toward dieting are similar to the way I feel about vain, skinny jean-clad musicians: avoid at all costs. Don’t get me wrong—I like the idea of a diet (and the idea of a skinny jean-clad musician, if we’re going to be honest). Wholesome, rainbow-hued fruits and veggies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner sound like the stuff my Instagram-filtered dreams are made of. Except, well, I really like bread. And noodles. And meat. And anything fried, really—I don’t discriminate. Thus, starving and detoxing myself in the name of good health (and my own personal goal: a flatter stomach) sounds like an unpleasant challenge that I’d rather avoid. No, thank you. I will continue slurping my fatty-broth ramen bowl as you sip your green juice.
Lately, however, I’ve been giving diets a second glance—and one diet in particular. The alkaline diet has been getting a lot of buzz, as toned, sinewy celebs like Gisele Bündchen and Gwyneth Paltrow are said to follow its teachings. What exactly is the alkaline diet? You can read more about it here, but basically, it is the belief that eating more alkaline foods and less acidic foods can bring your body to prime health—and prime health leads to weight loss, clearer skin, shinier hair, and raised energy levels. The thing that sets this diet (or rather, way of living) apart from other cleanses is that it doesn’t involve counting calories or restricting yourself. Instead, you’re able to eat all the food that you want—as long as they’re alkaline. An “all you can eat” diet sounds right up my alley, which is why I agreed to go on Dr. Daryl Gioffre’s Get Off Your Acid 7-Day Cleanse. Eating like Gisele and Gwyneth (and Dr. Gioffre’s client, Kelly Ripa) sounded both terrifying and challenging, but the doctor assured me that the cleanse was achievable, mainly because there was no starvation involved; I would simply be cutting out acidic foods like dairy, meat, gluten, caffeine, and alcohol. Never mind that this made up 80% of my current diet. I was ready to eat like Gisele. Armed with my alkaline powders and the freshest, greenest Trader Joe’s haul I’ve had in a long time (or ever, really), I embarked on a detox that would change my perception of food for good.
Keep scrolling to read about my experience!
Before starting the cleanse, I hopped on the phone with Dr. Gioffre so he could assess my health concerns, answer questions, and more or less give me a pep talk. He told me about his backstory—he was a doctor who wasn’t practicing what he was preaching and harboring a full-blown sugar addiction. Nothing he tried worked until he started eating alkaline. Nowadays, he tells me his sugar cravings have disappeared. Poof. So, how exactly does the alkaline diet work? “Your blood is at a pH level at 7.365,” he claims. “The purpose of eating alkaline is to prevent your body from having to exert itself in regulating this pH.” The idea is that acidic foods like sugar, gluten, and dairy force your body to work in overdrive to keep your pH balanced; in other words, your body will do everything it takes to regulate the effects of the acid, depleting other functions important to your health and resulting in things like sugar addiction, weight gain, breakouts, and more. On the flip side, eating a diet filled with alkaline foods is supposed to make things easier on your body—like a nice neighbor helping you carry your groceries up the stairs. “The goal is progress, not perfection,” he tells me. “And the ultimate goal is sustainability.”
Dr. Gioffre offers hundreds of alkaline recipes for his clients to choose from as they go through his cleanse, all housed in a neatly-packaged PDF. I chose a few that seemed appealing, easy to make, and would last me a few days. After buying all the necessary ingredients, I made a big batch of winter quinoa with veggies on Sunday night to eat for lunch the rest of the week. (I should also mention now that my total grocery bill rang in at about $75, and the food I made sustained me through Friday that week. Suddenly, my usual $15 lunch orders felt incredibly excessive). As I lovingly stirred my quinoa on Sunday night, I couldn’t help but feel a surge of pride. Look at me! Cooking! Like one of those people who cooks! I went to bed with a pleased smile on my face.
On day one, I made a Green Goddess smoothie for breakfast, which consisted of spinach, coconut water, a frozen banana, a scoop of almond butter, and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I threw the ingredients in a blender, then took a sip—it was sweet, and actually quite tasty. I offered the leftovers to my boyfriend’s roommate, and she took a sip, smacked her lips, and declared it a “sweet milky juice” (which sounds more disgusting than it was, I promise). I felt satiated until around 12:30 p.m., when I ate the winter quinoa that I prepped ahead on Sunday night. It was, frankly put, quite bland. I added some pink Himalayan sea salt for flavor, but it did little to mask the fact that I was eating a slightly tasteless grain bowl filled with broccoli, cauliflower, and chickpeas. Suddenly, dread washed over me as I realized this would be my only lunch for the next few days. As my stomach rumbled around 4 p.m., I reached for my Granny smith apple (alkaline diet-approved) and slathered it with almond butter (also alkaline diet-approved). Little did I know this snack would be my main source of comfort over the next few days.
I came home late from work that Monday, and the last thing I wanted to do was cook something. Usually, I’d grab a taco (well, two tacos) at the place downstairs, but I resisted the temptation and sautéed some kale in coconut oil instead, adding avocados and walnuts on top and sprinkling salt and pepper. I was shocked at how delicious this simple meal was. As I shoveled it down my mouth, my mood lightened considerably. This wasn’t so bad. I could do this for the next few days. I mixed Dr. Gioffre’s Daily Minerals ($40) with water and gulped it down (he recommends taking them before bed during the cleanse to aid sleep and further replenish your body), then hit the hay. Day one, complete.
On day two, I slept past my alarm and only had a few minutes to get ready (typical). I groggily mixed Dr. Daryl's Daily Greens ($40) powder with water (it's made with 27 organic superfoods, all meant to alkalize), drank it, threw some ingredients in the blender, then rushed out the door. The Green Goddess smoothie was as filling as it was on Monday—so much so that I wasn't even hungry by lunchtime. Instead of my winter quinoa, I ate my favorite Granny Smith and almond butter snack. Around 4:30, my stomach started rumbling, and I begrudgingly reached for the quinoa. This ended up being my dinner, and I nibbled on some more when I got home. At this point, I was feeling exhausted. Dr. Gioffre warned me I might have "withdrawal" symptoms the first few days of the cleanse, and I assumed that was what I was feeling. I ignored the strong urge to eat one of the Trader Joe's Snickerdoodles taunting me from my pantry shelf, downed the Daily Minerals, then passed out early.
This photo of Gisele drinking her veggie soup is what I wished I looked like on Wednesday. I switched things up and tried a berry smoothie instead of the Green Goddess for breakfast and regretted my decision instantly, mainly because I had run out of spinach and thought kale would be a good replacement. Lesson learned: Kale is never a good replacement, as least when it comes to smoothies. As I half-drank, half-chewed my tart berry smoothie like a goat enjoying a particularly tasty wad of grass, I took an assessment of my body. Were my energy levels higher? Yes, somewhat. I noticed that Dr. Gioffre's Daily Greens gave me a jolt of energy every morning, and not the jittery kind I usually get from coffee. Plus, I didn't feel a crash by noon. Was my skin glowing? It was in fact, but that could have been due to the facial I had gotten Monday morning. Did I feel less bloated? Slightly so. I was more surprised that even though my diet was much less flavorful than I was used to, I didn't find myself craving anything unhealthy after my meals. In fact, I felt mostly satiated. I had a Tangy Tamari snack from Eat Paleta (tamari is like a gluten-free version of soy sauce and is featured in a lot of Dr. Daryl's recipes, so I felt justified) around 4 p.m., then ate my kale avocado salad for dinner.
My taste buds were craving something heartier at this point, so that night, I threw a bunch of ingredients for a veggie stew from Dr. Gioffre's recipe in my Crockpot, then went to sleep.
Thursday morning, I woke up with my stomach growling and a huge, pounding headache. My brain felt like it was covered in cobwebs. My body felt like it had been hibernating for 10 years and didn't quite know how to handle mobility yet.
I was confused. Was I experiencing withdrawal symptoms? But I was expecting to get them during the first few days, not the fourth. I scooped the veggie stew (which looked quite appetizing, I was pleased to see) into a container for lunch, put the rest in the refrigerator, then went to the juice shop downstairs to buy an alkaline-approved green juice. (For the record: the juice ended up being over $8 and didn't taste nearly as good as the Green Goddess.)
The rest of Thursday was as rough as the morning. Sadly, I found that the veggie stew was not as piping hot and delicious after it had been refrigerated, then microwaved. The consistency had congealed a bit, and I felt a bit like I was eating baby food. I ate some carrots and hummus as a snack, trying to ignore my growling stomach, then came home and had more soup for dinner. I ate a Granny Smith apple and almond butter for dessert, as my ravenous appetite had not subsided.
Ah, day five. I'm happy to report that Friday was a good day. I woke up feeling refreshed and energetic, and started my morning with a Green Goddess smoothie (I should have never strayed!). For lunch, I decided to treat myself for a cheat-free alkaline work week by ordering from a restaurant, making sure that what I ordered consisted only of alkaline foods.
This proved incredibly difficult.
As I simultaneously perused restaurant menus and checked ingredients with the alkaline food handbook Dr. Gioffre had given me, I got sucked into a black hole of entrées and complicated salads. An hour later, I still hadn't ordered anything, but instead found myself Googling things like, "Is farro wheat alkaline?" (Not really, is the answer.) Finally, I decided to order a quinoa salad (oh, the irony) from a restaurant down the street from my work. The salad cost $16 and consisted of brown quinoa, avocado, artichokes, and nothing else. As I miserably ate it, I said a silent apology to the quinoa salad I had made and shunned, sitting alone in the refrigerator. Never would I dismiss you again.
For dinner, I ate more of the veggie stew. I don't own a scale, but at the end of the day on Friday when I peered at my stomach, it certainly seemed flatter and more taut. In fact, overall I felt leaner, healthier, and more energetic. I love food and have a bad habit of overeating (not to mention mindless snacking), and am therefore used to a certain full, bloated feeling that emerges post-meal. The few days I was on the cleanse, that feeling diminished considerably; I might even say it disappeared. The cleanse is supposed to be seven days, but my cousin from out of town was visiting me on Saturday and wanted to get Japanese food (as one does while one is in Los Angeles) while Sunday was Easter, and my roommate and I were hosting a brunch. Thus, I only completed five out of the seven days of the cleanse, but it was long enough for me to help me draw some of these conclusions.
1. Eating alkaline isn't expensive—if you make the food yourself. One of the non-health benefits Dr. Gioffre promised I would experience after the cleanse was a "renewed relationship with cooking." Indeed, I finished this cleanse realizing that I can indeed cook, and subsequently, save so much money (while eating healthier). Cooking always seemed so daunting, but this cleanse helped me realize it can be quite easy—enjoyable, even. Plus, weighing the cost of the pricey smoothie and salad I purchased against my pre-made meals made it glaringly obvious how much I would/could be saving.
2. Cutting out dairy, meat, gluten, and sugar will do wonders for your complexion. My skin glowed while I was eating alkaline. A few days after the cleanse, I had a mozzarella salad for dinner, and immediately noticed a small breakout in the middle of my forehead emerge the next morning. Coincidence? I think not. I will be cutting dairy out of my diet permanently thanks to this realization.
3. It's hard to balance eating alkaline and being social: Gisele and Gwyneth might beg to differ, but I found that one of the hardest parts of eating alkaline simply had to do with trying to keep the diet while also keeping a social life. I had actually tried to start the cleanse two weeks earlier, but had to keep pushing it because of lunch meetings, dinners, and drinks with friends. Even the fact that I didn’t finish the full cleanse because I didn’t want to make my cousin eat Japanese food by himself while I stared at him and nibbled on kale, or cancel the Easter brunch I was hosting (and yes, I realize I could have simply eaten alkaline foods, but come on—it’s Easter), seems to prove that being alkaline can be difficult when you have people to see and food to share. However, Dr. Gioffre did tell me that perfection isn't the goal. He says he lives by the 80/20 mindset: 80% of what he eats is alkaline, and 20% are non-alkaline indulgences. This makes going alkaline seem more doable.
4. The alkaline diet will satiate you: Have I mentioned that I love food? Hangriness (anger because you're hungry) is a real emotion for me, and I eat a variety of delicious, flavorful cuisines throughout the week to appease my demanding taste buds. Though the food I was eating on the alkaline cleanse was less flavorful than I was used to, it filled me up and kept my cravings (surprisingly) to a minimum. Plus, I always felt comfortably satisfied after each meal; never bloated or too full.
It's a few days post-cleanse as I'm writing this, and though I can't say I'm eating 100% alkaline, I am certainly more aware of the food that I'm putting in my body. I already mentioned how I'm cutting out dairy for good because of this cleanse, but I've also found that I no longer crave a hot cup of coffee in the morning like I used to. Instead, I'm continuing taking Dr. Gioffre's Daily Greens (which don't taste as good as a cup 'o joe but are so much better for you) and trying to start my day off with a juice or smoothie instead (my roommate's generosity and her new Ninja blender have greatly helped).
As for getting a taste (literally) of what it's like to eat like Gisele, I have to say I respect her all the more now, but also feel like her buzzy diet is easier than I imagined. Assuming her personal chef is more skilled at whipping up delicious alkaline food-filled meals than I am (wild guess), I can certainly see the appeal. Whether or not you believe that eating more alkaline foods actually affects your body's pH, you can't deny the benefits that come from swapping a red meat, processed sugar, and gluten-heavy diet for fresh veggies, fruit, nuts, and legumes.
Now excuse me, as I believe I have a veggie quinoa recipe to perfect.
Click here if you're interested in going alkaline, or trying Dr. Daryl’s 7 Day Get Off Your Acid Cleanse.