We’ve denounced crash diets here at Byrdie HQ—the results just aren’t sustainable, and being too restrictive isn’t good for your body in the long run—but that doesn’t mean we don’t believe in the power of a good detox. After all, there are certain foods proven to cause inflammation, and cutting them out for a set period of time is an opportunity for our bodies to reset and start functioning optimally again. With that in mind, Byrdie’s senior editor and I embarked on Sakara Life’s Level II Detox, a five-day detox that’s less about shedding pounds quickly and more about resetting your gut.
“It’s not meant to be a crash diet or make you feel like you’re starved,” Sakara Life co-founder Whitney Tingle told me on the intro call. “It’s designed to help heal your gut because your gut is the center of your health—from how well you sleep to your hormones to your sex drive to how clear your skin is.” The detox comes with five days’ worth of meals, supplements, and broths delivered to your door so you don’t have to prepare anything yourself (score one for busy city dwellers with a Seamless habit), and Tingle and her co-founder Danielle DuBoise worked with certified functional medicine doctor Aviva Romm, MD, to ensure every meal was created to eliminate dietary inflammation in your body.
“Our bodies store toxins from tap water, the clothes we wear, and our fat tissues. Going through the detox process allows your body to release some of those toxins,” DuBoise says. So how did the sugar-free, dairy-free, grain-free, gluten-free, and meat-free detox go?
The Collective Goal
To follow Sakara Life’s Level II Detox, an intensive five-day detox that eliminates meat, dairy, gluten, sugar (including fruit), nuts, soy, nightshades, pesticides, harmful chemicals, alcohol, and caffeine. Wish us luck.
Faith’s Initial Thoughts
December—okay, the past year—has been so nurturing and fulfilling in so many ways. For my diet? Not so much. I’ve fully embraced the Postmates/margaritas-on-a-Tuesday lifestyle since moving to New York, and though it’s done wonders for my social life, my body at times feels like it’s crying out for help (sorry, liver). I’m not much of a cook, so previous detoxes I’ve done have resulted in me cheating a lot based on my laziness/lack of culinary ability. Thus, I was looking forward to resetting my body with Sakara’s Level II detox, which promises to provide me with all my meals for the full five days.
I hoped that sticking to the diet would help reset my gut and my body would accept it as an apology for all I’ve put it through the past few months.
Hallie’s Initial Thoughts
My wellness routine goes in pretty concretely defined phases—I vacillate from full-on hedonism to mindfulness and back again pretty regularly. The cycle is always the same, I eat and drink with abandon until I start to feel sluggish, bloated, and generally low-energy. I begin to cut back on processed foods, sugars, and gluten until I feel a bit better and then the cycle repeats itself. I went on this detox to try to reset myself in a healthier, more responsible way. I wanted to feel lighter, practice restraint, and see if I even had the willpower to pull it off.
The Kick-Off Call
Faith: I found this introductory call supremely helpful. Whitney and Danielle explained the ethos behind the cleanse (gut health first) and shared the breakdown of each day’s meals. Breakfast and lunch were going to be all vegetable-based, afternoons included probiotic coconut kefir and digestive teas, and dinner for the first four nights was going to be a healing broth made of adaptogens and mushrooms. I shared my sweet tooth problem with them, and they recommended saving half of the kefir to drink after dinner to appease it, which ended up being a huge help.
Hallie: We chatted with the founders about how the detox would make us feel, to ask any lingering questions we might have, or bring up any concerns. I told them my usual eating schedule and mentioned I have trouble snacking at work to get through the day. They offered some helpful advice that actually made a huge difference as I went through the detox—to save some of my breakfast or lunch and finish it off when I felt the urge to snack in the late afternoon. They invited us to the detox’s Facebook group for the opportunity to ask questions and get feedback from other women going through the same thing (or who have been there during previous detoxes).
I felt nervous but pretty prepared for my first meal delivery.
Faith: Day one of the cleanse was super delicious and felt fairly easy. I wasn’t used to taking so many supplements in the morning (there were at least five large pills that weren’t exactly easy to swallow), but I washed them down with a glass of water made with a few drops of the Beauty Water Concentrate and finished every last bite of the filling root veggie detox. I usually have a coffee and maybe some eggs for breakfast (or skip it altogether), so it was a bit weird to kick off the day with that many vegetables, and I was honestly full halfway through, but I finished the whole thing knowing that it would fuel me later.
I loved the nori wrap that was for lunch, and the coconut kefir was delicious and felt like a treat—it ended up being my favorite part of the cleanse each day and really helped me through some dark moments. Dinner was the medicinal broth, which tasted blander than I was expecting but still helped me go to bed feeling warm, satisfied, and toasty.
Hallie: The first day felt both easy and rewarding—to be quite honest, I was shocked. I’m not exactly a healthy eater and certainly not one who often forgos meat, dairy, sugar, grains, and gluten. But the first breakfast was delicious—a mix of mushrooms and other hearty root vegetables—and kept me full until lunch. We were instructed to take our supplements with breakfast (their medical-grade probiotics meant to support your overall detox), so I washed them down with a glass of water and Sakara’s beauty water concentrate drops (they taste like rose and moisturize your skin from the inside out).
Then came the digestive tea. I wasn’t used to consuming so much before work, but it felt like a nice habit to get into rather than my usual coffee and nothing else. The rest of the day went on without a hitch—lunch was less satisfying than breakfast (I’m not a huge fan of nori), but the 4 p.m. coconut kefir was a sweet, delicious treat I came to look forward to each day. For dinner, we had medicinal broth, which tasted like a less salty, meaty version of bone broth. It was warm and comforting, so I was happy.
I filled another glass with Sakara’s Detox Water Concentrate (they’re chlorophyll drops and very, very green) and took my nightly magnesium. I slept better that night than I had in months.
Faith: Day two started with a “Deep Forest Detox” breakfast, which seemed to consist of a variety of vegetables I hadn’t eaten before but tasted vaguely familiar. I love mushrooms, so I enjoyed it a lot, although it was still an adjustment for me to start eating vegetables first thing in the morning. Lunch was zucchini and jicama noodles with superfood falafels. I’m not that crazy about zucchini or falafel, and found myself starting to daydream about my go-to chicken and farrow grain bowl at Roast.
Having the coconut kefir appeased me for the most part though; it really was the thing that made this cleanse bearable in hard moments. Around 4 p.m., I started feeling extremely bloated like I usually get right before my period—except my period just happened, so it definitely wasn’t that. I figured this was my body starting the detox process. I drank the broth, chugged the chlorophyll water, and went to sleep hoping I’d wake up feeling less bloated.
Hallie: I woke up feeling lighter and happier. I swear my mood felt lifted from a single day on the cleanse. It was almost devastating to realize how much putting good, real foods into my body makes a difference in my overall life and well-being (because of my undying love for fried foods), but such is the case. This time around, lunch was more exciting than breakfast. It was a zucchini and jicama noodle salad with falafel balls and a super-lemony pesto to top it all off. I loved the pesto and happily devoured the entire thing.
Then on to the coconut kefir and broth for dinner. I was amazed at how much food the entire haul was, I never really felt particularly starving throughout the entire first two days. I felt strong and excited to keep going.
Faith: Day three is definitely when the challenging part of the detox set in. Though the convenience of having the meals prepared and set out for me each day was great, I suddenly found myself thinking obsessively about all the food I couldn’t have. I never realized how much I plan my days around food and how much I just think about food in general—this detox made it clear how much my food actions were dictated by my cravings. I’m used to getting a snack from our office kitchen the second I feel a flicker of hunger, and being on a more restrictive diet forced me to acknowledge how much I snack without even thinking about it.
As I sat at my desk and tried to focus on doing work, visions of Cheetos, fried chicken, and Momofuku cakes danced in my head, taunting and tempting me. I was looking forward to the cabbage dumplings that were for lunch, but they ended up being a bit messy and completely falling apart in the broth, which made them less satisfying to eat than I was hoping. I was desperately craving something chewy and found myself really struggling this day. Luckily, it was nice to have a built-in support system with Hallie, and we kept each other motivated.
I also dropped a line in the dedicated Facebook group about a persistent headache I was experiencing, and the advice and encouragement I got there was extremely helpful.
Hallie: The third day was a bit rough. I started feeling hungry, tired, and, frankly, over it. But after a quick chat in Sakara’s detox Facebook group and a self-led pep talk, I was back on track. It was incredibly helpful to have access to both other people going through the detox and experts and doctors from Sakara. I think that may be what ultimately sets this meal plan apart from other similar ones—the intimate, helpful, personalized attention we both got. That and the amount of time I was saving from not having to choose a meal and wait for it to be delivered.
FYI, though: Cabbage dumplings are not, in fact, regular dumplings. But I suppose I should have expected that.
Faith: Ah, day four. The darkest day; the lowest valley before the dawn. I woke up at 7:50 a.m. naturally, which never happens (I am usually the one to press snooze repeatedly until I blearily sigh and grumble my way out of bed). Encouraged by this pleasant change, I walked to the bathroom and washed my face, and then I started feeling extremely dizzy and dehydrated. Nausea flooded over me like a wave, and I texted Hallie asking if she felt similar; she didn’t. I guzzled the beauty water and detox tea, but nothing seemed to make my nausea subside.
Hallie and I met up at a beauty event that morning, and at one point, I felt like I was actually going to have to throw up to feel better. I realize I was experiencing textbook detox symptoms—the Sakara founders had warned me about experiencing dizziness, headaches, and lightheadedness as a sign of my body detoxing on the cleanse. This day was all liquids, so I drank the green juice (which was very pulpy and not the most pleasant-tasting) and slurped the carrot ginger soup for lunch (which was delicious).
At the risk of TMI, this was also the day I experienced the cleanse part of the detox, if you know what I mean. My system literally felt flushed, and I definitely didn’t feel the slightest bit bloated anymore. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t tough. At one point, Hallie and I convened in the kitchen and stared longingly at all the snacks, pointing out which ones we would be devouring if we weren’t on the cleanse. I think I actually was on the verge of crying over Funyuns, which I took as a sign that I should exit the kitchen immediately for my sanity.
Luckily, around 6 p.m., my headache and nausea subsided, and I started feeling more alert and happy than I had in weeks. The craziest part was when I had the medicinal broth at night. In the beginning of the week, the broth tasted bland and flavorless. On this night, however, it tasted so flavorful and rich. I texted Hallie asking if she thought the same thing, and she agreed. That’s when I knew that our guts (and taste buds) were actually being reset.
Hallie: This was the all-soup day. We were warned it might be the hardest, but I was looking forward to it. The broth was my favorite meal each day just for the fact that it was warm. There’s something about only eating cold foods that makes it all the more obvious that it’s less satisfying than say, a cheeseburger. Breakfast was a green juice, but not the kind that includes sweet apples and cucumber. This one was intense in a kind of grassy/spinach way. I slurped it all down and went on my way.
Lunch was carrot ginger soup (a favorite of mine even when I’m not detoxing), which helped sustain my hunger and lift my spirits. By this point, it was definitely difficult to stay on track, however, I really was feeling rested and in good spirits each morning. The detox was working, and that helped us to keep forging ahead. Faith and I did feel like complaining to each other though. During a 4 p.m. slump, we went into the office kitchen and pointed out every single thing we’d eat if we weren’t detoxing.
That was a low point. But we made it through.
Faith: Friday was the final day, and I woke up from a night full of crazy dreams. I dreamt I was swept up in a crazy current, being pulled beneath and more or less drowning. I’m not sure I want to unpack what exactly that means, but it definitely made me wake up feeling like I was slightly reborn. I did have a slight sore throat, but I chalked it up to residual detox symptoms. This day started with a squash frittata, which was yummy heated up in a skillet and extremely filling. I actually didn’t feel hungry once; it was like night and day comparing how I felt during the other days.
My favorite part of the day was the Detox Macro Bowl for dinner. It was really nice to have something other than a liquid broth before bed, and I loved all the veggies in it. It felt like such an indulgence to end the week on that note. The cincher was when I went to a friend’s place that night and she looked at me and proclaimed, “You look like you’re glowing from within.” (And no, I didn’t pay her to say that). She was right, though. My skin looked clear and bright, and I felt energetic and fueled.
She had a scale, so I did weigh myself and found that I had lost five full pounds. My biggest issue has always been bloating, and I was amazed at how flat my stomach looked compared to its usual state. I felt ready to don a crop top and face the world feeling confident and empowered. (Instead, I sat on my friend’s couch and watched KUTK, but it’s the thought that counts.)
Hallie: This day had the most food on the menu, mostly to help our bodies transition back into our regular lives. I had a squash frittata for breakfast, a kale salad for lunch, and a macro bowl for dinner. It was the first time in days that I didn’t have broth for dinner and it felt incredible. I had a lot of trouble after dinner. I dreamed of throwing caution to the wind and ordering Chinese food. I texted Faith about it, and she convinced me otherwise. I went to sleep that night hungry, but I was excited to wake up the next morning with the full five-day results.
The following morning, I weighed myself (sure, weight loss isn’t the goal of the detox or my goal in general, but I was curious), and I’d lost five pounds. It felt like an accomplishment. I felt no bloating, no sluggishness, nothing. I felt entirely accomplished and really happy I’d stuck to the program. Usually, I end up cheating at least once with things like this, but not this time. I kept taking the leftover probiotics to keep things in check for the next couple days.
Faith: This detox was one of the hardest ones I’ve ever done, but the sense of accomplishment I felt at the end for not cheating (not even once!) and just the overall feeling of well-being I experienced made it worth it. If anything, it was just as much of a mental detox as it was a physical one. It made me hyper-aware of how much my cravings dictate my food decisions, which almost always leads to poor diet decisions and excessive snacking. I learned how to be much more mindful of what I put in my body and take a second to think about if I really need the bag of Cheez-Its that I instinctively reach for when my midafternoon snacking craving hits (the answer is no—unless it’s been an especially stressful day).
And the changes in my body were undeniable. I felt more energetic than I had in weeks, and it really did get rid of any feelings of bloat; it also introduced me to some delicious veggies I hadn’t tried before, and by the end, I found myself craving nourishing, rainbow-colored foods instead of sugary snacks or packaged foods. I would 100% recommend this detox to anyone who has a big event coming up or vacation planned where they want to feel completely de-bloated and cleansed. Even if I hadn’t weighed myself and noticed the weight loss, I would still have been happy with the results just based on how I felt.
Just know that it is challenging. You will question your decision to undergo it, along with possibly your own sanity. But stick to it, and it’ll be worth it.
Hallie: In the end, I had a really positive experience with the detox. I didn’t feel as deprived as I thought I would, but I definitely appreciated my favorite foods more after not allowing myself to eat them. I would definitely do the detox again—perhaps before a big event I wanted to de-bloat for or just when I had been eating and drinking with abandon. It totally felt like I’d pressed the reset button on my body and mind. As I said, I’ve done a lot of experiments with dieting—a plan prescribed by Bella Hadid’s nutritionist, veganism, and a three-day de-bloating detox.
Each one felt more difficult than this one and didn’t feel anywhere near as good. It’s definitely hard, don’t get me wrong, but there was something that kept me going the whole time. Part of it was having Faith to lean on, but there was another, less tangible factor. I think I genuinely felt like I was doing something good for my body, and as I age, that becomes more and more important. And I feel the effects of not treating myself well even more intensely. Remember when drinking at 21 left you with no hangover?
Exactly. Here’s the thing: Detoxing isn’t easy and neither is consistently choosing healthy foods to consume. But it is worth it and it makes you feel good. Simple as that.
The editors received the detox in exchange for their reviews. All opinions are their own.
The Sakara Level II Detox costs $400 and the next one starts February 4—sign up here.
This story was published at an earlier date and has since been updated.