Up until a few years ago I lived a pretty hedonistic life. I ate what I liked, drank what I liked, and the only exercise I got was running to the bar when they called last orders. But then kids came along, so I was buggered on the drinking front for two (very long) nine month periods, then I lost my father, which was a huge wake to call to my own mortality. I went from hedonistic to headcase, worrying daily I would die on my children, leaving them to grow up without me.
Most of this was driven by grief, of course, but a lot by guilt, too. I had spent my 20s slim and successful, I didn’t think twice when ordering another drink, or lighting up another cigarette. But when my father died I started to think about all the damage done to my body by my reckless lifestyle. I decided something had to change. My son asks me ‘when will you turn into a star Mummy’ and I tell him ‘not for a long, long time’. I want this to be true.
So I’ve gone down the road of trying to undo all the damage I did in my 20s by living a healthier (and certainly more virtuous!) lifestyle. Yes, I still have the occasional blowout, I think everyone needs one, but on the whole I eat well and I drink a lot, lot less. I have also been drawn into the detox fad. I’ve tried a few, from days on end of Aloe Vera, to feasting on so many lentils I smelt like a sewer. I can’t say any of them have changed my life, but they have made me look at what I eat a lot more, and to take a second or two to think before screaming laaaaarge when asked what size wine I would like. I’ve even had a few glasses of fizzy water in a pub.
Detoxes are never going to totally repair a body abused by alcohol or cigarettes, but they can help you realise you can live without aforementioned vices, and can definitely help you lose a few pounds in the process.
Having succeeded in several short term programs, I decided a step up was needed, and that’s when I discovered the Chris James Mind Body 12 day cleanse program. I read some reviews and did a bit of research, then bit the bullet and ordered the pack.
The 12 day cleanse program is split into four parts – the preparation phase, pre-purification phase, power phase and the maintenance phase. You start by cutting out all caffeine, dairy, alcohol, red meat and additives, then up your intake of raw and plant-based foods, together with a specially selected combination of supplements such as the Gorgeous Greens tablets, the Super Absorb to prevent hunger pangs, and a brilliant biotic before bed to encourage your gut to work well with your new diet. This is all complemented by a morning shot of aloe in water, and two ‘magical multi’ vitamins. The pack also contains a booklet to guide you through each phase, a recipe guide to give you inspiration on your new vegan lifestyle, and a sachet of Buddhi Bath crytals, for a relaxing and detoxifying bath during the plan. It is also recommended you buy a body brush and brush the skin every day to enhance detoxification and improve circulation.
The first few days are tough, there’s no denying that. To cut out everything you enjoy eating all at once is hard to say the least. Caffeine addicts may experience headaches as a result of the withdrawal, but what I craved most was the dairy. I don’t believe there’s been a day in my life I haven’t drunk milk, and very few that have passed without consumption of some type of cheese, so to go cold turkey really hit me hard. By the end of day two I was telling people it was worse than stopping smoking, and harder! But I persevered, and got used to the taste of soya milk on my (very plain) porridge oats in the morning. I didn’t go so far as enjoying a glass of almond, soya, or any other type of vegan milk though, it’s just not for me.
By the end of the first two phases I had visibly worse skin, but not much else had changed of note. I was dreading day seven and the start of the juicing phase the following morning…
Part of the 12 Day Cleanse is a three day juicing phase where you consume nothing but fresh fruit or juice smoothies, or a bowl of soup if you’re really, really hungry. There are plenty of recommended recipes in the handbook that comes with the cleanse, but being a working mum with two young children the idea of buying a blitzer and preparing juices and smoothis all day long just wasn’t practical. So I decided to cut a corner and order a three day programme from Juice Programmes, and boy am I glad I did?!
The My Juice Programme detox provides you with four juices each day, each devised to be drunk at a particular time of the day to ensure maximum energy and benefit from the ingredients. You get a handy leaflet to tell you which to consume when, and basically have each at about four hour intervals. I had been dreading Juice Day One but I managed to hold out for my first drink until about 9am. Combinations vary day by day but on the first day you start off with an ABC – a blend of apples, beetroot, carrot and more, then take a CALM for lunch, an INVINCIBLE as a mid-afternoon filler, and a FLUSH for tea.
It’s true what they say – the longer it takes to ingest something the less you tend to consume. I quickly worked out that sipping slowly through a straw was the best way to take the juices, and I realised that what I usually consider my ‘hungry’ stage was nowhere near! But by the end of the first day despite not having eaten one piece of solid food, I didn’t feel too bad at all. An early night beckoned and I slept really well, and when I woke it wasn’t with agonising hunger pangs. I managed to go for a morning swim with my two toddlers and enjoy a family day out after. Initially I had been worried I’d be too light-headed to even drive! It seems a lot of hunger actually is in the mind. I’d recommend holding out aslong as possible for your first juice – between 9-10am ideally. Then spread the rest over the day with three or four hour breaks between them.
During the juicing phase you are recommended to book in for a colonic cleansing session – another essential part of the cleanse, but another that is an extra cost on top. For those not in the now, a colonic irrigation is where you go to a clinic and they stick a hosepipe up your bum to flush out all the dead waste. It’s not fun, it’s not exciting, it’s a bit uncomfortable but it’s not really painful. You just feel like you’re about to crap your pants at regular intervals, and you get to see mouldy old crap (literally) floating past your eyes as it heads towards the waste bucket. A session costs on average £80-100 in London, and you’re recommended to sign up for a few by the practitioners as they can’t always get all the bad stuff out in one go. But despite the cost, and discomfort, it’s worth giving it a go. Afterwards you feel lighter, and I noticed a marked difference in my skin the following morning.
Having undergone the colonic during the juicing phase I was definitely less bloated by the time I entered the final stage of the cleanse, although my practitioner told me she would advise having the procedure before the juicing stage, and there is less waste to muck about with if you haven’t eaten anything solid for three days. Which stands to reason!
By the end of the three day juice programme, even before the late afternoon colonic, I was definitely feeling less bloated and surprisingly energised. I couldn’t have done another day, but the worst part was over and it hadn’t been as bad as anticipated. There was also a new spring in my step as I congratulated myself for sticking to such a rigorous regime. The cleanse, and the three day juice in particular, boosted my confidence and gave me a sense of deep satisfaction. A sense of pride that I had actually seen it through to completion.
The final three days of the CJ Mind Body cleanse are called the Maintenance Phase and are designed to reintroduce solids slowly, and ease you into a life of more mindful eating. You continue with the provided supplements and body brushing, and stick to a plant-based diet.
By the end of the 12th day I must admit I felt pretty damn good. I was noticeably slimmer – jeans felt a lot looser – and my skin was clearer than it has been for years. I also noticed that the mental boost had great effects, giving me a confidence I don’t usually feel. The cleanse was hard, but it was worthwhile, and I intend to do it again. My advice to anyone considering the programmes would be to do it – but do it for yourself. If you find yourself wavering or wanting to cheat, take a step back and think about it. You’re only cheating yourself. I slipped a bowl of homemade tomato soup into my juicing phase, and a glass of wine on the end of day 12 (a girl needs to congratulate herself sometimes!) but other than that I stuck to the rules, and that’s why I felt so bloody proud of myself at the end of it. I’d also recommend booking a reflexology or massage session in the early stages, partly to boost detoxification but also to help you relax and give yourself a treat while you’re desperately trying to ignore all the cravings!
The booklet which guides you through the 12 day cleanse suggests you undertake three or four each year to kick-start your body and keep it fresh and healthy. It’s an expensive habit though, with the pack costing £119.99 from the Chris James Mind Body website, Harrods, and several other health food outlets. Add to that the cost of the colonic treatment, the shopping bill for the specific foodstuffs you need to stock up on, an optional holistic therapy, the body brush, and the juicing programme (which in fact works out cheaper than if you bought the ingredients and equipment yourself!) and you’ll easily be shelling out £300 or more. This is a great cleanse with definite results, but it’s not for the faint-hearted, and there are many hidden extras which make it pretty costly. Let us know if you decide to try it yourself – we’d love to hear what you think!
- Chris James Mind Body 12 Day Cleanse can be bought here
- Juice Programme plans can be bought here
- Belle About Town were supplied with the 12 Day Cleanse and Three Day Juice Programme to test. All opinions are honest reflections of our experience.