In the beginning of 2020, I decided to join my first ever detox programme in Hong Kong to reset my digestive system. I write here an honest detox diary of my experience…
I wasn’t convinced I wanted to go through a detox. My sister told me she would get it as a Christmas gift to her little sister (me), but it seemed like such a daunting process. Although I have always wanted to kick my sugar addiction habit and develop a true love for greens and healthier alternatives, I didn’t know if I had enough self-discipline.
Fortunately, I gave in with a “how bad can it be?” It turned out to be the best way to start the year.
I started with a 2-day pre-cleanse over the weekend, which honestly wasn’t bad at all. Jessica Williams — a Registered Nutritionist and Yoga Instructor who heads the detox programme at Flex — sent us a list of foods or ingredients to include and which to avoid.
Obviously, all refined sugar was off the list, and I could only eat vegetarian. My boyfriend loves salad, so we had fun thinking of new salads to make — and they were delicious. The problem was, we had a barbecue on Sunday and I had to take at least one slice of the Argentinian meat. I arrived late and left early to make sure I didn’t eat any more.
Jessica already sent the detox manual and I got started with meal prep in the evening. I made my food for the next day – two-days’ worth of the master cleanse – and a large batch of vegetable broth.
The vegetable broth is an important component of the detox because it’s packed with nutrients and helps you feel full — plus it’s delicious. Jessica says that during the detox, “drinking the broth is the best part of my day!” On hindsight, I know this sounds crazy, but if you do end up trying it, believe me you will feel the same happiness.
Daily Detox Schedule
My daily detox schedule looked something like this:
- Master cleanse + 2 glasses of water four to five times spread out during the day
- A smoothie with a teaspoon of healthy oil
- Nutrition talk
- Herbal tea (if needed)
- Vegetable sticks or a piece of fruit
- Broth (should be sipped throughout the day)
- (Vegan) Salad with a teaspoon of healthy oil like that of flax seed
Here is how my week went on that schedule:
Day 1 – Monday
I woke up determined. After my morning routine, I went to the detox yoga class led by Jessica at Flex One Island South in Wong Chuk Hang. She included poses that would help detoxify the body and support digestion, including breathing exercises, specifically the Kapalabhati. (Also Read: Drop weight… Just by breathing).
After the yoga class was a 45-minute nutrition lecture on the liver, which I learned is one of the most important — not to mention overworked — organs for detoxification.
After this I had some broth and the master cleanse. The master cleanse is something you take four to five times a day during the cleanse, and is made up of lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and Grade A / high quality maple syrup. No icky weird-tasting and strange-sounding stuff as I expected.
By 3pm I wanted a cookie. I love cookies and is my major food weakness, but I successfully fought off the urge for any by drinking more of the master cleanse and some herbal tea.
By nighttime, I felt weak and empty (literally), but at least I was able to fall asleep.
Day 2 – Tuesday
Hunger kicked in early; wasn’t as prepared as the day before and didn’t bring any vegetable sticks or extra broth to curb the hunger. I was also craving salty food this time, as I ate a banana with a little coconut oil to curb the sweets craving (it worked!)
I was peeing every thirty minutes and my bowels smelled like fresh grass (Too much information, but this was truthfully and pleasantly surprising to me).
The end of the day was tough, though. Aunt Flo visited, so I was irritable and wanted to eat everything I could possibly get my hands on. This became an additional hurdle to my week.
Day 3 – Wednesday
By the third day I slept a lot and was a little groggy, because this happens during my period. I dragged myself out of bed and did my morning routine. I found myself strangely energized despite the lack of food and got to the Studio for an individual consultation with Jessica as part of the programme. This turned out to be one of the highlights of my detox, because Jessica taught me so much about my diet — what I was doing wrong and what I can do to adjust. Lessons on this later.
I was anxious and hungry for the most part. Dinner was a huge salad and it made me happier than a salad would usually make me and I devoured* twice as much of it than I usually would.
*I use the word devoured because I felt like an animal when I ate the salad. I literally used my hands to eat most of it because I was THAT excited to eat the salad.
Day 4 – Thursday
I was hyper-focused and my head was clear. I was able to work and write without needing coffee or an energy booster — a miracle!
Day 5 – Friday
By day 5 I was so used to the feeling of having a practically empty stomach and looked forward to drinking the master cleanse and the broth throughout the day. It already became a normal routine.
Day 6 – Saturday
Easy. I thought I would try to end the cleanse by dinner but I strangely didn’t want to eat anything but my normal salad and broth. Stockholm syndrome…?
Day 7 was not so easy; when I tried to get back into the habit of eating normal meals, I didn’t even want to eat more than a little morsel of anything new. I somehow knew how to listen to my body and instinctively understood what it needed to eat rather than going by my old default “eat some chips or chocolate now” mode. When I ate a piece of chocolate just to see what it was like, I felt dizzy from the sugar.
As I write, I’m still on my post-cleanse. I kept the habit of drinking lemon water every morning with a little Cayenne pepper and Manuka Honey to make it exciting — I swear it does wonders for my digestion and my feeling of overall health. I am more energetic now than I was before, because I’ve been able to incorporate healthier alternatives to my old habits and include nutritious ingredients in my meals.
I’ve been able to adjust my meal plan. I found out from Jessica during the individual consultation that my 3pm energy slump happens because I eat a lot of sugar and carbohydrates in the morning. Apparently, your body works a lot to digest these, and if you start it that early in the morning, it’s working on it throughout the day. Before nighttime, your system is already tired.
Jessica suggested eating protein, fiber, and ‘good fats’ in the morning instead, and save the carbohydrates for later in the day. THIS WORKED WONDERS FOR ME. I was extremely impressed with the results. When I follow this advice, I am fresh and awake all the way into the late afternoon.
Equipped with the nutrition knowledge and habits I gained from the detox, I have been able to transform my life altogether. Another important thing I learned is that sometimes craving sugar can actually mean craving good fat like coconut oil or an avocado.
You can’t know how big of a deal this was for me, given my history of gastrointestinal issues in the last three years. I haven’t had a single problem since the detox, and when I bloat or feel a bit of a stomach ache, I know exactly which food caused it, because I introduced foods slowly back into my diet and was able to single out their effect.
I am the healthiest I’ve ever been, and I’ve reached a point where I know my body more than I have ever before. I am ever so grateful I got this as a Christmas gift from my sister, and I would 100% do this cleanse again on my own this year if Flex doesn’t hold another one.
Joyce Raboca is a human rights and environmental policy lawyer and yoga teacher from Manila based in Hong Kong.