How to Survive a Raw, Vegan Cleanse and Not Be Miserable

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 James Baigrie / Getty Images

After months of culinary school gluttony (try spending two straight weeks doing nothing but baking bread), I figured it wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world to try a quick detox so I’d stop feeling like a living, breathing baguette, and have enough energy to do something other than, you know, bake more bread. Ever since then, I’ve tried to designate a weekend (or two-day period, because giving up weekend drinking sucks) a month where I reset my body with eating healthy and skipping booze. This week, I’ve been doing the Get Off Your Acid cleanse, a raw, vegan program that focuses on alkalizing your body (which the creator of the detox, Dr. Daryl Gioffre, explains is balancing your own pH levels through a healthy diet so that it doesn’t have to strain to balance itself) can be done in two days, or seven, if you really feel like torturing yourself. 

Somehow, though, my energy levels actually feel great, I’m sleeping better, and finally held a plank for three minutes at the gym. (Happy coincidence? Yeah, probably.) Here are a few tips I picked up along the way to eat, not drink, and maybe be merry:

1. Prep as much as possible.
Sure, you tell yourself you’ll wake up early to make that ginger-turmeric-lemon tea. You won’t. Instead, peel and chop your ginger and turmeric the night before, along with your salad ingredients, your snacks, and whatever, so you can operate on autopilot in the morning. If you’re making smoothies or soups, make double batches of everything and store in airtight containers in your fridge. You’re in the kitchen peeling, chopping, and blending anyways, so you might as well get it all done.

2. Don’t follow the recipes.
I mean, you could, but chances are, they’ll tell you not to use salt (luckily the cleanse I chose allowed salt, spices, oil, etc.) or other flavor enhancers. An extra sprinkling of salt in your gazpacho isn’t going to kill you, and if it makes the difference between you sticking to the cleanse and falling off the bandwagon, who cares? Ditto for adding hot sauce, red chile pepper flakes, and a splash of vinegar to liven up your meals. Herbs (think: tarragon, parsley, basil, cilantro) also jazz up a dish and give you some added nutrition. Did I mention salt?

3. Cheat.
It’s really the only survivable way to endure a week of vegetables, fruits, hemp seeds, raw almonds, and enough lemon water to douse every potted mint plant at your local Whole Foods. Yesterday, my co-worker brought in doughnuts that Marcus Samuelsson crafted with his own two hands, each tiny ball doused in rich, creamy, glory. I had two. And I didn’t sweat it. A few hours later, Hamilton beer appeared in our office. Don’t worry, I didn’t turn it down.

4. Post about it on social media.
It may not taste like that pork bun sandwich you’re dreaming of, but the satisfaction of getting a bunch of Instagram likes magically makes you feel more committed to staying on track. If you search for people with the hashtag for your cleanse (I tried #RawVeganCleanse, #GetOffYourAcid, and #BloodyMary during one of my weaker moments), you may be surprised to find lots of other folks suffering along with you, who make it look pretty damn tasty and give you inspiration to persevere. Perhaps one day it will even be pleasing to recall such hardships, as Vergil once said.

5. Serve your food at different temperatures.
We take for granted how nice it is to eat food at different temperatures. To prevent monotony, try serving some of the cold soups on your cleanse hot (if you feel like really living on the edge, even consider swapping the water most cleanse recipes list for low-sodium vegetable stock), and warm up those raw walnut slivers you’re allowed as a garnish for your salads in the oven for a few minutes. Also, play with texture. If one day you’re making a smoothie, serve it in a bowl and save half the banana it calls for and slice it on top for some added chew. On another day, serve your gazpacho extra chunky instead of totally puréeing it.

6. Start at dinner time.
Most cleanses suggest starting your first day with breakfast. I always tweak the schedule so my first meal on the plan is for dinner. That way, after three days or a week, or however long your cleanse lasts, is complete, your last meal on the plan will be a lunch. It’s way more enjoyable to end a cleanse with a celebratory stiff drink and a slice of pizza (or eight) then to wake up the day after your cleanse for the same old egg and cheese and coffee combo.