Lean, Green and Clean

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Here’s the skinny on Savannah’s juice and smoothie cleanses. 

All this talk about juice cleanses as of late has me wondering if I, too, am in need of a good cleaning. However, liquid diets and deprivation aren’t really my thing. I have a really good relationship with chewable food—in fact, we don’t like to be apart for more than two hours. But in a don’t-knock-it-til-you-try-it spirit, I signed up for the 5-day Green Smoothie Cleanse offered by Good Greens on Wilmington Island.

Kelly Grenchik, owner of Good Greens, explains the program’s rather simple rules: She makes four fruit- and plant-based smoothies each day, which participants can supplement with one apple and all the raw veggies they want. If you’re still hungry, you’re allowed a couple of hard-boiled eggs, as well as a handful of raw nuts or a scoop of unsweetened nut butter. No caffeine, no alcohol. For five days.

And just like that—with two of my favorite vices on the “no-fly” list—I’m out.

So, I sign up my already caffeine- and alcohol-free husband instead.

Beyond those two good habits, Ray is a man who confuses Cheetos for carrots and considers French fries a vegetable. Yet he also loves a challenge and is interested in dropping some weight, which Grenchik says is likely to happen on the cleanse.

“I’ve had some guys lose 12 to 13 pounds in five days,” she says. Grenchik, who has completed the cleanse three times and has lost as much as 9 ½ pounds, also points out that the weight loss isn’t necessarily permanent. If you return to your same eating and drinking habits, the weight will return as well.

Two days into the program, Ray is down 4 pounds. Except for some mild headaches most likely due to his sudden sugar detox, things are going well. The simplicity of the program makes it very easy to follow—the mundanity, less so.

“Oh boy, another smoothie,” Ray deadpans when I present him with four more green smoothies on Day 3.

“It gets a little monotonous,” Grenchik admits. There is a different smoothie blend for each day—with colors ranging from moss to mud, and texture shifting between thick and thicker—but at the end of the day, it’s still a smoothie.

Photo by Anna Heritage

Grenchik explains that the hardest part of the cleanse is getting your mind onboard. “About 99 percent of us eat by desire, not by necessity,” she says. “So, it’s hard to be around food all day long and not consume the things you want to eat. It takes some dedication to the end goal.”

Ray isn’t starving on the program, which doesn’t come as a surprise to Grenchik. The smoothies, which include a plant-based protein and flaxseed meal, are calorie and nutrient dense. “There’s a desire for things you can’t have, but it’s not an issue of hunger,” she says.

By the end of the cleanse, Ray has dropped 10 ½ pounds and deems the experiment a success. Then we go to a restaurant and he promptly orders a hamburger. Fail.

Quick weight loss seems to be a goal for many of Grenchik’s clients, but she notes there’s the added bonus of mental clarity, improved skin and better sleep. We even saved some money. At $100 for five days of quality nutrition, the Green Smoothie Cleanse is kind of a deal for us, considering we usually spend more than that at the grocery buying nutritionally sub-par, pre-packaged foods.

Another added bonus is coming face-to-face with your habits. “This cleanse made me reevaluate my relationship with food,” says Sara Harrell, an avid runner and gym-goer who was still struggling to drop the last 15 pounds of baby weight a year after her daughter was born.

Harrell cut back on alcohol and even added additional workouts, but nothing she knew how to do was working. “So I decided I had to do something really different,” she says.

Being on the smoothie cleanse made Harrell aware of how often she was mindlessly snacking out of habit rather than hunger. Cutting out alcohol and sugar for five days also helped to curb cravings post-cleanse. Herrell lost 10 pounds by the end of the program and has kept off all but two pounds.

But what about those of us who are commitment-impaired but still want a shot at eating greener and cleaner? Blend & Press Wellness Bar offers another riff, which owner Chelsea Dye describes as a hybrid juice cleanse. Her program includes pressed juice, concentrated superfood shots that can contain probiotics, spirulina and even bee pollen, then a smoothie and a plant-based meal in the evening. Like the Green Smoothie Cleanse, Dye’s program is easy to follow, and is customizable based on your goals and palate. The day’s juices, shots and smoothie are individually bottled and numbered, and they come with a corresponding schedule indicating what time each item should be consumed throughout the day. The cost ranges between $38 and $45 per day depending on which of the three cleanses you choose.

As for the plant-based dinner, Dye has also made sourcing that meal easy by partnering with Flux Nourishment, which offers a home delivery service.

Green detox juice at Blend & Press Wellness Bar. Photo by Anna Heritage

When Dye tells me that many clients choose the one-day cleanse, my commitment-phobe interest is piqued. She flatters me by putting me on a hybrid of the “Super Athlete” and “No Sweat Reset” cleanse. As soon as I take the first shot, which is a combination of coconut water, spirulina and something called “chlorella”—but thankfully unrelated to both cholera and chlorine—I feel awesome. It sounds ridiculous, I know, and it probably has less to do with the concoction than it does with the fact that I’m doing something good for my body. Nonetheless, that feels good.

I pat myself on the back and think this one-day cleanse will be a piece of (plant-based) cake.

Not so much. 

Thirty minutes into the cleanse, all I can think about is how much I miss my old friend, chewable food. I think about it throughout the duration of my spin class. At the gas station. In the grocery store—especially in the grocery store. By noon, I’ve had two shots and one pressed juice, and I want pizza. Or at least a solid carrot.

The lunchtime smoothie, however, proves satisfying and for two solid hours I forget about chewable food and instead focus on my day. At dinnertime, I pop my Flux Thai-inspired Buddha bowl into the oven. It’s a beautiful combination of brown rice, chickpeas and fresh veggies, but then there’s this “almond dressing” I’m a bit wary of. Chewable food does not let me down. The bowl, dressing and all, is to die for. 

Like the Good Greens cleanse, everything in the Blend & Press program tastes really good. Even the “Calm and Collected” shot, which was described to me as “not good tasting,” doesn’t offend. (Admittedly, I have a very liberal palate.)

By the next morning, I am refreshed, even bright-eyed. Remembering the words of my cleanse-skeptic dietitian friend (“The body is a self-cleaning mechanism,” she’d said), I do feel cleansed, somehow, both mentally and physically. In a mere 24 hours, the process has made me reconsider my eating habits—no more mindless nibbling on foods that don’t provide any real nourishment—and encourages me to do better for myself.

If that’s all hype, fine by me. I’ll take my hype green … in a to-go cup with a straw.

Superfood boost powders and spices including cayenne pepper, matcha, cacao nibs, spirulina-chlorella blend and mushroom. Photo by Anna Heritage

A Cleanse for the Truly Committed

If you’re a detox dynamo, Savannah Power Yoga offers The Clean Program, a 7- or 21-day elimination diet based on the book Clean by Dr. Alejandro Junger. The purpose of the program is to remove foods that trigger inflammation, which Kate Doran, owner of Savannah Power Yoga and a teacher there, identifies as “the base cause of most disease at this point in our history.”

By systematically removing the foods that commonly cause inflammation in the body, like sugar, wheat gluten, alcohol, caffeine and dairy, you can then gradually reintroduce them in order to identify how they affect your body. “The triggers for skin problems, irritable bowel syndrome and celiac disease are often uncovered through this process,” says Doran.

The Clean Program requires a little brain power because you are preparing your own foods, but a coach, weekly meetings and a Facebook group provide support along the way. The cost of the program is $50 for 7 days and $175 for 21 days, and both include unlimited yoga for the duration of the cleanse. And you’re in good hands. Savannah Power Yoga’s coach, Stephanie Mobley, is one of the few Certified Clean Coaches in the world.