New Things: Do A 5 Day Cleanse

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try. Some of them are easy, some are difficult, some are shockingly mundane. You can read about previous adventures here

those are nut chips, okay?!
Despite all my talk of carbs and cheese, I actually eat pretty healthy food. My kitchen is stocked with ridiculous things like sprouted bread and coconut oil and lentils. (Yes, I’m rolling my eyes now, too.)
I shop this way partially because I can’t be trusted around noodles and parmesan and partially because I’m vain and I want to keep wearing those jeans I bought three years ago. So if I’m already eating (fairly) healthy, why did I decide to do a cleanse?
Well, because everyone says they’re life-changing. AND WHAT IF I’M CURRENTLY LIVING A B+ LIFE AND I DON’T EVEN KNOW IT? What if I gave up all that extra stuff and I started to levitate with joy and I never felt tired and I glowed from the inside?
With these super realistic and achievable goals in mind, my friend Nicole and I decided to do a modified five-day cleanse.  I’m a vegetarian with low blood pressure and low blood sugar who’s prone to fainting, so those juice cleanses and that cayenne lemonade foolishness was off the table.  After much negotiating, Nicole and I decided on: No caffeine/alcohol/dairy/wheat/potatoes/rice/soy/processed sugar/meat for five days.Here’s how I felt physically during those five days: preeeeetty much exactly the same.
Did I feel clean and glowy on the inside?  Not particularly.  Did I feel energized and focused? Not any more  than I usually do. I felt sort of tired and draggy but that could have been because I stayed up till 5am at Northern Spark or because it was overcast and rainy all week.

(It should be noted that I’m really, really bad at ‘being in touch with my body.’ I once used a new machine at the gym and then spent the next three days thinking my sore muscles were the flu.)
Here’s how I felt mentally during those five days: like an angry, angry troll who’s angry that she can’t just eat some toast already.

Oh, you’re going to a bbq? Guess you have to bring hummus and drink water. Oh, you’ve got a date?  Guess you have to order salad and juice. Oh, it’s your favorite all-night art festival?  Oh, I guess you’re going to cheat and drink a Diet Coke so you can stay up till 5am.

Of course, this experiment wasn’t without merit.
I discovered some awesome new recipes (nectarines + avocado fruit dip! chocolate almond milk chia seed pudding!)But somewhere around the time that I found myself eating nutritional yeast by the spoonful, I thought “Hmmm, deprivation?  Maybe it’s not for me.”


Have you ever done a cleanse? How did it go? And if you’ve got any great gluten-free, dairy-free recipes share them in the comments!

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  1. The Dame Intl

    I tried a 7 day juice cleanse but only managed 5 days and was super grumpy and tired the entire time. I dont drink coffee, soda or milk and have a pretty healthy (mostly) vegetarian diet so I didnt have major detox symptoms except that I slept for like 15 hours a day.

    I've since just cleaned up my diet. I dont have gluten or grains anymore and that means my huge bloated and pregnant looking belly has finally calmed down to just a layer of fat that needs working off. I now enjoy a green juice every morning and have a fruit and veg juice in the afternoon if I need to. My acne has cleared up and my skin is glowing.

    So, I don't have milk, yoghurt, soda's, packaged products. I eat fruit, veg and greens, and chocolate and drink rosé wine once a week. My diet isnt perfect but Ive found cutting out anything processed and packaged, gluten and grains has made a huge difference for me. And when I crave meat, I eat it, but I dont often crave it.

  2. Ben Simon

    So entertaining…thanks for sharing.

    I'm going to live vicariously through you on this: you suffered so I don't have to :-).

  3. Kelsey

    Sarah – I love your honesty.

    I feel the same way about super-intense workout programs, a la P90X and the like.
    If it's gonna make me hate my life, I'm not gonna do it. I would rather just ride my bike/do some yoga/go for a long swim.

  4. Manda

    I recently did a three day juice cleanse and pretty much felt exactly the same both during the cleanse and afterwards as I did before I did the cleanse. I definitely hear you on it not being at all life-changing! Talk about something getting way more hype than it should!

  5. Maggie

    I'm just coming off a five-day sugar detox (from and I felt like garbage on day 2. I hadn't gone that long without eating fruit in years, so I basically felt like death: headache, fatigue, totally bonked on my run, bla bla bla. And now? I feel surprisingly… good. I'm sure I'll go back to fruit, since the goal wasn't to cut fruit, but I'm going to majorly lower my intake of processed sugars. Day 2, though… I shudder at the memory.

  6. Kit

    Ah, and here was me hoping you would hold all the secrets to health and glowiness and it would still involve eating chocolate pudding. I think my (current) answer is- throw away the oreos. I don't know what's happened, but they've turned into crack for me. Other than that, I do eat very healthily- so there is the answer. So long oreos (sob!)

  7. Gigi

    That sounds about right. At my old company, the CEO's wife would make him do a juice cleanse once a year and it was always the worst week at that office. People joked that it was about time for the cleanse and they should use their vacation time.

    We also did a juice fast (obviously slightly different, but in the same vein) to raise money for charity when I was a teenager and I just remember feeling uncomfortable and fatigued.

  8. Claire

    I wonder whether you didn't feel all that different because you typically do eat pretty healthy food? Maybe the results would have been different if your typical diet consisted of, say, fast food and cheap beer every day.

    I did the 3-day juice cleanse last year, not to clean up my typical diet but as more of a "Reset" button. It was right after a long music festival during which my co-workers and I, out of lack of time and the need to keep our socializing faces on, subsisted largely on cheap pizza and alcohol. No one feels good after a week of that.

  9. mbrannaganfrederiksen

    A few years back I tried a candida cleanse on my mum's advice. It was not a great success, partly because the initial list of food and drink I could consume was so restrictive — and excluded precisely everything that I like to eat: no fruit (within a few days, I was seriously considering committing murder for an apple), no tomatoes or peppers, no wheat, no coffee, no alcohol, etc. — that I was pretty much subsisting on rice milk and puffed millet cereal (ew). I lasted about a week and a half. I have also never tried a serious cleanse again, but, like you Sarah, I'm already a vegetarian and live pretty healthily.

  10. Meggs

    Now I'm petrified, haha! My naturopath is starting me on a food elimination diet beginning next week – no sugar, gluten, wheat, NOTING processed, etc etc. I pretty much already anticipate the hating-everything side effect, ugh.


  11. Lexi

    I've never done a cleanse, but I went on the Keto diet for about two months and I felt absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately it got rough never eating any bread ever, but I liked it so much I'm going to give it another shot. My best friend tried it as well and said the same thing, she had never felt so good in her life.

  12. ohdizzle

    I have a strong belief that food is for nutrition AND pleasure, so I find these cleanses to often be silly. Food is cultural! And fun! And delicious! I feel like the popularity of these cleanses point to Americans' issues with foods, not healthy viewpoints.

    That being said…I could use a bit of a sugar detox, because I'm a bit out of control. Sigh.

  13. Meandering Design

    Thanks for your honesty! I had a similar experience. The good thing though is that I added some healthy foods and recipes to my repertoire. The good/bad thing was that I do not do well with deprivation. Now I know.

  14. Mary W

    I've done a couple of juice cleanses, using this book:

    The first few times, I didn't have the "I hate everything" feeling, but the last time, I definitely did, because I was doing a more intense one, and pushing myself too hard. I know that I've loved every time I cleansed, because it really does just that, cleanse all of the crap out of your body. And I love this book because, as a technical, cynical person, it gave me a good scientific explanation about why it worked. Plus, they have all sorts of recommendations for how to ease into it, cheat if you have to, and ease back out!

    Can't wait to do my next one! They're definitely not for everyone though 🙂

  15. Allison

    I'm not a cleanse person – as much as I find myself wanting to believe I will turn into a glowbug, I just…don't buy into it. I'm much easier on myself and enjoy everything more if it's just about a bit of moderation with occasional bursts of celebration. I don't think I have inherent 'uncleanliness' within with the exception of some emotional tasks 😉

  16. Cherie

    I'm so happy to hear a contrasting story to the popular diet-media that promotes these so-called "life-altering" experiences with extreme cleanse diets. My friend also suggested that we try a juice cleanse, but I shrugged it off and said it wasn't for me. I love your honest feedback about how you felt after self-experimentation. Every human body is built differently, and I'm not surprised to hear that it wasn't all that magnificent for you. I imagine that proponents of cleanses would say that you did it wrong or it wasn't long enough or something, but it's also totally possible that many people play-up their experiences when they do these diets. It's become so fashionable to do these things; it's kind of like being part of some elite-health-club in society. Needless to say, I'm not a fan. I believe entirely that one should eat what ever they like, in moderation. Be sensible and enjoy food! After all, eating is such a socially bonding experience. To restrict one's diet so heavily is deprivation in more than one arena of life joy. Anyway, loved this story! Looking forward to more 🙂

  17. Kayla

    I had heavy metal poisoning and was recovering from coeliac disease when I was recommended a "Fasting" cleanse. That meant no food for 7 days, just a broth made from boiled vegetables and potatoes (for potassium). You just drank the broth, and didn't eat the vegetables.

    On day three, I nose-dived into a huge depression and had zero energy. On day four, I broke out in a rash all over my body (that was me, detoxing everything out). On day five, I felt the best I'd felt in months and had zero pain. At that point I couldn't take it any more though, and ate food.

    I do think detoxing is necessary for some people who are actually carrying toxins (e.g. heavy metals) when its under the guidance of a naturopath (I was). I did another detox coming off a whole bunch of medications and artificial hormones I was on.

    In hindsight it's a horrible experience (I recommend you take the week off work) and I have achieved great results by taking Chlorophyll tablets and DIM long term. Epsom salt baths and drinking lots of water also help. From what I can tell, all you need to do is get your liver working and your body does the rest. I don't think a drastic cleanse is always necessary.

  18. Kaisa

    I have a friend who has done it all from raw food to feasting to what not. Apparently one can also go to pureed food camp. And so on. I think it's all a bit insane. I'd say there are healthy choices in all food groups. Then again maybe I just lack will power to not eat what I love. x)

  19. Denver Galea

    I once did a 5 day juice diet. I lost 4kgs but really had no energy or ability to concentrate – difficult when you have a full time job to go to! I also really missed the act of eating and chewing during that week.

  20. broccoligirl

    I don't want to sound like a harpy… but…it seems by eliminating all that you did, you wouldn't have had enough protein. I know you are vegetarian and that makes it way harder to get the nutrients you need if you are cutting out so much. I'm all for zero grains and sugar! But without meat I dunno how I'd do it- there is so much good in meat (fat soluble vit, saturated fat and good cholesterol) that finding those elsewhere would be a challenge.

    • Sarah Von Bargen

      I ate a lot of beans and spinach 🙂

  21. Jenny

    I did the cayenne lemonade one once years ago and felt amazingly clear-headed after the initial few days of awful that I've thought of doing it again, but have decided that eating clean is really just the best way to go for my body. Not that I do it, but it's good to know what works for you! 🙂

  22. Christy@SweetandSavoring

    It's always interesting to read how people do on elimination diets or cleanses! I've never actually done either, but I've been curious about a change of diet and its effects for awhile now. I certainly don't want to hate life either, haha, and do miss things like toast and cheese when I don't have them around for whatever reason, but still…it's a possibility.
    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  23. Sarah @ Marvelous-Darling

    I loved this piece! Also, my fiance, who is notorious for scoffing at bloggery, found your tweet hilarious.

  24. Magic(k)al Melissa

    Thank you for being so honest about this nonsense. Sure, we could most of us stand to be healthier, but as far as I am concerned, these cleanses are as much of a silly diet fad as the Atkins diet. And since I really respect your opinion and trust you not to lead us wrong, I am feeling very smug and justified. 🙂

  25. Liz(a)

    It's still new to me that what others refer to as a "cleanse" is what my diet is. I have a ton of food allergies, so I'm required to eat healthy. No yeast, no soy, no lactose, no dairy, no tomatoes, no onions, no molds, no nuts/coconut. That knocks out cheese, yogurt, all seasonings, salad dressing, sugar, fruits that cannot be peeled and more.

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