I’ve always played around with my diet, experimenting with eating totally vegan for a few weeks or no sugar here and there, but nothing quite like giving up nearly everything for 21 days. Enter the Clean Program, an über-trendy 21-day challenge that Instastars like Lee From America and Rachel Mansfield are obsessed with. While on the Clean Program, you eliminate foods that are known to cause digestive issues or even allergic reactions, with the hopes that it will reset your body to function beautifully without them. The list of foods you're giving up is intense: dairy and eggs, most grains, oranges, bananas, strawberries, corn, nightshades, pork, beef, veal, sausage, canned meat, shellfish, raw meat, and more. It's a long list, to be sure, but according to the program, "Clean excludes certain foods from the Clean Program because some may cause food sensitivities and/or allergic reactions, some contain toxic chemicals or are laden with pesticides (even organics), some have an acidifying effect on the body, some are mucus-forming, some are pro-inflammatory, and some are simply difficult to digest." By eliminating any and all of these problem-causers, you "relieve the burden on the immune and digestive system."
What's left? you might wonder (I certainly did). A lot of vegetables, some nut milks and nuts, and certain types of cold-water, wild-caught ocean fish—in addition to pasture-raised game like elk and venison.
The program was created by Dr. Alejandro Junger, a cardiologist, best-selling author, and favorite of celebs like Donna Karan and Gwyneth Paltrow. Whether you find the protocol legitimate is dependent on your general feelings on detox—whether or not our body's innate detoxifying channels, like our livers, are capable of handling the toxic load of modern life. Jessica Cording, a registered dietitian, says, "Motivation and mindset have a lot to do with how someone will fare on a specific plan. From experience, I've found that people who go on a very restrictive plan like this have a hard time transitioning off it and slip into a mindset of "clean" vs. "dirty" food or have a hard time figuring out how to time their meals."
While I heeded her warnings, I was intrigued by other people's positive results—enough to give the diet a try. It was only 21 days, I figured. How bad could it be?