Thursday, April 28, 2011

The GOOP detox: Five days of cleansing

Okay, I know I said it was a seven-day cleansing detox but given the lack of calories in this diet, I'd say managing five days wasn't bad going - for a normal person who has to function on a daily basis, that is. No doubt about it, this - like most detoxes - is a crash diet in disguise. Now before I get all critical, I gotta admit that by the fourth day I was feeling absolutely terrific, better than I'd felt in a long time, and my skin is practically glowing. However, I'd made a few calorie enhancements by this stage, so I reckon I would probably have been feeling rather a little too low in energy to appreciate the benefits had I stuck to the original menu.

To recap, the GOOP detox (named after Gwyneth Paltrow's blog) is a diet that cuts out alcohol, caffeine, sugar, dairy, gluten, processed foods, red meat, shellfish, and nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, aubergines...due to their digestion-disrupting alkanoids). I can see the logic in all of those omissions, so at the beginning of the detox I was actually looking forward to doing it and seeing the results.

In my frenzy for trying out all the new expensive health shop products, I hadn't noticed how lacking in substance it all was - perhaps somewhere between 600-800 Kcals per day, depending on how liberal you are with the olive oil. So I decided by day two to make a few adjustments. Another rule I broke was the one about only having one solid meal a day (the rest have to be blended). This I just couldn't do. I'm sure it's something about having a flat stomach or some such vital thing if you're Gwyneth Paltrow, but for me, nothing was worth enduring dinner as mulch for no excellent reason. And finally, I added condiments that may have broken rules (I didn't check) but I kept them to only a teaspoon per day, so that hardly counts - I just can't do punitive eating, it's against my religion.

Otherwise I did keep to the rules and didn't add anything on the banned list. Having gone through a whole week, I'm actually really pleased with the results, and it's even made me want to continue my healthy ways. In fact, I'm in no rush to ruin my good work. Below is the diet I actually followed - I can honestly recommend this to anyone who wants to feel better or sleep better, or generally improve their health. To make it more sustaining, just add more carbohydrate and have bigger portions.

Here's how it went...

Day 1:

Start with the shake that looks and feels like frog spawn..

small punnet of blueberries
1-2 heaped tbsp of whey protein powder
1-2 heaped tsp Organic Super Greens
Approx 250ml almond milk (or more to taste)
*Blend well so you don't get lumpy bits - that completely grosses me out!

For lunch I had the green mulch aka Broccoli and Rocket soup (I added the spinach and sprouts because I had them)

1/2 onion + 1 garlic clove (chopped) and cooked in 1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 head broccoli, added to pan and cooked in 2.5 cups of water
Add pan contents to bunch of baby spinach, bunch of rocket, handful of alfalfa sprouts, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, tbsp pumpkin seeds, touch more olive oil and some lemon juice.
Blend until it becomes mulch.
*The flavour is quite nice, you can practically taste the health benefits...the texture makes you squirm, especially as it cools.

For dinner I had a steamed fillet of salmon with steamed spinach, with a salad of rocket in lemon and olive oil on the side. To this I added the illicit horseradish sauce (1 tsp) which made the meal so much more enjoyable (the accumulative affects of three bland meals were getting to me at this stage).

Throughout the day I drank coconut water, aloe vera juice blended with water, warm water with lemon, herbal tea and approx two litres of water.

Day 2:

Today I added fresh mint to the frog spawn shake to improve it a little - it was a slight improvement.

You're supposed to snack on pumpkin seeds if you get hungry, between meals (while having all you're hydrating/digestive assisting liquids) but I decided to snack on some good quality sugar-free dark chocolate. It's much more filling and is, after all, full of antioxidants!

For lunch I baked some lemon sole on a bed of fennel (to hell with all this steaming) and served with a rocket salad as above, with a handful of pea shoots added in.

In the afternoon I did have the pumpkin seeds (blurgh!)

For dinner I steamed broccoli and spinach and served with more rocket and pea sprouts, with a dressing made from 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, and 1 tbsp olive oil. I did not blend this!

Day 3:

Once again I woke up absolutely starving! This morning (well, actually the day before, since I already had the stuff in) I decided to change the menu.

For breakfast I had toasted spelt bread (at least 200Kcal worth) with Benecol olive spread and some Dalfour sugar-free marmalade.

Once again I had my mid-morning dark chocolate - one of my favourite snacks anyway.

Then for lunch I made a new shake, and this is DELICIOUS! Will definitely be keeping this one.
1 whole fresh mango, chopped without the skin
Bunch fresh mint leaves
1-2 heaped tbsp whey protein
1-2 heaped tsp Organic Super Greens
250-300ml almond milk
*Blend well so all the mango gets blitzed.

The shake for lunch was actually very filling so I didn't need a snack before dinner, even though I was cycling and being very active.

For dinner I baked a seabass fillet with lime and dried coriander on a bed of fennel, served with a salad of baby gem lettuce, fresh coriander, alfalfa sprouts and half an avacado, with a dressing of 1 tsp wholegrain mustard, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, and 1 tbsp olive oil.
*For more calories in any of the mains you could add any kind of rice.

Day 4:

Today I woke up feeling absolutely terrific. I'd had the best quality sleep for a very long time, and I was generally feeling great.

I just repeated Day 3's menu, since it was all pretty good. Only difference was that I used lentil and mung bean sprouts in the salad instead of alfalfa sprouts (they actually worked better, as they had more crunch and were less spongy, so didn't soak up too much dressing).

By now I've also realised just how refreshing and efficient at hydrating coconut water is. As with all the fancy health products, it ain't cheap - but I think it'll become a constant in my fridge throughout the summer.

Day 5:

Well that's today, and tonight is a Friday night. I wouldn't have thought it at the start of the week, but a big part of me doesn't want to stop now - even though there's entertaining to be done tonight. Funny how even a week off the bad stuff makes you suddenly all precious about yourself!

GOOP had a load of other recipes I could have doctored - using cress and miso and ginger, for example - but as I pointed out throughout this week, I'm a normal person without the aid of an assistant, or chef, so I wasn't shopping every day for new fresh ingredients.

I'm sticking to my spelt toast and mango shake for breakfast and lunch today, then tonight I have a big head of pak choi and some organic chicken to work with.

By now I'd say you get the idea about how this works. Ultimately, I think the original GOOP detox just isn't practical for most people, but I do think the principle behind it has great benefits - especially if, like me, you're prone to over-indulging. It takes some organisation, it's not cheap, and the first couple of days require a bit of effort. Other than that, I recommend having a go at it. Once you've created some menus that work for you, it proves that healthy eating can actually be more enjoyable than you might have thought...and it always makes you feel better than the bad stuff!


Almond milk (Nourish stocks a good selection of alternatives, including rice/hazelnut milk)
Coconut water (Vita Coco is available in most health shops and specialty grocers)
Whey protein powder
Organic Super Greens (contains chlorella, spirulina, barley grass and wheat grass)
Herbal teas (chamomile, nettle, dandelion especially)
Aloe Vera juice (Nourish stocks one with digestive aids, caraway, fennel, papaya)
Alfalfa/pea/lentil/mung bean sprouts (mine were from Happy Pear, available at health shops and specialty grocers)
Pumpkin seeds
Good olive oil and lemons
Copious quantities of green leafy veg and brassica (spinach, kale, lettuces, herbs, pak choi, broccoli etc)
Fresh oily and white fish
Lean chicken/turkey meat

For more recipes for shakes, juices, soups and whatnot see GOOP!

Monday, April 25, 2011

The GOOP detox: Day 1 of the 7-day cleanse

The official title of this post should be: "Why the [bleep] am I doing this to myself?!" However, some of you will get that just from the given title and, no doubt, will shudder at the notion of seven days so ill-spent. Well, I too used to be like you, spending my mornings enjoying full-fat yoghurt with honey and fruit, while happily already pondering dinner. But after a few weeks recently spent just so - outdoing myself week on week in gastronomic largess - I succumbed to guilt over consuming mountainous belly-expanding pork belly (of course with the crackling), and stuffed loins of lamb, and black pudding fatter than John Candy, and giant t-bone steaks, and endless cheeseboards groaning under shamefully over-generous servings of assorted vacherins, blues and cheddars, and, of course, copious good bottles from every wine-producing region you can think of...

You get the picture. After weeks of 'having a whale of a time,' as they like to say in those trashy magazines where they draw circles around celebrity love handles, I decided it might be a good idea to give myself a detox, and maybe even consider living a little more healthily than a French aristocrat who measures status by the number of body parts affected by gout.

So after a short surf on the interwebs, I came upon a detox that seemed both the kind of drastic measure I was seeking to reverse my recent indulgence, and also one not quite so punitive as those that seem to involve nothing more than lemon and/or cabbage water and a cocktail of natural laxatives. Gwyneth Paltrow was the suitably lean source of this wonder cure (on her blog 'GOOP'), it being the cleansing 7-day detox diet designed by some cardiologist named Dr Alejandro Junger.

You can find the details of its ethos and so forth on Gwynnie's blog - I was merely concerned with the fact that it seemed effective yet still let me eat foods with names I recognised as being from the natural world. In a nutshell, you cut out alcohol, caffeine, sugar, dairy, gluten, red meat, shellfish, processed foods, and nightshade veg (tomatoes, peppers and aubergines), and possibly more but my eyes wouldn't let me see the words.

Now readers, I too was horrified at the notion of no dairy and no gluten - two staples of my diet - however, many healthy peoples from faraway Oriental lands survive every day without such foods (as well as poor sods from bread and cheese country afflicted with various allergies and intolerance), so I knew I too could manage it. Wine, I love and hate you! In a way I was glad to say adios to this vice, which has become all too quotidian. The rest bothered me only a little. So with steely determination, I was resolved to GOOP myself for seven days.

And here we are on Day 1 (actually that was yesterday but I'm only finishing the post this morning). Having spent the princely sum of €77 in a health shop buying assorted vittles, followed by a similar amount buying organic fruit and veg at the grocery shop, I started the day feeling optimistic about the whole experience.

Breakfast consisted of a 'shake' of blueberries, almond milk, whey powder and some organic 'Super Greens' powder (chlorella, spirulina, barley grass and wheat grass). Once you get past the frog spawn appearance, it tastes okay. Although after the first few sips you start noticing the taste a bit more, as well as the slightly unpleasant consistency. Mine had the odd lump - I'm not sure which ingredient is the one that keeps coagulating but in the interest of keeping this shake down, I'll have to work that out by the end of the week.

Did I mention that only one meal of the day can be solid? Usually this should be lunch, but as today required me to eat dinner with my family, I decided I'd opt for a liquid lunch - this detox has taken all the fun out of that expression. I blitzed half a head of cooked broccoli with some garlic, spinach, rocket, alfalfa sprouts, olive oil, lemon juice, two and a half cups of water, a spoonful of pumpkin seeds, and a quarter of a teaspoon of sea salt. Again, on first acquaintance I was thinking, 'this isn't bad! Nice, even.' However, that quickly subsided as I noticed the tepid green mulch felt like, well, tepid green mulch to eat. Like some squelchy greens that had been chewed and regurgitated. I struggled with this one - now dreading future soup courses.

Dinner, as I said, could be solid, generally consisting of steamed something with steamed green veg. I had salmon with steamed spinach and a side of rocket dressed in lemon juice and a half tablespoon of olive oil. It was okay... in truth, I cracked and had a teaspoon of horseradish sauce. It was just so bland.. I was weak!!!

In between 'meals' you can have coconut water, warm water with lemon, aloe vera juice, herbal tea, and maybe the odd seed if you're peckish. After day one, in spite of some minor instances of revulsion, I have to admit that my skin is already visibly improved - even eliciting some comments to that effect - and I'm not starving. One down, six to go... this better be worth it!

Ed note: to see a post on all my 'GOOP' recipes and a brief account of how I got on click here