Winter has set in. If you see another meme about “clean” eating you are going to scream. Sure, you might need to lose a few pounds, but are you willing to give up Friday night pizza?

If you’re bloated, have achy joints and a pimple or two (weren’t those supposed go when you hit 18?) you could be in a state of inflammation.

The most common culprits of inflammation are: sugar, red meat, wheat, dairy, soy, eggs and alcohol. But there other foods like nightshades (potatoes, peppers and tomatoes), citrus and strawberries that can cause inflammation. Unless you know what triggers it, you could live with inflammation for a long time, leading to chronic illness. Elimination diets – where you cut out foods for 2-3 weeks – are all the rage in the celebrity world, but they do work, and can help you determine your triggers.

A few years ago I discovered a program called the Conscious Cleanse.  The Conscious Cleanse takes a whole-foods approach that eliminates potential sources of inflammation, increases your intake of plants, grains, seeds and nuts, ups your water and allows your body to take a rest. It is not for the weak-willed – you have to give up all your favourite things – including coffee.

Please… no. Not that.

But after holiday excesses, I decided to give it a go. Here is my discovery:

Week 1

Every day starts with lemon water – which is a great habit to vitalize your digestive system. Some members of the Facebook group report headaches, a common symptom of caffeine withdrawal.

Green smoothies start my day and I’m addicted – easy and portable. Lunches are big salads with homemade dressings or delicious soups; dinner is protein and veggies, or a non-gluten grain (quinoa, brown rice) and veggies. A central component of the CC is food combining – only eat protein, with non-starchy veggies; if you are going to eat grains, also with veggies – never protein and grains.

By the end of the week, I am a few pounds lighter and less bloated. Am I still craving sugar? Absolutely. But, the recipe for Joy Balls satisfies the cravings.

Purification Weekend #1:

I’m not going to lie: I hate this. The purification is “optional” but for journalistic purposes I do it, eliminating all protein and grains. The logic behind purification is to let the digestive system rest.  My hangry state doesn’t care. By Sunday, I murder my chicken breast.

Week 2

The thing about eating healthily is once you get into the rhythm of it, it becomes easier. I make amazing Turkey Spinach Burgers and my whole family gobbles them. I experience a cleanse fatigue around day 10: I want eggs! My sugar cravings have subsided, and my skin is glowing. I also notice my jeans feel better.

The coaches check in with us daily on Facebook, offering tips to stay the course. Very often, group support can help participants stick to a nutrition or weight loss program. Knowing that Melanie in Boulder, Colorado was craving chocolate covered almonds, too, is oddly comforting.

Purification #2:

Coaches encourage us to see the cleanse right to the end, and so I go back to Purification, though this time I have a busy weekend planned with a 12k run, so I don’t eliminate protein. One of the concepts is to be gentle with ourselves. I feel clear-headed, as though I have achieved something great by the end of the two weeks.

Food Testing

Once you’re done, you aren’t done: this is the point where we slowly reintroduce foods to see if any cause inflammation. This is tough, but I stick it out. I notice that peppers make me gassy. Eggs are all clear. Sugar is so sweet. But coffee and I are reunited, and it is beautiful!


The central premise of is progress not perfection, and the Conscious Cleanse adheres to this as well. The coaches remind those who “slip” that there is no wagon to fall off of – we’re all just trying to be a little healthier. Many in the support group have lost over ten pounds in a week; I shed six pounds, and got rid of my little “sugar belly” post-Christmas.  

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

erin-phelan-headshotErin Phelan is a health and fitness professional, personal trainer and writer. Find her at and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.