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It is with enormous pleasure and gratitude that I share with you my dear friend and incredible social media and creative marketing guru, Amy VanHaren and her beautiful Post-Cleanse Report. She participated in and completed my New You 10-Day Whole Foods Cleanse last month and wrote this awesome, thorough post about her experience. Thank you, Amy! I am deeply grateful and SO glad that it was such a powerful experience for you.
 
The Top Ten Things I Learned During My Ten Day Cleanse
By Amy VanHaren
 
1. When you put a little more energy into thinking about what you eat, you get a lot more energy overall.
 
Going into the cleanse and throughout the week, I was aware of the amazing amount of mental, physical, and time energy I put into this commitment. Between the recipe planning and shopping at three stores, and the cooking and storing and immense mental preparation needed to succeed, I started the 10 days off with hours in. (And then continued giving hours more throughout the cleanse.) But every minute, every hour, I spent thinking about the food and my relationship to it paid off in spades. It’s as if the universe stored it all up, rearranged it, and delivered it back in one long stream of continual energy throughout the 10 days. You sacrificed Amy, it said, and now you will be greatly rewarded. It was unremarkable how consistent my energy level has been. Never up, never down, never faltering in late afternoon or early evening. That is what makes it so very remarkable. If you had asked me at ANY point how I felt, it was “great”. What a gift that was. (Especially for a pregnant woman coming out of a very up and down first trimester.)
 
2. I can live without a post-dinner treat after all. (Or make something that fulfills my need without ruining my health.)
 
I grew up in a household where you finished every dinner, every day with something sweet. No matter how well you did with vegetables and protein and all the other things you ate throughout the course of 12 hours, you capped it off with a treat. That has been my one lingering weakness throughout life and certainly into adulthood. My body, my brain, my soul has always seemed to be wired to look for that end reward. I’ve been better at times – choosing dark chocolate over ice cream – but never been able to beat the call of the sweet night cap. It was still the hardest part of these 10 days but somewhere in the middle, it became less hard. (The Perfect Pregnancy Smoothie shake I tricked myself with helped.) But even that I only had on a few days. Some days I had some blueberries or pineapple. Most days, I just took a few deep breaths, had some hot water, and stopped thinking about it. I turned to other rewards in the cuddles with Emma, a movie with Stephen, an amazing book I actually enjoyed before sleep. I know I will succumb to that calling again in the future but now I know I can actually turn away from it whenever I need to. 
 
3. I’m still Type-A when it comes to food. 
 
The cleanse was all or nothing for me and I actually got a strange, joyful high out of being able to beat my cravings and avoid the no-no list. I have always been an over-achiever and someone who can’t help but get competitive. (One of my two achilles heals in life; both good and bad.) So I attacked this experience the way I would anything I wanted to succeed at and said no way will I cheat. When opportunities arose to just slip in a small variance, I told myself I wasn’t a quitter and then felt as elated as if I’d hit a winning line drive on the tennis court. This winning strategy mindset helped me soar through many days but surprisingly, it didn’t alter my world completely on the three occasions I veered ever so slightly. I just used those moments as more drive to hit a killer shot next time. 
 
(And yes, being type-A, I know exactly what the three slip-ups were. One was on purpose, two were not.)
 
4. Traveling for work makes it really hard to steer clear of all the bad stuff.
 
As much as I worked to pack three – yes three! – bags of food to take with me on my three day business trip in Boston to do everything in my power to stick to the cleanse, I just couldn’t avoid a few moments. I was at the office for 12 hours including after-work events and at the end of the day, me and hand-me-down needed to eat so the only options available on the catering stand were not cleanse-friendly. It was painful to have come so far – and be in the last few days – and have to surrender when I wouldn’t have otherwise. It was a bit defeating but I tried not to dwell on it and to just make the best choice I could in the moment and move on. In those moments, I took one for the team for hand-me-down and while I could feel the mis-steps in my gut the next day, I knew I had a bigger purpose in my gut who was very forgiving of me even when I was having a hard time to be. 
 
5. I have more power over my food decisions than I thought I would be able to. 
 
It was also on the same business trip that I realized the true strength buried inside me to resist mindless food choices. It was three days of catered food. Fresh scones and pasta salads and pizza…the list goes on. Tables of temptation around me at every meal break and yet, and yet!, I chose my food over theirs every time. I choose the salad without dressing and fruit and hardboiled egg over bagels and apples and almond butter over bowls of chocolate in arms length. I did it was such ease too, without any regret or whining. In fact, most of the time it wasn’t even hard. I think on the third day (exhausted and hormonal) I wanted to cry with joy over the new me that I’d found. Just weeks ago I would never have been able to pass up all those things without a struggle and yet here I was. It was proof positive that all the hard work was worth it.  
 
6. The prep matters most. 
 
Okay, I know, this one will come as no surprise to anyone but it bears repeating as a lesson because it’s one of the biggest I learned. Put the prep in up front, and the decisions are easy in the moment. (And easy in the moment is what leads to real success.) Funny thing is, I was so in awe of how true this is when it comes to food that the prep mindset started creeping into other areas of my life. I was getting more prepared for meetings. Lying out Emma’s clothes the night before. Thinking about my commute playlist while I brushed my teeth. I think the preparation in one area actually made me more productive in all areas. Go figure! 
 
7. Choosing to eat this way as a family not only nourishes all of us physically, but nourishes me emotionally.
 
I was so lucky to have a husband who was willing to (mostly) do the cleanse with me and join me in the refocusing process. I don’t know how I could have done it without his support and willingness to cook with me and leave so many things he enjoys outside of the house for two weeks. I was also fortunate to have a 21-month-old daughter who was also willing to eat what we were making. (Sub-lesson and side note: her diet didn’t change that much. How could we be so conscious of what we give her but have been so unwilling to follow the same lifestyle for ourselves?) The whole foods themselves – the richness of veggies and proteins and greens – changed our complexion, our weight, our energy and outlook. It was the process of all of us in the kitchen, however, the well of motherly/wifely pride I had at sitting down over the food, that really changed things. For the first time in a long time, I was actively contributing to the betterment of my loved ones and that brought a whole new sense of fulfillment. A tremendous new non-food nourishment.
 
8. One good choice leads to another.  
 
The cleanse felt more like a waterfall to me – or a cascading series of dominos – than a staircase. It wasn’t one step up, one step up, but one move forward and things fall in place. Movement in the morning led to more movement throughout the day. Water first thing meant so much water by the end I could have floated away. If I was going to spend so much effort taking care what I put into my body, I was not going to take any less care with what I put on my body. Dare I say my fashion sense improved? My passion for reading returned. I actually did push-ups and squats daily. Because once this conscious mindset had been set in motion – nothing was going to stop it, whether a food choice or a mental health choice. It was pretty amazing to be able to push one domino over and let the breaking down of all kinds of health barriers begin.
 
9. I’m too busy to keep this up full time. 
 
Here’s the one hard truth reality lesson I learned: I can’t sustain this amount of concerted energy for the long haul. (Nor do I ever want to do so many dishes again!) To eat at this level took at least an extra hour every day, more on the weekends during prep, and as a working woman who puts in over 50 hours a week and chases an almost two-year-old around I found that during these ten days I had to sacrifice other things: sleep, work projects, even time with the family that wasn’t in the kitchen. If you refer back to #1 you will see that I am well aware of how that extra hour came back as a major benefit but I have to be honest that I also had a few moments of increased stress and resentment about what I wasn’t doing. I knew I could do it for ten days but I also know I can’t do it the same way for 355 more. I am scared because I don’t want to go back to where I was pre-cleanse but hopeful that I can find a balance to continue at a still successful yet lesser time invested place. 
 
10. I’m so very fortunate to be such a strong, healthy woman with access to these amazing foods, family to support me, and a community to be a part of. (Not to mention a coach and friend who has changed my life.)
 
At the end of this experience, there is really one thing that strikes me most: I am so freaking fortunate. I could not have had this special, healing journey if I hadn’t had such strong health to begin with. Or a family who was on board and very enthusiastic. Or access to so many different types of foods and produce – to live in a country and part of the world that allows us choice and offers the option for clearing away certain foods. Or the financial ability for this type of food (though the other thing I learned is that when I cook this much, I don’t go out or stop for coffee so I may have saved money in the end). Most of all, I would NEVER have come through so happy and successful if it hadn’t been for the amazing energy, support, cheer, and warm joy that is miss Annie Wagoner. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. 
 
What’s next?
 
Well, taking all my learnings with me for one thing. Going to keep them top of mind and continue to build off them. 
 
As for my inspired next step, I’m going with the 80/20 rule. I will continue with the cleanse 80% of the time and upgrade with loving boundaries the other 20% of the time. I will think in 100% terms to continue but be forgiving that the time and energy investment in that may be too hard forever. I will be more successful in the long term if I know I can stick to 80/20 and still be a healthy, mindful, success. To allow some flexibility for the days and weeks when I can’t spend as much time prepping and cooking, or I’m traveling, I will make good choices that follow the 80-20 rule. (Aim for whole grains or good dairy instead of sugar or processed foods, opt for green tea over coffee, only have 20% of the chocolate treat etc.) I will also allow myself to enjoy the 20% as a special treat or flexible part of life rather than hold any guilt or resentment. 
 
I leave you with one photo that is the essence of my experience and something I will print out and use as a reminder to keep with me as I continue on the journey. 
 
With AMAZING gratitude and great love,
Amy
 

Annie Wagoner