One of the things I’m most keen to address as part of my Year of Living Mindfully is my relationship with food. I’ve spoken before about how I wanted to come off anti-depressants because of how tired, achy and generally lethargic I’ve been. Well, since that’s not going to be an option for me any time soon, I decided to consider what else I was putting in my body and whether there was the potential to make a change there.
Towards the end of last year I’d been speaking to my friend Ayden, who is a self-employed distributor for health and wellbeing company Forever Living, about her experiences with the Clean 9 nine-day “cleansing” programme. Although I was really curious about it – not least because Ayden has always struck me as somebody who has a healthy relationship with diet and exercise – I felt as though I couldn’t justify the £109 retail price. But then somebody returned a pack to Ayden so she was able to offer it to me at a decent discount. The box sat in the corner of the living room gathering dust while my mental health took a nosedive in December, but when 1st January rolled around I was finally ready.
CONTENT NOTE: This post will discuss diet and weight loss, albeit from what I hope is a fairly body positive angle. If this isn’t something that you’re comfortable with, please don’t read on – I won’t be offended.
Forever Living is one of those multi-level marketing companies (MLMs), which means that it can be hard to find unbiased reviews of their products: everyone is either a distributor with a vested interest in trying to get you to join their “team” or convinced that everything is tat and sold to you by brain-dead drones. So I thought a post like this would be helpful – although please note that this is merely one (slightly cynical) person’s honest experiences, and I would urge you not to sign up for anything as intensive as the Clean 9 without thinking through the ramifications carefully particularly if you have underlying health conditions.
WHAT IS CLEAN 9?
Forever Living describes Clean 9 as an “expertly-devised cleansing plan”, designed to “cleanse your body and adjust your mindset” as the first step in transforming your diet and fitness habits. So far so good, as that was exactly what I was looking for.
The plan is based around Forever’s aloe vera gel drink and supplements, as well as daily exercise and calorie-controlled eating. Over the first two days you have to drink the aloe vera gel and take a number of tablets four times a day, along with one 300 calorie lean protein shake at lunchtime. You can support this by snacking on a number of “free” fruits and vegetables (those with a glycemic index of 55 or below, the accompanying booklet tells you which ones) if you need to. After this you get two shakes a day, along with a 600 calorie meal.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
For your £109 you will get: two one-litre bottles of aloe vera gel; a 15-serving pouch of Forever Lite Ultra shake powder (in either vanilla or chocolate flavour); a box containing two types of supplement and fibre sachets; a cute shaker; a measuring tape. You’ll also get the help and support of your distributor – something which I imagine varies in quality, but doing the programme through Ayden meant that I had somebody on hand to answer any questions whenever I had them, and who checked in with me at least once a day with a genuine interest in how I was feeling and how I was getting on.
Day 1: Given my habit of starting the day with a Starbucks latte and a muffin, with the accompanying likelihood of my blood sugar being in the floor by lunchtime, I thought it made sense to do at least the two most difficult days of the programme during the Christmas break when I wouldn’t have to worry about losing concentration at work. To be honest, I wasn’t hugely hungry but started whining for a piece of cheese and toast around 10pm. It was probably as much because I couldn’t have it as because I was hungry for it, not least because I started having a splitting headache around the same time.
For obvious reasons, I have no difficulty taking tablets – but guys, we need to talk about the aloe vera gel. Easily one of the most disgusting things I have ever consumed, it tastes – and, more discouragingly for me, has the texture – of a bag of pre-prepared iceberg lettuce that somebody choked down as part of an iron stomach competition and then vomited until the bile came up. Served chilled.
Day 2: Today I slept pretty late, although that was probably because I spent the day before caught up with my twice-yearly password change and stayed up far too late staring at the computer. The aloe gel was far easier to drink today: rather than spend 15 minutes sipping at it before boaking in the sink I was able to drink it at a relatively normal pace, albeit with each glug interspersed with a bite from a strawberry.
Felt a bit shaky and weary all day, which wasn’t a surprise. My stomach rumbled for the first time just before 3pm. Had an apple and my fibre sachet.
For some reason, I wasn’t in the mood to drink water today – even looking at it caused me to gag. I’ve always drunk a lot of water – none of this “eight glasses a day” nonsense – but the Clean 9 plan seems to require loads even by my standards! I’ve logged what I’ve been drinking using the Fitbit app, which is also how I’m checking I’m getting the required 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day walking the length of the estate.
I’ve also become obsessed with reading up about Forever – the company, and its business methods. Like a surprising number of multi-level marketing companies it was founded by billionaire Mormon – in this case, a guy called Rex Maughan – who donates loads to the Republican party. Reasoning that, having effectively starved myself for two days, I’m too committed to quit now I try not to think about the defunding of Planned Parenthood and anti-abortion activists.
Day 3: Slept late again, but since it’s still the holidays I refuse to beat myself up about it. However, I’m a lot less sluggish than I was over either of the previous two days and the headache has gone. Doesn’t mean I’m mot looking forward to my spaghetti bolognese tonight, though.
Over the past couple of days I’ve been using my BlendActiv to make the shakes, whizzing them up with some free food berries or cherries, which I was struggling to see how I could make work at, well, work. Today, however, I just chucked a scoop of the powder into my shaker with the required amount of skimmed milk and shook it all together. It was easy to do and not undrinkable, even though the shake powder is chalky and tastes overpoweringly of vanilla scented candles.
After spending two hours sitting in a cafe with my mum having neither coffee nor cake, felt as though I could take on the world. However, it took me about four hours to write a blog post as I was struggling to concentrate.
The spaghetti bolognese was amazing, but seemed to unlock whatever thing in my stomach was stopping me from feeling hungry. Had to get up for some grapes because it was growling too much to let me sleep. Just as I went downstairs I saw a Facebook message come through from Ayden checking in on me, and reminding me that my free foods were no longer free – but since the booklet didn’t make that clear I decided not to read her message until the morning…
Day 4: Spewed up my aloe in the sink again – I guess, now I only have to drink it once a day I have lost my immunity to its vileness. But I feel fine – even more energised than usual, evidence for which being the fact that I don’t need a nap at 3pm. I’ve also been really cold, but if you ask Stringer that probably means I am feeling temperature like a normal person.
Today I learned: brown rice is really, really difficult to cook and takes fucking forever. I also forgot to take my supplement pills – I’m only good at self-medicating in the mornings, I guess.
Day 5: COFFEE AND CHOCOLATE COFFEE AND CHOCOLATE COFFEE AND CHOCOLATE COFFEE AND CHOCOLATE…
…is not actually the constant refrain you’d expect it to be, given it’s my first day back at work in almost a fortnight. Despite a shit night’s sleep thanks to the dreaded anxiety I actually feel alright – a bit hungry, but none of the usual exhaustion. I have planned what I am eating when this is all over on Sunday with the enthusiasm of a convicted criminal though.
Day 6: Lunchtime was difficult today because people in the office were eating nice-smelling savoury things. And TOAST. Had a whine, had a protein shake. Despite the fact that skimmed milk is merely water that’s lying about being milk, I never feel hungry after I’ve had one.
One weird problem I have been noticing is that I struggle to talk for long periods of time – my voice feels pretty strained – but that might just be the post-Christmas thing. I still have loads of energy, and I’ve even started using the stairs at work. For the down trip, anyway – five flights up with these knees is still a while off.
Day 7: This was the day it fell apart.
Well, “fell apart” is a bit strong. What happened was, I had run out of apples so when I got hungry as usual mid-morning I got the rest of my grapes from the work fridge. And I ate away at them mindlessly – which, obviously, is the problem I’m trying to fix – although I must have eaten too many because they turned my stomach. And walking to Argyll St to get my sale purchases made me feel pretty dreadful: sweating, thirsty, tired. Yawning a lot. Like me on a bad day, basically. I ended up going to bed almost as soon as I got home.
Days 8-9: I actually stopped taking notes during the final days of the cleanse, because they were good days. Loads of energy, no headaches and lots of fun, fresh cooking. The Facebook Clean 9 support group swears by the Hairy Dieters, and I tried a couple of their recipes – easy-to-make tortilla pizzas, and the all-in-one spicy pork and rice. So, so good.
HOW HAVE YOU BEEN SINCE THE CLEANSE?
Good, actually! I’ve kept up sensible portions and exercise, apart from one day last week when I was having a bit of a difficult time of it, and although I’m back on the lattes it hasn’t been every day. Here’s something particularly interesting though: although I’ve been out for dinner twice since I finished the cleanse, on both occasions I’ve managed to turn down dessert. Being no longer a slave to the sweet stuff? Totally worth it.
SO, WOULD YOU RECOMMEND CLEAN 9?
Honestly, I couldn’t in all conscience say that you need something that costs as much as the Clean 9 does in your life: you could probably recreate the contents of the box for a fraction of the cost if you put in the time and the parts of the programme that probably made the biggest difference – cutting out caffeine and sugar, keeping active, portion control – need no additional investment. But for somebody like me, with a decent disposable income and very little willpower, the structure of the programme and the support I got from Ayden have really changed my relationship with food for the better. The Year of Living Mindfully is all about developing good habits and feeling better within myself. That’s going to take a lot longer than nine days, but I feel as though the Clean 9 has given me a great foundation to work from – as well as allowing me to prove to myself that no, I don’t NEED that coffee or that bar of chocolate.
But no, I didn’t finish my leftover aloe vera gel.
If you’re interested in the programme I’d definitely recommend chatting to Ayden about it: girlfriend knows her stuff, and wouldn’t dream of hard-selling. Check out her Good Life 365 project on Facebook for wellness tips and daily inspiration.