Apparently, indulgences are no longer indulgences when you indulge every day. They become a lifestyle.
AKA summer 2018.
(Yes, I am talking about last summer in January 2019 because that’s how long it took me to write this entry. I wrote huge chunks of it in several sittings but, as with everything I do, struggled to finish it.)
While I am all about treating yourself when you want to, I probably should also have not eaten every cookie waved in front of my face.
Like, I ate literally every cookie waved in front of my face. And cake slice. And fried thing. There was lots of pizza. (I have a dairy sensitivity.) Hell yes carbs. I never said no to carbs.
Usually I would be like yolo and #NORAGERTS, except that after going through the summer without much control or routine, I was feeling pretty lousy, sluggish, and bloated. Luckily for me, I regularly exercise so I didn’t blow up like a balloon, but you know, abs are made in the kitchen and whatnot and I ended up on the chubbier end of my normal. I felt like I had to cleanse from my summer lifestyle, so that meant giving my body what it needed and not what it wanted.
Also, enter the beginning of September when I had to complete a course of antibiotics that my body did not take well (nausea, cramping, all of the gastrointestinal upset), which just contributed to my constant malaise.
A detox was in order.
I’d been interested in trying out something like Whole30, which is, in short, an elimination diet that you follow for a month and then gradually reintroduce food groups at the end to see what your body doesn’t like. But that was too much of a commitment. Instead, I decided to try what I once thought was unimaginable.
I went vegan!
For ten days. Not permanently*.
(*More on that later.)
However. I didn’t decide to “just go vegan.” I know from the past that I tend to fail every vague diet modification — like when I decided to go low carb to curb my sugar problem, without a concrete plan of how I was going to methodically cut out carbs. “Low carb” lasted all of 3 days before I was uncontrollably stuffing my face with cake again. I needed something to actually keep me accountable.
Liiiiiiiike spending a lot of money so that I have to stick to my diet, otherwise I would have wasted all that money.
Specifically, after being wooed by their marketing (and in spite of reading the mixed reviews on their meal delivery service), I purchased the 10 Day Reset from Sakara Life.
Sakara Life is a super clean meal delivery service that, apparently, celebrities use, although I tend to be suspicious of anything popular among celebs. Its founders believe in food as medicine, so all their meals are meant to be ultra good for you. I’d never heard of this company before stumbling upon an internet review of its meal delivery, and I just was struck by how creative and ~aesthetic~ the food was.
Then I went wtf at the price.
I wish they were sponsoring me to write this post because then I could afford more of their overpriced products from their Clean Boutique, but alas. I mean, click on that link! Look at those prices! Once in a while, maybe, but Sakara Life is clearly not for someone at my pay grade because as much as I enjoyed their super protein powder thing, I’m not about to fork over $45 for just 10 days’ worth of it. They probably wouldn’t want to sponsor me anyway because I’m about to be as honest as possible with my experience.
The plan is just under $200 but I found a coupon code and got it for a little less. Unlike their meal delivery subscription, you have to cook everything yourself on the Reset and they provide the recipes. Include the ~$200 I spent on groceries and it added up to me dropping about $400 for a 10 day “cleanse.” Not sustainable for someone on my salary, but I was willing to shell out more than usual when it came to my health if it kept me accountable.
Some detail into my pre-Reset diet: Not the best, but not the worst. Probably better than 80% of Americans. I eat well when I can but I won’t say no to delicious yet processed/less nutritious options. I ate too many refined carbohydrates. Living with my parents, I ate what was on the dinner table. My mom regularly cooks large family-style dinners with 4 meat dishes and maybe 1 veggie dish (and then would proceed to nag at me about not eating enough vegetables??). My dad, who doesn’t give two shits about nutrition, can never resist Lay’s chips sales at the supermarket, so he loved to have a large bag or two hanging around at all times, which I would snack on simply because it existed in my proximity.
Not an alcohol drinker, but I like diet soda. I usually was adequately hydrated. I didn’t really drink my calories on a regular basis, though I recently developed a bubble tea problem and was buying it almost weekly.
I also was not a salad person. I thought salad greens were useless because you had to eat so much of them to reap the benefits. If I was spending my money on it, I would rarely choose a bowl of leaves over a cheesy pressed panini. (At a cafe near work, I tried every sandwich on the menu before ever trying one of their salads. It took 1.5 years for that to happen.) So I was a little scared after seeing one of Sakara Life’s 9 pillars of nutrition describe the importance of eating 4-6 cups of greens every day.
But — DISCLAIMER: I do love kale. And ate it regularly before starting the Reset. While there are definitely veggies out there that I hate and wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole (zucchini and yellow squash, for example, are watery textural nightmares, and cauliflower tastes like dirt anD IS A FUCKING LIE AS A “mAsHeD pOtAtO sUbStItUtE”), I still had a good variety that I enjoyed to work with. You’re going to have a hard time being a well-nourished vegan if you don’t like most veggies, particularly greens. Remember, it is possible to be a vegan subsisting on pasta and french fries. But that’s not exactly what Sakara Life is going for here.
After the 10 days, Sakara Life claims that the Reset will accomplish the following:
- Clear your skin
- Heal your gut
- Boost your energy
- Shed excess weight
- Restore digestive harmony
Let’s see how I did! I’ll now describe my experience on the Reset — with as many food pics as I remembered to capture!
1. YES to organic fruits and veggies. NO to dairy, gluten*, non-organic foods, animals, animal products*, hormones, soy, caffeine, refined sugars, alcohol.
I ate more plants in these 10 days than I did all summer probably. Like I mentioned earlier, I really enjoy kale and arugula (the two loves of the Sakara Life’s founders) so despite being a self-proclaimed Not-a-Salad-Person, it surprisingly wasn’t a huge struggle to eat large salads made with 3-5 cups of greens.
I call this a vegan and gluten-free diet, but the recipes allow honey and sprouted grain bread? Other than those things, it was a fairly strict vegan/gluten-free/refined sugar-free diet. No potatoes or corn either.
I did not always buy organic. It wasn’t always possible to find organic ingredients so I did what I could. And organic is expensive. I did stay away from refined sugar, though I realized too late that the chili garlic sauce I used for some dressings had sugar in the ingredient list. I’m not gonna lose sleep over it.
(Longer after the Reset ended, I found out that Worcestershire sauce is not vegan and is in fact made with anchovies, and the recipe book did not specify to purchase vegan Worchestershire sauce, and so my vegan caesar dressing ended up not being vegan after all.)
The no-caffeine thing wasn’t an issue for me since I’m not a caffeine drinker, but I can see it being an issue for those who depend on their routine cup of coffee.
2. Not just salads!
The included booklet provided 20 recipes to try, plus their basic morning smoothie recipe and some variations. I imagine people think a vegan diet involves lots of raw salads. For Sakara Life, this is partly true. It would love for you to eat uncooked greens daily.
But! The recipes were a good mix of raw and cooked foods. In addition to salads, there were soups and roasted veggies, and I recall a stir fry and one recipe involving pan frying. They do allow rice! Brown rice.
Since I’m vowing to be honest about my first Sakara Life Reset experience, I will admit that I tried only like half of the included recipes. I’m sorry. It was mostly for my sanity because I’d rather drink piss than cook something new for every meal. Some recipes simply looked too effortful for the time I had.
I tried to at least test the ones that other reviewers mentioned enjoying, like the Kale Fritters and the Zucchini Noodles with Walnut Oil Vinaigrette, and I avoided ones that did not sound like a Good Time based on my own preferences. The Ultra Hydration Salad, for example, was just basically sliced cucumbers, apples, and lettuce with lemon juice and mint for flavor. (I’m recalling these names from memory since I don’t have the booklet with me.)
I thought the fritter recipe was gross. Which made me sad because they weren’t the quickest to put together. Ended up throwing the whole thing out, the only Sakara Life meal I threw out. Also turns out I don’t like tahini-based dressings/sauces that much, which sucked because Sakara Life put it in like 1/3 of its recipes. Otherwise, I appreciated the variety of meals and flavors.
The failed fritter experience scared me away from trying the other recipes that involved mashing things together into a shape, like the Sakara Veggie Burger — though I would like to eventually give that one a shot because it seems promising, and I already like ordering veggie burgers at restaurants anyway.
The zucchini noodles were disappointing too! The rave reviews hyped them up too much, I guess. It was perfectly edible and I easily ate the whole thing, but I didn’t love the tart flavor and I don’t want to put in the effort to make it again. But hey, might just be my own taste buds? I did learn that I don’t mind zucchini noodles as a pasta replacement, but I still can’t stand chopped zucchini chunks. Walnut oil itself is also pretty tasty. Will be on the lookout for recipes to incorporate this new exotic ingredient gathering dust my pantry.
But not everything was a failure! Some recipes I liked were the Summer Rolls (only the vegetable ones, not the fruit rolls, and I wished there were some rice noodles included to add textural contrast to all the crunchy veggies), the Kale Salad with Green Goddess Dressing, and the Carrot and Ginger Soup. I’ve added a form of carrot soup to my regular rotation of work lunches now since they’re relatively quick to whip up. The green goddess dressing was deliciously creamy and herbaceous but took forever to make due to the general difficulty of trying to blend a small amount of non-liquid paste, so I’ll think about returning to that one in the future.
Really surprisingly, I loved the Kale and Lemon Detox Salad!
“Detox salad” doesn’t exactly sound delicious, but it was essentially a vegan garlicky kale caesar salad that was super nutritious and super easy to put together. I ate it often during the Reset and continued to eat it after the Reset at work. My mom, of course, turned her nose up at it and wondered how I could possibly be nourished eating such a little bowl of leaves. It didn’t matter how often I explained to her that the “little bowl of leaves” had 20 grams each of protein and fiber and was over 500 calories and full of micronutrients. Those numbers would be even higher if I added the whole cup of beans and a whole large carrot like the recipe asked for, but that was overkill and I was satisfied with the portion as is.
In addition to the food I cooked myself, the Reset came with their Beauty and Detox Water Concentrates, Detox and Energy Bars, Detox Tea, and their Daily Probiotic Blend.
Every morning I woke and drank a glass of water infused with the Beauty Water with one probiotic capsule, and every night I did the same with the Detox Water and probiotic. Both water concentrates slightly altered the texture/mouthfeel of water, which I’m sensitive to (like, I was completely unable to drink California fountain water when I was there), so I didn’t like that. I didn’t mind the Detox Water — didn’t taste like much aside from coloring the water an ominous murky teal. But I DESPISED the Beauty Water, which tasted and smelled like roses, a scent that I have always found repulsive. Actually, when I first unboxed the Reset, I was immediately hit with the smell of roses. That’s how strong it is. I would gulp it down fast with my nose plugged and chased it with plain water.
Anyway, I can’t say for sure if the waters did anything besides encourage me to drink an extra pint of water each day. You should always be suspicious of anything with “detox” in the name. I did lose a ton of bloat in record time during the 10 days, but my skin was already fairly good due to ~genetics~, because I definitely only cleanse my face half the time before sleeping.
I found the Detox Bar to also be revolting. It was a dense, dry bar that resembled a compressed block of mold, which might have psychologically made it hard for me to eat. The stock photo shows the details well. The blue spirulina powder gives it that coloring. It had a veeery slight vanilla taste but I couldn’t get over this other odd flavor in it. It tasted almost savory? Is that what spirulina tastes like?? I couldn’t stomach more than two bites and threw it out. Then I tried it again weeks later and still hated it. Don’t know what to do with the remaining bars (which, by the way, cost about $5 each). One of the workers at my job is a super annoying health nut; maybe she’d appreciate these.
I liked the Energy Bar much more, which had a deep dark chocolate flavor with a hint of sourness that dark chocolate can have. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I enjoyed it and I would not repurchase it, even if it were cheaper. I also wouldn’t exactly describe it as tasting like, per the website, a “fudgy brownie,” as it… doesn’t taste like a brownie at all. But I will finish the box.
As for the Detox Tea, I was surprised that I really liked it! I’m not a huge tea connoisseur so I won’t be too helpful with describing the taste, but I found it to be mild and calming. Most importantly, it did not taste like rose! It helped tide me over until lunchtime after my breakfast smoothie.
3. I wanted to die during the first 48 hours.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, I was on antibiotics for a bit.
For some reason I thought that would also be an excellent time to start a radical diet change. Right, I stupidly decided to start this diet when I had 2 days of antibiotics left and was already feeling terrible.
PRO TIP: Don’t do this. I couldn’t tell if the intense nausea and general badness I was feeling those first two days was from the pills or from “detoxing.” Maybe both.
It’s likely that the gastrointestinal discomfort I had already been experiencing was severely exacerbated by switching to such a clean way of eating. But I can’t know for sure because of my dumb timing.
Actually, because I felt like death initially, I skipped two Sakara dinners in a row. Probably not the best move if I’m trying to live the Sakara life. In addition to the cramping, bloating, and nausea, I was planning on making those kale fritters for dinner, which did not excite me. Instead, I snacked on fruit and Ezekiel toast and retired to bed early.
4. But then — I felt vibrant.
This is the single reason I would continue a plant-based diet after the Reset ends: I felt SO GOOD. Like hOLY SHiT physically and mentally I was a changed woman. I felt brighter, lighter, and more energetic — probably amplified by how terrible I felt during the first 48 hours, but still. I was filled with constant positive energy and didn’t have my usual moodiness. One of my coworkers told me I was glowing.
Maybe Sakara Life is the depression treatment we needed all along! Until you see how much you’re spending on it, that is lolol. But in all seriousness, I work with the mentally ill, homeless, and addicted population, and I really do wonder how much of an impact this kind of diet would make on their daily functioning. I’m sure this research is being done in some alternate, idealistic universe. In this current universe, we may never know.
The weekend after I ended the Reset, I immediately felt a difference going back to eating “normally.” I remember feeling fairly gassy, crampy, and uncomfortable all weekend.
5. A godsend for my colon!
Might as well share this TMI part of the detox too: I was no longer constipated all the time!
I’ve suffered from chronic constipation for years and years and years. Even more TMI: it was rare for me to not bleed after a bowel movement, to the point where it was my normal. (Psst, consistent bleeding from any orifice is absolutely not normal.) The nurse who tended to me after my colonoscopy stared at me blankly after she told me to report back immediately if I noticed bleeding and I responded with, “But what if I always bleed?” I also have up to an 80% chance of eventually developing colon cancer, but that’s another story. This all means I’m hypersensitive to changes in my bowels, and the Reset helped me be more regular than I can ever recall being regular. I didn’t expect this effect from the Reset so it was a welcome surprise.
And also, green poop from all the kale!
6. It took up all my time.
Earlier I mentioned that I exercise fairly regularly, at least 4-5 days a week. I had no time to do that on this plan. At all. By the time I got home from work, I had to work on putting together my dinner for that night and my lunch for the next day. I didn’t trust salads and raw veggies to meal prep well so I cooked day by day. Doing so also allowed for a little more variety in the meals I ate so I wouldn’t grow bored of eating the same thing all the time, like when I used to meal prep a whole work week’s worth of meals. Sharing a kitchen with my mom was very annoying.
However, if I ever wanted to do the Reset again in the future, I learned that there are some meals I can definitely prep in advance and make cooking a less miserable experience. Soups, for example.
This lunch was post-Reset but was inspired by one of the meals I had tried. Carrot soup (this one is gooooooood) keeps and freezes well, and a simple arugula, apple, and walnut salad with a homemade maple balsamic vinaigrette became my favorite salad to eat in the world and is quick to throw together. I was genuinely sad to run out of arugula one week. I ate it for like 2 weeks straight and am still not tired of it.
7. Regardless, the weight just melted off me.
Now, I’m sure it was mostly water weight and bloat, but I dropped weight rapidly even without exercise. I’m not a very tall person and my weight has been stubbornly comfortable around 135 lbs for the past 5 years, with more midsection pudge than is recommend for optimal heart health, so I’m not used to seeing the scale budge much despite my efforts. And every pound shows when you’re short.
I was weighed at the doctor’s office about a week before the Reset and I was 139 with shoes on. Over the 10 days, I watched with amazement as my weight went down to 129, a number I hadn’t seen since I was 20. I’ve been doing this health thing long enough to know it is impossible for a lady of my size to lose that much weight in body fat so quickly, so most of it has gotta be water from my excessive carb and sodium consumption. I knew salt made you retain water, but did you know carbs do too?
Still. I had two items of clothing that I was busting out of a month ago, but they now fit me well. I shrunk at least a half inch all over, including in my usually meaty forearm which never shrinks. I also shrunk in my already non-existent hips. :( Soft angles began showing in my normally puffy face. I had a choker-type necklace that was super taut around my neck but now hangs comfortably at the top of my collarbones.
It’s probably important to note that I basically did not touch a dumbbell for 3 weeks, so I definitely lost muscle mass. My thighs are usually rock hard with muscle but without my regular lifting routine, they too shrunk half an inch and my quads are seeming less quadly. My butt is nonexistent again.
8. No cravings!!
Two big reasons why I wanted to do this reset: 1) I suspected I had a sugar dependence, and 2) my cravings were out of control. I especially had little restraint when it came to sweets, and in the past year I don’t think I ever went more than a day without having something sugary. I would actually intentionally NOT eat fruit and save my sugars for the real, good, refined stuff: cookies, pastries, ice cream, candy.
A few weeks before the Reset, I remember being at work not liking my lunch one day, so instead I ate two thick slices of pizza and a burger. I was working in a hospital that day so that was a hospital-quality pizza and burger, by the way, but my cravings didn’t discriminate.
I was really afraid I wouldn’t be able to manage my cravings throughout the 10 days. Turns out I didn’t have to worry because I never had any cravings! You read that right — I, a sugar addict, did not crave sugar, did not find it hard to avoid baked goods that were readily available. I guess vague desires to go lower carb wasn’t enough to kick me into action, but dropping $400 on a meal plan was.
I did, however, crave pizza. A good thin crust pizza with lots of tomato sauce and melty cheese. But I quickly remedied that problem by making my own vegan version that sufficed to squash all cravings. Sakara Life had a cauliflower crust pizza recipe, which was too much work, of course. And I hate cauliflower. Instead, I had some coconut flour tortillas that I had purchased for another recipe that I ended up not trying, so I combined that with a variation of the Minimalist Baker’s mushrooms and peppers pizza, which looked similar to Sakara Life’s, to end up with something incredibly delicious. The tortillas worked wonderfully!
Certainly would have been more nutritious with a cauliflower crust, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
And homemade vegan parmesan > dairy parmesan.
I will admit I “cheated” by having Ezekiel toast with my favorite butter, which happened to be in the fridge and which also happened to be a vegan butter, for a few nights, particularly in the beginning when I was too nauseated to eat anything else.
9. Portion sizes were massive.
I feel like the “serving size = 1” listed for nearly all the recipes must not be right, or at least they should tone it down on the ingredients. The lemon and kale detox salad, for example, has you adding 6 large leaves of chopped kale, a whole large carrot, and a full cup of beans. That’s a lot of food, even if it’s all plants. All the ingredients wouldn’t fit in my lunch container so I used a small carrot and half a cup of beans and was pretty satiated. It takes a long ass time to chew through 3 packed cups of kale. And the carrot and ginger soup recipe ended up making nearly 32 oz of soup, which I divided into 2 days.
Which was great! I never felt deprived or hungry. Also, Sakara Life doesn’t believe in tracking calories so I had no idea how much I was eating at the time, if I was under or exceeding my daily expenditure, etc. It was pretty freeing not having to worry about that.
10. As soon as I broke the diet, I felt it.
My reason for doing the plan for 10 straight days — rather than take a break on the weekend as Sakara suggests — was I had to attend a convention for work, where I would break the diet. I started off that day with a muffin but felt fine until the end of the event, when I started feeling some tummy discomfort. I had a combination of meat and dairy for lunch so I can’t tell what exactly my body was rejecting. I then went into the weekend returning to my normal diet and I continued to feel on-and-off crampy.
In any case, a very different feeling compared to the floaty, almost euphoric lightness I was feeling while eating entirely plant-based meals.
WHAT I LEARNED – 3 MONTHS POST RESET
Well. Totally did not expect this program to change my life.
Yet here I am, life changed.
It wasn’t about the clear skin or the weight loss. Those were just nice bonuses. I started this whole thing on a mission to just feel better, and I definitely did. But the most important thing I got from the Reset was a new relationship with food. At least in my case, this program taught me to care for my body with nourishing meals, to view food as medicine.
I now start off every work day by making a green smoothie for a late breakfast. I had formerly turned my nose up at smoothies but Sakara life showed me the light. It’s so easy to get your daily greens in when they’re totally disguised in a smoothie. I hate chewing on spinach and collard greens, so into my smoothie they go. I’ve learned that I can pack a full 85g serving of spinach into a smoothie and not taste any of it. :D
I learned the hard way that you cannot do the same with that volume of collard greens and expect it to not taste like a sweet collards smoothie. D:
This was the amount of mixed greens I put in my smoothie the other day. I had started out just adding the “large handful” that the booklet recommended, but then I started adding more and more until I reached a full serving.
Most days I stick to the Sakara base smoothie recipe of greens, banana, almond milk, almond butter, protein powder, and maple syrup because why complicate things when you’re half awake and incoherent?
One hack (ugh I hate that word) I discovered is to either use prepackaged frozen greens or to freeze fresh greens. I’ll buy giant tubs of leaves for salads but can’t finish the thing before it starts rotting, so I freeze it in little pre-measured smoothie bundles. Convenient and keeps the drink cold!
If money is tight, I would not encourage anyone to try this specific program. I myself barely had the funds for this lmao, my bank account is weeping after that Labor Day vacation + this right after. It is incredibly expensive if you don’t already have all the ~fancy organic condiments/seasonings lying around. I also don’t know if the non-meal part of the plan (the waters, the probiotic, the tea) really made a difference in those 10 days.
BUT I definitely encourage everyone to try eating more plant-based meals because I need to reiterate how incredible I felt! I like animals and all and the meat/dairy industry suck, but to be completely honest, they are not the reason why I would consider being vegan. (Come at me, PETA.) I’m doing it for health. And for the environment. But mostly health.
In fact, I felt so good that I decided to be vegan part time after the Reset ended.
It’s hard staying vegan while living with my parents, who were initially supportive of the diet but then started giving me grief over it. So I’ll maintain the plant-based eating while I’m at work and eat whatever is available at home.
This post is also partially an ode to the Minimalist Baker, if you haven’t already noticed all of her recipes that I’ve linked above. I had gone through a phase of vegan-ish eating a few summers ago and knew there were a bunch of vegan-friendly food blogs out there. The Minimalist Baker is one that I’ve used in the past for dessert recipes but I’m rediscovering it for the author’s super yum plant-based recipes. I have really come to depend on her site for most of my vegan eats. She makes being vegan easy. Now I use other blogs too, of course, but the Minimalist Baker is the one that I want to thank for helping me through the Reset.
I love challenging myself with trying new things, or trying old things that I had formerly filed under “Things to Never Eat Again.”
Beets, for example.
A salad before and after I mixed it up to reveal the glorious pink color. Beets aren’t so bad after all! I even made a smoothie with them.
I enjoy trying twists on non-vegan foods I used to enjoy, like this:
I’m probably gonna be banned from Japan for posting this, but behold! Vegan brown rice quinoa sushi. I used the veggies and rolling technique from the Minimalist Baker sushi recipe but mashed a few recipes together for the rice mixture. To be honest, I don’t mind raw fish in sushi but I would never choose to eat sashimi, and this veggie sushi showed me how enjoyable sushi can be without the fish or other meat fillings.
OKAY. Wowee this was a novel of a post. To make up for not posting anymore ever, right? (:
Actually, I have more to say because I did the Reset again in December as a cleanse for my body before indulging to the nth degree when I went to Disney World during my birthday week. Usually this is the part where I’ll make a flaky promise to post again soon to update on how Reset Part II went, but this time I think I’ll actually, really, truly write another post!
Because I’m on Adderall now.
Legally, to clarify. I take it as prescribed.
That is a whole other thing I need to address in a separate entry, but I’m mentioning it now because I’m taking steps to help my problem of never finishing things. Or starting things. I only take the Adderall while I’m at work, but I’m hoping that during my free time (which I have now! because I actually do my work without extreme procrastination!) I have the drive to write more entries. No lie, I have 47 drafts in my draft folder, most of which have a substantial amount of text written in them but that I never finished for many reasons.
You will see me again next month! For real!!
Until next time,