How 10 Days of Eating Clean Changed My Body and My Mind

Despite the fact that I follow about 374 nutritionists on Instagram, highly regard their advice, and salivate regularly at their perfect smoothie bowls and spiralized root veg, I have never considered myself a person who might one day employ an actual IRL nutritionist. For as much as I revere their internet advice, seeking out someone to help me eat just seemed 1) hard and 2) extra af. (With all those perfect aerial shots of food out there, how was I to know who was the best nutritionist in my dossier of online profiles? Surely they must use some expensive ass equipment to get those shots and where is that money coming from?! Not me, that's for damn sure!)

So, you can imagine my own surprise when I, not 15 seconds after seeing an Instagram post by Daniela Kende, signed up and paid for a "10 Day Real Food Reset." What can I say? I'm a sucker for advertising and her caption spoke volumes to me. In it, she not only correctly identified that I was feeling sluggish post July 4th hotdogs, but also that there'd be a focus on mindful eating and finding ways to get a wholesome meal in, no matter the circumstance. Plus, it was affordable and, truth be told, I'd never felt so out of whack.

The reason I followed so many nutritionists and lusted so ferociously after their plant-based goods, I realized in an intense moment of clarity, was because I was feeling so incredibly out of sync with what once was my everyday diet. Since moving in with my boyfriend six months ago, I've had to adapt majorly to not only less pantry and fridge space, but also to the dietary needs of a 25 year-old male. Turns out, men (or at least mine) cannot subsist on avocado toast for breakfast, salad for lunch, and roasted sweet potatoes and hummus for dinner. Before I knew it, I was making pasta, crockpot meats, and more rice and beans that you can imagine all in heavy rotation. I was still getting adequate veg and all seemed well enough until, on the fateful day of Daniela's post I thought, "My body doesn't really feel like mine anymore."

So I signed up. I finally stopped pretending I could turn things around all on my own and I asked for help. And that was just the beginning of rewriting my diet story. What came next was the actual reset which involved ten days of avoiding all inflammatory food (dairy, gluten, sugar, etc.) and eating meals that were 75% plant-based. I was to document everything I ate in food journal and Daniela sent daily email inspiration to keep the group on the right track. In addition to setting up a Facebook group for us all to share our intentions and journeys, she also sent us incredibly detailed and beautifully designed materials including guidelines, recipes, and FAQs. The whole thing was so immaculately planned that I immediately felt at east knowing all I had to do was show up and follow the rules.

And, to my surprise, the 10 days passed pretty swiftly. The daily routine of a smoothie for breakfast and salad for lunch was not only convenient, but also affordable and, dare I say it, fun. Trying new combinations, gagging then laughing about how gross not-fully-pureed kale in a smoothie is, and reveling in the glory of spinach instead all added to the joy of experimentation. And making dinner was no different. I finally tried so many recipes that I'd avoided because I was worried my boyfriend wouldn't find them filling or that I would find them boring in comparison to all of the rich food I'd become accustomed to. Turns out, we both welcomed the change with open arms, devouring green quinoa, grilled chicken, and roasted veg like it was an oasis at the end of a drought. In a way, it was.

By day 6, I felt no urge to cheat anymore. The only thing I really missed was sugar and, I'll be honest, I definitely had a muffin or two. ( I work from coffee shops, sorry Daniela!) But on the whole, my body acclimated to the diet readily and, bolstered by real food, it simply didn't crave the inflammatory things I'd made it adapt to. In fact, I ate flour tortillas one day (because I refuse to give up my mom's tacos ever) and ended up with a major migraine that lasted all night. Hello gluten!

What I also loved about this program is that Daniela made sure to include a holistic approach to eating that not only included a plant-based diet, but also a regimen of 7-8 hours of sleep, no screens for an hour before bed, limited alcohol intake, and daily exercise. All in all, these changes left me feeling light, alert, and clear in a way I hadn't experienced in months. I felt so supported during the entire process as Daniela encouraged questions and did 1:1 consultations halfway through wherein we discussed what was working, what wasn't, and let me go through my bodily reactions one by one as she suggested possible causes and solutions. When I felt light-headed one afternoon after eating lunch later in the day, for example, she proposed that I try adding more fat to my morning smoothie and/or eating lunch a bit earlier followed by a small snack later in the afternoon.

By the end of the reset, I was considerably more energized, felt more present in my daily interactions, and my body felt tighter and trimmer. I learned how to be mindful while eating, find meals at restaurants that supported my health, meal prep to avoid mid-day hangries, and read the signs that my body was giving me both physical and emotional.  In the weeks since, I've continued seeing the changes in my body as it readjusts to a life that is part pre-Reset and part Reset-inspired. I've continued learning how to navigate the foods that trigger headaches, anxiety, and digestive upset. I've also learned how to forgive myself when I do eat inconsistently, stare at a screen before bed, or indulge in a muffin.

Which brings me to the biggest lesson I've learned: When we see ourselves with compassion and readiness instead of judgement and reticence, we can begin to show up for ourselves all the way. When we learn that we're only human and act as our own best friends, we can rewrite the story from moments of downfall to moments of triumph. And when we place trust in ourselves to act in our own best interest, we can trust that the universe will conspire in bringing us people to guide us and support us along the way.

– Lenéa Sims

Daniela Kende is a Holistic Nutrition Coach and you can find her here. Image by Lenéa Sims