A few months ago, I was in L.A. and some friends of mine raved about this incredibly difficult, but incredibly rewarding cleanse that they had successfully done several times over the past few years. The cleanse cut out alcohol, caffeine, and specific foods and food groups. I immediately thought “Yeah right!”, but as they kept talking, the more intrigued I became. “I’ve never felt better!” “I dropped 15 pounds.” “I had the energy of a nine-year-old!” Once home, I looked it up, did plenty of research, and decided to give it a go. I pressured my husband and my assistant/life-saver Tiana into joining me. We all decided to start on the same day and work through it together and be a support system for one another. I highly recommend having a partner during a strict regimen like this. It’s a great way to stick with it and to help hold each other accountable.

The gist: It’s a 21-day cleanse that completely removes any and all foods that could potentially contain allergens, so no gluten, no dairy, no sugar, no soy, no eggs, no peanuts, no white rice, no nightshades (eggplant, tomatoes, goji berries, peppers), no oranges, strawberries, or bananas—there are literally so many noes! But, there are also so many yeses. You are replacing two meals a day with a smoothie. You have a smoothie for breakfast, a cleanse-compliant lunch, and a smoothie for dinner.

My experience: The first week was rough. Day 1, I felt motivated and ready to conquer! Truth is, I eat pretty clean most of the time, so I figured eating a little extra-clean for 21 days would be a challenge, but I could do it. By day 2 the migraines set in. I think mine were much less than my cleansing buddies because I stopped drinking coffee a week before we started, to help make the detox stage easier, but I still had headaches. Headaches for days. I was so tired. I had literally no energy, I was hungry and cranky. I craved all of the things. Scrolling through Instagram was rough because you realize just how many food posts there are when you are limiting yourself. Having kids in the house while you cleanse is also not easy. They still eat all of the things you can’t have. You still have to buy those things, while at the grocery store. You still have to cook those things and touch them and serve them to your offspring. It’s a mild form of torture.

Fast-forward to the one week mark. I felt better. Normal. I was getting the hang of this. I was in a rhythm. I was so sick of smoothies. But, I felt more energized. I was sleeping sound. And, I had zero anxiety. ZERO! I also had no bloating, no upset stomach, very regular bowels, and felt clean. During week two it was much of the same; feeling good, feeling confident, and minimal cravings. My oldest daughter baked cupcakes and cookies that week, which was rude, but I survived.

Week three: My husband Aubrey had lost ten pounds! That’s HUGE! I refuse to weigh myself because I tend to be one of those people who becomes fixated on a number, so I refrained from measuring my success based on weight and instead went off of how I felt and how my clothes fit. Some of my tight-fitting jeans were fitting quite nicely. I was hooked! We decided to add in some workouts during the third week. (The cleanse recommends refraining from strenuous workouts in the beginning.) We worked out every other day to build our stamina. We felt so good. We were almost done.

Then day 21 came. The day we had all been waiting for. It was finally here and I was feeling a mix of emotions. I was proud that I had made it, but I was not excited to be finished like I expected. Instead I was feeling a little sad and emotional. I didn’t want the cleanse to end. With my support system gone, how would I refrain from all of the temptations? How would I hold myself accountable? I do not want to go back to my old habits (I’m a late-night snacker), but I also really want a margarita. I realize that I needed to find a healthy balance between that cleanse life and real life. I needed to make some longterm changes in my diet and set some boundaries for myself. I’m still figuring that part out.

Something to note: My period started a week early. It came with no warning, no cramps, no fatigue, no nothing. The next couple of days, my cramps were bad and my period lasted for TWELVE DAYS! Yikes! Tiana started a week early, as well, but she mentioned that hers was much lighter than usual an lasted the normal length of time. Interesting!

Post cleanse: I have decided that this summer is my summer of wellness. I plan to continue to cut out many of the things eliminated on the cleanse, adding some back in moderation, having the occasional drink, staying active, and challenging myself all summer long. I love food. I love to eat at fancy restaurants and order everything. All the cheese, all the bread, all the pasta—I love it all. It’s going to be hard to turn those things down, but I think I can live without them most of the time and allow myself some slack in moderation. Today we start the reintroduction phase of the program, which is a very important step. I am supposed to eat gluten to see how my body reacts. I am hesitant to do so, but I also just received the most thoughtful package in the mail from Teri Turner over at No Crumbs Left (she’s my favorite on Instagram. Her Stories are the best!!!) filled with fresh baked English muffins from Napa. I think I’ll give one a try. Will keep you posted on the how the reintroduction goes.

I have had a ton of questions about my experience, what I ate, how I did it, and more over the past 21 days. I plan to address some more of those here, soon. Feel free to ask any questions below and I will do my best to shed some light.

I also plan on posting my cliff notes to the process soon, as I know not everyone can afford the steep price tag, so stay tuned! This is not sponsored! But, if you are able, I think it’s 100% worth it to do the real deal. You get the support of their highly-trained team every step of the way. They email you daily, they answer any and all questions you may have, and that is really nice to have because this ain’t easy.



  • Amy

    Did you notice any difference in your skin? Other than the protein powder, is it much different from a Whole30?

    • James Kicinski-McCoy

      My skin looks great, feels more hydrated, and is really clear. It is different from Whole 30. There are many more food restrictions.

    • Lissette

      Was about to ask he same thing? I finished my first round of the W30 and it completely changed me. I guess I’m on a summer of wellness, too.

  • Nicole

    Loved reading this! I’m on day 7 of the clean program cleanse right now and I’m feeling great but am starting to get sick of the protein powder. I don’t know what it is, but I’m just not a fan and it over powers the other ingredients I add. Did you feel that way? I’m also trying to not get stuck in a rut of smoothie recipes so if you have any you liked, I’d love some inspo!

  • erin

    I’m going to join you in the summer of wellness! Please do keep us posted on how you approach balance long-term and the results you’re seeing!

    • Rachel

      Me too, I’m starting the Microbiome diet, as recommended by Nadine Artemis (of Living Libations) and it’s equally restrictive so it’s going to be a challenge!

  • Lucy R

    Congrats to you guys on making it through the 3 weeks! Super inspiring. And sooo interesting the effects it had on your cycle. Have you heard of FLO Living and Woman Code by Alisa Vitti? All about syncing your eating with the different phases of your cycle to bring about your optimum hormonal state – and similar principles in avoiding certain allergenic/inflammatory foods. You might like it. Excited to hear how you get on post-cleanse!! :)

    • Rachel

      great question, exactly what I was coming to ask about. I use floliving to track my period and I love it. James~ did you email the company about your period by any chance, curious to know what they would say about that.

    • James Kicinski-McCoy

      I haven’t heard of FLO Living. I will look it up. Thanks! xx

  • Molly

    Did you crave sugar specifically? If so did the cravings
    Fade eventually or did you just white knuckle it?

    • James Kicinski-McCoy

      Not really, but my husband did. I don’t have a big sweet tooth like he does. He found some So Delicious Coconut Ice Cream from Whole Foods that is compliant and Eating Evolved Chocolate Bars are, too! The smoothies were sweet enough for me.

  • Aileen

    Why would you cut out bananas, oranges and strawberries? They are filled with vitamins, nutrients and fibre – which actually helps to flush out your colon. A lot of your symptoms were the symptoms of starvation. Detoxing – the idea that you can flush your system of impurities and leave your organs squeaky clean and raring to go – is a scam. It’s a pseudo-medical concept designed to sell you things.
    Fruits are easy to digest, high in antioxidants, nutrients, fiber and vitamin C. Fiber is especially important for cleansing your digestive system because it expands to sweep the intestines clean. You can gently cleanse your system by EATING plenty of bananas, pears, apples, strawberries, blackberries, grapefruit, oranges, dates, figs and plums.
    A lot of these cleanses steer people into eating disorder territory. Be careful

  • chloe

    Thank you for sharing that! I was so curious about the cleanse. I have serious chronic migraines and have thought about trying the cleanse. As it is way too expensive (imagine in canadian dollars as I live in canada), I won’t be able to experience it per say, but it gave me an idea about food groups that might not help and things like that.

  • Kaitlen

    So curious to know about how you guys managed social lives while on the cleanse. Were you able to hang out with friends and actually enjoy yourselves while sticking to your restrictions? I think I’d have to be a hermit for 3 weeks with zero influence to make it through the full 21 days without being a big fat cheater….

    • James Kicinski-McCoy

      The social aspect was tough. We only ate out once the entire 21 days. Ordering from a restaurant is difficult and I felt like that annoying person asking a million questions like: What’s in the dressing? Is the soy sauce gluten free?

      I had 2 girls’ night—I was the only sober one, which is not very fun. And, we went to a show and sipped on bottled water instead of bottles of beer. It’s definitely challenging.

  • Morgan

    Wow, so impressive.

    How did you manage your hunger? With only one real meal a day, I would be starving. Did you become less hungry over the course of the three weeks.

    Are you back to drinking coffee?

    • James Kicinski-McCoy

      For the most part, I wasn’t super hungry. I was mostly temped to snack late at night out of boredom. The first week was the hardest, but once I made it past, I was good and in a rhythm. I am not drinking coffee again. I believe it brings on anxiety. I’ve been having tea here and there instead.

  • Marte

    I have been reading your blog(s) on and off for yeeears and I have been inspired in different ways. Both on your beauty and your creativity.

    I think your stamina and will power shining through this post is really impressing! And I enjoyed your writing.

    Thank you for all of the inspiration over the years!

    Marte, Oslo, Norway.

  • eleni

    I feel I really need a diet cleanse. But I lack motivation. Did you? And if so, HOW on earth did you push through it?

  • Kacie

    SO interesting. Thanks for sharing all the details. I can’t do a cleanse at the moment since I’m breastfeeding but I’ve done them before and sort of wish I could! x

  • Adrienne

    Did you notice a change in your mood? Especially around your cycle/ovulation? I have problems with mood swings so I’m curious if diet could help. I have a sneaky feeling caffeine probably isn’t much help. :\

  • fefe

    I think I might try this! Thanks for sharing.


    […] longterm. I started this summer off trying something new after some friends of mine recommended a cleanse from Clean Program and it was incredible and life changing. I can’t recommend it […]

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