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Toxin Avenger

I guess I'm vegan now, Day 1. (Illustrations by Danielle Lamberti)

Ithought I was a relatively healthy person; I did yoga regularly, loved my veggies and had never uttered the phrase “Supersize me.” But a whirlwind winter of partying had raged on well past the new year, and decadent staples like wine, cheese, bread, chocolate and strong espresso every morning to jolt me alert had left me with that not-so-fresh feeling right down to my ribosomes. I needed a cleansing.

Somewhere in the champagne-clouded recesses of my brain I remembered hearing about the 21-Day Detox. The Santa Monica–based program was started six years ago by Dr. Richard DeAndrea and nutritionist John Wood, who believe that an organic, plant-based diet (no animal products or refined sugar at all) is the foundation for healthy living. They also believe that we should all detox twice a year. “If you’re living on this planet in this time,” says Wood, “you’re pretty toxic.”

The 21 days are broken down into a week of vegetarian food, a week of raw (or “live”) food, and one week of a liquid diet — all supplemented by a daily dose of Dr. Greens “superfood,” a powder that contains vitamins, amino acids, chlorophyll and other nutrients. Green tea is allowed the first week, but after that, caffeine is out. I thought three weeks seemed like a reasonable amount of time, long enough to justify bragging and bitching but not so long (I thought, then, before I began) that I would lose it. You can do the program in a workshop with a group (the next session starts Sunday, July 9) or on your own with a detox kit and a partner, which is what I chose. I enlisted my friend Laurel, an A&R executive who goes out every night of the week, but who, like me, also has a thick new-age hippie streak. “I’m in!” she said. Then I told her the news: “It starts tomorrow. No booze.”

Day 1: I go shopping at Whole Foods, ignoring all the free cheese chunks pointing at me with their wooden toothpicks, calling out to me, begging me to sample their dairy goodness. I come home and eat about half a pound of dried fruit and nuts out of sheer laziness. I don’t even know if I’m allowed to eat them. I suppose I should check. I guess I’m a vegan now.

Day 2: I have green tea, apples and oatmeal in the morning, greens and rice for lunch. More nuts. I’m constipated and tired. I bail on a screening in Beverly Hills, and by 8:30 p.m. I am ravenously gobbling plain puffed rice, even though I ate just as much, if not more, than I eat every day.

Day 3: I swing by Cha Cha late night with some friends, I chat with a cute young artist boy, and he offers to buy me a drink. He is visible disappointed by request for water. I explain I’m detoxing. Sorry, dude, no Sex on the Beach tonight.

Day 4: I stock up at the Sunset Junction farmers’ market and then Laurel and I head to Clear Way to Health Within, near Venice, for the first of two colonics, a treatment that aids the detox process. Talya Meldy, my colon hydrotherapist, is lean, lanky and funny. “I just pump the poop!” she says cheerfully, massaging my legs and my temples to get me relaxed, which is challenging when you’re lying on a table with a tube up your butt. My first session isn’t very “successful.” I’m gassy, so the water can’t move through my colon (it can be 10 feet long!). But it’s a start. “You’re sensitive, honey,” Talya tells me. She also says that I do too much overindulging. How can she tell? Laurel and I are shown photographs of hideous black sludge that has come out of people’s colons. “I want that to come out of me!” says Laurel. We vow to purge black sludge next time.

Day 5: I’ve got my first inexplicable headache. I go to a party and fixate on the tortilla chips on the table. I grab a handful and eat them plain, feeling vaguely guilty. But I stay out until 3 a.m. having great conversations, probably because I’m not distracted by what’s available at the bar.

Day 6: The green tea isn’t cutting it. I miss coffee. I’m exhausted. The detox program urges us to rest when we need to, without guilt, so I lie down for a nap at 5 p.m. An hour and a half later, I get up and go to Target to pick up a blender for the smoothies I’m supposed to be drinking every morning. This will be great for margaritas in the summer, I think as I place it in the cart.

Day 7: My last day of green tea, no more caffeine at all, or cooked food. I make a smoothie in the morning with a banana, some organic strawberries, half an apple and a scoop of Dr. Greens. Yum. I heart my blender.

Day 8: “Freeze-dried fruits are rad, dude,” says Laurel. It’s our first raw-food day and I pick up a week’s worth of prepared meals from RAWvolution in Santa Monica. How bad can a raw-food diet be when the menu includes tapenade-stuffed shiitakes, veggie cakes with dill sauce, cauliflower couscous and pizza?

Day 9: All in all, a great day. In the evening my friend Jenna treats me to a belated birthday spa visit at Beverly Hot Springs, a natural hot spring right in the middle of the city! I am full of energy and very happy.

Day 10: I miss munching. I go to the movies and the smell of popcorn makes me crazy. No wonder the raw-foodies spend 12 hours to make a slab of onion “bread.” It’s temporary, I remind myself, trying to be satisfied with a raw cherry-nut bar as my date crunches popcorn and slurps soda. I fear the liquid days.

Day 11: I’m depressed. Laurel calls and says she also feels sad for no reason. Luckily I have an appointment for a Jade Detox massage at the Los Feliz holistic spa Being in L.A. The therapist, Matthew Voelker, is a model-cute Olympic athlete-in-training who does massage on the side. He alternates between hot and cold jade stones to flush toxins from my lymph glands and stimulate my immune system. After an hour and a half I’m transformed. He’s got the gift.

Day 12: I have a dream that I’m eating a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. During a meditation in yoga class my teacher tells us to imagine ourselves as infinite, and I’m thinking about bread baskets.

Day 13: Not a good day. I sleep poorly, wake with a sinus headache, and find a strange rash on my shoulder blade. There are also tiny red spots all over my tummy AND weird, itchy bumps on my fingers. But I love the fact that a raw-food diet still allows you to have dessert; RAWvolution’s coconut-carob haystacks are the bomb!

Day 14: Got some sleep; feel much better today. Went to yoga and then out for a raw fusion dinner with my friend Caroline at Jade Café in anticipation of the liquid week. I decide I can’t eliminate herbal tea even if it’s technically “cooked.”

Day 15: I start my first liquid day with an amazing at-home acupuncture session with Simone Kredo, who works with tuning forks and sound vibrations in addition to needles. First she fills my belly button with salt and burns herbs on top of it to “tonify” my stomach. Then she lulls me into a deeply relaxed state with delicious essential oils and the tuning forks, using only a couple of needles to aid digestion. Finally she tapes two tiny steel balls to the pressure points in my ears that correlate with appetite. They look pretty cute, I have to say. After Simone leaves I blend up my first batch of “energy soup,” which I am supposed to be eating two and three times a day for the next week. It’s got spinach leaves, half an apple, half an avocado, carrots, a clove of garlic and various other things like parsley or cilantro or cucumber. I put a carrot in my mouth while I’m blending, and panic like the detox police have me under surveillance.

Day 16: Today I “eat” the energy soup from a bowl with a spoon, as though it’s a cold summer soup at some gourmet restaurant. It doesn’t make a difference. I’m completely wiped out and totally depressed. My rash has spread to my legs. “You got the rash!” says a friend, telling me this is a great sign. I try to feel glad. I am asleep by 9.

Day 17: I wake up at 4:30 and can’t fall back asleep. I make some chamomile tea and read until the growls in my stomach become too annoying to ignore. While I’m chopping mango, the knife slips from my hand and lands, point down, in my foot. I’m so hungry I take out the knife and continue making my smoothie, fighting back tears as I toss banana and blueberries into the blender. I lie in bed all day, questioning my reasons for living. So much for day three of liquids being easier.

Day 18: I go to the video store and stock up on Six Feet Under episodes. I also buy a copy of Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man on DVD . . . is there a theme here? In the evening Laurel and I go to a gallery opening, where we’re fortunately only required to point and say, “Oh, that’s pretty!”

Day 19: People said the hunger goes away after day three of not eating. Or day four. It’s day five, and I’m still hungry. But even worse, I’m bored. I never realized how entertaining food is. Laurel and I go to Topanga for a dose of crunchy nature, and discover the magic power of shopping. Good shopping equals no hunger. On the ride home we play the “what you would eat if you could” game.

Day 20: Last day of only liquids!

Day 21: It feels kind of like my birthday. I don’t even mind the energy soup for lunch because I know that Laurel and I are going to EAT after we go for our second colonic. The first thing Talya notices is that I’ve lost weight (“probably five pounds,” she guesses). She says she’s impressed that I made it through. “When you came in last time I wasn’t sure,” she admits. This time my colon is nice and “clean” and fills up easily with water. “I think we’re gonna get some black stuff,” says Talya excitedly. Suffice to say, sludge is purged. Talya calls it a “liver dump,” which is like winning a blue ribbon in the colonic contest. I feel lean, clean and radiant.

Figuring I may as well take this detox to the limit, a few days later I visit Delilah’s Energy Center in West Hollywood to get my chakras cleansed. Tall and maternal with a ginger ’fro, Delilah says her powers came to her when she was struck by lightning as a girl. She lays me down and covers my body with crystals of all sizes and colors, and begins to chant and speak in different voices, asking angels and spirit guides to release negative patterns and entities from me. With the vibrations of a Tibetan singing bowl swirling around my head, I feel like I’m literally on another planet. “You were!” Delilah tells me when we finish the session and she walks me, blinking in the bright daylight, out onto the sidewalk so I can return to Earth.

A month later I’m still not drinking coffee or eating red meat, although I’ve got wine and cheese in my refrigerator again. I wouldn’t say I’m a different person, but I’m pretty sure I did change for the better. The experience pushed me out of my comfort zone and confronted me with the bare bones of my life and who I want to be. I’m working harder and feeling more inspired than I was precleanse, and even the phrase “free drinks” doesn’t hold the appeal it once did. I’d rather invite good friends over and blend up a batch of frozen margaritas — with organic tequila, naturally.?

Detox Directory

21-Day Detox,? www.21daydetox.com, ?(310) 289-5697 (next session, July 9)

Clear Way to Health Within, 12927 Venice Blvd., L.A., (310) 391-2017

Being in L.A., 2016 Hillhurst Ave., L.A., (323) 665-9355

RAWvolution, www.rawvolution.com, (310) 721-4222

Jade Café, 1521 Griffith Park Blvd., L.A., (323) 667-1551

Simone Kredo, www.lanternlightapothecary.com, (646) 258-7675

Delilah’s Energy Center, 8808 Horner St., L.A., (310) 553-5343

Beverly Hot Springs, 308 N. Oxford Ave., L.A., (323) 734-7000


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