07/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

How To Lessen Your Addiction To Animal Based Foods

I'm not the ideal candidate for a cleanse. When not on deadline, (which is practically always), I'm rushing around from one health seminar to the next. Meetings, interviews, causes, trainings, policy sessions, (and the occasional retreat) fill my days. Unless you can do a cleanse on the run, forget about it!

Well, it turns out that you can.

I got motivated when I attended the recent Urban Zen 2009 Speaker Series: A Focus on Nutrition Forum, (two powerful days of talks by leaders like Dr. Mehmet Oz, Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. James Gordon, Dr. Frank Lipman, and Dr. Woodson Merrell.) This gathering, hosted by designer/health advocate Donna Karan, revealed that the science was there. For fifty-three years, pioneer Colin Campbell has studied human nutritional requirements, finding that people need only 8 -12% of protein content daily--and much of that content can come from vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and seeds.

Wow! As a regular consumer of organic dairy, wild fish, and organic chicken, I knew I had to face facts. For two decades, I've avoided foods raised in mass production, because I can't rationalize the way industrial practices treat animals. Nor do I consider foods loaded with hormones and pesticides healthy to humans. Unless our regulatory policies support rigorous organic standards, I'm one of many who will be forced into veganism. With recent regulatory changes that will ultimately require microchips in all livestock, (see my post at: ) it's not looking good.

Was it finally time to find out how hard it would be to loosen/lessen my addiction to animal based foods? For several weeks I did. Eliminating meat was easy. But dairy--not. That's when I decided that I needed to press the reset button and undergo a cleanse.

Jill Pettijohn of offers "the Cleanse," a five day juice fast, providing you with a six pack of raw, living, organic juices to be consumed every two to three hours. Before you could say "green drink," I was on Day One, beginning, yes, with a green drink, followed by a midmorning lemonade, and next a creamy cold vegetable soup at lunch. Mid-afternoon offered a fruit or citrus-y drink, and day's end featured a spiced soup from the orange part of the vegetable spectrum, such as carrot (with Ginger) or butternut (with Thai spices.) The last meal/drink of the day was a creamy nut milk, made with different nuts, including hazelnut, pumpkin seed, or Brazil nut. Each drink was delicious, and to my surprise quite filling. Though I'd worried about food cravings, soon I left juices undrunk--so satisfying was the Cleanse.

As my appetite dimmed and waistline shrunk, my energy increased--not what I expected. I even covered two food events, serenely sipping juice rather than sampling snacks.

To many people the concepts of cleansing and detoxification seem like a no-brainer, even though some doctors pooh-pooh it. But integrative physicians like Dr. Mark Hyman point out that our bodies have natural detoxification/ eliminative systems built in--both on an organ level (kidneys, liver, and gut) and on a cellular level, where biochemical interactions absorb nutrients and discard waste products. Given gallstones, kidney stones, bladder infections, constipation, and leaky guts, it's obvious that the organs responsible for ridding our bodies of waste sometimes get overwhelmed. In Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body's Natural Ability to Heal Itself, Alejandro Junger, MD offers a user-friendly program for healthy detoxification. Taking in more easy-to-process nutrients (via juices) reduces the work of breaking down foods, allowing greater ease in excreting them. In effect, you get nourishment, while taxing the organs less.

"Green juice is so enlivening," Donna Karan had told the Nutrition Series participants, who included integrative health practitioners training to take the healing out into hospital settings. "The menu for living and vegan foods is "larger than you can imagine--its not so radical as it seems," says Karan. From my limited experience, I agree completely.

I must admit that it's unlikely I could replicate the cleanse at home and live on it from this day forward. But, I have managed to do something like it one day a week, which is what many integrative doctors recommend. Moreover, for anyone with food addictions or allergies, accessing basic nourishment lessens the grip of other food habits, while giving you a baseline of what your body needs. I lost four pounds on the Cleanse, down turned my weight setpoint, and have been subsisting mostly on vegetables, (raw and lightly cooked), nuts, grains, fruit, and beans ever since. While not everyone can take the time/money/effort to undertake a juice cleanse, I highly recommend simplifying your diet as a way to push the reset button. For transformational health wisdom, go to

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