Dear friends,


My “gut reboot” is complete and, as promised, I’m here to tell you about it.

(Because what’s the point of self-improvement if there’s no one to tell, right?)

When my friend Patti told me about the plan (and the book), I was skeptical. A 21-day cleanse sounded about as much fun as a 21-day root canal. Perhaps she caught me at a weak moment. I had just fallen off the treadmill a day earlier. (This was a literal treadmill accident, not a fall “off the wagon” so to speak.)  I was feeling particularly old and vulnerable. And bad.

The thing about feeling bad is — like the frog in the proverbial pot of hot water — you don’t know how bad you feel until you don’t feel bad anymore. Headaches, sleepiness, lethargy, persistent GI distress . . . I chalked it all up to age and stress.

I didn’t realize it wasn’t normal. Until it wasn’t.

I started to feel better by day 3 of the cleanse. By day 10, I was really grooving. Now I’m all but a few days away from a month and I have no intention of stopping.

I’ve only had one headache the whole time. I’ve had ZERO stomach/GI issues. My energy is improving daily. Mr. Mom said my skin looks clearer, younger. (I’ll take it!) My “brain fog” has finally cleared. With the exception of two late nights worrying about my kids’ trouble du jour, my sleep has been uninterrupted and restful. My running and weight training are improving. (In fairness, fitness breeds fitness so I’m not trying to suggest eating better has made me fitter; but I’m certain feeling better and having more energy has improved my exercise.) I’ve lost 10 pounds. All in all, it’s been a 21-day boon.

If there’s a downside, it’s that eating is no longer easy. It takes planning and preparation to eat healthy. You guys know I’m a pretty decent cook and baker and I’m having to learn new ways and new ingredients. I’m in unfamiliar territory but gaining my footing daily.

My transition to a plant-based diet has been a slow evolution since I officially became a vegetarian a year ago. Still, forgoing meat is relatively easy, especially if — like me — you rely on packaged and convenience foods. The beauty of this cleanse is that it helped me break my reliance on convenience foods. First, I came to realize that “cheese tots” or “chips and dip” really aren’t a lunch option I should consider a viable option as a vegetarian. Second, it broke me of my reliance on cheese and crackers or PBJs as totally acceptable dinners (or breakfasts, or snacks). Third, it helped me understand that life goes on (and goes on well) without refined carbs and dairy.

I am reluctant to call myself a vegan now, though I’m still not eating dairy. The premise of “Clean Gut” is that you eat a very restricted diet for 21 days (no dairy, no gluten, no caffeine, no alcohol, with other restrictions on many fruits and starchy foods like potatoes, rice and corn). At the end of the cleanse, you reintroduce common “trigger” foods and test your reaction. I have successfully reintroduced gluten, but I’m only eating limited amounts of oatmeal and whole grain bread. I may try whole grain pasta later but, so far, I haven’t missed pasta one bit. I reintroduced potatoes last night (with a vegan mashed potatoes recipe I found online) and found that even the cleaned up version sat really heavy on my stomach. While I experienced no major GI distress as a result, I realized I no longer enjoy eating foods that prompt an “ugh” after dinner. I still need to “reintroduce and test” dairy and corn, but I’m in no hurry. I feel so good I’m staying the course.

Speaking of ugh, the best habit this cleanse helped me form is to quit eating when I’m 80% full. I have to admit, when I first read this advice in the book, the concept was lost in translation. I’m a clean-your-plate girl. Always have been. I know what full feels like but I have no idea what 8/10ths full means. Almost full? Not quite full? Still hungry? Hungry I know!

Despite being fuzzy on the concept, I gave it my best. For someone as lost as me, someone who knows what the hour after the Thanksgiving meal or Pizza Night feels like but has no idea what it means to stop eating before you are satiated, the best I can describe it is this: Stop when you still want more. Stop before you are ready to stop eating.

Stop before you are ready to stop eating.

This advice is not just about stopping. Although that’s hard enough to do. It’s also about how much to put on your plate to begin with. Recalibrating what constitutes a meal. As a young girl, a meal meant two helpings of everything. As an adult, it has meant excessively large portions (and still sometimes helping myself to seconds).

If you’ve ever done any reading on this topic, you likely already know it takes your brain 20 minutes to catch up with your stomach. Meaning — if you eat until your stomach feels full, 20 minutes later you will feel over-full. Over-full became my full. Which is why “less than full” has been so perplexing to me.

But I’m learning. And in the mean time, I’m having fun exploring new websites and cookbooks and recipes. I’ve had a couple of fantastic vegan successes (like the lasagna I featured here) and I’ve had at least one spectacular fail (a vegan “meatloaf” we shall never speak of again). Kudos to my boys for taking it all in stride.

With gratitude {for the chance, daily, to remake my life in healthier, happier terms},

Joan, who purchased the poster pictured above because it reminded her of Mr. Mom — who’s been an exceptionally good sport about eating more vegetables for the last year — and because he really does make her heart flutter

PS: I invite you to check out the websites of the books pictured below to learn more about a plant-based diet


Click here for Clean Gut

Click here for the Kind Diet

Click here for Oh She Glows


  1. Whether or not the world adapts your eating style, it is working for you and that is wonderful, wonderful. I recall how, decades ago, we’d laugh at people saying “you are what you eat”. Laughs are on us now.

    I attended a health/wellness talk where a Registered Dietician explained how people failed to drink enough water (especially during the course of a meal), stating frequently people mistook what is thirst for hunger, eating more, rather than stopping and replenishing their body’s water supply. She said the dieter’s trick to drink a full glass of water before meals did not reduce intake due to perceived fullness, but worked because people were adequately hydrated and their satiety signals were better heeded. She also mentioned the15-20 minute delay in signals and suggested drinking a glass of water a half hour before mealtime.

    I’m not going to be giving up or eating more of anything short term- I’m pretty content with my habits at the moment – but… I am sure enough going to be drinking a glass of water half an hour before meals and see what happens. Couldn’t hurt!

    • Joan-Marie says:

      Deb — the owner of our local health food store told me recently 90% of headaches and many other common ailments can be attributed to poor hydration. She said “Before you take a pain killer for a headache, hydrate first.” I think she might be on to something! With my new regimen, the first thing I do in the morning is drink a tall glass of water with lemon. I’ve been following that with a breakfast shake (spinach, blueberries, unsweetened coconut, almond milk, plant-based protein powder, sometimes a little nut butter) and the combo of water followed by a shake makes sure I start the day properly hydrated. Unfortunately, I’ve got a habit of tapering off as the day gets busy so I need to focus on my late-afternoon, early-evening hydration. Let me know how it goes with the water-before-mealtime routine. I’m interested!

  2. Maladjusted Mel says:

    Well, pooh. I was hoping this was going to be a fail. Because I don’t WANT to do the 21-day cleanse, but I SHOULD do it as I have many similar GI issues as you. Ugh. I’m going to ponder this for 21 more days and then make a decision. Signed, your Libra friend.

    • oh Libra, Libra, Libra — your Sagittarius friend echoes the wise Nike and says “Just do it.” You won’t regret it. Yes, you’ll spend some extra time in the kitchen, but your gut will pay you back in spades.

  3. Cutting awful things from my diet is one of the things I know I should do, but I just don’t feel I have enough desire to do it yet. It makes complete sense to think more carefully about the things I put into my body, I just don’t want to use that brainpower for that exact thinking yet. But this is encouraging. Good for you for loving your body well!

  4. Since I was present at the inception of this, it was a particular delight to read your report from the clean gut frontier. Also interesting to note is the fact that I skimmed the book and did nothing and you devoured the book and did everything. How in the world do we work together successfully? KIDDING.

    • M’del — you are a model of moderation and restraint. I clearly am not, though I admire you greatly. We are yin and yang, thus our successful collaboration. Where there is no excess there is no need for cleansing. If only I could learn from you.

      • Working remotely in coffee houses all day, I exist on caffeine, sugar and gluten. No model of moderation and restraint in that. Your report from the 21-day trenches of good eating HAS made me ponder the efficacy of reform. But I fear I am a denizen of the Dark Side.

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