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Food Rehab

A Month in Nutritional Boot Camp



Twenty-eight days without caffeine, sugar, dairy, wheat, red meat, or alcohol. These were the rules for those of us enrolled in the Comprehensive Nutrition Detox and Cleanse Program, aka “Food Rehab,” run by Wilton-based nutritionist Loryn Galardi. It sounded like my worst nightmare. I couldn’t have fathomed ever, ever doing such a thing and yet, here I was, sitting on a white folding chair along with 16 other people. All of us looked hopeful if also a little resigned. 

This wasn’t a weight loss program. Though there were a handful of people—including myself—who could’ve clearly stood to lose a few pounds, most of the women and the one brave man in attendance looked reasonably fit. Some, in fact, looked uber fit. This was a feel-better program, an opportunity to press the nutritional reset button and start anew.

One woman was recovering from Lyme disease, another from cancer. A slim, athletic mom admitted that she had always had “food issues” and wanted to normalize her relationship with eating. Still others were experiencing hormonal changes and wanted to be on a more even keel. 

Personally, I needed to apply the brakes to some of my eating habits because I didn’t feel well. I was having brain fog in the afternoons and had developed a sensitivity to many foods that manifested itself as rosacea. My portion sizes were too large and there was definitely a lot of unnecessary “grazing” going on during the day. And then there was the wine. I like a glass or two with dinner, but I had started to enjoy that liquid treat a few too many nights of the week. It was time for a change.

“Anyone can do anything for 28 days,” says Loryn Galardi cheerfully. She’s been leading nutritional boot camp programs for ten years and she’s good at it. Part educator, part empathetic friend, part cheerleader, Galardi makes you feel that you can and will succeed. She explains that this isn’t a gimmick. It’s a purposeful food detox with the ultimate goal being a “clean gut.”

“When the gut isn’t clean, it’s more permeable,” Galardi explains. “This means toxins can leach into the bloodstream, which can cause inflammation. Inflammation exacerbates depression, seasonal allergies, menopausal symptoms, and anxiety. It can also be a contributing factor to heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s, and diabetes.” 

Yikes.

She encouraged us to drink a minimum of 60 ounces of water every day. Week one is a weaning process, week two brings the addition of special protein shakes that replace one meal a day, along with special supplements to aid the detox process. We’re also told to “drink our greens,” which means having a drink with a vegetable-to-fruit ratio of two to one. During weeks three and four, two of our three meals are shakes.

Old habits are hard to break. Galardi highlights a few: eating in front of the TV, grocery shopping when hungry; grabbing a  highly caloric “bite” in the kitchen; cleaning up leftovers from family member’s plates; indulging in a nightly sugary treat. Who me? Guilty.

At the two-week halfway mark I notice that I’m not hungry. I no longer experience a 3-pm energy slump when I have to fight the urge to leave my office and go lie down. I still want a snack, but now I opt for a slice or two of turkey or an apple, and feel virtuous. My sleep has become more restful. On the negative side, I’m bored. There are only so many combinations of vegetables and chicken that I can come up with, and I’ve dramatically curtailed my social life in order to avoid nutritional slipups. But there are only two weeks to go and I’m determined to stick it out.

When the 28 days are over I notice that my skin is much clearer. I’ve lost 13 pounds and can finally fit into my jeans again. Caffeine? I miss the morning ritual but surprisingly I don’t truly miss the caffeine. I’m proud of myself for following the regime. The fear of feeling deprived was worse than the reality of fueling my body with healthy food and being mindful of what I’ve been ingesting.

Six months later there has been some backsliding. I’ve regained five pounds but I’ve also embraced a number of the food rehab principles. I drink lots of water and herbal tea. White foods such as rice, potatoes, pasta, and bread have been (mostly) banished. Would I do it again? Absolutely. I’m going to attempt to do follow the regime by myself on an annual basis but I must admit that going through the process with others really helped me stick to the program. Maybe I need some food rehab cohorts.

Anybody interested?

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