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The hardest part of starting this cleanse was finding 12 days in which I didn't have a party, wedding, anniversary etc which would make avoiding rich food and several glasses of wine impossible! When I finally did start it was with much excitement & enthusiasm after reading so many good reviews of Chris James' 12 Day Cleanse. I was keen to feel energised, clear skinned and hopefully loose a few pounds in the process. But, I couldn’t help but wonder how long this enthusiasm might last….. A vegan diet with no bread, pasta, caffeine, sugar or alcohol seemed like a tall order and I must admit, I was worried I'd feel as starved as I have on other detox plans that I've tried in the past. The idea with the 12 Day Cleanse is to reduce acidic foods and replace with simple alkaline alternatives that require little energy to digest. Toxins increase the levels of acidity in the body and can affect your immune system, your digestive system and interfere with your metabolism. The basic principle is that you'll consume plenty of raw, fresh fruits and vegetables that are packed with nutrients and build up to the 3 day Power Phase where you consume only raw fresh juices to give your body and digestive system a break from normal food processing, and give it a chance to do a bit of 'housekeeping'. Preparation is definitely the key here, it’s well worth planning your menus for each phase and shopping in advance to make sure you have everything you need.

Phase 1 - The Preparation Phase (Days 1-3):

I started my first day with a dry body brush before my shower and then a glass of hot water and lemon as suggested. I then took the required tablets (6 in total), and the aloe vera drops in water (which I actually do most days, so no change here!) For breakfasts I stuck to either fresh fruit (avoiding the no-no's from Chris' list), a smoothie of my own creation, or organic porridge oats with homemade almond milk, fruit and chia seeds. Lunches consisted of either a colourful salad with a drizzle of organic olive oil, raw unfiltered cider vinegar and sprinkling of seeds, or any leftovers from the previous night's dinner. Chris suggests this quite a lot in his meal planner and it makes things much easier as it cuts down on the amount of food preparation you have to do. This is a real plus point if you're feeling tired and lethargic, which I did during Phase 1. If I'd had to spend ages rustling up a healthy meal I may well have been tempted to reach for the nearest bag of crisps or malteasers! My favourite dinner in Phase 1 was the baked sweet potato and borlotti bean stew (from Chris' meal planner - to which I did add a little chilli powder so that I could pretend it was chilli con carne – hopefully I didn't break any rules!), and a stir fry with lots of green veggies & edamame with some wholegrain rice. Excited to try my hand at juicing with my newly acquired juicer, I then made watermelon, peach and pear juice. Here's where the as yet encouraging start to Phase 1 started to go wrong… The disappointment of the minuscule glass of juice produced, coupled with my kitchen looking like it had been ransacked was almost too much to bear. Admittedly it did taste great, but the effort and washing up involved ensured that it goes straight onto eBay in 13 days time! Give me my Nutribullet any day! I had expected to feel hungry, but surprisingly I didn’t at all, which made sticking to the rules fairly easy. I did wake up with a headache on day 2, which lasted for most of the day. Whether this was due to the withdrawal of sugar and caffeine I don't know - but I assume it was! All in all Phase 1 was easier than I thought it would be and I felt very positive about the rest of the cleanse, if not a little concerned about the amount of washing up to come with all the juicing in the Power Phase!

Phase 2 - Pre-Purification Phase (Days 4-6):

It's starting to feel like ‘Groundhog Day’ with the now familiar routine of body brushing, hot lemon water and tablets - although in the Pre-Purification Phase the dosage of tablets goes up a notch (not great for those that struggle to swallow tablets - fortunately this doesn't bother me). When I looked in the mirror on day 4 I had several blemishes, which was depressing, but this was soon overshadowed by the joy of stepping onto the scales to find I’d lost 4lb already, plus several cms off my waist, hips and thighs! I’m now a bit worried that I might disappear entirely before the end! Today I found it hard not to eat the kids leftovers at tea time, but managed to find the willpower to scrape them into the food waste! I also felt quite emotional and a bit teary for no apparent reason. I still went to my Pilates class as usual. It felt good to stretch although I had less energy than usual, and have not felt able to go for a run or to the gym. However by the end of this phase, I am starting to feel more energised and have been enjoying 2 half hour walks a day where I have been attempting to practice some mindfulness. Even my husband has commented on my uncharacteristic 'chilled-out' attitude. It's amazing what you can fit into your day if you have strict guidelines to follow. I'm secretly enjoying being told what to do by Chris - it's quite unburdening! I still don't feel hungry - amazing!

Phase 3 - The Power Phase (Days 7-9):

Body brushing, hot lemon water, tablets...! I can't complain as my skin feels smoother, firmer and softer than ever before. I've also been using a detox body oil after my shower. I was excited to step onto the scales again only to find that I'd lost just three quarters of a pound. Although I had lost another 2cms from my waist. I have to admit to cheating slightly in the Power Phase. I started the day with a smoothie rather than a juice. I would then have a homemade veggie soup for lunch made with just veggies & low-salt, organic vegetable bouillon, followed by what felt like hundreds & thousands of juices! I just couldn't quite face a juice-only diet.... I took my Himalayan salt bath on day 7 which felt amazing. I've not been able to do the colonic cleanse that Chris suggests due to a pre-existing medical condition, so instead I had 2 more Himalayan salt baths - gorgeous! I would recommend trying to do the Power Phase when you don't have too many other demands as I did feel tired and drained - plus my children forced me to make them bacon sandwiches, which was just mean! On day 9 I spent ages peeling fruit for a smoothie and then forgot to put the jug underneath the tap on the blender, which resulted in most of it landing on my feet - I cried for a disproportionate amount of time! I still don't actually feel hungry with the Super Absorb tablets doing their job - which I find incredible.

Phase 4 - The Maintenance Phase (Days 10-12):

I must admit it was a huge relief to get through the Power Phase and I was so looking forward to a bowl of porridge on day 10 - semi-solid food has never tasted so good! The scales beckoned again and I had lost another 1.5lb and another 1cm off my hips, thighs and waist. I am feeling really good at the start of the last phase. My skin is clear my body feels firm, my stomach is almost flat and I feel like I could do this forever (or at least 2 more days!). In actual fact I am already starting to plan ways to incorporate more of Chris' eating plan into my daily life. Simple things such as starting the day with hot water and lemon, taking a good quality probiotic, sticking to raw fruits and vegetables for breakfast and lunch and cutting back on caffeine and sugary snacks permanently. To be honest the way I'm feeling now is far better than the feeling I get from indulging in chocolate or a huge bowl of pasta - it's addictive! Other amazing side effects appear to be that I am sleeping like a log, and the dermatitis on my hands that I suffer from constantly has completely gone. Something that hand creams and prescription medications have never quite been able to do. My final weight loss was a staggering 7.5lb, plus a total of 8cm off my belly, 4cm off each thigh and 5cm off my hips! But the biggest win for me was the way I felt, and the enormous sense of achievement I got for sticking to the 12 Day Cleanse. I have definitely learned a lot about how our diets affect us and I am certain that some of this new found knowledge will become part of my normal daily routine and change the way I eat. The 12 Day Cleanse is certainly a challenge, but I love the fact that it is broken down into 3 day phases which psychologically seems to make it much easier. The supplements and the guide book provided are what makes this cleanse so do-able. If you have the determination to see it through I think you'll be amazed with the results and will want to change your eating habits for life. I shall be planning my next cleanse for just after Christmas :) and the juicer can stay! Happy Cleansing! Zoe

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