Saturday 29 July 2017

Seven-day goop: My week detoxing like Gwyneth Paltrow

Gwyneth Paltrow's seven-day Goop detox promises a healthy change and an energy boost. But is it achievable if you don't have an Oscar and shop in the local supermarket

Sarah Breen
Sarah Breen
Halibut and lentils
Butternut squash soup
Gluten-free porridge
Rice cakes
Rocket salad

Sarah Breen

Detox. The word is as synonymous with January as indulge is to Christmas. After a month peppered with parties, decadent four-course meals and a general sense of gluttony, I was ready to face the music. Not only do I have a serious case of carb face (a puffy face and an associated feeling of general malaise brought on by eating too many carbs), I went up a belt hole without even realising it.

To get my eating habits back on track I'm turning to Gwyneth Paltrow for help. Well, not personally. Gwyn's lifestyle website Goop has become the go-to place for those looking to emulate the Hollywood's star's notoriously virtuous diet. The annual Goop detox has just been announced and I think seven days of clean eating is exactly what I need to feel comfortable in my own skin again.

Unlike Gwyneth, I won't have access to an unlimited budget for fancy ingredients, or a personal chef, but I do have both a Tesco and a Lidl close by. Plus, I work from home, which means I can cook. I'm going to try to follow her menu plan as closely as possible but without a juicer, I'll have to buy the recommended smoothies and drinks pre-made.

This will be the first detox I've ever done. My regular diet isn't appalling, but I do have a big appetite and I do love my carbs. I normally have porridge for breakfast, a sandwich or salad for lunch and something like veggie fajitas or a fish curry for dinner. And maybe a little treat in the evening. I don't eat meat so I'll substitute fish where chicken is required.

This detox means completely excluding alcohol, caffeine, gluten, added sugar, dairy, soy, corn, tomatoes and potatoes from my diet. I have a sweet tooth (and a savoury one, if I'm being honest) so I know I'm going to find the lack of cheese and chocolate difficult. It's only for a week though. How hard can it be?

Read more: Detoxes and cleanses: Are they a science or a scam?

Halibut and lentils
Halibut and lentils
Butternut squash soup
Gluten-free porridge
Rice cakes
Rocket salad

Day 1

Every day on the Goop detox starts the same way: with Lemon Water. That's warm water and a slice of lemon, which is supposed to aid digestion and hydrate the lymph system. It seems like a small price to pay for such amazing health benefits and it tastes pretty refreshing too. Who needs coffee, eh? For breakfast, Gwyn suggests a juice loaded with kale, pears, cucumber and dandelion leaves. Yep, dandelion leaves. Needless to say my shop-bought bottle doesn't contain those, but it's close enough. Lunch for today is Roasted Kobacha Soup. A quick Google reveals kobacha is a type of squash but, alas, I couldn't find it anywhere so I used butternut squash instead. The ginger, coriander and garam masala made it really warming and delicious. Perfect for a rainy day. I did miss the slice of buttered bread I'd normally pair with soup though, although it was satisfying and I didn't feel hungry afterwards. Maybe I overeat without realising it? For an afternoon snack it was rice cakes and almond butter, both of which I already had in the house. Rejoice! And goodbye hunger pangs.

Dinner was Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi Salad but I used cod instead. I was supposed to make pickles from scratch, and a salad dressing, but time was not on my side and it tasted fine without. Exactly how I imagined detox food to taste, actually. A successful first day, I think.

Day 2

Another glass of Lemon Water to kickstart the day followed later by Clean Granola and Almond Milk. Or that was what I was supposed to have but there were no quinoa flakes, puffed millet or flax seeds in my local Lidl. Obviously. Instead I had gluten-free porridge made with almond milk and a handful of pecans and cashews on the side, which I think is pretty similar nutritionally.

Lunch was Buckwheat Soba Noodle Salad (I had to use egg noodles) and the afternoon snack was another smoothie, this time fruit-based. I was starving by dinner so I was fairly disgusted to find it was more butternut squash soup. Liquid! Although I was happy to use up yesterday's leftovers, I went to bed early, hungry and cursing Gwyneth Paltrow. And it's only day two. Yikes.

Day 3

After my Lemon Water it was another smoothie for breakfast today, this time containing fruit and coconut. Delicious, but after last night's soupy dinner I was desperately craving some solid food. Lunch was Leek and Celery Root Soup (or celery heart, because that's all I found in Tesco) and a Baked Sweet Potato, which I wolfed down.

Sarah Breen
Sarah Breen

After a rice cake and homemade hummus in the afternoon, it was Seared Halibut with Lentils, Kale and Salsa Verde for dinner. I substituted haddock for the halibut as itwas all I could find and I was out of kale so I bulked up the lentils with some peppers I had in the fridge. It was actually really delicious and something I would definitely make again.

Tasty, filling and decidedly non-detoxy. I felt positively saintly afterwards and only cast one lingering glance at the fridge when my husband reached for a cold beer for dessert. Stay strong, I told myself.

Read more: Donal Skehan's healthy and super cleansing juices

Day 4

Maybe I was dreaming, but my freshly washed jeans were feeling slightly less restrictive than normal this morning. Progress? I hope so. After begrudgingly chucking back some Lemon Water (I'm not a huge coffee drinker but I was desperate for a latte today), breakfast called for more Clean Granola, this time with Coconut Yoghurt and Blueberries. I had gluten-free porridge with coconut milk and the berries instead. Lunch was Braised Lentil Salad with Roasted Kobacha, Arugula (Rocket)and Avocado. Another winner, as I was able to use the leftover lentils from yesterday's dinner and I'm sold on anything with avocados. Roasting the squash for a one-person meal was a pain though. After a veggie-based juice in the afternoon, it was Grilled Zucchini (Courgette)Socca Tacos for dinner. This recipe called for making the tortillas from scratch using chickpea flour. Not surprisingly, I couldn't find it anywhere for love nor money and, honestly, I just didn't have time to be making tortillas by hand. In the end I just opened a regular pack I had in the freezer (gluten alarm!). The tacos were pretty tasteless and even with the added black beans I was still hungry and fantasising about a Wispa by 8pm so I called it a night. I was starting to think the reason people feel so energised while detoxing is because they just go to bed earlier to keep the hunger pangs at bay.

Day 5

Couldn't face the Lemon Water and today's breakfast of a beetroot-based juice was just not enough to start my engine. I was hangry (hungry/angry) by lunchtime and properly annoyed to find it was Red Lentil Soup and Socca Wraps today. Another liquid lunch, but not the good kind. The soup ended up being quite delicious and filling but the plain tortilla on the side was rank. After a veggie juice in the afternoon, dinner was Cauliflower Fried Rice. Rice! I was excited. But then I realised that the "rice" in this recipe was simply blitzed cauliflower, which put something of a dampener on things. I couldn't find the lid of the food processor so I ended up grating the cauliflower by hand. This dish ended up being an unappetising, soggy mess. Suffice to say I won't be making it again. It took all my willpower not to crack open a bottle of merlot, stick on some Coldplay and call the whole thing off.

Day 6

Only one day to go and I'm wondering where all this extra energy I'm supposed to have is. I have been sleeping better, and my belt is no longer trying to kill me, but I'm nowhere near as serene and smug as I thought I'd be. And where are my Paltrow-esque long, lean limbs? I hopped back on the Lemon Water bandwagon this morning and was supposed to follow it with a Chia Seed Pudding for breakfast.

Read more: You’ve heard of green juice, here’s what you need to know about 'Ocean Juice'

The recipe calls for cup of chia seeds and some water and, sorry Gwyneth, those two ingredients do not a pudding make. I chickened out and had porridge and almond milk again instead. I used to always stir a spoonful of honey or Nutella into my porridge but I've decided to nix that even when the detox ends. Almond milk is here to stay. Lunch was more Red Lentil Soup leftovers with Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Coconut Oil and Seeds (I used sunflower seeds because they were in the cupboard) on the side. I found the squash a bit bland, and it was certainly no substitute for bread, but it was better than nothing. After a kale smoothie in the afternoon it was Chicken Kefta Wraps for dinner. These so-called kebabs sort of fell apart on me, probably because I was using cod instead of chicken. And they were far from filling. Boo.

Day 7

It's the final day! I can't actually believe I made it this far, and without too much difficulty. First up: Lemon water, followed by a berry smoothie for breakfast. I never really understood the appeal of juicing, and I would never have considered a juice as a meal replacement, but I'm getting used to it and starting to feel satiated without loading up on carbs. Interesting. Lunch was a Cauliflower Black Bean Bowl with Kale Guacamole and it was delicious. Who knew kale was so readily available in Dublin supermarkets? I must be shopping in the wrong aisle.

Today's afternoon snack called for Clean Granola but, not having any to hand, I had some rice cakes and almond butter instead. Very satisfying and I still wasn't hungry when dinnertime rolled around. On the menu tonight was Thai Curry Soup, which turned out really well even though I omitted the chicken and didn't have any fish to sub in. It was warm and spicy and went down a treat. An hour later I was ravenous though, so I hit the hay and dreamt about hot buttered toast, potatoes, pizza and delicious, delicious wine.

I'm no cleansing pro, but I was surprised to find this detox was achievable, even for a carbivore like myself. My biggest problem was how time-consuming the cooking was, even though I skipped some of the extra sides and dressings. And I hadn't a clue what some of the ingredients were (like wheat-free tamari, which is basically soya sauce) but discovered that, with a bit of searching, I could find most of them in my local shopping centre. Apart from the coconut sugar. That evaded me for the full seven days.

Read more: Forget juicing it’s all about broth-ing: How to jump in on NYC’s latest health fad Bone Broth

As for the substitutes I made, I don't think they could be considered cheating as such. Aside from the tortillas, which I know definitely contain gluten. Overall, I thought it was fairly manageable, as long as you have plenty of time on your hands. The most serious drawback was the expense. The fish and vegetables would have been part of my regular shop anyway, but extra ingredients like the tamari, coconut oil and fresh herbs add up quickly. And at around €6 a pop for the juices and smoothies, I hope they were doing this body good. Seriously good.

Read more: 'A five-day juice cleanse retreat is incredibly tough'

I didn't weigh myself before I started (from pure fear) but I can tell that I've lost a pound or two from the way my clothes are fitting. Drinking the encouraged extra water throughout the week also cleared up my skin a bit and I think the whites of my eyes look a little brighter too, or maybe I'm just imagining it.If this is the way Gwyneth Paltrow eats most of the time, it's no wonder her body fat ratio is in single digits and her cellulite is non-existent.

It's hard work, so I think she's more than earned that body of hers. As for me, I'm looking forward to getting carbs back in my life. Just maybe not so many this time.

Irish Independent

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