3 min read

Lessons Learned From a 21-Day Detox

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates

I have been wanting to try a serious detox program for years.

For some reason, committing to a period of not eating whatever I wanted has been a scary (and ridiculous) notion. This is the same reason I needed to do it.

It was not something I had planned on talking about here though. But the 3-week process did have some interesting results that I felt like sharing.

A few months ago, I got inspired about a detox kit in Los Angeles and brought it all the way back to Sweden.

Inspiration disappeared and I quickly put it in a drawer and forgot about it.

But it mocked me with its presence.

I tried to ignore it, but come late August, the ridiculousness of the situation became too large. I picked it up and jumped into the cleanse without second thought.

Why do a detox?

I know a few people who have detoxed. They have been amazed by changes in energy when removing toxins and even some common food groups from their diet. More than that, I wanted to challenge my beliefs about food.

I haven’t had meat in a few years, but have never done anything about my everyday addiction to sugar and cheese. (Oh, cheese… :))

For the first three days, I struggled even getting out of bed.

Headaches cam strong, mainly due to quitting caffeine cold turkey. And during day three and four, sugar withdrawal reared its ugly head and I actually dreamt about sugar.

After the first few days, my everyday smoothies and food preparation became habitualized. My energy came back and increased, and it started to be fun.

All of a sudden, it’s 21 days later, and I realize, I DID IT.

Almost anti-climactic, because of the fear-based build-up in general (but hey, isn’t that how fear works).

So, what are my biggest take-aways?

  • My energy levels started smoothing out. Afternoon energy dips disappeared. When I got tired, it’s because my body needed sleep.
  • Increased mental clarity; I feel smarter and faster in my thinking.
  • There is a difference between detoxing and withdrawal. I was experiencing withdrawal during the first few days. Detoxing is what the body does naturally, what it is built for. A detox means we give the body optimal opportunities to get rid of toxins. I had never really made that distinction.
  • I probably lost a few pounds, I feel lighter. Got clearer on knowing what my body actually needed. I was once getting ready to preparing a dinner shake, but I felt that I did not want one. Ended up skipping dinner and felt great about it.
  • Expanded awareness about food . Being lucky enough to live in a society with options, I realized there is so much we can eat. Not once was I hungry or deprived.
  • They put sugar in everything! As I was to cut out sugar, I had to check what products contained. This was both a disturbing and fun process. For instance, I was surprised to see that the frozen ‘fresh’ blueberries I am used to buying has added sugar to them.
  • How food can numb feelings. I felt so much more during these weeks, and had fewer ways of hiding it by eating and drinking.
  • The power of ritualizing behavior. As we all know, time has a tendency to fly. A few weeks ago, I started my 500 words every morning routine, which has now escalated into 750 words. (Actually, this blog post is a result of my morning practice). This might actually be one of my biggest take-aways; small steps everyday builds powerful momentum and outcomes.

Where I “failed”:

  • Coffee… I did have coffee during the detox. What started out as a half a cup during the first days to curb the headache, remained a morning habit. And the intake increased… Oh well.
  • For some reason, I struggle with drinking enough water, so I often felt dehydrated. Had I kept up with the recommended amount, I might have seen different results.
  • I cheated twice with alcohol… (because, champagne!)

Now what?

  • Still love coffee 🙂 But I’m limiting it to two cups a day.
  • I will drink alcohol at special occasions, but not randomly just because it is put in front of me.
  • At the moment, I have no interest in eating sugar, gluten or dairy products. I probably won’t say no if it’s offered and there are no other options, but I will be very conscious about what food I cook.

How detoxing can be a keystone habit.

If someone is feeling stuck or frustrated in life, I would recommend looking at food as one way in.


The food we eat affects us greatly. For me, it was definitely physical, but just as much in terms of increased energy and mental clarity.

What I ate affected so many other areas of my life. And sometimes, focusing on a seemingly unrelated area of our life can help us get unstuck in other areas.

For me, a three-week commitment was good. 21 days is long enough that it is a commitment. Most probably, you will find that the changes you make to your diet will cause ripples in other parts of your life.