Even two weeks after the fact, the predictability of it makes me cringe. (A cleanse? In January? Groundbreaking.) In reality, the decision to put myself on a liquid diet for five days wasn’t the product of the New Year’s halo effect, at least not entirely. It actually wasn’t even my idea.
The email landed in my inbox on January 2, and despite my general inclination to breeze past any subject line containing the words "detox" or "cleanse," my gaze came to a screeching halt when I saw that this note was from the team at Erewhon, the cult-loved health food destination otherwise known as the crux of the Los Angeles wellness scene. I frequent the store, much to the chagrin of my bank account, for the delicious prepared foods and a particularly delicious matcha latte made with raw coconut. But this was an invitation to quit dabbling and dive in completely by way of the store's signature bone broth cleanse. As if temporarily possessed by some kind of crystal-slinging, celery juice–drinking wellness zombie, I found myself responding with an emphatic "I'm so down!"
That is how I, a vegetarian who has never participated in so much as a sip of the bone broth trend, committed to drinking the stuff for five days straight. Well, kind of. The less dramatic truth is that I opted for Erewhon's vegan "mineral broth," a mushroom- and seaweed-based concoction enriched with adaptogenic herbs.
The prescription was simple. I'd have three servings of broth—each paired with a specific kind of green juice—every single day for five days. Aside from however many servings of vegetables I needed to keep hunger at bay, I was advised to eliminate everything else from my diet. Although, in the interest of preserving some of my sanity, I did permit myself to have one cup of coffee every morning as well.
I mentally prepared myself for the worst. Of all the (generally ill-advised) cleanses I've tried in my life, I can count exactly one that was a success. So no one was more surprised than I was when, a few days in, I realized I was not dizzy or exhausted or even remotely hungry for that matter. On the contrary, I kind of felt amazing.
Was this merely the result of some kind of Erewhon-fueled placebo effect, or was I delirious from all the mineral-enriched fluids coursing through my body? It was time to take a closer look.
In this case, it's not necessarily about the broth itself but the ingredients the Erewhon team adds to it. That's probably because scientific claims around the benefits of bone broth are minimal, to say the least. While there is some research to suggest that broth can help clear nasal passages and reduce inflammation, any assertion that it can help improve joints and connective tissue or boost the skin's appearance can be classified as myth.
But Erewhon bolsters that limited science with the addition of superfoods and adaptogenic herbs in both its vegetarian and non-vegetarian broths. "Our vegan broth is very alkalizing with ACV, shiitake mushrooms, and is rich in minerals from the kombu broth," says Jason Widener, the VP of new store development at Erewhon. Thanks to those cortisol-balancing herbs, these formulas are crafted to "reduce inflammation and ultimately decrease stress," he continues.
Then, of course, there's the general comfort of drinking a warm liquid during the coldest weeks of the year (even in the less-than-arctic conditions of Southern California). That coziness doesn't just bode well for a general hygge mentality but also the body's natural processes, says Widener. "When your body cleanses, it gets cold," he elaborates. "So broths are a good way to warm that internal fire, increase your circulation as you rest, reset, and repair your gut."
Just add green juice
The broth was actually quite delicious—and certainly made for a cozy ritual during the chilliest months of the year. But I most looked forward to the green juices each day, probably because it was the only element of the cleanse that had any kind of variation. (It turns out when one subjects herself to the monotony of a mostly liquid diet, she finds immense joy in such subtleties as the addition of green apple in her "lunch juice," but I digress.)
The different juices were arranged throughout the day to help support my body's natural processes and energy levels. The first one, for example, included lemon and ginger to kick-start my digestion, while the sweetest was reserved for lunchtime to help me evade an early afternoon slump. The dinnertime juice was strictly greens so as not to disturb my sleep.
It was remarkable to observe just how much my body and brain responded to these nuances, and I firmly believe that it made all the difference in avoiding the symptoms that have otherwise put me off cleansing for good—the irritability, for example, as well as the headaches and overwhelming fatigue. Several of my co-workers remarked on how surprisingly chipper I seemed in spite of this lifestyle overhaul.
Really, though, the most irritating part of the whole exercise wasn't how I felt physically but how unbelievably boring it became by day four or so. When I got to that point, snacking on some roasted vegetables was enough to push me through, especially with the goal line in sight.
While I was certainly thrilled by the idea of shoveling solid foods into my mouth after five days on a liquid diet, unraveling my sanctimonious week would prove a lot trickier in practice. After the holidays had fostered in several weeks of regular treats and snacking, it turned out that Erewhon's protocol was immensely helpful in resetting my hunger cues and tempering my appetite in general. Read: Instead of reaching for a granola bar, a few handfuls of popcorn, and my bodyweight in cold brew after breakfast, I was content to wait it out until lunch.
Some of the other side effects I experienced—smoother digestion and better sleep, for example—were nice bonuses. Others, like losing a little water weight and gaining a temporary but very annoying air of self-satisfaction, were predictable but ultimately irrelevant. It was kind of remarkable to realize that my priorities had completely changed. Instead of flattening my stomach and feeling "clean," I was way more interested in hitting the reset button on my eating habits and taking a closer look at how they were impacting my general well-being.
In other words, I was Marie Kondo–ing my routine instead of my body. While I won't go so far as to say that my liquid diet sparked joy, it did ultimately breed better habits. More surprisingly, it didn't make me miserable—but for that, I'll credit Erewhon. And maybe the adaptogens.
Always check with your doctor before significantly overhauling your diet.