Spring Clean 9 Review (part 1)

Although we have probably not quite got stuck in to all the festive grub quite yet, we are aware of the impending Christmas stuffing that is due to take place in two days. So between now and New Year, the sales of diet plans and detoxes will start to take an exponential rise as we begin to prepare for our new healthier, slimmer lives in 2016.

As a Registered Nutritionist, I am more than aware of the powerful (but often empty) promises made by companies that provide the answers to all our weight loss prayers. On the other hand however, I also recognise that we live in an environment that does not enable healthy choices. We are constantly bombarded by junk food at extremely affordable prices and that if we are to resist temptation, we must be blessed with the inner strength and will of an angel.

Certainly in the UK, we work the longest hours in Europe returning home stressed and exhausted. So it is not surprising that we don’t have the time, inclination or energy to cook healthier meals from scratch. And I get that! Even though I have the specialist knowledge to be able to give personalised dietary advice, I don’t heed my own! I am however, realistic in my views about how we can all become healthier – it will require effort and many of us need a helping hand, including me. I certainly want reasonably quick results to give me the incentive and motivation to continue.

Like most of the other 7.3 billion people on this planet, I am a human being. I love my grub. Especially biscuits, cakes and sweets! I admit I have an incredibly sweet tooth and when I get (a) stressed or (b) tired I choose the sweet treats over the fruit. As I suffer with anxiety, low mood and fatigue, you can probably guess where I most frequently end up. Last month, feeling pretty desperate to get a handle on my cravings, I decided to try a product that would help me. Let’s face it, my own goodwill and efforts were failing badly, so what did I have to lose?!

Last year, Forever Living’s Clean 9 (C9) was THE most Googled dietary plan, so perhaps this was a good place to start my research. Although many people claim to lose weight on this 9 day, it is not actually marketed as a weight loss tool and it appears to offer several benefits. This is what they say:

Look better and feel great in just nine days with this expertly-devised cleansing plan. Designed to kick-start the F.I.T. programme, cleanse your body and adjust your mindset, C9 provides the perfect starting point for transforming your diet and fitness habits. Based around Forever’s bestselling Aloe Vera Gel drink, this nutritionally-balanced programme will allow you to see real results in just nine days.

So for me, this is a good start – no mention of detoxing (we already have a built in detox machine [our liver] plus we have no idea what the so-called toxins we ‘need to remove’ are!) There are no claims you will lose a stone in a day or any other whacky promises. It does say the word cleanse however.

Now I am incredibly cautious when I hear the word ‘cleanse’ or ‘clean eating.’ But when it comes to aloe vera, can it cleanse? Well actually YES it can! Aloe vera contains saponins; soapy substances which form about 3% of the Aloe Vera gel. They have cleansing and antiseptic properties, particularly on the villi of the gut and are powerful anti-microbials against bacteria, viruses, fungi and yeasts. Aloe is recognised for its high nutrient content and these combine in perfect balance. This enables a synergistic (enhancing) effect and as aloe is an adaptogen, different individuals will take from it what they need. It is also highly absorbable so can increase nutrient availability and absorption. What appeals to me on the clean 9 is that you enhance your nutrient intake in a natural way through the drinking gel and that you are not required to deprive your body of anything it needs.

Companies are not allowed to make medical or health claims concerning their products and it’s good to see that Forever have a strict compliancy policy regarding this.

I also liked the word kick start. That was pretty much what I needed, a kick up the butt anyway that would help me on my way.

Now the aloe vera drinking gel is not new to me; I have been drinking this for some time. In fact I’ve been taking a 60ml shot every morning for the last 4 months. From my own experience I genuinely feel this does me good. I feel healthier in myself and also less tired. I have not had a cold or been poorly during this time. And my IBS symptoms have settled right down!

In terms of what the active ingredients in the gel are, aloe vera contains 75 potentially active constituents: vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, lignin, saponins, salicylic acids and amino acids. A short review paper on aloe vera summarises the components and potential effects and makes interesting reading. Like the M&S advert, this is not just any aloe vera made by Forever Living, this a an extremely high quality and pure aloe. Where most aloe manufacturers will take the  entire aloe plant and blitz it up (before filtering it), Forever remove the outer leaf (by hand), leaving a pure gel fillet.   Removing the outer leaf removes the latex and anthroquinones which can give unpleasant side effects (and I assume are why some people are allergic to aloe). Forever’s aloe also has the seal of approval from the International Aloe Science Council as an indication of its purity.

Forever have a patented process which stabilises the aloe gel with pure fruit extracts (preventing oxidation; like an apple or banana goes brown when we peel them) so the gel retains all of its medicinal properties. It has been known for centuries that aloe is a powerful healer, particularly when it comes to burns but reading a pile of clinical case studies on the effects of aloe on other conditions like IBS, heart burn, psoriasis, eczema, arthritis, crohns disease, asthma and skin ulcerations I am genuinely impressed with the results reported. Aloe has an incredibly high antioxidant content which help protect our epithelial tissues (the cells that make up or skin, digestive and respiratory systems).

The drinking gel is exactly what it says on the tin – a gel. There are many aloe juices on the market, which is a bit like comparing chalk and cheese. An aloe vera juice includes the bitter outer leaf as well as the inner gel. There is very little to suggest that this part of the leaf carries any health benefits at all and the latex that it contains can have a powerful laxative effect. It is important to look at the label to check that aloe vera is the main ingredient and that there aren’t any added sugars or thickeners to give them a gel-like appearance!

Forever’s aloe vera drinking gel in the C9 is 97% pure aloe vera gel. Although aloe has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years and you can buy drinks in many health food shops and supermarkets, I have found nothing else of equal or similar quality anywhere.

You get 2L of the drinking gel to last the 9 days in the clean 9, taking 120ml at a time . You also get a protein powder to make a shake (vanilla or chocolate) plus some supplements; Fibre, Garcinia and ‘Therm’.

The ‘Ultra lite’ Protein powder provides 100% of our daily recommended vitamin and mineral intake ( having 2 per day as recommended in the programme). It is based on soy protein which has a 1.0 pdaas score (protein digestibility amino acid score). This is the standard measurement of protein quality – and is also the highest score you can get. It contains 18 amino acids including essential, non essential and branch chain amino acids. Soy protein supports growth and repair of new muscle groups, making this ideal for athletes and body builders. I was pleased to see the sugar content of this protein is good too. At 8g / 100g there are only 2g sugar per 25g portion. I’ve seen many protein shakes with ridiculous amounts of sugar in them you’d have to peel me off the ceiling!

Coming onto the supplements the fibre seems a good addition. Providing an extra 5g per sachet this will help with appetite control as fibre helps provide a sense of fulness. The most recent dietary guidelines now recommend we increase our fibre intake from 18g to 30g per day so even more reason to get a top up.

Garcinia is included to help with appetite and craving control. It is reported to help stabilise blood sugar levels, whilst lowering fat and cholesterol production.  The other supplement is Therm; this has a high B vitamin content to support energy metabolism and helps to boost metabolic rate. I have read so many testimonials from people doing the C9 that you don’t feel tired and you don’t feel hungry. The one thing my husband is most worried about is feeling hungry. He has a LARGE appetite so this is a genuine concern for him! You are encouraged to eat ‘free foods’ on the programme (in moderation) when you feel the need to. Basically these are fruit or veg (raw, steamed, grilled etc). I’m keen to see how I do with this bit too. The healthy meals I can do, it’s the snacking I need to sort out!

You are encouraged to exercise during the 9 days which is going to be important for me as I do zilch right now! I’m not looking for weight loss myself but my husband is and either way we both need to get up and get moving more. The next steps in the FIT range (after the C9) are FIT1 and FIT2 – these focus on the longer term picture; how to make your weight goals sustainable, so you can maintain your health goals long after you complete the programme.  It will be interesting to compare mine and my husbands experiences and results doing this first step together.

Forever’s sport and weight management range is also batch tested so professional athletes can be sure the products they use are drug free. I was interested to see that quite a few professional sports men and women use Forever drinking gels, protein and other products which gave me a lot more reassurance about their quality. If it’s good enough for them it’s good enough for me!

Next up………. what actually happened!

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