For 28 whole days I said no to alcohol. For 28 days I went gluten-free, dairy-free, and processed sugar-free. I said no to condiments (R.I.P ketchup). I said no to chocolate. Was it easy? No. Way. But it was absolutely the most rewarding challenge I ever put myself through.
Cassey Ho’s 28-Day Reset is designed to help you discover food allergies you may never have been aware of. Understanding which foods your body does and does not tolerate, in turn can help you achieve weight loss goals, increase your energy, and most importantly for me, clear up acne (severe, cystic, physically painful acne).
This is my genuine experience with the reset. No one paid me to write this nor did anyone ask me to. I’m writing this on the chance that someone like me, right now, is googling “cures for cystic acne”, someone who’s on the cusp of giving up on their skin, someone who’s in physical and emotional pain from acne and the scars that follow. If you’re considering the reset and just not sure if it’s “worth it” then I want you to hear me out! The reset really is all it’s cracked up to be. After almost an entire month of living life on the reset, this is what I learned…
1.) Being sober for 28 days is NOT the end of the world. Considering I was a senior in college when I started the reset, this part scared me the most. I was worried that I was going to miss out on all the good times with my friends, but in reality it helped me to realize that the people who are only fun to be around at a bar, aren’t my real friends. The friends who were happy to socialize with me in other healthier settings, I realized, were my true friends all along
2.) Being in complete control of your nutrition gives you control in other areas of your life. I picked a crazy time in my life to start the reset. It was my final semester of college, I was applying to grad school, I was prepping for the GRE, all on top of teaching 5 fitness classes a week and a full course load. The reset kept me grounded in the sense that it kept me focused and mindful, which was exactly what I needed to be at that time. I felt organized and productive all the time.
3.) Not everyone is going to understand why you’re doing this. This is true for any lifestyle change, sadly. One day you’re hosting wine and cheese night every Saturday and the next you’re flipping banana pancakes and drinking lemon/cucumber infused water. It’s going to be a transition for others in your life as well, not just you. So it’s good to be mindful of that.
4.) There is no food addiction that’s impossible to overcome. Before the reset, I wouldn’t go a single day without drenching something in maple syrup…and then all the sudden added sugar is taken out of my diet, out of my life. Terrible, right? Wrong! Even post-reset, I still save the fancy maple syrup for special occasions. Your skin is gonna be real happy about it too.
5.) Sugar is an energy zapper. One of the first YOLO meals I had post-reset was my typical serving of froyo with the hot chocolate syrup, the peanut butter sauce, the chocolate chips, etc. I vividly remember walking out of the Froyo store feeling literally tranquilized. It was a feeling I hadn’t been aware of before probably because I was accustomed to it. It was my normal. But after having been away from sugar for so long, my body felt as if it had somehow exerted itself by the time I had my last spoonful.
6.) Gluten is in EVERYTHING. Well not literally, but it sure seemed that way for my first 2 days. If you didn’t understand what gluten really is and why it’s in stuff, trust me, you’ll have a great grasp on it by the end of the 28 days.
7.) I‘m not as into cheese as I thought I was. I thought going dairy free would be impossible for me. But weirdly, I never hit a point where I was craving cheese. I was so satisfied with the variety of foods I was eating that it never actually bothered me. And it so turns out that dairy happens to have the biggest effect on my skin (which could be the reason why I don’t ever crave it!).
8.) Sushi is your best friend. Not gonna lie, going out to eat is tough when you’re following something like the reset. But my go-to came to be salmon avocado rolls, vegetable rolls, and shrimp avocado rolls all with brown rice and gluten free soy sauce. So yes, you can make sushi dates on the reset!! Sushi besties unite!
9.) You’re bound to make a mistake. It’s a given. You’ve probably never attempted to go gluten free, dairy free, processed sugar free ,and alcohol free all in one go. I remember biting into a turkey meatball at a school function and thinking “Oh great, lean meat!” only to get the question, “aren’t there breadcrumbs in meatballs?” LOL oops! In that situation, you don’t need to spit out what’s in your mouth. You don’t need to start over from day 1. Just keep moving forward! We all make mistakes.
10.) Planning meals is key. Investing in the Popflex weekly meal planner was probably the key to maintaining success on the reset. As I started writing down what I was going to eat, I felt more of an obligation to stick with my plan simply because I wrote it down. Think of it as making an appointment with yourself. You wouldn’t wanna leave yourself or your fresh food hangin, right?
11.) Not all gluten free bread tastes bad. Gluten free bread has a really bad reputation for tasting crummy (no pun intended, though GF bread does tend to be more crumbly than regular bread). After a lot of taste testing I felt that Ezekiel’s brown rice bread was a winner. I’m a long time fan of Ezekiel breads and when I saw they had gluten free, I jumped all over it. If you’re having trouble finding GF bread, it’s probably being kept frozen (just FYI) so head towards the frozen food aisle! Brown rice bread is definitely denser than regular bread (don’t let the size fool you) so I recommend popping it in the toaster on the max time to soften it up a bit. Plus, who doesn’t love warm bread?
12.) Salsa is better than ketchup. I can’t believe I just wrote that but I’m not messin around! The no condiments aspect of the reset was definitely daunting for me. I was that girl who put ketchup on her scrambled eggs (go ahead, judge!), who saturated healthy grilled chicken in ketchup and yes I even used to take my Thanksgiving turkey with a side of the good stuff. Ketchup and maple syrup were definitely 2 of my food “vices” so to speak. I grew up with them. They reminded me of home, of family, of good times and sometimes associating food that way can be a little detrimental to your health, especially when the average ketchup is loaded with sugar and high fructose corn syrup. So I begrudgingly replaced it with salsa and I was honestly shocked by how delicious of a topper it made on an omelette or grilled chicken. And yes, you can find organic salsas with no added sugar! If it sounds totally weird, I dare you to at least try it! I doubt you’ll hate it.
13.) Trail mix will be your go-to snack. Trail mix SAVED me. But I’m not talkin about the pre-packaged mixes you can buy at any kiosk. To avoid added sugar and excess sodium, the best way to go is to buy all of your own nuts, unsalted. To add sweetness, buy a variety of freeze dried fruit. And yes don’t be scared; it’s only one ingredient (no added sugar)! Think of freeze dried fruit as astronaut food–it’s literally just dehydrated fruit. In my trail mix I typically added peanuts, cashews, walnuts, almonds, pecans, and pistachios. For freeze dried fruit my favorites came to be granny smith apples, mangoes, pineapples, raspberries, strawberries, and bananas. For more on how to make your own trail mix check out Cassey’s reset snacking advice here!
14.) Putting water instead of milk into a smoothie doesn’t ruin the taste. Ahhh!! Very few people believe this but guys omg I wish I could do a study and have people taste a smoothie made with water and one with almond milk and have them rate if one is better than the other or if they just simply taste the same. Here’s the trick: your protein powder is EVERYTHING. If your protein powder sucks, the smoothie is gonna suck too. My go-to is Garden of Life Vanilla Plant protein powder, that’s also completely organic. If you’ve ever tried cheap protein powder you can probably recall it tasting very chalky. But I seriously swear, Garden of Life protein is like VELVET. It gives a water-based smoothie a very creamy texture, and texture is really the only thing that unsweetened almond milk adds to a smoothie. If you’re adding plenty of sweet frozen fruit (blueberries are my fav) then you’re getting plenty of flavor already.
15.) Sugar lurks everywhere–especially jarred sauces. I can’t tell you how long I’ve spent crouched down in the sauce aisle, flipping every jar to see how much sugar was added into each the sauce. Realistically, it’s probably best to make your own sauce. But I get it, we’re all busy people! My rule of thumb with sauce came to be if it has more than 4 grams of sugar, put it back. It’s gonna be impossible to find something at your grocery store with 0 sugar. Just do the best you can! Some of the lowest I’ve seen is 2 grams of sugar. A brand you can definitely trust is Victoria; many of their sauces are organic and contain up to only 5 grams of sugar. Always, always, always check that sugar label! Especially with nut butters too. These days I try to find ones labeled “unsweetened and unsalted.” Teddy’s peanut butter is my absolute fav!
16.) No acne situation is incurable. I get really emotional when I talk about acne struggles and if you’ve ever had acne then you know what I mean. I don’t wanna go on for too long because eventually this will be its own blog post. But the reason I actually started the reset was for my skin. No, I wasn’t trying to lose weight. Not at all! I started the reset because no matter what I did, I couldn’t fix my acne. Topical creams didn’t work, antibiotics didn’t work, serums didn’t work, proactive didn’t work, facials didn’t work, expensive cleansers didn’t work–NOTHING worked. The only thing that did work was makeup: my foundation, my concealers, everything that could hide the havoc of my skin. At least until I started the reset. No I’m not sure if it’s definitely gluten, if it’s definitely dairy, if it’s definitely sugar, if it’s definitely alcohol that made my skin go mad. By my last week of the reset the acne just stopped forming and that’s all I cared about. All the sudden my skin didn’t hurt anymore. I wasn’t bleeding. I wasn’t icing my skin. For the first time EVER, my skin had a chance to heal. When you’ve had cystic acne for most of your life…it’s a heck of a feeling to suddenly have skin that’s smooth and not bumpy.
17.) What you’r eating really does affect your energy levels. I was probably my absolute busiest when I started the reset, yet I had the energy to always plow through my crazy schedule. Teaching fitness classes back to back, writing long papers, studying for the GRE–it was almost easy with the reset keeping me grounded. And there are no calorie restrictions on the reset so you don’t have to starve!
18.) Fruit is your friend. Nature’s candy is here to help you get over your sugar addiction. Remember, the reset isn’t about removing all sugars from your diet; it’s about removing the added sugar. Fruit is fruit. It’s naturally sweet and not to mention full of fiber and other vitamins. Plus, fruit is naturally low in calories.
19.) Lara bars are life. No I wasn’t paid to say that! If you just look at the ingredients you’ll see what I mean. The entire list fits in just one line of text. That’s pretty comforting, isn’t it? Best part is, it’s all foods you’ve actually heard of like peanuts, dates, pecans, almonds, etc. Important to note: these aren’t meal replacement bars or protein bars; they’re simply just for snacking, for taking care of those afternoon rumbles between lunch and dinner.
20.) You’ll perform better at school or work. I really attribute a lot of my academic success to having been on the reset this past semester. It gave me the feeling of control and focus I needed to study hard for the GRE (which would get me into grad school) and to achieve my goals of all A’s for my last semester.
21.) Some friends may drift from you and your new lifestyle. This can happen with ANY lifestyle change, especially dietary changes. Dealing with these people can be tough so check out my article from Health.com that will introduce you to the most common remarks you might hear and the best rebuttal for each one.
22.) While some friends will cheer you on. Not everyone is gonna be a Negative Nellie! You’ll have your cheerleaders too. Some may join you, others won’t, but it really doesn’t matter. People who can support you in this way and who understand how difficult this can be, are really special. These are the people who want to see you succeed and be happy, without their own insecurities getting in the way. Frankly, these are the only kinds of people you should be calling your friends, right? These people are strong. They are positive forces in your life so keep them there!
23.) Someone is bound to tell you that what you’re doing is “dieting.” Let’s get one thing straight; the way you eat IS your diet. When you hear someone say “the typical American diet” what do you think of? Cheeseburgers, french fries, and soda, right? I doubt you’re thinking about kale and avocados. Do cheeseburgers and soda sound like a “diet” to you? No, of course not! What we usually consider a “diet” generally leads to weight loss through calorie restriction. Well, the reset is different in the sense that there is no counting calories. It’s not solely for people looking to lose weight. Remember: I started the reset for my skin, not my weight! I didn’t even take before and after measurements or weigh-ins. But yes I did appear leaner after the reset and here’s why…
24.) You’ll stop blaming your menstrual cycle for bloat and realize how much nutrition is really controlling that. Just as hard as it is to lose weight, it’s no easier to gain weight. On those days when we feel “fat” it’s not likely that we’ve put on any significant weight, rather it’s probably just bloat. Yes, of course your period can make you bloat but that’s not the only culprit. If you have an intolerance to dairy, if you’re eating lots of sugar, if you’re eating pre-packaged foods (which are usually very high in sodium), those are all likely causing you to retain water (aka bloat). Ladies, we can only blame our time of the month for so long (it is a menstrual cycle after all). When I was full on doing the reset I was almost never bloated. I could have a meal and still see abs in the mirror. No I’m not saying you’re guaranteed to have nicer looking abs after the reset, but it really does strip away any excess water weight you could be holding on to.
25.) Your skin will literally GLOW. I mentioned the acne clearing up, but glowy skin is the icing on the cake. Just go ahead and throw away your $40 highlighter…kidding, don’t do that! But what’s really cool is that very healthy skin does tend to glow on it’s own and in the places where we typically highlight with makeup. Prior to the reset my skin was extremely oily around my nose and cheeks, and flaky around my jaw line. By the end of the reset, my skin produced a more balanced amount of oil. Suddenly I was shining in all the right places. That was probably one of the first things I noticed about my skin. Initially, I still had scars of course (and those can take a very long time to heal so don’t feel discouraged) but scars aside you could still see my improved health through my skin.
26.) People are gonna notice that you’ve been doing something different! Who doesn’t love a compliment? And go ahead and take it! Don’t say “oh stop, it’s nothing.” It’s not nothing! Of course eating meticulously is going to show after a while so take pride in your hard work, you deserve it! There’s absolutely nothing vain about accepting a compliment you worked hard for or showing off your success.
27.) You’ll have a stronger sensitivity for people who have real food allergies. Living on the reset is living life as if you were very sensitive to dairy and gluten–two common food allergies. If you’ve ever met someone with Celiac disease and felt bad that they couldn’t have brownies and bread, by the end of the reset your sympathy will be empathy. You’ll see the frustrations they go through day in and day out, painstakingly reading every label, confirming with your waiter that there are gluten free options, etc. Often times, I felt very difficult, like I was a nuisance. Someone with a food allergy should never feel that way! Imagine if this was always your life. It’s not easy at all and after the reset I have much more empathy and respect for those who do manage serious food allergies every single day.
28.) People will be inspired by your commitment. The 28 Day reset isn’t a walk in the park and when you tell people what you’re doing, chances are they’re gonna be impressed! It’s simple monkey see, monkey do. Other people see your success and naturally they’ll want that for themselves. It’s a really great thing when you can help someone achieve a goal and become healthier simply by setting an example–a total win-win. Trust me, it’s an AMAZING feeling.