Clare Calvo isn't trying to convert anyone to veganism.
"It's not about trying to recruit people to, like, the vegan team," says the owner of Synergy Studios, which will launch its first detox of the year March 10. "It's just about, 'Hey, here's three weeks to gift yourself an opportunity to get back to equilibrium, get back to your true essence of health.' ... It's not like, 'Go raw vegan for the rest of your life,' no. Maybe once a year, twice a year, seasonally, give your body a break. Because really our bodies can heal on their own, I believe, but it needs to be given the opportunity to come back to its natural state."
This year's detox kicks off March 10 – just a few days after the start of Lent – and will take participants on a 21-day holistic health journey in the form of a vegan diet that wraps up by March 31.
The detox program, which costs $249 through Feb. 28 and $299 beginning March 1, includes recipes and grocery lists, discounts on therapies such as cupping and cryotherapy, access to a program WhatsApp group to keep you on track and give you the support you need when a juicy hamburger or pint of ice cream start calling your name, as well as access to daily yoga practices, sauna sessions and other therapies at Synergy Studios in Hagåtña.
Each week takes participants a bit further into the detox – Week 1 is vegan, Week 2 is raw vegan (no cooking!) and Week 3 is liquid, raw vegan (lots of smoothies).
"The reason why we go into raw week is when certain foods are cooked over 112 degrees it loses a lot of the nutritional value, enzymes being one of the top ones. And the thing about enzymes is we need that for our digestion," Calvo explains.
"So that second week of raw, not only are you gonna have more nutrients, enzymes and whatnot, you'll (also) notice that those autoimmune issues – whether it's rash, sinuses, eczema – those things will start to dissipate."
'Where the cleanse is really at'
The next week is where Calvo says she sometimes loses participants, but she says it's the most important part of the physical detox.
"A lot of people go Week 1, Week 2 like, 'Yeah, I got this.' And it comes to liquid week and they're like, 'Yeah, two weeks is enough,' " she says. "You're missing the point! The third week is where the cleanse is really at. ... That's when your body (is) focusing 100 percent on healing."
"When you're eating, your body's focusing on 'Okay, gotta digest this food,' " Calvo says. "It's gonna do that before it can get to any part of the body that it needs to purge out, like any toxicity."
Calvo doesn't shy away from discussing the detox's challenges, saying that once you really begin cleansing your body, you may experience what she calls a "healing crisis," such as a skin rash or a migraine headache.
"You've just gotta drink your water and breathe through it," she says.
But the detox is about much more than just bettering your body. By the end, Calvo wants each of her participants to experience a detox of mind, body and soul. And she believes each is essential to the others.
'More of the mind, more of the emotion'
"We're including a lot more of the mind, more of the emotion," she says, noting that the program includes journaling and meditation. "Cause we're holistic beings, so we're not just body – we're mind, body, spirit."
"I don't think I know anyone who grows up feeling 100 percent comfortable in their skin," Calvo says, sharing that she battled with her own fears, which manifested as an eating disorder for some time. "A lot of people come into detox because they want to lose weight – that's their No. 1 goal." And while that's not a bad goal to have, Calvo says that if participants don't address the emotions and mental blocks that might be contributing factors, they may not see the results they were hoping for.
"They're stuck in the story of how it happened," she says of some participants' prior weight gain. "So I'm like, 'Okay, how about we let go of this story and focus on what you want?' ... What they find when they do the detox ... losing weight is a nice side effect to what the true goal is."
Calvo says she tried her first detox nearly two decades ago in California, shortly after being diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome.
Re-evaluating the grocery list
Before the diagnosis, Calvo had thought she was healthy.
"I was dancing professionally ... I was active," she recalled of her lifestyle circa 2001. She was even a vegetarian. "But my diet consisted primarily of super-sweet coffee from Starbucks, cigarettes every so often and a lot of alcohol. And although I wasn't eating meat, I was eating a lot of other processed, high sugar foods and drinks."
After watching her sister, who had previously been diagnosed with Crohn's disease, undergo years of medication only to find relief when she significantly altered her diet, Calvo decided to skip the drugs – her doctor had given her a steroid prescription – and re-evaluate her grocery list instead.
"I came across an acupuncturist, a naturopath – it was interesting how the right people at the right time would show up – and that's how I found the 21-day detox. And for me it was something I needed to do."
Calvo has done yearly detoxes since then, as well as remaining on a vegan and now pescatarian diet for around 20 years. Then, in 2006, Calvo decided it was time to bring the detox to Guam. Now, she's been leading detoxes for 13 years.
Healthy but still satisfying
While going three weeks without any animal products – that means no meat, no dairy, no eggs – may sound impossible, don't knock it until you've actually tried it. Calvo, performing some kind of vegan voodoo, whipped up a peppermint chocolate smoothie loaded with nutrients from greens and superfoods, as well as three plates of kelp noodles and pesto, serving up a raw vegan meal that was both delicious and satisfying. While no one was disavowing their omnivorous eating habits after that meal, it certainly gets you thinking that three weeks of vegan eating could actually be pretty tasty.