How A 10-Day Wellness Challenge Is Changing My Life

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‘Tis the season to detox — and sure enough, it seems impossible to escape hearing or reading about the numerous juice cleanses, detoxes, and quick-fixes that all promise to undo that holiday bloat. I definitely ate my fair share of holiday cookies, but though I’ve dabbled in juice cleanses et al before, I’ve always been wary of the idea of subsisting on only liquid for days on end. So I decided to scour the city for a suitable and realistic way to regain my long-lost energy. AQUA Studio’s Clean Start Challenge, which focuses on all the things you can eat, seemed to be a breath of fresh air from all those restrictions.

Located in a supremely chic and airy Tribeca loft, AQUA Studio is the first and only place in New York to offer underwater cycling (a.k.a. aquacycling). After discovering aquacycling in Paris, AQUA Studio’s lovely founder Esther Gauthier imported the concept to New York and opened her doors last year. A single session promises to get your heart rate up, burn 800 calories, help you sleep better, and eliminate cellulite (thanks to the lymphatic massage you receive from the water friction). While visiting the studio for a class, I learned about their Clean Start Challenge, which was created to promote a greater understanding of wellness and a commitment to clean eating.

Yesterday marked my first day. It’s a 10–day program designed by Emma Galland, CEO of Goji Fitness and Master Trainer at AQUA. In addition to attending seminars about how to beat the sugar blues and how to eat for energy, the 10-day challenge requires a commitment to maintaining a clean, no-added-sugar diet, taking a more mindful approach to eating, and completing 10 AQUA classes (which are no joke — I’ve never slept better in my life than after one of these).
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In preparation for the program, I joined the other participants this past Saturday for the opening seminar, “How to Beat the Sugar Blues.” We learned what sugar does to our bodies, why we crave it, and that it’s actually okay to eat it, as long as it’s in a natural form, like fruit, root vegetables, and whole grains. However, Emma promised us that after a few days of expected withdrawal symptoms from sugar, we would feel so much more energized and productive; we would start to realize exactly how badly we'd felt before (without even knowing it).

We will also be supported with daily emails during the program. This is to help us through the roller coaster of emotions we can expect. In addition to exploring the physical impact that food has on us, Emma also discussed the emotional aspect of eating. We eat to feel a certain way — comforted, loved, energized, and usually when we’re feeling particularly down, stressed, or bored. When we consume refined sugars, we get an instant surge of all of those feelings, compelling us to need and want more, thus continuing a never-ending cycle of mood swings and sugar dependence. Emma has encouraged us to create what she calls a “Nourishment Menu” — a list of activities that rejuvenate, energize, and nourish the soul. When we get the nagging feeling to reach for a sugary snack, we pick from the nourishment menu instead. For me, this means going for a walk when I’m about to reach for a cookie.

Now, armed with a wealth of information, myriad recipes, and motivation from Emma, Esther, and the other inspiring women taking part in the challenge, I'm embarking on a new lifestyle approach when it comes to my relationship with food. Stay tuned for my experiences.

AQUA Studio is located at 78 Franklin Street, New York, NY 10013. For more information and to book classes, please visit them here. For more information on Emma Galland and the Clean Start Program, please visit here. You can follow AQUA on Instagram @aquastudiony, on Twitter @aquastudiony and on Facebook.com/findaqua. You can track the challenge with #aquachallenge.