For Sara Polon, aka Soupergirl, her company’s soup cleanse isn’t a cleanse — it’s how she lives. The queen of the D.C.-based soup empire went vegan three years ago, and she eats three or four Soupergirl soups a day, with healthy snacks. “I’m not craving junk food,” she says. “I sleep better. I have more energy. ”
Now she’s helping others eat like she does: Soupergirl’s new Souper “Cleanse” is a seven-day program that’s free of meat, dairy and processed food. Customers get 20 individual soups and eat four per day at specific time intervals for five days, with two “off days.” The program gives you the freedom to snack — within limits. Coffee and wine are OK; pretzels and chips are not.
Polon swears her cleanse will make a clean eater out of a dairy-loving carnivore. I decided to take her up on the challenge.
As the cleanse dictates, I start each day with a cup of warm lemon water, supposedly to kick-start my metabolism. For the first time in my life, I eat chili for breakfast — a black bean sweet potato chili, but still. Even though I make it through only half the container, I’m fueled up enough for my run. After that, I down the spiced red lentil butternut squash soup that’s on the menu for 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., and by 2:30, just about when I’m supposed to be enjoying a garlicky white bean soup, I’m still full. (Spoiler: I will not make it through all four soups on any day of the cleanse.)
It’s fine to skip some soups, Polon says, but that won’t be the case for everyone. “There’s no one formula for every single person,” she says. “Listen to your body.”
After two days of soup, it’s my first “off day” of the cleanse, which means I can eat whatever I want, as long as it’s plant-based and minimally processed. If you fear that the feta cheese or bacon at the salad bar will be too much for you to resist, Polon recommends making avocado toast, a grain salad or a hummus platter for your off day. I check that list a dozen times, but “an entire cheesecake” is not on it.
After another day on and one more day off the cleanse, I still have not reached transcendence through butternut squash and lentils. When I finally crave some snacks, my soup-induced trance leads me to some peanut butter in the fridge. Polon later tells me I was likely craving fat, because the soups contain very little of it.
“Fat got a bad rap over the years,” she says. “The plant-based kind can help you lose weight.”
My “dinner,” which I’m to eat before 7 p.m., is a split pea rosemary soup. I hate split pea soup (sorry, Mom), but this one revived me. It could be my days without solid food slowly driving me mad. It could be my body learning to be satisfied by plants. Polon says it’s a splash of soy sauce.
I spent hours in the middle of the week imagining what I would eat on my first day without restrictions. But when the day came, I looked upon office doughnuts with disdain. My roommate’s leftover pizza left me cold. This, as it turns out, is what Polon wanted all along. “I’m not trying to detox you,” she says. “I’m trying to change your palate.”
This cleanse hasn’t ruined pizza for me forever — nothing is that powerful — but before I pick up a slice, I’ll remember how I felt more energetic and healthy when I kept my diet plant-based. Then I’ll vow to make a change — tomorrow.
Soup’s on … and on
You can order Soupergirl’s new cleanse in weekly increments online; one week costs $135, while eight weeks is $980. The first cleanses will ship on Nov. 28, or you can pick them up at Soupergirl’s Takoma Park shop. Polon expects some people may use the cleanse as a monthly refresh.