:: updated on 7 March 2012 ::
After what feels like several weeks of indulgence… ‘It’s the holidays!’ ‘It’s my birthday!’ ‘It’s my wedding!’ …I woke up in the middle of the night last Saturday morning, feeling heavy, bloated, and just not very good. I couldn’t get back to sleep because my body felt so unhappy and uncomfortable. So I put my foot down on myself – as yogis do – and decided it was detox time.
I’ve done and toyed with various sorts of cleanses / detoxes and regiments of eating. I have a propensity to do things to the extreme, so at different points in my life, I have been pescatarian, vegetarian, vegan, raw, gluten-free… Pre-yoga, I even tried the South Beach Diet (no joke). Ultimately, I decided I didn’t want to make eating rules or labels for myself. The strict-ness of it stressed me out. I decided I would just eat whatever I wanted to when I wanted to, which meant mostly vegetarian, sometimes fish & organic chicken or turkey, avoiding processed stuff as much as possible. Generally, I’m pretty mindful about what I consume, because I’m aware of the immediate and long-term effects it has on me. And quite simply, I enjoy being healthy and I enjoy the taste of healthy foods.
I also enjoy red wine and crisps (potato chips). And fried foods like chips (french fries) and salt & pepper squid. So naughty, but so darn tasty. My husband has a major sweet tooth and when he’s chomping away on his English confectionary, hey, I want to have some too! With my relatively lenient perspective on food, the slope became pretty slippery.
At first, I felt kind of okay. And the naughty little voice inside my head tried to convince me that maybe it was fine to have red wine every night and eat the entire bag of crisps (they make a Pesto flavor of kettle cooked British potatoes with no additives. I mean how much does that make your mouth water?). If I’m perfectly honest, part of me so wishes I could have the kind of metabolism where I could eat loads of junk if I wanted, do some yoga, and feel great in my skinny jeans. But alas. I am not blessed with such, genes. I have wobbly bits, get a food pooch after a big meal, and wear those crisps on my hips. My poor diet during the past few weeks also affected my skin, my sleep, my mood, my energy level, & just how I felt inside.
So, detox. In the past, I’ve done proper programs with instruction manuals and all sorts of herbs and regulations. I do believe in those, but I also believe that it’s probably as simple as cutting out the bad things and adding a bunch of good things, without spending loads of money. I think because I’ve tried different eating regimes, etc, I have a pretty good idea of what agrees with me, what I need, and what I need to avoid. And this is an extremely personal thing. I know some people may be totally fine with dairy or wheat. But I don’t think you can ever really know how a food affects you until you clean out your system so that you can actually feel from the inside out.
The body is miraculous, amazing, and just so smart. We have a built-in detoxifying system that is designed to filter the negative bits. But just like having too many apps running on your computer affects its performance, overloading our bodies with unhealthy foods (that sometimes have pesticides & hormones!), not giving it enough good stuff, not to mention mental and emotional stresses which definitely affect us physically, as well as toxins in the air, water, household products, etc…all of this affects our bodies’ natural abilities and functions. And so we become more and more disconnected, and less able to feel or hear what our bodies are communicating to us.
Detoxing is basically like when you have to delete some files and make space on your hard drive for optimal performance. And as with everything important in life, this requires effort, commitment, patience, and focus. Sorry guys, but I don’t think a pill from Whole Foods is going to really do it for you. At least not in the long run. Similarly, fasting or doing something like the Master Cleanse can have an immediate effect in the short term, but it isn’t a sustainable answer for the every day. I’m interested in what I can incorporate all the time on a regular basis, so that I can feel and be – as Oprah says – my best self.
I want to have a balanced perspective on food, I don’t want to feel limited or be super strict. I want what I consume to nourish and support me. I also want to enjoy it! So here’s how I’ve initiated my journey back to healthiness, how I’m ‘detoxing’. Please note that I’m not a nutritionist, but perhaps this can serve as some general guidelines / suggestions for you.
No sugar, alcohol, caffeine, gluten, yeast, dairy, drugs or over-the-counter medicine
FRESH SQUEEZED JUICE: beetroot, carrot, celery, spinach, kale, cucumber, green apple (as you like, but make sure the majority of the juice is VEG)
a good SUPERFOOD drink with no fillers (it comes in powder form)
apple cider vinegar in water with Manuka honey
a probiotic in pill form, or try fermented miso
flaxseeds (soaked in water overnight is best!) / flax oil
Superfood cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cabbage, kale, radish, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, collard greens, kohlrabi, mustard, rutabaga, turnips, bok choy, Chinese cabbage, arugula, and watercress
Other Superfoods: apples, berries, spinach, beans and lentils, nuts and seeds, salmon, turkey
Protein: eggs, fish, plain tofu; if you choose to have meat, stick with organic chicken / turkey
Carbs: quinoa, brown rice, rye bread, millet** (PS)
Low sugar fruits only: i.e. berries, kiwi, green apple
Snacks: raw chocolate, almond butter, Manuka honey, rice / buckwheat cakes, Ryvita (wholegrain rye crackers), almonds / cashews, herbal tea
Seasonings: olive oil, sea salt, pepper, fresh herbs, lemon, garlic
Supplemental treatments: acupuncture, massage, colon hydrotherapy
And of course: YOGA or your preferred form of exercise
While detoxing, do way less than you usually do. Sleep a lot. Pay attention to changes in your skin, the whites of your eyes, your energy level, your moods, the clarity in your mind, the quality of sleep, and when you go to the bathroom. It’s normal to experience headaches, pain in the lower back area (this is your kidneys detoxing), lethargic, and just not feel that great at first. This is the toxins being purged back into the bloodstream to be re-circulated out. It will pass.
As for how long to do it, I would go for at least 7 days, but try to incorporate mindful habits for the long term! Hope you find this helpful, and feel free to get in touch with me with any questions or thoughts! xxo
** PS To answer a question I received, I think the pasta-form of these gluten-free grains is okay, but probably not every day. My best suggestion is that you make this mostly about filling up on the fresh veggies (juiced, raw, steamed, etc) and other foods under the ‘Consume daily’ section. If you fill your belly with these good things, you 1) won’t have as much room for other unhealthier choices, & 2) will re-train your tastebuds to crave more of the good things and less of the bad. Don’t be too hard on yourself or too pedantic about detoxing. It’s already an enormous positive step to take away sugar, alcohol, caffeine, etc. This alone will alleviate the toxin burden on your body.
Also, I have some photos with this post on my Facebook Page.