April is FINALLY here! Is it just me or did it seem like this was the winter that never wanted to end? Now that the weather is finally beginning to act like it’s supposed to, we’re headed into the time of year when everyone starts thinking about spring cleaning…inside their homes and their bodies! Many clients have approached me with questions about how to do a “healthy detox.” There are so many different ways to do a detox; in fact, I’ve actually tried many of them myself in the past with varied results (good and bad) in the end, so allow me to shed a little light on the subject.
To be honest, I believe more in eating a clean diet in the first place, so you don’t really “have” to do detoxes. But, I do understand that many of you like the idea of changing things up to give you a healthy “jump start” with the change of seasons. So, if you’re in the market for a thorough internal cleansing, keep reading for some tips on my version of a healthy “detox”—cleaning things up the right way while avoiding some common mistakes that can both break the bank and cause unwanted side effects!
Let’s start with things you definitely should do when changing up your diet:
1. DO eat REAL FOOD!
For the majority of Americans, just following the 2 label reading rules and eating real food is a “DETOX:”
- Eat what you know—if you don’t know what the ingredients are, don’t eat it!
- Eat whole, natural foods—if it wasn’t around over 100 years ago, don’t eat it!
By following these 2 simple rules—what I call the Great-Grandma Rule—you’ll be flushing out a lot of the junk inside to make room for foods you can actually pronounce and that are good for you. This way you don’t have to go on some fancy plan with all these powers, pills and potions that will supposedly, magically, clean out your insides. Keep it simple…just EAT REAL FOOD!
2. DO consider eliminating certain food groups for a short time.
If necessary, you can also eat real food while simultaneously eliminating some food groups for a short while. In other words, think of this as eating a simple, CLEAN diet that is generally very easily digested. This is a good idea for people who have a lot of internal and external stressors in their life. In the midst of situations like this, some people will remove gluten and/or diary for a short period of time. When I personally have a lot going on and am feeling really overwhelmed, removing all grains from my diet for a little while tends to help me feel better.
3. DO drink a smoothie with real ingredients in it!
Some people like the idea of “drinking” their meals for a week or two to give their body and digestive system a little rest. I often will choose to drink balanced smoothies for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a few days in a row and then feel very refreshed and more energetic. Speaking of drinking, another way to help with digestion is to drink water with lemon in it. This is especially helpful for people who have a hard time drinking plain water or who, for various reasons, are battling nausea/vomiting. Check out the delicious Fruit Detox Smoothie recipe I recently posted that will help you get started and show you the kind of ingredients to consider when going liquid here and there.
4. DO make sure to keep your blood sugars balanced!
One of the cardinal mistakes people often make when following a detox program is they end up eating or drinking foods that royally throw off their blood sugar. Keeping blood sugar stable not only protects the body from blood sugar stress, but also helps the body deal with all the other external stressors in life. Why? Because over time, in dealing with the continual roller coaster of stress hormones due to our problematic diets and inefficient “fuel” (good food), we have created a situation where our bodies are in continuous stress mode, so that the tiniest aggravation we are faced with trips our stress hormones in the way a life or death crisis should. I believe that the high levels of stress in modern society aren’t only the product of a more stressful lifestyle; rather, our capacity to deal with stressful situations is severely weakened due to our poor nutritional choices.
Now that you know the 4 Do’s to following a detox/internal cleaner-outer plan, let’s go over 4 things you should avoid when trying to get yourself going in a healthier direction.
1. DON’T spend a ton of money on “quick fix” detox products and programs!
Here’s another idea that seems to often surprise people: You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to clean out your system! Many people feel this overwhelming need to follow some pretty crazy detox programs that they simply cannot maintain! If you made some fairly drastic changes that really are not maintainable, transition slowly off of the program and listen to your body as you add different food groups back in. If things in your life are still fairly stressful, adding certain foods you avoided for any length of time may wreak a little havoc on your system if you simply start eating anything and everything again.
2. DON’T purchase products that “can” sit in containers in your living room—unrefrigerated for weeks at a time—or that require you to spend hours counting calories!
Now I know this sounds an awful lot like the number one “do” but it’s so important it bears repeating. If you are coming off of a detox plan or a diet that had you eating packaged/quick fix meals, show your body a little love and transition back into eat pronounceable foods again! The beauty of transitioning your body to real food means you don’t have to measure every little thing you eat, nor do you need to spend hours calculating the “caloric effects” of everything you’ve eaten in a day.
I know this may be hard to hear, but eating foods that can survive in packages for months on end really defies the actual definition of what “food” is, doesn’t it? Some detox programs involve eating or drinking products with all kinds of pretend ingredients, soy, dyes etc…things we really are not meant to be consuming! Eat real food by slowing adding things back into your diet that follow the Great-Grandma Rule to see how your body reacts. Just because it doesn’t go well with a particular food one day doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat it again, it just may not be the best food for your body at a certain point in time.
3. DON’T ignore what your body might be trying to tell you!
Pay attention to how you are feeling and listen to what your body is saying. In the process of following plans that don’t place a high value on blood sugar maintenance, levels can become so unbalanced to the point that when you come off the diet, you’re hungry all the time and then gorge yourself with unhealthy foods. Like I said before, it’s extremely important to keep blood sugars stable while feeding your body new foods or changing up your diet. Many of the detoxes out there are low in protein and high in carbs; this leaves you feeling hungry, irritable and can even lead to weight gain. Kind of negates the whole point of a detox, doesn’t it?
4. DON’T ignore stress levels!
And finally…lower your stress, lower your stress, lower your stress! Notice how I mentioned that nasty little word more than once in this article? Many of us have health problems due to a combination of both internal and external stressors. We can change all the foods we want to, but if we don’t simultaneously learn to work on controlling the effects of the stress around us, the outcome of changing what we’re eating will never quite be what it could be. In other words, don’t temporarily follow some crazy diet; you may unknowingly increase your internal stress with low blood sugar that can actually elevate your stress hormones, thereby creating the opposite effect of the point of a detox. So then, how should you go about managing your stress levels?
Check out more tips on lowering your reactions to external stressors so you can be healthier over all—inside and out in the follow-up article: 10 Ways to Do a Stress Detox