Tempted to try a detox cleanse? There are plenty of options out there for you on the internet – special pills, powders, and liquid diets that promise to clean out your body, help you lose weight, restart your immune system, and otherwise put a spring in your step. But are they safe? Are they even necessary?
Many respected health professionals and nutrition experts recommend occasional cleanses, normally for only a day or two at a time, and always under medical supervision. I personally love the occasional green smoothie, but I know my own body well enough to know that a liquid diet is just not for me. That kind of plan just sounds like a recipe for headaches, fatigue, and irritability.
In my experience, a jumpstart to feeling better and more in control of my diet is pretty simple. More of the things that are good for me, less of the things that are not so good.
I had to pull out my reset plan this week. I had been feeling, in a word, awful. And it was all self-induced.
It started on a short business trip. I missed lunch one day – I had planned to walk to a little place near my hotel, but they closed at two. And the hotel itself only had a small shop of processed snack food. I dined on rosemary and sea salt potato chips in my room.
It only went downhill from there. I also ate pizza, cookies, a cream-filled donut, and a so-called “Caprese sandwich” at the airport that was basically a loaf of French bread with a little bit of cheese and tomato in the middle.
By the time I returned home, I was bloated, sick to my stomach, headachey, depressed, and lethargic.
“Detox” and “Cleanse” have become buzzwords in the last few years, implying that you need a special limited diet or fancy spa treatment or expensive tea to undo the damage you’ve done to your body. But detoxing from junk food is not really all that complicated. Your body is working to remove toxins from your system all the time. If you want to help it along, use common sense: breathe fresh air, drink lots of fresh clean water, and sweat.
That’s it. Let me say it again: pump some fresh air through your lungs, get your blood moving, and flush everything out with a lot of water. And of course, don’t perpetuate the problem by sending more junk food down. You don’t need a week at the spa (although if you have the time and the resources, knock yourself out!), or special dietary supplements. Just give your body a little help and it knows what to do.
As someone who has had to hit the reset button more than a few times, here are my tips for success:
Set Your Limits
Decide ahead of time how many days you are going to stay on the straight and narrow. I find that three days of healthy habits gets me back on track. It’s enough time that I really do start to feel better, and once I feel better, I am not tempted to go backwards on my progress. But you might only need a day, or you might feel better if you do a whole week. It’s up to you – just know your limits and don’t set yourself up for failure.
Put It in Writing
Write down your “MORE,” “LESS,” and “NO” lists for your reset period. For me that’s MORE water, fruit, vegetables, lean protein, nuts and whole grains. LESS caffeine and dairy. NO refined sugar, refined flour, processed meats, fried food, packaged snack food, or alcohol. Create your lists based on your personal triggers and post wherever you need to see it – on the fridge, in your planner, or on your bathroom mirror.
Make it Easy on Yourself
First, clean out the kitchen. Get rid of anything on your “NO” list and anything else that might tempt you to go off course – your personal kryptonite, as it were. Then, go grocery shopping. Fill your cart with fruits and vegetables and all of your “MORE” foods. Stay away from processed foods.
Make it easy to make good choices. Wash the berries, cut up the cantaloupe and put little baby carrots into individual baggies that you can grab and go. And always, always, always have a snack in your bag (this is where I first went wrong on my trip – if I had at least had some nuts and maybe an apple in my bag, I wouldn’t have eaten the potato chips that started my downward spiral!).
Water: Drink it Up!
Fill a big pitcher with water and drink from it all day long. Add a little fruit if you like; if not, just stick with the classic recipe of H2O. Most adults need eight to ten glasses per day; calculate your personal requirement by dividing your weight in pounds by two – the result is approximately the number of ounces you need per day. Add more if you exercise.
Move Your Body
Speaking of exercise – do it! Even a walk around the block will get those endorphins going (and get your digestive system moving along, too). To be sure it gets done – schedule it. Put a reminder on your calendar and on your phone, too! Get your workout clothes out the night before and set your shoes by the door so you don’t have an excuse to skip it.
Get Your Zzzzz’s
Don’t skimp on sleep. Not only does your body do a lot of its natural detox work while you are sleeping, but you’re more apt to make bad choices when you are tired. You should always aim for eight hours of sleep, but it’s particularly important while you’re doing your reset.
Skip the Weigh In
Finally, I suggest that you do NOT weigh yourself during this time. This isn’t about losing weight, it’s about getting your health back on track. Pay attention to how you feel and don’t worry about your weight for a few days.
Perhaps the toughest part of the whole process is just letting go of the guilt. It’s easy to beat ourselves up for our “bad” behavior. But try to remember that no food is good or bad – it’s just food. And every day is a chance to start fresh.
I’m not a physician (although I would also caution you that most of the detox cleanse routines you find online were not endorsed by a licensed physician either). If you truly feel the need to try a liquid diet or another form of a cleanse, talk to your doctor about it. For most of us, a few days of following some simple, common sense routines can be enough to shake up our habits and get us back on course.