This time of year we are all craving a reset. Even if we didn’t go overboard during the holidays, there was certainly more sugar and alcohol and much less sleep and water. This can make us feel rundown and honestly just puffy and gross.
Oftentimes this leads to a cleanse or detox. Although the desire to feel better is something we can all relate to (yes, I also participate in the holidays), the way that we currently look at cleanses/detoxes can be misguided and miss the point altogether. Let’s look at what a detox really is and how to make it right for you.
Do I need to detox?
Yes, absolutely. Even without the excess of the holidays, our bodies are dealing with biological, psychological and environmental stressors on a daily basis. In fact, our bodies are built around the idea of detoxification.
Kidneys: cycle all of your blood every 35-45 minutes to remove toxins and release them through urine.
Liver: filters out toxins from food so they don’t enter your bloodstream.
Colon: blocks harmful substances as well as the toxins pulled out by the liver and removes them from your body before it can cause harm.
Lungs: tiny hair like filaments catch toxins and protects them from entering your bloodstream.
Sleep: this is the time when toxins are removed from your brain. Short term (even after a single night of good sleep) this can helps your body regulate the hormones that control your metabolism, hunger and weight.
That is why we have livers and kidneys and we sweat and pee and poop and sleep. So if you have any of these organs or have done any of these things, congrats! You are doing a detox!
Very funny, but I ate a LOT of cookies
Yes, I know that the way we treat our bodies during time of celebration require a bit more repair than a nap. But here is where we get the idea of detoxing all wrong…
In order to do these things effectively, we need to be nourishing our bodies. In other words, we need to ADD nutrients, not subtract.
Kidneys: nourished by water.
Liver: nourished by the vitamins & minerals found in vibrant fruits and vegetables.
Colon: nourished by fiber .
Lungs: nourished by fresh air and deep breathing.
Brain: nourished by actually getting some sleep.
During the holiday season the problem isn’t only that it is a time of excess, it is that we are malnourished. Be honest, when was the last time you ate a vegetable (green bean casserole doesn’t count).
So, you are right, you probably have more toxins in your body, they are making you feel crappy and you want them out. I want them out of you too! The problem with most cleanses is that they solve a malnourishment problem by cutting out nutrients.
Think of a low carb or juice cleanse that has little to no fiber. Or a high fat cleanse that cuts out vitamins and minerals found in fruit and vegetables. Or a shake-based cleanse that is low in calories and releases your stress hormones which really messes everything up.
The tricky thing is, we often feel good at first.
Most of this is because we are in control and us Type A’s like control – especially after a year where we have had zero! Overtime the restrictive nature can change your relationship with food (psychology) and your thyroid function (biology). This may not show up as symptoms immediately but can lead to cyclical dieting or weight loss resistance months later. Have you ever done a cleanse or diet once and had great results the first time but it didn’t work the second or third time? This is why.
Ok, I know I said I want to detox…but I really meant lose weight.
I get that too. In addition to participating in the holidays, I am also a woman and don’t like seeing my weight fluctuate or clothes feeling tight. I know, it’s almost like I’m human!
Here is the thing – weight is a symptom of behaviors. So, if you don’t tackle the root cause and build wonderful lasting behaviors, you will find yourself back here in a few weeks. As much as I like chatting with you, my goal is to have you never need to read this again.
But I’m fired up and energized and want to do something!
The other reason we are drawn to cleanses or detoxes is because we want to take action. It can be a powerful mental reset to say you are going to do something and follow though. It forces you to be proactive and preventative and really prioritize your health. I am all for this!
However, if your goal is to detoxify your body, give yourself a mental reset, and lose permanent weight, focusing on what you are putting IN rather than taking OUT is a better solution.
So, what do I do with this information?
You can still harness your energy and challenge yourself. Focus on ways to nourish your body rather than trying to restrict.
Here are things to add:
- Drink half your body weight in ounces or 3L of water every day (you can find tips on how to sneak it in here).
- Make sure you are eating a fruit or vegetable at EVERY meal and snack (you can find some veggie packed soup recipes here).
- Focus on fiber – think vegetables, nuts, legumes, beans, whole grains (you can find some high protein & fiber snack ideas here).
- Add in sweat inducing exercise for at least 10 min per day – ideally outside in some fresh air but dance parties by yourself also count.
- Get at least 7 hours of sleep each night (you can find some ways to improve sleep here).
Here is the coolest part, you can start right this second. I guarantee that you are somewhere near a glass of water. Go drink it. Right now. No need to wait until the 1st or Monday or when the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars – although we are in the Age of Aquarius so can’t use that excuse;)
If you are feeling fired up, tackle all of these things at once. If you want to move slowly and really build these habits, add one at a time. The amazing thing about focusing on behaviors rather than symptoms is you can do it in a way that is best for you. The only important thing is that you start.
If you are not feeling fired up but instead are struggling to motivate – or if you are feeling like you are doing all the things but not seeing results – start with last week’s blog The Whole Health Wheel. I have a feeling it might have the answer you are looking for.