Have you been feeling sluggish lately? Sleeping poorly or waking up feeling heavy? Barely making it through the afternoon without a nap? Perhaps it’s time to give your body a mild reset.
One day last month I found myself once again pulling the tortilla chips out of the pantry for lunch…with a side of lemonade and yogurt (for the second time since 8am). Over and over I was finding myself reaching for the dairy, the plastic wrapped snacks, and anything that would just fuel me long enough to make it to the next meal, if you could call what I was eating a “meal.” The problem was the food I was reaching for wasn’t fuel at all. In fact, it was making my sluggish demeanor worse! I was stuck in an endless cycle of bad choices. I had a nutrition degree for crying out loud, what was I doing?! That’s when I decided it was time for a detox.
It’s fairly common for nutrition-conscious people to decide to detox after the holiday season, however, I wanted to bite the bullet and start fresh before the Christmas season arrived–that way I could perhaps begin to make better choices and avoid overindulging in the first place. If you are interested in starting fresh post-holidays, stay tuned for this series I’ll be doing on staging your own 7 day detox. Today I’ll be exploring why you may want to detox and the obstacles and victories you will face should you choose to do so.
WHAT IS MY AUTHORITY ON THIS TOPIC?
If you are wondering what on earth I could have to say about detoxing that holds any merit, I wanted to disclose that I do have a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics & Nutrition degree. However, since everyone has different needs and health issues, I encourage you to do your own research to better understand how you should go about your own detox.
Detoxing is a fancy term for eating healthier and there are different levels of doing this. Essentially, you are detoxifying your body of all the poor nutritional choices you’ve made up to this point and flushing out the toxins built up over time. I remember several times my parents went on week-long juice fasts, but I wasn’t prepared to do something that extreme (and I don’t recommend you do either unless you are really ready to handle some serious repercussions–albeit, with serious victories). I just wanted to stage a mild reboot for my tired and bloated self.
So, why detox? As we go about our daily eating, we tend to operate like snowballs rolling downhill when it comes to sugar and fat–we just pick up more and more until one day we wake up and find ourselves just reaching for whatever will keep us going without making a conscious effort to fuel our bodies well–err, maybe that’s just me? Refined/added sugar and bad fat (read: fried food, trans fat, and anything else your gut tells you isn’t natural) are highly addictive and without proper control, you can find yourself taking in an incredible amount of these things without even realizing it! What ends up happening is you get stuck in a cycle of just making it from one sugar fix to another. You may start your day with a sugary coffee drink. Once that wears off you are reaching for a sweet tea and something fried for lunch. Next thing you know you are practically dozing off at 2 o’clock because you are crashing from your sweet tea fix. This vicious cycle of jumping from one sugar high to the next continues the rest of the day for days on end until it becomes a way of life!
Here’s the good and the bad news: a detox like I will be presenting you can help you achieve a relatively fresh start! The bad? It’s not easy. Let me be up front, clear as day, and tell you: IT IS NOT EASY. You will really hate it for the first few days, but once you get over that hump, you will start to see differences in many ways.
OBSTACLES TO DETOXING
Caffeine. Take my advice: if you are used to having a caffeine fix to get you going in the morning, DON’T quit. Continue your coffee-drinking and just skip the cream and sugar. That’s right, drink it black! The first mistake I made when detoxing was trying to kick my caffeine habit at the same time. Big mistake. Not only was I feeling sad and hungry from missing out on my sugar fixes, but I had a horrible headache from caffeine withdrawal. A detox is not the time to try to break the caffeine shackles.
Hunger & Fatigue. This is going to sound discouraging and counterproductive, but you WILL be tired the first few days of detoxing. You are going to be consuming less calories (even though you are going to be consuming a lot more nutrient dense food), so you will be hungry and feel like you are missing a lot. Around days 2 and 3 you will probably feel like you are scraping the bottom of the barrel for energy. Be of good cheer, it will get better! Most of the negative effects you feel for the first few days are a result of your body adjusting to life without your crutch–sugar!!
Irritability?? This is not one I expected, but that I experienced full force when my husband attempted to detox with me. Apparently I had not adequately warned him about the challenges ahead and he started to lose his cool when he realized his sugar fix wasn’t available anymore. Take heed: if you find yourself in a bad mood, once again, it’s due to your body experiencing withdrawals from the sugar it is addicted to.
VICTORIES IN DETOXING
Better sleep. Better sleep is probably one of the first things you will notice as you start eating well. I used a sleep tracker app a few days before, during, and after my detox and noticed a tremendous difference in my sleep quality within a couple of days of the detox–and a tremendous difference after. You will likely feel fresher and less groggy waking up from a detox diet and, if you are like me, you will immediately notice that gross heavy feeling upon waking once you return to your typical diet.
More energy. This is not one of those rewards you will glean right off the bat. It took up until one of the last days of the detox for me to start noticing I was more awake, alert, and energetic and, therefore, more productive. And, again, it’s something you will only truly appreciate in hindsight once the detox is over.
Fresher breath. An unexpected benefit to detoxing is fresher breath! After a couple of days you may begin to feel like you don’t even need to brush your teeth. (Please continue to, though!) I noticed during my detox that my mouth usually felt very clean and fresh, especially after snacking on apples or eating a salad. You really don’t understand the amount of grease and sugar that constantly coats your teeth and gums until you’ve detoxed.
Clearer mind & body. In general, you may feel a new sense of calm and clearheadedness. If you take time to recognize the changes in your mind and body as you detox, you might notice little things you didn’t before, such as:
- Clearer thinking
- Clearer sinuses
- A general sense of lightness (from skipping the heavy food!)
- Better mood
- Clearer skin
Keep in mind, though, that these benefits won’t come immediately. A recently heard an old Proverb that went something like, You will never experience true victory if you don’t experience suffering. I wouldn’t call eating healthier “suffering,” but challenging? Yes.
Momentum for making better choices. The biggest payoff of a detox, in my opinion, is the momentum it creates for making healthier choices. You will almost definitely grab for a donut once your detox is complete, and you will deserve it! But you will also certainly recognize the negative effects it brings with it. You may have never noticed the bad breath, bloating, brain fog, or sleepiness a donut caused before, but you will now. And it will help to motivate you to make better choices more often! Have I indulged in a pumpkin spice cupcake with cream cheese frosting since my detox? Well, of course! Maybe two or three, actually. But having experienced the benefits of a healthy diet firsthand, I remember the energy, clear mind, and pep in my step. And I think to myself, A handful of raw almonds and a crisp apple would be just the thing right now.
Are You Ready to Detox?
Are you ready to start making better choices? Are you ready to kick that nasty feeling unique to excessive sugar consumption? Stay tuned for my series on staging your own detox post holiday season!