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Your well-oiled machine (how to cleanse without doing a “cleanse”, and why to bother)

January 30, 2013 in Healthy Eating

There’s a lot of hype about cleansing, and for good reason. It’s sparked real optimism about our ability to heal ourselves with something as nourishing as real food.  It’s fed the notion that “wellness” has become trendy and full of quackery.  It’s also ignited fierce debates about eating disorders disguised as healthy or “detoxifying” practices. 

I’ve done both the home-made cleanses and the “expert” delivery versions for the last ten years.  Some have felt terrific, others really depleting.  One I did in university involved large green pills that made me smell like a jungle.  That one ended quite quickly.  Live and learn!  I even started a group cleanse routine at the office of a large bank I worked at in New York.  Yes, I would like a high five for that last one.  There is nothing like a committed group of skeptics on a juice cleanse!

Three to five day juice-only “feasts” are intended to help you release toxins built up in your system from poor diet and environmental pollutants, to give your digestive system a bit of a breather, and to kick-start a healthier diet.  Many find that a good cleanse improves digestion, increases energy, improves mood, mental focus, and sleep issues, and eliminates cravings for things like caffeine and sugar (which overstimulate your adrenals and cause inflammation, respectively).  Not to mention producing the dewy youthful glow raw food enthusiasts are famous for. 

Like anything else, the only way to know if something is going to work for you is to try it and pay attention to how you feel.

These practices are perfect if you don’t want to do a full cleanse right now, but want to support your body to do what it does best – heal itself.

  1. Start each day with hot water with a big wedge of lemon. 
  2. This is so easy and you get a lot of mileage for very little time or money.  It stimulates digestion gently – kind of like waking up to a nice gong alarm clock or a gentle sunrise, instead of a slap in the face (a.k.a. coffee, cereal, or nothing).  Your skin will thank you, and so will your liver.  Consider it a very cheap facial.

  3. Double your intake of vegetables.  If you don’t already, make them organic.  An easy way to do this is to add things like spinach, sprouts or kale into a smoothie.  Combined with lemon, banana or pineapple, it’ll still taste like a fruit smoothie.  This will save you hours and hours of chewing vegetables, which you will never do anyway.  Another option is to have a Mediterranean breakfast that includes chopped cucumbers, tomatoes and parsley.  
  4. Cut out processed carbohydrates and sugars.  If it comes in a package, is pasta, or bread, it’s probably in this category.  With this one you really have to bite the bullet (or not bite it), because it can be tough.  It’s also rewarding in the very short term, and the long term. This stuff is clogging up your system, yielding two-hour cycles of fatigue and hunger, increasing inflammation in your entire body, impeding digestion, increasing your risk for diabetes, and making you fat.  This is a slippery slope – it’s hard to eat just one.
  5. Drink more water, and drink it earlier in the day than you usually do.  This will keep you from that evening thirst that inevitably leads to a 3 am, mid-sleep trip to the loo.  Flush your system, manage cravings, and sleep soundly through the night.
  6. Swap out at least some of your coffee for green tea.  I know you’ve heard this one before.  This is not exactly moving to a monastery, so calm down before rejecting this one.  It’s just an experiment to see how things go exchanging adrenal overstimulation for some tasty anti-oxidants, and you still get your caffeine.
  7. Enjoy organic green juice once or twice a day.  This is not the same as #2.  This is actually in addition to eating all those vegetables.  Green juice has no fiber, and if it’s fresh (which it should be), the bioavailability of the potent nutrients created by mother nature is the best you can ingest.  In my book this is the liquid gold of the food world. Note that green smoothies (like Odwalla and Naked) are often made weeks ago, and have a lot of sugars.  You want the fresh organic stuff from a juice bar, or your own juicer.  If you’ve never tried it, what are you waiting for?  
  8. Sweat or scrub once a day, any way you like.  This can mean a run, a yoga class, dancing in your living room (or with your office door closed), playing squash, a body scrub or a quick addition to your shower protocol.  Help your lymph system along, and stimulate endorphins while you’re at it.
  9. Let go of what doesn’t serve you.  Something probably came to mind as soon as you read this, and it’s not a coincidence.  However small it may seem, release thoughts, relationships or habits that are out of alignment with your authentic self.  This can be as simple as a long exhale.  It can also be much more complicated.  Start small and see what happens.

If you find it hard to start or maintain any of these practices, ask yourself why.  What are you doing instead?  What would it mean if you cared for yourself this well?  What might you release if your body wasn’t weighed down with suboptimal nutrition?

Your body is the one you have for life.  It’s smarter than “you” are, and if it’s clogged with environmental toxins and addicted to caffeine, processed foods and sugar, you’re not going to be able to tune into the wisdom you’re embodying right now.  You are so wise.  Choose a few or all of these practices, and give yourself the support you deserve.

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