Okay, so you’ve eaten a few too many pies, enjoyed a steady flow of bubbly and favoured late nights over early morning exercise and now all that excess is taking its toll. You feel sluggish, heavy and even a bit toxic. It’s time to clean up your act! But if a strict diet just isn’t for you, consider a cleansing program instead.
What’s a cleanse?
A detox program isn’t about drastic weight loss or fad dieting, it’s about flushing your system of toxins, rebooting healthy eating habits and treating your body to good nutrition. It can boost energy, rejuvenate your skin and reduce bloating and digestion issues. A cleanse can last anywhere from a day to a few weeks, and works by giving your body a rest from the hard work of eliminating toxins that accumulate from poor food choices, pollution, alcohol and smoking.
Pick a program
There are plenty of plans to choose from, to suit your likes and needs, and can be as basic as cutting out things like alcohol, cigarettes, red meat, dairy, refined sugars and saturated fats from your diet. Food cleanses encourage you to eat plenty of whole grains, nuts and fresh fruits and vegies, while juice cleanses will have you sipping fresh, easily-absorbed juices, soups and smoothies.
If you’re keen to do a cleanse, look for one that promotes nourishing and resting your body, rather than restricting it. Good cleanses are based around fresh, whole, healthy foods, a sensible water and kilojoule intake and don’t promise huge weight loss.
Before you begin
Once you’ve found a program you’d like to do, there are a few things that will ensure a smooth transition
First, avoid starting your cleanse when you have a busy social calendar as it’ll be tricky to stay on track when your friends are drinking wine and downing cheese and bickies.
When you’re a few days out from starting, lighten your toxic load. Cut down your caffeine intake and reduce the amount of red meat, sugar, saturated fats, dairy and refined starch (found in foods like white rice, white bread and white pasta) from your diet.
Next, stock up all the foods you can have on your program so you won’t stray due to hunger. Also fill your fridge with raw fruits and vegies, too.
Finally, make the effort to move. Go for a brisk walk or do gentle exercise like yoga. This will help boost your energy levels, prevent boredom eating and make you feel healthier.
If you really kicked up your heels during the festive season, you may experience unpleasant side effects during your cleanse like headaches, lethargy, gas and constipation. The intensity of these symptoms will depend on your cleanse and how different it is to your normal diet. Drinking plenty of water and herbal teas that address particular symptoms can help. Chamomile and peppermint tea aid digestion and expel gas and if you become constipated, licorice and dandelion tea encourage bowel movements, or you can try a mild, natural laxative. And if you like coffee, stock up on green tea as the caffeine it contains will stave off withdrawal headaches, plus it’s loaded with antioxidants that help flush toxins.
Outsourcing your program
Commercial cleanse programs are an easy and effective option if you’re time poor or just can’t be bothered doing the prep work. These companies deliver everything you need for the detox, right to your door, with all the nutritional balance done for you. With most you won’t have to prepare, or even think about, meals or snacks, and you’ll have email and phone support before, during and after your cleanse. Drawbacks of this approach include expense, however plenty of companies provide excellent value when you weigh up sourcing and buying organic ingredients, plus the preparation time.
After a cleanse
Easing off a program is just as important as preparing for, or undertaking, a cleanse. The trick is to resist the urge to eat everything you’ve been craving, and take things slowly. For the first few days, keep your diet light and healthy with fresh fruits, vegetables, salad and fish, then gradually reintroduce lean meat, dairy and grains. Seeds, nuts, fresh fruit and vegie sticks with a healthy dip like hummus are excellent post-cleanse snacks.
Most dieticians do not support fasting or extreme forms of cleansing, and there’s little evidence to support the benefits of such plans. Prolonged cleanses, or those based on things like water, lemon, grapefruit, vinegar or a highly restricted food or water intake, can be dangerous. Those who make drastic changes or undertake long, strict cleanses may experience symptoms such as dizziness, weakness, mood swings and loss of muscle mass. Most people will be fine to do sensible, short-term cleanses but see your GP or nutritionist if you have a specific health issue and avoid if you’re pregnant, on medication or have liver or kidney problems. If you’re unsure, check with your GP first.