Done with the Detox

detox-684107__180So I’ve finished my detox (mentioned here and here, and had to tell you about it. I don’t have wise or witty words, but I can say this: it was really good!

I mean, it wasn’t always fun during the process, and I did get tired of smoothies (and when I did, I ate some other detoxed thing without guilt – the detox is my tool, and I’ll employ it as I will!). But overall, it did pretty much what I hoped it would do. It helped dislodge some annoying habits of over-eating and eating for pacification. It gave me a health boost – and although I sometimes felt unsatisfied after eating, I absolutely felt better while I was doing it. I was less tired and sleepy, my belly felt like it was resting, and I felt physically lighter (and yes, I lost a couple of pounds – I don’t own a scale but my pants told me so).

What the detox didn’t do: give me perfect clarity about how each “toxic” food affects me. This is not the detox’s fault, but the result of me not following it to the letter – my re-introduction of toxic foods in the last week was supposed to be gradual to see how each toxin interacts with the body, but I sometimes combined foods when re-introducing (like eating pizza, which combines gluten and cheese).  See note above on it’s my tool.

But I think, having been off it for a couple of weeks, that most problematic for me is gluten.  As I expected, I’m not intolerant to (or any other foods, for that matter), but I do feel kind of sluggish when I have wheat. Probably this is just because I eat more wheat than dairy or sugar, but whatever the reason, it doesn’t feel great. I can honestly say that I would not have thought seriously of restricting gluten before the detox.  But now it seems naturally to look upon gluten like a treat, and save it for the times that it’s really worth eating, as opposed to the morning, noon and night staple it can easily be.

What else the detox didn’t do: it hasn’t prevented me from reverting to some old habits, as of course no temporary diet ever does.  Accordingly, I don’t feel quite as good as I did during the detox. But I was encouraged the other night talking to my husband who detoxed along with me.  He said that if, during the detox, he moved ahead eight steps with improved eating habits, then now he’s stepped back maybe six steps.  He said this with some satisfaction.  I love this glass half full approach.  I thought, hey, I’ve gained at least two steps too, maybe even three!

And then I remembered that during my detox, I started walking 7 kilometres with a friend every Tuesday morning. Maybe that ought to count as a step. And I’m trying to springboard from there to make my Friday morning yoga intentions real:  indubitably, another step.

Some people leap. As it turns out, I step. So be it.

Would I ever do another detox? Sure. Maybe it will be another step in the right direction.

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Beyond the Detox: the Bigger Picture of Diet

vegetable-755723__180There’s a difference between diet (the food that one eats) and dieting (restricted intake of food).  I haven’t tried the latter since I was 16 years old (lasting about 2 weeks), and I don’t pay much attention to other societal dictates around female beauty (fashion, cosmetics, hair, pedicures, the spa). But I am very interested in diet in terms of what I’m consuming, and how it affects me and my environment.  I am not at all casual about food.

So it bothers me when I do not follow my better intentions around eating.  I eat quite healthfully, but often to the point of being stuffed, and I’ve often wondered if I’m just plain addicted to sugar.   I sometimes don’t even enjoy or really taste the big bowl of chocolate almonds or ice cream that I’ve been reaching for on a regular basis:  I’m just downing them.  I know why I do it:  misplaced gratification, pacification, fatigue.  And habit, especially habit.  I’ve been on a bit of a downward spiral that’s been hard to stop.

I decided to do something about it.  Take ownership, if you will.  There are many roads to Rome, but for me, a general desire to eat sensibly most of the time, and consciously enjoy occasional treats, just wasn’t taking hold.  I needed a jumpstart, more structure, something with a little flair.  I needed a tool. So I’m doing (currently on!) my very first detox.

I’m in the first week (of four), and have been eliminating alcohol, caffeine, gluten, dairy and sugar.  I was most worried about giving up my sugar, but actually it’s the gluten I’m missing the most – I really love a good bread and it’s wonderful filling feeling.  But when I feel limited, I think about what I can eat:  rice, corn, potatoes, eggs, seafood, meat (although I don’t), nuts, legumes, quinoa, soy, all fruits and vegetables (and I am eating plenty of all of this – no calorie reduction here), and at this point the concept of deprivation becomes a bit absurd.  (I just read The Little House Cookbook after Nathalie recently mentioned it on our blog, and the book is an eye-opener on what a restricted diet actually means.)

In addition to creating a sharp break in the habit of crappy eating, I wanted to see if the detox could reveal anything about how my body responds to certain foods, so I really like the idea of eliminating certain foods for a short period (2-3 weeks) and re-introducing them one by one.

I am in good health overall, but I no longer have the bravado of my 20s (when I was really quite fit and eating well) nor the nonchalance of my 30s (when I was riding the coattails of my 20s).  Why is it that my knees hurt as much as they do?  Is mental alertness a thing of the past?  More basically:  why don’t I feel that good most of the time?

I actually suspect that sleep and lack of exercise have more to do with the way I feel than the five foods I’m eliminating for three weeks.  In a nasty flashback to baby/toddler days, my 7 year old woke up every hour or so last night for no better reason than a common cold.  But this I don’t have much control over, unlike the foods I put in my mouth, many of which haven’t been helping matters.

I used to feel really good.  I remember the vitality of that.  I’m not a believer in turning back time, but I want some of that energy again and know with some work that I can have it.  I also really, really want to avoid finding myself in a medical office of the future, beseeching some doctor to take care of my body when I haven’t done so myself.

Focusing energy into one’s diet and well-being can be a liberating thing.  Liberating from old habits, a slump, and if you really do have an intolerance, from a lifetime of discomfort or worse.  I see the detox as an invitation to help me live closer to my intentions – there’s a bigger picture to the smoothies.  I’m not talking about manipulating myself toward some skinny idyll in the media (which I hardly tune into).  I’m talking about feeling great in my own body.  Diet is a necessary part of this goal, and I’m in.

Starting My First Detox

I think summer is officially over for me now.  Our family just got back from our first trip to three days at Great Wolf Lodge (which was a lot of fun and which offered a lot of junk food), and now there are no more distractions from school and our new routines.  There is also no more distraction from something that I’ve wanted (and needed?) to do for a long time, which is to put some concentrated energies into taking care of my health and body.  How I’m starting? A detox.

A detox!  I’ve never done anything like this before, but it’s time.  Sure, I’m happy to lose a couple of pounds, but my main goal is simply this:  I want to feel better in my body.  There are obvious reasons why I’m often tired and foggy in my mind, including that I’ve pushed past 40, don’t get enough sleep, and don’t exercise regularly.  Seeing that in plain text makes me look a bit dumb, so I should say that I’m working on sleep and fitness too.  But I could use a jump-start and a concrete plan to feeling good, and I’ve decided a detox will be it.

A friend told me her husband did Alexandra Jamieson‘s 4 week detox with success, and I like it because it doesn’t seem too extreme (you still get to eat) and because it should provide some information at the end about how our bodies react to certain problematic-for-some foods, by introducing them one at a time after a period of avoidance.

The basic structure of the detox:

Week 1:  slowly eliminate five toxic foods:  caffeine, alcohol, sugar, gluten and dairy

Weeks 2 and 3:  eat none of the toxic foods, and have smoothies for breakfast and lunch (berries, greens, protein powder, fibre powder) and a normal (detoxed) dinner.  (I’m suspicious of powders generally, so I am going to allow myself a handful of nuts in my smoothie and find other sources of fibre (prunes, anyone?))

Week 4:  having smoothies just for breakfast, normal lunch and dinner, and reintroduce the toxic foods one at a time

Healthy snacks are allowed, like fruits and vegetables.  And no sugar means no honey, maple syrup or other sweeteners.  Stevia is okay.

How hard could it be?  Ha!  I know how hard, which is why I’ve imposed upon myself a social fine for cheating.  Every infraction means I have to take out for dinner my fellow detox companions.  I need some bite to make this happen.

imgres-2I also need ideas for what to eat, and to that end, I’ve got two books that will be my steady companions during all this.  First is Simple Food for Busy Families:  The Whole Life Nutrition Approach by Jeannette Bessinger and Tracee Yablon-Brenner.  I received this book a few months ago, and really like it.  Well-researched and written, it’s really a reference guide to the benefits of eating whole foods, which is the single premise of all food discussion that I espouse without reservation.

The authors dissect the problems of Standard American Diet (SAD) eaters versus “natural eaters”.  The latter eat according to healthy cues from the body, including hunger and cravings to attend to its needs.  This person might enjoy a rich chocolate dessert one night without much thought or gain weight, because she “intuitively eats in a way that balances the extra sugar, fat, and calories in the dessert, allowing her body to assimilate it organically without taking a harsh toll on her system.”  By contrast, the SAD eater’s internal cues no longer give accurate body feedback, due to over-consumption of sugar, salt, unhealthy fats and processed foods.

There are simple recipes in the book plus a “mix and match” section outlining various groups of ingredients needed to make smoothies, hot cereals, soups, etc.  I’ll be looking at the smoothie mix and match section, I can tell you that.  I also like the macro approach to healthy eating in Simple Food for Busy Families, where the authors address the importance of routines, sleep, and other factors in maintaining health. Personally I think adequate sleep is a remedy for many things, including eating crap.  I am never more prone to scarfing down junk than when exhausted.

SimplyRawKitchen-cover-266x300 Also on my kitchen counter is The Simply Raw Kitchen by Natasha Kyssa.  In my humble view, raw diets cannot make claims of non-extremism, but I like this recipe book.  Firstly, it makes its case about the benefits of a raw plant-based diet without being preachy (I think I need to read The China Study now), and the author works off the premise that readers want to include more raw foods into their lives but aren’t necessarily looking to convert entirely.  In fact, she identifies the dangers of quick or complete conversion, that is, that it’s fraught with failure.  She even includes a few lightly cooked meals together with her mother in the book to make her point.

I will also be consulting the smoothie section here, plus interesting takes on old favourites, like “Real Tomato Soup” including a tablespoon of miso.  I love miso, and I’ll need a worthy destination for the tomatoes still ripening in the garden.  There’s also a recipe for “Spicy Thai Salad”, made with lots of raw cabbage, which sounds delicious.  Plus, who wouldn’t want to eat salad in a mason jar?  In other words, this raw cookbook offers some really attractive recipes that happen to be powerhouses of good, healthy eating.  It’ll take more work and intention to make these than a grilled cheese sandwich, but I’ll be putting food and health on the map for the next month, and I’m up for it.

My hope, ultimately, is to do some body recon during the detox, and to acquire some good habits post-detox.  These good-looking books will make this easier.  They’re not going to help much with what I’m pretty sure is a sugar addiction, but no book can be everything to every woman.

I’ve also been warned that I’m going to be crabby for the next four weeks, because I’m going to be hungry.  But a secret:  I’m actually looking forward to this detox.  Not enough to extend it or anything, but I know it’s going to be good for my body (and I really do respect this body of mine) and I’m excited at the prospect of feeling great.  Feeling great!  The detox is kind of a kick in the pants to do what I want to do.  I’m in.  And I’ll report back when I’m done.

If you’ve ever done a detox or related food activity, please tell and give me your tips!