Archive for June, 2012


Cleansing.  We’re now all too familiar with this growing trend in health and wellness whereby you adhere to a strict short-term plant-based or juice-only diet in hopes of flushing out toxins, regulating your digestion, and dropping those last pesky 5 pounds.  You’ve probably seen a number of cleanses, ranging from cheap laxative pills to $100/day juice fasts.  Or maybe your friend just spent 10 days chugging down a gnarly mixture of lemons, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup. Yuck!

Hear me out: there’s more to cleansing than that.

We live in a toxic world.  Every day we consume millions of toxins, chemicals, additives, and preservatives in the air, in our food, and in the chemicals we put on our skin.  Yes, our bodies have natural detoxification systems (our livers and kidneys) but we were never meant to consume the types and quantities of foods that are part of a conventional American diet (processed foods, hormone-laden meat and dairy, high amounts of salt and sugar, alcohol, drugs, etc).  During the digestive process, your body cannot healthfully separate the clean from the bad portions of toxic foods.  Abstaining from those foods and flushing natural ingredients through the digestive system releases those toxins that have built up in your cells and organs over years, toxins that contribute to weight gain, fatigue, bloating, indigestion, and poor mood.

You don’t need a magic pill – simply adhering to a plant-based diet and consuming only 100% natural ingredients will cleanse your body.  For the very few, that’s already how they eat.  But for the rest of us non-perfect souls, sometimes we just need a kick start. By putting only natural foods into your system, your digestive system has a chance to “reset” and use less energy.  This gives your body more energy and stability to help enhance sleep, alertness, functional energy, and provide strength for your immune system, which improves hair, skin, and overall health quality.

I’ll admit it, I used to be a skeptic.  I grew up in the south, loved fast food and dairy, and ate candy like it was my job. It wasn’t until I moved to Northern California, read the famous book Skinny Bitch, and took a good hard look at my unhealthy ways did I realize I was in need of a major overhaul.  I discovered raw vegan diets and how successfully they cleansed my body.

While there exist several cleanse products and programs to choose from, I have found a few helpful ways to pick the right detox for your lifestyle.  Here are the core principles you should look for in a cleanse:

All Natural: This should go without saying, but if you want to return your body to its organic state, you can’t use anything artificial, so stick with ingredients you can pronounce.

Vegan (plant-based, dairy free):  Animal products, whether meat or dairy, in general, are packed with fat, hormones, chemicals, cholesterol, salt, and other things that contradict weight loss and a healthy detox.  Lactose and animal proteins also cause bloating and inflammation, two things you’re trying to relieve.  When you do a detox, you’re also cleansing your impact on the planet.  There is no greater way to reduce your carbon footprint than adhering to a plant-based diet.

Gluten Free:  Gluten can raise insulin levels, cause abdominal cramping and water weight gain, and is usually associated with sugary processed simple carbohydrates that contain the very toxins you’re trying to get rid of.

Stimulant/Laxative Free:  A cleansing diet should not involve oil, salts, or any other kind of laxative or diuretic. Forcing elimination through the body can result in dehydration and laxative dependency.  Doing a cleanse with caffeine can increase your heart rate, make you feel anxious, and cause insomnia.

Filling/Nutritional:  Whether you make your own cleanse or purchase a convenient ready-made program that’s packed with nutrients, you want to avoid fasting and starvation diets that leave you hungry, faint, and cranky.  Don’t harm your metabolism, lose necessary lean body mass, or turn into your worst self in order to cleanse.  Pick a detox program that’s got plenty of protein and amino acids.  Make sure it’s got lots of fiber since fiber keeps you full and keeps blood sugar levels in tact (juice tends to create insulin spikes). Pick whole foods instead of juices since whole fruits and vegetables contain skin and fiber which make them nutritionally complete.

Keep it Practical:  You do not have to turn your life upside down to cleanse.  Don’t commit to a 30 day program or one that will cost you $100/day if that doesn’t fit your lifestyle.  You can successfully do healthy cleanses for less than $25/day (all inclusive) and you can start to feel better in as little as 3 days.

After completing a vegan cleanse, you may not become a lifelong vegan, or even a vegetarian.  But I guarantee that you will feel more mindful of the food choices that you make: more plants, less processed foods.  You’ll start to notice fats and sugars in your food, not because of their calorie content, but because of how those foods make you feel since you’ve given your body a rest.

You’ll wake up with a strange sensation: energy.  Your tastes buds will dance with excitement at the thought of steamed broccoli or a ripe peach.  You’ll no longer crave salt; since you’ve abstained from processed foods through the duration of your detox, your body no longer believes these ingredients to be necessary. You may have lost a few pounds, reduced that belly bloat and inflammation, and even cleared up your skin and eyes, but more importantly you’ll genuinely feel better and motivated to maintain your healthier, happier lifestyle.

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