There is big business in selling juice cleanses, “reset” programs & kits and various detoxes that tout life changing experiences, weight loss, metabolic reset, increased energy, craving reduction and many other claims that have little science to back them up. Not only is a cleanse or “reset” program costly, but whatever weight loss you might experience on a low calorie or liquid cleanse is short-lived. You might lose weight, but it rarely involves actual fat loss and weight regain happens just as quickly as it came off. There is also little evidence supporting the claim that a reset or cleanse offers long term lifestyle changes or health benefits. Often the opposite is true because as people go back to their pre-cleanse habits, they find that their behavior worsens due to days of deprivation. Many find themselves binging when the cleanse is over; feeling they have “earned” indulgence as a reward for completing the cleanse.
Here’s my public service announcement…most juice cleanses and “reset” programs are a waste of your money. If your intention is to get back on track with your nutritional habits, it is far more effective to make changes with a long-term view in mind. Ideally, the goal is to come up with lifestyle habits that are attainable and mostly healthy so that an occasional over-indulgence doesn’t lead to guilt and the need to put your body through an expensive, unnecessary and drastic cleanse or “reset”. Instead of these trendy cleanses, here are some tried-and-true suggestions that have worked for me and many people that I have coached to lose weight, maintain ideal weight, age better, increase energy & mood, optimize digestion & gut health and clean it up! Most of these suggestions won’t cost you anything more than your typical weekly grocery bill, and some won’t cost you anything at all.
Number one on my list is intermittent fasting. Incorporating intermittent fasting into a daily routine gives the body the reset it needs every day. Research shows that intermittent fasting is an effective way to manage weight and improve digestion; as well as preventing and even reversing some forms of disease. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows a variety of health benefits associated with intermittent fasting; including living longer, a leaner body, a sharper mind and protection against chronic disease like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, age-related neurodegenerative disorders, inflammatory bowel disease and many cancers.
It is recommended that you check with a doctor before incorporating intermittent fasting into your daily practice. Once you get the green light from your physician, practicing intermittent fasting is simple and most people find it easy to stick with over the long-term. The focus is not on what you are eating, but instead on when you are eating. There are different approaches to intermittent fasting but as a daily approach, I aim for the 16/8 fasting; eating for 8 hours and fasting for 16. If you want to dig deeper into the world of intermittent fasting, there is a lot of information available on the internet. I also recommend the book “Intermittent Fasting for Women Over 50; Start to Lose Weight, Delay Aging” by Lana Morgan. Intermittent fasting works by lengthening the period in which your body has burned through the calories since you last ate and burning fat. Intermittent fasting also improves digestion because it gives the digestive system a break; which is why people that intermittent fast experience less bloating and constipation and improved gut health. Keep in mind that it can take two to four weeks to adjust to the new schedule of eating. Once you get over the hump of feeling tired or hungry, most people find it easy to stick with and are motivated to do so because they feel so much better almost immediately. For those of you that need a little caffeine to kick start the day, you can consume water and non-caloric drinks such as black coffee or tea during the fasting period. It’s important to note that during your periods of eating, you don’t want to go overboard; trying to stick with healthy choices to enhance the benefits of your daily fast.
Another potentially effective practice is food combining. Food combining has a long history rooted in the ancient Indian practice of Ayurvedic medicine: one of the oldest holistic healing practices in the world. The theory behind food combining is that carbohydrates, fat and protein need to be eaten separately for optimal digestion. While some argue against food combining, I personally notice a difference in how I feel when I adhere to some of the principles of food combining. There is a lot of information available about food combining on the internet; not all in support of the theory but I think there is some merit to testing it out and seeing if it works for you. If you try it and you notice an improvement in your digestion and how you feel, you would likely benefit from being more mindful of how you combine certain food groups. The belief is that eating certain food combinations, specifically protein-rich foods combined with carbohydrate rich-foods, are harder to digest. This combination supposedly decreases nutrient absorption and could promote gas, bloating and the buildup of toxins from food not moving through your system fast enough.
The four most common rules of food combining are as follows.
- Always eat fruit on an empty stomach; at least 30 minutes prior to eating anything else.
- Eat starches alone or with cooked non-starchy vegetables.
- Eat meat, dairy, fish, eggs and other high protein foods alone or with cooked non-starchy vegetables.
- Eat nuts, seeds and dried fruits with raw vegetables.
For someone that is plant-based, adhering to these principles is not difficult since you are not consuming meat, dairy, fish and eggs. For meat and potato eaters, turkey sandwich lovers and sushi enthusiasts, this might seem impossible. However, think about times when you have felt like you are in a “food coma” after a meal and the combination of foods that got you there versus times when you feel great after a meal. A lot of how you feel after you eat obviously plays into what and how much you ate. Try experimenting with some of these combinations and keep a journal of how you feel after each meal so you can track your observations. The one rule I almost always stick to is eating fruit on an empty stomach, especially melon. I personally find that when I combine fruit with other foods, I feel bloated and sluggish after a meal. I like to start my day with fruit and end my day with fruit. The rest I don’t worry about too much because by being plant-based, the rest of the rules naturally tend to occur.
A Whole Food Approach to Eating
The most important change you can make to your diet is to eat mostly “whole foods:” foods that are as close to their natural form as possible. I also encourage people to eat plant-based or to limit their daily intake of animal products for optimal health, wellness and anti-aging benefits. Making your own food goes a long way towards keeping you on track if you primarily buy food in its natural state. Let’s face it…if you don’t buy junk food, refined sugary snacks, sodas and processed foods, they won’t be a temptation. Companies that manufacture junk food and sodas purposely put addictive additives in their food to keep you hooked and coming back for more. Just stop buying it and make your own meals and snacks from whole foods. I like to look at cooking nutritious meals and taking care of my health as my job. Without health, nothing else really matters. Making health your number one priority and treating it like it’s your job enables you to take care of your family, work and have a good life. It’s hard to be there for your family if your health fails due to lack of self-care. Take it from me. Unfortunately, I know this from experience. My husband passed away at a young age from a heart attack. He didn’t make health a priority and as a result, he didn’t make it past his 50th birthday and is no longer here to care for his family. You might not think this applies to you. You might think you are invincible, that you have time to deal with it later or that your diet isn’t going to kill you. He thought that too. When you don’t make your health a priority, it catches up with you sooner or later.
Regardless of whether you are plant based or not, focusing on eating whole food and limiting processed foods is the key to being healthy, feeling good and enhancing the quality of your life. Another thing to consider as you become more mindful of what you eat is eliminating or reducing gluten from your diet. Eliminating or reducing your gluten intake can help ease digestive symptoms, reduce chronic inflammation, boost energy and promote weight loss. Many Americans suffer from gluten intolerance and don’t even realize it until they eliminate it from their diet; noticing major improvements in how they feel once they stop eating foods with gluten. Gluten intolerance is characterized by reactions to gluten; a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Although celiac disease is the most severe form of gluten intolerance, many people also have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, a milder form of gluten intolerance that can cause bloating, constipation, stomach pain, headaches, fatigue, depression & anxiety, pain, brain fog and digestive problems. I rarely consume anything with gluten ingredients because it causes pain in my upper stomach and I have difficulty digesting my food when gluten is involved. Another thing to play around with when revamping your diet is to cut back on your consumption of grains in general; even gluten free grains. When I have been over indulging in unhealthy behavior or feel like I need to get back on track, simply eliminating grains for a week is one of the most effective resets in my toolbox! When I go grain free, I predominantly eat fruits, vegetables, legumes, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds and some occasional grain free alternatives. In my daily diet, I try to stick to grain free ingredients when cooking my own meals and snacks because I feel better, look better and I notice a significant difference when I eliminate all grain; wheat, rice, oats, barely, spelt, corn, rye and millet. This is a very highly effective reset because it gets you eating foods in their purest form while still eating tasty meals and snacks; the reset you need without the deprivation of a “cleanse”.
It is important to point out that there are many gluten free, grain free and vegan products out there that are not good for you. I am not suggesting you go out and purchase these packaged crackers, chips, cookies, bars and other processed junk foods that lure people in under the guise of being “healthy”. Many packaged products are not healthy and I highly encourage you to make your own meals, snacks, bars, cookies, etc. as much as possible. You will notice that the recipes on this blog are vegan and gluten free; with many grain free recipes as well. To the extent that you need to purchase packaged foods, become an expert label reader and limit your purchases to products that have real ingredients, local if possible and from companies that produce their product in small batches. I share a lot of my favorite products on my Instagram but a few noteworthy grain free favorites include Plantiful Kitchen (best bread), Bedrock Bakers (incredible bagels & English muffins), Cult Crackers and Siete grain free tortillas (I like the Cassava option). For Pasta, I like Banza which is made from chickpeas and Jovial which is made from Cassava. For grain free rice options, I like using riced cauliflower, but if you like a more traditional rice, Banza and Right Rice are two of my favorite grain free rice options (made from chickpeas and lentils). I do love rice and incorporate rice into my meals several times a week unless I am doing a grain free reset. And while I do like Banza grain free pasta, I LOVE some of the gluten free pastas as well. Jovial Foods has an incredible line of pastas made from brown rice that taste as good as any wheat pasta out there. Another amazing brand from Italy is La Fabbrica Della Pasta which is made from corn and rice flours. When eating corn (which is a gluten free grain), I will sparingly cook with this ingredient if it is organic; the only way to ensure that you are not eating GMO corn product.
While I don’t believe in juice cleanses as a detox or reset, juicing has a variety of benefits, including greater concentration of nutrients per ounce, increased consumption of fruits and vegetables and enhanced absorption of nutrients. Adding juice to a diet should be in addition to full servings of fruits and vegetables because juice alone lacks protein and fiber. My daily routine includes a green juice and/or a green smoothie to break my intermittent fast. I highly recommend purchasing a juicer. It is so easy to make your own juice and it is far more cost effective if you drink juice on a regular basis to invest in one. I love my Breville Juice Fountain Cold Centrifugal Juicer. I use it almost every day. For smoothies and acai bowls, I think the Vitamix is the best blender out there. Investing in a good juicer and blender is worth it; mine have lasted over 10 years already and it costs a few dollars to make a juice or smoothie versus over $10 from your local juice bar. It’ll pay off both financially and physically because you will drink more juice and make more smoothies!!
Effective Methods of Detoxing
One of the most effective detoxing tools out there is lymphatic drainage massage. The world is full of pollution and toxins in the air we breathe, the water we drink, our soils & foods and many products we use daily. Your lymphatic system helps eliminate your body’s waste but surgery, medical conditions, and damage caused by environmental toxins can cause fluids to build up in your lymph system and your lymph nodes. Lymphatic drainage works by cleansing your lymphatic system to release these toxins and support healthy blood circulation. A lymphatic cleanse can also remove excess fluids that cause puffiness and water retention, improve the immune system, assist in weight loss and even reduce the appearance of cellulite. If you live in San Diego, Hot Haven Studios has an amazing lymphatic cleanse that I highly recommend. There are many skin care clinics that focus on lymphatic drainage in the face, which is great but you need to find a specialist that does a full body cleanse. I incorporate this into my routine at least once or twice a month; it’s a major life upgrade!!!
Infrared saunas are another great option for detoxing the body. Infrared saunas work by increasing your blood circulation to help stimulate sweat glands that release toxins in the body so that they can be eliminated by the liver and bowel. The infrared detox helps rid the body of highly toxic lead, mercury, nickel, alcohol, nicotine, sulfuric acid and other organic and inorganic compounds. Regular use of infrared saunas has been proven to help people lose weight; you burn up to 400 calories per session. According to the Journal of American Medicine, regular use of an infrared sauna imparts a similar stress on the cardiovascular system as running and regular use may be as effective for cardiovascular conditioning and burning of calories as regular exercise. As someone that does not love cardio exercise, this is music to my ears! An infrared sauna session also helps bring relief and healing to muscle and soft tissue injuries and helps muscles recover faster. Another added benefit is improved skin tone, elasticity and improved complexion; increased circulation from the sauna has been shown to relieve acne, eczema, psoriasis, burns, lesions and cuts. It also aids in cellulite reduction. Lastly, I covered this in my blog post “Kick It’, but infrared saunas are good for your immune system and can help you get over a cold or flu virus.
There are two supplements that I take regularly for detoxing that I find highly effective and easy. The first one is glutathione. Glutathione is an antioxidant that is produced in our cells and consists largely of glutamine, glycine and cysteine. Our glutathione levels can be diminished and affected by poor nutrition, environmental toxins, stress and aging. I personally add glutathione to a vitamin IV that I get monthly that includes vitamin C, all B vitamins and glutathione. There are other forms of it but glutathione delivered intravenously is the most effective, usable and absorbable form. If you can find someone in your area that does vitamin IVs, I highly recommend adding this to your detox program. If you live in the San Diego area, I go to Dr. Kim Kelly in Encinitas.
Changing your eating habits and being more mindful of the medicinal benefits of food will put you in a place where you don’t need a cleanse. If you implement a whole foods diet and try some of my other suggestions in this post, there will be no going back; feeling good tastes better than any bag of junk food. Once you take control of your health and how you feel, eating healthy and making it your job becomes enjoyable because there are huge rewards that you won’t want to give up. If you stick to a mostly whole foods approach and occasionally fall off track, you will know what to do to get back to feeling good. I recently had a very bad month filled with out of town guests, social obligations and some fun travel. After weeks of eating out almost every meal and enjoying myself thoroughly, I came home from a ski trip at the end of this 4-week debauchery feeling awful. The last day of my trip, I ate a bag of potato chips for breakfast; just to put in perspective how far I’d fallen. However, I wasn’t worried, didn’t feel bad about myself and didn’t feel the need for some drastic cleanse. I knew how to get myself back by returning to my usual routine and after 5 days of intermittent fasting, no junk, no grains, whole foods, green juice and smoothie, I felt like my old self.
Juice cleanses and kits are big business because enough people find themselves at “rock bottom” with their diet and don’t know what to do to get themselves out; looking for a magic quick fix only to realize nothing has changed. If you are looking to make some changes and want further support in changing your eating habits, I am here for it. I share a lot of food on my Instagram and I will be adding recipes to this blog on a weekly basis. There are lots of other people in the health & wellness space that are worth following and checking out if you need help with cleaning up your diet. One person that comes to mind is Kaitlin Kinder from Rooted in Raw. You can find her on Instagram @rootedinraw and online at rootedinraw.com. If you live in the San Diego area, she offers a 3-day raw food cleanse designed to support you in recharging yourself and nourishing your body. Kaitlin provides 3 days of meals that are handcrafted and homemade with love. Her food is not only beautiful, it is incredibly delicious and filling. Kaitlin also has an amazing online course where she teaches you how to master a variety of raw food dishes in the comfort of your own home. Another person that comes to mind is Earthy Andy. Andy has an online food plan that you can subscribe to; complete with weekly menus and recipes that are all whole food and plant based. Andy also heads some group reset programs. These are not juice cleanses but are whole food and plant based with the support of a group of people doing the cleanse at the same time. Sometimes a group situation can be helpful in keeping you accountable and motivated when it gets hard to pass up the plate of French fries. If you are local to San Diego, Kim Kelly also runs some group cleanses that focus on whole food plans and brings in Mel’s Natural food delivery to take the work out of your reset. These types of resets, involving real food, teach you how to make long term changes to your diet and see life-long results.