My very first detox was almost 10 years ago. It was done out of necessity at that time (to improve my skin, get rid of my migraines and boost my energy). In general, when push comes to shove and our health is in the toilet, it’s much easier to make drastic changes in our lives. Now, almost a decade later and as a licensed naturopathic doctor, my health is in an amazing place—but I still do my bi-annual detoxes to keep it that way!
During my most recent fall detox, however, I came to a few important realizations about what it means to actually detox, and why it can help our minds just as much as our bodies. This was a new perspective shift for me and I hope it will help you tackle your next (or very first) detox too.
Commit to something
It seems like there is always a party that can’t be missed, a function that you can’t get out of, or a dinner that you have to drink alcohol at. The reality is, there will never be a ‘perfect time’ to do a detox. There will never be a large gap in your schedule that allows you to completely change your lifestyle without anyone noticing.
I usually detox twice a year (middle of spring & early fall). But by the time September rolled around this year, I felt my weekends were already spoken for so I pushed back my detox until late October. Although I’m glad I made the time to do it, I felt that my social pressures and commitments became excuses as to why I couldn’t commit earlier. This actually led to a shorter detox than I wanted, and most importantly, I felt the only person I was cheating in the end was myself.
In hindsight, I look back and think about what I did in previous years. I was just as busy, just as committed, but yet I had no issue blocking off two weeks to follow my detox plan. There were two reasons for this.
First, I made a firm commitment in my head that I would complete the two week detox. Nothing more, nothing less.
Second, I gave myself enough notice (before too many bookings filled my calendar) and made the detox a priority. Everything else that came up after I booked off those two weeks had to be either ‘detox friendly’ or postponed.
It was so empowering (and energizing) to make a promise to myself once, and then let the rest figure itself out. I didn’t have to feel guilty or worried about upsetting my family, partner or friends. It was simply a non-negotiable item in my life. It wasn’t forever and sharing my detox timeline with my loved ones actually made it easier to set boundaries about my needs vs. everyone else’s.
My cravings were trying to tell me something
I especially love my detox program because there are no restrictions on the amount of food I can eat. As long as the food itself is allowed on the detox, any quantity is permitted. So in order to make sure I am not wishing for chocolate and ice cream all day long, I make sure to eat regular detox-friendly meals and snacks to keep me satiated. However, what I noticed on my most recent detox was despite feeling full, I still wanted (and missed) chocolate and coffee in my diet.
The mere thought of not being able to have them was irritating and bothersome. So I questioned this. Why was my body craving these items? I actually felt really good without consuming them, and I wasn’t hungry or thirsty. As I started to think about it, I realized that a lot of my eating habits were carried out on autopilot. I always had an afternoon coffee or a piece of dark chocolate (ok, maybe a few pieces). My evening ritual of a snack at the computer while I did work was a must. These behaviours were almost second-nature and I never gave these eating patterns any thought… until I couldn’t have them on the detox.
So what did I do? Well, I just reflected on how I felt by not having them in my diet. To be honest, it didn’t feel good, but I stuck it out. I laughed to myself on a few occasions because I realized how much I was letting my automated eating patterns dictate my mood and productivity. By doing this, I took back some of the power these cravings were having over me.
I was then reminded of the greatest benefit of detoxes in general (in my opinion): you re-condition your taste buds! Healthy food starts to taste really good (or at the very least ‘bearable’) and you lessen your need for more addictive foods (sweets, caffeine, etc.). It takes 3 weeks or so to have a substantial effect, but even after 7 days you can notice a difference.
It’s more than just food
Over the last year or so I’ve been more focused on expanding my detox to include all aspects of the body: our mental stress, lifestyle, exercise routines and sleep. Detoxing our bodies of the chemical build-up and toxins from our food is important. However, we cannot fully detox ourselves without addressing all other aspects of our daily lives.
Remember, the goal of a detox is to lessen the burden on the body so that it can do its job (while also giving it a little boost to be more efficient at ‘cleaning the slate’). I was reminded of this fact recently when I committed to my food detox 100% but was still experiencing a flare-up of acne on my skin (which, as an adult this is never a good thing, even worse as naturopathic doctor). It dawned on me at that point to assess my stress and sleep. So I slowed down, switched exercise from cardio to yoga and went to bed early. What happened? In a matter of a week, everything calmed down and my body was thriving once again.
Case in point: it is simply not enough to ‘just focus on food’ during a detox. Think about detoxing your mind, your surroundings and your to-do list too.
What lessons have you learned about yourself and your body while doing a detox? Share them in the comments below!