The Miracle of Detoxing and its Amazing Benefits
Have you ever been doing all the right things…eating healthy, sleeping 6–8 hours a night, exercising a few times a week, but still feel like you’re dragging? You should be feeling great and energy should be high. But for some reason, all your good efforts don’t seem to be paying off.
Or maybe it’s the opposite. You’ve been a little lax in your eating habits, letting the occasional treat become a regular thing. Work has taken over and your self made promise to exercise each morning has lapsed into the ether.
In either case, a change is in order. A detox may be just the thing to pull you out of that slump.
I like to do some sort of detox/fast about twice a year. I typically do it in between triathlons when I am not in an intense training period. Fall and spring are ideal times for the body to detox as these seasons are a time for renewal and regrowth, but summer can also be a great time to detox.
I am on day six of a seven day detox that begins with a two day fast followed by five days of eating mainly vegetables, fruits, and rice.
It sounds worse than it is. Honestly, I really enjoy the whole process of it.
Here are the three main reasons I detox and the incredible benefits I experience.
1. To Recalibrate My Hunger and Relationship to Food:
I have done many different detox plans over the years and they have ranged in length from 7 to 40 days long, and the protocols have varied in what was allowed or restricted depending on the aim of the detox. But for each one of them, I almost always start with a 2 day fast, limiting myself to lemon water, herbal teas, and occasionally vegetable or bone broth. (No juice…I am not referring to a juice cleanse here. Those are completely different and not something I would recommend, but that’s for another post.)
I find that going two days consuming only liquids resets my attitude toward food and reminds me that hunger is cyclical. It comes and it goes and just when you think you can’t go any longer without a bite of something, the feeling passes and you forget about eating again.
As a triathlete, during intense training periods, the hunger can feel insatiable. And during those times, the caloric intake has to increase to keep up with the demands of the training. But when training ends, sometimes it takes a while to remember I don’t need to eat as much anymore. The hunger pains aren’t as urgent as they were when I was training harder, but I haven’t adjusted back to my pre-training eating habits.
Fasting for two days and then detoxing is like hitting the reset button. I rediscover that food is not my only source of fuel and in fact, I can go quite awhile without it and still function as usual. And as an added bonus, when I begin to eat again, my taste buds are extra sharp and the simplest of foods taste divine. Cravings for sugary treats or caffeinated beverages diminish and healthy greens and vegetables burst with flavor.
Along with food tasting better, I pay more attention to my meals and cultivate a more mindful approach to eating. I am satisfied on less food and feel energized after eating rather than tired or weighed down.
2. To Give My Digestive System a Rest
No matter how healthy you eat or what diet you follow, whether you are gluten free, soy free, dairy free, vegan, paleo, slow carb or any other diet out there, it is inevitable that every day you are exposed to countless toxins. They can be from the food you eat, products you use or even the air you breathe. You cannot avoid them. Thankfully, your body is equipped to deal with this. The liver and the kidneys are powerhouses at taking toxins and getting them out of the body so they don’t to poison you.
At the same time, these organs can get overtaxed when toxins keep coming in. This inhibits proper digestion and elimination which leads to chronic inflammation. During a detox, we consciously put clean, organic, and nutrient dense foods into our body and eliminate harmful, damaging foods, substances, and products as much as possible. This puts lets stress on the digestive system and gives it a much needed rest.
Along with resting my digestive system, I use this detox period as a rest for mind and my entire body. This means making a bigger effort to get seven to eight hours of sleep every night and sticking to routines that enhance sleep and reduce stress. I try to minimize television and computer use, especially in the hour before bed time. In general, I use this time to maximize self care, whether it’s through meditation, yoga, self massage, epsom salt baths, or any other calming practices that help me to destress and rest my body. In our culture of non stop work and striving for more, I find this time to recharge essential in preventing injury, sickness, and burnout.
3. To Remind Myself That I Feel Better and Perform Better on Nutrient Dense, Seasonal Foods
I enjoy eating a largely plant based diet with lots of healthy fat and protein from grass fed beef and wild caught fish. But I am also tempted by delicious desserts (peanut butter and chocolate anything), martinis (dirty with blue cheese olives, please), and the ultra toxic craft micro-brew (dark, malty, and aged in a bourbon barrel, YUM!).
I definitely indulge in these paradoxes of pleasure, but for me, it’s a slippery slope. I’m one of those girls who likes to take a bite or a sip of someone else’s tasty treat, deluding myself into thinking that the toxins won’t hurt if I don’t have a full serving. All the while, I’m ignoring the fact that drinking a quarter of each of my boyfriend’s four beers has easily equaled a serving of my own.
Detoxing eliminates those bites and sips I sneak here and there. I abstain from all those suspect substances I know are contributing to my brain fog, fatigue, and general lack of focus. Within a few days of clean, honest eating, the fog lifts and my energy soars. I am reminded that the “occasional” indulgences have a cumulative effect. And while it’s true that one dessert/drink won’t kill me, the effects of that mentality build up to create unintended and often unchecked consequences.
A detox quite literally, serves as my gut check. I reaffirm that clean eating and sticking to whole, organic, unprocessed foods is worth the effort. My clear head, renewed energy, and uplifted spirit provide all the proof I need.
Hopefully, I have conveyed some of the benefits of periodic detoxing. But please don’t take it to be a panacea. You cannot do a detox and then return to your bad habits and expect to retain all the good results from the detox. This is exactly why I do it at least twice a year because those bad habits have a way of creeping back in and derailing all my good efforts. For me, the detox provides a structured way to eliminate the temptations while also re-establishing self care habits and recharging my battery for optimum health and performance.
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