Working at Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Bridget and I have been around a detox protocol or two.
We actually created our own cleanse guide with the best of what we believe in, if you’re interested. Food is 100 percent included on it and it’s a bit shorter and gentler than a lot of what we see out there.
You can grab it here, it’s free.
Anyway, Bridget tends to feel real good on a juice detox. Me, not so much. I’m incredibly sensitive to blood sugar crashes – you know that shaky, feel like I’m going to die, must. eat. pretzels. now. feeling? Yeah, that one. Makes juices cleanses pretty hard for me.
But real food cleanses? I love them. Hate that I can’t eat ice cream but, love that I feel fantastic after just a few days of getting my shit together. Sleeping like a baby, clear, focused mind, feeling happy by default, and a flatter, de-bloated belly. It’s all wonderful.
They honestly make me wonder how anyone could deny the fact that what we eat directly influences how we feel.
But here’s what we believe about detoxing your diet: super-strict cleanses are great here and there, as a little rejuvenation from an indulgent weekend, to ward off getting sick, or to jumpstart a healthy, new routine.
But they usually don’t work for sustainable, real-life weight loss.
It actually wasn’t until we dropped this idea of a strict period of perfection that we were able to lose the weight in the long run.
And we’d guess that if you’re interested in a detox or a cleanse that what you really want, is real-life, sustainable weight loss.
If you’re frustrated with your body and want to lose weight more than anything, these all-or-nothing approaches really just serve to put your entire life on hold until you shed the pounds.
And that’s just no way to live.
Because we hardly ever stick to them anyway. And then when we ‘fail’ or ‘fall off the wagon’ we go nuts and do more harm than good.
Another week or two goes by and we’re all “Okay, THIS TIME, I’m really going to do it.” and we start all over again.
All this does though, is prolong the time you’re putting your life on hold, hating your body and focusing entirely on losing weight. It never really helps you reach your goals.
We’d like to propose a different solution.
It involves understand what ‘detoxing your diet’ really means, and then gently shifting into it over time, instead of crashing into restriction and bouncing back out – only to land on your ass.
It also involves understanding how the rest of your life plays a role in all of this, and setting it up to support your weight loss. Using it as a tool to help you get there, and not just setting it aside as an afterthought.
So what ‘detoxing your diet’ really means, is removing food that’s making your body work hard to feel good.
This includes foods that you might be sensitive to, that might be hard for you to digest, that are causing inflammation in your gut and therefore your entire system. Foods that disrupt your hormones, sleep and energy. Foods that cloud your brain and make you feel lousy in general.
Detoxing means removing them to give your body a chance to heal itself.
For everyone, this means:
Processed foods (foods that come in a package with a list of ingredients)
Sugar + Artificial Sweeteners
For some, this could mean:
Gluten (a protein found in grains)
Grains of any kind
Seems like a lot, what’s left to eat then?
Greens like kale, spinach, lettuces and arugula
Vegetables like sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cucumber, celery, onion
Fruits like apples, oranges, peaches, blueberries, pears
Meat like beef and pork
Poultry like chicken and turkey
Fish like salmon and trout
Nuts like almonds, walnuts and cashews
Seeds like chia and pumpkin
Fats like coconut oil and avocados
What you’re left with when you remove the food that makes you feel like crap, are the simple, whole foods, that our homo-sapien software is designed to run on.
These are the foods that any effective diet will have you eating.
Start by adding more simple, whole foods in first.
Work your way up to a place where about 80 percent or your diet (or about 17 of the 21 meals per week) is made up of only these simple, whole foods. And then with the other 20 percent of your meals (about 3 or 4 per week), you eat whatever you really want.
You should start to notice as you do this, that you’re craving more and more of the good stuff and less and less of the rest. This also removes the guilt and restriction around food.
You shift your diet, instead of overhauling it overnight. And you shift your mentality from one of restriction to one of addition.
Ask yourself: what foods can I eat more of to feel better and lose weight? How can I add more of the good stuff in first?
This is called ‘crowding out’ and it’s really effective because you have the least cravings for foods that don’t nourish you, when you’re full of the ones that do.
Add more good stuff in and the bad will naturally get crowded out.
Now, what about the rest of your life?
When I first started working with my own health coach, which eventually lead to me enrolling at Institute for Integrative Nutrition and then working there as well, I had never even thought about this part of it.
My health coach asked me: Do you like your apartment?
I literally had no idea why the hell she was asking me that. She was supposed to be helping me look good in a bathing suit.
So my initial response was something like:
Yeah, it’s fine. I like the location and I live with a couple of friends. But, we were supposed to put a temporary wall up, but our building wouldn’t let us so my bed is just in the living room with this Ikea bookshelf thing for a wall. I have zero private space and I don’t sleep that well. My roommates go out more than me and I’m kinda trying to get my life in order and my place just isn’t that conducive to that. Actually, I really don’t like my living situation at all right now come to think of it. It stresses me out. Wait, why are you asking me this?
She responded by asking if I’d ever considered that my home was a really important place to feel comfortable and relaxed and happy in. And if I never have a chance to reboot and rest well, that I was living my life perpetually stressed out. And being stressed out is a really great way to gain weight.
I just sat there staring at her.
No. I literally had never even thought about that.
I’d never thought that my living situation, my job situation, my finances, my relationships, my stifled creativity, having fun – that any of it – could be so directly related to the struggle I was facing with my body.
I was having trouble losing weight because my life sucked and all I did was try to diet.
It had never occurred to me that in order to lose weight, I might have to stop dieting and find a new apartment. Or that I might have to do some work on my life in a way that had absolutely nothing to do with food.
So the second part of our approach is to ask yourself what areas of your life are really stressing you out. Choose one, and start working on it. Set your life up to support your weight loss goals, don’t put it on hold until you’ve lost the weight.
Sustainable weight loss is only possible when we make it about more than just our food. We have to shift our mindset from one of deprivation and restriction to one of nourishment and enjoyment. Of course, we’ll have to change our foods, but we don’t have to be so hard on ourselves or demand such perfection. And, most importantly, we don’t have to put our lives on hold until we figure it out.