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Eliminating toxins and possible allergens from your diet helps reduce intake of bad stuff, and by necessity, increases your intake of really great stuff, including nutritious greens, root veggies, fresh fruits and whole grains. You can do this with the supervision of a naturopath or other doctor, but you can also do your own version which will save money and introduce a lot of great habits that you may find yourself wanting to stick with after your detox period is over. Shall we begin?
DAY 1: MAKE A PLAN FOR A MONTH OF ELIMINATION
Most elimination or detox eating plans last a month, which helps give structure to your new eating plan – and your shopping list. (Try to shop for everything you’ll need for the month before you get started.) Week one: Eliminate all red meat. Week two: Add poultry to what you eliminate. Week three: Eliminate all fish and seafood, and eat a completely vegetarian or vegan diet. Week four: Gradually add back in foods to your diet that you especially miss, and leave out anything that you felt better not eating.Video: What you do to attract colds and flu
DAY 2: RESOLVE TO EAT WHOLE FOODS FOR A MONTH
This may be tough, but that means ditching all those convenient prepackaged foods – including microwaved meals – you love so much. Soon, you’ll find it’s easier than you think. Instead of buying fruit-added, sweetened yogurt, get creamy nonfat Greek yogurt, chop up your own favorite fruits (and nuts) and drizzle in a smidge of honey if you like. You’ll know exactly what you’re eating, which is far better for you than ingesting a lot of chemicals you don’t know. Read labels; if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it.
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DAY 3: SO LONG, SUGAR!
Cut out as much added sugar and sugary processed foods as you can. Try baked apples or fruit salads for dessert and eat lots of fresh fruit every day. As you’re weaning yourself from sugar, you can indulge in a little honey here and there, but try to cut back on that as well. If you’re like many of us, you could be addicted to sugar, so withdrawing from it may take a toll on your mood. The good news is it’s honestly hard only for the first three days or so. After you’ve kicked it, you will not notice the cravings.
DAY 4: DITCH THE SODA
That means diet as well as regular soda. There’s growing evidence that the fake sweeteners and chemicals in diet pop can actually make you gain more weight than the sugar-loaded regular kind. The chemicals in the sweeteners seem to trigger the body’s cravings for sweets, so you may subconsciously be reaching for the candy dish at work even more when you’re chugging the diet soda. Swap in fizzy water, flavored seltzer and ice water flavored with slices of fresh lemon and cucumber.
DAY 5: SWITCH UP YOUR CAFFEINE CHOICE
Give up coffee. Instead, drink green tea, which has a small amount of caffeine (so you’re not likely to get those evil caffeine-withdrawal headaches) as well as a ton of amazing antioxidants. Try different varieties, too. Some Japanese and Hawaiian brands have a distinctively nutty, delicious flavor; some are blended with rose hips or freeze-dried bits of citrus for a livelier kick. Drink it hot, and brew up some iced green tea, too; you may need it to help replace soda.
DAY 6: GET THEE TO A SAUNA
If your gym has a sauna, make a point of going two or three times a week, either after a workout or just on its own. Saunas are an excellent, natural way to help the body eliminate waste quickly. Try starting out at 10 minutes at a time, and work your way up if you can tolerate the heat. Saunas also help relax your body and mind and help your muscles bounce back after a workout. Just remember to stay hydrated – bring water into the sauna to sip on regularly.
DAY 7: MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH A NUTRITIONIST
If you’ve always wondered whether you have gluten sensitivity or why you have so many migraines, a nutritionist may be able to help you with an additional, targeted plan to eliminate wheat, dairy, soy or other potentially allergenic foods. Try to resist the urge to self-diagnose where food sensitivities are concerned and get professional guidance. Nutritionists also are well-versed in creative cooking to get around food allergies.
DAY 8: MAKE A TOAST TO NO ALCOHOL FOR A MONTH
Yes, you heard right. No liquor, wine, beer or anything else in between. This will help your liver rest up and refocus; instead of working mightily to get the alcohol’s poisons out of the body, it can focus on eliminating other toxins. No pouting – taking a break from alcohol is also a good reality check to see if you feel different without drinking (and if so, how) and to see if your relationships change in any way. Bonus: You’ll save a lot of cash this month, and with the extra fizzy water or juice drinks you’ll be having instead, your skin is going to look amazing.
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DAY 9: DITTO CIGARETTES
I know this isn’t going to be easy, but if you truly want to detox your body, you have to get it off nicotine and cigarette smoke. You already know those two things are super-toxic to the body and cause all sorts of health issues. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be quite so daunting. Anyone can do almost anything for three or four weeks. If you look at it that way – as if you’re conducting a science experiment on your body – you should be able to get through it. If it’s just too much to do all at once, try having one cigarette every other day, and then reducing that amount as time goes by.
DAY 10: GET SOME PAMPERING ON YOUR CALENDAR
You might be tempted to feel sorry for yourself (or feel like you have too much extra time on your hands, what with not smoking, not boozing and not making late-night junk food runs). The solution: Schedule something indulgent for yourself every week while you are doing this, more if you have the time and money. Have at least one massage (which also helps the body eliminate toxins); a body scrub (which removes the bad stuff eliminated by your pores from your skin and feels amazing); a mani-pedi (just because); a facial, or even a different form of bodywork you’ve always wanted to try, like hot-stone massage or cranial-sacral therapy.
DAY 11: DRINK AT LEAST TWO QUARTS OF WATER
Today and every day. Drinking extra water is absolutely critical to help your organs flush out toxins. And with the extra fiber you’re eating from all those fresh veggies, fruits, whole grains and legumes, your body needs extra water to help with elimination and to keep your internal systems running smoothly. Keep a water container or glass at your desk and also where you read and hang out at home. Sip early and often.
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DAY 12: GET BOMBED
No, not with alcohol, silly. With bath bombs! These are a delicious way to pamper yourself at home. You might even want to do it every night in your tub, since soaking your muscles and skin helps everything relax and toxins float away. Lush and other natural-cosmetic companies have dozens of kinds. They fizz, bubble, smell amazing and are loaded with skin conditioners and emollients that will keep on giving long after your bath is over.
DAY 13: BUY A SKIN BRUSH
Naturopaths who oversee month-long detox cleanses advise dry skin brushing twice a day, every day, while undergoing a detox. The best ones have a removable handle. You’ll want the handle to reach your back and also be able remove it so you can hold the brush in your palm for the rest of the brushing. Brush in gentle circles all over your body, from your face, ears and neck, all the way to the soles of your feet. It helps get waste off the skin quickly and stimulates fresh cell growth. Keep this brush dry and separate from any scrubbers you might use in the shower or tub.
DAY 14: ENLIST A PAL
The buddy system is great for something as ambitious as a detox cleanse. It’s especially helpful if you can lean on each other as you deal with cravings for the Big Three: coffee, sugar and soda. When one of you is feeling weak, the other can come running with a cup of freshly brewed herbal tea, a plan to hit a yoga class right after work and a friendly ear. Take a walk together; take deep breaths; compare notes – and that craving will pass.
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DAY 15: TREAT YOURSELF AT HOME
Indulge in some aromatherapy lotion and candles – even incense if you enjoy that. Creating a more nurturing atmosphere at home and even in the office (well, you can have lotion at the office, though you probably should leave the candles and incense at home) will help you stick to your plan. Realize that there are other ways to indulge your senses, affirmatively, besides eating too much of the wrong things.
DAY 16: READ UP
There are some terrific books available for those who want to try detoxing on their own. Get a book that covers the general principles and also includes some recipes. Ones to check out: Kimberly Snyder’s “Beauty Detox Solution,” Daniella Chace’s “The New Detox Diet” or Roni Deluz’s popular “Martha’s Vineyard Diet Detox.” Reading up on the body’s chemistry and how it behaves when fed pure foods versus chemicals and processed foods will help keep you on the straight and narrow.
DAY 17: GET JUICING
Juicing helps get more of the nutrients of fresh vegetables and fruit straight into your system. Do be aware of caloric intake if you juice in addition to eating full meals. Also, consider doing at least one day of juicing alone. Some of the best, most nutritious ingredients for juicing include carrots, apples, celery, beets, fresh ginger root, kale and spinach. In between your three juice meals, drink plenty of water. If you enjoy juicing, it’s worth it to buy a really good electric juicer, which that doesn’t leak, doesn’t require too much assembly and does have an extra-large tube to accommodate whole apples so you’re not spending all your time chopping.
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DAY 18: PLAN MEALS WITH PLENTY OF FIBER
This shouldn’t be an issue since you should be eating lots of fresh produce and making entrees of whole grains like brown rice and quinoa. But fiber is especially important during a detox, to keep the body on track to eliminate toxins. Be sure to get a mix of soluble fiber (oats, beans) and insoluble (kale, raw carrots and traditional sources of roughage).
DAY 19: GO TO BED EARLY
You may find you need more sleep while doing a detox, and that’s to be expected. The body repairs itself during sleep and you’re helping give it the tools it needs to do a thorough house-cleaning. Relax and sleep the extra hour if you need it. Conversely, you may find you have lots of extra energy, and that’s OK too. Your main job during this period is to pay close attention to how your body is responding to the elimination of potential toxins and the intake of super-healthy foods. Rest when you need to; don’t sweat it when you don’t.
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DAY 20: TAKE A YOGA CLASS
Or take several. If your body can handle Bikram – or hot – yoga, that can be a big boost for those doing a detox cleanse. Holding poses in the heat helps push toxins out at a fantastic rate. If you prefer your yoga a little closer to room temperature, regular yoga will still help exercise your whole body, sweat out impurities and eliminate stress from your mind and soul. If the class is a vigorous one with lots of flow poses, let your teacher know ahead of time as you may want to modify some of the positions to accommodate whatever energy level you happen to have on that day.
DAY 21: KEEP A DETOX JOURNAL
This is a big key to your success during this time and to helping you hold on to the newly acquired habits and tastes you want to take with you going forward. Record everything you eat for every meal and snack, including beverages. Also, record whatever exercise you’ve done that day, in addition to other activities (i.e., sauna, skin brushing, etc.). Rate your daily energy level on a scale of one to 10, too. This will be an excellent resource during these three weeks as you see how you feel when eating certain things or participating in certain activities. And it’s a great guide to pick up in a few months if you want to remember what combination of foods, drinks and activities made you feel happy, healthy and righteous.