People who know me know that this is the third time I’ve gone the detox route. Those who don’t know me so well may have heard me talk about it before but don’t know really what I’m talking about. If you don’t know me at all, you’re scratching your head right now. However, people in all of these categories often scratch their head when I tell them that for me, a detox means eliminating (or trying to) alcohol, caffeine, animal products, sugar, and gluten from my diet for 21 days. Such people scratch their heads because they can’t quite figure out what the heck a person eats if not those things.
Regardless of where you are on the How Well We Know Adrienne And Her Detox Methods spectrum (it’s a very wide spectrum! haha), this post is for you. However, I will admit it has been inspired by those who fall into that last category, who may imagine I am sitting at home alone sipping water and gnawing on carrots all day.
O ye of little culinary creativity.
I’m currently unemployed (read: time on my hands) and so I thought I’d blog a bit about what the heck I’m actually eating every day, in an effort to show you that detoxing/cleansing (I use those words interchangeably) is not that difficult and in fact can be quite yummy!
But first, a brief longish note as to why I detox in the first place.
My yoga teacher, Twee, first turned me on to the concept of detoxing. I will admit at the time — two years ago now — I thought it a crazy idea. I’ve always been a big believer in “all things in moderation” and am usually pretty good about living that philosophy. I didn’t believe in cutting things out of my diet, fasting, etc. It seemed silly to me. I really believed (and still do, mostly) that our bodies are quite capable of taking care of themselves. Fast forward one year – the beginning of 2010. My only New Years Resolution of 2010 was to continue to cut red meat out of my diet. I had done this before — years ago when I lived in England, and the previous year, my last year living in Vietnam. The first time, in England in 2002, it began when I became very very ill — I have (had?) a host of health problems which I won’t go into detail about here, but if you’re really curious, catch me on Twitter or email me and we can compare notes. Suffice it to say that I was at the end of my rope and finally heeded my friend Kate’s sagely wisdom: “Get thee to an acupuncturist!” I was not a believer in acupuncture or any holistic therapies, but I was quite ill and Western medicine’s specialists of specialists, drugs, and surgeries had failed me. I had nothing to lose except a bunch of quid, and so I went. My acupuncturist quickly assessed my situation and one of the many immediate recommendations she made was that I cut red meat out of my diet. Being from Alberta, land of steak and roast beef with Yorkshire pudding (nomnom!), this was a bit of a shock. But I was desperately seeking wellness and so I agreed. I cut red meat out of my diet and soon I was energetic and symptom free — I know that sounds cheesy and like something you see on an infomercial, but I’m really not lying. I have witnesses! 🙂 There were several other dietary changes I made that contributed to this, but the single biggest one was cutting out red meat, and being selective about poultry (free-range only, hormone-free, etc.).
Fast forward again. I moved to Qatar and fell in love with Lebanese lamb chops and kofte and schwarma and well… you can imagine what happened to my “no red meat” rule. Notsogood. Unsurprisingly, I became riddled with symptoms of sickness again. I aimed to have some balance; I felt couldn’t give up red meat completely — those lamb chops were just too dang good! — but I tried to eat less of them. I moved to Vietnam and tried to maintain this same balance. In Hanoi, I met a yoga teacher who helped me understand my body based on Ayurvedic health, and discovered my main dosha is Vata. Upon further research, I discovered that it is recommended that Vata dosha types should avoid red meat. This gave me pause. Twice now — once from a Chinese traditional medicine perspective, once from an Ayurvedic medicine perspective — it had been recommended that I should avoid eating red meat. Maybe I shouldn’t ignore this fact? I resolved that year (2009) to again cut red meat out of my diet.
So, in 2010, one year after meeting Twee and learning more about the concept of detoxing — and having already been mostly red-meat free — I decided to do a bit of research into this detox thing (btw, I say “mostly” because I’m not super finicky about not eating red meat; I will have a bite of someone’s burger from time to time, and at Christmas I usually succumb to Italian cured meats). In my research I came across many different types of detox — from eating nothing but cabbage for 3 days to juice fasts to alkaline only diets to eating nothing. You name it, it is out there. As you might imagine, some are safer than others. Some just sounded like pure nonsense!
Having never “dieted” before in my life (I’m generally blessed with a good metabolism), I wasn’t sure where to start, but I knew I wanted something that was healthy and addressed body, mind, and spirit. That’s what led me to Quantum Wellness, by Kelly Freston. Yes, she’s been on Oprah. Yes, the foreword is by Dr. Oz. And yes, I’ll admit that gave her some cred in my mind. I began reading the first few pages and knew immediately this was the book I was looking for. I continued to do more research; I spoke to friends and learned that most of my friends who detox do something very similar to what Freston recommends, though most of them had never heard of her (it seems they’ve based their detoxes on what their yoga teachers / alternative health practitioners recommend). My friend Brighde recommended Crazy Sexy Diet, by Kris Carr, which I admit I did not look into right away, but in the past year has garnered more of my attention. I also looked at, as I said, literally HUNDREDS of websites. I can’t even begin to tell you which ones, but some are better than others. Eventually I was able to piece together a cleanse for myself based mostly on Freston’s book, but also with some bits from The Great American Detox Diet, by Alex Jamieson, and other bits I found online here and there.
In my research I learned that detoxing is not unhealthy when it is done properly. In fact, I learned that many doctors from all backgrounds recommend some kind of detox at least once a year. Many say it’s one of the best things you can do for your body. People who detox report all kinds of wonderful effects, from clear skin to increased energy to better sleep. Several studies have even suggested that fasting in general can reduce chances of Huntington disease and diabetes. Eventually, I thought that if I did enough research on health and nutrition — ensuring I had enough vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, and carbohydrates daily — I would probably be fine to detox. I thought I’d give it a go. I mentioned it to my doctor, who supported it fully and was if anything rather surprised at how much I already knew. She agreed that no matter what, I had to make sure I was getting all the nutrients I needed. She’s not pro-vegetarianism, I will add, but is supportive of anyone who does their research and doesn’t just do a “fad” diet to lose weight, as those are very unhealthy. We agreed that what I was doing was not a fad diet, but rather an experiment.
So off I went!
One of the best passages that gives explains why I detox is this one, from Freston (2008, p.68):
It takes a lot of work to break down food, keep all the organs and systems running, and deal with stress. The body doesn’t have the luxury of putting everything else on hold so that it can tend to the deeper issues of processing and releasing the stored toxins, extra fat, and waste that have accumulated over the years. When you put certain foods on the back burner for a bit, your body has a reprieve from its normal everyday chore of digesting difficult things, and it can really dig into that much-needed heavier work.
Even as our bodies are uniquely designed to survive under less-than-ideal conditions, we still need to take proactive steps to maximize our ability to heal, regenerate, and operate at optimal capacity. When the body is overburdened with too many toxins, it simply isn’t able to function efficiently and, over time, we will feel “off our game” and perhaps get sick.
So, as Freston says, I tend to think of my cleanse as a short vacation from all the toxins, some of which I have control over and many of which I don’t (e.g. pollutants). If you’re curious about why the above food “toxins” have been chosen, please leaf through Freston’s book — she explains the reason for cutting out each of them. And note that I’m not saying here this kind of detox is what’s best for everyone; I chose it for myself based on my own health situation and individual needs. I know many of the toxins she mentions do affect my body, mind, and spirit, and so cutting them temporarily out made sense to me. I firmly believe each person has to choose what makes sense to him/her. 🙂
And for me, the part that’s most difficult to cut out is caffeine. I’m a true coffee addict in every sense. Further research revealed that many doctors do not recommend cutting out caffeine cold turkey, and so the first time I detoxed, I allowed myself 1 cup of coffee each morning. The second time, I kept the 1 cup of coffee, but tried switching to green tea after the first week, with some success, but not wholly. This time, I’m going to try to completely switch to green tea in the last two weeks. It’s tough! Especially with recent research indicating that coffee helps women deal with stress! Now I know why I’ve been an addict!
Back to my main purpose here…
I had thought about starting a separate blog for Adrienne Does Detox Take 3, but decided against it because of the pressure to post each day, and I’ve simply got too much coming up in the next few weeks to be able to commit to that. Instead, I will post here what I’ve eaten on given days… perhaps I’ll have time to post each day, perhaps not. At any rate, my goal is to show you that you can do a detox and still eat incredibly yummy food!
Here’s what I ate today:
Upon rising — first thing out of bed: (usually I do this before yoga, today I did it after)
- half lemon, squeezed into a glass of tepid or warm water, with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper
- 1 Tbsp of ground flax meal mixed into a glass of tepid water
- A giant smoothie made from banana, apple, spinach, agave nectar, soy milk and vanilla protein powder
- 1 cup coffee
- 1 cup vegetable broth, warmed
- Garlic-sauteed spinach and tomatoes in olive oil with chili pepper flakes, fresh orange juice, and pumpkin seeds over quinoa cooked in vegetable broth
- a glass of water
- Rooibos tea, sweetened with agave nectar
- a clementine
Just before bed:
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 1 Tbsp of ground flax meal mixed into water
A few notes:
- I decided to include veggie broth in my detox after reading several articles that advocate that its ingredients help flush out toxins. Reading about the benefits of an alkaline diet, I decided to give it a shot — and I do think it’s beneficial. The past two detoxes I have made my own vegetable broth, but this time I am supplementing with high-quality preservative-free organic store-bought broth. Normally I would drink veggie broth as part of dinner, too, but tonight’s dinner was just super filling, so I will opt to have it before bed instead.
- Lemon juice mixed with warm water first thing in the morning has long been known (since the ancients!) as a detoxifier for many reasons. Firstly, it’s a major antioxidant, high in Vitamin C. Secondly, it helps digestion, particularly the bowels — so it’s a great jump start to metabolism in the morning. The bit of cayenne pepper helps to do this, too, and is a warming agent (I tend to omit the cayenne in the summer). Lastly, lemon juice has been known to be a major liver cleanser.
- The ground flax mixed with water is not only full of nutrients, but it also acts as fiber to make sure everything stays regular and all those toxins do indeed make their way OUT! Eventually, after a few days or the first week, I will probably be able to cut the evening flax + water combination. Will have to see how I feel.
And that’s about it! See, not too difficult! All meals were very easy and were prepared in less than 30 minutes, although I will admit this is not always the case. Often, I am using beans or other legumes which require much more cooking time. And I’m sure that will be the case again at some point over the next few weeks. But really, my point is here — it’s not that hard to cut all those things out of your diet and still eat delicious, yummy food!