Over the last decade or so, I have done quite a few cleanses, detoxes, fasts…whatever you want to call them. The very first one I did was very successful and after that I have had varying degrees of experiences that range from eh to pretty darn good. The successful cleanses leave me feeling lighter and I reduce water weight and inflammation and I can keep a healthy diet after. Unsuccessful cleanses leave me feeling unsatisfied and hungry and therefore likely to eat like a starving person when I stop. That usually makes me feel worse than I did before I started.
First- why would anyone want or need to go on some sort of food restriction diet in order to “cleanse their system?” I think there are some really good reasons to do a detox and there are also reasons that might set you up for failure.
One reason you detox/cleanse is to lose weight. This one is a set up for failure in my opinion and experience. Our bodies don’t want to lose weight by restricting food intake. Most of the time people who come off a cleanse that was supposed to help them lose weight will over indulge when they are done. The feeling of not being allowed to eat what you want has the rebound effect of overindulgence. The other failure aspect of a weight loss cleanse is that if the cleanse you chose was one that simply helps you shed water weight you will feel really successful until you start eating again and all the weight comes back…bummer!
Another reason to cleanse is to get rid of buildup of stuck food in the colon and detoxify the other organs that are toxic and tired of processing chemicals from the food you eat. It is thought in the world of eating that I study, that our colon gets bogged down with the heavy and hard to digest leftovers from our heavy and heard to digest meals. The lining of the colon is coated so the nutrients you ingest can’t get through the lining into your blood stream. The liver gets inflamed and the kidneys get tired from processing too many chemicals. There are many thoughts out there in internet land that say this isn’t real or is real. My personal experience is it’s real and I won’t get into the gory details of why I know…but I know that after some of the cleanses I have done I felt totally different. No more gas. No more bloating after I eat. I have way more energy and my face is clear, my body odor is mild and my mind clear. The opposite off all those are signs of a congested colon, inflamed liver and tired kidneys.
The last reason to do a cleanse or a fast is to learn more about your habits. If you are not allowed to eat certain foods you will quickly notice how many times a day you think about eating those foods. You will end up in front of the refrigerator for the fifth time in an hour and realize that maybe you are seeking something other than food. The emotional attachment to food is strong. There is often a history that you have with certain treats that you don’t even know exists until you stop the ritual. Suddenly you find yourself face to face with something that has been driving your eating habits behind your back. I think this is the most important benefit of a cleanse. The emotional component of food choice is strong, and it is subtle, and it is the sort of stuff that keeps you choosing foods that make you feel lousy and/or gain weight. If you don’t address this, the underground network of habits and stories will continuously tell you to keep eating.
I have been considering what makes a cleanse a good one or a bad one and here are some of my thoughts on this.
The cleanses I do that allows me to eat vegetables are good ones.
The cleanses that I am allowed some fat are also good.
The cleanses that allow me to use herbs and spices are good ones.
The cleanses that come with all sorts of supplements to help the process are both good and bad. The good is that I have felt lighter and cleansed after. The bad is the detox reaction was pretty strong at times and made me have to stay home. They also cost money.
The cleanses that I make up on my own are the easiest to stick with, transition out of and are the easiest to maintain while still making dinner for my husband.
The cleanses that I ate the same thing every meal for a week were both good and bad. I hated that food for a long time after, but I broke some bad eating habits like getting a chocolate Coconut Bliss bar at the Co-op every time I went.
The cleanses that there was very little fat allowed in the diet left me feeling hungry all day. Then I am cranky...really cranky.
There is so much more to participating in a good detox. You can do a lot of research online or if you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can share some insights and resources..