Using January as the month to get in shape is nearly as big a tradition as getting out of shape during the fall and early winter — just ask any gym membership coordinator! After the blissful indulgence of treats during the holiday season from Halloween through Christmas, it is an appealing New Year’s resolution to shed the Yuletide pounds and start preparing for the coming spring and summer, where clothing is less of an aid in hiding an extra inch or two. A helpful tool to jumpstart your fitness program is to do a detox. Health food stores have an overwhelming assortment of detox pills and drinks on their shelves, but thankfully there are also natural ways to cleanse the body through clean eating and exercise. The following guidelines can be used for a three-day detox, a one-month detox or even as guidelines for healthy eating throughout the year.
One way the body naturally purges toxins is through the conduit of sweat. During a detox, try to get 45 to 60 minutes of cardio exercise five days a week, actively sweating the entire time. This is a great way to get rid of sodium and shed the initial couple of pounds of water-weight, as well as help your overall fitness and health.
The big items to eliminate during a detox are alcohol, caffeine, processed foods (anything that comes packaged with ingredients that you cannot picture in your mind), white flour, packaged deli meats, red meat, shellfish, dairy and, of course, sugar and fried foods. Keep salt to a minimum. Also avoid any fish that is commonly high in mercury, such as tuna, pike or halibut.
Try not to eat out much, if at all, on a detox as it can be very difficult to avoid these ingredients in food from restaurants … even steamed broccoli may include butter unless you make a special request. If you do go out, order a salad with nothing pre-prepared except plain grilled chicken or salmon; limit it to just raw fruits, vegetables and nuts –– and ask for olive oil and vinegar on the side instead of using a salad dressing. At home, opt for a little lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and your favorite herbs instead of pre-made salad dressings.
The primary foods to consume are:
Organic: Pesticides are inherently toxins, so try to stick to organic produce, especially those with thin skins. Fruits like oranges and bananas will absorb less of the chemicals into their flesh because of their thicker skin. Buy raw, organic chicken and bake it at home for sandwiches and dinners. Also, wild caught salmon is a wonderful choice.
Antioxidants: Fruits, vegetables and beans with bright colors are typically the highest in antioxidants. Some at the top of the list are red beans, pinto beans, blueberries, cranberries, artichokes, broccoli, spinach, kale, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, red grapes and red apples, among many others.
Foods Rich in Sulfuric Compounds: Garlic, onions and eggs will assist your body in producing its own antioxidant, glutathione, which is especially adept at purging toxins from the body.
Grains: Focus on whole, sprouted grains. Quinoa, barley, bulgur (used in making tabbouleh), brown or wild rice, buckwheat and freekeh are all good choices. The only bread you should eat is sprouted: Ezekiel® and Alvarado Street Bakery® are the two most common brands for that. This bread has no preservatives and must be kept cold, so you will find it in the frozen foods section. Alvarado Street Bakery® makes great sprouted grain bagels as well.
Drink! Try to drink nothing but water and herbal tea during your detox … at least eight glasses of these fluids a day. Water naturally carries toxins out of your body, so take advantage of it. Add lemon juice, preferably freshly squeezed, to your water and your tea as much as possible. Lemons detoxify the liver and the urinary tract as well as balance your body’s pH levels, improve digestion, aid your immune system and even diminish hunger cravings. Adding a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, or as much or little as you can handle, is also of great assistance in detoxifying the body. One wonderful tea is DeTox by Yogi®. It has a delicious sweet flavor and will help curb any sugar cravings. Another to try is EveryDay Detox® by Traditional Medicinals®. Both of these contain ginger, licorice and dandelion which all aid in purging toxins from the body. Traditional Medicinals® also makes a licorice tea which is especially sweet as licorice encompasses a compound found to be 50 times sweeter than sugar. Use this to help with any holiday-sugar withdrawals!
Another good tool for losing weight, or just maintaining health, is to track what you are eating every day. A great, free tool for this is MyFitnessPal. Their online database of nutritional information for foods is seemingly limitless, and on their app you can even scan barcodes on your phone to pull up various food information and log it for the day. There you can also set goals for macronutrient intake — what percentage of your food should be carbohydrates, fat and protein.
Good luck! It’s a hard commitment, but you’re worth it!