To Detox or Not?

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To detox less, you need to live clean.

It seems so obvious, doesn’t it?

Yet our nation clearly misses the boat on this topic. Our water’s polluted partly because of the chemicals we use on our body when we shower, get out of the shower, and the rest of the day. Our air and food are polluted, and we pollute our minds with a constant stream of negativity.

The misuse of our senses creates dis-ease within our body.

This doesn’t have to be our story.

I learned the power of detoxification, or detox/cleanse, from my college roommate in 1994. We embarked on my first of many cleanses to lose weight quickly… enter the epic cabbage soup cleanse! I’m still fond of the soup, despite not following the cleanse in over a decade. If you want the full skinny on it (pun intended), here’s the gist of it:

It’s lightly different from what I followed, though it’s very close. In our version, Day 1 was limited to fruits with high water content such as grapes and melons. Day 2 didn’t start with a baked potato either, or we might have held out for another 12 hours.

My roommate and I didn’t make it through Day 1—at 7 p.m., we drove 20 minutes to the closest restaurant open at that hour… Taco Bell. (Rural NC in the early 90s.)

I’ve completed the cleanse several times since then, with various substitutions. I’ve used beans or TVP chunks in place of the meat, and made milkshakes or banana bowls to keep the banana/milk day interesting. If you remember my love for soups over baked potatoes to keep them low-fat, you won’t find it odd that I drowned my baked potato in cabbage soup!

Later in the 90s, I learned the power of cleanses from various books on Ayurveda, magazines, and library books. I cleansed on Monday’s by either fasting, eating kitcherie, or eating a single food such as broccoli for the entire day. I have a 3-day Ayurvedic cleanse I followed during the change of seasons. This resets your body during the season change and helps you adapt on both a physical and spiritual level.

In 2007, I had my first bout of kidney stones. I was amid my Wisewoman training and had experience with herbs as medicine. I was working for both a chiropractor and organic market as well, so they inundated me with eastern forms of healing. Detox was a regular vocabulary word in my life.

I completed a 2-week raw soup cleanse to get rid of my kidney stones; I also drank herbal teas from my Wisewoman studies and a Chinese herbal supplement from the acupuncturist who worked at the chiropractor’s office. On 3 separate occasions, I joined the 3-week Standard Process cleanse my chiropractor hosted during my 1-year of employment with her.

I was living by the same standard I held in the 90s—cleanse one day a week and do an extended 7 to 21-day fast during the change of season. This gives your body a rest and resets it for the upcoming season. It helps you better live in tune with nature, decreases seasonal allergies and chronic skin problems.

I began my career as a raw food chef while working at the organic market in 2007. A friend performed annual water fasts for 7 days and needed my assistance coming off the cleanse properly. Prior to meeting me, she ended the cleanse as most people do… confused. What DO I eat now without destroying my intestines!?!

My experience with raw soups and cleanses became my entrance into private meal plans.

Over the next few years, I became the raw detox go-to person. I had meal plans of gourmet raw foods such as lasagna’s, pizza’s, rawvioli’s, soups, chips and dips, and even snack foods (which I still sell online). I provided private meals and supplied a local juice bar with raw snacks and meals. I even wrote a 2-week plan for a comedian who was going on a tour and needed to stay on raw foods during her time on the road.

I met a lot of people in the natural healing world, fed them, learned from them, and studied them. I noticed that despite their love for kale, most people wanted the cashew-cheeze meals and avocado-based soups on their cleanses over the cleaner kale salad options offered. (I learned the secret to making addictive kale salads while working at the organic market). As you can imagine, a diet high in cashew cheeze and avocado isn’t too cleansing.

Is the motivation for a cleanse to eat comfort foods or let the body rest and reset?

I studied various detoxes and reviewed my own experiences with them. I was also seeing a therapist at that time and started analyzing cleanses on a psychological level. I was deeply entrenched in the raw food movement and met amazing souls who despite their mental faculty, were ungrounded, to say the least. Raw food is a difficult lifestyle to adhere to… I question diets that aren’t sustainable.

I realized it’s easy to make detoxing an unhealthy obsession. I did it; I remember going to the wedding of close friends on one of my cleanses and could have nothing but water with lemon. Not even a salad without dressing, unless they could put it in a blender!

While I understand the importance of cleanses, it can be a horrible crutch. I practice intermittent fasting during the warmer seasons to allow my digestive system a complete break. It allows me to burn toxins trapped in fat cells, has evened out my blood sugar levels (no more “hangry” attitude problems), and has improved my digestion 3-fold.

Most cleanses have you ingesting food, which doesn’t allow your body to burn fat as a fast does. After decades of hosting various types, let me share my observations on cleansing versus fasting. Fasting is what doctors make you do prior to major procedures to avoid complications, not cleansing. There’s a big difference between the outcome of the two.

“Food for thought” with regard to cleanses:

  1. Cleanses are often a “get-out-of-jail-free” card. Many people cheat with food all year and follow a cleanse to get back on track. It’s akin to New Year’s Resolutions (which by the time you’re reading this, have come to a failed ending point).
  2. Cleanses are hard to break. When you come off a cleanse, you need to ease back into an eating pattern—preferably NOT the same one you left behind when you embarked on the detox! Fasting is obviously the same in this regard.
  3. Most cleanses require you to give up caffeine, 99% of the foods you eat, and ask you to spend a fortune on foods you’ll probably never eat again. I promise after the raw soup cleanse I did in 2007 and 2012, olive oil and lemon were NOT in my diet for 6 months. The cleanse required you to eat nothing on Days 7 and 14; you instead ingested ½ cup of olive oil chased with 1 cup of lemon juice.
    I began questioning why I gave up caffeine and suffered with days of headaches when I was just going back to coffee. The pain wasn’t worth the payoff… I enjoy coffee. I asked the same questions about the foods I was eating on these cleanses (see #5).
  4. There’s a dangerous neurosis in repeated cleanses. We each have different reasons but I can tell you we “repeat performers” are obsessed with cleansing for psychological reasons. No cleanse will ever clear the mental chatter causing the urge to detox—dig deep and consider why there’s a need to be so “clean.”
  5. Living clean means not having to detox as much. I find it’s better on our body as a whole. When you consistently abuse your body use a cleanse as a bandaid, it’s a dangerous combination. I watched someone very close to me die as a result of this behavior. Eat better on a consistent basis and reduce or eliminate the need to cleanse.
    If our digestion is working optimally because we care for it year-round, seasonal allergies decrease. Don’t forget, your skin, eyes, ears, and nose need to “eat clean food”—feed them accordingly.
  6. Our obsession with cleanses has created a market for scams. You know how I feel about trends, fads, and scams. As I mention in my Transformation 101 book, foot soaks are completely fake. And the alkaline water craze? Another fake trend. Eat clean food and save yourself thousands in unnecessary detox gimmicks.
  7. Our fitness obsessions are a variation of detoxes and cleanses. Once Tae Bo caught on, we were fascinated by intense workout programs that shed fat fast, even if we knew we’d never stick with it. (I have immense respect for Tony Horton as a person and businessman… but I’ve never met anyone who stuck with P90X after the initial period.) There’s a fine line between exercising for health and exercising for an addiction. I worked with numerous addicts who traded one addiction (drugs/alcohol) for another (coffee, detox programs, fitness). Healthier? Perhaps…
  8. It’s time to break the stigma we American’s have about dirt. Our culture fascinates me—we’re obsessed with soaps, antibacterial products, vaccines, and our failing digestion. Yet we want convenience foods, diet drinks, and processed sugar products. See #5… living in balance eliminates the need for cleansing. You cannot eat Wendy’s with diet coke daily and think a cleanse is the answer to your problems. EAT. MORE. SALADS.

I don’t believe cleanses are dangerous, evil, nor should we avoid them. We live in a toxic world abusing our senses daily; we need to give them a rest. I believe in the power of kitcherie to calm and nourish the body if we follow the full protocol that goes with this delicious soup.

Yes, I believe in intermittent fasting. Yes, I believe in cleansing for your health, as long as it’s not a consistent trend you follow. If you cleanse over 4 times per year, ask yourself why. The answer may surprise you, as it surprised me.

Eat seasonally. Meditate daily, even if it’s just 5 minutes. Practice news fasting and spend less time on toxic social media. Massage your body daily with products that nourish your largest organ. Connect with your friends and family in a personal space, not just through regurgitated posts and memes. Join a live community, meditation group, or mastermind. Read a book. Challenge your mind. Take regular walks or practice an exercise best suited for you and the season.

To detox less, you need to live clean.

What are your thoughts?

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