September 16, 2010 ( Categories Nutrition | Tags: cleanse, detox, diet, fast )
Lately I have heard alot of people asking me about detoxing, fasts, cleanses and other approaches to losing weight quickly. I’ll give my opinion here but keep in mind I’m not an accredited dietitian (yet!), however I think I’ll still be of the same opinion this time next year when I finish my masters
There are thousands of cleanses, fad diets and patented fasts on the market these days. One in particular, The Master Cleanse, or the “Lemon and Maple Syrup Diet”, has achieved widespread acclaim for its ability to shed weight quickly so I’ll use this one as an example.
The (Insert fad here) Cleanse
The master cleanse is liquid diet that a some people use as a weight loss “detox” diet. I have talked to people who have done this but have never done it myself.. and from what I’ve gathered this diet achieves nothing beyond temporary weight loss. Though its unlikely to be harmful over the short term, it can be harmful over the long term.
I’m very wary of cleanses like this because for the average Australian eating a standard australian diet of 3 meals a day plus snacks, to go from the “normal” diet to what is essentially a fast (a very low calorie diet) is a huge shock to the body. It can draw toxins out way too quickly for the body to handle their elimination, leading to a recirculation of toxins in the blood and reabsorption back into the tissues, leading to headaches, fatigue and other not-so-nice side effects, not to mention you are *very* hungry. The cleanse involves drinking only a concoction made from fresh lemons, maple syrup and cayenne pepper, as well as a laxative tea. No solid food is eaten for the entire cleanse, and it lasts for 10 days!
Holiday or Hellday?
Many people decide to detox over the holidays or over a few days when they have some time to relax and unwind, intending to return to work refreshed and a bit lighter. In my opinion, I would *hate* to spend my holidays with my partner/family/kids whilst not eating and watching all the yummy things my family and friends can eat while I starved! This was the experience I have gathered from people who have tried the cleanse. It was even worse for mothers who cooked daily for their families and couldn’t enjoy their delicious meals – not making for a very enjoyable holiday!
There is a lack of essential nutrients in this and many other detox programs, a deficiency of protein, vitamins, and minerals. As a result of these deficiencies, including far fewer calories than the recommended amount for health, people on the diet may experience headaches and a variety of other yukky symptoms in the short term – again not making for the most relaxing holiday ever, and who doesn’t need a decent holiday right now?
However because it is dangerously low in energy, if it is followed as described people on it will certainly lose weight. But this is an extreme fad or crash diet, and any weight lost during the fast can be expected to be regained once the diet is stopped.
I still want to lose weight… how can I detox safely?
I recommend you leave all the fad diets behind and not allow them to waste your time and make you feel miserable and hungry! True health is built slowly at your own pace and there really are no safe and sustainable shortcuts. If you have your heart set on “detox” – which I don’t have anything against if it is done sensibly – I would stick to a pure, fresh whole food diet that includes lots of yummy fruits and vegetables that will keep you and your taste buds satisfied.
Here is a one week plan for a whole fresh foods detox that is safe, satisfying and compatible for the whole family/partner, with a few minor alterations.
Before you start
For 3 days before you start, try to avoid dairy and meat if possible, just to prepare the body for lighter foods. If you can, reduce the amount of bread and grains in your diet.
Day 1 & 2
For the first 1-2 days of the cleanse I would recommend having freshly squeezed (not bottled) vegetable juice in the morning if you have access to it, or a green smoothie – check out my recipes here.
For the rest of the day have only fruit. If you don’t have access to a juicer or blender and can’t buy freshly pressed juices from Boost or some other juice outlet (make sure you avoid the sugary, yoghurty smoothies filled with protein supplements), your next best option is to just eat fruit throughout the day when hunger arises.
Eat as much fruit and of any type that your like! It really is ok to eat as much fruit as you like, especially now that summer is coming and yummy fruits are coming into season… my fave is a whole watermelon smashed open on the ground and sitting down on the grass to eat it hobo style But you don’t have to be this mad to detox successfully.
Day 3 & 4
For the 3rd and 4th day, (and the 2nd day too if you are over just fruit by then – you can be flexible!) you can start to introduce vegetables. Have fresh juices, fruit smoothies and fruit until midday if you can.
For lunch enjoy a big salad with heaps of fresh leafy greens, vine-grown tomatoes, capsicums, grated beetroot and carrots, sliced radishes, onion, raw corn, any uncooked vegies you like, topped with a yummy homemade (not bottled) dressing like balsamic, herbs, crushed garlic, salt and pepper. For dinner you can introduce lightly cooked or steamed vegies cooked in minimal or no oil, and seasoned with herbs, chilli, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, pepper etc.
Day 5 & 6
For the 5th and 6th day you can start introducing heavier foods to your big lunchtime salad, being careful with food combining – have dried fruit and nuts in your salad, OR mushed up avocado and roast pumpkin/roast sweet potato, OR marinated tempeh if you’re vegan OR goat’s cheese if you’re not vegan OR grilled fish/chicken if you eat meat. The main aim is to not combine starches and flesh, or nuts/dried fruit with flesh, or nuts/dried fruit with starches.
This just makes it easier for the body to digest and assimilate the meal.. the harder the gut has to work to digest different food groups in one go, the longer the food will take to digest and the more waste this leaves behind in the body. Waste = excess weight!
Correct food combining is a huge subject on its own and I can talk about it more in a future article, but if you follow those basic guidelines you will find you’ll suffer from a lot less bloating and tiredness after a meal, and your bowel movements will become more regular. It will also kickstart your body to gently release waste matter it has been holding onto (possibly for years), in other words achieving the “detox” we are after at a slow, safe pace.
For dinner on these days enjoy a similar large salad and change the protein/fat you add. E.g. if your big salad at lunch was starchy and contained roast pumpkin and avocado, dinner can be flesh based with grilled salmon, or vegies with chopped dates and raw almonds for crunchiness. Vegetables combine with anything.
If you want to have bread during the detox I would recommend Essene sprouted grain bread, which is cooked at a low temperature and is much higher in plant enzymes since the grains are sprouted before cooking. You can buy it in the fridge section at health food shops.
It is a dense, juicy and highly satisfying bread and again, a little goes a long way… it lasts for ages if you cut it into quarters and put one quarter in the fridge and the rest in the freezer! Sprouted bread combines as a starch so enjoy it with avocado and avoid eating it with flesh (meat and dairy), or nuts and dried fruit. However a little bit of butter on your bread (organic if possible) or flaxseed oil for vegans, will not hurt.
And the chocolate?
Just because you’re detoxing doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy dessert and chocolate! Firstly, contrary to popular culture, make sure you don’t have fruit for dessert – fruit is best eaten alone or with raw vegetables as it is digested very fast and will ferment in your stomach if eaten with grains or more complex foods that take longer to break down = gas and tiredness!
For dessert you can have some dark chocolate (70% cacao or higher) if you wish, as this combines with any food (except fruit) and a little goes a long way! You could also have nut milks (e.g. almond milk) mixed with a couple of teaspoons of raw cacao powder and a few drops of stevia or a dollop of agave nectar or raw honey to sweeten… absolutely delicious! Heat on the stove with a sprinkle of cinnamon for the best and healthiest hot chocolate you’ll ever have!
If dinner was nut based try the Raw Cinnamon Apple-Pecan Pie - it is to die for and GOOD for you! Remember you can have your cake and eat it too, there are healthy options and you need not deprive yourself of the delicious sweet things life has to offer.
On the 7th day notice how you are feeling. You should be feeling more energetic and possibly a bit lighter, but still having enjoyed highly nutritious food over the week in satisfying amounts! It really is ok to eat as much as you like if you follow the food combining rules and as long as you don’t overstuff yourself – always stop just before you feel full as the stomach takes a little while to tell the brain it is full. Eat slowly and conscientiously… eating with friends is not only fun but helps slow down your eating as you talk with other people at the dinner table! You are then less likely to overeat, provided you don’t let them pressure you into eating a massive slice of birthday cake with all the extras.
You can choose to continue eating this way and you will notice a gradual weight loss and increase in energy over time. Again it’s not so much about how much you eat, but the quality and freshness of food, how you combine your meals, and how slowly or quickly you eat and whether you allow time for fullness to settle in without overdoing it.
Remember to be flexible and if you lapse don’t beat yourself up! Just try again the next day and enjoy your food. It is one of the pleasures in life and starving yourself is never going to be something we can maintain long term!
I know it is a lot of info here but if you are seriously thinking or planning on doing a detox, read this over a few times at your own pace and feel free to ask me any questions at all!
One last thing I would recommend for detoxing is Natalia Rose’s book “The Raw Food Detox Diet.”
What I like about this is that despite the marketable name, it isn’t actually a short term diet but a life-long, healthy and liberating approach to eating that teaches us how to eat properly and enjoyably whilst becoming slimmer and more energetic.
Good luck and remember I’m here to support you!