Spiritual Spring Cleaning: Detox 101

Posted by – April 18, 2017
Categories: Food & Nutrition Health & Healing

Spring cleaning is all about getting into those dark, musty corners of your life and clearing them out. Whether that means you’re straightening up your home, office, or garden, doing some emotional clean up, or cleansing your body, we encourage you to dig in and start setting intentions and building up practices that will fortify you throughout the year. Trying a detox, even for just a couple of weeks, is a great way to incorporate some self-care and give you a little energy boost to help get on top of your to-do list.

What follows are a few tips that helped me get through 30 days without some of my favorite things—caffeine, dairy, gluten, soy, and alcohol—along with advice from NAB authors (and amazingly healthy people) David Wolfe, Shazzie, and Paul Pitchford. This may go without saying, but never having met you, none of us is an expert on what’s right specifically for you. You are the expert! And maybe your doctor. Consult accordingly.

Let’s all start to take control now of our health and happiness. After all, nobody else in the world owes you that responsibility—it’s all yours.

—Shazzie, Detox Your World

What is a detox?

According to Shazzie’s book Detox Your World, “It doesn’t matter how you detox: if you take in fewer toxins than before, you are officially detoxing.”

Simply put, detoxing means eliminating things that are hard on your body. That can mean different things to different people. It might mean you try going vegan, or you may just want to cut out dairy, but keep meat and eggs. Maybe you try going without coffee (gasp!), or maybe it’s all caffeine (double gasp!). It doesn’t even have to be food or drink—maybe it’s your phone!  There is no one-size-fits-all plan here, so I recommend you come up with your own definition of what your detox means to you.

Can you cut everything out all at once? Sure you can. Do you have to? No! If it’s your first time, try eliminating one or two things at a time. Choose an amount of time that you’re going to commit to—try to make it no less than two weeks—and set your intentions. Prior to last year, I had never tried a detox before. To be honest, it made me sad to think of cutting out things that bring me so much joy: a cup of coffee with my husband in the morning, helping my dad prepare (and then decimate) a pizza, or grabbing a drink with friends after work. Sharing food and drink, to me, is an act of love. So what compelled me to cut these things out? I turned 30. I wanted to start the next decade of my life by asserting a little bit of self-control and embracing self-care. Whatever your reason is—I recommend writing it down somewhere and reminding yourself of it often.

What am I cutting out?

Detoxing is as much about what you don’t eat as it is about what you do eat. Think of this as an opportunity to restore balance in your internal ecosystem. Perhaps you’re like me and a perpetual carb-loader.  During my cleanse, I didn’t cut out carbs completely, but I did limit my intake, and tried to be more mindful of the qualities of carbohydrates I consumed (choosing brown rice over white rice, sweet potatoes over regular).  Baby steps.

As for what to eliminate, consider your reasons for detoxing, and plan accordingly. If your goal is to lose weight, David Wolfe explains in Eating for Beauty that “the two biggest elements to limit and eliminate in the diet in order to lose weight are starchy carbohydrates such as baked potatoes, rice, beer, bread, pasta, corn chips, potato chips, etc., and cooked fats such as high-fat meat and pasteurized dairy foods.”

Notice that he doesn’t say stop eating all fat. Do not make all fat across the board the thing you remove from your diet. It is not only unhealthy to cut out all fat, it’s also counterproductive for weight loss. Eliminating all fat will only leave you feeling unsatisfied, ravenous, and sluggish. Remember: things like avocado, nuts, and coconut oil are your friends! Limit them yes, but do not forsake them.

Some other suggestions for foods to eliminate:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine / coffee
  • Dairy
  • Gluten
  • Processed foods
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Non-organic foods
  • Soy products
  • Meat

What can I do to make it easier?

Minor victories lead to major victories. Small commitments lead to large commitments. An object in motion tends to stay in motion, whether it is a train, a car, an emotion, a habit, or a belief. One step leads to another. Each triumph brings you one step closer to realizing the goal.

—David Wolfe, Eating for Beauty

There’s no getting around it. It’s going to be a little tough, especially during the first few days. You may want to plan to do this with friends so that you have accountabilibuddies, or, at least let your friends and family know what you’re doing and why so that they can act as your cheerleaders.

Detox symptoms include break outs, headaches, irritability, and a whole host of others. Remember this phase is temporary, and it will pass. Remind yourself why you started in the first place. Come up with a mantra and repeat it.

Water is going to be a great ally of yours during this time. Drink it, bathe in it, steam in it. You may also want to incorporate a little yoga or get a massage—anything to stretch the muscles out and help them release what they’re holding on to.

Paul Pitchford’s Healing with Whole Foods has an excellent chapter on dietary transitions where he recommends chlorophyll to help with detox symptoms: “When toxins are discharged in the body during healing reactions, use cleaning foods to help lighten the process: vegetables, fruit, and the sprouts of seeds, grains, and legumes… Chlorophyll-rich foods are especially beneficial to discharge the residues of animal toxins, build new blood, and support cell renewal. All green vegetables can normally be emphasized during transitional healing reactions.”

When am I done?

Like all others in this post this is a personal decision. At the end of two weeks, ask yourself: How am I feeling? Do I feel better without this thing, or do I feel worse? Can I keep going?

If you choose to reincorporate things you’ve eliminated, do so over a few days. Do not end your detox with a full bottle of wine and a slice of cake. Have a small serving that consists of one thing you’ve removed from your diet and take note of how you feel 30 minutes after, 1 hour after, the next day. You may be surprised to notice that you no longer love the taste, or the way certain things make you feel.

In Detox Your World, Shazzie warns that “it’s potentially hazardous to continue detoxing and retoxing—it shocks your body and might leave you in a worse state than before.” Remember to be gentle with your body and mindful about what you decide to put in it and when.

Whether you’re planning on a major lifestyle change, or just testing your resolve, let this detox serve as a reminder that caring for yourself and your own health is one of the best ways you can care for others. As RuPaul put it, “if you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”


Tags: David Wolfe Paul Pitchford Vegetarian & Vegan Shazzie

About the Author

North Atlantic Books (NAB) is an independent, nonprofit publisher committed to a bold exploration of the relationships between mind, body, spirit, and nature. Founded in Vermont, in 1974, NAB aims to nurture a holistic view of the arts, sciences, humanities, and healing. Over the decades, it has been at the forefront of publishing a diverse range of original books in alternative medicine, ecology, and spirituality, with a pioneering publishing program that encompasses somatics, trauma, raw foods, craniosacral therapy, shamanism, and literature.