Ahhhhhhh, the first day of spring.
The time of year when we say goodbye to snow and parkas and snow and cold and snow….and turn towards the ugly truth that hibernating for three months has resulted in a few extra pounds of body-fat.
For us northerners, this period of winter-hibernation is pretty natural. Kinda like a bear.
Unfortunately, unlike our ursine friends, you (and I) don’t have the ability to slow down (and speed up) our metabolisms as the seasons change. As a result, homo sapiens need to take some external steps to un-do the damage caused by a winter of sloth and comfort eating.
And because this physique neglect is fairly universal in cold-weather climates, spring-time presents an annual opportunity for health/fitness/nutrition companies peddling products designed to help us reverse the effects of our winter sloth.
Unlike the January onslaught of diet books, spring is dedicated to cleansing.
What is cleansing?
According to Wikipedia, cleansing is alternative medicine “approach that claims to rid the body of “toxins” – accumulated harmful substances that allegedly exert undesirable effects on individual health in the short or long term. Detoxification usually includes one or more of: dieting, fasting, consuming exclusively or avoiding specific foods (such as fats, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, juices, herbs, or water), colon cleansing, chelation therapy, or the removal of dental fillings.
According to my naturopath, nutritionist, osteopath, alternative medicine pals, cleansing is a practice where you…
- Reduce stress on your body by dieting, fasting, colon cleansing and/or eliminating “stressful” foods
- Supporting your physical body via herbs, vitamins, minerals, etc
- Supporting your mental/emotional/spiritual body by meditating, praying or any other practice that helps you become more conscious of yourself.
Note – most mainstream cleansing programs focus on the diet and supplements. Probably because it’s hard to package meditation and/or prayer in a box. Kidding aside, step #3 can be quite personal and is pretty hard to sell to a mainstream audience. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. It can be as simple as sitting still for 5 minutes a day and paying attention to your breath.
Still Interested in Cleansing?
Before you run out to the health food store and buy a cleansing kit, lets take a close look at what makes a cleanse a cleanse so that you can better understand what type of cleanse works best for you.
Part 1 – Reducing Stress on Your Physical Body
This aspect of cleansing is all about taking a break from your normal patterns of eating, drinking, inhaling, etc. This means…
- Eating less food – dieting and/or fasting
- Eating healthier foods – reducing processed foods, reducing harder to digest foods (animal protein), supplementing with vitamins, mineral, herbs, etc to give your body all of the “stuff” it needs to be as healthy as possible.
- Drinking healthier drinks – say yes to water and tea – reduce or say no to booze, dairy, coffee, energy drinks, soft drinks, etc.
- Stop smoking (tobacco, etc)
- Clean out all of the junk you have collected in your colon via a colonic or an herbal/fibre cleanse. I know it sounds gross, but there is a lot of data (scientific & non-scientific) linking leaky gut syndrome to a whole host of inflammatory conditions. And while there is little scientific proof backing up the efficacy of colonic cleansing, I have spoke with far too many people who speak highly on a colon cleanse to dismiss it out of hand. The idea is that you clear out a lot of the residual “stuff” that can line the walls of the colon possibly leading to leaky gut/diverticulosis/etc.
Note: There is no science backing up the claims being made by proponents of colonic cleansing. However, there is no science indicating that an herbal cleanse can cause you any harm. This treatment modality is 100% up to you.
Part 2 – Heal Your Physical Body
In Part 1 of a cleanse, you are removing “harmful” substances, foods, habits from your life. In Part 2, you are giving your body an abundance of healing nutrients to supercharge your body’s ability to maintain perfect health.
We’re talking vitamins, minerals, enzymes, high ORAC fruit & vegetables (whole & supplements), healthy oils, herbs and lots and lots of water.
Note: A lot of cleansing kits focus on supplements designed to support liver function as the liver’s main job is to filter junk out of our bodies. And while supporting liver function makes sense to me, I prefer to take a more wholistic view of the body. The liver doesn’t work in isolation. Your kidneys, lungs & skin also play a role in removing toxins from your body. If we’re cleansing the entire body, shouldn’t we support the entire body.
Part 3 – Supporting/Cleansing Your Mental/Emotional/Physical Body
You won’t find any mention of Part 3 in any cleansing kit you pick up at your local health food store. And I won’t be offended if you skip this part of the article altogether.
But…if you’re going to all the trouble of dieting/fasting/colon cleansing and popping supplements to help your physical body operate better…can’t you find a few minutes in the day to make yourself a little bit calmer…a little bit happier…a little bit less stressed out???
You’re ready to start cleansing…now what?
- Start by deciding if you want to buy a “cleansing kit” or you want to DIY it. It’s up to you and your personality. Some people do better following a pre-set program (buy a kit at the health food store, buy a cleansing book, do the Master Cleanse, etc) while others would rather come up with a plan that fits THEIR lifestyle and personal likes/dislikes.
- Know that all cleansing plans are offering some combination of Parts 1 & 2 that I outlined above. All of them. The Master Cleanse reduces calories, keeps water consumption up and claims that the lemon & pepper cleanses your system while the maple syrup provides necessary nutrients. The Cleanse-in-a-box kit from the drugstore tells you to cut calories, eat your veggies and pop their pills with lots of water. What they are telling you to do is very simple. They make their money selling you the associated products/services. Don’t be fooled into thinking they have some secret knowledge.
- Now that you have looked behind the wizard’s curtain and understand what makes a cleanse a cleanse, take a look at a bunch of cleansing products. Do they make sense to you? Do they jive with your lifestyle? Do they cost too much money? Do you need all the bells & whistles. Be critical. Use that big homo sapiens brain of yours.
- Find a friend to cleanse with you. Misery loves company and it is easier to stick to a cleanse if someone else is doing it with you.
- Pick a start date and an end date. Get everything prepared for your start date. If you’re not prepared – food, supplements, tupperware, etc – you’re gonna fail.
- If you fail to complete your full cleanse, don’t worry about it. However long you stuck to the plan did some good for your body. Be proud of that….and then get ready to start the cleanse again. You can do it.
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