(Read part 1 of this ‘Spring Cleanse' series here for more on how many calories you actually need, how to track your intake, and what you need to know about fluids.)
There are thousands of books out there, everything from an intensive fasting period to a detailed 21+ day program. Pick one that seems like it would yield the highest degree of success for you, but remember these basic parameters of all detoxes and cleanses:
- Don’t go less than 1200 calories a day. (Doing so stimulates a decrease in your metabolism, which unfortunately won’t immediately correct once the cleanse is completed. )
- Don’t expect more than 2 pounds of weight loss per week. If you see this on the scale, it means you are losing lean muscle mass (not a brilliant idea since this tissue is most metabolically active = your best friend in the battle of the bulge) or you are under-hydrated. The goal is gradual fat loss, hydration maintenance, and preservation of lean muscle mass if you want your results to last.
- Avoid junk (caffeine, alcohol, sodium, artificial sweeteners, refined sugars and refined grains). You want to get the biggest bang for your caloric buck, so opt for whole grains, fruits and vegetables rather than processed food.
- Assess your tendency for withdrawal. This can be from caffeine, alcohol, salt, refined grains/sugars, or simply the habit of heading for frozen yogurt on weekends.
What you should know about….
- Caffeine: Depending on your intake, you probably don’t want to go cold turkey. Take a few weeks to wean yourself off (from all sources – coffee, soda, chocolate) and look for alternatives if you choose to keep the habits you’ve established around consumption of these items. For example, choose herbal tea on your Starbucks run rather than your usual espresso.
Salt: Cut down slowly – eating out or excessive use of the salt shaker at home may have caused your salt taste buds to become desensitized to sodium. It will take a few weeks for your taste buds to adjust to a reduced sodium diet. Flavor foods with spices and fresh herbs, and keep sodium to less than 2300mg daily (that is just one teaspoon daily!). (Looking for recipe inspiration? You can find many in our heart-healthy collection here.)
- Artificial sweeteners and refined sugars: Switch these out for whole fruits with skins on them and berries, which are full of antioxidants and loaded with fluids and fiber to keep you hydrated and satiated.
- Refined grains: replace with whole grains. Consuming whole grains may help regulate blood sugars, keep your gut happy, and can keep you full longer.
- Organic food: If the point of your cleanse is to rid the body of toxins, then it makes sense to select foods that offer the least amount of exposure to the junk that can be found in conventionally grown foods. Organic foods are grown without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering, sewage sludge, irradiation, and toxic pesticides and fertilizers. Select local, if possible, to maximize nutrients found in these foods.
What’s the deal with juicing?
My advice here is to follow the guidelines above, as you would for any cleanse. If you can keep calories at an appropriate level, use organic fruits and vegetables, and incorporate sources of protein (good luck with that - most juice cleanses lack protein) and find a way to sneak in fiber, then go for it (but try to use juices to supplement a balanced, whole foods diet).
Is juicing healthier than eating whole fruits and vegetables? Not necessarily. In fact, most juicing cleanses will lack fiber and be lower in vitamins and minerals than the whole foods, since fiber and some vitamins and minerals are found in the skins of fruits. If you end up with pulp that goes into the garbage, then this is evidence that you are getting cut short and whole fruits and vegetables would be a better nutritional (and cost) value. However, if you don’t presently consume whole fruits and vegetables and are the ecstatic new owner of a Vitamix, then juicing probably is the preferable route for you, as you are probably going to be consuming more of these foods than you would otherwise. Along similar lines, most of us will be more likely to add a variety of fruits and vegetables to create interesting juice recipes. We may not have been willing to achieve this variety if we were, for example, assembling a salad.
Bottom line, juice cleanses lack protein. They may serve as great snacks, but should be part of a healthy, balanced, wholesome diet.
Whether you are looking for a jumpstart to a serious body makeover, or if you have already established a routine you are proud to continue, these tips are aimed at a healthy way to clean up your act before the summer fun begins. And remember, always check with your health provider and ask them any questions you have about your personal health needs.