Denouncing the Detox. ~ Faith Levine

Via Faith Levineon Jan 20, 2014

green juice

I used to fast periodically.

I’m no stranger the magic lemonade of The Master Cleanse (I actually love that concoction). I’ve eaten brown rice and veggies exclusively for as long as I could stand it (in interest of full-disclosure this was somewhere around five days). I’ve done the elimination diet. I’ve cut out dairy, sugar, wheat, grains, fruit, alcohol, coffee, sometimes all at once.

All these “diets” or “detoxes” or whatever you wanna call ‘em, were under the guise of becoming more in-tune with my appetite, giving my digestive system a little break, and in some cases breaking a habit or craving. In truth I was always hoping to also to lose “those last five pounds.” After many losing attempts at losing—I mean ‘cleansing’—I discovered is that this method of making changes is not a good one for me.

Rather than feeling virtuous and clean at saying no to a glass of wine or a hunk of cheese I felt grumpy and deprived if the wine or cheese is really what I wanted at that moment.

That if is the piece that I was missing for so long.

I looked at food in extremes; either I ate sugar and ate a lot of it in a last-supper-squirreling-away-for-winter style or declined it all together. Neither the feast nor the famine approach was satisfying and neither one taught me about moderation and intuitive eating.

When I turned thirty I said good-bye to many old food habits and started learning how my body really wants to eat. It’s been several years now since I cut out a food group or relied on juice to get me through my days. Since dropping the detox mindset I’ve learned how to feed my body what it needs when it needs it, at least the majority of the time.

I still occasionally find myself with the desire to fall off the wagon and into the detox mindset, especially on days like January first when I found myself in bed with a hell of a hangover and a desire to scarf down every carbohydrate in sight, plus a few extra pounds of holiday cheer. Still, I held strong and resolved not to resolve to detox.

Instead, I gave myself a few reminders:

1) Slow down and chew thoroughly.

The most satisfying part of eating for me is right as the food hits my mouth. I’ve noticed that sometimes I rush the next step, the chewing, in order to get to that moment again faster. This is especially common around social gatherings, when there’s lots of stimulus of all types.

I truly enjoy my food so much more (and digest it better and eat less!) when I remember to slow down, look at what I am putting in my mouth, enjoy the first bite, then chew it intentionally and thoroughly before starting the whole process again.

2) Drink water.

I’m a damn good water drinker and yet I still manage to forget sometimes, leaving me with dehydration “hunger”, puffy eyes, lethargy, and poor digestion. I find it especially hard to remember to drink enough water in the winter and around the holidays but regularly sipping herbal teas or even just warm water with a little lemon can help me get my daily intake.

3) Appetite varies.

I used to follow external cues to know how much I needed to eat each day. These cues told me when it was time to eat (mealtimes of course), what a portion looked like, and what a meal looked like. These external cues told me little about what my body truly needed.

Once I started following the internal cues from my stomach I became much more in-tune with my real appetite and how it changes dramatically from day to day and week to week. The main factors contributing to my hunger levels are the amount of exercise I’m getting (my muscles demand to be fueled!), hormones (my appetite rages around the ovulation time!), and to a lesser extent the amount and quality of sleep I’ve been getting.

I need this reminder now because with all the holiday feasting I noticed myself slipping back into eating habits based on external cues. It’s times to cue back into my true appetite ebb and flow.

4) Tastes and cravings adjust depending on what you eat.

I heard a rumor that 40 percent of America’s butter consumption happens in the five weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I did my part! I also devoured more sugar and refined grains than usual. And enjoyed every bite.

The problem is, now that the holidays are over my mouth still craves those rich, uncomplicated flavors. It’s time to cleanse my palette and get back to the fresh flavors and whole foods that I really do prefer for taste and the effect they have on my body. I have no desire to cut out those three delicious food groups all together (butter, sugar, and white flour, duh) but it is time to work on tipping the scale back towards a diet primarily full of fresh, unrefined, whole foods.

Personally I find that the gentle reminder approach sets me up for success and happiness rather than failure and case of the grump-nasties. The little voice in my head is telling me that grabbing a glass of water will make me feel good instead of to step-away-from-the-cheese-tray because I don’t eat dairy this week.

Here’s to ditching the detoxing and honoring my bodies natural intelligence to know what it needs on any given day.

 

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Assistant Editor: Renee Picard

Photo: stevendepolo at Flickr

About Faith Levine

Faith Levine lives in Charlottesville, Virginia although she spends a lot of time running around other states and countries. When she is actually home and working she teaches modern dance, dance conditioning, mat Pilates, and yoga. Her craving to write and take pictures is usually satisfied by posting on her personal blog.

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8 Responses to “Denouncing the Detox. ~ Faith Levine”

  1. Talley Beth says:

    This sounds a lot like the mindset of meditating, at least as far as I understand it, where one just acknowledges the thoughts and lets them slide away, rather than trying to force anything. It's healthier and happier. :)

  2. Shelby says:

    Personally I love the detox lifestyle. I like just being able to say "i'm not eating gluten", it's like an affirmation of my self control. I was too controlling at first but after i got deeper into the natural lifestyle, i dont WANT that bleached processed white flour, i dont WANT that regular butter that was made from cows abused in factory farms. and i dont want to eat processed white sugar thats literally hidden in every packaged item the food industry can get their hands on!
    Thats just me personally, but learning about detoxing and what your body needs is absolutely essential to learning about what to eat and whats healthy. I of course agree with your 4 points, I just think its hard for people on a regular type of diet to be ABLE to 'listen' to their bodies, and be able to avoid inflammatory foods, if they dont understand the basics behind it :) and I DEFINITELY believe that if one is too restrictive on their diet in order to be "cleansed", it causes a lot of unnecessary stress!

    • annabellplush says:

      I agree with Shelby in that exercising my self control works really well for me, but that's just me. My husband is not into diets or detoxes, and has a pretty good handle on what his body wants or needs. Everyone is different. I enjoyed the article because it gave me some insight on the differences between my husband's way of eating and mine. Neither is wrong and neither of us are "more in tune with our bodies" than the other, its just different styles. Personally, I find that when I am trying to just not have rules and go with my moods, I feel bloated and uncomfortable. But when my husband cuts food groups out of his diet, he gets grumpy and lethargic. We both know what works best for us, and I am glad you found what works best for you as well!!!

  3. Vivian says:

    Sadly, I can identify with this article. I've played all the food, diet games, and the worst detoxing. I have no
    clue who I am when it comes to food. I not sure what full feels like nor do I know when I'm hungry. Detoxing
    just about ruined my colon. I'm done with all the food crazyness. I'm watching people at work verbalizing all
    guilt because they took a bite of cookie or ice cream. At last I feel free.

  4. Shasha says:

    I love this article Faith! I do have to cut out dairy and gluten due to food intolerances and especially miss cheese :( but I’ve found a great (not detox friendly) replacement from a company called vegusto :) my main aim is to include all the nutrients I do need, then anything I don’t need is the icing on the cake as it were!

  5. Sharon says:

    This is one of the best articles I have read regarding diet! It's about time we listened to our own body and not some diet book to understand what we need to eat and when. Moderation in all things! Thanks for saying it, Faith.

  6. 5dragons says:

    One of my rules of thumb–and aren't thumbs really awesome?–is: when feeling hungry, first drink some water; proceed from there.

  7. Noted your article in my latest elephant post. Good-bye Detox: 15 Foods that Naturally Detox & Cleanse Your Body {Infographic}. http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/03/good-bye-d… Cheers!

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