Cleansing is hard. Giving up all the foods you love, that help you make it through the day, is painful… and for what? To lose a few pounds that you will inevitably regain?
But I really believe that beginning with a cleanse made the difference for me. I’ve committed to changes before. I’ve had measurable goals. I’ve sought social support. All of these things are crucial. But my desire for junk food won in the end. Beginning with a cleanse greatly reduced that desire.
If you’ve made a genuine decision to change the way you eat, why not give yourself the advantage by literally cleansing your palette? Everyone likes and dislikes different foods, and you can change what you like, and what you don’t. What if you could love, and genuinely crave fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables? What if foods with refined sugar tasted too sweet, salty foods tasted like a mouthful of salt, and fatty foods made you feel a little sick?
Not convinced? Penn Jillette provides a personal account of what happens when you give up processed foods (sugar, flour and oil) and animal products for awhile. Since Penn’s initial cleanse is a little odd, and perhaps not nutritionally adequate, I don’t recommend it. But he confronted his addiction to sugar and fat, changed his palette, and can now eat what he truly wants to eat. See Penn Jillette Lost over 100 Lbs and Still Eats Whatever He Wants.
Life’s Too Short
“Life’s too short to give up all the foods I love.” That’s what most people think when confronted with idea of giving up their favorite foods, even for awhile. But as Penn Jillette pointed out, after awhile, most people can eat whatever they want (though what they want will change). Most report that their sense of taste is greatly enhanced, and that they enjoy food much more after a cleanse.
Why Do Cleanses Work?
The evidence is mounting that sugar (including refined grains), salt and calorie-dense (which generally means fat-dense) foods are both physiologically and psychologically addictive. If you include sugar, salt and calorie-dense foods in your daily diet, you risk craving them all the time. Two of my favorite books on this subject are:
Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
Which Cleanse is Best?
In choosing a cleanse, I searched for the one that would provide the healthiest and fastest weight loss. Because I like to keep things simple, I adapted the following plan from Joel Fuhrman’s Six Week Plan from Eat to Live, p. 216:
raw and cooked vegetables, including starchy vegetables
beans, legumes, bean sprouts and tofu
fresh fruits (including avocadoes)
o 1 serving a day of intact whole grains, seeds, salt-free nuts, and dried fruit.
o No processed foods (including sugar, flour and oil), dairy or meat.
Other healthy cleanses include:
10 in 20: Dr. Fuhrman’s Lose 10 Pounds in 20 Days Detox Program. I used the free advice in Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live, but this relatively inexpensive program offers additional menus, recipes and support.
21-Day Vegan Kickstart. This free program from the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine includes nutritional information, encouragement and practical advice.
To be safe, you should check with your doctor before you begin. Getting a full physical prior to a cleanse will also give you vital statistics (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar) to objectively measure your progress.
How long will your cleanse last?
o 6 weeks (for physiological addiction)
o 3 months (for psychological addiction)
o Until you reach an important health goal that you can measure at home (for instance, a body mass index of 25, blood pressure of 120/80, a blood glucose level of 125, or a body fat percentage of 24% for women or 17% for men.)
o 1 year
I chose 1 year, thinking that it would take at least a year to heal the damage of 52 years of on-again, off-again healthy lifestyle choices. But I loosened up on my rules for social eating as soon as I achieved a body mass index of 25.
What to Expect
Most people are surprised to find that they experience flu-like symptoms after a few days to a week on plant-based cleanse. The good news is that this feeling passes after a few days. And when it does, it’s generally replaced with a feeling of lightness, energy and well-being.
What’s Your Plan?
Are you planning to begin 2017 with a cleanse? Add your comments below.