I’m often asked by friends and acquaintances how to do a cleanse. They’ve heard of juicing but it seems too drastic for their lifestyle. And I don’t blame them.
My approach to cleansing through food is very moderate and I believe in a whole mind-body system approach.
The main goal of a cleanse is to remove the things that created an imbalance in our body in the first place. Imbalances may include inflammation, digestive issues, and low energy, all of which may be correlated.
The choices we make throughout the day to make up for low energy (such as that extra cup of coffee or that pick-me-up chocolate bar in the afternoon) can lead to health consequences over time as they act as a “yoyo” on our physical energy and our mood.
When thinking of these culprits, the first ones to come to mind are certain foods. However, as holistic beings, we need to incorporate all aspects of our life when assessing our overall energy and wellbeing.
I could be eating perfectly, but if I have really bad sleeping habits and many unresolved relational conflicts, I’ll face blocks that the perfect diet won’t be able to solve. That is why in the following 5 Ways to Cleanse Body and Mind, nutrition is addressed last.
Recent research shows that sleep is actuall more important than nutrition, exercise and mindfulness.
Not only, with lack of sleep, are you more prone to make poor food choices, according to Rhonda Patrick:
In a nutshell, sleep should be your number 1 priority:
- Go to bed at least 30 min before your bedtime with a book or to meditate
- Leave your phone or iPad out of your bedroom
- Remove all light sources from your bedroom
- Get blackout curtains if street lights shine through your windows
- Hide or cover any electronic devices with blinking or solid LEDs
- Get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep
Circadian rhythms and our internal body clock
When light hits our retina, our body naturally creates cortisol, the hormone that helps control blood sugar levels and regulates our metabolism.
When it gets darker, our body naturally creates melatonin, the hormone that makes us sleepy.
Source – http://en.licht.de
In the winter, after dinner, I always dim the lights at my house. It gets my boys ready to slow down. And after their bath, I lower the lights a little bit more. As they sense this shift, their bodies slow down and they get ready to go to bed.
You can apply the same trick to yourself but make sure to leave the screens out of the equation because the blue light of those devices can interfere with your sleep patterns if you use them too much before going to bed.
Consider a power nap
My grandfather, who lived like most French men of his generation enjoying a glass of wine with dinner, who loved his chocolate and lived past his 94th birthday, once told me the secret of a good nap:
This is a great way to reset without feeling the grogginess of a long nap.
I created my own midday resting formula from my grandfather’s ingenious routing. If I have a little after-lunch dip in energy, I simply set my alarm for 10-20 minutes and put my phone in airplane mode. I sit comfortably, close my eyes and observe my breath. I withdraw from the distractions of the day for a short moment and rest my eyes.
2. Move your body
We’ve inherited our genes from hunters and gatherers who were active most of the day to find their food. We now spend the majorirty of our day seated at our desk, in our car/transportation or on the couch watching TV.
Our entire world has evolved to make it very difficult for us to move our bodies and we need to be incredibly proactive if we want to fit movement in our day.
In a balanced cleanse, I would want to incorporate some kind of body movement every day. It doesn’t have to be extraneous exercise. It can be a 30 min walk or a 20 min yoga session at home.
Think of ways to incorporate fun physical activities into your day
- Do you always do the same physical activity or do you like to vary it up? What are your top 3?
- Does a workout have to be intense or can it be a long slow walk?
- Do you have more energy in the morning, in the middle or at the end of the day?
Vary it up
I love swimming but I wouldn’t want to swim every day. I combine swimming with walking and yoga.
Every day, I move my body in a different way, which is not only beneficial for my body and the different parts of my body involved, it is simply more fun and exciting.
I am not rigid about what I do every day. Some days, I think it’s going to be a swim day but I’m a little cold and don’t feel like jumping in a pool of cool water. Instead, I will go for a walk because it’s beautiful outside.
I keep it flexible. I tell my body it has to move but I also allow my body to have a say as to how it’s going to move.
Look where body movement can be added to your routine. Can you work at a standing desk? Can you include more walking in your day? Even a 20 min walk daily can change your life if you are not the active type:
- Wake up 20 min early and go for a walk around your neighborhood
- Park 15 min from your office or stop at the previous bus/train stop and walk the remainder of the way to work and back
- Have walk dates/meetings. Instead of meeting with someone for lunch, meet with them for a walk
Remember to be proactive about moving your body. Find a system that works for you. Schedule it on your calendar like you would schedule a meeting.
Have a workout body. And if you prefer to do it alone, have someone who can act as your accountability partner and will check on you every day or hire a coach.
3. Relationships & Authentic Communication
Relationships and the way we interact with others have a huge impact on our stress levels.
According to Barry Sears, PhD, author of the The Anti-Inflammation Zone:
I recently attended a personal growth conference where I realized we all walk around pretending “everything is fine”, when in fact, we are not being authentic with those around us.
The impact is that our relationships stay shallow, we are terrified of being vulnerable and we bottle up all our feelings.
The idea of being completely authentic with others can be incredibly scary.
When I tell a story, I catch myself in the habit of sharing only the good parts and omitting the less glamorous vulnerable parts.
Or I might not be fully present with my husband because I prefer to avoid a conversation that can lead to an argument I am not ready to have.
Being fully authentic with our loved-ones, our family, and our community is a gift to them and to you.
It allows you to be vulnerable and be a human being. It opens the space for them to be just the same. It makes room for relationships where we are real and not always trying to cover the flaws we think makes us “less than” or “not enough”.
The truth is that no one has their “sh*t” together and no one ever will. Even the actors/actresses/models on the cover of magazines who seem to have it all also have their shortfalls, yelled at their kids, haven’t talked to their father in 5 years, and are in deep fear of screwing up and losing it all.
We need an outlet to share our fears and be true to others. That outlet is authentic communication.
In the next weeks, make it a priority to speak to at least 3 people.
- Tell them what you admire about them or what you are grateful for in your relationship
- Tell them why they are important in your life and where you might not have been fully authentic
- Create a possibility for your relationship
Focus on the relationships you feel have been left “hanging” and are not complete.
4. Your environment
Assessing our environment is part of a cleansing practice. Do the places that surround you also inspire you?
If you are the extra organized type, you might want to try letting things go a little messy as an experiment.
However, for the purpose of this article, I am going to assume your home and your workplace are cluttered and it might be time for a “spring cleaning” – even if it’s the middle of the winter!
Our things not only take up physical space, they take up mental space. Start with the spaces you spend the most time in. For example, your bedroom and your workspace.
Is your desk covered with stacks of documents and books?
Remove everything from your desk, and only put back the things you use every day.
For the remaining items, ask yourself twice, will I ever need/read this again? If the answer is yes, put it on a shelf or in a filing cabinet. If the answer is no, give it away or toss it.
Is your closet filled with clothes you haven’t worn in more than a year?
Aside from your wedding dress and a couple awesome Halloween costumes, if you haven’t worn it in a year, trust me, you will never wear it again. (I don’t care how much weight you intend to lose, when you lose it, you’ll want to treat yourself with new clothes that fit your new body perfectly!)
Gather all those abandoned clothes and sell them in a consignment store, give them to a friend or donate them.
When you lay down, how does the space around your bed feel? Does it feel clear and spacious or crowded?
Consider reducing the number of objects that will have the privilege to be on your bedside table and simplifying the space in a zen-like manner.
If you are new to decluttering, consider reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
How often do you consciously expose your body to nature? Nature has a soothing effect on our minds and bodies.
Consider including plants in your living and working spaces, and expose your body to sunlight, parks and nature.
Drastic cleanses and detox range from only consuming juices to eating only raw foods.
Although these methods may have their short-term advantages, and at times, healing benefits for certain medical conditions, I am more interested in a long-term approach. One that doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your lifestyle but rather, one that can easily be incorporated into your daily routine.
In a nutshell:
1. Focus on a whole foods-based diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, legumes, clean protein and whole grains.
2. Consider removing most common allergens and processed foods from your diet such as gluten, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars and anything that comes out of a box or a bag.
In his book, The Inflammation Syndrome, Jack Challem proposes that diet is primarily to blame for an increase in inflammatory illness.
How long should you commit to a cleanse?
To see the full benefits of removing certain foods from your diet, I recommend a 28-day commitment.
Keep in mind the benefit of this gentle cleanse is to address any physical imbalances but also to keep them at bay in the long run, which can contribute to positive habit changes.
I know that life gets in the way at times but remember your commitment. Share this commitment with those around you. Tell them that your energy has been low lately and you are making space for a healthier and energetic lifestyle.
You can plan each one of your meals if you are the organized type. Or, if you usually prefer to listen to your body and see what you feel like eating that day, have some healthy options ready so fast/junk/processed foods are never an option.
What are your go-to breakfasts and lunches?
If you eat the same thing every day, bring in a little variety. For example, have 3 breakfast options that you rotate on.
A good breakfast can be a wholesome green smoothie. Add nuts and seeds or a clean protein powder so it will stick with you for several hours, especially if you have a morning workout.
Another option is my Power Oatmeal which includes chia seeds and coconut oil and only takes 5 minutes to make. Reach out in the comment section below and I’ll send you the recipe!
As for lunch/dinner, I recommend the 3-rule. Have 3 things on your plate and possibly 3 different colors.
Combine contrasting colors such as green, red and yellow.
Combine 3 types of foods such as:
- a veggie or combination of veggies,
- a grain such as quinoa or a starch such as sweet potato, and
- a legume or clean protein
The benefit of including all 3 groups is that you will feel satisfied.
If your meals are lean and blend, such as steamed veggies and steamed fish with no healthy oils, such as olive oil or coconut oil, you will feel like you are on a diet and not fully nourished. Chances are you will be more prone to reach for an unhealthy snack later on.
When you eat matters
Recent studies suggest that eating in a 12-hour window or less – ideally 10 hours – improves our insulin resistance and our body’s ability to regenerate.
For example, if you have breakfast at 8 am, you would want to have dinner at 6 pm and no nighttime snack.
Eating within a 12-hour window also improves sleep and increases weight loss in normal weight people.
Your relationship with food
If you’ve had a love-hate relationship with food throughout your life, start thinking of food in a nurturing way. Not in a way to fill the emotional wholes that will involve junk food but in a way that leads you to focus on nutrient-dense foods and feel them nourish, energize and nurture your body.
Be grateful for every meal and eat mindfully.
Health and wellness are your birthrights. We have evolved from generations of hunters and gatherers. We are designed to be attracted to foods and habits that served us when we were starving millions of years ago but not today, in a food-abundant and sedentary world.
If you have somehow deviated from the path, there is a way back. Look at your life as a whole and start addressing each area with compassion and kindness toward yourself.
Your body is your vehicle to function in the world. A well-rested, well-nourished and active body living in a peaceful environment is a thriving and balanced mind-body system.
We would love to help you reach your health goals. Feel free to leave a comment below and share with us how you find balance in your life or let us know if we can help you find it!
About the author
Stephanie drives the vision of RetreatPlace. She believes in the power of wellness retreats as a way to gain clarity and focus in our lives.
Stephanie was drawn to yoga and wellness in 2000 while working in a corporate environment. She has since become an entrepreneur, a yoga instructor, and lives in Austin with her husband and their 2 beautiful sons.