Over the years, I’ve done many cleanses and I’ve done a few cleanses many (many) times. I’ve also coached dozens of patients through their cleanses, helping them pick the best ones for their goals and giving them tips to set them up for success. These tips are distilled from nearly a decade of those experiences.
Let’s first talk about what a HEALTHY cleanse is NOT: an abundance of diarrhea or a starvation experiment. Either of those is not sustainable or healing in any way. A good cleanse will help you reset your palate and portion control, disrupt the sugar cycle or other addictive habit, redefine your relationship with food, identify the psychology behind your eating habits, attune you to how certain foods make you feel and identify potential food sensitivities.
With that, let’s talk about the HOW TO behind a successful cleanse.
1.) Identify Your Goals. Are you looking for a major diet re-haul? Undoing years of bad habits? Be realistic that change takes time and you didn’t get to your current state overnight. Get clear on your goals and what you are trying to establish. Examples include:
- Fitting into your clothes better
- Identifying food sensitivities
- Cutting the sugar/alcohol/caffeine cycle
- Resetting your palate (steering away from salty or overly sweet foods)
2.) Pick the right one. What’s doable for you? If the thought of three weeks without caffeine or alcohol sounds like torture to you, start smaller. If you are looking to heal your gut or identify food sensitivities, know that that’s not going to happen with a 3 day cleanse. I’m happy to help you pick the right one for you.
3.) Pick the right time. The holidays are often not a great time to cleanse. We’ve got social events all over the calendar, and it will feel 10 times harder if you are having to say “No, thanks” twice as often as normal. (Eventually, you’ll identify how certain foods make you feel and making healthy choices gets easier. You actually won’t want whatever’s being offered to you). Pick a time when you’re not traveling or having company in town, and can do the adequate food prep that a lot of cleanses require.
4.) Prep, prep, prep. The number one reason people “cheat” on a cleanse is because they get hungry and haven’t prepped adequately. If you’re hungry and don’t have any choices available to you, you are much less likely to make an appropriate choice. Go grocery shopping before you start, batch cook your meals and pre-package your snacks. I keep food everywhere – at my office, in my car, in my purse. Hangry is not a good look on me!
5.) Taper. If your cleanse is caffeine free and you usually drink 2 cups of coffee a day, start to cut that back slowly. Start with 1.5 cups, then 1, then .5 a cup, then none. TRUST ME ON THIS. You don’t want a blinding headache on day 2-3 of a cleanse that renders you dysfunctional and irritable. You can replace coffee with green tea, then decaf or herbal teas. If you’re totally dying, go with organic (conventional = 32 chemicals per cup) black coffee (just a little!) and know that if you can have withdrawal from a substance, it is addictive in nature. This is why it’s good to periodically cut out caffeine, sugar and alcohol (or whatever else you have an addictive relationship around). Often, people are more hooked on the sugar and other garbage in their coffee than the caffeine itself. Removing these will allow your body’s natural circadian rhythms to take over – this means BETTER SLEEP and MORE ENERGY.
6.) Keep on trucking. If you “cheat” or eat something off-cleanse, GET OVER IT. No one is perfect and people often eat the “wrong” things by mistake. This does not mean your cleanse is over and does not give you free reign to give up on the whole day. Make your next choice better.
7.) Take note. This can be a really powerful time to learn about your relationship with food. What did you learn about food in your youth? Was it a reward? There is powerful psychology at play here, and it often needs unraveling. Journaling can be a helpful exercise, as can noting if certain foods make you feel sluggish, energized or bloated. This is your body communicating with you. There is no such thing as “normal” indigestion or bloating, despite what the antacid commercials may tell you. It may be common, but is definitely not normal. Our body lets us know what it likes, we just have to listen.
8.) Add foods back slowly. Here’s what not to do: Don’t “reward” yourself for your cleanse with a big meal or treat. My very first cleanse I ate ice cream the second I was off it. BIG MISTAKE. I was so ill, and ruined an opportunity to see what I was sensitive to by bombarding my system with sugar, dairy and who knows what else. This is especially important if you are looking to identify food sensitivities. Add one single food back (not something with soy, wheat and eggs in it) and wait. Signs of a sensitivity can include a rash, headache, fatigue and certainly bloating or GI upset. The most common sensitivities include dairy, wheat, corn and eggs, in that order. (If you suspect multiple sensitivities- talk to me and we’ll figure it out).
9.) Adjust your sails. If you learn that dairy does you wrong (as I did above), avoid it. In the case of dairy, you can take enzymes, but if it’s a gluten sensitivity (which if you have an autoimmune condition like eczema, Crohn’s or Hashimoto’s – thats you, boo!) you really cannot cheat. Being mostly gluten free is like being mostly pregnant; you are or you aren’t. Gluten exposure affects your inflammatory response FOR SIX MONTHS, so if you are trying to heal, cut it out entirely. I promise, it’s not that hard and you will not miss it.
10.) Love your body. Use your newfound self-knowledge and ask yourself, “What’s the most loving choice I can make for myself?” It’s often not the Doritos or margarita. Cleanses can be a great way to kickstart a lifestyle change and are often the start of upward spirals. Once you reign in your nutrition, adding in exercise and even some self – development can seem that much more doable. Positive, loving choices beget more positive, loving choices. Remember, in the words of the great Jim Rohn, ” Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live.”
Anything here resound with you? I’d love to help you cleanse, meet your health goals or support you on your wellness journey.
Please feel free to call me at (843) 416-8218 or email me here
Yours for Absolute Wellness,
Dr. Susan Doyle