spring cleaning

Spring symbolizes the start of many new lives.  When I think of spring, I think of breathing in fresh air, cleaned and renewed by the new budding leaves and plants.  At the same time, humans start cleaning up their lives. “Spring cleaning” isn’t just an arbitrary combination of words.  The new season is a time for us to clean our houses from top to bottom including windows where the sun will shine on and closets full of dust bunnies and Christmas decorations.  It is also a time for us to clean up our lives and bodies.  To the men, it may be to clean up those shaggy winter beards or the ladies, to begrudgingly start shaving again after a long winter of thick pants.  Another aspect that gets cleaned up is our diet.  Winter is a heavy season filled with rich foods and indulgences that linger way past the holidays.  Spring is time to overhaul the diet and start eating lighter. After all, swimsuit season is right around the corner!

This morning a friend of mine asked about detoxing safely. Detoxing is defined as “cleansing the body of poisons or toxins that may have accumulated through addictive habits.”  Let me tell you, detox is the new black.  The buzz word has made its way into every new diet product and Oprah episode. The act of detoxing has been around since the dawn of man, but it is entering our everyday vernacular now that people are becoming more aware of their bodies and concerned about their health.  That’s not to say that it isn’t also hyped up by the media and those who want to gain commercially through generating that concern in people.  Detoxing can be marketed to be very attractive-“This pill will not only rid you of those nasty toxins but will also help you lose weight!”  Who wouldn’t want both?!

However, detoxing is not to be something to be taken lightly.  As stated in the definition above, detoxing is cleansing the body from results of additive habits.  You may have first heard of the word when a newscaster described a celebrity to have gone into detox due to a heavy drug addiction. In those facilities, patients are monitored carefully to make sure that they release their toxins safely and successfully.  Detoxing is extremely difficult and painful if your body is overwhelmed with toxins. “Painful?” you ask. Yes, painful.  Your body stores toxins in your body because its natural cleansing mechanisms can only get rid of so much at one time.  We introduce toxins into our bodies at a quicker rate than we can release them because we consistently eat foods laden with pesticides and processed with chemicals as well as expose ourselves to toxins in our environments like pollution and stress.  When you detox, you limit your exposure to these toxins and thus, your body can concentrate on getting rid of what you are holding onto.  When your body lets go of those toxins, they re-enter your bloodstream and can overwhelm your system causing headaches, nausea, muscle aches and general discomfort. A hangover can be considered a result of a detox. And think about it, depending on how much you’ve drank the night before and how much you’ve tried to remedy it with water, it can range from your being fine and dandy the next morning to being keeled over in your bed.

So, is detoxing a good idea or not?  Well, it definitely is because we live in such toxic environments.  But you need to do it smartly.  The first step is to clean up the diet.  Limit or eliminate processed foods, eating out, and most of the following: caffeine, white flour, white sugar, meat, and dairy.  Oh and for obvious reasons, alcohol.  And I would increase fruits and vegetables, preferably organic, whole grains, and water. After successfully doing that for a week or two, the body would then be ready to detox through a “cleanse,” which we won’t get into in this post.  But do take note that by following those simple steps above, your body is already detoxing, only at a slower rate.  Following a diet that has more whole foods in it lessens the stress on your body and it will start to eliminate those toxins.  However, in this case, you will usually not experience the detox symptoms except maybe if you are addicted to coffee or eat loads of sugar at 3:00.  Overhauling the diet and detoxing is not something that can be successfully achieved overnight. Gradual lifestyle changes must be made before going through a cleanse.

On that note, look for future posts on cleanses! Meanwhile, share any detox experiences you may have had or tips for other readers.

let’s spring into spring!


Framework to a Better You

Today is the first day of Lent. Traditionally, Lent is a period of fasting and self-repentance. I'm not particularly religious, but I think that a lot of older rituals were developed for a reason and have value in themselves, regardless of all the other obligations or religious connotations. Think of it as a framework to a better you :) I see Lent as an opportunity to improve yourself. A time to break nasty habits of create much better ones.

In the past, people fasted to celebrate Lent. Now, most people give up an indulgence, usually something that worsens their health. No soda, no cake, no chocolate, no sweets, no bread...you get the picture. We have moved from a society that had just enough to survive to one of over abundance and indulgence. We all have developed poor habits that worsen our overall wellbeing.

Take the initiative and do something for yourself this year. Use Lent as a framework to make a promise to youself. It doesn't have to be centered on deprivation. You can make it as positive as possible but gear it towards creating health, not taking away from it. Some examples are do yoga for 46 days straight, eat a piece of fruit before every meal, get to bed before 10 5 out of 7 days a week, etc. You can also go the traditional route and not eat desserts, not drink soda, avoid high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated fats.

Whatever it may be, here are 3 guidelines.

1) Gear it towards health: For purposes of my blog :) Health is not just about what you put into your mouth. It's about your environment and overall lifestyle. Cut back on chemical cleaning supplies, get 10 minutes of direct sunlight every day, a limit of 2 hours of TV a night...

2) Try to be realistic about it: Remember, this is your promise to yourself! You can make whatever stipulations you want to ensure you can actually carry it out (within reason-don't say you will give up ice cream all but 6 days of the week). For example, you can do whatever it is you're going to do for 5 out of 7 days, or only have dark organic chocolate , or run every morning unless it's snowing outside.

3) Tell people: This is twofold-telling people will 1) get your support from your loved ones and also keep you accountable. Let people know what you're giving up so they can support you in your efforts. So that if you are giving up meat for Lent, then they will not make you a meatloaf at their dinner party. Tell your friends and family in a casual email, post it as your gchat or Facebook status, tweet about it via Twitter, or make a comment to this post!

So after all this chitter chatter about what you should do, I'm sure you're wondering what I'll be doing. I plan to do two things (b/c I always have to complicate it). First, I will not eat baked goods for 46 days-unless they are homemade. And secondly, I will not eat after 8:30 except once a week. How about you?