Happy New Year! The way the holidays fell on Fridays this year was quite a treat, giving us back-to-back long weekends. And now it is wonderful having this two-day buffer between New Year’s Day and Monday morning. Whether you’re still nursing a hangover or ramping up the obligatory seasonal resolve, surely more than a few people out there this weekend are thinking about some form of detoxing.
The word "detox" can mean a lot of things, depending on whom you ask (if you ask Google, you’ll get 64 million results), and companies seeking to capitalize on our confusion about the merits of detoxing have flooded the marketplace with all sorts of products, from juicers and supplements to diet books and clinics. Unfortunately, though, there is little evidence to support the claims of the industry.
The good news is that there’s plenty you can do in the new year to feel better and improve your health, and if you ignore the marketers, you can probably even save some money.
Here are six suggestions to get you started.
Don’t put toxins in your body to begin with.
Take whatever it is that you feel like you need to get out of your system and stop consuming it. Cut out the sugar, caffeine, fried foods, red meat, cheap beer or whatever it is that you think might not agree with you. Stop eating anything that contains ingredients that you can’t recognize. It’s crazy that we live in a world where we pay for food that makes us sick and then turn around and pay again to undo the damage that inevitably results. Stop that insane cycle and eat simply and well.
The problem isn’t always with what we eat, but rather the proportions. A beer after work or a glass of red wine with dinner is a good thing (moderate drinking has been shown to be a healthy habit). So is a piece of dark chocolate after dinner. But those office doughnuts or a giant frozen margarita with your fish tacos is maybe not so well-considered. Go for quality over quantity. A good whiskey or a fine bordeaux is something to be enjoyed slowly; you don’t need a lot. The same goes for a good meal—you might wolf down chicken nuggets and fries, but some homemade soup and salad deserve a bit more attention.
Instead of doing a cleanse, clean out your pantry.
If you get the foods that you shouldn’t be eating out of your house, it will be easier to keep them out of your body. Throw away the greasy chips, cookies, candy and sugary beverages, and stock up on ingredients and foods that will make you feel good. Find some healthy snacks to keep around, like fruit or nuts, so that you can let yourself enjoy a treat occasionally. Focus on all the delicious things you can eat rather than dwelling on anything you’re trying to give up.
Water, that is. Have a glass first thing in the morning to get rehydrated after the night’s sleep. Drink a glass a half-hour before each meal to take up some space in your stomach. If you’re tempted to graze on anything throughout the day, sip on water or herbal tea instead. Keeping your system flushed out is a natural cleanse.
The easiest way to keep toxins out of your body is to control the ingredients in your food, and the best (and cheapest) way to do that is to prepare it yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, and if you’re not used to cooking, you can start small. Set a simple goal and make incremental changes.
My Lenten project last year was to do daily yoga, and I felt the benefits of it throughout the day. It became part of my morning routine and was a great way to simply check in with my body first thing each day, thinking a little bit about what would make it feel good. The answer was never a cookie and often left me motivated to go for a run or do some weight training. The same might be said for meditation or other forms of mindfulness. Anything that we can do to slow down and clear our heads is going to have benefits for our minds, bodies and souls. It doesn’t get much more detoxifying than that.
Alice O'Dea has lived in Chattanooga for over 20 years, but was raised among the mucks and dairy farms in rural western New York. She didn't really learn to cook until midlife. When she's not puttering around in the kitchen, she enjoys running, cycling, traveling, photography and trying to get food to grow in the backyard of her Highland Park home. You can email her with questions, suggestions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.