While resolving to clean up your diet in January is a nice idea, so is pizza during the coldest months of the year. We’re slightly more inclined to shed junk food now when we’re also shedding layers of clothing—not to mention when we’re excited to get active outside and fresh produce is slowly becoming more seasonable.
But that’s the point: We’re ready for a detox of sorts, but not one that will make us lose our minds and fall victim to hunger-induced hallucinations of Shake Shack. It’s about reasonable changes that make a huge difference—adopting habits that make us feel so great that they become part of our lifestyle even after the official cleansing period is over. And for a plan like this, it only made sense to recruit two health gurus who have built a business out of this exact ideology: Sakara Life’s Whitney Tingle and Danielle DuBoise.
“For so many people, eating and living cleaner is easier said that done—they want to do it, but they don’t have the time or the knowledge necessary to make it a reality,” the co-founders tell us. Their meal plan is meant to kick-start this education—as does the detox guide they’ve created exclusively for Byrdie. And after it’s done? You’ll be amazed how easy it is to balance those healthy habits while still enjoying some of your favorite treats. In fact, they encourage it. “You are what you do the majority of the time, so eating this way most of the year is the best way to see transformational results that really last. Of course, that philosophy leaves just enough wiggle room for you to get out there and enjoy your life in whatever way feels good to you—wine dates, birthday dinners, late-night tacos, whatever!”
But before we dive into that “everything in moderation” mindset, let’s hit the reset button first. Check out DuBoise and Tingle’s monthlong plan to spring-clean your body and your fridge below.
You’ll essentially be de-cluttering your diet for the next month, ditching processed foods and anything else that isn’t up to nutritional snuff. But for this to work, you’re going to need a paradigm shift: Instead of dwelling on the fact that you’re getting rid of your favorite junk foods, focus instead on the good stuff you’re adding in: delicious smoothies, fresh fruit, Thai coconut… whatever whole, unprocessed food that makes you happy is fair game. (PS: There are a ton of amazing whole-food recipes out there. Get creative!)
The other positive thing to focus on is your end game. “Remember that you’re choosing to do this because you want to look and feel better—you’re prioritizing your health and taking care of yourself, and that’s something you should feel great about,” say Tingle and DuBoise. “Let that fuel you.”
You know how the first day or two of a cleanse tends to really suck? That’s actually quite avoidable if you take a slower approach, taking a few days to eliminate different off-limits foods and add in the nutritious stuff.
Everything in the “Phase Out” column is there for good reason—and remember, it’s just temporary. “First to go should be processed foods—that’s pretty much anything that comes in a package, box, or can,” Tingle and DuBoise explain. “They’re filled with artificial ingredients, like flavors, colors, and preservatives, as well as lots of refined sugar, which will mess with your blood sugar, hormones, metabolism, microbiome, and skin. Dairy and gluten are next, as they are two common sources of inflammation in the body, and many people are sensitive to, or even intolerant of, these foods without being aware of it. Most of our clients have very mild intolerances to dairy and gluten, so by cutting them out, their skin looks clearer and their digestion feels better after just one day. When you’ve gone a full month without them, the difference in the skin and digestion is amazing, and you see it everywhere from your tummy to your energy levels and complexion.”
And then there are our various forms of happy juice. “This is where things get hard,” the Sakara co-founders say. “Caffeine and alcohol are both incredibly dehydrating and very taxing on the adrenals. They’re also major culprits of poor sleep, dull skin, and off-kilter digestion. We’re definitely not saying you have to cut out coffee and wine completely—we believe in indulgence, playtime, and listening to your body just as much as we believe in eating your greens—but for a temporary detox, it’s definitely worth it. It’s a great way to get to know your body, so as hard as it may be, stick with it.”
The final thing to drop isn’t a specific food, but a habit: snacking. “It’s important to give your body a break from digestion so it can devote that energy toward healing itself, and cutting out that mid-afternoon snack will help streamline those results.” Keeping water on hand at all times can ease cravings, which will probably disappear after a few days.
Like us, DuBoise and Tingle are big believers in the power of a plant-based diet. “That means lots (and we mean lots: four to six cups a day) of leafy greens, hydrating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains (think quinoa and brown rice), legumes (like chickpeas, black beans, and lentils), nuts, and seeds,” they say. Here’s a color-coordinated rule of thumb: “Try to fill your plate with a rainbow of whole foods to ensure you are getting a variety of nutrients.”
“We also love nutrient-dense superfoods and superherbs (some favorites are chia, hemp, and ashwagandha), which pack an incredible amount of nutrition into small servings that are ideal for detoxifying and cleansing. This means that while you’re ridding your body of junk, you’re also filling it with the fuel to help clear out toxins and get its major processes running optimally again.” They also recommend sipping on Sakara’s Detox Tea ($20) and ending the day with Detox Water ($16), which has chlorella in it to help pull out any lingering toxins.
Can I exercise?
Absolutely—sweating helps cleanse the body even more. Just maybe keep it on the light side at first while your body adjusts to the new program, and then start kicking it up again when you’re feeling like you’re powering through the day just fine. Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep and hydrating well too.
Will my cravings kill me?
They might bug you a little for the first couple of days, but if you stick with it, they should disappear as your body adjusts. Again, you’re restoring your body to optimal balance, and that means resetting your hunger cues too.
But if it’s day one and you think you might either pass out or accidentally hit “reply all” to an office-wide email if you don’t ingest caffeine pronto, then please spare your co-workers by drinking a small cup of coffee. And don’t get mad at yourself about it either. “Believe it or not, detoxing is a lifestyle, so there is no wagon to fall off of,” say Tingle and DuBoise. “Plus all that guilt and anger you’re pouring into your body is way worse than that snack!” Ain’t that the truth?
When I’m done with the detox, how do I phase in my regular diet again?
Well, the hope is that you’ll be feeling so great that you’ll stick with this one, save for a few of your favorite indulgences (which are now definitely on-limits). “After a few weeks of eating clean, you may realize that you’re able to satisfy your cravings more mindfully,” say DuBoise and Tingle. “For instance, after cutting out sweets, often a small piece of high-quality dark chocolate is enough to get the job done when a craving hits. Hard to believe, but we’re living proof!
“Above all, listen to your body. It’s incredibly smart, especially after a week or two of clean eating. This lifestyle helps you regain your natural intuition about hunger and fullness as well as to distinguish between emotional and physical hunger. The result is you’ll be better at nourishing your body with what it needs when it needs it because you’ll be more connected to its messages. If you feel like reintroducing a food post-cleanse, do so slowly and gently and one at a time—that’s the key to keeping the results. Your body can handle it, but not all at once.” And FWIW, Tingle and DuBoise both say that they tend to stick with this clean diet during the week and “play” on the weekends.
This post was originally published on March 15, 2016.
On a similar note, check out eight ways to get in shape without trying too hard (or spending too much).