Over the past decade, there’s been a surge of popular interest in detoxification regimens — the kind that help flush food-borne and environmental toxins out of our systems. That’s a good thing, because our lives are becoming increasingly polluted.
The standard American diet is full of refined flours and sugars, artificial chemicals, preservatives, and other troublesome ingredients our body doesn’t know how to put to good use. Our environment, too, is increasingly rife with dangerous chemicals. And this stuff isn’t just coming out of industrial smokestacks. It’s in the products we use to clean our homes. It’s in the water we drink. It’s in the soil where our food is grown. It’s in the lotions and sprays we apply to our bodies every day.
That’s why, even though I strive to eat pretty clean (recently I cut all processed sugars out of my diet; it’s made a huge difference), I also make a point of doing a whole-body detox at least a couple of times a year. Spring, in particular, is a natural time to give our bodies a fresh start.
In past issues of Experience Life, we’ve recommended some very good, safe and sensible detox programs (see “The UltraSimple Slimdown” from Mark Hyman, MD, and the “Fast Track Liver Detox” from nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS). If you’ve never done a detox before, I suggest (barring any prohibitive health conditions) that you consider giving one or both of these programs a try.
You’ll find that there’s no need for you to fast, subsist on juice or swallow a fistful of exotic supplements. Doing a healthy detox is mostly a matter of eliminating processed, heavy and potentially irritating foods and drinks from your diet for a number of days, and instead, taking in mostly fresh, organic produce; clean proteins; healthy fats; and pure water.
You thereby give your body the nutritional support it needs to heal accumulated damage and to rid itself of toxic burdens.
Typical benefits include a marked increase in energy; accelerated healing; reduced puffiness, stuffiness, bloating and digestive distress; clearer skin and eyes; and even clearer-headed thinking.
All of this can do great things for your body, and it’s likely to lift your spirits, too. But even if you’re not interested in doing a physical detox, there’s another sort of poison-purging that might do you just as much, or even more, good. I call it “emotional detoxification.”
The method doesn’t call for you to adjust your eating habits. What it requires, at core, is a thoughtful, intuitive review of where in your life you are accumulating sour feelings, holding on to fears and resentments, or making harsh judgments about yourself and others.
Much as a physical detox requires you to temporarily release your habitual ways of eating and drinking, this type of detox requires a willingness to let go of the limiting attitudes and assumptions that are weighing you down.
Interestingly, this sort of emotional rejiggering can have a very positive effect on your body, too.
I like what Life Time’s new national director of yoga, Jonny Kest, observes (in “Mind-Body Mastery“) about how the body and mind are inextricably linked: “Whenever we’re in an uncomfortable position at work or at home, we tend to hold our breath and tighten.” In yoga, he notes, “you put yourself into an uncomfortable posture intentionally, and breathe and relax. Rather than using your body to get into the postures, you use the postures to get into your body. Your body will figure out what needs to be healed.”
When we clean up our diets or our emotional lives, something similar happens. We unclench. We release. We re-energize, and we heal.
One of the most powerful ways to jumpstart this sort of mind-body clearing is to do an “integrity inventory.” Where in your life are you living out of integrity with your guiding values and priorities? Where are you saying one thing and doing another? And where are you resisting being your best, most authentic self?
Whether you approach these questions through physical, mental or emotional explorations, being willing to investigate them honestly can help you identify huge repositories of bottled-up energy just waiting to be put to better use. If you want more inspiration and guidance on this front, be sure to read “True to Your Word” in this issue.
However you approach your spring-cleaning opportunities, I hope you’ll take satisfaction in the sense of lightness and possibility that comes from starting something fresh. Both your body and mind will thank you for your cleanup efforts.
Bahram Akradi is the founder and CEO of Life Time Fitness.