Heidi Wachter had me at hello with her first sentence in “Detox Diary“: “Normally, I’d roll my eyes at the idea of a ‘health’ detox.” Now that was someone I could relate to! With that, her article pulled me in. As I continued to read, the idea of a health detox became more and more intriguing.
Like many, I’ve struggled for years with my weight. Even as an athlete in high school I was heavy. As the years flew by and the responsibilities increased, college and then a career, marriage, and children – one with severe mental and physical disabilities – my weight grew as well.
By December, 2010 I knew I had a problem but managed to successfully convince myself that it wasn’t that bad until a series of (unfortunate) events converged to change my mind:
- I saw myself on a video recording from a charity event.
- I fell three times in quick succession, all three times as a result of simply losing my balance.
- My medical provider, a nurse-practitioner I’ve been going to for years and greatly admire, scolded me for gaining yet another 10 pounds. At that time, I weighed 190 pounds and at 5’5” I was beyond overweight, I was obese.
Faced with these events, I told my husband that what I wanted for Christmas that year was for him to research all the fitness facilities in our area and then buy me a membership in the best one. And yes, I know you can see my commitment avoidance to this whole fitness thing a mile away at this point. I’m fortunate his choice was the Life Time Fitness club in Beachwood, Ohio.
My previous attempts at belonging to a fitness club had never worked for me so I was still dubious at this point. However, I started working out at Life Time Fitness in January, 2011, determined to lose weight. At first it was all about losing weight; getting into better physical condition overall wasn’t part of my thought process just yet.
Time went by and I was going to the gym regularly but I wasn’t seeing the results I had hoped to achieve. I was starting to lose my motivation and wondered if I should keep my membership at Life Time Fitness. When it was time for my annual physical, I had only lost the 10 pounds that had originally earned me the scolding from my nurse-practitioner. I was relieved that at least I wouldn’t have to listen to yet another lecture about gaining weight.
Sure enough, the nurse-practitioner commented on my 10 pound weight loss…and in the very next breath essentially said “You are still fat, what are you going to do about that?” Of course, she said this much nicer and more professionally but the truth is still the truth.
Well, that hurt – and it got my attention.
Luckily, about that same time I discovered group fitness classes at Life Time. For someone used to team sports, these classes were a perfect fit. As I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried all the different classes, more weight began to come off. I was trying different classes, enjoying myself and having fun while losing weight so I was going to Life Time more often and working out harder than I had before. Because I was exercising more, losing weight, and adding muscles where I didn’t know you could have muscles, I began to eat better. Instead of being caught up in a vicious circle, I found myself in a virtuous circle – an entirely new fitness experience for me.
As wonderful as all that sounds, when the April 2013 Experience Life magazine came, I was feeling a bit stalled. I was down to 153 pounds but hadn’t lost weight recently and was concerned that I would lose my motivation.
That’s when Heidi’s “Detox Diary “caught my attention. Perhaps this type of health detox was exactly what I needed.
My first step was to buy the book referenced in the article, The UltraSimple Diet by Mark Hyman, M.D. My game plan was to read the book and then decide if the detox was for me. Once the book arrived, I read it immediately (it is an easy read) and then sat back to ponder the possibilities. I knew I would have to be 100 percent convinced this was the right next step in order to be 100 percent committed to carrying through with the detox.
I decided to go for it but then the question became one of logistics and deadlines, when to start? It was amazing how easy it was to keep putting it off. Was this fear of failure, of not being able to stick to the plan or fear of success, sticking to plan and where that would take me? Hmmm…food for thought. At least that kind of food doesn’t put on the pounds.
My son had left for his first year of college in the midst of my weight loss journey and I hadn’t seen him for four months; soon it would be time for me to fly to Boston to help pack him up to return home for the summer. What better deadline than that? It was time to get started.
Following the pattern of Heidi’s article, below are excerpts from the journal I kept while on Dr. Hyman’s detox program.
Week One is preparation, getting ready to get ready is my favorite description for this week. I was struck by all the details in the book, tons of instructions for grocery shopping, preparing food and planning meals. Having grown up with a mom who was a home economics teacher, I wasn’t overly concerned about these details. If you aren’t used to cooking at home, these instructions could be a bit overwhelming but my problem had never been that I didn’t know what to do. My problem was in the actual doing.
Two things that did concern me about seven days on the detox were 1) eliminating caffeine and 2) eliminating gluten (for me that meant my whole wheat bread and pasta). Those two were going to be a challenge.
Typical for me, once I decided I was going to do this detox, I also decided I didn’t need an entire week to get ready to get ready. I decided to start the preparation on Sunday and the full detox on Wednesday. After all, I had already changed many of my eating habits and was actually eating pretty well.
Day One: Sunday
Ok, today’s the day. I take the Toxicity and Inflammation Quiz and score a fairly respectable 17 (mild imbalance). I feel pretty good about this since case studies in the book referenced scores from 80-99. I’m committing to this as jump start to more weight loss, not for many of the other excellent reasons for which someone might want to complete a detox. I’m ok with that.
I start my caffeine withdrawal by cutting my usual intake in half. Half of a lot is still quite a bit… coffee is my only source of caffeine but I do drink quite a bit of it in the morning. I also go cold turkey on all sugar and refined carbohydrates.
Day Two: Monday
I cut my caffeine in half again. I’m down to a more respectable amount today. I feel good and a bit surprised that I’m not having any cravings.
Day Three: Tuesday
I’m determined to completely eliminate coffee today. I start the day without coffee or even the green tea that is permitted on the detox but by late afternoon I have a pounding headache so I relent. I have one small cup of coffee (yes, the headache goes away) and acknowledge I should have taken the caffeine withdrawal a bit slower.
It probably doesn’t help that I’m completely stressed about getting information needed to complete my son’s college financial aid application, completing a project for a client and handling my daughter’s care for the day because her nurse had called off. When the nurses call off, my life turns upside down. Normally, because I work from my home, I have the flexibility to handle things but today I have a critical meeting scheduled with the president of a client firm, a meeting that had been difficult to schedule. In order to make the meeting I take my daughter to my husband’s school where he teaches and coaches track. Since she is in a wheelchair and requires constant attention, this is harder than it may sound, both getting her there and for him while she is there. I feel like I’m barely making it.
The UltraSimple Diet – The Actual Detox
Day One: Wednesday
The word for how I feel today is relief. I’m relieved that I made my meeting yesterday and that all is going well for this client project, relieved that I got the information needed for the college financial aid application and relieved that I can handle my daughter’s needs better today even though the nurse is off again.
I’m feeling extremely upbeat and start the day determined to relax and enjoy the day with my daughter. I’m planning on taking a long walk and not stressing out about not making it to the gym again or not working. I remind myself that one of the reasons I run my own business is exactly this. I even promise myself to break out that yoga DVD I bought years ago.
And then life hit…what a day! Nothing goes according to plan and I run into problems with everything I do. Interestingly enough, I manage to stay positive and do what needs to be done. I get a little headache about the same time as yesterday but hold off on the caffeine. It’s a high energy day and I manage to maneuver through all the complications and meet the deadline for completing the financial aid application. I didn’t experience my usual 2-3pm “crash” either.
I’m finding that I miss my coffee – not the caffeine as much as the experience. I’m one of those people who can literally drink a pot of coffee and go straight to sleep so I’m not using caffeine to stay awake. I miss the taste, the hot drink in the morning when the house is quiet and I’m the only one up and about. I miss the experience of my morning coffee. On the other hand, I’m surprised that I don’t miss the sugar or carbohydrates at all and I don’t have my usual cravings either. The UltraBath is the perfect way to end the day.
My observation after this first day is that you truly can do anything physically, once you make up your mind to do so.
Day Two: Thursday
I start today with the resolve to begin a client project well ahead of deadline so I won’t feel so pressured when I get back from Boston. I plan on going to the gym today and plan to use the steam/sauna to help with the detox.
Since I do most of the meal planning, shopping and preparation for the family it seems like I’m always thinking about the next meal even as I just finish the current meal. I decide to stop doing this.
Day Two of the detox isn’t hard at all. Hummus for lunch is delicious and reading/napping guilt-free is truly liberating. I have no cravings for late night sweets – and I had even made cookies and brownies for my daughter’s class today. I notice the difference between what being hungry feels like versus what experiencing a craving feels like.
I still miss the ritual of my coffee…
Day Three: Friday
One of my “perhaps” ideas in the beginning of this detox was to spend less time following the news on the Internet, a version of the media holiday Dr. Hyman recommends. I decided to follow through with this idea and consciously avoided the news as I began the detox. I’m realizing how much time I waste each morning, mindlessly clicking through different stories. I’m also noticing how I can easily avoid the Internet news and, as soon as I open my browser to do something legitimate for work, I’m easily pulled in and find myself clicking away.
What works today is being flexible. I substitute foods all day yet still manage to stay on the program. I try the Tuscan bean recipe from the book, it is delicious. The UltraShake is also working for me; it stays with me, I don’t get hungry and don’t feel sick when I exercise. (I use Version 3 throughout the detox because it is the easiest and made with ingredients readily on hand.)
Day Four: Saturday
I’m interested in how things will go over the weekend. I want to eat at more evenly spaced intervals in order to better manage my energy. I also want to sit quietly enough to pay attention to my thoughts.
A good surprise today – although my reason for doing the detox was completely opposite from Heidi’s and my score on the Toxicity and Inflammation Quiz was relatively low, I’m seeing definite physical improvements.
Day Five: Sunday
Today began with the realization that I need to give up the belief that I’m fat. Although this is no longer true I’ve not let it go and I still see myself as fat.
I stay with the program all day, yet eat a great deal more than on previous days. Having family around and cooking, eating with them…
I’m thinking about how much of this I want to continue once the seven days are done. The UltraShake and the UltraBath will definitely continue to be part of my routine.
Day Six: Monday
Dr. Hyman recommended “gentle” exercise during the seven day program. By this point I guess it isn’t a surprise that I ignored this recommendation and continued to do the group fitness classes. My rationale was to exercise as usual and if I had any problems, try a less strenuous exercise routine. Since I didn’t have any problems, I stayed with my routine. I start today with the thought that I want to stretch better, perhaps even do a yoga class.
I have a business lunch scheduled at one of my favorite local restaurants, one that specializes in Lebanese cuisine. There are lots of items on the menu that are part of the detox program, however, this restaurant also serves the most amazing warm pitas with Zaatar dipping oil while you wait for your food to arrive. This will be a major temptation for me.
Victory! I didn’t eat any of the pita/Zaatar today.
My observation today is that this seven day detox is actually much closer to how I need to be eating on a daily basis. One of the case studies in the book calls the detox the “basis for lifelong healthy eating.” I agree.
Day Seven: Tuesday
I feel pretty darn good today! I’m not sure I imagined myself writing that on Day Seven when I began this detox. Like Heidi, I’m looking forward to adding things back and watching how my body reacts. I need to decide what I will continue with, what changes will “stick.”
Life After Detox
I noticed many of the same things as Heidi on the detox program, namely, I felt great, much better than expected. While I didn’t have the same hung-over and depleted feelings as she did in the beginning, I did experience the severe headache and nausea from caffeine withdrawal. Again ignoring Dr. Hyman’s advice, the first thing I added back was my morning coffee. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and I am drinking less coffee than before the detox. I’m going to make a conscious effort to monitor the amount of coffee, allowing myself the pleasure of the morning experience while not mindlessly drinking more than that.
I slept well on the detox but falling asleep has never been an issue for me; I just wasn’t getting enough sleep before the detox. Now I am doing my best to get more. I’ve stopped falling asleep on the couch (when I used to wake up and head straight for the chocolate in a sleep trance) and instead, actually go to bed. That feels good.
Food does taste better and the sweetness of fruit is especially good now that I’ve stopped eating sugar. I had already stopped eating anything but whole wheat bread well in advance of the detox so I was interested to see what would happen when I added the whole wheat bread back into my diet. I bought a loaf of “Seeduction” bread (organic, whole wheat and filled with healthy seeds) and to my dismay one slice lead to another, and then another. The rest of that day I felt hungry and continued to want something to eat even though I knew I wasn’t really hungry. Cravings had returned – a hard lesson that I will have to control my bread intake, even “healthy” bread.
Heidi was also correct in her observation that people detox for different reasons. I didn’t experience the same emotional detox as she did yet still agree with her “stop, breathe, experience life and let go” advice. I learned to let go of my fat image and see myself as fit instead.
For those who might be considering a detox for my reasons, that is, to continue or jump start a weight loss, the good news is that it worked for me: I lost 5.5 pounds and have continued to lose a few pounds even as I added foods back. I lost 2 inches from my waist and 1 inch from my hip and officially moved from overweight to normal weight on the BMI. My score on the Toxicity and Inflammation Quiz is now an 8.5 (optimal health).
In addition to those offered by Heidi, here are my tips to help ensure a successful detox:
- Get a copy of The UltraSimple Diet and read it.
- Identify why you want to do a detox. Knowing what you want to get out of the experience will keep you motivated during the seven days of the detox.
- Determine if you need to make any modifications to make the detox work for you. Identifying those up front and working them into your plan puts you in control and eliminates potential obstacles during the actual detox.
- Plan on writing things down. Use your book or download the journal and print the pages you need in order to track your actions/behaviors (what you do) and your observations about what happens as a result. For most people this way of eating is so different from what they typically do, it is easy to lose track. I found writing things down really helped. Dr. Hyman makes it easy with checklists.
- Be realistic on your approach to withdrawing from caffeine. Use the Vitamin C, too, it does help.
- Learn to ask yourself “Am I really hungry? If you are honest, most of the time when you go looking for something to eat it isn’t because you are hungry. If the answer is yes, get something healthy to eat. If the answer is no, figure out what you are instead (bored, tired, angry, frustrated) and take action on that instead of eating.
- Be flexible. Stay on the detox program and be willing to change up dinner for lunch or try new foods. Find what works for you!