Dissecting a Detox

 

About three weeks ago I decided I was going to do a 7-day detox (the first one I’d ever done…or tried). It was an “interesting” experience and there’s some useful information others can take from it as well.

First off, regardless of the intricacies, almost every detox targets the liver. Why? Because the liver is the organ primarily responsible for many metabolic and biochemical functions. Basically, the ability of your body to function internally (the stuff you never see but you definitely feel) is only as good as your liver.

Enough science. Here’s the scoop:

Basics of the detox were:

  • Fast completely for the first two days, with the exception of having a rice powder protein shake in the morning and at night. Also took two pills in the morning & night, which are meant to detoxify your liver.
  • Days 3-7 you still have the am/pm protein shake and pills, but are free to eat natural foods (with the exception of certain fruits that carry high food sensitivity rates). You also introduce a new set of vitamin-mineral based pills that are taken in the morning and night.

You can pretty much guess anything that comes in a box or package was out. Coffee was out. Alcohol was out. Dairy was out. Red meat was out. Wheat was out. Salt was out. So, all the stuff I love was out 🙁

Kidding…sort of.

The two biggest questions I was asked during the course of this were:

1) Why are you doing this?

2) What are you going to do afterwards?

Why are you doing this?

I think I received this question because most people see me as a “health freak” that shouldn’t need to do a detox. I thought the same thing for a long time and it’s probably the reason I went 30+ years without ever trying one. But here are the bare bones facts about my lifestyle and eating habits:

  • I eat pizza a minimum of 1x/week
  • I drink multiple beers at least 2x/week
  • I eat cake and/or some type of dessert at least 1x/week
  • I have coffee almost every day

You’re probably all thinking “Ooooooh, what a rebel you are, Scott!,” but I name these things just to point out that I, like many people, have glaring weaknesses in my diet. Almost everybody has them. But thankfully, I balance these weaknesses with about 30-40 miles/week of running and probably 5-7 hours of other physical activity….which keeps me in reasonably good shape. And I’ve always lived by the principle, “It’s not what you do some of the time – it’s what you do most of the time that matters.” None of the things listed above happen most of the time.

And more importantly, I started to realize that, despite all this physical activity, I didn’t always feel alert and energized in my own body. In fact, it felt as though I had to have my morning coffee before I could really get started on anything. Thus, I set off wondering how much better a supposed “health freak” could actually feel if he cut out the junk for a period of seven days.

What are you going to do afterwards?

The whole idea with a detox (or, this detox in particular) is to reintroduce foods back into your diet BUT to stay keenly aware of how foods make you feel. Unless you have the resources to go to a lab to get blood drawn for food allergies, most of us have no real idea how food makes us feel. But we all have food sensitivities that we aren’t aware of. And after knowing how good you can feel after seven days, it should be easier to pinpoint these feelings and attribute them back to dairy, gluten, soy, sugar, preservatives, sodium, high fructose corn syrup, etc.

The Aftermath

I intentionally waited a couple weeks after I finished the detox to write this article. I wanted to be able to write objectively and have a clear reflection on what it did for me and how I felt afterwards. And here it is:

Simple things I learned (good and bad) and I think you can apply:

  • I felt amazing doing it. Even the first two days weren’t as bad as I thought. I pictured myself eating my own arm on the second day of fasting but it was all manageable.
  • Coffee rocks and I missed it – big time. But energy levels were much more consistent throughout the course of the day without it. Highs were less high but lows were much less low.
  • I slept great. Not necessarily in terms of quantity but quality definitely improved. I’m usually a very restless sleeper and this sleep was more restful.
  • My apologies if this is absurdly gross, but even if you eat healthy you will be amazed what comes out of your body during the course of a detox. Definitely made me think this was a good idea after all…
  • It’s darn tough to follow something like this…even if it’s only for seven days. Most difficult part was when I met up with my brother and I had to watch him drink his afternoon coffee, then go to dinner and watch him order his cheeseburger…and fries…and beer. Nothing like adding a little brotherly pressure 🙂
  • Eating well when traveling takes planning. Healthy airport choices are basically nonexistent. If you don’t plan, you’re dead. You’re either going to end up eating crap, or you’re not going to eat anything at all…which is going to stall your metabolism. You almost have to be willing to carry on your own snacks or you’ll be in trouble. Even the delta flight attendant did a double take when I chose the apple over the chips…and twix…and reeses peanut butter cups…and cookies…and pretzels. Geesch!

On a larger scale, one of the biggest things I noticed and something I’ve been pondering since I completed the detox, is why we eat what we eat? Admittedly, the day after I finished the detox was a really tough day at work, so I went out for a couple beers and some pizza. And God it tasted GOOD!! But the whole next day was spent in a food haze…realizing just how crappy this stuff really does make me feel (again, refer to “what are you going to do afterwards”). Interesting food for thought – literally and figuratively.

I’ll sign off by saying there’s a lot to be learned by looking into basic food psychology and asking two simple questions: 1) what feelings lead to us choosing certain foods, and 2) what type of feelings are we hoping to derive from food? Stop for a moment and think about it, from your perspective. If we know we’re going to eat sweets after a tough day, what can we do about it? If we are going to make poor food choices as a source of comfort, what can be another healthy substitute?

I talk about this “relationship” with food more in depth in my 11 for ’11 eBook. And stay tuned – these questions definitely warrant future discussion.

Thanks for reading. Spring is here!