Yes, I know this is the time of year that everyone talks about diets and fasts and cleanses – there’s a reason for it. January brings a chance to start anew, to wipe the slate clean and start again. In this spirit, I have kicked off the last several years with a food cleanse and this year’s began on Monday!
For me, the cleanse is not a diet. It’s about starting fresh, getting back to basics, and back to a cleaner way of eating. It is about resetting my eating habits and lifestyle.
What does a food cleanse mean? For me, cleansing is eating lots more fruits, vegetables, and legumes while eliminating sugar, gluten, dairy, alcohol, and meat. There are different reasons for each of these. I won’t go into all of them but here are a couple of examples.
First, I have found that I am very sensitive to sugar – once I eat some I really can’t stop. I am one of those people who cannot eat just one or two oreos, I will eat the whole carton. And then I just crave more. So while some people may be able to cut back and eat less sugar I really need to get it out of my system altogether. After the first few days, the cravings lessen and then eventually go (mostly) away.
Second, when I undertook my first cleanse I discovered that dairy can make me congested and headachy. It’s not something that I ever completely eliminate from my diet but it can be helpful to cut back and eliminating it for awhile can help me determine if it is still affecting me and how much I can add back into my diet.
But why do this?
Simply put, it makes me feel better. At the end of the cleanse I feel healthier over all, I have more energy, my head is clearer, my skin is clearer, and I’ve usually dropped a few pounds. I feel refreshed and renewed.
The first time I undertook a cleanse I did it in conjunction with a local group run by a nutritionist. She gave us very detailed instructions as well as recipes and guidelines to follow but it was still very overwhelming. It was hard to change so much about what I ate all at once. But as the cleanse went on I discovered that I enjoyed finding new recipes and learning to use vegetables and legumes as main ingredients in my meals rather than the side show. It was a learning experience and taught me to think differently. And now each time I undertake a cleanse I look forward to trying new things and expanding our repertoire of meals.
So what do I eat? Lots of vegetables, fruits (both fresh and dried), and legumes (garbanzo beans and lentils mostly), some nuts and seeds, and a few grains such as brown rice and quinoa. Since it’s winter I eat a lot of soup – particularly nice on weeks like this one when it’s freezing outside! – and roasted vegetables, as well as salads, stir fries, and just raw vegetables with dips like hummus and guacamole.
I thought it might be helpful to share some specifics of my cleanse. Here’s a look at what I’ve eaten for the past two days and over the next couple of weeks I’ll periodically share more of the menu with you.
- breakfast – a glass of water with lemon and cayenne, a pear, coffee with almond milk
- snack – a mix of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, almonds, dried cherries, and raisins
- lunch – spicy lentil tomato soup
- snack – more nuts and dried fruit
- dinner – roasted sweet potatoes, new potatoes, and onions (tossed with olive oil, salt & pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika) and steamed broccoli (including the stems which are my favorite!)
- snack – popcorn with a little olive oil and salt
- breakfast – water with lemon and cayenne, coffee with almond milk, half a banana
- snack – an apple, along with a small handful of nuts
- lunch – roasted carrot soup and veggies (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and celery) with hummus
- dinner – leftover lentil soup, salad with carrot-ginger dressing
- snack – dried fruit and nuts
The key to the cleanse for me, and the reason why I continue to do it year after year, is that it’s not about just mindlessly eliminating categories of food with the goal of losing weight. It’s really about resetting the way I eat, starting the year with good habits and in a good routine.
I do add the eliminated foods back but I do it mindfully. And I’ll talk more about that in a couple of weeks when I’m transitioning back to a fuller diet!
Do you look forward to simplicity and returning to the basics in January? Do you have any traditions that help you do that? I’d love to hear how you kick off the new year!