“If you want something you’ve never had, you have to be willing to do what you’ve never done.” – Thomas Jefferson
Today marks day 9 since I officially “ended” my 21-day detox and I feel great. As promised, in this post I will share with you the challenges I experienced during the 21 days. Look for the next post tomorrow where I outline how to prepare for a detox.
I began the detox on Monday, February 8, 2016 and completed it on Sunday, February 28, 2016. I began the detox for several reasons and the following outlines the changes I began seeing after approximately 14 days being on the detox and am continuing to experience.
- Almost no cravings for chocolate or sweets.
- No cravings for dairy or cheese.
- Increased physical energy.
- Increased mental energy, clarity, and focus.
- Decreased overall feeling of stress (I realize other factors could have contributed to this, but the detox definitely had an impact).
- Improved digestion and gastrointestinal functioning.
- Decreased body fat – more defined/toned muscles.
- Increased insight into myself, my cravings, my eating habits, and my willpower.
Challenges I Experienced During the Detox
The 21 days were not easy and as anticipated, I felt challenged physically, mentally, and emotionally. Some days were better than others and there were moments when I just wanted to give up. This is a normal experience and don’t get discouraged if you feel this during your detox. I want to share with you the challenges I experienced as well as the lessons I learned this time around. My hope is that by being honest, this information will enhance and improve your detox journey, shed more light on the process, and increase your confidence that you can succeed with this!
Decreased carbohydrate intake = less mental energy and focus.
I began feeling this rather quickly into the detox, probably at around day 3 or 4. I’m sure my busy schedule, the nature of my mentally demanding job, and my natural inclination towards achievement and productivity contributed to me noticing a quick decline as I cut out many carb sources during the first 7 days. These included quinoa, rice, potatoes, gluten-free bread, rice cakes, oatmeal, and KIND bars. But that was the whole point and thus the mental preparation prior to starting the detox.
The detox guide I’m creating calls for abstaining from starches derived from rice, corn, potatoes, quinoa, beans, lentils, cereals, etc. for the first 7 days of the detox. Certain carb sources, such as quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, etc. will slowly be incorporated into the detox on day 8.
Due to the decrease in my carbohydrate intake, I did experience decreased mental energy, clarity and focus, as well as increased sensitivity to stress. Unfortunately, these two are nicely interconnected. Decreased mental energy and focus is an expected symptom during a detox and should not worry you. Preparing for this prior to the detox, as tomorrow’s post will outline, will hopefully help. Another way to slow down the physical healing-crisis is to increase your rest or fruit intake during this time. For the most part, you will just have to ride it out and remind yourself that this is normal and that it will pass once you start eating more carbs.
It is not advised to consume just vegetables on any detox lasting more than 3 days. Since I’m writing about a 21-day detox period, my guide will allow for consumption of starches, such as quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes, oats, lentils, and beans beyond day 7. You will be eating fruit from day 1. When I added quinoa on day 8 and during subsequent days as I gradually increased my carb intake with sweet and red potatoes, rice, and oatmeal, I began to notice my mental energy shifting and the fog dissipating. It is important to also add that I maintained my workout regimen throughout the 21 days with shifts in the amount of cardio that I completed in the first week when I consumed significantly less carbs. My detox guide will nicely outline the specifics of what you should consume and when, so no worries. Look for the guide in the upcoming weeks.
For those of you who will be completing their first-ever detox, it is a good idea to stick with low-intensity exercises, such as biking, walking, elliptical machine, yoga, etc. in order to sweat but not exhaust the body. If, by the time you begin your detox, you are not on any exercise regimen, I would actually recommend that you wait until after the detox to begin one. I would strongly advise against starting one during your detox. Toxins are released through sweat, but it’s important to find a balance between exercise and rest during a detox period. Rest allows for repair, healing, and rejuvenation. My guide will include specific exercises and workouts which are beneficial during a detox period. As my mantra stands, self-awareness is key and paying attention to every aspect of yourself, including the physical, mental, and emotional, is essential.
As you become more “seasoned” in detoxing and more attuned to your body’s needs and strengths, you’ll be able to add higher intensity exercises such as running, swimming, weight-lifting, etc. depending on the purpose of your detox. You’ll know how far you can push your body. For now, stick to low-intensity workouts.
As I mentioned above, the good news is that the decrease in mental energy is only temporary and you will regain it (plus more) when you increase your carb intake as the detox progresses. Everyone is different, however, and whatever your circumstances are, this might mean that you will include one starchy meal a day from the beginning of the detox. You will have to gauge it for yourself as you read more tomorrow about how to prepare. I will include options for you to choose from in my guide. In addition, there are some tricks you can use to minimize healing mini-crises and I will include those in the guide as well. One of the things to remember is that carbohydrates are a source of energy for the body and the brain, so if you are feeling particularly mentally or physically sluggish, increasing your carb intake in the form of fruit, quinoa, brown rice, or oats will usually help. Bananas, apples, and grapes are ideal fruits to eat during this time due to their higher carb/sugar content.
Generally speaking, the ideal time to begin a detox if you live in an area that experiences winters is actually as spring nears and the weather gets consistently warmer with every day. The reason for this is that our bodies actually work more intensely during the winter months to keep us warm and to assimilate nutrients that we consume. Spring, on the other hand, is a time of renewal, energy, regeneration, and transformation. Thus, beginning something new that requires physical, mental, and emotional energy is best at this time. In addition, the liver is most active in the spring and the process of cleansing will naturally be enhanced. I live in the Midwest. This year, I chose to begin my detox early February when it was still cold, mainly because I was very enthusiastic to complete it and didn’t want to wait. For next year, however, I have already made the decision that I will wait as the weather gets warmer.
I would strongly encourage those of you that live in areas where spring is currently awakening to complete the detox in the upcoming months, meaning March, April, or early May. This will, of course, vary from person to person and will depend on some important factors that I will go into more detail in tomorrow’s post, mainly your geographical location, your current diet, current mindset and mental preparation, time, finances, and current support system. I will expand on these tomorrow as well as in my detox guide.
The main take-away from this is that you should begin your detox as the seasons change from winter to spring and as it begins to get consistently warmer or as the seasons are changing from summer to fall.
What I mean is……. PMS is a real thing. This is important to talk about because if you tend to experience increased emotional and physical symptoms before your period, such as increased appetite, mood swings, irritability, tiredness, etc., then the process of detox will probably exacerbate these symptoms. That definitely proved to be the case for me. I struggled mainly with increased hunger and increased irritability due to the fact that I did not want to eat more or give in to my cravings. It wasn’t easy but I pushed through it by reminding myself of my goals for starting the detox. Going to the gym also helped me forget about food and cravings. This part was challenging for me and I’ll confess that I did give in at one point and ate several pieces of chocolate covered nuts. On a couple occasions during week 3, I also ended up eating my favorite snack of all, delicious KIND bars. It was so mentally satisfying. I did not freak out and just reminded myself that it’s okay and proceed without guilt.
This is an important part to keep in mind. If this happens to you, do not freak out and just stop the detox. Don’t worry about minor set-backs and don’t allow them to veer you off of your detox journey. Just accept it, move on, and continue eating all the allowed foods during your next meal or snack. Indulging in a sweet snack will not damage the work you have done. Just continue on.
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Come back tomorrow and read about how to prepare for your detox with a step-by-step plan.0