“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” – John F. Kennedy
In my previous post, I wrote about my challenges and lessons from my 21-day detox. Today’s post will outline a step-by-step plan how to mentally and physically prepare for a detox. My hope is that this post will help you make the most sound decision for yourself as to when to begin your detox. The last thing I want you to do is go into the detox blindly, especially if this is your first one. Information is your friend and an essential component to your long-term success.
Prior to altering any of your food choices, you will have to focus on mental preparation. It is key when it comes to beginning any detox, health, or exercise program. Having clear goals for wanting to complete a detox will keep you focused and help you succeed. Mental preparation includes:
Shaping your mindset about the detox.
Defining your purpose for doing the detox.
Creating concrete goals for post-detox.
Mental preparation pays off in dividends. Put the work in now and you will see the difference. Let’s get started!
#1 Shape your mindset.
You are brave and I commend you! Going through a detox is a challenging commitment and that is why doing the necessary mental work prior to starting will greatly increase your ability to avoid feeling overwhelmed by cravings.
The first step is becoming comfortable with the notion that you will experience discomfort during this journey and that it will challenge you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Preparing yourself to feel temporarily uncomfortable during this process is key to your success. It might feel counterintuitive to think about and anticipate what “might” go wrong or the obstacles you “might” encounter. This actually primes your brain for problem-solving and resilience, increases self-awareness and the ability to adapt, and allows you to be in the right mindset when the challenges arise. Exploring yourself, your emotional trigger points, and planning positive and productive reactions in the face of difficult situations is a responsible and intelligent habit to begin developing. So begin telling yourself that you will be challenged and tested and that you welcome this experience because you will grow. Always think long-term gain vs. instant gratification.
We are all different. However, the following bullet points illustrate why detoxing might prove to be a challenging process. It’s always easier to invest in something when we understand what’s holding us back.
- Fast food, sugars, processed foods, and dairy are addicting and they cause chemical reactions within the body that makes us crave the food more.
- Our taste buds get used to the type of food we consistently eat.
- There’s an emotional component to eating.
- Meal prepping and cooking might be unfamiliar to you.
Now that you are aware of these, the next step is to think about your own life and how these points pertain to you. This insight will shed light into your experience during the detox and normalize the feelings and cravings you will encounter.
“It will get worse before it gets better.”
Keep this phrase in mind when you’re detoxing because there are healing crises that the body experiences as it’s adjusting, detoxifying, and adapting. When toxins are released in the body, we experience healing crises in the form of unwanted symptoms. Don’t get scared if you experience any of the following, this only means that your body is cleansing and releasing toxins. Some people get scared at this point and stop the detox when, in fact, these symptoms signify that toxins are being released and things are happening. These are some symptoms you might experience during a healing crisis:
- Skin rashes
- Constipation and/or diarrhea
- Trouble sleeping
- Low energy levels
- Mood swings
- Congestion that might resemble a cold
The skin is our biggest organ and it is very common for people to experience new rashes or breakouts during detoxing. This is because the skin, liver, kidneys, lungs, and colon are 5 of our elimination organs that are highly activated during the detox process. One of my sayings is, “better out than in.” The skin and the other four organs serve as pathways for the release of toxins so don’t be alarmed if you see a new rash or breakout. It is your body cleansing.
Another way to mentally prepare is to view detoxing as a lesson into yourself. You will gain insight about yourself as well as your eating habits and patterns. This is a brave thing you are doing and you should be proud of yourself! When you are deciding to complete a detox, you are committing yourself to being self-aware and present. Practicing self-control and keeping your goals/reasons for doing the detox at the forefront will propel you to remain steadfast in the detox eating.
Mentally prepare for intermittent discomfort. Remember that you are choosing to do this for yourself and for your health. Commit 100% to the detox prior to even starting. Follow through and prepare to tackle the challenges with conviction and confidence. Remind yourself that you will not give up during moments of difficulty.
#2 Define your purpose for the detox.
Have you ever tried to begin or break a habit? What was that process like? How did you feel? What changes did you have to make in your life in order to start doing or stop doing something?
For us humans, change does not come easy. At first, we usually complain, resist, and fight against doing something different than what we’re used to. This is part of the reason why we can never change anyone who does not want to change. This is important to keep in mind when we’re talking about detoxing because you will be asked to change your eating habits. This will prove to be more challenging if you don’t specifically outline the reasons why you want to do it. This has to come from you. You have to want to do this and mentally prepare that you will be eliminating many food sources you’re used to and adding food that you might not be used to.
If a friend is telling you that you should do a detox, but in your heart you don’t feel like you really want to do it, chances are, you won’t have much success. The desire to do this, as with anything that requires a lot of change, has to come from you.
- Why do you want to do a detox?
- What do you want to gain?
- What do you want to lose?
- What is the motivation behind your desire to complete one?
Ask yourself these questions and see what answers come to you. Defining your purpose for doing a detox is super important and will serve as a reminder when things start to feel difficult. If you’re having difficulty clearly defining your reasons, ponder the following questions:
- Have you been eating unhealthy food and you want to reset your system?
- Do you want to learn how to eat healthy?
- Do you want to aid your body in cleansing toxins?
- Do you want to begin a healthy eating lifestyle?
- Do you want to lose weight?
- Do you want to challenge yourself?
- Do you want to have more energy?
- Do you want to have more mental clarity?
- Do you want to increase your emotional stability?
- Do you want to increase your self-awareness?
My recommendation is that you actually write out your goals/reasons for doing a detox and post the paper on your fridge. Look back at it when you feel discouraged or challenged. The paper will serve as a reminder why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Your own goals and purpose are essential to this process. Part of your mental preparation is having a clear understanding of your WHY for doing the detox. When things get hard, remind yourself that you want to do it, that you can do it, and that it’s normal to feel uncomfortable and challenged by this process.
This is an essential point to consider in order to utilize the momentum of healthy eating from the detox and make long-lasting changes. You will need to spend some time thinking about how you are going to alter your eating habits after the 21 days pass. The last thing you want is to go right back into your unhealthy eating habits after the 21 days or more of clean eating. This will feel like a blow emotionally and mentally. And not to mention physically as your body will not be used to heavy, toxic-laden processed or fast food. You can experience severe stomach pains, nausea, digestive issues, etc. if you go back to your unhealthy eating habits after 3 or more weeks of eating clean.
So, how do you prevent this from happening? You prepare. You set a plan for how you are going to eat post-detox before you even start the detox or the prep stage. You will want to closely infuse this with number 2 above. You want to think about your goals and your vision for how you want to look and feel. Begin by asking yourself these questions:
- What foods do you want to eliminate from your diet?
- What foods do you want to decrease eating, i.e. eat only 1-2 times a week?
- What foods do you want to increase eating?
- What do you want to incorporate into your cooking regimen?
- What do you want to eliminate from your cooking regimen?
- Do you want to cook more?
- Do you want to cook with whole foods instead of boxed foods?
- Do you want to incorporate more veggies in your diet?
- Do you want to incorporate veggies at every meal?
- Do you want to eat less/eliminate meat?
- Do you want to eat less/eliminate dairy?
- Do you want to begin juicing?
- Do you want to begin making smoothies? How often a week?
- Do you want to drink less coffee?
- Do you want to drink less alcohol?
- Do you want to decrease the amount of times you eat dessert every week?
- Do you want to eliminate dessert from your diet?
This is not an exhaustive list of questions you can ask yourself. Your responses should be closely linked with your specific goals.
I strongly recommend that you DO NOT skip any of the 3 mental preparation points. This part is an essential in designing a sustainable healthy lifestyle over the long term. You don’t want to reverse all the benefits you will gain by detoxing for 21 days by going back to old eating patterns.
If you are not currently eating a diet that consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, beans, gluten-free grains, and minimal processed/packaged foods, then it is a good idea to incorporate a 3-4 week prep period prior to the actual 21-day detox. This prep period will allow your body to begin the detox process and it won’t be such a shock to you physically and mentally when you begin the official 21-day detox. Think of this as maximizing your chances for success. If you are currently consuming the following foods on a regular basis, then I would strongly recommended that you follow my 3-4 week prep period outlined below.
- Fast food/eating out – 3 or more times a week
- Alcohol – 2 or more times a week
- Processed sugars/packaged sweets – cakes, cookies, pies, donuts, candy bars, candies, etc. – regularly
- Processed/packaged/pre-made foods – mac & cheese, frozen dinners, etc. – any pre-made food that comes from a box – reguarly
- Meat and/or dairy – 3 or more times a week
All these foods contain toxic substances that gets the body addicted, thus increasing your desire or craving. If you’ve gotten this far in the post, I’m going to assume that you definitely want to do the detox. I’m happy that you are committing to your health and are ready to get started! The only decision left to make now is if you are going to begin with a “prep” period or jump right into the detox. My official detox guide won’t be out for a few weeks, but you can definitely start prepping now. The following variables that I’ve mentioned before will also play a role in your deciding for or against a prep period:
- Your current diet – referencing the above bullet points
- Your location – current season (see previous post)
- Current mindset and mental preparation (see above)
- Time to devote to meal prep
- Finances – choosing to buy organic vs. non-organic, detoxifying herbs, additional supplements (will be covered in more detail in the official guide)
- Support system (it helps to do the detox with a buddy. If that’s not possible, inform a friend or family member that you’re beginning a detox and reach out to them for support throughout this process)
3-4 Weeks Pre-Detox Prep Period
If you are choosing to do the pre-detox prep period, you will start on a Monday and begin eliminating certain foods every week, gradually building on your successes and your changes and eliminating more foods with subsequent weeks. In order to be successful with this process, you will need to do 2 important things:
#1 – PLAN
#2 – PREP
As you read below, you will notice that if you don’t plan and prep, success will be more difficult and you will find yourself running into obstacles. Having healthy food with you is super important otherwise hunger will force you to eat fast food or order unhealthy and toxic takeout. I think I’ve hammered this point home but with the changes and alterations you will be making, discomfort and unfamiliarity is completely normal and to be expected. The discomfort and unfamiliarity cannot overpower your willingness, commitment, and desire to change. As we’ve already discussed, you will anticipate the discomfort, plan for it, and devise a plan how you will tackle it when it appears.
Okay, let’s get started.
Week 1 – Eliminate all fast food and home-cooked red meat.
You will begin your prep period by eliminating all fast food, including any takeout food as well as home-cooked red meat. If you are not a vegetarian, that means that you can continue eating chicken and fish during this first week, but avoid all red meat. This will require PLANNING and PREPPING. Plan your meals beforehand and cook/prepare your breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus snacks the day or night before. You will need to bring lunch and/or dinner to work in order to avoid being without food and giving into fast food due to hunger. I strongly recommend that you spend a few hours preparing your meals for the subsequent few days. This will save you a lot of time and stress! My detox guide will include specific meals to consume during the 21 days on the detox, but during the pre-detox prep period, I recommend simple meals to aid your body with digestion. Try these simple meals below. QUICK COOKING TIP: Always avoid vegetables oils when cooking, use coconut oil instead.
- 1 cup cooked rice with a generous serving of steamed or sautéed veggies (you can add a small piece of homemade cooked chicken breast, fish, or turkey if you eat meat).
- 1 cup cooked quinoa with a generous serving of seamed or sautéed veggies (you can add a small piece chicken breast, fish, or turkey if you eat meat).
- 1 large baked sweet potato topped with salsa, coconut oil or grass-fed butter, and a variety of raw, steamed, or sautéed veggies.
- Green salad with a variety of raw veggies, 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, plus a small piece of cooked chicken breast or fish. Use 1 tbsp. olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice as dressing and/or organic salsa.
- Burrito – tortilla wrap with organic ground turkey, steamed spinach/kale, avocado, and salsa. If you’re a vegetarian, omit the meat and add beans.
- 1 cup cooked rice with ½ cup cooked beans, ½ avocado, and organic salsa.
- 2 egg omelet with any variety of vegetables. Top with salsa.
- Oatmeal with fruit.
The possibilities for quick, healthy meals are endless. Hopefully, these simple recipes give you an idea of what to prepare and how easy it is to consume healthy, home-cooked meals.
For more ideas of healthy, quick meals, check out the following website and don’t forget the key to your success: PLAN AND PREP, PLAN AND PREP, PLAN AND PREP.
The main thing to remember here is that you will be consuming all homemade meals.
Week 2 – Eliminate all processed sugar from packaged/baked foods and decrease meat intake by half.
During this week, you will add to your “foods to eliminate list” and stop eating all cookies, cakes, donuts, candy bars, pies, etc. You will also decrease your meat intake (chicken, turkey, fish) by half. For example, if you are a person who eats meat 5 times a week, you will now eat it 2.5 times a week. If you eat meat 14 times a week, you will eat it 7 times a week. Count the meals, not days. Remember, during week 2 you are still not eating fast food or home cooked red meat. You can consume all grains (glutenous or gluten-free), eggs, beans, lentils, potatoes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, salsas. If you usually consume cheeses, mayos, salad dressings, chips, crackers, etc., you can still incorporate those in your diet, but work on minimizing your intake. If you are desperately craving something sweet, reach for a KIND bar. Only choose the varieties that have 4 grams of sugar or less.
Week 3 – Eliminate all processed foods (chips, crackers, pasta, mayos, dressings, instant mac & cheese, instant potatoes, any food that comes from a box or package or is pre-cooked) and all yellow cheeses.
This does not include beans, lentils, nuts, seeds that you will buy in a package. As you can see, during week 3 you will be consuming all raw or cooked food and eliminate all packaged goods. This includes sweet as well as salty snacks. So, at this stage, you will not have consumed any fast food for 2 weeks! Good job!!! Here you will continue to avoid fast food, all red meat, all packaged/boxed/processed foods, including the mayos, dressings, chips, crackers, etc. and continue to consume half of the meat (chicken, turkey, fish) intake you’re used to. At this point, you will also cut out all yellow cheese, but can continue eating white cheeses, such as feta, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, farmer’s cheese, etc.
Week 4 – Eliminate all dairy (eggs, all cheeses, creams, milks, etc.), coffee, and gluten.
Week 4!!! Wow, great job! This week will call for elimination of all dairy, including eggs, all cheeses (yellow and white), creams, milks, creamers, etc., all coffee, and gluten. This means that you will avoid all glutenous grains and only consume gluten-free grains. Glutenous grains include wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, oats, bulgur, couscous, semolina, farro. AVOID THESE. Instead, buy gluten-free grains. Some gluten-free grains include:
- Oats – look for gluten-free varieties
- Rice – brown, white, wild, basmati
- ****All potatoes are gluten-free and are okay to eat at this stage.
There you have it, my friends! 4 weeks of prepping for your detox. Each one of you will have a different experience and you will need to adapt accordingly. Some of you might only need a week to prepare while some might need 3-4. That is okay. Your journey is your own and you’re re-committing yourself to a healthy lifestyle! However long your prep period is, you will probably begin to notice positive changes, such as increased energy, better sleep quality, improved physique, etc.
After the pre-detox prep period, you are ready to begin the official 21-day detox! Congratulations!
I want to leave you with these important points.
You should view the detox period as only one part in a larger goal which is to adopt a sustainable healthy lifestyle. Don’t give up. This will be a process and you will be tested, but always keep your goals in mind. Do not get discouraged by minor set-backs. Use everything that is happening to your body and mind as information for the present and the future. For example, some degree of feeling deprived during a detox, especially in the first week, is normal and to be expected. If you are noticing that you are feeling deprived continuously, this might be a good indicator that you need to include more carbs and/or richer fats (avocados) in your meals. Look at everything as information you can learn from, instead of indicators that something is not working or that you’re not succeeding. This is a process. In fact, as you’re completing the detox, you SHOULD be noticing physical, mental, and emotional changes within yourself. That means that change is occurring and you are cleansing. When negative thoughts start creeping in, always remind yourself that you are making a commitment to yourself and your overall health and well-being. You can do this!
Keep in mind that the physical, mental, and emotional benefits will not only be felt immediately following the detox, but will actually continue over the subsequent weeks after completing the detox plan. As you continue eating healthy and minimal processed foods, your body and mind will continue to assimilate to a new way of eating and you will continue to feel better. This is why it is extra important for you to have a plan how you will eat after the initial 21 days. As you are continuing to eat healthy, your body will also have a much easier time accessing its internal, automatic detoxifying channels and you will continue to experience a healthier and more vibrant you, with increased energy, focus, and purpose!
Look for my official detox guide in the next few weeks!
Leave me a comment with any questions or email me directly at email@example.com. I am open to answering your questions or to clarify any confusion.
Share the article below and as always, thanks for reading!2