Detox: The Details

In my last post, I talked about the benefit of detoxing to deepen our practice of letting go. Since then I have had a number of people interested in the specifics of my plan and others that had some modifications of their own that I would like to share with you. As well as a practice of letting go a detox or cleanse is healing. It allows our body to have a break from the myriad of foods we eat every day. Many cultures have externally imposed breaks, such as famines and droughts, bad crops and lack of game. Lucky for us, these earth cycles are virtually unknown in the first world. In this case, a detox as a rite of passage, a letting go and a healing is a profound ritual for our times.

Time line: First off our detox’s last anywhere from one day, to one week or longer (6 weeks or years as with gluten). From a biological perspective, it takes about 6 weeks for your body to be rid of certain substances like gluten, I have also heard various doctors state that it can take as long as 18 months to have an internal, systemic benefit from quitting gluten. These are the facts that inform the time line for our detoxes. A simple week long detox, cutting everything all at once can be enlightening and manageable. I am also a big fan of periodic, weekly or monthly, one-day long detoxes to reset if bad habits have crept in again. Our dear friend in Ohio has chosen month long detoxes beginning with gluten; this is manageable, attainable, and validating for her.

When is the right time to do a detox? We like to do longer ones quarterly and one day or week detoxes monthly or as needed. The type of food we eat depends on what is in season. Here in the Northwest, getting fresh salad in January is tough. During these times, we tend to eat a mono-diet; one item all week or so such as mung bean stew and rice rotating with simple gently cooked vegetables. In the summer, we eat as may garden fresh, raw foods as possible.

Here is our six week detox plan. You have permission to modify it as you see fit. For me, I rarely give up my bite or two of dark, smooth chocolate throughout my detoxes. It makes me feel good, it is only a small amount, it is liquid when it enters my digestive track as I let it melt in my mouth and darn it aren’t I giving up enough? I am by no means a purist, and I still want to offer my body a break to heal.

Week one: No meat or gluten. I start with easy wins the first week. We eat very little meat and gluten, and as a result these are easy for me to not eat in addition to the well-known fact that these two items have a clogging effect on the digestive system. Meat is hard chew and to digest which slows down breakdown and absorption process; think of a lion, once they eat a bunch of meat the lay in the sun and digest. This is good for the body. We however eat meat and other foods as well as alcohol and then go to work or play which means our body has to attend to multiple processes all at once not being able to devote all energy to digestion. Remember our goal is to give the digestive system a break to give it time to heal our bodies.

Week two: No coffee, dairy or sugar, as well as the food and drink items let go of the previous week. Remember, whichever substance is easy for you to let go of, start with it first. I do not have coffee this week, but I have chai with hazelnut milk as a way to wean myself off the impact of not having coffee.

Week three: No alcohol, fried foods or caffeine, as well as the food and drink items let go of the previous weeks. You can separate the items you let go of even further if you are really attached to caffeine or another item.

Week four: None of the above items as well as eating only whole foods and raw foods. By whole foods I mean something that looks like it just came off of a plant. Last week we may have eaten some gluten free pasta, which is a processed food. This week we eat whole grains (quinoa, rice, millet) and beans or lentils as our carbohydrate and protein source. Raw foods means vegetables and fruits as close to source as possible: carrots with tops still on them, salad from the farmers market, fruit ripe off the vine.

Week five: None of the above items and only raw foods or a mono-diet: one food item for a week such as rice and lentils. If you search back through my posts you will find the lentils and mint recipe. This is what I use when it is colder out (pretty much most of the year in Seattle!)

Week six: None of the above items and raw foods or mono-diet and a three day (plus or minus) juice fast. This may or may not be possible for you. It is hard for me to do more than 2 and a half days as I have children and a husband that I cook for and not eating for a few days is extra tough on me, I do not have the willpower that others may have.

Reintroduction: At the end of week six you may want to celebrate by having a coffee when you wake up, then a doughnut, followed by a sausage and egg breakfast, a pasta lunch and a steak and glass of wine for dinner. Now I am not trying to talk you out of your reward but remember this is about healing as well as a time for reflection on what feels good for you to eat. Take your time reintroducing foods like coffee, alcohol, meat, dairy and gluten. Watch how your body reacts to these different substances. Reintroduce one food or drink at a time for three days and if your body feels good add another substance. If a reintroduced food item makes you feel bad, then you just may have found something to reflect upon. Do I want to feel good or eat/drink this substance?

Remember we are healing and letting go. At the end of your detox, I hope you feel lighter, more free and proud of your accomplishments. Determine your purpose, know your limits, get support: invite perspective.

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Detox: A ritualistic spiritual path

For many years, I wanted to do a detox, also known as cleanse, or an elimination diet. To me, refraining from eating or drinking certain things was a spiritual and physical test of my will. A test that I was not so sure I wanted to undertake as I was pretty sure I would fail.

Since having children, a light shines brightly on how we give and have a lot in our culture. There is very little we go without. We are lucky; we can chose to not have. Other cultures are not as fortunate. In the process of letting go something happens both physically and mentally, which is why cultures around the world have practices similar to this as a mode of spiritual growth.

I am currently within my third detox . I am a beginner on the path of cleansing. In the past when on a meditation retreat, I have given up coffee, meat and dinner. Our family also eats very little gluten. Because of this, I was partially prepped for not having. Yet choosing not to have all of the vices day after day is much different; especially when the other people in my family are not on the same program.

To prepare a yummy breakfast for my kids and instead of eating the same food, I make a juice, day after day for the hoped for benefit of healing my body is challenging. Additionally, making two breakfasts is also time consuming which decreases the hours I sleep, meditate, do yoga and manage other parts of my life in order to prepare food.

Yet in the act of giving up there is a strength that gets produced; an “I can do” attitude. Cultures over time have had different rites and rituals of passage that mark the transition through certain phases of our lives. These markers are relatively absent in our culture. If there is a ritual, it usually means we learn something and then get presents like money or ice cream depending on our age. We do not usually have to give something up. Well maybe we have to give up being a drinking bum to get decent grades enough to graduate but we can still party a little bit.

To me a detox is a practice in letting go. In the book The Experience of Insight by Joseph Goldstein he writes about the process of letting go as the fundamental Buddhist practice that informs and creates the foundation for the Noble eightfold path. In Buddhist theory and in my meditation practice, letting go means recognizing the cycle of craving and aversion and being equanimous with both wanting something and not wanting something as if you were watching something external to the self; you stay removed from the drama.

When I detox, I let go of a lot of things. The hardest however, depending on the weather is always coffee. I am not much of a coffee drinker but the idea of having to give up this beverage, made popular by monks in the 17th century, is by far the most difficult. It is like separating from a new lover, the yearning, the pining, and the longing are poignant. Letting go is hard to do.

Though through the process of giving up I gain resolve and confidence that if I let this go, I can let other things go as well. The cycle of craving gets less dramatic. Remarkably in the space where there was angst and craving I am privy to something new, an openness, a lightness, a freedom; my mind is becoming free.

The path is not easy, but it does make me stronger. It is a self-imposed adult rite of passage. From what I am told and have read, it is also beneficial to my body to have period of time when my organs are not working on digestion and can then work on other things like healing and rebuilding. It is a superficial giving up to gain untold and unseen but much felt benefits. In the process, you might even trim down a bit if that is a concern of yours.

Do you want to bring some ritual and freedom into your life? Would you like to heal your body and lighten your mental and physical load? Unsure of how to begin? Invite perspective; begin the ritual of letting go. Lighten your mind and be free.