I absolutely love it when you guys ask me questions. Sometimes I can live in a little wellness bubble, surrounded by other people making loads of brilliant and informative content about how to eat and feel well and think that everyone has it nailed.
Not to say that you don't have it nailed. You're already doing an amazing job. But there are always a few more tweaks you can make and simple changes that you can incorporate into your life that will make you feel even better.
Plus, even if you know what you need to be doing, when you hit a wall or a 'I'm feeling bleurgh' moment, it's so easy to get drawn in to quick fixes or fads.
Knowing what you're struggling with or what's on your mind when it comes to getting healthier means I can tailor my content to you so please, send me your questions!
So last month I was asked via my Facebook page what I thought of doing a detox.
"I'm feeling a bit bleurgh and I'm being a bit lazy food-wise and need a kick start. What would you recommend?"
Until now I have chosen not to tackle detoxes on the blog. I'm not a nutritionist or dietician and I'm not qualified to tell you what to eat.
However, what I am is a recovering juice-cleanser, food-cutter-outter and diet-fad-believer. And when this question came in I did want to share where I'm at right now with my approach to food and the resources I direct people to that I consider completely trustworthy and fad-free for long-term health.
Because that's the key really - looking after your health and what you eat is about sustainable change. Not a quick 5-day juice cleanse or 7 days of eating salads before you go back to old habits.
Here's what I said to answer the question: should I go on a detox?
There's no such thing as a detox
The concept of 'detox' really doesn't have any scientific backing. You have a liver and kidneys that 'detox' you and no diet or juice regime will do it for you.
The people I trust on this are doctors and dietitians. One good example is Hazel Wallace (The Food Medic) who wrote this post on Facebook about detoxing. And Rhiannon Lambert is a Harley Street dietitian and she touches on detoxes in this article. Yes I know it's a Daily Mail article... but Rhiannon actually writes GOOD stuff in the Daily Mail!
So if detoxing isn't a thing, then what is the answer? Here are my suggestions:
1. Eat more whole foods and prioritise variety in your diet
That means more:
- Beans and pulses
- Whole-grains (brown pasta, rice, bread)
- Nuts and seeds
For every meal, day and week think about how you can get the most variety on your budget and within the limits of your lifestyle.
Can you add a different vegetable to your dish? Snack on a different fruit or a handful of nuts? Sprinkle some seeds on your meal? Mix up the protein source you're using?
Variety will maximise the nutrients you're giving your body.
2. Eat less red meat, processed foods and high 'free sugar' foods
That means less:
- Ready meals, pre-made sauces or condiments
- Bacon, ham, chorizo, sausages etc.
- White bread, pasta or rice, etc.
- Products where sugar has been added (there's a great explanation of free sugars here from The Rooted Project. Please don't worry about sugar in fruit, The Food Medic just published a great article on whether we should be afraid of sugar here)
By the way if you like handy infographics I've shared some of my favourites in this blog post
Please note the language I'm using here.
I say 'more' and 'less' of these foods - not ONLY or NEVER eat them.
Having been down the road of super strict restriction I honestly believe everything in moderation is the best way forward.
No food is 'super', 'good' or 'bad.' Don't feel guilt for eating any particular type of food and remember every day and every meal is another chance to make great choices.
Also listen to your body - there isn't a one-size-fits-all miracle diet. Everyone is so different, we all have totally individual guts and everyone reacts differently to ingredients. If you find something makes you sluggish, gives you headaches or bloating then try cutting it out for a bit. Keeping a food diary for a really short amount of time (a week for example) could help identify things.
People I would recommend you listen to on these sorts of topics are Rhiannon Lambert, Hazel Wallace and Dr Rupi Aujla. I also loved Giulia Enders book Gut which tells you all about how your digestive system works and has a lot of awesome poo illustrations :)
If you really think you have issues with your diet and digestion then please seek medical advice, starting with your GP and hopefully getting a referral to a specialist if you need one. Read more about who to listen to in my blog post here.
3. Get more sleep
Getting adequate sleep is so important to feeling healthy. If you're tired you're not going to be making the best choices with food or otherwise, so finding ways to get more sleep and improve the quality of your sleep is really important.
Don't just take my word for it, have a listen to Dr Rupi Aujla from The Doctor's Kitchen talk to sleep expert Dr Michael Farquhar in his podcast all about how important sleep is and how it affects our health and digestion.
4. Drink more water
You (60%) and in particular your brain (74%) are mostly made up of water!
Harley Street Nutritionist Rhiannon Lambert writes about this on her website here.
The average Briton drinks just 200ml of water a day . I find that a pretty horrifying statistic!
Dehydration can contribute to frequent headaches, dry skin, slowed weight loss, dizziness, hunger and lack of concentration amongst numerous other effects.
So if you're feeling 'bleurgh' then turn the tap on before doing anything else.
Find a way to incorporate more movement or exercise into your day in small ways. Even just walking, taking the stairs, getting off the bus a stop earlier or something more structured like a little yoga or a workout video at home are great places to get started.
Fitness Blender do amazing at-home workout videos that are sometimes just 10 minutes with no equipment needed.
Alice Liveing and Women's Health Magazine also just released the WH Transform app with 12 weeks of guided gym-workouts if you're as clueless as me when heading to the gym you pay a membership to.
6. Take care of your mind
This is something I've only slowly come to realise is just as important as diet and exercise in maintaining health, along with the rest of the population in the Western world it seems right now.
Your mind plays a crucial role in how you feel on a day-to-day basis and needs just as much attention as your body.
If you can, try to start listening to the stories you're telling yourself in your mind on a regular basis. Rather than taking everything that's going on in your head as gospel truth, try to stand back and listen to what it's saying. Without judgement and without trying to change it at first. Just listen.
Notice the repeated things you hear. For example mine have been things like "you'll never make this work", "you're fat and ugly", "you'll never change" or "you may as well give up now."
Feeling stuck in a cycle and sorry for ourselves is often created by repeating stories in our heads. Our brains are often in 'default mode' and repeat patterns of thought and behaviour they've done countless times before.
But if we can stop and notice when we're saying these things to ourselves, and find ways to change those stories, we can rewire our brains for more happiness and success instead.
If you're interested in exploring affirmations - positive statements to help rewire your brain for more happiness - then I'm running a free 21 Days of Affirmations email series over on The Reset. You can sign up here any time.
If you think your mind may be holding you back from feeling healthier, do a bit of research into meditation and mindfulness and maybe give something like the Headspace app a go.
There are loads of other things that can come from meditation like being more focused, being present and mindful in every day life and learning how our brains are wired to worry and how we can prevent that. This is a topic I want to cover more on the blog in the coming months as I explore it more for myself and share with you my discoveries and insights. I really believe meditation and mindfulness can help with that 'bleurgh' feeling and really change your outlook and approach to life if we learn to apply them.
So what do you think? Are these helpful anti-detox tips? What tips would you add? Have you been sucked into thinking you need a detox?