If you're anything like me (and every other 20-something I know), you let loose this holiday season. Between cocktail parties, big holiday meals with family, travel plans and that annual binge drinking event we refer to as “New Year's Eve,” the stretch from Thanksgiving to now can wreak total havoc on your body.
For that reason, “detoxing” has become a popular buzzword, with expensive new cleanses and fasts being touted as the be-all, end-all solution for your woes. The truth is, detoxification is a natural process that your body does on its own – all you have to do is put down the wine bottle and get out of its way.
For everyone who woke up on January 1 determined to do a juice cleanse but then realized that subsisting on cold liquids in the dead of winter is just a pricey form of masochism, this is for you. Here are simple steps you can take daily to reset your system, get that glow back in your skin and get your body back to its ideal weight:
1. Drink warm water with lemon juice in the morning
This is one of the easiest (and most important) things you can do for yourself. Drinking warm water with the juice of half a lemon right when you wake up improves your digestion, supports your immune system, stimulates the elimination of toxins from your body and alkalizes your pH level.
For those among us who failed high school science, alkalizing your pH means bringing your body back from its acidic state (which can be brought on by alcohol, sugar and caffeine) into a state of balance and repair. An alkaline system helps everything from clearing up your skin, fighting off the flu and speeding up weight loss.
For an extra boost, shake in a little cayenne pepper; it will stimulate your circulatory system and kick-start your metabolism for the day.
2. Sweat it out
There's nothing like breaking a sweat to mobilize and flush the toxins from the body.
Hot yoga, or another high-intensity workout like spin, does the trick and will have the added benefit of boosting your feel-good endorphins. Saunas (especially infrared saunas) and steam rooms are also great options, especially if your preferred workout is on the gentler side. For those with brave hearts and strong spirits, following a steam session with a cold shower deepens these benefits.
3. Go plant powered
Choose to eat a plant-based diet for a day, or even a week. A plant-based diet consists of whole, fresh, unprocessed foods. Basically, if it was made in a factory, don't eat it.
So what do you eat? If you load up on salads, raw veggies, fruits, smoothies and nuts, you won't go hungry. Such a clean diet — even for just a day — gives your body a break from all sugar, salt and added ingredients in the foods we eat on a regular basis, and it's a great way to reset your system. After doing this for just a weekend, I woke up on Monday feeling energized and light, with a calm stomach and brighter skin.
For a great roadmap with recipes and tips on how to do a plant-based cleanse the right way, check out The Blonde Vegan 5-day cleanse program.
4. Pop a pill
A probiotic, that is. Probiotics are friendly bacteria that improve both your intestinal health and overall wellness. When your gut is functioning properly, it aids digestion, boosts your immune system and even contributes to a solid mental well-being. Feeling a little less than balanced these days? A probiotic can help you get back on track after a few too many nutritional wrong-turns.
Probiotics are available in over-the-counter capsules at your local pharmacy. Another way to get probiotics is through fermented foods. Miso, tempeh, kimchi, kefir and sauerkraut are all good choices. Yogurt is good, too, as long as it states “live active cultures” on the label.
5. Put the “fast” back in breakfast
Consider the amount of time between your last bite of food at night and your breakfast. If it's fewer than 12 hours, you're missing out on a critical detoxification time. It takes eight hours for your body to fully digest your last meal of the night, and only after that is when it starts to really clean house. In those extra four hours, your system will naturally eliminate toxins and begin to repair itself.
Your digestive system will also get a break so that it can properly absorb the nutrients from the food you've consumed throughout the day. Need more motivation to stop the late night kitchen raids? After the eight-hour mark, your body begins to burn stored fat, leaving you leaner by morning.
If you follow these tips, you will be feeling back to your sleek, glowing self in no time — and unlike a three-day juice cleanse, these small strategies are totally sustainable and will keep you happy and healthy throughout 2014. As always, make sure you're drinking water throughout the day (aim for two liters) and getting enough sleep. Good luck, and please post any questions you have in the comments section below!
Photo credit: We Heart It