The Nourish Northwest Spring Cleanse
Last week Paula wrote about her experience with our upcoming cleanse program. I also just wrapped up my winter cleanse group and was going through all of the feedback I have collected throughout the years I have been leading such programs. It is so interesting to see how different everyone’s experience is. I wanted to use this opportunity to discuss my experience planning and doing cleanses and describe in more detail what you can expect from our group cleanse. And more importantly than the text in this post is the pictures of the food you can expect to enjoy on the 2016 spring cleanse.
The first time I did a cleanse was when I was in grad school about ten years ago. I went to a small Naturopathic college in Seattle, where cleanses were a pretty normal part of everyone’s lifestyle. I was given a very vague plan from a Naturopath, instructed to purchase a supplement that when added to liquid resembled concrete and was left to figure out how to interpret the guidelines into creating palatable meals. I remember being starving, irritable and strongly disliking the salt-free, oil free pureed meals I was consuming. I was told this was good for my liver and that I would experience many other benefits of refraining from food toxins and supporting my liver as it got rid of harmful substances in my body. I did not enjoy the experience at all but I felt like it was a good mental challenge and that I was doing something beneficial for my body.
So why is this torture recommended? On a daily basis, we are exposed to so many environmental toxins, some of which enter our body through foods that we ingest. Though difficult to study, it is known that toxins can accumulate in our body and it is thought that they can lead to many metabolic disturbances and eventually serious health concerns, such as chronic fatigue, headaches, inflammatory and autoimmune disorders and cancer. It is our liver’s job to rid the body of these harmful substances and does so by converting them to a water soluble form that is easily excreted from the body. There are certain nutrients that are needed in this process and the purpose of doing a detox is to provide yourself with an abundance of them. However, I wanted to create a detox plan that was not torture, was actually enjoyable and essentially, sustainable.
Detoxes, or cleanses (I use these words interchangeably) have become very trendy and are often used as a weight loss tool. Many popular programs involve fasting, or otherwise consuming very few, specific foods (maple syrup, cayenne and lemon anyone?) that really aren’t doing anything to help your liver at all. Mainstream detoxes have really become crash diets, which is why I don’t even like using that terminology at all. Since programs like this have been popularized there have been studies done to see whether or not detoxes actually improve liver function. Results are mixed but have mostly shown that they do not. However, since many of these programs do not actually include helpful nutrients, this could explain why results have not been positive.
Regardless of whether or not liver function improves, the real reason that myself and the many clients who have gone through my program find value in doing a cleanse is to improve overall eating habits. Dedicating a period of time to completely avoiding foods that have little benefit to health and focusing on a non-processed plant based diet has so many benefits, whether or not it helps out your liver. Learning how to incorporate more vegetables into your diet in an enjoyable way is one of the benefits I have most often heard that my clients have experienced. As a nutrition educator there is no greater feedback that I could hear. Learning how to incorporate meal planning as a weekly habit, finally being able to kick a daily sugar craving, reduce portion sizes and chose healthier snacks are some more common benefits people experience. It is also common for people to feel more energetic, have improved digestion, clearer skin, enhanced mood and experience modest weight loss.
I have been leading group cleanses for six years now and the structure of my cleanse has remained close to that given to me by the Naturopath but the way that I have interpreted it has evolved throughout the years. The basic structure is a step by step elimination of foods until you get down to a period of mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, followed by a step by step food re-introduction. When I started this cleanse years ago, there was a sense of deprivation surrounding the process. I now approach it in a totally different light and develop meal plans that are aimed at making each meal not only nutritious by delicious and satiating. The recipes have also become more practical, affordable and seasonable. The meal plan is meant to be something that could be continued as long as you wish. I develop a new meal plan every season and continue to make modifications based on client feedback. Expect to spend some time cooking, lots of time enjoying delicious food, practicing mindfulness and experimenting with new recipes. If you have any questions at all, feel free to contact us! Our next group cleanse starts on May 1st and has a pre-cleanse meeting on April 30th from 1-2 pm. Click here for registration info!