Living Well

Shape Shifting

By Tracy Morin  |  Photography courtesy of Tonya Tittle

For brides, grooms, and beach-goers alike, it’s detox season! Here’s a look at the different programs, what to expect, and how to maintain results year-round.

As weather warms and weddings loom, the desire for spring cleaning goes beyond household improvement – many people crave a refresh for their bodies, too. And detox programs can help achieve that goal.

The reasons for detoxing vary. Some people want to reset their eating habits and improve their overall health, while others are preparing for a beach vacation, wedding, or simply the season when skimpier outfits reign. Similarly, there are numerous types of detox programs available to meet different goals, from weight loss to increased energy. Misinformation and confusion abound, however, as more would-be detoxers scour the internet for information.

“The ultimate goal for most people who do a detox is different than what they can actually expect,” warns Tonya Tittle, owner and director of training at Energy Fitness in Memphis, Tenn. “Sure, some people may lose a few pounds, but it’s really a catalyst for change, helping to create a better mind-body connection to food and develop new habits.”

However, the potential benefits of detox are numerous, usually offering the ultimate goal of eliminating excess toxins in the body. Tittle notes that different types of detox plans can clear the skin; eliminate “brain fog;” promote better sleep and eating habits; lessen pain by decreasing inflammation; enhance overall mood; and flush toxins via the lymphatic system and/or the large and small intestines, helping promote cell turnover for a healthier gastrointestinal system.

Various levels of commitment are also involved. Tittle prefers a science-based, elimination-style nutritional intervention program with supportive supplements (she recommends the Metagenics Clear Change Program, which can be completed in 10 or 28 days). Spa services can also assist. Detoxifying body wraps may help shed inches, while lymph drainage massage is designed to naturally flush toxins from the body. 

Other detox programs may seek to cleanse the body through nutrition. “Juice cleanses can be great for the skin and reset food portion-size habits, but ultimately they don’t offer enough protein to feed the muscles,” Tittle explains. “On the other hand, eating clean and whole foods in moderately portioned sizes is the key to long-term success.”

Therefore, for those who aren’t quite ready to fully commit to a detox program, Tittle recommends simply adding more detoxifying foods (and more often) to your diet: artichokes, asparagus, organic celery, broccoli, cauliflower, radish, onion, green beans, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kelp, garlic, seaweeds, Swiss chard, collard greens, dandelion, watercress, radicchio, beet or mustard greens, bok choy, escarole, endive, arugula, bean sprouts, chicory, bell or other peppers, cucumber, and cinnamon. She advises against caffeine-based detoxes, which can disrupt natural sleep cycles. And keep in mind the old adage: If it seems too good to be true, it is!

In general, detox programs can last from three to 28 days, and Tittle explains that everyone builds and releases toxins at a different rate, so the appropriate length of time can vary from one person to another. She advises undergoing a program quarterly, as seasons change, but points out that making better nutritional choices year-round (at least 80 percent of the time) is the real key to success.

“It’s certainly easier to make smaller, better choices every day that add up instead of trying to ask your body to detox yesterday!” Tittle says. “Little things add up.”

For example, she recommends reading ingredient lists (and making sure you can pronounce those ingredients); eating with others instead of alone, and using smaller plates, to eat less; filling your plate with vegetables first, then protein and healthy fats; and cutting off eating by two hours before bedtime.

For those looking to detox for special events like weddings, Tittle suggests starting at least three to six weeks beforehand, since the effects of detox can surface through the skin. In addition, as with any lifestyle change, it’s crucial to check with your physician to ensure that a detox program does not react unfavorably with any medications, supplements, or underlying health issues.

Finally, remain realistic and use any detox program not as a quick fix, but as a start on the path toward better choices.

“When you think about how long it took to gain that weight, realize that it’s not going to come off overnight, either,” Tittle says. “This is a process. I simply tell people to be kind to themselves.”

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