The words “cleanse” and “detox” have developed an interesting taboo as of late — especially in a time of both evolving and contradictory information from varying societies, studies, lineages, and cultures.
Aside from detoxing for ego-boosting purposes that serve as a breeding ground for a wide range of body-image issues, I am certain that there is merit to a balanced, cleansing diet based on a person’s own unique needs. The kicker is learning how to implement clean choices into each day in lieu of going from zero to one hundred, which may lead to relapsing into an unsustainable cycle of extremes.
If the liver is overheated, for example, an Ayurvedic protocol may include briefly eliminating heating and clogging foods while also adding in cooling, calming herbs with the hopes of potentially reintroducing problematic foods in the future. Although this is not an absolute fast from eating, it is still detoxifying and can be much more manageable on a day-to-day basis.
The concept of “retox” is also up for debate depending on the circumstance and perception. If we rely on the detox to curb the retox, or dive face-first into a detox with a reward of a retox, then how will we ever be able to accept ourselves just as we are, let alone maintain a mix of both healthy and rule-breaking habits?
The retox/detox activities of the holidays often involve eating at restaurants and shindigs, trips and travel, and unusual sleep patterns or daily routines — all of which can be an incredibly joyous part of the year as we visit with people we may not often see. It can also, however, cause significant physical stress due to airplane time (majorly dehydrating), lack of sleep (generally unbalancing), and eating foods we don’t regularly eat (who can say no to every offer of pie?)
To me, a balanced approach spans beyond the plate. It also translates as simple and sustainable practices like getting adequate rest, laughing, maintaining healthy relationships, savoring clean and delicious meals that energize us (chocolate included), dancing, exploring new places and faces, taking care of Mama Earth, and whatever makes us feel awesome long-term — holidays and beyond.
When we set ourselves up with intentions like this, we naturally gravitate toward healthier choices — without the need to obsess over a retox or detox. Suppressing the urge to drink the hot cocoa or eat the cake may wind up resulting in an unnecessary retox, which can lead to an even greater urge to detox. This cycle of extremes can end up being damaging and unsustainable in the long run, on both a physical and mental level.
This time of year does not have to be burdened by an aggressive retox/detox, dieting, travel trauma, or familial issues unless we focus on those problems — ultimately, worrying about it all is useless. If we shift our internal vision and make a clear decision about whatever it is we desire for ourselves and our holiday experience, the more easily and naturally it will unravel. No destructive, hardcore retoxing or detoxing required.
Here are some attainable, holistic, yogic and Ayurvedic-inspired tips to help you find a retox/detox equilibrium this holiday season.
Discover your own mostly balanced approach to eating mostly clean most of the time instead of over-indulging or completely shunning sweets. Incorporate fresh, whole foods without fencing yourselves off from favorite childhood cookies. Allow space for the simple pleasures of hearty holiday meals that linger for hours on end.
Stick with and experiment with practices, foods, and people that you know are best for you and your wellbeing. Even if your lifestyle and dietary preferences don’t align with those around you, give yourself permission to enjoy the occasional unhabitual food AND not have to apologize for your desired way of being/living.
Breathe. Dr. Pratima Raichur says, “Performing daily pranayama breathing exercises … increases oxygenation throughout the entire body — resulting in a radiant, healthy, and youthful complexion. In Ayurveda, this method is basically referred to as ‘breathing from head to toe,’ because this practice is very effective for connecting the body, skin, and mind in an effort to balance the entire body.” Try a traditional pranayama practice as described by Dr. John Douillard here.
Eat calmly and relaxed when the digestion is at its most optimal (midday). After eating, sip ginger tea or take a 10-15 minute nap on your left side — all as advised in this informative article by Dr. Douillard.
Opt for warm, satisfying smoothies versus cold, raw smoothies. Divya Alter shares, “This shake has a tomato-like color and taste, with a pungency that will pinch your tongue in a pleasant way. It is very satisfying for when you’re feeling more airy/vata or earthy/kapha. It is also a blood builder and a great tonic for the liver.”
Enjoy clean, seasonal food. Holiday eats can be simultaneously delicious and nutritious, like the incredible recipes featured in Alter’s Ayurvedic cookbook. Shop clean staples to infuse into your pantry; add as many whole foods as possible into both sweet and savory dishes.
Play around with health-ifying beloved recipes by swapping in coconut sugar for refined sugar; coconut oil or organic ghee/butter for canola oil; fresh green beans for canned, and so on.
Make a spice mix to bring to parties and on trips, like Alter’s Ayurvedic digestive masala. She writes that this “will not only invigorate a savory dish … but it will also make sure that no undigested residue is left behind in your gut… Vaidya Mishra created this synergy blend to ensure the balance between spices’ cleansing and calming effects on digestion.”
Drink room temperature or lukewarm water throughout the day and 20 minutes before or after a meal, especially before digging into those oversized tins of holiday popcorn.
Practice moderation. ‘Nuff said.
Lean into enjoyment and appreciation versus judgment and deprivation. The more we allow ourselves to find sweetness in the moment itself, the less likely we are to react from a “lack of” mindset and act from a place of loving acceptance.
Whether or not we are currently in a holiday retox/detox mode, we are always home in and connected to our miraculous body. We may as well take care of and have fun with it while we can.