Every January, after a festive month of non-stop eating and drinking, many people decide to go on a “cleanse”. It’s usually a quick fix deprivation program designed to shed those holiday pounds fast, jump start your New Year’s goals, and get you mentally back on track. No sugar, no alcohol, no carbs, no fat, no more fun. It’s short term, so people think it’s doable, and a cleanse does usually result in some initial weight loss. The problem, however, is what happens after the cleanse… or during, should you slip up.
We checked in with our resident nutrition and wellness expert, Sarah Wragge, about whether to cleanse or not to cleanse after a period of indulgence. “Most people decide to do a cleanse because they think they must do something extreme to undo what they’ve been doing,” she says. “It’s an all or nothing extremist mentality, with no room for failure, and so it’s not sustainable.”
So here you are feeling congested, bloated, and confused. The good news, says Sarah, is there are a number of things you can be doing right now to get back to your fighting form and sustain it for the long term. Cleansing doesn’t have to be extreme, and it can actually be a regular part of your daily routine. Here are some healthy ways to kick off 2021, and keep it going all year!
STYLE OF SPORT: So Sarah, many people are sitting here squeezed into their tight jeans after a month of overindulgence and looking for a quick fix to rewind the clock to their pre-holiday weight and body. A “cleanse” seems like the answer.
SARAH WRAGGE: It’s a reoccurring theme of every person I’ve ever worked with where there is only good or bad, right or wrong, on or off. That mental state sets you up to fail, because as soon as you say ‘Screw it, I’m going to take a bite of the brownie’, it starts a downward spiral.
SOS: Because there is nothing in between. I know it well. I used to fall into that mental trap.
SW: It’s what I refer to my clients as the “Oh, fuck it” spiral.
SOS: And the insanity is that bite of the brownie was nothing in comparison to what follows it.
SW: Cleanses are based on reward and punishment, deprivation and indulgence. It’s very black and white, and just not sustainable.
SOS: I do think there is a mental boost because you feel like you’re taking back control of your eating…
SW: But what do you do when the cleanse ends? What do you do Friday night? Now are you going to have a glass of wine? There is no thought into what comes after the cleanse.
SOS: Which leaves you kind of back where you started.
SW: Most cleanse programs, juice cleanses in particular, leave you with elevated blood sugar levels. Even vegetable juices like beet and carrot are all sugar. Your insulin levels are always high so your body is never burning fat, which is what you really want. You’re hungry, and feeing depleted or deprived, and that starts the vicious cycle of extremism. I prefer a cleanse that is more balanced in the plant category, with real food, and one that is alkaline based. That’s why I created the Refresh 5.
SOS: We’ve talked a number of times about foods that are acidic vs. alkaline, the havoc acidic foods wreak on our system, and the inflammation they produce which results in bloating, weight gain, and fatigue.
SW: The fun foods in life are the acidic foods like starchy carbs, cheese, sugar, alcohol. What we want when we go on a cleanse is alkalinity, to get back to that place where your blood sugar levels are stabilized and your body doesn’t feel so congested and bloated. I think the best way to cleanse is to incorporate alkaline foods, supplements, exercise regimens, and breathing techniques that counteract that acidity. These are things you can be doing in your daily life to always be cleansing.
SOS: Great! Let’s break those down for everyone. Let’s start with foods.
SW: Foods that are alkaline are dark leafy green vegetables, fresh green juice, or a dehydrated green powder. I make a green smoothie called “The Alkalizer” which is my daily cleanser, and go-to for when I’ve over-indulged. Citrus fruits like lemons and limes are acidic until they are ingested, and then become alkaline. Hot water with lemon is a great alkalizer, and also a natural diuretic.
1 small bottle of Harmless Harvest coconut water
1/2 organic cucumber
Handful of organic spinach
2 stalks of celery
Small piece of ginger
1/2 lime squeezed
1/2 organic pear or apple
SOS: Let’s talk about cleansing supplements.
SW: A good mineral powder will help neutralize acid in the body. The main alkalizing minerals are calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. These minerals complement each other. For example, calcium is needed to contract a muscle and magnesium is needed to relax it.
SOS: We both like Nuun Hydration tablets and Alkamind Acid Kicking Minerals.
SW: You want the sodium as bicarbonate, which is what baking soda is, and the most powerful alkalizer in the world.
SOS: Alka Seltzer is essentially sodium bicarbonate. And what does that do? Settles indigestion caused by acidity in the stomach. When your muscles get sore, it’s also because of too much acid. In this case it’s the lactic acid we are all familiar with from a tough workout. So these mineral powders are great for cleansing the body after a workout too.
EXERCISE & WELLNESS REGIMENS
SOS: What are some cleansing exercises and wellness routines?
SW: A dry or lymphatic drainage brush, and lymphatic paddle are two amazing tools. Our lymphatic system is essentially the waste management center of the body. It’s like the gutter and you need to clean the gutter for the drainage system to work. There are specific lymphatic points and a direction you want to brush to massage and stimulate the system, to help release toxins and flush them from the body. By using a dry brush you are also exfoliating the outer layer of skin, which you then want to wash off, ideally with an epsom salt and baking soda bath, or hot shower. Follow that with the lymphatic paddle. It’s not only cleansing, but a very relaxing routine!
SOS: And we know stress is a major cause of inflammation, so relaxation is what you need to cleanse it from the body! What are some other cleansing routines or products?
SW: Magnesium lotion is my secret weapon, which I’m using because I’m 8 months pregnant. Magnesium is the mineral in which people are most deficient and without it our bodes can’t properly restore and repair, especially from workouts. Magnesium is obviously something you can ingest, but can also put on through the skin. A lot of pregnant women use it because their bodies get depleted in minerals. They are also in a more acidic state because their insulin levels are elevated. The one I use, 8 Sheep Organics, is marketed for pregnancy, but I have about 10 clients on it that are men.
SOS: That’s hysterical!
SW: And they love it! Put it on after a workout or at night for sleep. You’ll be so relaxed your legs will feel like they sinking into the mattress. And imagine if you’ve done the whole lymphatic routine and taken an epsom salt bath first!
SOS: OMG… I’d never wake up! Mineral overdose, LOL! Lets talk about exercise. Are some workouts more cleansing than others?
SW: Yes! This is a subject I’m fascinated with. There are exercises that are acidic and there are exercises that are alkaline.
SOS: This makes total sense! Think about anaerobic and strength workouts that literally pump you up and fill your muscles with lactic acid.
SW: That’s what happens when somebody is doing too many acidic workouts and not replenishing with minerals and proper rest. The result is inflammation. During any exercise when you are breathless, your body is in an acidic state. It’s the lactic acid build up. The way to combat that is to balance your acidic workouts like HIIT, spinning, and strength training with alkaline workouts like yoga and pilates. Also foam rolling. The most alkaline workout you can do is the rebounder.
SOS: Right, because jumping on the trampoline engages the lymphatic system by pumping the blood in the opposite direction. Why are yoga and pilates more alkaline?
SW: Because they are slow. They focus on breathing techniques, and breathing is also another tool you can use to get rid of acidity in the body.
SOS: We’ve all heard of deep cleansing breaths!
SW: We breathe in oxygen which is alkaline, and breathe out Co2 which is acidic. Right now unfortunately, we are all breathing Co2 back in wearing masks. In order to get rid of Co2 there are breathing techniques like 4-7-8, that involve breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. Repeat as needed!
SOS: All of this sounds way better than a cleanse! Hopefully everybody feels a little calmer after reading this piece, with healthier and more sustainable ways to get themselves back on track. Thanks Sarah and Happy New Year everyone!
MORE FROM SARAH WRAGGE:
Have Your Carbs & Eat Them Too!