Let’s do a Spring Cleanse! From someone who hates cleanses
Happy first days of Spring!
It’s a celebratory season, and one that just can’t help but invoke change, transformation, and rebirth. It’s spring cleaning time–get the dusty clothes out of the closet, shake off the heaviness of the winter, and clear the hangers for something lighter, more sprout-like.
It’s natural to want to clean out our insides as well as our closets, and many of us take a few days or weeks to do a cleanse: drastically change our diets and even take supplements to help shed our inner winter skin (which is both a gross and appropriate metaphor).
I am not a fan of these kind of cleanses. I am not a nutritionist, and I do know people who like them, but I think it’s extremely hard on your body to suddenly cut out a bunch of things that the body is used to ingesting, and it can create a lot of stress on the nervous system to suddenly stop eating everything except for maple syrup and cayenne pepper. We love the idea of quick fixes in our culture and when we want change, we want it RIGHT NOW!
The body, though, is a complex machine, and it takes time for it to do the miracle work of taking what you put into it and figuring out what becomes muscle, bone, and electricity, and what turns out as waste. We need to respect the time this takes, and not just freak our bellies out with a solid diet of grapefruits.
Also, don’t believe the hype that a drastic spring cleanse will kickstart weight loss for your summer body. Look away from the magazines on the newsstands. Look away.
Here are some reasons why:
Drastically reducing how much you eat will fry your metabolism. Your body will think it’s starving, and yes, it will start burning fat stores, but then whatever solid food you do put into your body will be converted directly into fat. A starving body prioritizes fat stores over anything else, including creating new muscle and other vital functions like thinking.
Cutting out foods that you love can make you want to gorge on them so hard during your cleanse, that when you make it to the end, you will find yourself facedown in an entire pie.
This is one of the most delicate self-inflicted tortures our culture has ever come up with. I dare you eat a huge piece of chocolate cake after two weeks of nothing but grapefruits. Not only will you feel sick, but you may further skew your body’s natural balance of flora and digestive enzymes that the body usually has on hand for the very occasion of that chocolate cake, but is now running on empty since you confused it so much with all the grapefruits. Translation: yeast infection. Get me?
That being said, I think there is some value to reevaluating and reasonably adjusting your diet during spring season. According to Ayurvedic medicine, which is the sister science to yoga, each season has a different quality to it, and as the body adjusts to the new season, different kinds of foods will nourish it better. In winter, a season of cold and wind, we want to eat warming, grounding foods like cooked root vegetables, whole grains, and possibly meat, depending on your constitution (you can learn more about your Ayurvedic constitution, or dosha, easily on websites like this one: http://www.whatsyourdosha.com/). As the weather warms up, our bodies heat up, too, and we digest a little bit differently. We want cooling foods like raw fruits and vegetables, and fewer carbohydrates and animal products. It’s not too hard to figure out: think about what’s in season in the country you live in, and your body has probably already adapted to some degree to eating those things in those seasons. It’s yet another reason to eat local.
Spring can also be a good time to do a little bit of a mental cleanse. Many of us are exhausted around this time, having pushed our bodies straight through the dark days of winter, and having no juice left to meet the longer days with. We need a little retreat time, and we can match this mindfulness with a little bit more careful eating.
So rather than go full-on with a fast and a handful of laxatives, take a week or so to take care of yourself. Clock what you are eating, and keep an eye on how much refined sugar, processed foods, and animal products you are taking in, as well as how much you are sleeping. Take a few minutes every morning during this week to meditate and feel your body.
Your body, after all, already knows what it needs during this time. If you really pay attention, you’ll probably discover that eating an entire pie does not actually feel good. That fresh, local veggies and fruits go down easy, and that if you chew slowly, you might just need a little less than you thought. Your cravings are designed to help you nourish the body specifically: just go for the most local, whole and unprocessed version of that craving that you can.
Let your body tell you what’s best for you as you move through the transition of the seasons. It doesn’t need a box advertising weight loss to tell you what foods it needs. It might just need a little quiet, some rest, and a reasonably sized slice of pie.