If you’re entertaining the idea of trying a post-holiday detox, you’re not alone. The idea of rebooting after some festive over-indulgence is now par for the course, but bear in mind: it’s not the best way to prepare for the coming year.
Depending on the approach, resetting and cleansing your body on a seasonal, bi-annual, or annual basis can be quite beneficial when done in the right way. But the idea of arbitrarily choosing to detox in an attempt to counteract holiday overeating isn’t going to offer the same benefits. It’s akin to sleeping for three hours per night and trying to make up lost hours over the weekend: the body simply doesn’t operate that way.
While it’s fine to allow yourself some leeway for holiday treats, understanding what makes a detox safe and effective—and how to properly prepare—is equally important.
How to Prepare for a Detox
First and foremost, understanding how detoxing works is essential. Detoxification is a natural set of actions performed by the liver, including the skin, lungs, kidneys, and colon. All of these organs work together to process and expel harmful chemical compounds and heavy metals from the body. Toxins are present in many modern-day sources, such as plastics, pesticides, home-care, and hygiene products, processed foods, and more. With time and overexposure, the liver and other detox organs can become burdened, possibly leading to health problems and weight gain.*
Elimination in the form of daily bowel movements is foundational for detox, so preparing for a detox must begin here. Healthy bowel function varies from person to person, but everyone should focus on increasing fiber from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, while also getting plenty of healthy fats and fluids.
Regular exercise also primes the body for detox by encouraging sweating, along with saunas, hot baths, and warming herbal teas. Adding bitter foods to your daily diet is also an effective way to stimulate bile production, such as dandelion greens, mustard greens, arugula, and other foods with a naturally bitter taste.
A Safe and Effective Home Detox
There are plenty of detox strategies that are effective to do at home, and none of them involve starving yourself or drinking lemon juice with cayenne pepper for days on end.
Instead, put together a plan full of plants and easily digestible, nutrient-dense whole foods, including a wide variety of colorful and dark green vegetables, quality protein sources like eggs, pasture-raised chicken, and grass-fed beef, and healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, coconut, ghee, nuts, and seeds.
Soups and stews are especially easy to digest and are helpful for detox; incorporating lots of bitter greens, extra oils like olive oil, plenty of fiber, and a minimum of half of your body weight in ounces of water per day will also prove beneficial.
Important Holiday Detox Considerations
If your plan is simply to continue eating an appropriate amount of calories for your body’s needs while focusing on healthy foods and cutting out the junk, that is fine to do any time of year. While it won’t undo holiday indulgences, it’s an undeniably beneficial plan for setting goals in January.
On the other hand, dramatically cutting calories to make up for holiday overeating can have the opposite effect, as your body enters into a feast or famine mode, which can lead to a slower metabolic rate and more fat accumulation. Continually yo-yoing your calorie intake can also put stress on the body—another major underlying cause of weight gain, weight loss resistance, and accumulated belly fat.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to detox, as everyone is biochemically unique. The needs of each individual body will always differ.
However, a gentle food-based detox plan that includes a variety of colorful vegetables, healthy protein, and fats will benefit just about everyone. Try to get as much of these foods as possible in a soup or stew for easy digestion and absorption, and enjoy a salad with bitter greens on the side. Extras might include dandelion tea, dry skin brushing, infrared saunas, and exercise.
You can’t undo weeks of holiday overeating, but you can nourish your body any time of year with a cleansing detox diet.
 Gangemi, S., Gofita, E., Costa, C., Teodoro, M., Briguglio, G., Nikitovic, D., Tzanakakis, G., Tsatsakis, A. M., Wilks, M. F., Spandidos, D. A., & Fenga, C. (2016). Occupational and environmental exposure to pesticides and cytokine pathways . . . (Review). International journal of molecular medicine, 38(4), 1012–1020. https://doi.org/10.3892/ijmm.2016.2728
 van der Valk, E. S., Savas, M., & van Rossum, E. (2018). Stress and Obesity: Are There More Susceptible Individuals?. Current obesity reports, 7(2), 193–203. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13679-018-0306-y
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