20 Tips for a Successful Detox

By Muk Eun Ji / last month

Detoxing is quite common. However, it is not often successful. Many people start a detox (or cleanse which is another term for it) every January after Christmas and fail within a few days. Other people begin a detox just before the summer with the hope of getting a beach body in time for their vacation to the Caribbean. Perhaps they lose a few pounds, but then more often than not, they give up.

On the other hand, there are those people in the minority who are quite successful at detoxing. These people get all the benefits and none of the consequences. What is the difference between these two types of experience? Look below for 20 tips for a successful detox.

1) Determine how long you are planning to detox for. For a strict short term detox, anything from 3 days to a month is fine. One of the main reasons people fail is because they set their expectations too high. If you have never detoxed before, start by trying it out for a few days. Understand that if you set yourself the near impossible task of detoxing for a month on your first try, you are not going to know what to expect and may find it difficult to fight off cravings.

Assorted flavoured smoothie juices in bottles with detox spelt using fruits and vegetables

Assorted flavoured smoothie juices in bottles with detox spelt using fruits and vegetables

2) Ease into it. A lot of detox guides suggest that on Day 1 you must go cold turkey on absolutely everything. In fact, detoxing often begins with a “liquid only” phase where you cannot even eat until this initial phase is complete. The rationale behind this is solid; you need to allow your body time to clear out toxins before you add anything else into the mix.

In reality however, this phase is a bit of a shock to the system. This phase is essentially fasting and lasts one or two days. Nevertheless, it is the hardest part of a detox because your body is not prepared for it. If you want to try a full detox, complete with a liquid only phase, ease into it by gradually cutting down on your calorie intake over a few days until you feel ready to fast

3) Redefine success. Redefine failure. What exactly does it mean to fail your detox attempt? Giving into temptation and grabbing a cappuccino? Watching your family eat a take-out and joining them? This does not necessarily mean failure. Granted, it is not perfect, but how much of life is perfect? If you reach the end of your detox and you can say that you got through it with only a few setbacks, you should consider yourself quite successful overall. You should only say that you have failed if you absolutely give up. By relaxing on the rules a little bit, you are more likely to succeed overall and feel happier about the whole process.

4 )If you are trying not to eat it, don’t keep it in the house! To eliminate temptation, completely clear out your fridge, freezer and cupboards. You can donate food you have no need for instead of throwing it all away. This will remove any likelihood that you will sneak into the kitchen in the middle of the night for a sneaky binge session.

5) With your kitchen cleared out, you can re-stock with new, healthy, wholesome, antioxidant rich foods instead. It might seem a bit overwhelming at first to completely re-invent your kitchen. It takes about 3 weeks for a new behavior to become habitual. So by the time you reach the 3 week mark, you probably won’t miss most of the foods you got rid of and will probably include most of the new, healthier choices in your regular shopping list.

6) Follow a plan or guide. There is really no need to figure it out all on your own. It’s not all common sense either; some things are actually surprising. For example, did you know that, in terms of toxicity, margarine is worse for you than butter? To make sure you are doing it right; follow a plan written by an expert. Or even better, visit a specialist doctor or nutritionist to help you to form an individualized plan.

7) See if you can get a friend to detox with you. You might really need each other for support. If you have been invited to a party, there is no reason not to go but you probably won’t feel great being the only one who isn’t drinking. If you can get a friend to detox with you, you’ll have some company during the lonely times. Also, eating home-made food is much healthier than the shop bought variety, but who wants to spend hours cooking every day? With a friend, you can take it in turns to cook for each other.

8) The most important part of a detox is the process of ridding your body of nasty toxins. So, when you go shopping, always read the ingredients list on the labels. If you can’t pronounce a word on the list or have never heard of it before, then it is probably a toxin.

9) Fish is healthy, isn’t it? Well, it is certainly good for you in terms of protein, and oily fish is a great source of omega 3. But there’s a catch: fish is highly vulnerable to mercury contamination. Mercury is a dangerous toxin. In small doses, your body can flush out these toxins, but if you want to eliminate mercury from your diet entirely, you’re going to have to eliminate fish from your diet because all fish is susceptible to mercury contamination. It is hardly reasonable to cut out a whole food group though, especially as fish has loads of health benefits. You may choose to cut down on fish instead to reduce your mercury intake, or opt for salmon instead which has less mercury than other types of fish.

10) Cutting cigarettes and alcohol out of your body and diet is central to detoxing because these things contain a ridiculously high number of toxins. There is little point in eating healthy if you continue to pump toxins into your body through smoking and drinking. The problem is that detoxing is taxing enough on your willpower without adding the difficulty of overcoming addictions into the mix. If you are serious about detoxing, it is a good idea to work through any unhealthy addictions and habits beforehand.

11) Swap white versions bread, pasta, rice and flour for its brown counterpart. You don’t need to cut these carbs out of your diet; you just need to switch to the healthy, wholesome version. The taste is very similar. These items are rather plain anyway; you add flavor to pasta dishes and rice dishes with other ingredients.

12) Drink plenty of water. As you know, eliminating toxins from your body is the number one goal of detoxing. Toxins naturally pass out of your body through urine so drink lots of water to help your body maintain its mission to be toxin-free. Moreover, sometimes you think you are hungry when you are actually just thirsty. By drinking plenty of water, you are less likely to mistake your thirst for hunger. In turn, you are less likely to turn to snacking on a packet of biscuits!

Pouring clean water from glass flask into a white cup on wooden table reminder to stay hydrated

Pouring clean water from glass flask into a white cup on wooden table reminder to stay hydrated

13) Another way your body rids itself of toxins is through sweating. Therefore, it is crucial to get around 30 minutes of exercise every day. Alternatively, you can visit a sauna or steam room which is a fabulous, enjoyable way to sweat! Following on from the last point, your body will not be able to sweat properly if it is dehydrated so be sure to drink plenty of water.

14) Your digestive system is absolutely critical in the detoxification process. Help it along by making sure you get plenty of fiber in your diet. You can also boost the functioning of your digestive system by eating your food slowly. Lots of chewing helps to break food down which really helps your digestive system work more effectively.

15) Get into the habit of making your meals yourself. Completely home-made food is instantly healthier because you know exactly what has gone into it. Even so called healthy shop bought food is very likely to have toxins added to it in the form of preservatives. Besides, home-made cooking is satisfactory because you learn new skills and recipes, and you can experiment with herbs and spices.

16) One possible pitfall of detoxing occurs during the early stages, before your energy levels have re-adjusted. You might feel particularly fatigued during this time and might be tempted to grab a coffee. This is a bad idea because caffeine is a toxin. If you give in, don’t worry about it too much. The most important thing is that you feel healthier at the end of your detox. But if you are looking for ways to resist that cup of coffee, switch to herbal teas, green teas, lemon teas and chamomile teas for a while to see if you can get a taste for them. If you like them, you will probably find it easier to give up your usual tea or coffee tendencies for these healthier alternatives. As you will find out, lemon tea is an excellent energy booster and chamomile tea is fantastic for relaxing. So that’s your morning and evening drinks settled!

17)If you let yourself get really hungry, when you finally do eat, you are more likely to eat too fast in a rushed attempt to eliminate hunger pains. Here’s a tip: don’t let yourself get so hungry that you get actual hunger pains. Eat little, eat often, and eat slowly.

18) Eat by color. If you make it your habit to eat something purple, something red, something green, something yellow and something orange every day then you’re on the right track. This is a great way to motivate yourself to get enough fruit and vegetables into your system.

Woman is eating healthy vegetarian dinner on dark background top view

Woman is eating healthy vegetarian dinner on dark background top view

19) Adding sugar to drinks is the same as adding empty calories to drinks. With a fulfilling, healthful diet, you should be able to get your sugar intake naturally from a wide variety of fruit. However, if you absolutely must add sugar to drinks, try halving your usual portion. You might be thinking that you could just use artificial sweeteners instead. They have almost zero calories and are advertised as being healthier. Artificial sweeteners are actually jam packed with toxins and are one of the worst things you can put in your body if you are trying to detox.

20) Eating healthy food is great but eating superfoods is even better. Superfoods are absolutely packed with essential nutrients that your body needs such as vitamins and minerals. They are also usually brightly colored, full of flavonoids and delicious. Superfoods include: spinach, kale, blueberries, strawberries, salmon, avocado, tomatoes, garlic and almonds.

Don’t strive for perfection. All that matters in the end is that you have reduced the number of toxins going into your body and facilitated your body’s natural mechanism of removing toxins. Even if you experience some setbacks, keep going. The worst thing you can do in anything is give up. If you can get to the end of two or three weeks and you have made some very beneficial health choices that you intend to stick with, then you should consider that a success. And perhaps next time, a few more healthful habits will stick.

About the author

Muk Eun Ji