Health shops, magazines, social media – they are all talking of the need to go onto a "detox" this January to “cleanse” your body from the excess of the festive season.
Whilst I will agree that January is the perfect time to embrace a healthier lifestyle, I am dubious of all these green juices, magical tea and other plant cocktails that we are being sold as a way to detox your body from “all those toxins”.
Our body is an amazing and complex machine and it comes with its own ‘cleansing programme’! The liver, kidneys, gut, skin – all these organs are at play to get rid of the toxins and these magical juices are not going to help, I’m afraid.
Even worst, they might do some proper damage. Doctors have raised their concerns of the detox fad flagging up a case of a woman who arrived in A&E in life-threatening condition because of the consumption herbal remedy and water in excess (BMJ case report, 2016).
But that is not to say that you shouldn’t do anything to help your body. Just don’t waste your money on potential harmful potions and instead try the following:
1. Ramp up the exercise
Join ParkRun, go back to the gym, take the stairs rather than the lift, get a Fitbit… whatever works for you as long as it makes you be more active. It will give you more energy in the long run and will improve your mood (as well as improve your general cardio-vascular health, your cognitive function, etc. benefits or exercising are endless!)
And if you have a very sedentary life, sitting at your desk most of your working day, try this: every hour stand up and walk for 5 minutes. A recent study has shown that such practice was as beneficial as a 30mins morning brisk walk, yet it had a significantly better impact on mood and food craving (Bergouignan et al., 2016)
2. Adopt a broad and balance diet
Don’t go onto a restrictive and hardcore diet – their long term results are poor in term of weight loss and they will not to any good for your mental health.
Have a more positive approach by focusing on what you should eat rather than what you should not. Here are a few suggestions:
Eat loads of fruit and veg of all colours – aim for half of your plate be full of them;
Increase the amount of dietary fibre (resistant starch) by eating things such as legumes, root vegetables and wholegrain products.
Eat at least 2 portions of fish a week, with one being oily fish (i.e. sardines, mackerels, salmon)
Or, in other word, adopt the Mediterranean diet! It is full of goodness.
3. Protect your sleep
Sleep deprivation has been many times associated with excess calorie intake. (Khatib et al., 2016)
When lacking of sleep, people tend to choose more calorie-dense food, high in fat.
Be kind to your body and let it rest: 'Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy and wise'
4. Be mindful when you eat
So often, we eat something without even realising: finishing the plate of the kids because it would be a waste; that piece of toast or that biscuit that is presented in front of us; that bowl of popcorn when watching TV. And often these foods are empty calories or come on top of our regular meal, increasing our food intake with, quite frankly, very little pleasure.
Eating needs to be a conscious act so make sure that everything that goes into your mouth that been acknowledge by your brain. You will be surprised how many time you will renounce to eat something just because you realise you do not fancy it that much!
But do you need to do all of that? How healthy is your current lifestyle?
Find out by trying the OneYou quiz
Public Health England has developed an interesting campaign called OneYou. It starts with a little quiz to assess your level of health and fitness and goes on to recommend a few changes or existing programmes to help you get to where you want to be. Give it a go!