Anytime Detox

As a writer I sometimes wonder whether things like Twitter or any of the ever growing social media platforms are not just a load of old fluff and nonsense. Simply devices for pre-pubescent Directioneers to declare their undying love to their peers and exchange a thousand pictures of Harry Styles from every conceivable angle, or is it just a convenient contraption for ‘Celebrities’ to compare followers counts as if it was the only currency that really matters in the ever more shallow fame game. So it has come as quite a breath of fresh air to be reminded this week about something I blogged and Tweeted about a year ago.

Last New Year I created a quick and easy detox that I at best expected to be tried out by a few of you but then quickly forgotten, but no. It seems many readers not only tried it out but a few even claim to do my detox on a regular basis, with one young lady (who must remain nameless as she hasn’t responded to my request to say who she is!) declaring that the program has seriously improved her attitude to not only nutrition but life itself! Heady stuff – for me I mean, a man with an ego that, like for most writers can sometimes blow around like a quickly deflating balloon. So as someone who is more than happy to risk repeating himself to please a crowd I am happy to present my Anytime Detox, which can either be used before or after the busy New Year period as a tweek towards improving your general wellbeing.

Photo by amy_buthod

If you have indulged a little too much over the past few days and want to get rid of that mild feeling of malaise that always comes before the guilt of overindulgence, you can begin to claw back your equilibrium with a quick 3 day Detox. My Detox will start to deal with the effects of too many calories (although it shouldn’t be regarded as a weight loss diet) and quite possibly far too many alcohol units. A detox doesn’t need to hurt or be seen as some trial by fasting, laxative teas or intensive exercise sessions. Believe it or not a detox should be quite relaxing and an opportunity to try out new things, your busy lives often don’t allow enough time for. Just pure, natural, delicious food and drinks designed to carry all those toxins away. Follow some of my suggestions and you should soon start to lose that  ‘Can’t get off the couch’ feeling and get your digestion, your blood sugar and blood pressure back on track by the end of day 3.

Chose Antioxidants 
For the next 3 days focus on eating brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and beans. Antioxidants activate liver enzymes that “knock out” harmful substances and make them water soluble, so your body can get rid of them more easily. Spinach, cranberry, kale, and beetroot are super-antioxidant-rich. Onions, garlic, and eggs are rich in sulfuric compounds that help your body produce its own antioxidant glutathione, which is especially good at ushering out toxins, including heavy metals such as mercury, aluminium and arsenic.
Try Going Organic 
Not for everything – it can be expensive and not all things labelled organic are truly free of toxins or in some case are not that much better for you than non-organic. However, none organic food often contains varying levels of pesticides, almost always toxins, which can alter your bodies make-up and hormone levels. They can also be carcagenic. However, going completely organic can be expensive, so for the purposes of my 3 day detox, if you can’t afford to go completely organic pick your produce with thick skins that peel off, because they’re less likely to be contaminated.
No Processed foods 
Avoid processed foods (anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce or don’t recognize), fast food, fried food, caffeine, dairy, red meat, sugar, and white flour. You don’t want to eat anything that contains the toxins you’re trying to eliminate.
Avoid Alcohol 
Most people are pretty sick of alcohol by this time of year, but for those of you who aren’t at least try and cut it out for 3 days. You may surprise yourself  and your body  by just how well you feel after just 3 days without.
Up your Liquids 
Drink plenty of water to help flush out toxins and keep your liver, kidneys, colon, and lymphatic system (which filters waste products from your body) running smoothly. You don’t need to drowned yourself with water but aim to drink about two or three litres a day. If you’re reducing toxins and hydrated properly you should be able to pee every few of hours, and your urine should be fairly clear
Cut Down on Calories—But Don’t Crash Diet 
By sticking to 1500-1900 calories a day you may lose a little weight but still have energy. If you consume fewer than about 1250 calories, your body begins burning muscle instead of fat plus you won’t be getting enough essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals.

Photo by Monica and Michael Sweet

Start With a Hearty but Healthy Breakfast 
You hear this all the time, but it is essential. if you don’t skip breakfast you are less likely to binge later in the day when you energy starts to flag. I always eat a bowl of rolled oats sprinkled with a few raisins and unsalted nuts like hazel or almond. Mix it with either yogurt (no need for low or 0% fat as the quantity is so small) or milk. Then I have a couple of slices of wholemeal or multigrain toast topped with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil then perhaps a little jam or marmalade. To give your detox that extra boost in the morning you can also squeeze half a lemon into a cup of warm water and drink it 10 minutes before you eat or drink anything else.
Lighten Up for Lunch and Dinner 
Stick to lean protein if you can – fish, chicken or turkey or perhaps beans and eat with whole grains and plenty of vegetables or a salad either undressed or with a light dressing such as lemon mixed with a couple of drops of olive oil. Avoid potatoes no matter how they are cooked, at least for the 3 days.
Snack Smart 
Between breakfast and lunch have a couple of pieces of fruit or make yourself a healthy and fibre rich smoothie by throwing a few leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, or Kale in with a carrot or two and charge it up a little with a few spices or herbs and maybe a little fresh ginger, parsley, cinnamon or nutmeg, etc. you can also add a little fruit if you need things a little sweeter, then blend it all together with some plain yogurt.
If the late afternoon cravings kick in, go for unsalted nuts, fruit, or a small piece of chocolate if you have a sweet tooth.
Avoid these Foods 
Cut out refined sugars, white flour and rice, high-fat meats, dairy other than plain yogurt and milk and all soft drinks and sodas—both diet and regular.
Start Moving 
You might not feel up to a lot of exercise while you’re cleansing, but low-level exercise or simply just walking a little more every day certainly increases the effects and keeps your blood circulating while you flush out the toxins.
Gluten Actually Helps 
Some of you may lean towards a low gluten in-take, but unless this is because of a medical condition a few days intake shouldn’t be a problem because whole grains certainly do support your detox and also help remove cholesterol build up so go for a couple of small servings a day.

If you try all of these tips or just a few of them, you may be pleasantly surprised by how well you feel in just a few days. Anyway, whatever you do, take care of that body of yours because it is the only one you will ever have.

Happy New Year! – I hope you all get everything you need in 2015


Junk ‘Health’ Food

Is it really 10 years since Morgan Spurlock’s film Super Size Me? This experiment in fast-food gastronomy saw Spurlock attempting to subsist totally on fast food from McDonald’s for an entire month. In the process his weight balloons, his energy level plummets and he experiences all sorts of unexpected and terrifying side effects. For those who didn’t see the film, it was a wake-up call for bad food habits and of course for McDonalds it was a serious kick up the backside, which contributed to a hastily put together ‘Healthy’ options menu that didn’t really fool anyone. One of the main issues then as now was the definition of ‘healthy’ food. While some believed it meant less processed food and at least 5 portions of fruit and veg. a day, McDonalds thought it simply meant putting a few extra slivers of lettuce in your burger, proposing you leave out the cheese and offering some low calorie dressings and fruit-bars.

Ten years on Australian director Damon Gameua decided to take things in a similar direction, by filming what he called a reverse documentary to Super Size Me, That Sugar Film. The result challenges the whole idea of pre-packed processed “health” food – which in reality is an oxymoron because most things produced in this way can only survive to point of sale after being fortified with preservatives, food stabilisers or steeped in salt, sugar or cacogenic sweeteners. Gameua was a fit man before he took on the task many thought should have increased his health and wellbeing. Instead, just like Spurlock, he soon received an unsettling warning from his GP, experienced dire mood swings and gained weight after living on a low-fat, high-sugar health food diet for 60 days.

“I had no soft drinks, chocolate, ice cream or confectionery,” Gameau told Yahoo. “All the sugars that I was eating were found in perceived healthy foods, so low-fat yogurts, and muesli bars, and cereals, and fruit juices, sports drinks… These kind of things that parents often give their kids thinking they’re doing the right thing.” However, within just three weeks, Gameau’s doctor told him he had already begun to develop fatty liver disease – which can lead to liver failure. His mental functioning was also branded as “unstable.”

On average Gameau consumed 40 teaspoons of sugar a day – just slightly more than the average teenager worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that a healthy adult should aim to include no more than 25grams of sugar a day, or six teaspoons. Far from the giant Big Mac burger of Spurlock’s final dinner, Gameau’s last meal of the project was more akin to a child’s school lunchbox – a biscuit bar, fruit juice, a jam sandwich, and a handful of snacks. “The last meal was for all the people out there, especially parents, who have been led to believe they are doing the right and healthy thing for their children,” he said. “They are making an effort yet are horribly let down by the lack of integrity in marketing and packaging.”

However, Gameau went on to explain that the findings of his experiment didn’t suggest we needed to cut sugar completely from our diets, but rather be more aware of where it has been added. “Sugar is now in 80 per cent of the processed food we’re eating,” he said. “If we can remove that, that’s the first step towards making a change.” As well as the immediate health effects of consuming excess sugar, links between sugar and a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease (one of the leading causes of death in the developed world) and type 2 diabetes also exist.

Of course for people with even a moderate interest in healthy eating, what Gameau has to say is nothing new. Indeed some critics have already described his (yet to be released) film using words such as: Bandwagon and Jumping on the… In 2002 a study by Bernard Gesch provided solid evidence that poor nutrition plays a significant role in triggering aggressive behaviour after his findings proved that prisoners given regular dosages of vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, with their meals broke 26% less prison rules. Further back in 1983 Stephen Schoenthaler’s conducted a year-long study of 3,000 imprisoned teenagers, whose snack foods were replaced with healthier options containing reduced processed and sugary foods. During the year violent incidents decreased by almost half, a 21% reduction in anti-social behaviour, 100% reduction in suicides, 25% reduction in assaults, and a 75% reduction in use of restraints.

Despite the mounting evidence against sugar, our addiction to it and processed foods is as stubborn as ever and set to get worse if some food retailers have their way. Having co-authored a couple of bestselling nutrition books, you would be right to think my own diet is almost devoid of processed foods and added sugar. However, as I now live in rural Turkey finding something like a ready meal on a supermarket shelf is almost unheard of. Even in the cities, where the supermarkets can match in size many in the USA and Europe, you will still be lucky to find more than a small fridge or section of a fridge devoted to such unhealthy food instead of the aisles upon aisles I was used to seeing when I lived in London. Yes there may be a slow increase in frozen foods but the majority of supermarket shelf-space here is devoted to either dried goods, like legumes and rice etc or to fresh, locally produced food. There is a different mindset here when it comes to preparing food and extra time is taken to craft a meal so it can be appreciated. While too many of us are perhaps just too used to buying junk food or shoving things into a microwave or the oven, to maximize our time for other things, even if by doing so we know we are consuming far too much sugar, salt, fat and other health impairing elements.

Of course things are changing here like in any other developing country, where a growing middle class all too often wrongly associate affluence as being rich enough to copy the habits of wealthier western nations, even if those habits are bad ones. So although I expect it will happen soon, the day I wander into my local supermarket and see a TV dinner selection or something as disgusting as turkey twizzlers…in Turkey will be a very dark day indeed.

That Sugar Film , which features Stephen Fry will be released in 2015.