New year, new _____ (insert goal here). For so many of us, especially after a decadent holiday season of feasting, that blank gets filled with “body”—new body. And after all the cookies, hams, and cocktails, we’d like the easiest way to get there please. “I think people are looking for the magic solution,” said Ruth Clark, a registered dietitian and functional nutritionist based in the Monadnock Region.
Social media is quick to offer suggestions, and one popular one is the juice cleanse. Usually lasting for several days or longer, it’s a detoxification strategy that focuses on consuming juice only and perhaps some broth between meals. “Really zero solid food,” described Clark.
Typically, people participating in this kind of cleanse use a juicer to juice things like carrots, beets, and greens. Sounds pretty healthy, right? Well, maybe not for everyone. “I’m not in love with juice fasts,” Clark said. “What I don’t like is that it just doesn’t sustain people’s blood sugars. For the average person it’s really kind of difficult,” she explained.
For someone who has not been living the healthiest lifestyle, especially during the holidays, not only can a juice cleanse be challenging to maintain, but it can also leave you feeling wonky, uncomfortable, or even lightheaded.
Clark, who has done juice cleanses several times herself, described, “What I found was that you have to take a sabbatical from your life for about a week. There were a couple of days where I was like: ‘Oh my gosh, the room is just like swirling.’”
“For somebody who is really struggling with their weight and eating healthfully, I think it’s way too extreme,” she said. It also raises the question: What will you do after the cleanse? Go back to your regular eating habits?
Despite her hesitancy, Clark doesn’t believe juice cleanses should always be ruled out. She noted, “If you’re somebody who’s really healthy and you want to just take a few days to get yourself back on track, it’s a good way to get focused.”
However, for the majority of people looking for an effective cleanse or detox, “I would recommend a modified approach with smoothies that have lots of proteins in them and a whole foods meal,” Clark said.
One of the biggest factors in this form of cleanse is to give the gastrointestinal tract a break. “We’re sort of always eating something,” Clark said. Instead, she suggested wrapping up meals at about 6 or 6:30 p.m. “Don’t eat anything until the next morning and give your GI tract a 12-hour break,” she described.
The second part is to focus on food that is highly digestible, so the GI tract doesn’t have to work very hard. She recommended smoothies with fiber (in contrast to the juice cleanse), such as flax or chia seeds, and a high-quality protein supplement.
If the idea of a smoothie seems blah, don’t be deceived. Clark has found some truly tasty twists on this staple for healthy eating. She even offers several for free on her website, ruthclarkrd.com, including Chocolate Cherry, Peach Ginger, and a Hormone Balancing Berry Smoothie.
During her cleanse program, people enjoy two smoothie blends per day, as well as one whole food meal at lunch or dinnertime. For instance, a soup with beans, greens and even some clean chicken sausage would be an option. Or fish cooked with ghee instead of butter. “There’s a lot of stuff you can eat here, so focus on that,” Clark said.
She advised that during the cleanse people avoid gluten, dairy, soy, and corn, which can all cause digestive issues. “They all of a sudden feel so great and it’s probably because they’ve moved away from foods that they’re sensitive to that are causing a ton of inflammation,” Clark said.
Though the program might sound like a challenge, she has found that most people are able to follow it for a couple of weeks fairly easily. By then, they’ve made such a change, that by broadening things a bit, they can sustain a healthier, cleaner diet long-term and feel exponentially better.
Clark runs a group program two times per year online called Rejuvenation Jumpstart that digs into this approach. But she also works with individuals year-round and is currently offering a free, 15-minute consultation to anyone interested in creating a healthier new year. To get in touch, visit ruthclarkrd.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Her advice as we enter 2022: “If you want to change, don’t try to change everything overnight because you cannot maintain that. It’s too much. Small changes over time are really much more helpful.”