I don't believe in New Year's resolutions. I think resolutions end up being set at the beginning of the year and we quickly lose track of the list of items we promised ourselves to maintain. That's why I like to start each year off with a reset and a few overall goals for the New Year, instead of resolving to change.
This January, I decided to reset with a personal cleanse. I've never done one before because I consider myself to be someone who eats pretty well, but there were a few items I wanted to try to cut out for the month.
Doing a cleanse is a personal choice, and it's not for everyone. There are so many different options out there, that choosing a cleanse that's right for you should be something you find manageable without an incredibly drastic change right out the door. Cutting out all major "junk" groups at once is way harder than picking one or two of your biggest vices to begin with, and expanding from there. Before choosing a cleanse, ask yourself "What is the one thing in my current diet that isn't great for my health, and that I think I could go without."
So what does my cleanse look like? I've cut out alcohol, refined sugar and processed foods. Each cut had it's own challenges, but also it's own benefits associated to their removal from my diet.
You'll notice that I didn't choose to cut carbs out this month. That's mainly because my current diet includes virtually no refined carbs (breads, pastas etc) so it wasn't something I felt needed to be focused on.
I've outlined below the 3 things I've cut out in January with a bit of a "why" behind each one. Remember, I'm not a professional. This is just what I'm doing based on what works for me and my body. Ultimately any decision you make concerning your health or your diet has to be what works best for you.
1. Alcohol; this one is one of the more obvious choices when people think "cleanse", but do you know some of the benefits to cutting alcohol out of your diet?
- Alcohol can deplete your vitamin and mineral supply. Some of the essential vitamins dwindled by alcohol are vitamin C, vitamin B and calcium
- Alcohol can reduce muscle mass. Drinking excessively reduces your chance of gaining muscle mass and increases the risk of losing the muscle you've gained altogether.
- It can cause unwanted weight gain. If you're not aware of the calories you are consuming in your alcohol, you risk intaking too many additional calories by indulging in a few drinks throughout your evening
I thought cutting out alcohol would be pretty tough. Not on a day to day basis, but when it came to going out with friends or celebrating someone's birthday. The best advice I can give, don't make it a big deal. When someone offers you a drink, just explain you've cut it out for the month. People tend to be pretty understanding and it makes it a lot easier when your friends aren't trying to push "just one glass" on you.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner. I'm not suggesting to abstain from alcohol for the rest of your life, but when you do re-introduce it to be aware of the kinds of drinks you consume. For example, stay away from sugary mixed drinks when you can and try to grab a light beer if that's your drink of choice,
2. Refined sugar; salt is more my vice than sweet, but cutting out refined sugars for the month had it's benefits! The hardest cut I actually had to make was the sugar I take in my coffee every day. Since I drink between 2-3 cups of coffee, that was roughly 6 teaspoons of sugar a day! Cutting out foods that contain refined sugar was significantly easier for me than making this adjustment to my coffee routine.
With that said the benefits to cutting out refined sugar is there!
- Added sugar contains no additional nutrients
- Sugar is also bad for your teeth
- Added sugar is high in fructose, which in high amounts can overload your liver
- Added sugars can contribute to weight gain
Cutting out refined sugar doesn't mean not having anything sweet for a month. There are plenty of foods that contain natural sugars that can be eaten and will still satisfy your sweet tooth. There are also tons of recipes that use natural sweetners in place of refined sugar. Regardless of how you're getting your sweetness intake, just always be aware of how much you're ingesting. Too much of any kind of sweetner is bad for your health
3. Processed foods; This one is a biggie. There are so many things defined as "processed" that it's hard to determine what is "OK" to eat on this cleanse. For example; not all processed foods are "bad" for you. Frozen vegetables and canned fruits in their own juices are convenient options can be good things to keep at home, and aren't necessarily a bad processed option. What you do have to always be aware of with processed foods are the ingredients. Processed foods are usually high in sodium, fats, and sugar.
To help out with this section, I'll just give you a list of some of the top foods to try to avoid if you're cutting out processed foods
- Processed meats like bacon, sausage or ham
- Instant ramen
- Canned vegetables
- Canned soups
- Fruit snacks
- Microwave popcorn
- Frozen dinners
- Sugary Breakfast cereals