Monday, February 27, 2012

Detox: looking at the other end of the pint glass

The sun setting. I just liked this photo.
Not sure it's meant to be metaphorical or what.
You tell me.

Just had my 37th birthday yesterday. It's not a significant milestone; and yet, when I woke up this morning, full of that sweaty, slightly paranoid half regret and half concern that you might have done something stupid, I knew exactly what I needed to do. Detox. All the way and now.

I know I'm always slipping in and out some health and fitness regime as quickly as a fashionista changes handbags. Giving up cigarettes, taking up acupuncture, becoming obsessed with yoga, suddenly going all gung-ho about marathon training. I'm fascinated with health and diet, without ever wanting to geek out on the science behind it. I'm a doer, a taker-uper, a person who likes to jump straight into the new and unknown - at least until the novelty wears off. I guess I'm no different to most folks. 

But in this case, the seeds have slowly been sown in my mind. A little how I was able to - in one day - quit smoking (a regrettable habit that I picked up again when I was 30.) I've known for a while that something needed to change in the way that I was living. 

The biggest factor was incredibly quick weight gain - from September, which is when I ran the marathon and consequently stopped doing any serious training, to this month, I've managed to put on 1-2 dress sizes. I haven't really changed the way I've been eating. If anything, I've actually tried to pay a bit more attention since January. I still go on a few runs a week. I eat relatively healthily. I do like a drop of wine, but my drinking habits haven't changed at all. So what is going on? 

My gut feeling is that I have a number of food allergies, compounded by a shortage of nutrients. I've always noticed reactions to certain things, like bread, potatoes, starchy foods and anything with dairy. Over the past two years, I've developed a painful rash across my face and neck, have suffered intermittently from digestion problems and then there's the weight issue. 

The detox I'm preparing to do is one that my hairdresser forwarded on to me, which another friend recommended to her: Dax Moy's Elimination Diet. For 30 days, cut our caffeine, sugars, alcohol, processed foods, wheat, rice and grains, plus members of the nightshade family. Then, slowly reintroduce one food item at a time and notice what, if any, effect that food item has. From there, you should be able to detect which foods you're allergic to. 

The diet was created by a personal trainer in London, who offers the diet programme for free on his website. The writing style of the manual is a too much of a health sales pitch. However, if you get past all the arguments, there's actually a decent and simple approach to detoxing, which seems sound to me - and I'm someone who's done everything from get seriously involved in weight training for two years, to marathon training in under a year. It makes sense, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that excess sugar and processed foods and meats are bad for you. 

The thing that excites me about detoxing for just over a month is not just losing weight, or improved health, but the food and the new recipes and the inventive approach to cooking, which is something I love doing. Dax Moy offers a cookbook for sale for the elimination diet, which I may be, out of interest, but I'm also loving spending the day cruising websites for recipes. Kale crisps, almond butter, cinnamon sunflower truffles, lettuce wraps, and a gazillion kinds of smoothies. And the wonderful thing about the detox is that you can eat as much as you want. I can't wait to try out these recipes. 

I feel like the detox has set me a new and difficult challenge, but one that I know I can step up to, providing my birthday drink on Friday doesn't make me reconsider the benefits of sticking to the status quo. Unlikely I think. 

This week is my trial week, where I'm giving it all a proper go: cutting out the above, plus bringing in cod liver oil (which tasted like a greasy piece of sushi), magnesium, zinc, milk thistle,  some other Indian Ayurvedic remedy called ashwaghanda (the woman in Holland & Barrett corrected me when I asked for it, saying it in a funny garbled way), a few new herbal teas (although not the tulsi tea, which I've since learned is made by Pukka and is in Sainsbury's so will have to go tomorrow). 

Image of ashwghanda, the word I cannot say, but the sales attendant
at Holland & Barrett can.

The people who bring me my veg box, Hankhams, were extremely understanding when I explained that I needed to amend my order. "What are all the things you can't eat?" Miles asked. "There's quite a few," I said guiltily, knowing that at the top of my list were their veg box staples, potatoes and carrots. "That's not a problem, just give me the full list," he said.  I was grateful for their help, and I added in a fruit box every fortnight, which will come in handy as I think I'm going to be craving the sugars. Their veg box - by the way - is out of this world, always crammed with more stuff than I can keep up eating (not a complaint there), which I've recently started sharing on a swap forum on Facebook. 

The last thing for me to do is to whack the detox programme onto my Kindle, so I can carry around the acceptable food lists for when I go shopping, plus the dos and donts. 

I can't wait to see the results. So far, I've felt slightly dizzy, like I'm swimming through the air, although that could just be the effects of the birthday drinking session from yesterday. Maybe my memory will improve. Maybe I will become a writing machine. Maybe I will write the great American novel. Or maybe I will just continue to faff all of the time, littering Facebooks with my likes, searching recipes and looking up the meanings of words I probably should have learned by now. Oh god, I've just had the fear: what if become one of those hyper sober people who have too much energy?

This is Day 1, unofficially. Day 1 of the trial I should say. I'll check in with Day 2, just to see what weird new sensation I'm experiencing and tell you all about it. 

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