• Diary of a Metabolic Detox – Reflections

        Fresh fruit TajReflecting back on my metabolic liver detox experience, I thought it would be useful to capture some of my observations of the fortnight and share lessons learned.

        To recap on what was involved:

        The regime involved excluding gluten and wheat, dairy, egg, caffeine, sugars, alcohol, toxins, additives and processed foods for 14 days but still eating wholesome organic-food based regular meals packed with liver-supporting nutrients. Days 7-9 were liquid only to rest the digestive system, but this included lots of soup and smoothies. The programme was supported by a carefully tailored supplement programme aimed at supporting detoxification in a healthy way through the liver and bowel. These included dietary fibre, vitamins and herbs with a range of antioxidants.

        To make it manageable we were supplied with a good selection of foods supported with comprehensive shopping lists and menus, but my fear was that 2 weeks and weekends can be a long time to stick to a rigid plan. In reality, time flew by and I was reminded how much I enjoy cooking (but not washing up!)

        Once of the challenges I set myself was to come up with detox friendly alternatives to meals, such as Fish and ChipCod and chips Friday, and this was very helpful psychologically to make the process feel as normal as possible and not an exercise in deprivation. After all, I’m hoping this will kick-start a change of eating habits for the long term.

        The group support was also invaluable. The 50+ of us doing the detox shared our journey on a closed Facebook page, and it was helpful to see other people’s up’s and down’s, and to have access to each other’s recipes. Also, to understand symptoms which others experienced which weren’t always the same as mine; sometimes that was reassuring and at others encouraging. Some loved the juice only days; others hated them and struggled, and the regular posts helped keep me accountable and on track.

        Within just a couple of days I already felt the benefits of longer, deeper, uninterrupted sleep, and this continued through the fortnight. I personally loved the liquid only days, although did have a blip on Day 8 when I felt very weak and shaky and resorted to some almonds. I figured I badly needed a quick protein hit and it didn’t have to be so rigid that I couldn’t deviate. Maybe for me a 2 day liquid only regime is better than trying to stick to 3?

        On balance I don’t think my toxic levels can have been too bad to start with since, other than my Day 8 blip I had no major adverse reactions. Habits take around 3 weeks to break, and the key ones for me are breakfast (now quinoa is a apple and cinnamon quinoa porridgefavourite) and I’m not eating nearly as much gluten or wheat as before. My stomach feels much flatter and I can feel that my energy has improved. I have particularly noticed the absence of sugar – and in a positive way. My concentration has been significantly improved and energy levels have been stable throughout the day – even on really busy and stressful days.

         So: key things learned:

        • Plan your meals – and make them sound and look appetising. Making a weekend menu helps.
        • Keep busy and plan distractions. Most of our eating routine is based on habit, so if you know there’s a time when you reach for a biscuit, piece of chocolate or glass of wine, plan to be somewhere different at that time, or set yourself a task to do until the wave of craving passes. And it will!
        • Invest in a blender – perfect for filling and nutritious soups, smoothies and delicious fruit drinks.
        • Look up new menus to try. There are endless options to try, either in newspapers and magazines or online. www.bbcgoodfood.com is great or use www.bigoven.com to help create menus with specific foods.
        • Keep a food diary and involve friends or family to keep you accountable. Even better, follow the detox with group friends.
        • Make a note of the positive benefits you are feeling and the compliments you get from friends and colleagues. It’s very motivating!

        So what now?

        At the end of the fortnight I had lost 6lbs in weight (all of which was fat), I reduced my metabolic age by 12 years, lost an inch around my waist, but more importantly I felt energetic and more rested than I have in months, my skin was clear and hair shiny and less greasy than normal. My fat versus muscle ratio yo-yoed a little throughout the detox, but that reflected times when I was able to do more exercise, so that’s my next positive change. Regular swimming and an exercise plan have begun in earnest.

        Christmas is approaching so sticking rigidly to the programme isn’t realistic, but I do feel I’ve made some new healthy habits and I know how to manage my eating by sticking to really clean days around those which probably won’t be. My plan is to try my own personalised version of the 5:2 diet over the next 6 weeks using some of the new ‘rules’. If I can continue to lose 1-2lb a week I will be thrilled.

        In January I am aiming to repeat the programme and run my own group detox, leading clients through the process. A perfect way to start 2014 and clear out the cobwebs from the festive season. I will post details as soon as I have them, but in the meantime, do contact me if you are interested in taking part.

        Now back to the cooking…a Shepherd’s Pie with a difference! See my Recipes page to find out how to make it.

        Shepherd's pie