Come the first week of January, many of us don't feel so good -- there were lots of parties, lots of heavy, sugar-laden food and, of course, lots of alcohol over the holidays.
I didn't overdo anything this year, but some friends invited me to a Christmas dinner that was delicious but left me feeling ill. I ate so many carbohydrates and so much (vegan) protein on the 25th that I understood how a boa constrictor feels after swallowing a whole antelope; I felt as though I drank a 40 of vodka and was stinking drunk, except I was drunk on food.
It was one of those moments when I proclaimed, "I'll never eat again!"
For me, it was just that one meal, but for others, this may have happened daily for a couple of weeks, so you may not feel your best right now. The time has come to clean out your system and renew your energy.
I talked to Janet Perry, a certified holistic nutritionist and reiki master in Calgary, about cleansing the system after the calorie-laden holidays. She offered some good advice beginning with a tip for our morning routine: drink a glass of warm water with the juice of half a lemon before you have anything else--this kick starts the metabolism and helps to detoxify the liver (just tried it -- feels good, too).
She devised a gentle cleanse that is available through her website, with the focus on clean eating. This means eating sensibly and paying attention to what you put into your mouth: no gluten, no processed foods, no processed sugars and no dairy.
As a vegan who hasn't taken dairy products for about five years, I can tell you that I feel cleaner and I'm rarely sick. Ms. Perry explains that the human digestive system is not designed to take milk from other animals, and taking dairy products creates excess mucous in the body which lines the digestive tract -- this layer of mucous blocks the absorption of vitamins, minerals and enzymes, which can lead to malnutrition.
Eating properly is not difficult but seems to be all about will power and planning. "Planning is essential, so make sure you take the time to stock up on healthy snacks (i.e. a handful of almonds--recipe below and more here) and plan your meals," Ms. Perry explains. Everyone knows that fruit and vegetables are key to a good diet, but many people are low on time, so she suggests to go to stores that have an open salad bar and buy your chopped vegetables there to cook in the evening.
• 4 Cups unsalted almonds
• 2 Tbsp. olive oil or coconut oil
• 1 Tsp. sea salt
• 1 Tsp. dried basil, rosemary, oregano, parsley, or another herb of your choice, or a combination
• Freshly ground black pepper to taste, optional
1. Combine almonds and oil in a saucepan or skillet, sauté over low heat, about five minutes, stirring often.
2. Transfer almonds to a bowl, and toss with dried herbs, sea salt, and pepper, if using.
3. Allow to cool, then serve.
4. Store the spiced almonds in a glass jar in the refrigerator.
Don`t forget that water is essential to every day living and cleansing. Water will flush the toxins out of the body and keep us hydrated. Water also helps with liver function, and for those of us who tipped a few too many over the holidays, your liver could be in dire need of a flush.
With excess booze, the liver has to work harder. The sugar in alcohol (or holiday baking or boxes of chocolates) is stored as glycogen and can be used as energy. However, too much of it will turn into fat. Alcohol does much more than that, according to Men's Health. Alcohol obviously messes with brain function and alters our behaviour, coordination and mood, and it also affects the essential functions of our body:
• Booze dilates the blood vessels in our face and leaves us red and puffy, sometimes giving "gin blossoms" on the nose.
• Alcohol affects our muscles because the body cannot effectively repair damaged tissue.
• Just two drinks a day can increase the risk for atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) by seventeen percent;
• Alcohol irritates the stomach, increases acidity and can cause heartburn. According to Dr. David Sack, CEO of a US addiction treatment centre, "Harmful toxins and bacteria leak from your digestive system into your bloodstream, prompting a dangerous immune system response that can eventually lead to liver disease and other health problems."
• As few as five drinks a week can lower your sperm count, and many men with alcohol dependence have sexual health issues like erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation.
I had been going to the gym three times a week before the holidays and felt good and strong, but was a layabout for almost two weeks in December. Moving and challenging our muscles feels good, increases oxygen intake and blood flow, strengthens the heart and lungs and showers us with feel-good endorphins.
Exercise isn't just good for the body, it also has positive effects on the mind, reduces anxiety, and is an excellent way to cope with stress. Even if you can't commit to a full-blown gym regimen, start slow and start walking for 20 minutes a day, or do what I do and dance a few times a week to your favourite music. Exercise should be enjoyable, not a chore, so find the right activity for you and get to it!
To feel better, detoxify and start moving to lose the fat you got for Christmas, start the New Year with a cleanse. You'll notice a difference right away and in a little time, you won't even remember swallowing the antelope.
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