Toxic Foods

On November 1st, 2009, I began a 21-day holistic detox diet.  I had been meaning to go on this detox ever since a good friend of mine had done it and raved about the results. I began the day after Halloween.

Whenever I told anyone about the detox, I got a blank stare and a scratch of the head.  I was met with: “So, you’re not going to eat and just drink lemon water and cayenne pepper?”  No, that’s the Master Cleanse, and it’s idiotic.

“Do you think you need to lose weight?”  No, the point of the detox is not weight loss. “Why the hell would you put yourself through this?”

Not a single person I talked to about the detox was positive about it from day one.  That was okay, though, because I wasn’t doing it for them, I was doing it for me.  I was doing it because I was tired of feeling sluggish halfway through the day.  I was tired of waking up in the morning feeling like I had gargled acid all night.  I was tired of being unfocused.  I was tired of being unhealthy.  In short, I embarked on the detox to stop feeling like crap.

The particular diet I followed is outlined in a book by Nish Joshi, a doctor of holistic medicine, and a “celebrity health guru” entitled Joshi’s Holistic Detox. It figures that the friend who recommended the diet to me is an actor.  I’m not a big fan of anyone who refers to him/herself as a guru of anything, and that turned me off to the diet at first, but I gave it a chance and actually read the book.  After reading it through once, I realized that a lot of the things in the book made a sense, so I read it a second time, this time taking notes, and outlining my own 21-day detox.

The purpose of Joshi’s detox is to take the body’s pH balance from an acidic state and change it to a slightly alkaline state – the body’s “natural” state. In the process, you eliminate waste from toxic foods, preservatives and pesticides that you’ve ingested, leaving you cleaner and healthier.  This is supposed to translate into a better sense of well-being, increased focus, more alertness, more energy, clearer skin, and weight loss.

The diet eliminates anything acidic, as well as anything high in sugar, anything with gluten, any dairy products and red meat.  At first blush, I wondered what I was supposed to eat.  Luckily, Joshi’s book came with recipes, which means that a pleasant side effect of this diet was that I cooked more – an activity which I rediscovered that I enjoyed.

Diet before the detox:

  • 2-3 cups of coffee per day
  • cereal or nothing for breakfast
  • lunch purchased from a restaurant near the office or a sandwich hurriedly nibbled at my desk
  • frozen dinners
  • pizza
  • take-out
  • ordering steak almost anytime I went to a restaurant for dinner
  • more alcohol than I’m willing to admit to

Detox diet:

  • 2 cups of green tea per day
  • gluten-free cereal and organic bio yogurt with honey for breakfast
  • a banana or carrots as a mid-morning snack
  • hearty salad for lunch
  • nuts when hungry
  • organic chicken, fish, or vegetarian dishes for dinner
  • no alcohol (at all)
  • 2 litres of water per day

The first week was difficult and plagued with headaches and cravings, but after that, I found that I enjoyed my new routine, and had little desire to reach for a pizza or any other junk food.

By the end of the detox, I did feel healthier, although I could not tell you exactly why.  My post-lunch energy slump no longer occurred.  The heartburn I often woke up with was gone, but otherwise, I was essentially the same.  I still needed 7-8 hours of sleep to feel fully rested.  My focus was no better than it had been previously.

Interestingly, despite having arguably eaten more while on the detox than I did before I went on it, I still lost six pounds, and my body fat percentage dropped by a point.  More impressive to me was that the layer of insulation that I had gained around my midsection after nearly two years at a desk job disappeared.  As I repeatedly told people throughout the process, losing weight was not the point, but if ever there were a healthy weight loss diet, this must be it.

So what happened?

Overall, the effects of the detox were not miraculous, but they were enough to convince me that I needed to make some changes to my eating habits and to my lifestyle.  My previous eating habits were fairly representative of my generation, but they are without a doubt a function of our lifestyle.  In a world where fast food isn’t fast enough, we take shortcuts and it comes at a cost.  If at my age I was already feeling the impacts of my food choices, I can only imagine what I would feel like in my 30s, 40s or 50s.

I’m not alone in recognizing this, though.  We’re in the midst of a fundamental shift in the way people perceive their relationship with food.  The tail end of my generation is coming of age in a time where McDonald’s has salads on the menu, and Happy Meals come with apple slices.  While our parents’ generation is the McDonald’s generation, we may well be remembered as the Whole Foods generation.  We have the motivation.  We’ve witnessed what a generation that grew up in the golden age of fast food has led to: record levels of obesity and cardiac problems being the number one killer in North America.

A generation ago, a vegan, or an organic farmer was a hippie, a fringe character.  Now, they may not be the majority, but they’re mainstream minorities.  We’re a generation that understands food labels.  We know what organic means.  We’ve turned movies like Supersize Me and Food Inc. into blockbusters.

With every passing day, more and more Gen-Yers are going to come to the same conclusion I did, that we need to stop treating our bodies like dumpsters, and change the way we interact with food.  At the beginning of my detox, no one understood why I was doing it.  Before the 21 days were even over, three people had already asked me to borrow the book.

Gen-Y is the generation that is going to reclaim our relationship with food as being sacred.  No more toxic junk.  Bring on the real food.

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