Most of us have come out of the festive season with a little more than some presents and remnants of tinsel around the house. Many go into Christmas with great intentions especially, if they have been careful all year about weight and exercise, and others say ” What the Hell“ and dive straight into the Eggnog.. Whichever type of reveller you are this is still a great time to give your body its annual holiday and get it ready for the tough year ahead.
Something to think about: Fasting
I will be upfront with you. I do not agree with water only fasts, that starves a body into submission. Whilst I find intermittent fasting (eating within an 8 hour window) suits me, at my age, with my level of activity, and to combat high blood sugar and blood pressure levels. I don’t recommend if you are in working full time including as a mother, have a very active lifestyle, or are already underweight.
I also do not agree with removing any major food group from your diet unless there is a diagnosed medical condition that requires it, or a confirmed allergy. This includes wholegrain carbohydrates which have an important role to play in your complex nutritional requirements.
Protein is essential to our health and development at every age, and if you choose not to eat animal protein then you must ensure that you include sufficient plant based proteins and foods that provide adequate amount of B vitamins. If you would like to check what foods supply the nutrients that we must have, here is an alternative shopping list which lists all the nutrients a body needs and the foods that supply them: Printable Grocery Shopping List.
Perhaps you are now going to spend the next twelve months pottering around your luxury villa (paid for completely including overheads) in the sun with dips in the pool and servants to do your bidding. As well as eating fresh exotic fruits for breakfast, fish straight from the sea with luscious vegetables lightly steamed for lunch and a stir fry for dinner. Enjoying warm zephyrs as they waft over your body during your daily beach-side massage while you figure out how to spend your millions sitting in the bank.
More likely you are going to dive straight back into the stress pot that is our modern world, complicated as it is with two years of working within an pandemic environment of WFH, Home Schooling, masked incursions to buy food, avoiding the silent killer in the aisles and trying to get hot food on the table every night for hungry hordes. Whilst counting the number of pennies you have left to last the month.
A good place to start – Give your liver a New Year’s holiday.
There is one organ in particular that struggles as much as you under the daily burden of modern life and that is your liver. I am not going to give chapter and verse on this vital organ since I have previous posts that are recommended reading. We are told that our hearts are the organ to protect but in fact it is our liver which is the powerhouse behind our health and vitality.
If you are really serious about improving your overall health and also losing weight then I do suggest you read these more in depth posts to appreciate how important your liver is. The largest organ inside the body.. The liver
The Liver in a Nutshell
Your liver has two essential roles, making or processing chemicals and eliminating toxins and waste. Without the portal system none of the nutrients that you have carefully processed and passed into the intestines could be carried in the blood, through the liver, to nourish the body and provide you with energy. It is not really the liver that does all the work but the millions and millions of cells within the liver that maintain the critical life processes. Specialist cells called hepatocytes deal with the raw materials our body runs on – proteins, carbohydrates and fats.
The liver stores iron as well as other vitamins and minerals that you need, such as Vitamin B12. The organ also makes clotting factors that stop bleeding after injury, and without which you could bleed to death.
Your liver helps manage the cholesterol in your body – and the body needs cholesterol – but like anything in excess it can do more harm than good. It forms the base molecule for hormones like oestrogen and testosterone, and it is also the base for bile acids that are used to emulsify fat in the small bowel so that fat and fat soluble vitamins like E and K can be absorbed.
The good news that if you frequently give your liver a break and a chance to recuperate it will regenerate. All except for parts of the liver than have suffered scarring from liver disease. In six weeks you can improve its function greatly and I know from experience, when I do this gentle detox three times a year for six weeks, that I feel and look so much younger.
The tell-tale signs of an overworked liver can be seen in your face. If you constantly have puffy eyes, slightly yellow skin tones and you feel nauseous when you have eaten fatty foods you are likely to be overworking your liver.
Gentle Detox – Phase One.
As we go through the short series, I will be giving you shopping lists and explaining why certain foods are better for you and some recipes as well as talking you through some other detox guidelines. However the first thing that I am going to ask you to do for the sake of your liver is to drastically reduce just one thing from your diet.
Refined sugar in the form of alcohol, chocolate and sweets, all fizzy drinks (even the zero or low calorie with artificial sweeteners), high sugar pastries and biscuits.
If you do not eat sugary foods in great quantities and do not drink alcohol and daily fizzy drinks, the chances are that your liver is already in good shape. However, if you are reading this then you probably looking to lose some weight as well as get healthier and giving them up entirely for six weeks will help.
However, these sugary foods and drinks are the ones that we have probably overindulged in over the lead up and during Christmas. I am not going to sugar coat this (sorry). Whilst you may have the odd craving because of the fats (in chocolate) and the sugars you will be amazed at the difference in energy levels and weight you can experience by not eating them.
Fats in the diet.. Some to keep, some to lose
This does not mean that I am anti-fat; in fact I am very keen that you should have natural fats during the detox including some olive oil, grass fed dairy products and coconut oil if you prefer the taste. But it should be in moderation and used in food preparation rather than as a recreational drug!
Cheese is delicious for example, but it is very easy to nibble away at, and consume 1000 calories quickly, whereas you are unlikely to drink a cupful of olive oil! The same with chocolate -it is so easy to eat 100gm bar in one sitting which is 500 calories….
If you are tempted to switch off now perhaps I can give you an incentive.
If you normally drink a glass of wine per night, eat a small bar of chocolate and eat 100gm of cheese every day, at the end of six weeks of abstaining, you will likely lose between 10lbs and 14lbs in weight. And if you tend to leave these foods until the weekend and stock up with a week’s worth at time you will actually be doing your liver more harm… It will be overwhelmed.
Giving up alcohol for 6 weeks will make a big difference to your liver function. Giving up sugars such as those in chocolate, even more difference, and reducing the amount of cheese will make a little more.
If you use healthy fats like a scrape of butter on your toast or a small amount of olive oil or coconut oil for your cooking that is fine.
Normally, I have the philosophy that a little of everything in moderation is good for you and apply the 20/80 rule myself.
But during this first 6 weeks of the year…. I stop drinking alcohol and eating chocolate and cheese completely, and you will be surprised how at the end of that time, you will have lost the craving for the fats and sugars and food will taste differently. That effect can last all year if you continue to moderate the amount of sugars that you consume and I have seen clients who have adopted this approach lose 52lbs by the following Christmas.
This in part is down to a desire, once a few pounds have evaporated, to do more exercise, and take the goal of a healthier weight to the next level (more about that when I share the updated new version of Size Matters later in January).
Some health issues should also improve as you lose weight and your risk factors for diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease reduce too.
There is little doubt that drinking too much alcohol is bad for your health in many respects. Your liver, brain and immune system come under immense pressure when they have to deal with excessive amounts and the long term effect on health is measureable. However, these days, the alternatives that are on every shelf of the supermarket and in bars and restaurants, should not be the first thing you turn to when moderating your alcohol consumption.
The worst offenders are the carbonated drinks. Fruit juices without added sugars and additives mixed with mineral water or undiluted are fine in moderation. They too are high in fruit acids that can cause some tooth damage if you do not clean your teeth at least twice a day, particularly at night.
It is the processed canned and bottled fizzy drinks that really do have some harmful effects on not only the teeth but also our operational systems in the body and structural health of skin and bones.
The effects of fizzy drinks on our health
Scientific studies have shown that as little as one or two soft drinks a day can increase your risk of developing a number of medical problems such as obesity, diabetes, tooth decay, osteoporosis, nutritional deficiencies, heart disease and neurological problems.
Most of the calories in soft drinks are in the form of refined sugars or artificial sugars and they have absolutely no other nutritional content. In one study by Dr. Charles Best who discovered insulin by the way, it was shown that teenagers who drink too many soft drinks could develop cirrhosis of the liver, something we normally associate with chronic alcoholism.
You can read the complete article on fizzy drinks: Fizzy Drinks 340 billion dollar industary – but what cost to your health?
Possible side effects during a detox.
You may notice that for the first few days that you may feel some fatigue, bloating and possibly flu like symptoms. This is both withdrawal from consuming over rich foods, in particular sugar, and your body getting rid of the toxins that are stored.
It is important to drink at least 8 glasses of fresh water every day to help the body do this. You might also like to drink some Dandelion Tea a couple of times a day although not late at night as it is a diuretic. (more about that next time) I also take an herbal supplement to assist my liver as it detoxes, although I usually start taking Milk Thistle before the celebrations and during them.
Diet drinks, shakes and bars
Before you rush out and buy your pre-packaged diet shakes and drinks to lose weight perhaps you might wait until after you have read the next post in the series where I will be talking about the actual nutritional worth of shakes and bars and offering some alternatives.
I hope you have found this of interest and any questions please don’t hesitate to ask..
©sally cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2022
A little bit about me nutritionally. .
About Sally Cronin
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-four years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain.
Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines, radio programmes and posts here on Smorgasbord.