Now that the holidays are over and the smorgasbord of sugar cookies, fatty meats, cheese plates and cocktails of all kinds has come to a halt, many feel like such lard-asses that their instinct is to embark on a sudden and drastic plan of deprivation.
Their New Year's resolutions to counterbalance the havoc they've wrought on their organs and figures throughout these months make perfect sense, but experts like Alina Zhukovskaya, who is the Detox Specialist and Raw Food Guru at OnJuice (a new organic juice home-delivery service launched by Boca-based DeliverLean), caution that it's better to ease into a juice cleanse rather than fall straight off a cliff of greasy pastries into a stream of raw bok choy juice. (Trust me; she's right. I've tried doing juice fasts without planning a gradual separation from or return to solid foods, and the result was a maniacal post-fast food binge that left my stomach protruding like a watermelon from underneath my rib cage.)
Zhukovskaya practices what she preaches. Having imbibed a few too many flutes of champagne on New Year's Eve, she's about to embark on a juice cleanse of her own, but not before she readies her system for the purification process.
"It's all about balance. Have a good time and then get back on the healthy wagon and feel good again," Zhukovskaya said. And the amount of time you've spent "having a good time" can help to determine how long it will take to straighten yourself out.
"Sex & the City came up in my head, when Charlotte said 'It takes half the time you've spent in a relationship to get over the person.' It's similar with cleansing. The detoxing process takes time, in relation to how much you indulged. People who only indulged one night, it's not a big deal. One day of juicing will do the trick. But if you indulged from Thanksgiving to New Year's, it's going to take longer than 24 hours," Zhukovskaya said. Easing into a cleanse, rather than diving in, can also help you avoid the irritability and intense withdrawal headaches that are often associated with juice fasts.
The formula that she recommends for cleansing begins with your making a list of healthy foods that you actually enjoy, and then making them the primary foods in your diet. "Start slow. That way, on day one [of holiday recovery], you're not thinking 'Oh my God, I have to go on a diet now,' but instead you're eating things you really like that happen to be healthy as well." By healthy foods, she means plant-based and whole options, like vegetables, fruits, brown rice, soups, quinoa, oats, almond milk, moderate helpings of raw nuts and seeds, and the like. "Increase the amount of lighter plant-based foods day by day until it's all plant-based," Zhukovskaya said.
The next step is to transition to eating all raw foods. "Eat fruit for breakfast, salad for lunch, and maybe cooked vegetables for dinner. Then slowly take that to just raw foods for breakfast lunch and dinner, adding raw vegetable and fruit juices as well to make sure you're getting your nutrition in, and also to curb cravings for those unhealthy foods that you just stopped eating." She explained that kale and other vegetable juices help your tastebuds, which may have become saturated with fatty and sugary tastes during the holiday season, to reset more quickly.
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The third step is to begin eating all blended foods. "Have smoothies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And if you want to take it a step further before moving into the all juice-cleanse, you do a juice for breakfast and then a smoothie for lunch and a smoothie for dinner," Zhukovskaya said.
These slow steps will ultimately ease the detoxer into the all-juice cleansing phase of the detox program. (Check back tomorrow for tips specifically aimed at helping you through this most restrictive part of the detox process.)
Whether you choose to undergo a three-day, five-day, weeklong or month-long all-juice cleanse, Zhukovskaya advises that the transition period from juice to solid food should be as slow and careful as the transition from solid food to juice was. "I recommend introducing the solid food in blended form, adding one smoothie, then two smoothies, then three, and then solid raw food, and then finally cooked food a couple days later," Zhukovskaya said. Following this gentle ease-in, ease-out plan will ensure that you achieve long-lasting results from your cleanse, shedding holiday bloat and fat without feeling starved, shocked, or tempted to relapse on junk food when your juice fast concludes.