Now is the perfect time to press the reset button and begin to battle sluggishness and fatigue. This three-day winter detox will inspire you to make smarter decisions about what you eat and how you live.
A cleanse should always begin with supportive acts like ridding your refrigerator and cupboards of sugary treats, decluttering your closets and eliminating tempting forms of caffeine and alcohol from the pantry, says Nutritionist Keri Glassman, RD, founder of The Nutrition School in New York City.
“Create a more balanced environment of hydration, healthy food, movement and meditation,” says Glassman. “Winter detoxification is more about balance and energy, eating clean, moving more and checking in with yourself.”
Detoxification methods of healing have been used for thousands of years, but before you jump in, start by cleansing the outside of your immediate environment to help feel more in balance: Dust your cupboards, declutter your closet and throw away old vitamin bottles.
“A successful detox depends on what you eat, how much chemical and toxic exposure you’ve had, what stresses you tolerate and how much beneficial exercise you do every day,” says Frank Lipman, MD, founder of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in Manhattan and author of The New Health Rules (Artisan Books). Consult your health practitioner before starting any intensive detox plan, especially if you have extenuating health concerns such as diabetes, obesity or low blood pressure.
General Detox Guidelines
- Absorb the majority of your nutrients via soups, cleansing broths, juices and slow-roasted or raw veggies. (Include eggs, whole grains, raw nuts and vegetables.)
- Eat three smaller meals per day (200 – 250 calories per) and drink soups, broths and green juices.
- Avoid dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt for the next few days.
- Skip sugars, desserts and simple carbohydrates like cereal.
- Here’s the hard part: Take a break from coffee, alcohol, red meats and chicken.
- During detox, plan ahead how you’ll sweat, move and exercise for at least 30 minutes per day.
Day 1 focuses on initiating your cleanse internally. Major organs of detoxification in the body include the liver, kidneys, skin and intestines. When toxic food and bad habits (like excessive drinking or smoking) overwhelm the normal processes of your body—such as digestion and excretion—you’ll feel lethargic, bloated and irritable, says Dr. Lipman.
Daily diuretic effects from drinking 8 to 10 cups of water, green tea (and daily probiotics like kombucha tea or kefir) will help continually flush the gastrointestinal tract to promote more efficient digestion and elimination—and combat feelings of lethargy. Drinking water and organic juices keeps your body and cells well hydrated, which may reduce headaches, cravings and constipation during a cleansing process.
Lemon, berries and citrus fruits are jam-packed with high vitamin C and D and other minerals that boost bodily functions and enhance the cleansing process.
Top 22 Vitamin-Rich Detox Staples
Our experts suggest eating more of the following foods:
Artichokes (and artichoke leaf supplements)
Garlic (and garlic extracts)
Green tea (and tea supplements)
Orange (and other colorful citrus)
Raw nuts and seeds
Salmon and cold-water fish (mackerel, tilapia)
Spinach and leafy greens
Super berries (like goji berries and chia seeds)
Detox Winter Soup
Eliminating foods that can lead to disease and discomfort is directly linked to mind-body detoxification, says Elina Fuhrman, organic chef and founder of Soupelina, a Hollywood cleansing-juicing company. “Eat soup for extra energy during detox and also to fuel your brain,” says Fuhrman. “Soups, broths and juices are designed to fill you up with fiber-rich calories and lots of taste which will help abolish cravings and energy spikes during the day.”
Eating these colorful and filling foods also feels comforting and satisfying. “Winter soups also make a perfect bag lunch or hearty snack,” she says.
When you create your own broths, juices and soups at home, Fuhrman says, try adding antioxidant-rich spices such as turmeric, ground fenugreek, fresh ginger or lemongrass. “My clients look forward to warming soups the moment they wake up in cold weather and will sip a broth for breakfast,” she says. “Many ingredients we cook with have anti-inflammatory properties, aid digestion, and may help ward off colds and flu.”
CAULIFLOWER ME, MAYBE
Adapted from Soupelina’s Soup Cleanse: Plant-Based Soups and Broths to Heal Your Body, Calm Your Mind, and Transform Your Life by Elina Fuhrman, reprinted courtesy of Da Capo Lifelong Books. “Cauliflower as a soup base boosts heart health and is an important source of dietary fiber,” says Fuhrman.
1 large cauliflower head
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
6 cups boiling filtered water
Juice of 1 lemon
Himalayan pink salt
Lemon wedges, for serving
Caramelized onion, for serving
Cayenne pepper, for garnish (optional)
Cut the cauliflower florets off the central stalk and chop them roughly. Quarter the stalk and slice that, too.
Heat the oil in the soup pot over medium-high heat, add the onion and garlic, and sauté until the onion softens.
Add the cauliflower stalk and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add 3 cups of boiling filtered water, a little salt, and simmer for about 10 minutes.Then add the cauliflower florets and more water to cover. Simmer for 30 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender but not mushy.
Let the soup cool for 30 minutes, transfer everything to a Vitamix, and blend until smooth and silky. Add more boiling water if the soup is too thick. Add lemon juice and salt to taste. Garnish with a wedge of lemon and caramelized onion. Add a little kick with a pinch of cayenne, if you’d like.
Day 2 focuses on exfoliating and sloughing from the outside. Many cultures have used “hot boxes” to connect mind and body during healing sessions, like the Native American sweat lodge. “Sweating it out is a wonderful method of helping to remove toxins from the body,” says Christine LaPausky, owner of D’ames Spa at Pier South Resort in San Diego, CA.
At a spa or at home, sit in a sauna or steam bath to open your pores and then apply rehydrating skincare products with seaweed algae and acai to exfoliate and moisturize. Aesthetician LaPausky recommends making or using organic body scrubs with coconut and sugar. She also suggests dry-brushing the skin with a firm, long-handled brush to stimulate the lymphatic system. “Dry brush in large circular motions to improve complexion and surface circulation to the skin, and encourage the body’s discharge of additional wastes,” LaPausky says. Always brush toward your heart. “Drink more water and get enough sleep during detoxifications rituals,” says LaPausky.
Possible Side Effects of Detox
During the purging process, your muscles, skin and blood are working overtime to eliminate unhealthy stored toxins and cellular wastes. “It’s a tremendous cleansing process across the systems in your body,” says Dr. Lipman. To that end, you may also experience some of these side effects. These are potential and temporary signs of a winter detox although the majority of detoxers don’t feel any signs intensely.
Luna Vandoorne / shutterstock.com
Sleep issues (too much or too little)
By Day 3, you should be feeling pretty good—and less bloated, says Fuhrman, who began creating detox soups and cleansing juices when she was diagnosed with breast cancer some years ago. Besides your waistline, you may notice less puffiness in your face, neck, fingers and ankles. And the more water you drink, the less bloated you’ll feel, says Glassman.
Thomas Zsebok / shutterstock.com
Activities on Day 3 focus on movement. “It’s so important to sustain workouts during a detox,” says Lifestyle Coach Petra Kolber, creator of Moving to Happiness, an online fitness and lifestyle program. “Since exercise and movement help with feelings of depression, anxiety or deprivation, even 20 minutes of walking and stretching helps your body become more efficient at circulating blood and flushing out harmful toxins,” says Kolber.
In addition, yoga’s deep diaphragmatic breathing—with strong exhalations that empty the lungs of unneeded carbon dioxide—allow for a fresh breath of more oxygenated air. “This deep yogi breathwork nourishes all of our cells,” Kolber says. “It’s a method of cleansing internally because better circulation equals better health.”
As your three-day journey winds to a close, write down your thoughts in a detox journal, documenting your moods and envisioning your best future self. “Journaling is very healing and soothing,” says Kolber, who leads education workshops on moving more, worrying less and “getting your happy back.” She says, “The process of winter detoxification is expressed as a letting go, a soul cleansing that helps you find a peaceful state in the present moment, no matter where you are.”