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How I Survived a 21-Day Detox Without Losing My Mind

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Yesterday marked the end of my 21-day detox, and as I revealed the other day, I haven’t felt this good in quite a while. To recap, in the past 21 days, in hopes of helping my body rest and heal after seven cases of strep throat in the past year, I eliminated several foods as well as certain food groups: dairy, sugar, eggs, gluten, wheat, caffeine, alcohol, red meat, soy, and nightshades. Getting through the first few days was the toughest part, as I experienced major caffeine withdrawals. But aside from a few bumps in the road, mainly when it came to dining out, this experience was definitely doable. It took some time and a lot of pre-planning, though, to make it through 21 days with very few temptations. Here are a few ways I was able to not just survive the detox but thrive, coming out on the other side with more energy and feeling better than I’ve felt in a long time.

Focus on health over physical benefits

There’s a lot of talk of detox and cleansing all around, from juice cleanses that will help you lose weight to detoxes that will leave your skin radiant and looking five years younger. Whatever your motivation is for starting a cleanse, more power to you. However, I strongly encourage you to try and first focus on the actual health benefits, even for men, that can come with eliminating your sugar intake, easing up on your digestive system, and getting hooked off of coffee. I had been feeling so lousy before the cleanse that I was willing to try anything. Perhaps you’re in the same boat as I was: constantly feeling fatigued or experiencing aches and pains. Hopefully ridding yourself of that burden is all the motivation you need. Or maybe you feel fine, but you’d like to restart your system a bit. Either way, focusing on the health aspects of cleansing versus focusing on the vanity aspects of possibly losing weight or having glowing skin are what will carry you through those first few days when you feel awful and the temptations that will arise after. And who knows, you may wind up looking younger no matter what.

Plan, and then plan some more!

Before the detox, I danced around meal planning, only getting to an organized system about once every few weeks. But I quickly learned that if I tried to fly by the seat of my pants during this detox, I’d be constantly cooking and running to the store, leaving me weak to convenience and cravings. So I planned meals. I made dinners that the whole family could eat or that I could make slight accommodations to. I did as much prep-work at night or early in the morning so I wasn’t stuck in the kitchen all hours of the day. You’ll soon discover, as I did, that dining options which are “detox-friendly” are pretty limited, so you’ll wind up eating the vast majority of your meals at home or you’ll have to take homemade meals with you to work. In order to be successful, I can’t recommend the importance of meal planning enough.

Call ahead

Three weeks is a long period to expect to be cooped up in your house the whole time. Perhaps an important event was already on the books or a rare opportunity came up to hang out with old friends. You shouldn’t have to say no to being social just because you’re on a detox. If going out to dinner, try to first have some input into choosing the restaurant, if possible. Once your destination has been determined, call ahead and speak to the manager about your dietary restrictions. You don’t have to divulge all the gory details, but simply saying that you have dietary restrictions to all the common allergens like dairy, wheat, gluten, and soy will allow you to open up a discussion about their kitchen policy. Usually, most small restaurants are more than happy to accommodate customers with allergies and food sensitivities and will offer to cook items in olive oil instead of butter, and so on. Knowing your options ahead of time will allow for a smoother ordering process so you can avoid being the high-maintenance friend making (what appear to be) unreasonable demands.

Batch Cook

Just like batch cooking will make your life easier when you’re not on a detox, batch cooking will save your sanity during one. Cooking up big pots of vegan curry to enjoy over the course of a couple of days or making a whole chicken in the crock pot so I could have shredded chicken all week to toss in salads or lettuce wraps got me through many busy and harried days when I didn’t have time to think, let alone cook.

Consider Costs

During the detox, I spent quite a bit more money on fresh fruits and veggies because I was juicing and making smoothies two times a day. But what I spent on produce I almost saved in dining out and grabbing lattes on the run. All in all, I spent about 10 percent more on groceries during my detox, which isn’t a huge amount when considered over the course of a year’s worth of groceries. But most of us budget for the month or even the week, and those budgets are tight. So if you plan to try and tackle a detox, know that you may be temporarily spending more on groceries.

Encourage your partner to play nice

While most partners may offer lots of positive encouragement during your detox, most won’t offer to actually participate. So during your three-week period, ask that your partner go beyond just offering some encouraging words. Ask him to abstain from bringing home your favorite quart of ice cream or bag of chips or making your favorite cocktail during movie night. While of course it’s not fair to ask your partner to abstain from things just because you are, it’s not unreasonable to ask them not to indulge in your favorite foods right in front of your face.

Detoxing ain’t for the faint of heart, and to follow through, you need a bit of mental fortitude as well as an encouraging support system. But with the right planning and people on your side, you can be successful and hopefully come out the other side feeling great.

Have you ever been through a detox, and if so, how did you survive it?

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