Quick N' Dirty Detox

One of my favorite nutrition topics to nerd out on is detox, and it's also a subject I get many questions about.  With numerous detox products and cleanses available, it can be difficult to know which is most effective. There are many approaches to supporting healthy liver function, but as for me, I tend to take the most sustainable approach possible. I like to eat food, so I rarely opt for juice cleanses or diets that are too restrictive (though there is nothing wrong with this approach if it suits you). Instead, I focus on cutting out substances that are going to put extra stress on the body's detox processes, and adding in plenty of liver supporting foods. This allows me to continue eating regular meals to sustain energy throughout the day while still detoxing. Read on for the deets, or scroll to the bottom for my top 5 detox tips. 

What is considered a toxin?

A toxin in the body is any substance that creates irritating and/or harmful effects. The liver is our built in mechanism to filter out toxins, but when the total load of “house cleaning” is too high, our overall state of wellness is compromised. Everything is connected; a liver that is overtaxed stresses our other biochemical functions such as metabolism, immune health, and endocrine function. Common substances that the liver detoxes include

  • Pesticides/herbicides: these are stored in our fatty tissues and organs if not eliminated!
  • Food additives: artificial flavors and colors, and preservatives
  • Hydrogenated oils
  • Synthetic hormones: in conventional meat products
  • Toxic metals: mercury, lead, aluminum, arsenic
  • Household toxins: cleaning products, cosmetics, solvents, synthetic fertilizers
  • Used hormones and neurotransmitters
  • Drugs, including alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine

Symptoms/Possible Signs of Overtaxed Liver

  • Tenderness or aches on right side, under rib cage
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue/lethargy
  • Lack of appetite/nausea/vomiting in extreme cases
  • Bloated belly
  • Inflammation
  • Weight gain: Excess toxins promote insulin resistance, interfere with metabolism, alter circadian rhythms, and interfere with thyroid function. All these are factors in weight gain

Quick N' Dirty Detox Tips

1. Decide a Timeframe: The amount of time you "detox" is up to you, but aim to give it at least a week. 

2.  Reduce/Eliminate: Caffeine, alcohol, trans and oxidized fats, excess sugar, refined sugar and starches, food additives such as preservatives, colors, and artificial flavors. Also consider cutting out common allergens such as dairy, wheat, eggs, soy, nuts, shellfish. If you choose to consume animal products while detoxing, choose organic to avoid synthetic hormones and additives.

3. Sip: Start your day with some warm water with lemon and/ or apple cider vinegar. The acid will jump start digestion and stimulate detox processes. (If you can find a way to comfortably ingest lemon peel, do it. Citrus peel contains limonene, a powerful detox agent.)

4. Sweat: Exercise and saunas help mobilize toxins to be eliminated as well as stimulates blood and lymph flow.

5. Eat: The following foods are detox superheroes. Consume them liberally while detoxing. 

  • Choline: Eggs, whey, legumes, liver
  • Liver specific veggies: dandelion, watercress, mustard greens, arugula, radishes, beets, artichoke
  • Cruciferous Veggies: Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels
  • Citrus fruits: citrus fruits and their peels (NOT grapefruit! Grapefruit actually inhibits Phase 1)
  • Sulfur: Garlic, onions
  • Cilantro/parsley: Binds to heavy metals (mercury, lead, aluminum)
  • Lipotropic agents: Improve fat and bile metabolism in liver. Choline, methionine, folic acid, vitamin B12.
  • Botanicals/herbs: Dandelion, milk thistle, rosemary, green tea, licorice root, burdock root, turmeric
  • Antioxidants: Wide variety of vegetables (esp dark leafy greens), and fruits with dark red or purple skin (blueberries, cherries, apples, etc)
  • Fiber: Binds to toxins and cholesterol for elimination

Happy Detoxing!

You're Just Mental

mental athlete

The summer before my freshman year of high school I tried out for the volleyball team. This was a pretty bold (or just stupid) move as I had never played before in my life and was really just doing it because my bff didn't want to try out alone. The good news: I actually made the freshman team. The bad news: my lack of experience meant that...well let's just say my coach had his work cut out for him. I moved up quickly, skipping a team and making varsity before some of my fellow players. Sounds great, but I was still always the runt of the team. Aka; lots of bench time. I worked my ass off in the gym and practiced on my own at home, but I continued to struggle with certain skills. I don't remember how I came to this conclusion, but my 16 year old self somehow knew that it wasn't my physical training that was lacking, but rather my mental training. My solution at the time was purchasing The Mental Athlete by Kay Porter.  I devoured it in no time and have since then been fascinated at the power of our own minds.  In her book Kay states, "Like most athletes, you've trained hard to overcome the physical barriers to peak performance in your sport. And yet you may not have paid the same attention or applied the same effort to the equally important mental and emotional factors influencing your performance." I have experienced this too often myself. I can easily recognize the importance of my physical training, but forget that mental conditioning is just as much a priority. 

Developing mental skills is not just for athletes. It's for artists, musicians, businessmen and women, and anyone else who owns a brain and desires more from themselves and their lives.

So what exactly are these mental skills that we're working on?

  • Setting goals and intentions
  • Relaxation and letting go
  • Focus and concentration 
  • Resiliency; the ability to bounce back from stebacks
  • Cultivation of a positive self-esteem, as well as positive outlook towards life
  • Healthy management of emotions and stress
  • Using mental imagery/ visualization 

There are countless exercises for increasing your capacity for the above skills, so find one you like and make it a priority. If you don't have a meditation practice, I highly recommend starting one.  Meditation doesn't have to mean sitting cross legged in silence, though there are many benefits to this. Walking, writing, and prayer are great forms of meditation and can sometimes be a better way to ease into the practice. I will be writing more on mental practice later on, but here a couple to get you started. 

Mindfulness Meditation: this one helps build concentration, reduces stress, and increases ability to manage difficult thoughts and emotions

  • Sit quietly with the eyes closed. Take 5-10 deep breaths to calm the body and the mind. Relax any tension you might be holding, especially in the shoulders, jaw, face, mouth, and belly.
  • Begin to bring all your awareness into the present moment; notice sensations happening in body, room temperature, noises, etc. Let any thoughts you have pass without judgment, and when you find your attention wandering, bring it back to the present moment. Practice being completely in the present for as long as possible, if even only for a couple seconds.
  • If you're having a hard time with this one, try this variation: open the eyes and pick a single object to stare it. Give that object your full attention, noticing as many things about it as you can. Notice colors, shadows, shapes, lines, reflections, etc. Practice giving the object your full concentration, and again, when the mind wanders, bring your attention back to your object of focus.
  • I like to set a timer for myself so that time is one less thing I have to think about. Even 5 minutes is so beneficial. Do it!

Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This practice is great for letting go of physical and mental tension, and although this practice can improve sleep, it teaches us how to relax while still awake.

  • Begin in a comfortable reclined position. You can lie down, but remember the idea is to stay awake and aware so if you think you'll pass out, try sitting upright a bit. Take 5-10 deep breaths, and allow the body to completely relax.
  •  Start with your feet. Take a deep inhale and tense up all the muscles in your feet and ankles. Be mindful and feel all the muscles contracting. As you exhale, let go of that tension and allow your feet to become very relaxed and heavy. Move up your body, doing the same thing with the lower leg, upper leg/thighs, hips/glutes, abdomen (lower and upper), arms shoulders, hand neck, face, etc. You can go through as many or few muscle groups as you want, but try to at least do this for about 10 minutes. If you have the time, spend a few minutes in complete relaxation after going through all your muscle groups. 
  • If you find your mind wandering, bring your attention back to your breath and the contracting and relaxing of each muscle. The idea here is to feel and notice the difference between a tensed muscle and a relaxed one. This practice will make you more aware of tension you might be holding on a daily basis. 

  Some Sweet Reads:

mental athlete

The Mental Athlete by Kay Porter walks takes the reader through several detailed exercises such as goal setting, creating and using affirmations, fighting fatigue and mental blocks, and using visualization. It is written specifically for athletes, but is definitely applicable to anything in life. 

buddha's brain

Love love love this one. In Buddha's Brain, Rick Hansen and Richard Mendius bridge the gap between Eastern philosophy and modern neuroscience to explain how changing the patterns of the brain changes the way we experience life. This book provides exercises in mindfulness that anyone can practice, and combines it with the science of why these tools are useful. 

Also check out www.themeditationworkshop.org and www.mindtools.com

And Just for fun...


Magnesium: the relaxer

Why Magnesium?

Almost all of our body’s processes require magnesium in some way.  It helps regulate cell membrane function, works with ATP to produce energy, and activates the following:

·      Protein and carb metabolism

·      Enzymes for energy production

·      Enzymes for glucose to glycogen conversion

Magnesium is vital to heart function, especially energy production and muscle contraction. It also aids in kidney health by preventing stones. Mg aids in muscle function and prevents cramping, and can ease symptoms of PMS. Mg is a relaxer as well; aids with sleep!

Signs You May Be Deficient:

  • Insomnia 
  • Muscle cramps  
  • Fatigue      
  • Migraine
  • Irritability  
  • Constipation     
  • Heart arrhythmias

Where do I find Mg??

  • Buckwheat
  • Leafy greens: spinach, collard greens, parsley, dandelion greens
  • Sea veggies (esp kelp)
  • Avocado
  • Beans and legumes
  • Pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, and Brazil nuts
  • Wheat germ and wheat bran
  • Dried figs, apricots, and dates

Notes on supplementing Mg:

Ideally we want to get all our minerals from diet, but supplementing Mg may be beneficial to those with kidney disease*, PMS, heart problem, or muscle cramps. About 200 mg is a good amount per day, best taken in chelated forms with B6. Look for Mg in citrate, taurate, glycinate, succinate, or malate form. Soaking in a bath with Epson salts is also a great way for the body to absorb this mineral

 *Best form of Mg for those with kidney disease is MgCl  


Diets, Disorders, and Real Nutrition


Clients and friends often ask me what "diet" I'm on or what I eat to look the way I do. Every time I'm asked about my diet, I find myself stumbling over my words and not being able to really come up with an answer. So how is it that I can be so passionate about good nutrition and health and yet have nothing to say when asked about my OWN diet?Because I don't have an answer. Not an easy one anyway. 

We live in a society that is obsessed with weight loss and dieting. Just look at the countless diets and meal plans that are out there, as well as all the Joe Shmoes who just wrote that new book on the food plan that REALLY WORKS! We are also a society that wants everything to be as quick and easy as possible. LOSE 70 POUNDS IN TWO HOURS!! REALLY WORKS!!SHED ALL YOUR BELLY FAT AND CELLULITE AND CURE WRINKLES AND HAIR LOSS AND CROOKED TEETH WITH THIS ONE EASY TRICK!! And we buy it. 


All these things can sound so promising and magical, but what they don't tell you is that there is NO REPLACEMENT for good nutrition, effort, and TIME.  What they don't tell you is what a tightrope walk dieting and food restriction is, or what can happen if you fall off the wrong side of the tightrope and land in a heap of eating disorders. 

I'm not in any way claiming that dieting leads to disordered eating, but I am claiming to know first hand that it is an easy trap to slide into. Too much time of my own life was lost to restricting, starving, bingeing, purging, abusing laxatives, and not to mention a difficult journey to recovery. And the scariest part about it all...I didn't fall into that spiral by "dieting" or trying to lose weight. I wanted to get healthy. I wanted to stop eating Taco Bell for breakfast and clean up my nutrition. Which is why I am so cautious about offering quick advice on nutrition to clients and even friends. Because food and body issues are not just for Victoria's Secret models. They're not JUST FOR WOMEN. 

So here is my answer to these questions, and beware, if you are looking for a quick trick, easy solution, or even a cut and dry one, look elsewhere yo. 

The way I eat has been years, 5 at least, in the making. It has been a lot of trial and error, and error, and error to figure out what works for me. I'm not even there yet. My "diet" is always evolving as I learn more about food and my own body. I have had to do all kinds of food experiments on myself to find what works for me. I've had to figure out what makes me feel good and energized, not just in my body but in my mind and emotions as well. Hear this: Food doesn't just interact with your body! It interacts with your mind, emotions, lifestyle, and relationships too! That is why I believe that there is no one diet or system that will work with everyone. 

Here's where I give you a little tough lovin'. Your body and what you put in it are IMPORTANT. Stop looking for easy answers. GET EDUCATED and take the time to create your own system of nutrition that works for you. Find legit sources to learn about carbs, fat, protein and how they function in your body. Learn about micro-nutrients, chemicals, preservatives, and the processes your food goes through to get to your plate. I know there's a lot of info out there, and it can be overwhelming, but START SOMEWHERE. And ladies...SHAPE and Cosmo magazine, even Women's Health, are NOT good sources. In fact, that shit's garbage. If you got em', toss em'. Find a mentor who lives a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Ask a professional, but make sure the emphasis is on the whole person and not just the physical body, calorie count, or a number on the scale. 

Accept that this will take some time and effort. You didn't develop your unhealthy habits overnight, so don't expect to unwind them quickly.  YOU HAVE ONE BODY and one life, and IT MATTERS! If you don't have your health, the rest of your life will suffer. Promise. Everyone makes room for what matters to them. Spend less time on Facebook. Cut your TV time. Take that $5 that you spend on your frappamochalatte whatever and buy some fresh produce. You CAN make it work, it's just a matter of how. Make small, doable changes. Pick one food to cut out for a couple weeks and see how your body reacts. Make your body your own science experiment. Learn to listen to and TRUST your body rather than accepting everything you hear and read. Even the best information might not be what's right for you. What feels good in my system might tear yours apart. Get educated, then embark on the beautiful and scary journey of going inside and asking YOURSELF what you need and don't need. Enjoy the adventure. It's worth it. 

One final note: If you do suffer from any kind of disordered eating, reach out! It's not easy, I know. Seek professional help, no matter the cost. You are valuable, and deserve to live a vibrant and healthy life. 

photo courtesy of http://mediagallery.usatoday.com/Diet-advertisements-throughout-the-ages/G1980,A8325