Should You Do A Spring Cleanse?
By Nikki Doering, RD, LD
April 19, 2022
It’s that time of year where we all begin to think about spring cleaning. As the weather gets warmer we throw open the windows for the fresh air, clean out our homes, and rotate the seasonal clothes from wool socks and sweaters to sandals and t-shirts. After two years of the pandemic, your clothes might fit a little differently or maybe you haven’t been as active as you usually would and there might be some extra winter bulk you want to let go of.
With the spring cleaning vibe, it’s tempting to start the latest juice cleanse, spring detox, or fasting scheme to drop a quick couple of pounds before all the fun social gatherings happen this summer. Unfortunately, while starting something new and getting quick results might sound appealing, these extreme methods can be more harmful than helpful. But the good news is: getting back to the basics of real food eating and healthy habits can jumpstart your metabolism and help you spring clean your health in a way that nourishes and lasts beyond the spring season.
Ditch the Diet Mentality
Part of spring cleaning your health is about spring cleaning your thoughts. On a recent Dishing Up Nutrition podcast Avoiding Menopause Weight Gain, fellow nutritionist Kara and I talked about letting go of old diet “truths” that have been told over and over, which aren’t necessarily true and may be holding you back. Do you find yourself getting caught up in these ideas?:
- Weighing yourself frequently – and letting the scale determine your next actions or making you feel bad about yourself
- Waiting to start on Monday
- Counting calories
- Skipping meals
If you see yourself in any of these habits, first step to achieving your spring health goals is to get rid of the diet mentality. Easier said than done, but awareness is the first step! Toss out those things in your head that are keeping you in the restrictive mindset and replace them with thoughts around eating to nourish your metabolism, your energy and your wellbeing.
6 Steps to Boost Your Health (and especially your metabolism)
Rather than focusing on the scale and on the calories, let’s look to some of those basic foundational habits that can truly help you to accomplish those health goals. Here are some of those real food basic principles to come back to for nourishing your body and cleaning up those health habits you’ve maybe lost along the way:
- Eat real food. And by real food we are talking about quality animal proteins, healthy fats, and whole, nutrient dense carbohydrates. Anything you can find on the farm and get from the garden. Foods that you recognize as foods that you can actually pronounce and have a limited number of ingredients on the label.
- Eat ENOUGH real food. You don’t need to starve yourself to be healthy! Isn’t that good news? In order to have a healthy metabolism, you need to feed yourself enough so you have fuel to burn. This typically means 4-6 oz of protein at meals paired with healthy fat and some starchy and non-starchy veggies and/or fruit.
- Eat real food CONSISTENLY. This one is especially important for your blood sugar and your energy. Most people need to eat a meal or snack every 3-5 hours to keep blood sugars stable and to prevent energy dips. This will help eliminate cravings and eating real food consistently over a long period of time will give your body that vibrant health.
- Sleep 7-9 hours most nights. Getting enough sleep can be one of the most challenging things as adults, so spring is a great time to re-evaluate your sleep hygiene. Lack of sleep can lead to sugar cravings and overeating some of those high sugar processed foods that can disrupt your blood sugar, which is very stressful on the body. Sleep helps reduce your stress levels, decreases inflammation, boosts the immune system, and revs your metabolism because it gives the body time to rest and repair.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Our bodies are more than half water and it functions best when we're well hydrated. We want to drink enough water in order for our bodily processes to happen and for our metabolism to run better. When we're drinking enough water, our kidneys are supported and that relieves some of the stress on your liver, so that the liver is free to burn fat.
- Move your body. To boost metabolism, you’ve got to move your body. Choosing exercise and movements that can build muscle are especially important, because muscle is so critical to metabolic rate. But it's important to find something that you enjoy, like walking your dog, going on a bike ride, dancing, hiking, gardening, yoga, so that it becomes a habit you like doing regularly. Use your body in a way that builds some muscle and that brings some joy.
Still Want to Do a Cleanse?
Once you’ve focused on those six steps, if you are still feeling the itch to take your efforts up a notch, we’ve curated a little list of ways you can carry that new beginning energy into your healthy habits. Here are some healthy extra credit ideas to clean up your health:
- Spruce up your fridge and pantry: now is a great time to clean out the refrigerator and pantry shelves by looking at expiration dates and ingredient labels. Get rid of any expired products and check the labels for items that have hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats, refined oils, and added sugars (or ingredients you can’t pronounce!). Don’t forget to check your spices! Make a list of things to stock up on when you’re shopping next to help you get excited for what’s coming into season.
- Clear out household toxins to help your hormones: Here’s something you won’t see on most spring cleaning lists: throw out your cleaning products! Commercial products (think Windex, Pledge, etc.) are full of harsh endocrine disrupting chemicals that are best avoided entirely. This can also be described as body burden or the harmful chemical burden our body is placed under when exposed to toxic chemicals. These harsh cleaning chemicals can create a hormone imbalance within your body which can have many negative effects such as weight gain, mood changes, thyroid imbalances, and increased heart disease and cancer risk. A Dishing Up Nutrition episode entitled Estrogeneration – How Estrogenics Are Making You Fat, Sick and Infertile explains this connection well. Skip the risk and use vinegar with water instead, add some essential oils (if you have them on hand) and you’ll have the fresh smell without those lingering chemicals. If you prefer to buy cleaning products, look for natural lines, such as Mrs. Meyer’s or others that specifically state free from phosphates, parabens, phthalates, chlorine bleach, petroleum distillates, ammonia, fragrances (again, essential oils are ok), optical brighteners, sulfates, dyes, and fillers. Beyond cleaning products, the lotions or makeup you apply in the morning gets into your system and bloodstream faster than if you put it in your mouth (it only takes 26 seconds!). Your skin is your largest organ, and many people are shocked to learn that products they’ve been using on their bodies may be contributing to health issues like those listed above. Toss or recycle products that list parabens, phthalates, PEGs, BPA, EDTA, or Formaldehyde in the ingredient list. Going forward, https://www.ewg.org/ is a great resource for safe products.
- Prepare for allergy season by cleaning out the medicine cabinet and stocking up on some key supplements: it’s easy for time to pass quickly and for products to expire. Just like with your pantry, spring can be a yearly reminder to look through your stash and toss/recycle outdated products. If you’re already starting to experience spring allergies, we and many of our clients have seen great success with these supplements as a natural solution to allergy symptoms.
- Support your “detox” organs with a glass of lemon water, homemade bone broth, and probiotics: our bodies come equipped with our own built-in detoxification and elimination systems: our liver, kidneys, intestinal tract, lymphatic system, skin, and lungs. Making sure these organs are sufficiently hydrated is essential, so try starting your day with some lemon water with a pinch of salt or bone broth to get the day started on the right foot. The lemon is a gentle digestion stimulant, and the salt helps with water absorption and is also calming to our adrenal glands. Bone broth is chock full of collagen and other absorbable minerals, which is like a natural healing tonic for your system. Finding the right probiotic for you can be another great way to make sure your digestive system is absorbing nutrients and eliminating properly.
- Get support: it’s always a great time to check in with your support team and to remind yourself that you don’t have to do it alone. Schedule those doctor’s appointments, therapist visits, and lab checks. If you’re bogged down and overwhelmed by your goals or just confused with the signals your body is sending you, that’s what our nutritionists and dietitians are here for. We can help you problem-solve and get you feeling your best. We accept most health insurance plans and offer a couple wellness packages for ongoing support.
Spring Into Heathy Habits
So if you’re feeling the buzz to do a little spring cleaning, ditch the diet mentality and old cycles of restriction by focusing on how to nourish your body instead. Eat enough real food consistently, get plenty of sleep for rest and repair, hydrate for all the organs that are natural detoxifiers, and move your body with some of your favorite muscle-building exercises. For extra credit, clean out your pantry, fridge, medicine cabinet, and cleaning supplies. And as always, know that you are not on this health journey alone. We are here to support you, whether that’s through free resources on health topics that matter to you or in a customized counseling session suited just to you and your needs.
For more support on healthy habits this spring, check out these resources:
- Read: To make eating healthy a priority this spring, get some meal prep ideas from our nutritionists Brandy, Jolene, Alyssa, and Kristi!
- Listen: If you have some lingering Covid symptoms from cold and flu season, this Dishing Up Nutrition episode will be helpful Nutrition Tips for Covid Long Haulers
- Try: Smoothies are perfect to take on the go as you head outside to enjoy the weather, read How to Make the Perfect Smoothie here.
- Take: For support on your menopause journey, take our online Menopause Solutions and get six 1-hour recorded classes, a private Facebook group, and 79 page survival guide e-book.