You’ve done the research. You bought the book. You even downloaded the app. Now all you have to do is actually do it. Do cleanses really freak people out that much? Apparently, yes.
It’s all right to be a little nervous or even scared before starting your first cleanse, but the experts say the best way to have a successful cleanse is to be prepared.
“Yes, it can be a challenge,” says Amanda Rose Walsh, a certified personal trainer in NYC who cleanses twice a year. “But if you prepare really well, and go in with very clear intentions and you have tools in place for when it does get challenging, it’s all worth it for how you’re going to feel after you’re done.”
Here are six things you need to do before diving in.
Cut the crap. A week to 10 days before you start your cleanse, begin eliminating things like coffee, sugar and processed foods from your diet — you know, all the stuff that tastes good, but doesn’t do much for your health. If you don’t, be prepared for the consequences. “If you do not prepare properly, it’s going to be much more challenging and a much more miserable experience,” says Walsh. “Cleaning up your diet is key. Lots of veggies, whole grains, things that are really clean and easily digestible.”
Pick a start day and stick to it. Examine your schedule and work your cleanse around any upcoming events where you may be tempted to cheat. Kareen Turner, a registered dietician in Southern California, says that any good cleanse product has a transition period in the beginning, in which case it would be best to start on a weekend.
“If you’re going to do one that lasts five to seven days where you’ll be going to work or to school, I think it’s good to get started on a weekend so that you have two days to get into the routine and for your body to get used to it,” she says.
Prepare your kitchen. Time to hit the grocery store! “Definitely get your kitchen into order in terms of making sure you have all the products that you’ll need, all the food that you’ll need, so that you’re not either skipping part of the regimen or going off the schedule,” says Turner. “Sometimes that’s when people will get tempted to go off of it — when they don’t have what they need in front of them.”
Massachusetts doctor Kirti A. Patel, who not only cleanses herself, but regularly recommends cleansing to her patients, suggests having lots of pure, filtered water on hand and to buy organic food as much as possible. “Avoid allergenic foods such as gluten and dairy,” she advises. “I personally also think it’s wise to avoid all animal products.”
Schedule workouts accordingly. Don’t do anything too challenging when you’ll be starving later and can’t eat! “The whole point is to allow your body to detoxify, so you want to use your energy on that, not necessarily on working out,” says Walsh.
Have a plan. When you encounter your first challenging moment during the cleanse, know how you’ll deal with it. “If the first day you’re cleansing, and you’re feeling really tired or you have a headache, what are some things you can put in place?” asks Walsh. “For example, maybe you buy some new teas, or you have a journal ready, where you can start writing some of your experiences down.”
It is equally important to prepare and know what to expect after the cleanse is over. Because your body is more vulnerable after a cleanse, stay really mindful of what you start adding back in, says Walsh.
Plus, you’ve likely heard how people who do cleanses often gain right back the weight they lost, which is true — if you don’t change your diet afterwards. “If you’re really trying to make a lifestyle change, decide on what your lifestyle change is first, do your research on that, so that after the cleanse you can just move in to that diet,” says Turner.
Manage expectations. This goes for you and those around you. You may have heard how the third day of a cleanse is really tough, or that you’ll be running to the bathroom the entire time you’re cleansing — and this will be true for some, but not all. Turner says the main variant of how intense your symptoms will be depends on how healthy (or not) you were before starting the program.
Another great help for you will be not keeping your cleanse a secret from everyone you come in contact with on a daily basis. “If you’re the only person in your family doing a cleanse, have a talk with them of what will be helpful and what won’t be helpful,” says Turner. Likewise for your co-workers, who likely will admire your determination and not try to tempt you with leftover birthday cake found in the office break room (unless they’re really mean).
And what about those people who don’t respect your decision and claim cleansing is just a quick fix? Well, the doctor has this to say: “Some people think cleanses are a form of extreme and unhealthy dieting,” Dr. Patel says. “Certainly, there are people who abuse cleanses for that purpose, but in general, when done judiciously, they are extremely healthy.”
And because you’ve done your research and are well prepared, let your naysayers know that you are doing it the healthy way.