Detoxing Diaries - When Living The 'Hai Life Gets Too Much
Life in Shanghai can sometimes be tough on the liver and waistline, so we recently joined Sprout Lifestyle’s two week Detox Challenge to try and eat our way to detox, and be clean from the inside out!
Sprout Lifestyle are all about food education for nutrition, and advocate preventative health, wholesome meals and learning about your own health through interactive classes and workshops. We decided to join Sprout Lifestyle on one such workshop, their two week Detox Challenge.
Sprout Lifestyle is a health food retail store, offering all natural food, snacks and other healthy products, with an events space for interactive cooking classes and workshops. The company aims to take their clients on an informative journey to sustainable, healthy eating, eventually inspiring them to “grow more healthy habits”, or so we are told…
Our two week programme was led by Kimberly Ashton, a qualified, health coach, food educator and nutrition consultant, who wanted to feed and nourish us with functional foods and dive deeper into our detox organs such as the liver, kidneys and lymphatic system.
The main elements that we were aiming to purge during the detox were pesticides, chemicals, additives, preservatives, colours, flavourings and that pesky MSG, which seems to be thrown in everywhere. Harder on the list of items to cut from the everyday diet were sugar, including sugary foods such as sauces, drinks and snacks, as well as caffeine. We were also advised to try and reduce stress and negative emotions, as well as pollutants from the air and water, which isn’t exactly easy to achieve in Shanghai.
For the first week of the detox, we followed the Body Awakening cleansing and detox protocol, a kit designed to neutralise and eliminate toxins created internally and externally. We were also given our own customised Sprout Lifestyle whole foods eating plan, with Ashton’s Detox Challenge e-book and her personal one-on-one support via email along with two group workshops.
We each received a large, carefully packed, Body Awakening Kit, containing nine bottles: 3Greens, spirulina tablets, chlorella tablets, laxative TCM tea, goji and red date TCM tea, goji and chrysanthemum flower TCM tea, psyllium seed husks, honey and Flax Seeds, which became the foundation of our cleanse.
We were encouraged to follow the Body Awakening program for five days to totally rest the digestive system, primarily through drinking juices, smoothies, broths, blended soups, teas and high fiber beverages.
Although the first day was tiring, and we felt slightly light headed, we managed to complete our everyday routines, and even fit in a workout. By the end of the initial five days, our energy levels had lifted, and we didn’t feel like we needed to eat, however, the desire for food was strong. After consuming only liquids, it really made us reassess whether or not our normal intake of food is necessary. We also saw many benefits, such as glowing skin, better sleeping patterns and, of course, weight loss. After reducing, our food intake for a week, we began eating light and healthy meals, and followed a healthy meal plan and recipe guide laid out for us by Sprout Lifestyle and attended a final detoxification and nutrition workshop.
Although challenging at times, we found this programme to be educational and rewarding. We have seen long lasting health benefits, such as a sustainable weight loss, and have re-evaluated our eating habits in a positive way. Although this kind of detox isn’t for everyone, it is well worth a try if you are willing to commit to the rules.
Kimberly Ashton, Chief Sprouting Officer at Sprout Lifestyle and health coach, food educator and nutrition consultant, gave us her top tips on detoxing, and how to avoid re-toxing.
Talk: Is it truly possible to detox in a city such as Shanghai, with a lack of Western ingredients and health foods along with a culture of dining out?
Kimberly Ashton: Yes, I believe so. But we need to have self-control, motivation and determination. There are plenty of ways to detox and it’s how you define "detoxification". People can detox in the city by just cutting back or eliminating alcohol, fatty foods, meat, sugar and tobacco – these toxins are a wonderful way to clean the body. Resting the organs and digestive system is good on any level. In terms of Western ingredients and health foods, I don't think its necessary. There are plenty of light eating options, vegetarian options, fresh fruits and vegetables available in wet markets and supermarkets for people to do their own detox.
Dining out is a different challenge, and definitely harder to stay healthy with so many "temptations." I don't think people have to be anti-social and not go out, but they might have to cut down, make healthier selections in restaurants to dine at, or eat something before they meet friends and then just have a salad or vegetables, or not eat. Again it’s about self-commitment and accountability to yourself. If you decide to do a detox, then do it, and do it properly. Recognise the benefits you'll gain, the good you are doing your own body and organs and stick to it.
You don't need spirulina or super foods to do a detox, flaxseeds, leafy green vegetables, and nutrient, hydration and high fibre-rich vegetables are available in abundance in Shanghai!
Talk: Is detoxing just a fad or is it actually a long-term health solution?
KA: Both. I think the fad of juicing is a short-term rest for the digestion, but without fibre, movement or exercise and elimination (bowel movements) there is no detoxification in my opinion. So, for people to eat their way to detox by adding in amazingly healthful foods, such as whole grains (brown rice or black rice for example), psyllium husk, flaxseed powder, flaxseed oil, loads of vegetables and more variety of vegetables, it’s totally possible.
I also teach people about the lymphatic system and encourage lymphatic drainage through massage and dry brushing, these are important rituals and healthy habits to adopt not just during a detox period, but in everyday life to keep the lymph moving – it’s our waste disposal system in the body.
I always ask people the vital question, “What are you detoxing from?” You don't need to go to extremes, just resolve one thing at a time. So if smoking is your biggest toxin, then detox from that. If hamburgers and French fries are, then detox from that.
Talk: Is detoxing safe and healthy for all?
KA: No, definitely not. I also believe that detox programmes should always have a disclaimer and warning, many I have seen do not. Detoxing isn't suitable for pregnant women, those with nutritional deficiencies such as anaemia, or medical conditions. People should always consult their doctor before they start a detox programme if they are unsure.
Talk: How can you stop yourself retoxing as soon as the detox programme is over?
KA: That’s the hardest part! And why I don't encourage or advocate extremes. If you go to one extreme, its highly likely you will rebound harder and crave sweets, junk, salt, strong flavours. I'm more in favour of a lifestyle shift and using any kind of detox programme as a first step to getting healthier, changing your taste buds, correcting a health issue or rebalancing the body from the inside.
To stay committed, remind yourself of your motivations to detox in the first place, for example be in weight management, clearer skin, better digestion, kick an addiction. It’s important not to use the word "guilt" or negative emotions. Do your best to eat healthily most of the time, learn about new ingredients, vegetables, digestible proteins, whole grains, high fibre and start adding these into your life. The more good stuff you add in, the less of the bad stuff you will want to eat. That is a long term and sustainable solution – I don't suggest quick fixes. They don't address the underlying cause or issues.
Other ways to stay healthy in the city…
After various meat scandals, many Shanghai residents may have already decided to make the change and become vegetarian for health reasons. Furthermore, becoming a vegetarian may not only be beneficial to you on a personal level by eating foods naturally lower in fat, high in fibre, free from cholesterol (research in the past has also shown that being vegetarian has demonstrated its effectiveness on preventing heart diseases, diabetes and cancer), but also the environment by not contributing to the pollution caused by the meat industry.
If you are thinking about making a change and becoming a vegetarian, it is important to educate yourself whilst making this lifestyle change, in order to avoid being unhealthy in your approach. It may take a while to break the meat-eating habit, but in time, if you desire, you will be able to lead a meat free life. After all, we are in the best country in the world to benefit from superb tofu dishes!
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Consider Chinese Traditional Medicine as a way to stay healthy in China. TCM is a preventive and healing medical system, which offers a range of preventive healing approaches including TCM diet, Taijiquan, Qigong, acupuncture, massage, cupping and Gua Sha.
TCM is very much about understanding the importance of Ying and Yang, as well as the flow of Qi. Doris Rathgeber, founder of Body And Soul Medical Clinics, gave us some suggestions on how to use the methodology of TCM to lead a healthier life. “Balancing Yin and Yang means balancing active and passive phases of the day. We need to work and rest, do exercise and relax, train the brain and relax it! We need to sleep sufficiently and early enough and we need to move the body in the morning hours of the new day. Shanghai is a loud and very active city, we need to find space and room for complete relaxation and mental freedom. As this does not come easy in Shanghai, we need to plan these moments actively!”