This year instead of resolutions, I decided to take on a different wellness challenge every month. The idea was that by pushing myself for a short period of time to change a habit, I wouldn't face that horrible feeling of failure when I'd revert back to my old ways. Instead, I could revert back to them no matter what, having accomplished something major for a few short weeks.
Even if you're sticking with the more traditional rules approach to turning over a new leaf, falling off the wagon doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. By exploring extremes at one time or another, and doing so with awareness, you can create a path forward that honors some of the healthy lessons you learned, but still leaves room for those other hedonistic non-negotiables.
This month for my challenge, like many people come January 1st, I took on detox. Instead of juicing or cleansing, to me this meant eliminating the liver's three biggest foes: alcohol, sugar and caffeine.
I have absolutely no intention of omitting these vices entirely from my life. But through the experience of going without, I've found some easy health hacks that I can use going forward, so that my inevitable re-tox doesn't completely undo all the good my detox did.
Regardless of whether or not your resolutions include or omit sugar, alcohol or caffeine, we could all probably use a few rules to protect from our lesser selves on these fronts. Here are some of mine for the year ahead:
1. Never drink caffeine or eat sugar on an empty stomach.
Even if you revert completely back to your old habits with these two vices, make sure you have a small bite of food first to limit the negative effects on your blood sugar and hormone levels. This goes for green juice as well. Without fiber, all that fresh organic apple juice is a sugar bomb waiting to detonate in your bloodstream. Try drinking it as a supplement with your meal instead of a meal in and of itself.
2. Take activated charcoal before and after you drink.
There are times in our social lives — a best friend's bachelorette, a client dinner, or your own birthday — when peer pressures may force you to drink more than you'd like. Charcoal absorbs toxins in your system and will help your liver deal with all the tequila on its plate. Warning: it will also absorb other things, so make sure to take it 2 hours before or after any medication.
3. Use frozen fruit and vegetables for your morning smoothies.
To eliminate added sugar from my morning routine, I started making fresh smoothies with whole fruit. Having frozen ingredients on hand at all times will make you 10 times more likely to actually make good on this healthy ritual. I buy pre-frozen blueberries, kale, and strawberries. For bananas, I'll get a big bunch, peel them when I get home from the market, cut them in half, and store them in a Ziplock bag in the freezer for easy usage.
4. Make lemon water ice cubes.
Lemon water is a great replacement for your morning coffee. It's a natural detoxifier and alkalizes your system. Similar to the above, you can make the little work involved in throwing together some lemon water even easier by prepping frozen cubes. Add other healthy ingredients like fresh ginger, mint or cayenne to make your morning drink even more enjoyable. Even adding this beverage to your routine prior to your coffee will do the body good.
5. Go one for one with alcohol and water.
Even if you're drinking in moderation, besides the impact on your liver, alcohol's other most harmful side effect is dehydration. Having a glass of water for every drink you consume will help lessen the blow and potentially slow down your total consumption by giving you something else to orally fixate on in between martinis.
6. Use raw honey at home.
The best natural sweetener is by far raw honey, which was used in ancient remedies for its anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal qualities. If you're craving something sweet, try using Manuka honey in place of refined sugars. 80% of packaged foods contain added sugar, including salad dressing, sauces, and even sandwich bread! Making your own condiments from scratch and using raw honey is a great way to control your fructose intake and still get the tastes of the foods you love.
The Wellness Project is a year-long blog series (and upcoming memoir) about how to find the balance between health and hedonism. To find out more about the inspiration behind the project and to get the monthly theme schedule, click here. For the list of upcoming experiments, see my article 12 Monthly Wellness Challenges For the Year Ahead on MindBodyGreen and follow along!