Not to long ago, the phrase “to detox” normally referred to drug and alcohol recovery. Now, wellness gurus urge even the seemingly healthy, non-substance abuser to “detox” by eating certain whole foods—often vegan and sometimes raw. The movement has even crept into the mainstream. In most supermarkets, you’re likely to find smoothies boasting exotic berries full of antioxidants and cleansing power.
But are we really so dirty inside?
Given the Standard American Diet (SAD), comprised of processed foods and factory-farmed animal products, and its consequent health effects, it’s no surprise that an increasing number of us—vegans or not—have started seeking out an alternative way of eating.
But what about those of us who eat fairly healthy by most standards—those of us who enjoy the proverbial (organic) apple a day? Although I believed I’d always eaten well, I had a feeling I could do better. Also, I’d recently moved to Oregon for my graduate program and was preparing all of my own food for the first time. I was excited to develop my own eating style.
Kimberly Snyder, author of The Beauty Detox Solution and The Beauty Detox Foods, is a strong believer in daily detoxing—that is, eating clean every day. Snyder argues that there’s still room for dietary cleanup—even for vegans and raw foodists. She promises that eating a certain way will help you lose weight, gain energy, turn back the aging clock, and possess glowing, clear skin and a rockin’ bod. For Snyder, health and beauty are interchangeable. Her Beauty Detox Solution is not meant to be a quick fix, however. This is not a weeklong juice cleanse but a lifestyle.
The following are brief summaries of Snyder’s main Beauty Detox tenets:
–Avoid combining carbs and proteins. According to Snyder, carbs and proteins require very different digestive environments. Proteins require an acidic environment and the digestive enzyme, pepsin. Starches, on the other hand, require an alkaline environment and the digestive enzyme, ptyalin. These environments neutralize each other and greatly increase the time it takes us to digest a meal when it’s improperly combined. The longer food stays in our systems, the more likely it is to become “toxic sludge,” which backs up our colons and depletes our energy.
–Eat fruit on an empty stomach. Fruit breaks down more quickly than other foods. If it sits on top of foods that take longer to digest (such as carbs and protein), it will ferment in our warm bodies and cause digestive upset like gas.
–Eat light to heavy. For example, eat salad before rice.
–Eat organic when possible.
–Begin each meal with something raw in order to benefit most from raw food’s live enzymes.
–Eliminate consumption of dairy, meat, and other animal products. (Done, done, and done!)
–Eliminate processed foods.
–Eliminate caffeine—or, if one must, and I do, consume caffeine in moderation and from whole, organic sources, like organic green tea.
–Eliminate gluten-containing foods.
–Eliminate most soy—eat only whole, fermented soy products (tempeh, miso, tamari).
–Consume sugar in moderation and from whole food sources—i.e. maple syrup, coconut nectar. Otherwise, sweeten with stevia.
–Consume Snyder’s Glowing Green Smoothie once a day, preferably for breakfast.
–Eat a variety of fresh fruits and veggies daily.
I’ve been following these rules for over a year now, and my transition to this lifestyle has been joyful. For the most part, I don’t feel all that restricted in the kitchen. For breakfast, I usually have Snyder’s Glowing Green Smoothie and a bowl of steel-cut oats sprinkled with pumpkin spice. If I’m hungry by mid-morning, I’ll eat a piece of fruit or an avocado. I always start lunch with a large green salad and usually follow with a grain dish, like spiced quinoa or stir-fried brown rice and veggies. For an afternoon snack, I usually have gluten-free crackers or veggie sticks dipped in almond butter. Finally, for dinner, I often fry up a bit of tempeh and serve with steamed veggies and salad. I always eat a piece of dark chocolate for dessert! Throughout the day, I drink water with fresh-squeezed lemon juice–Snyder’s tip for boosting the detox warrior that is Vitamin C.
In the grocery store, I spend most of my time in the produce section—how can any one feel restricted with three varieties of kale in front of her? Eating out and dining in friends’ homes proves a bite more difficult—but I don’t need to tell vegans about finding creative solutions to these situations.
The Cons of the Diet:
I don’t consider the adjustment to this somewhat strict diet a con. I tend to enjoy the challenge that comes with healthy self-improvement. This way of eating keeps me aware of what I’m eating and how well it sits on my stomach—and I appreciate this.
I do have a few frustrations with the Beauty Detox Solution, however. Because Snyder is marketing to a variety of people with a wide array of health and beauty concerns, it’s understandable that she doesn’t go in depth with particular issues. Nonetheless, some of her solutions are a bit reductive. For example, she explains that acne occurs when “our skin has to pour out so many toxins,” the result of a clogged colon and/or yeast infection. Acne seems more complex, however, and I’d be interested in hearing her take on how hormones play a role in skin problems—and how diet plays a role in hormonal balance.
Occasionally, I feel overwhelmed by the pressure to eat perfectly. Mostly this pressure is coming from the perfectionist in me, but it’s hard not to feel that eating the wrong thing will pollute my liver—and skin, apparently—with toxins. At this point, my rational brain asks, “Um, toxins, is the situation really that extreme?” Perhaps—if I were eating beef injected with hormones—but what if I have a little organic tofu (being non-fermented soy, tofu is not allowed in the Beauty Detox Solution)?
The antidote to this mental back-and-forth, however, is practicing patience and gentleness. I am learning to be more gentle with myself, and say, “Hey, you’re doing a good job, and it will get easier.” Which, so far, has been the case.
I feel incredibly healthy on this diet—and it’s not just in my head. While I have never been a weakling, despite my small frame, I am physically stronger and more energetic than I was in high school and college. My hair grows like weed. I’m less prone to mood swings. When I began the diet, I was not trying to lose weight, but after a few months I lost five pounds that never returned. (I would not recommend this diet to those who need to put on weight).
I haven’t reached Beauty Detox bliss—my nails are still brittle and probably always will be, thanks genes. While my skin doesn’t breakout as badly as before, I certainly don’t have perfect skin, thanks again, genes—or should I say, toxins?
Let’s not forget, The Beauty Detox Foods, Snyder’s collection of recipes. These recipes are as delectable as the beautiful photography that accompanies them. I’d recommend it to any vegan, even if he’s not interested in the diet itself. This key lime pie always wins praise.
Although I’d still like to learn a lot more about those dreaded toxins, I can’t imagine not eating this way now, traveling and special occasions aside. It has become one of the most exciting, fulfilling parts of my life. Snyder dedicates her first book to her readers, writing: “I hope that applying this knowledge will free you, in the way it has freed me.” This always makes me tear up—eating whole, vegan foods has helped me enjoy food, love my body, and empower myself. And I feel wickedly free.
Also by Mary: 5 Best Fall Skin Savers
Photos: Mary Hood, Kimberly Snyder.