Why Detox?

Milk is made from seeds at Kamalya in Koh SamuiThe word Detox has taken such a battering by the media over the past few years that there is more negative connotation and myth associated with it, than the wonderful vitality and rejuvenation it can bring to your health. A good detox program can literally be the start of a new lease on life and the essential first step down the path of long-term wellbeing.

Put simply, to detox means to give your blood a good clean, which has a profound and positive effect on your liver, kidneys, and every other organ of your body. Our blood accumulates toxins (more than it can filter out) from both external and endogenous (internal) sources. External toxins come into your body through poor diet, drinking too much alcohol, coffee and tea, stress, poor sleep, exposure to environmental toxins (pollution) and taking drugs… among other things. Endogenous sources are usually a result of hormonal or chemical imbalances, and by-products of the bacteria in our digestive system. Often excess endogenous toxins are a result of exposure to too many external toxins.

When your blood contains too many toxins it compromises every cell in the body. As a result your health pays a price… and ultimately your hip-pocket does too.

I remember the very first Detox program I did, and that intense feeling of being 100% healthy at the end. I had spent a week at The Farm at San Benito, Batangas in the Philippines (www.thefarm.com.ph). At the end of the program I had crystal-clear eyes, my skin was glowing and my energy levels were at an all-time high. My usual Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms were no more, and I had never felt so vibrant and healthy in my entire life. I remember thinking everyone should experience this feeling. Nirvana!

And yes, I confess that a medically supervised Detox program in a beautiful Spa environment, with food and juices prepared for you is a great way to Detox. However, I also believe that with enough motivation, commitment and advance preparation you can complete a very effective Detox program in the comfort of your own home.

So, taking the best bits from some of the wonderful Spas around the globe, expert advice from a number of highly regarded naturopaths and nutritionists, combined with my experience, I have created the Get Clean Get Lean program.

Before you embark, think about why you are doing this program. Is it to re-energise? Lose weight? Undo some of the damage done over the holidays? Or to kick-start a new, healthy lifestyle? Whatever your reason is, write it down. When temptation rears its ugly head, come back to the why you are doing this. I’m sure the reason why is much more meaningful to you than any temptation that may be put before you.

Also think about your end goal. Write that down too. How will it feel to achieve that goal? And what is your reward? Come on, we all need a deal sweetner! A little motivation to keep us on track. What will you reward yourself with (other than health and vitality) at the end of this program? Make it good… you deserve it!

My Get Clean | Get Lean program

Don’t Mess with My Metabolism


There is quite a bit of debate (for lack of a better word) around calorie-restricted or very low calorie diets (VLCD). Sure, restricting your calories will help you loose weight, but really cutting back on calories (below 1200 per day) is not the answer… especially for long-term results!

Creating Humps

When it comes to losing weight, the general rule of thumb is to expend more energy than you consume. Although this works for most of us, others fail to shift that fat even when they follow the strictest diet. The reason is simple. You cannot outsmart your body! As soon as you restrict your calorie intake, your body is awake to this and begins to ‘economise’ its energy expenditure. It effectively goes into Starvation Mode and tends to spare the fat stores, rather than use them up – the opposite of what you want!

When you finally can’t beat your body’s cry for food (particularly of the fast, energy-providing kind), off you go on a feeding frenzy, and binge until your heart’s content. Unfortunately, your body protects against another starvation and, rather than converting this food to glycogen and storing it in your muscles for immediate use, it thinks ahead and stores it as fat… a bit like a camel storing fat in its hump for a trek across the desert. Low calorie diets tend to encourage this kind of yoyo dieting, resulting in bigger humps than when you started!

What is Metabolism?

Your metabolism is a complex and finely tuned process. Every day, scientists learn more about how your metabolism operates and how different foods can affect it. The simplistic explanation for how your body metabolises fat is this: Your body’s first source of energy is from the blood glucose circulating in your blood, followed by the glycogen stores in your muscles. Once these have been depleted, your body looks to fat to supply its energy.

Some foods can actually increase your metabolism, getting to your fat stores quicker, and these are the foods you want to eat on a regular basis!

What is Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)?

You need a minimum amount of energy to maintain function of your vital organs, such as your heart, lungs, brain and nervous system, liver and kidneys, whether you are awake or asleep. This energy requirement is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the amount of energy you burn without moving or eating. It should not be confused with your BMI (Body Mass Index), which is a calculation to determine your ideal body weight for your height.

If you are interested in knowing your BMR, it can be calculated after fasting for 12 hours (to avoid increases in metabolism due to digestion of food). The best time to do the test is first thing in the morning after having naturally fasted during your sleep. Knowing your BMR allows you to establish a baseline, which is useful if you’re trying to lose weight or increase your metabolism through good nutrition and regular exercise.

What Can Cause My Metabolism to Slow Down?

  1. Ageing. As you age, your metabolism naturally slows. However, more research is showing that this decline has less to do with the ageing process and more to do with the fact that we become less active as we age. Reduced physical activity equals reduced lean muscle. Lean muscle is the furnace your body recruits to burn calories and maintain a quality of life that is both energetic and healthful.
  1. Thyroid Function. Certain thyroid imbalances can impact your metabolism. However, you would be surprised by how many people visit the doctor claiming thyroid-related weight issues, only to find their thyroid is perfectly normal. The culprit tends to be overeating, one of the main causes of metabolic slow-down.
  1. Dieting. We’ve already covered, but without making to fine a point of this, please eat sensibly and nutritiously – starving yourself is stupid!

What Can I Do to Increase My Metabolism and Burn More Calories?

Here are two ways you can supercharge your metabolism:

1. Regular Exercise

No surprises here! Physical activity has a profound effect on your energy expenditure. The great news is that you can increase your metabolic rate by 10 times during continuous ‘big muscle’ activity, such as resistance training, cycling, running, fast walking, tennis, swimming. Under normal circumstances, physical activity accounts for 15% to 30% of your total daily energy expenditure.

2. Eating Particular Foods

Eating food increases energy metabolism in two ways. The first results from the energy needed to digest the nutrients and fibre in your food. The second relates to the activation of your nervous system to stimulate your metabolic rate. The effect of just eating can add to energy use by 10% and reaches its maximum effectiveness within one hour after eating.

And believe it or not, there are foods that speed up your metabolism and take short cuts to your fat stores, helping you lose weight.

Read: Fat Burning Foods!


Diets are filled with dogma about when, what and how much to eat. These ‘rules’ are usually based on observations that make sense, but unless you understand why you do certain things, you will break the rules as soon as the temptation is greater than your motivation. Let’s examine some of these myths, where they come from and how to make some long-term changes that will work for you.

Myth: Don’t Eat After 7pm

Your metabolism doesn’t shut off at 7:01pm, so why is this rule so common? It is based on the observation that a lot of people who struggle with their weight overeat in the evening. Most people have eaten dinner by 7pm, so they don’t snack because they’re hungry, they snack because of boredom, loneliness, television or other triggers.

Rather than creating a rule to address those habits, if you feel like eating in the evening, simply ask yourself, ‘Am I hungry?’. If you truly are, then eat, keeping in mind that your day is winding down, so you don’t need a big meal. If you don’t feel truly hungry, consider why you feel like eating and come up with a better way to address that feeling. Ken, a man in one of my workshops, realised he often ate out of boredom, so he started doing stained glass in the evening to entertain himself. Whatever works!

Myth: Eat Small Meals Every 3 Hours

This rule is based on the fact that many thin people tend to eat frequent small meals. However, most of the thin people I know don’t check their watch to tell them it’s time to eat, they eat when their body tells them to. They eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re satisfied. That tends to be a small meal. Then they eat when they get hungry again in a few hours.

Instead of watching the clock, start tuning in to the physical symptoms of hunger to tell you when to eat. And remember, your stomach is only about the size of your fist, so it only holds a handful of food comfortably. By learning to listen to your body’s signals, you are likely to follow a frequent small meal pattern naturally.

Myth: Don’t Let Yourself Get Hungry

This one is based on the belief that overweight people are incapable of controlling themselves when they are hungry. In my experience with hundreds of workshop participants, once overweight people learn to tell the difference between physical hunger and head hunger, the opposite is true.

Think about it. When you’re hungry, food tastes better and is more satisfying. My grandmother used to say, “Hunger is the best seasoning.” Besides, if you aren’t hungry when you start eating, what’s going to tell you to stop? Of course, you also need to learn to recognise hunger and make time to eat before you are over-hungry, since it’s much harder to make great choices when you’re starving!

Myth: Exercise More When You Cheat with Your Diet 

I hate this one because it has caused millions of people to equate physical activity with punishment for eating. As a result, many people either hate to exercise or use exercise to earn the right to eat.

While it’s true that your weight is determined by your overall ‘calories in versus calories out’, exercise is only part of the equation and has so many other important benefits. Instead of using exercise to pay penance, focus on how great you feel, how much more energy you have, how much better you sleep and how much healthier you are becoming. In the long run, you are more likely to do something because it feels good than because you are forced to.

Myth: Follow Your Diet 6 Days a Week and You Can Have a Cheat Day

This is absurd! What if you were a harsh, overly strict parent six days a week, then let your kids do whatever they wanted to on the seventh day? Imagine how this approach would work for your marriage or managing your employees.

It just doesn’t make sense to try to be perfect (whatever that is) for six days a week, then on the seventh day you overeat just because you’re allowed to and you end up feeling miserable all day. Personally, I would rather enjoy eating the foods I love every day mindfully and in moderation. I call this being ‘in charge’, instead of going back and forth between being in control and out of control.

Myth: Eat X Number of Calories (or X Number of Points) Every Day

Does it make sense that you need exactly the same amount of fuel every day? Aren’t there just days when you are hungrier than others, due to your activity levels or hormonal cycles?

Rather than setting yourself up to ‘cheat’ on those hungry days and forcing yourself to eat more food than you want on your less hungry days, allow yourself the flexibility to adjust your intake based on your actual needs, rather than an arbitrary number. Important: for this to work long-term, you also need to learn to tell the difference between physical hunger and head hunger.

Myth: Carbs are Bad (or Fat is Bad) 

This ‘good food – bad food’ thinking makes certain foods special. As a result, you may feel deprived and think about them even more than you did before. Worse yet, healthy foods become a four-letter word. The truth is that all foods fit into a healthy diet. Since different foods have various nutritional qualities and calorie content, you can use the principles of balance, variety and moderation to guide you, without trying to restrict an entire food group.

Truth: You Are in Charge!

I assume the rule-makers are well-intentioned and don’t realise they have created a tightrope that most people will fall off sooner or later. If your head has not already told you that all these rules are crazy, I’m sure your heart is saying there has to be a better way.

It’s time to give yourself a wider path on which you can stay forever. Allow yourself the flexibility to make any decision, as long as you consider the advantages and disadvantages of your choices and always keep self-care in mind.

About the Author

Michelle May, MD, is a recovered yoyo dieter and founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Program, which received the Excellence in Patient Education Innovation Award. She is the award-winning author of Am I Hungry?: What to Do When Diets Don’t Work. Her latest book is Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break the Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. To learn more about mindful eating, visit www.AmIHungry.com.