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

How to Get 6-Pack(ish) Abs


Chris Shipman Photography

Wouldn’t you love to have trim, taut abs? Or even a little less of the muffin-top? Or what about more core strength? Well, this isn’t as elusive as it sounds. Your abs are one of the easiest muscles to strengthen, and by exercising them three to four times a week, you’ll start to notice results in as little as two weeks. While I would never put myself through the torture of an excessive abs routine, I am proud to admit that after having three children my core still holds strong. Before you get down and give me 20, there are a few essential factors you need to consider if you are to reach your goal of a firmer, flatter stomach… with a hint of a six-pack!

Rule #1

A well-defined 6-pack requires muscular hypertrophy of the abdominal muscles i.e. you need to exercise those muscles! You don’t need any fancy (read: gimmicky) ab equipment, just a mat or a towel and some space. 5-10 minutes would be useful as well.

Rule #2

Unfortunately, you can have the best abs on the planet, but if you’re carrying extra weight (i.e. fat) you’re not going to see those toned abs hidden beneath. So if you want to see your six-pack, a low level of body fat is essential (sub-15%).

Contrary to popular belief, no amount of abs training will reduce the body fat that covers your midsection. The only way to reduce the fat covering your abs is to follow a smart nutritional program and a well-designed training regime that increases your metabolism and naturally stimulates your fat-burning hormones. Lose the fat, and get a wonderful surprise at what lies below.

Rule #3

Anything worth while is worth doing properly. Don’t go crazy and go from doing nothing for your abdominals to doing 100 sit-ups a day. It will probably result in an injury and damage to your back. Start small and build up. Consider quality over quantity. And if you’re not sure if your technique is correct, get advice or help from a qualified instructor.

There is no concrete evidence to suggest the perfect number of reps, since we’re all different and have different levels of strength. What we do know is that, as a small muscle group, the rectus abdominus is easily over-trained, making rest and recovery essential. The quantity I have suggested is to be used as a guide only. Work within your capabilities. And train your abs every second day, or even wait until the third day if you’re still sore from the previous session.

Once you’ve got your diet in order, it’s time to hit the floor to work those abs into shape.

The three muscle groups we’re talking about are:

1. rectus abdominus – the long, flat muscle extending all the way down the front of your abdomen

2. obliques – the external obliques are the widest muscles in your body, running diagonally down from the middle of your ribcage to your pelvis, while the internal obliques lie beneath, running diagonally up from your pelvis to your ribcage

3. transversus abdominus – a thin patch of muscle that runs horizontally down your side beneath your internal obliques

You need to exercise all 3 muscle groups each time you do your ab exercises. They are in a perfect anatomical balance, and if you work one over another, you’ll throw out your alignment. Anyway, enough theory, let’s put it to practise!

Below are my favourite exercise because you can do them anywhere, any time, and you will get results… guarantee!

1. Bicycle Manoeuvre

Lie flat with your lower back pressed to the floor. Put your hands beside your head (beginners may prefer to rest their elbows on the floor). Bring your knees up to a 45 degree angle. Slowly go through the motion of pedalling a bicycle. Maintain even, relaxed breathing. Start with 10 cycles (each leg) and build up. Or do 30 seconds, then 40 etc.

2. Bicycle Manoeuvre with Oblique Twist (Russian Twist)

Same as exercise 1, except touch your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee.

3. Crunch on Exercise Ball

Sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor. Let the ball roll back slowly. Lie back on the ball until your thighs and torso are parallel with the floor. Cross your arms over your chest. Slightly tuck your chin in towards your chest. Contract your abdominals and raise your torso to about 45 degrees, then return to the starting position. For better balance, spread your feet wider apart. To challenge your obliques, make the exercise less stable by keeping your feet closer together. Exhale as you contract; inhale as you return to the starting position. If you don’t have a Ball, the floor will do. Start with 15-20 and gradually build up to more.

4. Vertical Leg Crunch

Lie flat with your lower back pressed to the floor. Extend your legs straight up in the air, with a slight bend in your knees. Contract your abs by lifting your legs. Keep your chin off your chest as you contract. Exhale as you contract; inhale as you return to the starting position. This is quite tough, so if you are a beginner do these with your knees bent. Start with 10 and build up.

5. Hover or Plank

This is my all-time favourite exercise. It gets your entire core in one ‘foul’ move! Lie face down on the floor. Get into the push-up position, except with your elbows on the floor instead of your hands. Elevate yourself, with just your elbows and toes on the floor. Keep you palms flat on the floor. (Beginners may prefer to use knees rather than toes, with feet crossed over each other).  Hold for 30 seconds, and build up to 1, 2 or even 3 minutes for the hard-core (pun intended!).

Do 1 set of each of these exercises every other day. After week one, do 2 sets, then aim for 3 sets. Do this in conjunction with a good nutrition and exercise program and in four weeks you’ll be looking (and feeling) great!


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.