In Defense of Detoxing

Photos: Sakara Life

In January, a whole lot of people cut back on sugar and alcohol, and that's widely considered to be a good thing—a way to gently reset the body for the new year. But say the word "detox" and eyes start to roll.

There are good reasons, of course. The controversial practice has long been linked to dangerous deprivation diets and pseudo-science. But Danielle DuBoise and Whitney Tingle, founders of Sakara Life—the organic, plant-based meal delivery service vegans adore—are firmly in the pro camp, and they're eager to push back against the detoxing-is-BS mindset. 

"We define detoxing as eating clean for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but also finding your balance," Tingle says. The co-founders believe that January is a good time to start, but really consider any stretch of time in which you A) commit to cutting out all processed foods, and B) tune in to what you truly need physically and emotionally to be an effective detox. In other words, it's about making it your own.

And being extra diligent for just one month can lead to big changes throughout the rest of the year, which is why they recommend detoxing to everyone—even super-mindful eaters.

Here's why Sakara Life's founders are pro-detox (but not deprivation).

Sahara Life food

Reason #1: A month-long detox sets the tone for the rest of the year

To the duo, detoxing isn't about sacrificing a "vice" (or several) for a month then going back to the way things were. "We use it as a time to lay the foundation for the rest of the year," DuBoise says, which means giving yourself time to really think about—and experiment with—the wellness practices you want to cultivate year-round.

And while clean eating is at the core of Sakara's January Reset, it's not just about changing your diet. Consider questions like, How do I want to move my body in 2017? How can I ignite my creativity this year?

Then give yourself permission to spend your detox month in a state of discovery, experimenting with different ways to turn those broader goals into daily habits. "Maybe you've never meditated before, but you try an app and you continue the practice," DuBoise says. "Or you learn a new way to enhance [a habit] you already have."

Sakara Life founders

Reason #2: Detoxing helps you zero in on what your body actually wants

When you commit to cutting out processed foods for one whole month, you basically stop playing games with your body, Tingle says—which is a good thing. "So much of what's on grocery shelves is scientifically engineered so you hit a bliss point and never feel full," she explains. "That's literally brain hacking. Ninety-five percent of serotonin receptors are in your microbiome, and your microbiome is telling your brain how to feel and what actions to take."

Once you cut out the kinds of foods that mess with your brain signals, you immediately start to tune into what your body really needs. You'll notice when you're actually full, Tingle says, and what foods cause you bloating or digestive distress. Spending a month in which you're really committed to cultivating that kind of knowledge will help you all year long. 

Sahara Life food

Reason #3: It's an opportunity to look for healthier (but equally enjoyable) rituals

While letting go of that 3 p.m. vending machine run—or that nightly glass of pinot—might seem like a sacrifice, both women see it as an opportunity to search for healthier rituals that, yes, you actually love just as much.

"Food is medicine, so instead of self-soothing with medication or something that isn't great for you, there are plant-based tools at your disposal," Tingle explains.

A detox is a great time to think about what certain "vices" are giving you—and then to look for alternatives. Maybe it's swapping alcohol for a post-work gentle yoga class, or ice cream for a square of delicious, heart-healthy dark chocolate.

"You should have a relaxing ritual at the end of the day," Tingle adds. It's not about eliminating those moments of joy; it's about searching for new modes of self-care that might serve you in ways you haven't yet imagined.

Want more "new year, new you" inspo? Here's the ultimate guide to having your best—and healthiest–year yet. Plus, check out these gut friendly mocktail recipes—you won't be missing alcohol at all! 

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