A ‘spring’ clean

I AM 40, and while I’m not too concerned by ageing, I have noticed telltale signs — some wrinkles, tiredness, and the few pounds of weight that refuse to go away.

As a working mother, I am on the go non-stop — cooking, cleaning, ferrying children, meeting deadlines, advising and disciplining — and there’s no time out for myself.

This is what being a parent is about. I am lucky, and not complaining, but it would be nice to have the time that some women (probably fictional) have to indulge in weekly facials, hour-long candle-lit baths, leisurely cleansing and exfoliating their skin before expertly applying expensive make-up.

My grooming consists of a quick shower, followed by a hasty dressing, a brush through my unruly hair and a slap of moisturiser.

I don’t have the time — I eat well but could do better, I exercise regularly but could do more.

When first asked by my editor to try a detox programme, I balked — I had neither the time nor the inclination to deny myself the few pleasures in my busy life. But I soon realised the benefits to my body of a 30-day purge of negative foodstuffs.

Jane Scrivner is a British-based detox expert who has sold hundreds of thousands of books. She runs a natural beauty company and her methods of cleansing the body so impressed Irish chef and nutritionist Dorcas Barry that she trained under Scrivner and set up her own detox courses here.

Over the phone, I asked both for advice and decided to take the plunge. Armed with Jane’s book and guilt-free recipes provided by Dorcas, I embarked on a challenging, four-week detox plan.

For one month, my forbidden ‘fruits’ included caffeine, alcohol, wheat, dairy, chocolate, sugar, meat and salt.

I gulped in trepidation at the upcoming challenge, but I had made my bed so I was adamant I would lie in it — with or without pangs of hunger.

I was enthusiastic on the first day and breezed into the kitchen to prepare my hot water and lemon — the only thing I could consume for the first half hour of every day. My three children watched me with amazement as they wondered why I had forgotten to put the teabag into my cup.

As I explained my diet plan, they all but guffawed at the notion of giving up ‘everything’ to cleanse my system. But little did they know, my new-found health kick would also have repercussions on their own biscuit intake.

Substituting my beloved tea and soda toast was difficult as I don’t like porridge or milk, so having soya milk on oat flakes was not going to work. After a truly revolting breakfast of orange juice over oat cereal, I needed to prepare for my detox in earnest.

Dorcas had provided me with recipe ideas, so, armed with a shopping list, I headed off for the supermarket. I knew I would be hungry, so made sure I was prepared with a handful of blueberries and an apple in my handbag.

After trawling the shelves for seeds, nuts and bucket loads of fruit and vegetables, I was ready to tackle the challenge.

But I wasn’t prepared for the effects of my caffeine withdrawal. On average, I would have three cups of tea a day, but the first evening of my detox, my head felt like it was being pounded by a sledge hammer and this was coupled by severe nausea — so bad that I had to skip my first dinner (which I had been waiting for all day) of fish, vegetables and brown rice, and collapsed into bed.

However, the following morning I felt refreshed and ready to start again, and this time was better as my larder was stocked with healthy food. So I breakfasted on soya yoghurt with toasted oats and pumpkin seeds and a piece of fruit.

Lunch was salad with smoked fish and more seeds, and dinner was a piece of salmon with salad and new potatoes.

It was a successful day. I had done everything required in the book — started with a dry body brush, had a cool shower and applied the Jane Scrivner detox oil (which smells delicious), I ate from within my list of required foods, drank at least two litres of water, got a four-mile walk in and finished the day with a long soak using Jane’s mineral bath salts.

One day down, 29 to go.

As the days wore on, no one was more astonished than me that I stuck to the regime. With my trusty detox book by my side and the knowledge that both Jane and Dorcas were counting on me to succeed, I carried on with my quest.

I discovered preparation was the key to success. I never went anywhere without a pocketful of healthy snacks and made sure all meals were planned in advance. There were a couple of wobbly moments (mostly on weekends), but I made sure to avail of the list of allowed ‘treats’.

Dorcas warned me that I shouldn’t view the programme as a weight-loss exercise, because most people don’t lose more than half a stone. I secretly imagined I would be a dress size smaller when I finished the detox, but, realistically, I was looking to feel vitalised and energised and, most importantly, to change my few naughty eating habits.

Over the month, I experienced a change to my health and wellbeing. I had more energy, felt more positive and enthusiastic (after I got over the initial irritability at the start of the detox) and people commented that I looked glowing.

I got a little bored towards the end, but kept reminding myself of how much of an achievement it would be to complete the programme.

So, although I never would have believed it possible, I saw the detox right through to the end. And while I don’t look drastically different (the photo above is the ‘before’ shot), I have lost a few pounds, have clearer, brighter skin tone, glossy hair and, most importantly, I have learned to think twice before reaching for the biscuit tin.

I had never detoxed before, but after this experience I will do it again whenever I want to refresh, revive and regain a bit of a sparkle.

* Detox Yourself by Jane Scrivner, Piatkus, €11.90. For details, see www.janescrivner.com.


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