This article originally appeared on VICE Spain.
What a summer it's been, eh? All those days spent in the park, eating curiously cheap barbecue meats, drinking corner shop daiquiris, possibly hoovering up powders you can't actually afford—it must have been a real hoot. Unfortunately, the season's all but over and it's time to re-enter the cruel realm of daily life.
After having spent the best part of three months pummeling yourself with seasonal decadence, you might find it hard to restore your body's temple-of-health status. I called nutrition specialist Cristina Muñoz Sedeño for advice on how to piece our booze-addled insides back together.
VICE: As a specialist, what do you make of all this summer excess?
Cristina Muñoz Sedeño: Firstly, people should really be asking themselves why they see their holidays as an excuse for excess. Most people seem to use their holidays as a way to escape from their normal lives. What I propose is that people take a moment to reflect on whether or not they're living the sort of lives they want. And if not, they should figure out what sort of life they would like to be leading. As soon as you figure that out, everyday can be a holiday.
It may sound utopian, but it really isn't. It's great to use the summer to do things that we aren't able to do the rest of the year—but we shouldn't be wanting to escape our lives. When we take drugs, drink, smoke, or eat too much, we are searching for sensations that help us forget real life. These things don't resolve any of our problems; they only make them worse. For every hard night out, there's a hangover—and with that comes the need to stuff ourselves with sugars, carbohydrates, saturated fat, painkillers, and prescription drugs. These things serve not only to aggravate our state of intoxication but also increase our blood sugar levels.
Okay. But let's just say that I happened to do a few too many drugs over the last few weeks. What should I do now?
You should ask yourself why you are doing drugs. Is it for fun or are you running away from something deeper? Once you've answered that question, you should stop taking them. The process of detoxification starts as soon as you stop putting toxins into your body. Our livers and our kidneys aren't able to purify the body if they are busy trying to manage toxic substances.
Changes in our diet and lifestyle can help us overcome various addictions. We can actually increase the production of serotonin and endorphins (the neurotransmitters that produce happiness), not only with chemical substances but also naturally. A diet based on fruits and vegetables will help your body function well chemically. Their vitamins and minerals will accelerate the purification process. If you couple this with plenty of oils, you'll do wonders for your intestinal health. That, in turn, will help you regain your natural energy, vitality, motivation, and, most importantly, it help you feel good about yourself.
Should I join a gym or something?
We should avoid falling into quick fix diets or signing up to the gym only to quit a month later. What actually works is changing long-term habits. We need to eliminate the sources of toxins without becoming obsessed. We need to remove stimulants, chemicals, and alcohol, soft drinks, canned food, gluten, and increase our intake of fruits and vegetables. A good place to start is drinking juices or green smoothies for breakfast, and then gradually work up to eating raw salads for lunch or dinner. Raw foods act as tonics but are also high in nutrients and provide your body with large doses of vitamins and minerals.
OK. Is there anything else I should be eating?
When you get up in the morning, press half a lemon into a pint of water and drop a teaspoon of squeezed wheat grass or chlorella in there. Wait at least half an hour after drinking this before eating your breakfast. Like I said, a good breakfast could be a green smoothie or juice. Green leaves, are full of chlorophyll, which purifies and regenerates both blood and tissue. They also have a lot of fiber, which is very cleansing and high in nutrients.
For lunch, a nice salad of mixed green leaves and vegetables, and then a plate of gluten free cereals (millet, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, brown rice) with vegetables. Maybe a few tomatoes stuffed with quinoa. For dinner, a salad of apple, celery, walnuts, grated carrot and a garnish of lemon juice, cumin, ginger and a little agave syrup. Cream of pumpkin soup with coconut milk is good too.
How long does it take to recover from having too much fun?
It really depends on your state of intoxication. Nowadays, we all have lots of accumulated toxins. Not only after the summer, but after years and years of eating poorly, using chemical-laden personal hygiene products, and environmental pollution. So this isn't about having a single detox-week, but about making progressive changes in our lifestyle so as to improve our health and long-term welfare.
Should all of this happen suddenly or gradually?
Sudden changes are never good. That's why diets never work; they just make us hungry and provoke anxiety. You should go slowly when eliminating toxins and gradually introduce more vegetables and raw foods. There are healthy substitutes to almost any type of food. Physically, as soon as we start living clean and purifying our body, we begin to eliminate toxins. This can produce effects like fatigue, headaches and even nausea, because the toxins are in our blood. So, yeah, a gradual detox is advisable.
How does one go about fixing their sleep pattern?
Human beings have a biological clock that regulates our body's physiological functions and coincides with states of sleep and wakefulness. At night these functions are minimized—in the absence of light—so if we don't use this period to rest, it affects our health negatively.
To recover our circadian or biological rhythm—ideally guided by the sun—I recommend eating dinner before sunset. That way, your metabolism is still active to digest the food. You should wait two to three hours before going to bed to avoid lying down with a full stomach. Also, you should eat food that doesn't require a lot of energy to digest, such as salads or vegetables (creamed vegetables, steamed, baked, soups, stews).
It's also a good idea to spend ten minutes doing some stretching. Then you could spend another five to ten minutes breathing deeply or meditating. Avoid caffeine and reduce your intake of liquids just before bed.
What sort of effects does excess have on our body?
The accumulation of toxins, the lack of nutrients and the alteration of our biological rhythms will have negative effects—both physically and emotionally. Some of the things you could expect are fatigue, fluid retention, increased body fat, strong body odor and breath, decreased immunity, headaches, stomach problems, anxiety, and depression.
I've heard that fasting is good for you. Is that true?
As I've said repeatedly, detoxing needs to be done gradually, especially if our body is very intoxicated. Fasting is the most powerful removal tool for toxin removal and has historically been used to fight disease. When our body isn't busy with digestive functions, it can use its energy on cleaning up accumulated toxins. If you start feeling very badly, you should stop fasting.