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New Year, new you

It’s the New Year and you feel the need for a body shake-up after the overindulgent Christmas period. So what’s the best way to go about it?

Over-indulgence at Christmas motivates many of us to make good resolutions, but it should be more a question of being truly in the right headspace to put things right,” says Jill Bell of Well and Good in Midleton, Co Cork.“This means thinking ahead, sorting one’s motivation and planning, not acting on the spur of the moment.”

“Any resolutions should not be thought of as an obligation – it’s an opportunity,” says Fiann Ó Nualláin, author of The Holistic Gardener. “Ancient cultures often left bitter tonics and detoxes to the spring, but they didn’t have roast potatoes in goose fat, selection boxes and sherry trifle to speed along the need.”

Sally Baker is a therapist who specialises in resolving self-sabotaging behaviour including compulsive over-eating. She is the co-author of How to Feel Differently about Food (Hammersmith Health Books). “New Year Resolutions often follow hot on the heels of the excesses of the Christmas season so it can seem like a perfect time to change habits,” she says. “You have more chance of successfully changing your habits by making incremental and small changes over several weeks and months, building success upon success.”

“We put ourselves under a lot of pressure to change habits for the new year so maybe it becomes stressful and too much for some people and we can give up without even really starting,” says Elaine Joyce of Ylang Ylang in Westport, Co Mayo. “Also because the weather is cold we need warm nourishing foods to sustain us.”

To detox or not to detox?

“If you are fit and healthy then a detox is more about a rejuvenation process to top up your optimum health and extend your longevity and wellbeing,” says Fiann Ó Nualláin. “Most detoxes involve herbal teas and plenty of fruit and vegetables. The teas are generally packed with phyto chemicals that speed up our metabolism. The fruit and veg not only displace unhealthy choices but the fibre content helps absorb and eradicate excess sugars and toxic build-ups.”

“A sensible detox programme or cleanse rests the digestive system, and allows the body to rid itself of unwanted toxins and re-energise itself,” says Elaine Joyce. “It can work if a sensible and holistic approach is taken. You could combine your cleanse with exercise and a mindfulness programme for optimum results.”

“Detoxing often encourages people to adopt highly restrictive patterns of eating that usually includes replacing real food with shakes, bars and supplements,” says Sally Baker. “Most detox regimes may be manageable for short periods and short-term weight loss goals may be achieved. However, detoxing encourages a yo-yo pattern of weight loss and inevitable weight gain when normal eating habits are resumed. This can have a negative impact on metabolism, making it harder to lose and sustain weight loss.”

One meal at a time

“Customers often ask about detoxing supplements, but we always recommend that they first look at what they are putting in their mouths and suggest they begin by giving their over-worked livers a rest,” says Jill Bell. “This means avoiding constipation, reducing protein intake and concentrating on fish and white meat, reducing carbs and sugars, drinking 1.5 litres of water or herbal teas a day, and tucking into vegetables. Exercise should also be on the menu. Organic apple cider vinegar has a powerhouse of benefits, not least in alkalizing one’s diet.”

“Consider making changes to your meals one meal at a time,” says Sally Baker. “Start with breakfast, for instance, and switch nutritionally poor cereal or toast to eggs to increase protein levels. Eat fresh and home cooked food as often as possible and cook more than you need so that you can freeze healthy sized portions for when time is even more pressured.”

“It is all about living a full life with all your facilities maximised,” says Fiann Ó Nualláin. “Junk and processed foods diminish energy, cognitive function, libido and sense of wellbeing. It is all about editing out bad choices at the shopping basket stage – if it does not get home to the pantry then it won’t make it onto the plate.”

Modern food baddies

“Caffeine adds to stress levels,” says Jill Bell. “This as well as alcohol, sugar and processed foods are highly acidic to the body and responsible for many inflammatory problems.”

“Sugar is to the 21st century what smoking was to the 20th Century,” says Sally Baker. “There is a growing body of evidence that suggests sugar is as dangerous to our health as smoking cigarettes was.”

Positive results

So how will you feel if you cut the baddies out of your diet? Jill Bell: “Better! Energy levels should rise, sleep improve, skin start to glow and you’ll feel revitalised – and virtuous!” Fiann Ó Nualláin: “You may want to scream or cry – you may even get a headache, but that’s just the toxins moving out of your system. Soon you will be feeling a spring in your step and firing on all cylinders.”

Elaine Joyce: “Once those initial few days are over you will start to feel amazing. Energised, happier, your skin will start to glow, you will sleep better, concentrate better, the fuzziness and slumps that occur around consuming sugar and caffeine in particular will have disappeared. You may find that if you have cut out dairy you have less sinus problems, catarrh and nasal drip. Your digestion will work better, you will have less wind and bloating and discomfort.”

Vega testing

“Vega testing is a safe, non-invasive means of testing using electronic equipment to do a complete body scan,“ says Kathleen Ward of The Kathleen Ward Health Clinic, a holistic health clinic in Monaghan. “It involves the client holding a hand electrode which connects them to a computer chip. The circle is closed by using a probe on the toe over the heart meridian. This gives invaluable information.

“This scan determines the underlying cause of a person’s health problems. It allows me to create a personalised program for the individual. The test determines energy levels, pH/acid alkaline levels, emotional stress levels, depression, low grade or chronic infections, organ disturbances, back problems and allergies. The test enables the therapist to determine the most suitable natural remedies necessary to improve health and restore balance.

“Vega testing is based on methods of electroacupuncture diagnostics devised by Dr Voll in the 1950s. It can identify health problems which may not have yet become symptomatic to the individual. We charge €70 for the test which lasts 45-90 minutes and suggest dietary and lifestyle changes. For back problems I may refer to our osteopath or physical therapist as well as looking at mineral and vitamin deficiencies. For emotional stress and/or depression I may use herbal or homeopathic medicines. Additionally, I may recommend other therapies such as reflexology, acupuncture, hypno-psychotherapy with cognitive behavioural therapy and mindfulness or cranio-sacral therapy.”

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