Why winter is the worst time to “detox”


When you think of your ancestors and what they were doing during the wintertime (go back a few generations, maybe your great grandparents), what are the first images that come to mind?

Were they resting, sleeping more perhaps? Keeping warm, huddling around a fire, eating soups, stews and meat to build up their strength for battling the snow & cold wind?

Or wait, were your great grandparents eating lots of raw leaves and juicing in the middle of winter? Waking up earlier every morning to run up a hill at 6am? I mean…how else did they detox in the new year?


Let me say this in the simplest way possible: this obsession with cleansing, detoxing and going on an extreme diet has nothing to do with following the natural rhythm of your body or the seasons, it has everything to do with ridding your conscience of any guilt after the holiday season.

And I don’t blame you. I blame incessant media and marketing that has completed warped our logic and common sense. Telling an audience to indulge during the holidays is profitable, as is telling them to lose weight & detox right after.

Think about it: why else would we want to drink cold smoothies, juices and eat raw salads when it’s -15 degrees outside? So please, please, listen to your body and your intuition. If your body yearns and craves more sleep, wants hot drinks and soups, there’s probably a good reason why!

“Alina..hold up…are you saying my 1 week juice fast is a bad idea? “

Unfortunately, yes. Unless you’re living on the equator. Extreme “detox” or “cleanse” diets like surviving off only juices or raw food are bad ideas in the winter. This may be a fantastic idea however in the summertime, when it’s hot and our body thrives off of these foods. In the winter our body needs food that help us “build up” not “break down”.  We need repair, nourishment and foods that are warming. Raw food makes us cold, gassy and bloated in the winter. And probably pretty irritable/pissed off 🙂

“But why do people lose weight and have better energy after these ‘detox’ and ‘cleanse’ programs?”

Because you’re simply cutting out the crap. If I tell you to avoid caffeine, sugar, alcohol, dairy, gluten, processed and junk food for the next few weeks, you’re bound to feel amazing. You’ll be off of stimulants, allergenic foods, sweeteners, refined carbs & bread, and consuming none of the additives and preservatives from processed food.

If you ate like this all the time, you’d feel amazing all the time! Hint hint.

“But Alinaaaa I still want to do something more, I’m feeling gross, bloated and overweight.” 

If you really want to engage in some type of temporary program that will assist detoxification and cleansing, then focus on eating warm, simple whole foods. Eat foods that will nourish you, fill you up and won’t be taxing to your digestive health (i.e. raw kale. Bad, bad idea in winter).

For example, you could rotate between a homemade chicken soup & butternut squash soup at each meal for 2-3 days. And sip on warm water with lemon and herbal teas in between those meals. See? It doesn’t have to be that hard.

In fact, here’s a list of what to focus on eating:

  • Real, whole foods
  • Soups
  • Stews
  • Warming spices: ginger, cayenne, cinnamon
  • Herbal teas (especially “chai” teas with spices)
  • Lemon water
  • Roasted, steamed and sautéed vegetables
  • Lean poultry, eggs, cold-water fish
  • Soaked nuts & seeds
  • Fermented foods
  • Healthy fats & oils
  • Homemade baked goods (w/o sugar, dairy)

+ make sure to include exercise to aid detoxification and get your lymph glands moving. The key is movement, even if it’s gentle exercise like walking or yoga!

Here’s what you can try to avoid:

  • Excessive raw vegetables and fruits
  • Refined carbs e.g. bagels, sliced bread, packaged cookies, crackers
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Refined sugar
  • Junk food
  • Processed food (granola bars, chips, frozen meals etc.)
  • Vegetable oils
  • Anything that is “low-fat”

Over the years, I’ve learnt more than anything to listen to my body. Yes, listening to nutritionists, doctors, personal trainers, newspaper articles etc. is great, but sometimes the best voice to listen to is reason, logic and common sense.

So if you’re cold, eat hot food 🙂

About Alina

I'm a Holistic Nutritionist based in Toronto, Canada and my official title is Certified Nutritional Practitioner (CNP). I received my diploma in Applied Holistic Nutrition from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition. I'm a coach and an educator. Follow Alina on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for all of the latest updates.
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