A New Kind of New Year’s Resolution

Bronwyn's picture


If you’re anything like me, even the word “cleanse” can make you run for the hills. The idea of going through the minutiae of my diet with a fine-toothed comb instantly makes me want cake. The new year inspires a certain extremism; sign up for tough mudder; join a masters swim team; juice fasting; cross-fit; running group... the list goes on, driving a massive economy of physiotherapy as, one by one, all your friends injure themselves in the first week of January. So when I tell my patients “I think you should consider doing a cleanse”, I’m aware of the slow, rising anxiety and sugar cravings that instantly appear. However, when I say “cleanse”, I don’t mean fasting; I don’t mean swim the Burrard Inlet and stop eating; I mean a gentle, slow, gradual transition to whole foods.


I like to encourage my patients to make small, manageable choices every day that, over time, add up to a major life change; I’m talking about a sustainable shift. When you think about it, swinging your dietary pendulum to one extreme naturally causes an equal swing in the opposite direction. I see over and over in my practice, and in the world in general, this extremist mentality winning out over a slow, wise one; driven, I believe, by a wrong-headed impulse to purge. Thus I would like to suggest you do NOT cleanse this month, and here’s how to not do it.


Day 1-4


Don’t change anything. Instead, focus your energy on observing the elements of your diet you’d like to change; here are my suggestions:

  • How much sugar are you eating, and how often? I mean not only the treats; not only the stuff you sprinkle into coffee or cereal;  I mean look closely at the labels of everything you eat and be wildly amazed at just how close sugar is to the top of the ingredients list. Cereal/granola, crackers, pasta sauce, salad dressing and most other savoury foods have lots of added sugar.

  • On that note, how many meals/snacks a day come from a package? A restaurant or cafe?

  • How many meals hinge on wheat (bagel for breakfast, sandwich for lunch, pasta for dinner)? Dairy (yogurt, cream, cheese, milk)?

  • Make sure you finish off everything from your pantry that you’re cutting out. Nothing sets you up for failure quite like opening your cupboard to a full view of chocolate and cookies.

Day 5


Today is actually day 1. Today don’t eat anything with sugar, including that salad dressing you love so much. No treats, no added sugar, no packaged food with sugar.  These are some tips to help make this easier:

  • Start making all of your own basics from scratch: salad dressing, tomato sauce, bone broth, etc. Anything that you buy in a can, jar, or box, learn to make it from scratch and thus know exactly what’s in it.

  • Make a meal plan. Think about a week ahead; write it down, pin a recipe to it, and fill your fridge with all the necessary ingredients.

  • Make sure you have healthy snacks reliably ready and in the fridge/cupboard. This way, you are less likely to grab-and-go with snacks that are laced with sugar.


What I’ve discovered over the years is that good eating is 80% planning and organization. Given how absolutely essential it is to our lives, it really is worth the brief daily commitment of time and effort it takes to ensure we fuel ourselves healthfully.


Day 7


Today is your last day eating anything with gluten or dairy. That’s wheat, spelt, kamut, barley, and rye; essentially all bread and pasta. Prioritize eating rice and oats as your primary grains. Also, increase your vegetables; they should take up about half your plate at dinner. Try almond milk, coconut milk, and rice milk as a dairy alternative.


Now all you need to do is stick to this for about a month. After that time, add back gluten for one day and see what happens. Usually my patients have some kind of reaction such as bloating, headaches, or foggy mind. Do the same with dairy; add it back for a day and make note of how you feel.


This sounds very simply, but the difference you make in your health with these simple changes will be profound. For one thing, you will now be making all your own food from scratch. Your health and your pocket book will thank you.


As a sign off, I’d like to share with you a basic salad dressing recipe that can be varied infinitely. Try substituting the vinegar for fresh orange or lemon; use lime instead and add hot peppers for a southwestern flavour; blend a whole avocado instead of the oil.  


5 TBS extra virgin olive oil

2-3 TBS vinegar

1\4 tsp sea salt

¼ tsp dry mustard


Mix together in a jar and shake until emulsified. Serve over veggies or rice.