Why You Should Start Your Post-Thanksgiving Detox Now

Dana James featured on

Thanksgiving may be a food lover’s dream, but that bliss so often turns to regret in the five weeks of parties that follow. So it goes for me: Each holiday season, a devil-may-care approach to gorging on sweetcakes and wine in December lands me in an ineffective, guilt-riddled cleanse come January. Which is why this year, I set out to find a better way to undo the damage (or avoid it entirely) than a cold-turkey New Year’s resolution: This year, I would start my post-Thanksgiving detox before the feasting even started.

The pre-festive cleanse, as it’s called, is about building healthy habits and being proactive, instead of punishing yourself unfairly later and, according to New York nutritionist Dana James, is a well-kept industry secret—the CAP Beauty and Sakara Life girls are all fans. “You start to prime your brain so that by the time Thanksgiving comes around, it’s simply a meal,” she says. “When you’ve established good eating habits, it’s much easier to say, ‘No, I’m going to have one dessert—not five.’ ” James tells me that it takes just seven days to see the effects, and last week, I put that theory to the test—could the pre-festive cleanse change the way I eat this Thanksgiving?

Her plan is more generous than most: No dairy, gluten, or sugar, sure, and a diet that’s 75 percent plants, 25 percent protein (think lemon sole with arugula salad and pink grapefruit with coconut sugar), but surprisingly, caffeine is allowed, as are two glasses of alcohol per week. Even so, the holidays are tough; at the offices, gifted buttercream cupcakes and chocolates spill across the tables almost daily. On Tuesday, I successfully decline one slice of frosted funfetti cake—but when a second cake strikes that same day, I cannot refuse. (It’s bad luck!)

So, I try adding cold-pressed juices to help curb the cravings—not a juice cleanse, mind, but a more balanced, supplementary approach. “Adding nutrient-rich items like cold-pressed juices to your daily routine in the days leading up to Thanksgiving can help people stay on track during the holidays,” says Hayden Slater, cofounder of Pressed Juicery. This idea is gaining traction—Juice Press is launching two holiday-themed cleanses next week—and stopping by Pressed’s brand new Noho shop, I grab bottles of Greens 1.5 and activated charcoal water with lemon, lavender, and honey to stave off sweets. It helps. But after succumbing to a tray of free Ladurée macarons two days later—let’s just say a few too many—I go back to James for advice.

It turns out that fitness, too, is key. “If you’re doing an urban cleanse, you want to sweat, so that might mean a powerful vinyasa class,” James says. “Or, ahead of the holidays, you may want to try something more restorative.” On Sunday morning, I head to Soho, where the sound of Tibetan singing bowls echoes through the high-beamed ceilings of Twisted Trunk Yoga’s loft space. It is dark, save for a strand of Christmas tree lights, wound about a brass statue of a dancing Shiva, its pedestal dotted with quartz crystals. At the hour’s end, there’s a serene, seven-minute savasana, and I lay comfortably swaddled in a blue wool blanket, as candles flicker and Twisted Trunk cofounder Dana Covello leads us through a series of mantras.

Much like James, Covello generally sees an uptick in interest around this time of year. “It’s the best time to start a consistent practice,” she says. “The statistics on New Year’s resolutions are so abysmal—why not start now and make it a life resolution?” At Twisted Trunk, a tantric philosophy is key to helping visitors become more attuned with their bodies and better equipped to deal with holiday stress. “There’s no question that yoga gives me that practice in pausing before I act,” she says. I, too, leave the studio that day with renewed focus.

From there, things get a bit easier: I reach more readily for veggies, eat fewer sweets, and feel better all around. Sure, there are slip-ups, like too much wine over the weekend. But for that, James has one last word of advice: “Forgive yourself. Most of the time, we sit in a feeling of shame and say, ‘Oh, I’ve blown it, so I’m going to keep eating and drinking.’ The next day, just start back on the plan—you don’t need to do anything more than that.”

Whether it’s the morning vinyasa or all the green juice talking, things suddenly click—even if I go all-out on Thanksgiving, I now know that I have the power to snap back to form the next day. And who knows: By the time the night’s feast rolls around, I might even be fine with having just one dessert. Okay, maybe two, or possibly three—but definitely less than five. I’d call that progress.

Photo Credit: Photographed by James Wojcik, Vogue, November 2012