Eating habits are really hard to change. We associate the foods we eat with comfort and normality, so anticipating withdrawal and detox symptoms is essential to success.

The faster you transition to a plant-based diet, the more likely it is that you will experience a detox symptoms. It can occur any time within the first month, and last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. Symptoms can include:

    • Headache or nausea
    • Feelings of stress
    • Fatigue and weakness
    • Mental confusion and irritability
    • Abdominal or esophageal spasms
    • Gastrointestinal issues ranging from cramping, bloating, constipation anddiarrhea.
    • Compromised immunity that leaves you susceptible to colds and virusesIf you plan for a few days of downtime, more than likely you’ll be pleasantly surprised and through the worst before you even realize what’s happened. Most likely, it will just feel like you’re having a bad day. Have some herbal tea on hand, try to get some extra sleep, and trust that it will pass.

Put your experience in perspective, and you might find a new level of motivation with the “No Pain, No Gain” philosophy. Everyone’s met the smoker who selfishly demands his “right” to light a cigarette in public, despite everyone else’s right to breathe. On the surface, he may feel that being restricted from his habit is an issue of freedom. But if he “needs” to smoke, he’s actually surrendered his power of choice. He’s not free to smoke. He’s required. Failing to administer the drug will be painful, and his body will be punished with detox symptoms.

Cravings are not about hunger. They are symptomatic of a disruption in a toxic cycle that keeps us enslaved to addiction. Understanding why this process occurs can make coping with the temporary discomfort of detox symptoms more bearable.

Vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals and living enzymes are what keep our cells functioning properly. A diet low in these micronutrients leaves our cells “understaffed”, affecting everything from DNA replication and repair, hormone function, immune response and waste removal. It’s analogous to a work force that goes on strike when they are not compensated fairly. We are oblivious to the people working in the background to keep our community systems running smoothly until our we can’t catch a cab or send our kids to school.

And when there aren’t enough “garbage men” to process all of the trash we ingest in junk food alley, it will be left indefinitely in our fat cells.

So when we need to break down fat cells for energy or weight loss, the excess waste products are released into our blood stream. This creates discomfort that we first identify as hunger or low blood sugar. Because if we eat, the breakdown of our fat cells stops, and our detox symptoms go away.

And if we eat processed foods that are chemically designed to stimulate our endorphins, we not only stop feeling bad, we start feeling good. Maybe even really good.

For about 5 minutes.

So when you feel nasty even though you’ve been eating whole foods filled with micronutrients, don’t be fooled into rationalizing that good foods don’t leave you satisfied and nourished. Actually, the presence of healthy food will boost your body’s ability to counteract withdrawal.

Detox symptoms are temporary. Good health will last a lifetime.

Don’t judge your day based on the harvest you reap, but on the seeds you plant.