30 Day Dietary Challenge for Your Health and Complexion

Cynthia Bailey, MD|January 3, 2016

Alkaline Challenge_Main Slowly changing your daily intake of foods and beverages toward more fruits and veggies and less sugar and "bad" fats is the single most important dietary change you can make. It's good for your body and you'll see the impact in your complexion. Dr. Bailey has written many times that:

The skin is often like the tip of an iceberg in terms of being a sign that your internal health is 'off.'

This applies to your  internal system being out of wack because you are stressing your body with poor food and beverage choices. For instance, cutting out junk food and processed sugar has been proven to improve acne. Even better, adding foods like several helpings of green leafy vegetables, olive oil and avocados (healthy fats!) are known to be great for your complexion. What do you think about setting a simple goal of adding two servings of vegetables a day and swapping out the soda pop (even sugar free diet soda) for the veggies? If you do this, the benefits would be huge! Let this month be the beginning of the journey to a healthier diet and see how you feel. Don't flog yourself, give up or feel overwhelmed because you think you have to get in exactly nine servings of fruits and veggies everyday for the rest of your life. Ease yourself into this new lifestyle by starting with two servings and slowly build as your body, your taste buds and your cravings adjust. Do it for a month, as it's a lot less intimidating this way. Understand that this is a lifelong change - take it one day, one meal and one week at at time. Remember, it's not about "dieting." That word has such a bad connotation that just typing it makes me cringe. A particular style of eating isn't a diet. Diets, by definition, are a means to an end. When they are over, most people go back to old eating habits that are hurting their health and appearance. This is why I prefer implementing changes a little bit at a time. Just like with a fitness program, your dietary changes need to be small and sustainable to let your body adjust. Look at this dietary change as a lifestyle. Start your new lifestyle in manageable steps that allows you to ease into it. The point is, whatever positive dietary changes you choose to implement in order to improve your health and appearance, make sure those changes are sustainable long after any goals you set are reached. Still not convinced? When you hear about people who are severely out of shape starting an exercise program, you know experts recommend that they start out small, doing what they can. Two flights of stairs to their floor at work. Parking at the back of the parking lot. Next, walking a mile three days a week. Then, one and a half miles three times a week. You have to start somewhere, and beginning where you are is a great place to be. Dietary changes are the same. Your body and mind need time to adjust. So, where do you begin and what dietary changes make the biggest differences?new pyramid(1) Dr. Bailey is a fan of mostly plant-based whole food, low glycemic, low-fat/smart-fat eating. She calls her dietary plan an Mediterranean Alkaline Dietary Food Plan. She outlines how she came to this lifestyle and why it works in her guide "How to Eat Your Way to Beauty and Health," which you can download for free here. Dr. Bailey found that eating like this cleared up a host of problems she's battled over the years including arthritis, musculoskeletal pain and digestive misadventures. Right now, if your diet is radically different, but you are intrigued by what she advises in her Healthy Eating Guide, start slowly. Hold Dr. Bailey's Food Pyramid as a goal, see how your body feels with small changes and advance your changes as your body adjusts. Know that the modern Western diet has this food pyramid turned upside down and that the top tip of "treats" form the base of most people's daily food intake. The magnitude of change this food pyramid makes on the chemistry of the body is huge. Ready to "detoxify" all that winter gunk and holiday indulgence? Do you yearn to get the bloated, heavy feeling of "gunk" out of your system? Do you want to feel vital, healthy and well instead of encumbered and swinging from one craving to the next? Let's enjoy winter by cozying up with healthy comfort foods, so that we emerge in the spring feeling (and looking!) really great. Who is up for a 30 day dietary challenge?   Week 1: Make it a priority to get at least two servings of vegetables and one serving of fruit each day. It may seem easy, but keep in mind, the idea is consistency. Bonus: Instead of reaching for that soda pop, reach instead for 8 oz. of water. Add lemon, ginger, mint leaves or fruit muddled in the bottom of your glass. If you're still thirsty, drink your soda pop. But, I bet your need for it will shrink. Week 2: Make it a priority to get at least three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit each day. You may have to get a little creative here. Try roasting a big pan of veggies and put them in plastic containers for work. You can also open a can of beans and either throw them on a salad or heat them in the microwave for a quick snack. Another great tip is to cut up an apple and carrots and throw them into a plastic bag and take them with you to nibble on when you get hungry. Dr. Bailey carries nuts with her everywhere to stave off hunger. Bonus: Instead of taking the elevator, try walking the stairs to work every morning. Even if you work on the 27th floor, take the elevator to the 23rd, and walk the rest of the flights. Week 3: Make it a priority to get at least four servings of vegetables and three servings of fruit each day. Smoothies are your best friend here. BHG.com has 10 smoothie recipes to experiment with. Get crazy and try adding some almond butter or oatmeal into your smoothie. Chia seeds are a great way to add texture and protein to your breakfast too. Dr. Bailey uses her food processor or mandolin to thinly slice or shred veggies like red bell peppers, carrots, fennel, green cabbage, etc. She serves this under a warm entree, and eats them together. She loves the crunch with the warm food and it gets an extra serving of veggies in during a meal. This is also a good time to try a Meatless Monday! Try one day where you get your proteins from plant sources rather than animal sources. You don't have to do this every day, so it won't be a huge change. But, it's a chance to get more veggies in, plus lighten your dietary meat load just one day a week. Try it out and see how it works! If you need recipe ideas, at the end of Dr. Bailey's Healthy Eating Guide, there's a 14-day menu with plenty of recipes. If you need more, you can visit our Pinterest Board chalk full of ideas and recipes to help motivate you. Bonus: Instead of having multiple cups of coffee each morning, try substituting one for a cup of green tea. While the caffeine content isn't as high, the antioxidant properties more than make up for it. Plus, that carb craving you have midday could actually be because you're crashing from hidden sugar in coffee drinks. Week 4: Make it a priority to get at least five servings of vegetables and four servings of fruit each day. Whew! That might seem like a lot, but think of it as an adventure in vegetable experimentation. Ever had jicama fries? How about cauliflower mashed potatoes? There are so many types of vegetables out there, and here's a full list of fruit and veggie options! So, be adventurous! Like learning a language, you will gradually become proficient in getting your fruits and veggie servings easily into your diet. We all have our tips and tricks, so let's share them with each other in the comments! Bonus: Try adding different spices to your smoothies and food, like turmeric or ginger - spices are often hidden gems and powerhouses of vitamins and minerals that your body and skin soak up like a sponge. Who's up for this challenge? We'd love to hear if you're embracing dietary change as a way to improve how you look and feel. Let's share any progress or tips you find. Let's also share any challenges that you face along the way. We can't wait to hear from you! For more information about the impact a new healthy lifestyle could have on both your skin and health, download Dr. Bailey's Healthy Eating Guide for a much more in-depth explanation.