You stored your winter coats happily knowing you won't need them again til November, thoroughly scrubbed and aired out your home, and as you open the window you smell a lilac bush blossoming in your front yard. Finally, winter has departed and spiring and summer are here!
Spring is a "time of a year to rise early with the sun," says Paul Pitchford, author of Healing with Whole Foods: Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition. Indeed, you might find yourself awakening earlier as light envelops your bedroom. After months of cold darkness, 6 a.m. becomes a little easier when the sun greets your awakening.
Though you encounter a chilly breeze many spring days, you're already thinking ahead to the beach and your new two-piece, with the goal you'll lose five pounds before you first hit the surf.
Whatever season approaches, you want to look fabulous. But particularly during warmer weather you want to become your leanest, sexiest self because you're baring more of yourself.
If you're like most women, however, you might feel a little self-conscious or not yourself as you struggle to rid your body of that pesky winter weight that hid perfectly under a baggy sweater, but not so much under a fitted tee.
The Cycle of Five Elements and Weight Loss
Traditional Chinese medicine and herbology focuses on a cycle of five elements to which nature rotates. Since you're part of nature, you also experience these changes. From this Eastern perspective, spring becomes the Wood Element season.
We associate the Wood Element with your liver and gallbladder. During spring, cleansing and detoxifying your liver and gallbladder symbolizes letting go after winter storing and introversion.
Longer days provide more sunlight and warmer temperatures, which allow you more time outdoors. Sun provides you with vitamin D and opens your pores much like flowers blossom. Warmth symbolizes lightness, joy, and vibrant health.
I want to share my expertise in traditional Chinese medicine to give you three simple, effective strategies to detoxify, become your sexiest self, and get the most out of warmer weather ahead.
Balance Sour and Pungent
From an Eastern nutrition and medicine perspective, pungent flavors like basil, fennel, marjoram, rosemary, caraway, dill, and bay leaf balance your liver and gallbladder.
Basil, for instance, provides anti-inflammatory support for your liver and other organs. It also has vitamins A, C, K, as well as minerals like magnesium and potassium. Sprinkle fresh basil and other herbs liberally on your favorite foods.
And a study in the International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology showed that rosemary essential oil and other herbs, commonly used in many herbal preparations, helped reduce liver- and gallbladder-related oxidative stress.
These pungent spices can also help you lose weight and boost metabolism. Parsley, for instance, helps you eliminate water to de-bloat. Parsley can also curb your appetite, reduce cravings, and help balance blood sugar levels.
Whereas winter meant high-water root vegetables, spring brings cruciferous vegetables like Swiss chard, kale, broccoli, bok choy, and cabbage that support your liver and gallbladder.
Because of its cleansing and cooling nature, I also recommend raw vegetables and other foods as you move into spring.
Release Anger and Resentment
From an Eastern medicine perspective, your liver and gallbladder meridiana become congested and stressed during spring. Besides of that increased stress, anger and resentment can surface more easily.
I recommend professional help for unresolved anger and resentment, which otherwise might lead to depression and declining health.
You might also try Chinese medicine to balance your liver and gall bladder. According to Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald's book The Detox Solution, "In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is a sophisticated system of evaluating whether holding onto emotions such as anger, sadness, fear and worry may be contributing to ill health."
Because of the more acute, prevalent stress during spring, your neck and upper back might feel tenser. A good massage can help alleviate this tension.
You can also release liver- and gallbladder-related stress and tension by taking your fingers and gently rubbing or massaging your rib cage on both sides. I especially want you to focus on the area between your ribs (called the intercostal space) for a few minutes each day while deeply breathing in and out. This simple exercise addresses both your liver and gallbladder.
Finally, don't forget to be present and savor the simple joys of spring like flowers blossoming and birds singing! The season goes by too quickly.
Spring cleaning is de rigueur at your home, office, car, and other living spaces. You should devote this same attention to your body. Just like a clean workspace helps you become more productive, detoxifying your body helps your skin glow, your mind become clearer, and your body look its very best.
I want you to skip those potentially dangerous and probably ineffective over-the-counter cleanses. Look for a doctor-approved, clinically proven cleanse or detox plan that doesn't leave you depleted, tired, or hungry. Ideally, find a practitioner who can guide you through this cleanse and troubleshoot any concerns that might arise.
"[T]here are two pathways by which the body detoxifies harmful substances and it's essential to support both of these pathways in order to detoxify effectively," says Dr. Nieske Zabriskie. "Supporting only one of the detoxification pathways can actually do more harm than good."
Protein is the foundation of a good detox. Without adequate protein, your liver can't perform phase two detoxification, which means your body holds on rather than excretes toxins. Many juice or raw cleanses, unfortunately, neglect protein.
You also need high-quality fats like avocado and coconut oil, as well as complex carbs like fresh berries, to aid your body's detoxification pathways.
Remember your body has four ways to excrete toxins: your breath, urine, sweat, and feces. According to Dr. Susanne Bennett, author of The 7 Day Allergy Makeover, you need to drink half your body weight in ounces of water. So if you weigh 160 pounds, you'll need 80 ounces of purified water throughout your day.
Warm weather means sweating, which provides a wonderful way to excrete toxins. Your detoxification program should include a healthy workout where you sweat at least three or four times a week.
Fitness and nutrition expert JJ Virgin has a "4 x 4 workout" that combines the two most effective forms of exercise in just 15 minutes. Besides being incredibly effective, you'll certainly break a sweat. And you can spend the other 45 minutes you would have wasted at the gym cultivating your garden or just catching some sun.
Many detox programs have a disclaimer that they aren't for weight loss. Here's a little secret: Any balanced, clinically sound detox program helps you clear out toxins, but also fat. I often see clients lose seven pounds their first week alone doing my detox plan.
I love buy-one-get-one-free sales, and I sometimes joke that detoxing is the ultimate two-for-one deal: You get rid of toxins and you burn fat so you'll become lean and sexy to turn heads at the beach for summer. What a deal!
For more by Grace Suh Coscia, L.Ac., Dipl.O.M., click here.
For more on natural health, click here.
 Fitzgerald, P. The Detox Solution: The Missing Link to Radiant Health, Abundant Energy, Ideal Weight, and Peace of Mind. (Santa Monica, CA: Illumination Press, 2001).
 Pitchford, P. Healing with Whole Foods: Oriental Traditions and Modern Nutrition. (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1993).