I totally avoid fad diets as a Health Editor - but this spring reset made me feel the best I've felt in months

Keen to give your mind and body a boost?

Spring reset: Health Editor Ally Head during her spring reset
(Image credit: Ally Head)

If you're anything like me, you've been eagerly awaiting longer days, sunnier weather and al fresco meals in the garden. Nothing makes me happier than spring - fresh flowers, sunny days in the park, and more time in nature always put me in a good mood.

Spring always feels like it can't come soon enough, either. Similarly to thousands of others across the UK, I always find the first few months of the year a little bleak, despite my best efforts. Christmas is over, the days are short and dark, and the social events are few and far between. My body responds by craving warm meals, comfort food and sleep - which is fine for a few months, but can impact my mental health in the long run. 

Wondering why exactly our appetite and energy levels change with the seasons? According to The University of Kingsland, we not only feel hungrier, but we crave more comfort foods when the weather's cold. This is because when we're cold, our body prioritises heat conversation and sending it to our internal organs. If you're using energy in this way, you'll ultimately need additional energy, and as you know, we get our energy largely from the food we eat. 

Similarly, many experience lower levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin during the winter months (we get the majority of our serotonin from sunlight which, naturally, we don't get as much of during winter in the UK). The lower your serotonin, the less regulated your mood, appetite, and sleep quality will be, another reason why you might feel hungrier in the darker, colder winter months. 

While there's absolutely nothing wrong with nurturing your body with the food it craves, come April, I'm always ready for a bit of a change. That's why, when I saw several influencers on TikTok sharing details of their own "spring reset," I was intrigued. I'm never one to jump on an influencer bandwagon - instead, I turned to one of my go-to nutritionists and naturopaths Rhian Stephenson, founder of ARTAH, for her reset tips. Of course, I tailored the advice to make sure it worked for me and my body - but more on that later.

Keen to see how I got on? Spoiler alert: I feel the best I've felt in months, with renewed energy, better skin, and better sleep quality, too. Don't miss what happened when I drank apple cider vinegar every day, followed an inflammation diet, and started eating first thing in the morning, too.

I tried a spring reset to boost my body and mind - and feel the best I've felt in months

What is a spring reset?

First things first, a bit of background for you. A bit like a spring clean, a spring reset is what it says on the tin - an opportunity to reassess your lifestyle and habits as spring rolls around and make some tweaks to boost your mental and physical health.

The toxic diet culture of the past decade has given cleanses a bit of a bad rap, and you'll find thousands of resets and cleanses online that claim to be the "best" (while also being quite miserable). What's key, though, is that you choose a reset that isn't restrictive or unrealistic based on your current lifestyle or goals. As a Health Editor, I don't believe you should have to cut anything out of your diet to see optimal health - life is all about balance, after all, and I believe we're healthiest when we're enjoying food in moderation (80/20, and all that). 

Stephenson agrees with my take, sharing that she's absolutely in favour of doing resets throughout the year. "They can be beneficial in so many ways, from stress management and mood to metabolism and sleep," she explains.

Why? Because chronic stress, excess alcohol, lack of sleep, and ultra-processed foods are all common in our modern lives, and without taking intentional steps to combat their negative effects, our physical and emotional wellbeing just erodes, the nutritionist explains.

Cook, author and wellbeing expert Jasmine Hemsley agrees, adding that in Ayurveda, the ancient wellbeing philosophy from India, spring is the time to embrace vitality, renewal and transformation. "It's also the ideal season to help reset the body and reduce the accumulated kapha dosha (energy) of winter, associated with sluggishness, water retention and bloating," she shares. 

Know this: A reset can be as simple or in-depth as you need it to be. A word of caution from Stephenson, however. "Try not to lean on them as a drastic measure to lose weight after an over-indulgent period, as this perpetuates binge-restriction cycles and doesn't help you cultivate a long term, sustainable approach to health. On the other hand, we're human, so there will be periods where we engage in habits that are less healthy, whether it be excess food and/or alcohol, and also where lifestyle demands may leave us overwhelmed and aren't unable to keep up a regime that makes us feel out best."

She continues: "Blocking in time for a reset can be incredibly therapeutic because it allows us to be entirely focused on doing things that make us feel good. When we commit to this, we can build positive momentum that helps us maintain healthy habits once we're finished."

My experience trying a spring reset

Come the end of March, I was feeling run down, exhausted and overworked. It had been a particularly busy month, and while as a Health Editor, I always make time to prioritise self care, I knew a few of my normal daily habits had slipped.

Getting out my wellness journal, I took a few hours one Sunday afternoon to jot down how I'd been feeling, how I'd like to feel, and what daily habits I'd like to aim towards to get there. Taking the time to put these down on paper was incredibly cathartic, and also stopped me from copying and pasting other people's non-negotiables in the vain hope they'd work for me. 

Ally's journal she used for her spring reset

The journal Ally used to plot her non-negotiable habits for her spring reset

(Image credit: Ally Head)

After some reflection, my final non-negotiables spanned:

  • Morning movement, be that a walk, strength training session, or run
  • Aiming for all meals and snacks to be a balance of protein, fat, fibre and carbs
  • Getting 8 hours of sleep per night
  • Drinking 2 litres of water daily
  • Taking my supplements daily
  • Using my LED mask daily
  • Mindful drinking
  • Drinking apple cider vinegar, lemon and water daily (this is a personal one, as I've found it helps with my insulin resistance and PCOS symptoms)
  • Reading a few pages of my book before bed.

It's worth pointing out here that what works for you is highly personal and so I'd really recommend working out what routines, hacks and lifestyle tweaks truly make you feel good in both mind and body. 

I know that I feel my best when I prioritise morning movement, drink lots of water, and eat balanced meals without any restrictions on what I can eat. I don't endorse cutting food groups out, rather, enjoying everything in moderation. (I've been trialling the new Detox Kitchen Hormone plan which has made eating nutrient-dense, delicious meals particularly simple). Similarly, I know I feel my most relaxed if I take time to do my skincare in the evening, stick to a regular supplement routine, and read before bed. 

I've also found that putting the focus on "aiming" for the above non-negotiables has helped me psychologically from feeling like I've "failed" if I don't manage to tick off all nine each day. But that was never the intention - rather, to aim for as many as I could each day, knowing that if I did, they'd improve my wellbeing. That's the difference between restrictive diet "rules" and general guiding principles, in my opinion. Life is flexible, and so too needs to be your approach to nutrition, workouts, and healthy living. 

Two weeks down the line, I can't stress enough how much better I feel for having jotted down on paper what habits make me feel best in myself and then prioritising them. 

One of Ally's breakfasts during her spring reset

One of Ally's breakfasts during her spring reset

(Image credit: Ally Head)

How to design your own spring reset

Now, to the exciting bit. Feeling inspired and keen to give one a go? Because while I've opted for a spring reset, you can do a reset at any time of the year. 

Stephenson's tips for doing your own reset are as follows.

1. Schedule it in

"Personally, I schedule in two resets each year before I even know what will be going on in my life," shares the expert. She does this, she shares, because she values them as time to commit to her health and wellbeing. She swears by her own brand's reset, the ARTAH The 5-Day Cleanse, largely because the plan is packed full of delicious recipes, yoga and breathwork sessions, too, promising to help you shed negative energy, boost your metabolism and leave you feeling renewed.

Try this: Find a time in your calendar that'll work for you and commit to it by diarising it. Of course, there's no pressure here - if you get to that time period and don't fancy it, don't sweat it - but by doing this, you're making a commitment to yourself and further giving yourself a visual reminder, too.

2. Start from a positive place

This one's important, stresses Stephenson, because if you don't, the stress that you might feel threatens to counter all of the mental and physical benefits you'd otherwise see. 

Try this: "Scheduling it in can help with this as it removes the element of panic," the nutritionist advises. Not just that, but it's also really key to follow or create a reset that you'll actually enjoy and that works for both your lifestyle and your body. For example, if you don't enjoy HIIT workouts, don't commit to a reset that schedules three HIIT workouts a week - you'll only end up dreading it. You were warned.

3. Set state goals over body goals

Ever heard this phrase before? If you haven't, listen up. "Unless you're embarking on longer term programme to address a chronic health issue or body composition goal, it's more important to focus on how you want to feel rather than how much you'll weigh at the end of it," the nutritionist stresses.

Hemsley agrees here, adding that resets should be about taking time out to eat more simply and mindfully, giving the body a break from excess and supporting it with healthy choices.

Try this: If you're under chronic stress, do something restorative. "Exercise is great, but so is recovery," she explains. Why not give breath work, yoga, walking, or Epsom salt baths a go? "Aim to include whatever it is that you think may help you switch off from stress and technology and get into a more restorative state," she concludes.

4. Remember that your health is your most important currency

Stephenson shares that she personally suffered full burnout and subsequent hospitalisation in 2016. "Since then, I've prioritised reset weeks as a core part of my annual routine," she stresses, adding that if she didn't, she'd overwork and "never stop."

Try this: If you're feeling too busy or overwhelmed to prioritise your health, it could be worth clearing your diary for a few days to make the time for self care ideas, home cooking, and workouts. Trust us - while we're all busy at times, it's worth it for how you'll feel afterwards.

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and is a stickler for a strong stat, too, seeing over nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.