Note: this is the first in my fight the fad series on the truth behind the outrageous claims in nutrition and health. Want me to pick a fight with another fad? Leave a note in the comments.
Not too long ago cleanses and detox diets started making national headlines. With celebrity endorsements like Oprah, Gweneth Paltrow and that weird guy with dreads at your local Whole Foods, our culture has whole-heartedly embraced juicing our way to the promise of effortless weight loss, glowing skin, and healthy internal organs. There are a lot of interesting arguments that are made for these cleanses, and to the casual observer of nutrition it may sound convincing.
“There’s how many pounds of toxic sludge in my system that I need to flush out?”
“I can lose 20 pounds in just 7 days?”
“This juice really has superpowers, huh?”
But just because everyone else is buying into this ridiculous fad, doesn’t mean you have to too. Today, I’m here to arm you with my top facts about detoxification that will help you avoid this trendy fad, and hopefully be able to help a friend or two avoid them as well.
#1. Your body is actually detoxifying as we speak — Yes, your body does actually detoxify, but the cool thing is it is happening all the time, not just when you swig some gag inducing juice concoction. This detoxification is the reason why our bodies can handle substances like alcohol and tylenol. Because your body’s system is constantly at work, there’s no need for any additional mechanism to “jumpstart” detoxification. If your liver, which is your powerhouse detoxifier, were to be “inefficient” as many pseudo experts claim, you would actually have a serious medical condition and in dire need of a transplant.
#2. Your “cleanse” is robbing your body of vital nutrients needed for… (surprise!) Detoxification — The natural process of detoxification is a series of chemical reactions in the liver. These reactions require adequate nutrients in order to do their thing. One vital nutrient for this process is adequate protein, so swigging shakes all day is not going to do the trick.
#3. It’s not doing what you think it’s doing – so your friend/neighbor/dog’s previous owner starts a cleanse and loses 8 pounds in 3 days. You think those results sound great, so you may as well try it out too, right? WRONG! Because that weight is NOT fat. Here’s what friend/neighbor/pet deserter actually is losing:
a) Fecal mass. Yep, poop. Not only does a juice cleanse give you the runs, but it also fails to replace any of the fiber in your system. So all of the sudden you have lost a few pounds of poop.
b) Water: Because these detoxes don’t provide your body’s full requirement of electrolytes, minerals, and carbohydrates, you will find yourself peeing like a racehorse. So you lose a few more pounds in the form of pee.
c) Muscle mass: Finally, without adequate nutrients, calories, and protein, your body goes to the next best source for starvation fuel: your muscles. So the weight you’re losing is actually your strong, sexy, metabolism boosting muscle. Let’s just not go there, ok?
#4 Let’s just call it what it is–disordered eating: Just like you can’t put lipstick on a pig and call it Charlize Theron, let’s just be honest about what a cleanse really is. Restricting your food intake to a level that doesn’t support your health, especially after a period of higher food intake (think: post holiday cleanse) actually is a disordered habit. And this can lead you down the rabbit hole to more concerning behaviors like bingeing/purging, or anorexia.
So if the crazy detox is off the table, how do we create a healthy life and a healthy body? The truth is, there is no detox out there that can do what a lifetime of healthy, balanced eating can do for your body, your mind, and your physique. It may seem like the slow road to Chinatown compared to losing 10 pounds after a week of detoxing, but the difference is you will actually make progress that supports your body and your life, instead of making changes that are detrimental in the long run.
Questions? Comments? Hate mail from the detox hustlers? Leave them below!