Monday, March 5

Detox Diets. To Cleanse or not to Cleanse

Many of us, at some point, have turned to liquid diets, colon cleansing, detox teas, detox shakes, laxatives, herbal formulas and other methods to "purify" our bodies and lose weight fast.  But do detox diets work?

Holiday Weight Gain still got you down?  Feeling bloated and tired? Getting Red Carpet Ready?

Although most of us aren't in the throws of big Hollywood pressure to lose weight for a Red Carpet event, it sometimes feels that way.  And with many celebrities admittedly turning to extreme weight loss and liquid diets, some small part of us wants to believe that detox diets are a safe way for us to lose weight.

Take Beyonce Knowles for example. In her role for the movie Dreamgirls, the singer and actress explained to Oprah Winfrey how she lost weight to portray her character's younger, teenage self   "I did a fast—a master cleanser for 14 days."

The results of Beyonce's cleanse came, not surprisingly, with side effects.  "Everybody was eating Krispy Kremes around me. I was grouchy, but I did it and I lost the weight." she said.

"So I might get a little grouchy", you think to yourself.   "A detox diet is totally worth it if I can lose a few pounds."  But what you rarely hear about is the long-term weight loss effects of cleansing. It wasn't long before Beyonce transformed from her unsustainable movie role weight back into her gorgeous bootylicious self.

Let's see if we can find detox diets that work for long-term weight loss.

Defining Detoxification
Every year we breathe in thousands of pollutants, are exposed to chemical cleaners, BPA, dioxins and consume artificial preservatives, pesticides and hormones in our food.  UGH! Disgusting...but true!

Some people detox to remove these harmful toxins from the body.  In some cultures detox or fasting is a form of spiritual purification. In modern times the pressure to have celebrity-perfect bodies has led many to cleansing diets for weight loss.

Advocates of detox diets claim that our bodies were not made for today's world of fast food and pollution.  They subscribe to detoxification methods to purify the body of "extra" toxins to increase energy, eliminate bloating, reduce fatigue, and lose weight.

There are hundreds of variations of cleansing. Some detox methods sound completely ridiculous to the informed consumer like the grapefruit juice and cayenne pepper cleanse.  But some forms of detoxification don't sound so bad.  You can cleanse by eliminating "toxic" foods (alcohol, caffeine, meat and dairy) or drinking fiber-filled vegetable juice for a prescribed amount of time, or even take laxatives to cleanse your body.  How do you know which detox methods you should avoid and which are good for long-term weight loss?

Dieticians and medical experts claim that most detoxification methods are too extreme for the body and too short-lived to have long-term results. After all, the body has a natural detoxification system - your kidneys, liver and the gastrointestinal tract.  If all is in good working order with your body, you have all the tools you need to lose weight and remove toxins. Instead of short-term solutions that could be dangerous, physicians suggest changing your diet to include more fruits and vegetables and to gradually eliminate "junk food" from your daily regime completely.

But in an instant gratification world, that's not what we want to hear.

And why shouldn't you think that?  Even Celebrity Trainers have been lured by the promise of quick weight loss.

In Jillian Michael's book Making the Cut, the Biggest Loser Trainer shares how a 7 day fast left her eight pounds lighter. But in just two weeks Jillian gained 15 pounds back...TWICE as much as she lost while fasting!!!  It was a grueling 6 month journey for her to lose the weight by changing her diet for good.

Why did Jillian's body react like this?  Let's take a look at what happens to your body while detoxing.  

What Science says about Detox Diets
Science tells us the weight you might lose during cleansing - if you lose any weight at all - is NOT fat loss.  As the numbers on the bathroom scale go down, you're losing water weight (which you'll re-gain after you stop the cleanse) and calorie-burning lean muscle (because you probably don't have enough energy to work out).  Your hormones are out of whack. Your body is under stress. And you're mad hungry.

In other words, most detox diets leave you dehydrated and fatigued as you cry holding your flabby muscles wishing you had a slice of pizza....not quite the sexy weight loss story you were after.

Other dangers are abundant as most cleansing diets eliminate vital nutrients our bodies need to perform basic functions. Especially at risk are teens, pregnant or breastfeeding women, those with chronic diseases and on certain medications.

There isn't a short-term detox diet that provides long-term weight loss solutions, except...

"Safe" Detox Diet Alternatives

With many different definitions of cleansing abound, I will submit that not all are inherently bad.  There are upsides to some "gentle" types of detox diets that are supervised by dietitians. Plus, it's been shown that detox diets could bring awareness to potentially less-than-ideal lifestyle habits. More awareness is one of the key steps to change. Here are some ways to detox your life for good!
  • Try "cleansing" your life by creating new, healthy habits and eliminating unhealthy, old ones.
  • Consume foods rich in fiber like vegetables, fruits and whole grain on a daily basis.
  •  Keep a food journal to help you self-regulate foods that make you feel "toxic"
  • Commit to a weekly work out routine to keep your metabolism in-check.
Remember, short-lived solutions don't stick. 

Instead of committing your time to a 3 day cleanse, spend that time planning for a more balanced, nutritious forever-diet. Because as Beyonce will tell you, it is ultimately her commitment to morning workouts and healthy food that keeps her body rockin', not the detox diet that left her craving Krispy Kremes.


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  2. I agree, many thanks to the author. Thanks for taking the time to share this, Detoxification of the body begins with the colon. Great blog post.
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