The ‘cleanse’ and ‘detox’ myth
Using words such as detox and cleansing may give a sense of you helping your body – especially after Christmas when most of us over-indulge. They are certainly very popular buzzwords, especially when it comes to advertising this multi-million pound industry.
Some of the ways to ‘detox' or 'cleanse’ yourself are aimed at extreme lifestyle changes, such as 100% liquid diets, fruit only, or fruits and vegetables only – so cutting out whole food groups, and therefore a whole lot of nutrients. You will not get all that your body needs from just one food or food group. You need variety to help your body help itself.
Heavily restricting calories this way can have detrimental effects on your body’s systems. Muscle mass can start to decline as your body starts to break it down due to the restriction of protein in the diet, and ketones are released (as they are if you’re on a low-carb/ketogenic diet).
The fact that there is no scientific evidence to back these claims up should start to sound alarm bells. After a few days of these extremely restrictive diets you will lose weight, however, have you ever stopped to think what is actually lost from your body? It’s not fat cells. You’re just losing water, that’s it.
Due to the lack of energy you’re putting into your body, your energy stores will be used up very quickly and you will start to feel irritable, fatigue, weakness and light-headedness. This can deter you from partaking in physical activity that should be part of a healthy lifestyle.
These fad diets aim to rid you of toxins, however if our body accumulated so many of these toxins, we would be feeling quite ill. We have specific organs to help us naturally ‘detox’, such as our liver and kidneys; these and others work incredibly hard to remove waste products from our bodies to help keep you healthy. By adopting such a restrictive diet, you actually compromise these functions and are not helping your body do its job as it was designed to.
Once you get back to normal eating, the weight starts to appear just as quickly as it disappeared. The best and healthiest way to lose weight or restore your health after a bout of holiday cheer is to just cut back on treat foods, including those left-over mince pies and bottles of wine! If it's weight in particular you are looking to lose, in all honesty a detox or cleanse diet is not going to help you, as this encourages yo-yo dieting meaning each time you try to lose weight it gets harder and harder. Gradual slow changes to our habits and lifestyle are the best method. This makes it a little less stressful and easier to stick to when changes are made slowly.
After the holiday fun, you may feel lost and unable to pick up where you left off when it comes to leading a healthy life. This is when most of us want a quick fix which makes us feel as though we’re getting back on track when actually we’re not, by making our bodies suffer from restrictive methods.
My advice would be to keep a food diary. You don’t need to note down all the nutritional information such as calories and fat content - this can make the process long-winded and make you more likely to choose a route that has been disguised as ‘easy’. Just concentrate on noting all your food and drink over the space of a few days, or even a week or two. This will help paint a picture of what your current eating is like and highlight where you can start to improve. Also, by keeping a food diary, it can make you more aware of what you’re eating in the moment, and may make you think twice before over-indulging. (Side note: I have said “over-indulging”; I have used the word ‘over’ because treating yourself and indulging every now and then when celebrating and at such times of the year like Christmas is okay! It’s only a problem when it gets a little out of your control).
Don’t be sucked in by products or fads claiming to be quick and easy. It can all sound too good to be true, and a lot of the time it is! Unfortunately, there is no miracle pill, drink, single food or fad that can help you achieve your optimal health. These things take time, and your health will thank you for making slow changes and allowing your body and your lifestyle to adjust to them.
H, K. (2015). Detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management: a critical review of the evidence. - PubMed - NCBI . [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25522674 [Accessed 20 Dec. 2018].
Nhs.uk. (2006). [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/tiredness-and-fatigue/Documents/TruthDetoxDiets.pdf [Accessed 16 Dec. 2018].
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About Laura Westwood
Laura is a qualified nutritionist and works in partnership with clients to find solutions and offers support for managing medical conditions and achieving health goals through food. She enjoys the positive outcomes of clients’ cases by ‘making food work for you’. Laura works in and around the Wiltshire area and offers home visits.… Read more
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