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Festive overeating? Too much party love? Never fear… there is a cleanse here. Juice, tea, even water with a funky powder added.. these products all claim to be the answer to your sinful ways. The health food and weight loss market is saturated with a never ending array of detox, cleanse and weight loss tonics that will more than likely leave you broke and unbelievably hangry. If you have ever tried to stick to one of these programs, you may relate to the following:
1. Initial weight loss with feelings of success/wellness
4. Low energy
6. Restraint, restraint
7. Ahh screw it
8. Assault on the fridge.. if its edible get it in my mouth
9. Guilt, shame.. why do I not have any willpower?
10. Start cycle over
Does this cycle sound familiar? I will talk more about the dieting cycle and the diet mentality in another post. In this post, I want to focus more on the science behind cleansing and detoxing (or lack there of), and why it is simply not worth your time.
Food for thought: the diet industry is the only industry in the world in which the consumer is blamed for failure and not the product (it is the cleanse that is failing, not you!!).
What does the term ‘detox’ actually mean?
Let’s first discuss the term detox. Essentially, it means to detoxify your body.. remove any nasty toxins. Have you ever actually asked yourself… what is a toxin? I’d be pretty confident that if you asked this question to the people plugging these products, you’d receive a long silent pause. Toxins, by definition, are actually poisonous substances produced by a plant, bacteria or animal that can make a person very sick if ingested (e.g. botulinum toxic produced by bacteria that, if ingested, causes paralysis). If this happens, a veggie juice ain’t gonna help! The diet industry however, has reclaimed the word and it is now used to refer to all the ‘badness’ we put into our bodies – fast food, alcohol, tabacco, sugar, fat, salt, not to mention the million dollar word PRESERVATIVES (terrible horrible badness alert). Detox and cleanse products claim that drinking a certain concoction of juice or tea, will somehow gather up all the toxins and remove them from your body – how exactly? This question isn’t really well explained and rarely asked. Do the detox products go around and latch onto the toxins, drag them kicking and screaming to the kidneys and force them into the outside world when we pee? Hmm when you really conceptualise the process, it seems a little far fetched.
The body’s own master detox system
Fortunately for us.. there is ONE incredible masterful detox system that we can rely on time and time again. It’s called the liver. Yes, the liver is super organ. Not only can it grow back if damaged (cool huh?), its core process is to filter our blood, remove any nasties, neutralise them and expel them from the body.. with or without the presense of vegetable juice or lemon water!!
Metabolism slowing effect
Something you may not be familiar with, is how cleanses and detoxes can negatively affect our metabolism. This is a two part process.
Part 1: When you significantly restrict caloric intake, the body goes into a kind of ‘storage mode’. Because most cleanses are low in carbohydrate (the bodies first choice for energy), it will switch to burning fat for energy. However our bodies use fat for many vital functions, so they do not like to lose too much too quickly. For this reason, your body will start holding onto its fat reserves and will switch to metabolizing protein for energy – big problem (part 2)!
Side note: With a reduction in carbohydrate intake also comes water loss (as carbs hold onto some water), so any rapid weight loss you notice is due to loosing water from the body.
Part 2: Because cleanses are very low in protein [fruit/veggie juice – no protein what so ever] the body will have no choice but to start taking the protein from our muscles for energy. This is problematic, because when we break down/loose muscle it causes our metabolism to slow right down. This is due to the fact that muscle is very metabolically active and burns far more calories per hour than fat, meaning the less muscle we have on our body the slower we are going to burn calories, thereby lowering metabolism. Only a well fed body will maintain an efficient metabolism.
To sum it up…
In summary, cleanses and detoxes can initially help you to lose small amounts of body weight, most of which is likely to be muscle and water loss. They are not based on scientific research and are profiting from our desire for thiness and a quick fix. They are very difficult to stick to and it is easy to fall back into your regular eating pattern due to boredom, low energy and hunger. What they fail to do, is show you ways to improve health in the long term by making sustainable life style and dietary changes. Reaching a healthy weight and maintaining it cannot be achieved in a few days to one week; it takes lasting lifestyle changes. If you have had a particulary ‘less than healthy’ week, be mindful in your food choices following and implement some self-care focusing on better nutrition, hydration, moving your booty and SLEEP!!! The restrictive cleanse will only perpetuate the dieting cycle further, ultimately resulting in additional weight gain and feelings of failure. If you remove the focus from quick fix to long term changes, then there will be no need for you to put yourself through the torment of restrictive, energy draining detoxes and fad diets.