The Truth About Detox Diets and Cleanses

Danielle Omar, MS, RD Lifestyle Leave a Comment

If you’re looking to lose weight, chances are you’ve considered a cleanse of some sort – whether it be juice, shakes, or one of those plans that promises weight loss by eating nothing but ice cream for three days. Promises of major weight loss in almost no time at all sounds enticing. But do they live up to the hype?

Here’s the deal with detox diets and cleanses: You’ll lose weight – but not for long.

Every detox diet and juice cleanse out there touts testimonials of people losing impressive amounts of weight while following their plan. And, you know what? They probably really did lose that weight! But it may have been mostly water weight and they’ve probably since gained it back. When you cut out all food except juice, you’ll lose a lot of water weight – that’s how your body reacts when it’s suddenly lacking all the calories it’s used to getting.

Once your cleanse ends, you’re much more likely to rebound and overeat, which won’t do your waistline any favors. Once you’re back to eating regularly, the weight you lost will also be back. Research has shown that short-term cleanse diets can be effective for very short-term weight loss, but they aren’t a sustainable way to lose weight. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, adopting long-term healthy habits is the way to go.

If you’re less concerned about losing weight, but want to follow a cleanse simply to detox your system, keep this in mind: Your body is perfectly equipped to detox itself. As long as your liver and kidneys are functional, they’re spending 24 hours a day removing toxins from your body, and cutting back to just juice for a few days doesn’t make them work any harder. In fact, you might end up doing more harm than good.

JUICING

Cleanses are based on the premise that you’ll consume much less than you normally would in order to give your digestive system the rest it needs to “detox.” But your body actually needs nutrients like protein and B vitamins to detox itself naturally. Many cleanses have you drop down to calorie levels that don’t provide enough calories, much less important nutrients. Whether you’re sipping on protein powder concoctions or green juice, you can easily end up consuming less than 1,000 calories a day. At that point, your metabolism shifts to adjust to the lack of calories, and slows down to make the most of every calorie it gets. This can cause muscle loss as well, which will affect your metabolism once you get back to your regular eating habits.

When weighing cleanse options, a juice-only cleanse scores lowest. While fruits and vegetables are great for you, getting them through juice alone is not. Juicing removes most of the fiber from fruits and vegetables – which is what does most of the work to keep your gut healthy and your immune system strong.

With juice, you’re left mainly with vitamins and minerals, which is a good start, but trying to run your body on juice alone means you’re running on empty. Juice doesn’t contain protein or fat, which means it’s mainly sugar. This can throw your blood sugar levels way out of whack and cause hypoglycemia, not to mention you’ll be starving! Juicing can be a great supplement to a healthy diet and an easy way to make fruits and vegetables more accessible if you’re having trouble eating enough, but relying on it for everything your body needs? Not so healthy.

SHAKES & SMOOTHIES

Shakes and smoothies are definitely a step up, they allow for some protein and fat and a bit more calories, but you’re still not on track for sustainable changes if all of your calories are in the form of protein smoothies or pre-packaged shake.

When it comes to fad diets like “The Ice Cream Diet” or “The Chocolate Chip Cookie Diet” or other fads that claim eating one not-so-healthy food all day promises weight loss, keep in mind that mono-diets calling for ice cream or cookies (or any other single food) won’t meet all your daily nutrient needs. It might sound fantastic to lose weight while eating junk food, but your body doesn’t run at its best when it’s fueled with junk, so don’t expect to feel great during one of these types of “cleanses.”

Is there a good way to detox?

If you want to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle, running on juices, shakes, or ice cream won’t get you very far. Unfortunately, there’s no quick-fix solution for sustainably losing weight. The best “detox” diet you can follow is actually a healthy diet – one that cuts out refined grains, added sugars, and processed foods and focuses on fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains and beans instead.

If you’re in need of a hard reset, my suggestion is to cleanse your body with real, whole foods – not with packaged products or juice drinks. My 21-day Nourish program guides you through a lifestyle reset that doesn’t deprive you of the nutrition that your body needs. It’s the perfect way to assist and support your body with it’s natural, built-in ability to detoxify.

The next session of Nourish starts on September 4th. Learn more here.

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