Detoxing and cleansing are big business. And why wouldn’t it be? The promise of fast weight loss, removing toxins, improving digestion and fighting just about every ailment known to mankind is pretty enticing. I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of the phenomenon. I think that detox and cleansing promoters use deceptive and fear-based marketing to promote protocols that are unnecessary, ineffective over the long run, and potentially dangerous.
Perhaps you or someone you know is faced with the “to detox or not” conundrum. Here are 4 rationalizations people tend to give for fasting, accompanied by a counter argument.
1. I just need a “boost” for my weight loss
This is likely the most common reason for detoxing (whether people want to admit it or not). The hard truth though is that weight re-gain is almost inevitable with a fast loss. People tend to delude themselves into thinking that if they just get that “kickstart” that they’ll be on the permanent road to “thinville”. Not likely…
Fast weight loss through liquid diets and otherwise insufficient calories does not boost your metabolism – it stifles it. The metabolic and hormonal response will continue to tell your body to eat and sooner or later your weight will creep back up. Those who have kept the weight off are the exception – not the rule.
2. I need to “clean out” my system
Promoters of detox diets have curious interpretations of gastrointestinal physiology. Many proponents believe that our colons need to be periodically “flushed out”, lest wastes accumulate and cause dire consequences.
Don’t get me wrong, a healthy digestive system is important, but in the absence of a medical condition, this can be achieved through sound dietary choices that include adequate fiber, water and other dietary interventions that keep healthy bacteria thriving and the unhealthy beasties in check.
3. I need to remove “toxins”
Promoters of detoxing are vague in their definition of “toxin”. This is either because a) a toxin comes in so many different forms or b) by keeping the definition vague, the detox promoters can attract a broader spectrum of customers.
The general theory is that our world is full of toxins and our bodies can’t get rid of them fast enough. If the toxin alarmists were right – most of us would be dead right now. To legitimize these claims, toxin theorist ought to be able to provide before and after blood analysis showing noticeable differences in liver enzymes, levels of antioxidant vitamins, and levels of aluminum and other metals.
4. I feel better when I do it
Feelings of increased energy are reported by many who undergo a cleansing protocol. When you restrict calories for longer periods of time, however you will almost assuredly experience a decline in your energy levels. Further, reports of increased energy can be explained by the placebo effect (if the promoters tell you it will boost your energy – you will be more inclined to buy into it).
Another plausible explanation for the energy surplus is that it may be a built-in mechanism – a vestige left over from our ancestors who had to go days without food during times of famine.
How to Cleanse without “Cleansing”
One of the main issues I have with detoxing is that it feeds into the false assumption that we can atone for our dietary sins through periodic cleansing regimens. This is far-removed from what I believe the concept of healthy eating should encompass.
And while I take issue with detox protocols that are restrictive, require supplements or herbs and institute bizarre rules – small scale, daily cleansing is a concept I’m on board with.
This would entail eating healthfully most of the time, getting plenty of exercise, adequate sleep and remaining as light-hearted and stress-free as possible. Not always easy in today’s world but certainly better than being on the indulge/restrict roller coaster.
Also, I’m all in favor of periodically eschewing things like fast food, coffee and desserts for a set period of time. Call it a fast, detox, cleanse – whatever you like!