Should You Do a Detox or Cleanse?
Updated: Apr 12, 2021
It’s January, and the post-holiday reality check is starting to kick in. Although the pandemic limited celebrations and gatherings, if you had time off, chances are you strayed from your regular routine. Maybe slept in a little, watched more TV and enjoyed your favourite foods and desserts. That’s great! I’m a firm believer in adopting this kind of “chill and enjoy” mentality from time to time. Especially when it’s cold out and there’s nowhere to go! But should you try to “fix the damage” and embark on a post-holiday detox or cleanse? With the plethora of information available online, it’s hard to sort out what is and isn’t reliable. So let’s dive in.
What is a “detox” or “cleanse”?
A “detox” or “cleanse” is a prescribed short-term diet (usually just juices and water) that supposedly helps rid your body of unwanted and unspecified toxins. This is based on the ridiculous notion that our bodies are incapable of carrying out this function. Incidentally, according to the juice cleanse companies, you can’t just make your own juice, you have to buy their specialty products to really do it right.
How is it done?
Typical detox diets or cleanses are rigid and eliminate many foods. Some period of fasting could be involved and the diet mainly consists of fruits, vegetables, juices and water. There are tons of specialty juices and products available online and in stores that claim to detox or cleanse your body. They also cost an eye-popping amount.
Detox and juice cleanse companies have successfully promoted the idea that in some way, our bodies are dirty. The message that if I enjoy an ice cream with my kids after a day at the beach, I’ve defiled myself. Heaven forbid we indulge in more than one thing over the holidays because now we’re in deep and probably need their premium detox plan! This messaging is not only wrong, it’s also emotionally draining and potentially harmful to health. We’re human, and it’s more than okay to enjoy mom’s christmas cookies or some nachos now and again. It’s not okay to be made to feel that by doing so, you’ve committed a grievous sin and must immediately expunge all traces of filth.
Our organs take care of this! The magical thing about the human body is how wonderfully capable it is at finding its equilibrium. We have a liver and kidneys that detoxify our bodies on a daily basis. Our liver processes almost everything we eat and breathe and works to identify and pull out toxins or waste (like pollution, drugs and alcohol) from our bloodstream, thereby cleansing our blood. It then sends them to the kidneys to be disposed of in our urine. Every time you take a trip to the bathroom you’re essentially detoxing!
The Potential for Harm
Being on a detox is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard work and tough to stick to. It can also make you feel awful, in more ways than one. You’ll feel exhausted and have less energy. You’ll feel mentally drained after battling to use every ounce of willpower to avoid normal food. You may not be “regular” which can feel uncomfortable. You could feel socially isolated when you’re sipping a water or juice while everyone else enjoys pizza and wings.
What’s especially important is the physical toll it can take. Juices no doubt have vitamins and minerals and other components that are good for our health. However, they lack fibre, whole grains, protein and fat, all of which serve a purpose in our bodies. Whole grains provide us with energy and fibre to stay regular. Whole fruits and vegetables contain the same vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients found in juice, but they come with fibre from the pulp and peel. Healthy fats from fish, nuts and seeds help us absorb vitamins A, D, E and K. And protein provides our bodies with its building blocks. For these reasons and so many more, I don’t advise my family, friends or clients to buy or begin a trendy detox.
What You Can Do
If you’ve had a few weeks of eating out, eating more or eating differently and can feel the difference, there are some things you can do.
Get back to your usual routine. Simply coming back to what you’re used to should help you feel more like yourself.
Eat 3 meals per day and snacks in between if you’re hungry.
Choose whole foods like whole grains (whole grain breads, pasta, quinoa, couscous etc.), lean proteins (lentils and legumes, chicken, fish) and lots of vegetables and fruits (frozen are perfectly acceptable!).
Drink more water. Hydrate with water to quench your thirst.
Meal plan. This ensures that you’ll have homemade and nutritious options readily available.
Move your body. Move in a way that makes you feel good! Take a walk, or run. Do some gentle yoga or a HIIT workout. Whatever works for you.
Let go of the guilt. It isn’t productive and often results in a negative cycle of eating and restricting. That’s no fun for you or your body.
The main thing to remember here is that eating both whole foods and “junk” foods is a normal and healthy way to live. Striking the right balance is key. So don’t subject yourself to restrictive diets that feel exhausting and unsustainable. Give yourself permission to enjoy without consequence and then move on with your life and healthy diet as usual. You got this!
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