Updated: Jun 17, 2021
Detox diets are all over the internet that it just feels right to try. The truth is that detoxing will do you more harm than good. And no, it won’t make you lose weight. Let’s discover why and find a better alternative.
Imagine a big red button that if pressed, would reverse all the bad decisions in your life.
How good would that be?
I think it would be fantastic! Sign me up now.
But, of course, there’s no such thing. Yet, for some reason, when it comes to diets and health, people think that this button does exist and they call it: “Detox”.
The idea that spending a few days drinking lots of water, or drinking only juices will leave your insides as clean as an empty sheet of A4 is a myth.
Does that mean that all hope is lost? Absolutely not!
Millions of people around the world have a solution but before getting into that, let’s take a look at why you shouldn’t be getting into detox diets and what they do to your body.
What is a detox?
Detox diets and products come in many forms.
I hate giving them any publicity, but to help you recognise them so you can avoid them, here are some of the most common types of detoxes or cleanses:
Drinking detox or lemon water from morning to evening
Drinking only juice (usually green juices) instead of meals
Drinking ridiculous amounts of water and tea to replace meals
Drinking detox teas and spending most of your time in the bathroom
Using colonics to cleanse your digestive system (with supplements or even enemas)
Eating low calories foods like salad or soup all day
If none of these sound appealing to you, then you are 100% correct.
Getting on any of these detox diets is very unpleasant and headaches, lack of energy, and constant hunger are only the milder side effects of some of these detox diets.
But many people take the “no pain no gain” mindset and stick with them because they promise that they’ll lose weight, flush their body of toxins, make them feel more energised, improve their immune system and many other things which a marketing department somewhere thought of.
Let me make one thing clear, there is ZERO scientific evidence to back any of these benefits. In fact, the medical community is more aware of their negative effects than any benefits.
Myths associated to detoxing
If someone you know (or even yourself) has gone on a juice cleanse or any other restrictive detox diet, they will report benefits such as weight loss or better sleep.
However, there are common sense reasons why this happens and more importantly, these benefits are short lived. Let me explain by breaking some common detox myths.
Myth 1: Detoxing makes me feel less bloated
Yes you will feel less bloated.
But that’s only because you’ve barely got anything in your stomach so of course you will feel less bloated!
And, once you eat, you may feel bloated again and think to yourself “wow that detox really was good because I didn’t feel uncomfortable” but that’s just reinforcing a false belief.
There are so many reasons why you could be bloated. It’s essential to identify the cause. Don’t use a detox as a band aid or quick fix, but try to work with a qualified professional (dietitian) to get the right treatment/solution.
Myth 2: Detoxing made me lose weight
Yes, you may lose weight but only in the short term.
For the same reason detoxing makes you feel less bloated, it will also make you lose weight because you’re essentially empty.
After all, you’ve flushed out intestinal bulk, body water and carbohydrate stores from your body so you will have to lose some Kg’s as well.
Your carbohydrate and water stores lost from that detox could account to up to 4kg of weight loss in just a few days. As soon as you eat some food, you will gain that weight back as it is only temporary. You’re not losing any fat here!
But once you’re off your detox, you’ll put all of that weight back on. And, depending on how extreme your detox was, you’re likely to put on even more weight. If you want to understand how severe diets affect your metabolic system, I’ve written an E-Book which explains the 24 reasons you’re not losing weight. Make sure to check it out.
Myth 3: Detoxing makes me sleep better
This doesn’t always happen because some people are kept awake by their growling stomachs but many people report sleeping better on a detox.
This isn’t because your body is freed from toxins and is finally able to rest (false advertising again!).
It’s simply because many of us eat heavy dinners or don’t leave enough hours between dinner time and bedtime so our digestive system keeps working overtime and we can only fully rest until very late at night.
Try to eat heavier meals during the day and a lighter meal earlier in the evening, and I guarantee that you’ll sleep better. No need for a detox.
Myth 4: Detoxing gives me an energy boost
Your stomach takes up a lot of energy when digesting food.
The heavier your meal, the more it needs to process.
So, if you eat less food you’ll give it less to digest and find that you’ll have more energy. But that energy is short-lived. If you continue starving yourself (because yes, drinking gallons of juice and water instead of eating is starving yourself) you’ll find that your newfound energy boost won’t last long.
In fact, lethargy is one of the most common side effects of most detox diets, followed by hair loss in the long-term, and in some cases, it may even lead to hair loss.
Which leads me to my next point…
The negative effects of detox diets
Anyone who's been on a detox or cleanse will tell you how uncomfortable they can make you feel.
Some of the common side effects of a detox or cleansing diet include:
Feeling sluggish or lethargic
Detox diets force you to eat less than your recommended calorie intake. Because of this, many people report feeling more lethargic and even colder while on a detox diet as they have less energy for their body to burn.
Blood sugar swings
Whether you’re bingeing on too much vegetable and fruit juice, or drastically reducing the food you consume, a detox diet will impact your blood sugar levels.
If you’re a diabetic, stay away from them, but if you really want to try, consult a certified dietitian or doctor before doing so. If you experience symptoms such as unstable blood sugar, extreme fatigue, mood swings, brain fog or memory problems after starting a detox diet, stop immediately and consult a medical professional.
Electrolytes are essential for the body to produce energy and for muscle contractions (among many other things).
Since detox diets make you consume a lot of liquids to flush out “toxins” they also make you flush out a lot of electrolytes which are essential for your wellbeing.
Symptoms of electrolyte deficiency include lethargy, nausea and even water retention, irregular heartbeat or a fast heart rate.
In the long term, the severe calorie restrictions which detoxes impose can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. In severe cases, I’ve seen people suffer from hair loss, brittle nails, impaired vision and very dry skin.
They distort your perception of healthy eating
Detoxes and cleanses are also called extreme diets. They teach unnatural eating habits and promise a quick fix to your problems.
As I mentioned above, these extreme diets can be dangerous for your health.
But, they can also hurt your mental health.
Detoxing distorts your views of what healthy eating is and makes you believe in quick fix diets which promise you the world and never deliver.
Stay on a detox diet (or other extreme diets) for long enough, and not only will you slow down your metabolism, you will also start believing that eating healthy or losing weight means that you need to punish yourself.
Eventually, you might even give up on your health altogether.
As someone who works with hundreds of clients every year, I can tell you that this is much harder to reverse than any damage you’ve done to your body.
The best way to detox
So, is there a way to “detox” your body from impurities? Yes there is. In fact, you do it everyday.
Your body is equipped with the best detox system known to man.
Your lungs, skin, kidneys, and liver detox your body constantly and instead of finding a “hack” to detox, keeping these organs as healthy as possible so that they stay at peak performance is all you need.
How do you do it? By making sure you have a balanced diet and adopting other healthy habits in your daily life.
It’s not as flashy as a three day detox but it’s worked for centuries.
After all, if human beings had to wait for the invention of the juicer or green tea to rid our bodies of toxins, we would not have survived this long. Here’s some easy ways to truly detox.
Drink more water
There’s a reason why water is used in every detox diet.
Drinking the recommended amount of water per day helps your kidney do its job of flushing out impurities from your system. Don’t drink too much water (like cleansing or detoxes recommend) but drink the right amount (so that your urine stays rather transparent) and you’ll be doing your body a world of good.
Eat more vegetables and fruits
Packed with fiber and other essential nutrients, vegetables and fruits are an important part of a balanced diet and have a positive impact on your body’s natural detox system.
If you’re running out of ideas to add vegetables to your diet, take a look at these 55 vegetable recipes.
Detox with better sleep
Getting a good night of sleep will reduce your cravings for refined/simple carbs, sugar and fats.
More importantly a healthy sleep pattern is essential to keep your body - and of course, it’s natural detox system - in top shape.
Sleep is the time of the day your body gets plenty of time to focus on repairing damaged tissue. Allowing your body to recover properly through sleep is one of the best ways to lead a healthier life.
Plus, recent research may be proving that sleep is how your brain detoxes itself.
Detox your lifestyle and diet
Instead of trying to detox your diet, detox your lifestyle instead.
If you think you need to drink juice for 4 days to get rid of the impurities caused by fatty food, sugar, alcohol and cigarettes, then maybe you should start by reducing how much of these you consume. I guarantee that this will bring a longer lasting change than any detox or cleanse.
Detox your social media feed
Last but not least, try to “detox” the information you take in everyday.
Your mind is like your body. What you put in it, has a direct impact on your mental health.
So stop scrolling social media accounts and believing in miracle detox products( skinny teas, gummy bear supplements, celery juice etc…) which will only do you more harm than good. Stop taking nutritional advice from marketers disguised as health gurus, or influencers paid to sell you BS.
And finally, unfollow pages that trigger your body insecurities. If everyone looks thinner, sexier and happier than you, it’s easy to think that you have a problem. But, don’t forget that what you’re seeing is only the part of their life that they want you to see and that filters can work wonders on how you look.
If you want to learn more about healthier eating habits, why not sign up for one of my webinars or visit my Facebook or Instagram page for more tips. Or, read more posts like this one on my blog. I'm sure you'll find it useful.