When you’re feeling a little sluggish after a few consecutive days of eating take-out or indulging in a few too many glasses of wine, candy, chips, chocolate–which we’ve all been guilty of from time to time–a detox cleanse to try and fix the problem may sound tempting. But the truth of the matter is, detox cleanses rarely give you the results you are looking for, and may actually cause long-term damage to your body. Here are a few reasons why you should stay away from unrealistic quick-fix methods and opt for the more long-term approach; or what I like to call, the 80/20 rule (80 % healthy eating / 20% indulging):
1- Your organs are a built-in detoxifying system
Before you start shoving fruits and veggies into your juicer all willy-nilly, remember that your liver, kidneys, lungs and skin already do an amazing job at detoxifying your body. Juicing removes all the fiber from fruits and vegetables and can throw your blood chemistry out of whack.
What to do instead: To give your organs a break try making permanent changes: cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink. Distributing the allowed 10 units evenly over the course of the week will be more beneficial than not drinking for a month and then having your 10 drinks in one weekend. It goes without saying that you should avoid smoking cigarettes, make sure to get enough sleep, and drink lots of water.
2- Detox cleanses often preach eliminating food groups
Whether you’re thinking about giving the apple cider vinegar or cabbage soup cleanse a whirl, or maybe you’re toying with the idea of eliminating dairy, meat or wheat, it’s important to know that by doing so you’d be cutting out important sources of essential nutrients and vitamins. Depleting your B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and iron intake can leave you feeling low on energy, and quite frankly, a little hangry.
What to do instead: By all means cut out refined foods–your body won’t miss anything that comes in a box or from a take-out menu. The trick is to stick to the produce aisles at the grocery store. Opt for meat, fish, dairy, eggs (vegans are screaming at me right now!) and plenty of greens. If you are vegan or you are curious about veganism, I’m all for it, but make sure to do your research and find out how to get enough plant-based protein on a daily basis. Consulting a nutrition specialist and getting a regular blood test will be able to help you make the transition safely without missing out on anything crucial.
3-You may end up under eating
Most detox cleanses reduce your calorie intake to around 600 calories per day which is far from the recommended 2000 calories for women (depending on your build, age, and level of physical activity). Restrictive dieting will leave you feeling down and may cause short-term damage to your healthy gut flora and long-term damage to your thyroid gland hindering your weight-loss efforts. Plus once you start eating again, if you did lose any weight, you will gain it all back and then some. More importantly, when your body isn’t getting the proper nutrition it needs you may be causing permanent damage to your thyroid and adrenal glands without even knowing it.
What to do instead: Cut the late-night snacking, stop reaching for the 2pm sugar fix, start politely saying no to “office sweets”–yes, this includes Gina’s homemade birthday cupcakes with cream cheese icing. Fresh-cut fruit and vegetables, or a handful of nuts are a much better alternative to snacking (keep in mind that fruit, although healthy, still contain a lot of sugar, so try to limit your portions, but feel free to eat all the crunchy veggies you want).
4- Eating is pleasurable
There’s nothing better than a nice plate of pasta followed by a slice of your mom’s famous key lime pie. There’s a truly enjoyable social aspect to eating, going out to dinner with friends, creating memories with family members around the dinner table. Imagine being invited to a dinner party but not being able to eat since you’re in the middle of a “seven-day prune juice cleanse”.
What to do instead: It’s a fact that most North Americans eat way too much, so diminishing your food intake a little is probably a good idea. Using smaller plates will trick your mind into thinking you have a lot of food on your plate, but the portion will be smaller. Healthier choices and allowing yourself one cheat day per week will prevent you from falling off the wagon.
It’s important to remember that it’s not the occasional piece of cake or bowl of buttery popcorn that will affect your health, it’s the regular occurrences that will over time have a negative impact on your general well-being. Everything in moderation is key. Small, consistent changes will bring you lasting results–there is no such thing as a quick fix. If you stick with it, you will see changes in your energy levels and waistline in no time.
When someone mentions healthy eating we often picture a bland oven-baked chicken breast and boiled spinach, however if you invest time and effort into meal preparation, eating healthy can be delicious. Bring creativity to cooking–broaden your horizons and be open to a plethora of different ingredients–you will discover meals bursting with flavours that will make you fall in love with healthy eating.
For additional results add some light physical activity to your weekly routine–discover the 20-Minute Workout You Will Actually Stick With, then… eat the cake! It’s called balance.