As a society, we like things fast. We are impatient. We get antsy if we have to wait more than a couple minutes in line or for an appointment. Unfortunately, this impatience very often carries over to our fitness lives, and especially our diets. We don’t want things now. We want them yesterday.
The beginning of the new year brings out an even higher amount of “quick fix” diets than normal. Our Instagram feed in particular has been flooded with the latest ways to “lose weight now!” As women, we are bombarded with this not only on social media, but on every magazine cover, tv commercial and our email inbox. It’s hard to not think there must be something to these diets, right?
Before I begin with my opinion on this, let me first give you some background. I have been there, done that. Name a form of severe calorie depravation diet and I have probably tried it in the past. I even lost weight on a few of them. That said, I never got healthy. In fact, one popular weight loss company’s “set calorie level” and prepackaged food once gave me such bad stomach pains that I ended up in the emergency room! Others have left me tired, headachy, irritable and constantly hungry. But despite all that, I still found myself looking for the newest and best until I changed my head.
My biggest pet peeve of all the diets out there has got to be the increasingly popular “cleanse” or “detox” diets. The true meaning of a detox is a medical intervention to rid the body of toxic levels of drugs, alcohol or poisons. How did it become mainstream to take this into our own hands? While the average detox may not cause huge harm for a day or two, I often see people talking about staying on these diets for as long as 30 days!
Think about it. You have a period of time where you know you are eating like crap. Maybe you’ve been to one too many drive-thru’s or holiday parties. Or maybe you waited until two weeks before your beach vacation to decide you need to lose ten pounds. So like many people, you reach for the latest fad. The option that will work the fastest. But before you reach for that liquid “meal,” please stop to consider what you are really doing to your body.
1. Most liquid diets do not contain any (or at least not nearly enough) protein. Protein builds & sustains muscle. A recent US News article explains how cleanses can “actually cause you to lose muscle, not fat.” Why is this such a big deal? Muscle burns more calories than fat. Simply put, if you lose muscle, you will not be able to eat as much. Building muscle has caused me to burn over 700 more calories a day than I used to pre-lifting days. (That is 700 calories while at rest!) Losing that hard-earned muscle is the last thing I want to do! The Harvard Medical School Family Health guide adds, “many studies have shown that fasts and extremely low-calorie diets invariably lower the body’s basal metabolic rate as it struggles to conserve energy. Once the dieter resumes normal eating, rapid weight gain follows.”
2. The average cleanse/detox is a serious calorie depravation diet. Most nutritionists recommend never going below 1200-1500 calories for even the least active individual. Many of these diets are in the range of 800-1200 calories per day. This is the quickest way to put your body into “starvation mode.” According to WebMD, low-calorie diets are safe for some people, but only under “proper medical supervision.” They go on to suggest that if your body mass index is under 30, “very low-calorie diets should be reserved for those who have weight-related medical problems and are under medical supervision.”
3. These diets are not sustainable! When you “finish” the diet, I can almost guarantee you will be craving all of your favorite “junk” foods, and likely not in moderation! (Remember, I have “been there, done that. I speak from experience on this one.)
4. Much of the weight you lose will be water weight & bloat. You can lose this bloat in much healthier ways, mainly by eating clean, reducing your processed food intake and drinking water.
5. There is no quick fix. It just isn’t there and if anyone tells you otherwise, they are lying. If they are trying to get your business, turn and run. Clean eating and a fit lifestyle is hard work, plain and simple. But once you begin to develop habits, it becomes much, much easier.
6. For the average, reasonably healthy person there is no medical reason to cleanse. A recent post by the Business Insider says it better than I possibly could: “Unless you’ve been poisoned, we already have a super-efficient system for filtering out most of the harmful substances we eat. It’s made up of two toxin-bashing organs: the liver and the kidneys. While our kidneys filter our blood and remove any waste from our diet, our liver processes medications and detoxifies any chemicals we ingest. Paired together, these organs make our bodies natural cleansing powerhouses. ‘Unless there’s a blockage in one of these organs that do it day and night, there’s absolutely no need to help the body get rid of toxins,’ family physician Ranit Mishori of the Georgetown University School of Medicine told NPR.”
At the end of the day my health, athletic performance and how I feel is the most important to me. I know I cannot fuel workouts (or even my daily activities) on 1200 calories a day. I am still a work in progress, but try to adhere to “food as fuel” when deciding what I want to put in my body. While many of the ingredients in these diets are healthy fruits & vegetables, they also eliminate many key nutrients that I am personally not willing to give up.
So what are YOUR thoughts? I know (just from looking at our Instagram feed!) there will be many of you out there that don’t share my opinion on this one, but I would love to hear your thoughts whether you agree or disagree. What is your opinion of cleansing/detoxing?