Detox Diets – A Silver Bullet or Flawed Fad?

We are constantly inundated with the latest, greatest “solutions” for what to eat and what to omit from our diets for wellness and weight loss. Try this and you’ll lose 20 lbs. in a month, or try that and take inches off of your waistline in no time. What we don’t hear is that almost 100 million Americans are on a diet at any given time, and the weight loss industry makes $20 billion dollars a year. That’s not a typo – $20,000,000,000.

One of the latest trends that has people buzzing is detoxing, which comes in many forms – elimination diets, juicing, special shakes, and so on. Do they work? For some people, yes – to a certain degree. Cutting out certain foods for a few weeks may remove your brain’s “dependence” on them. Certain foods trigger happy chemicals in our brain, leading to cravings. And you may lose several pounds during the diet, but you’re likely to put the weight back on once you return to your old eating habits. 

For others, the effects can be harmful. They become extremely fatigued, which can exacerbate existing medical conditions. Or, they end up craving certain foods so much that they jump off the wagon and binge. 

As far as actually detoxing the body goes, your body is pretty good at detoxing itself. The liver, kidneys, and other organs flush toxins from our systems. And detox diets don’t actually flush fat from the body. 

That being said, doing a detox for a few weeks once or even twice a year is probably ok (so is consulting with your doctor), but keep your expectations realistic. 

When it comes to your health, there are no silver bullets.

It takes time to gain weight. It takes time to lose weight. Most chronic conditions take a lot of time to develop, and a lot of time to recover from (if full recovery is even an option). 

If you want permanent results, you need to make permanent changes – and you probably already know what they are. 

1) Eliminate, or at least reduce, sugar and artificial sweetener from your diet. Sugar leads to inflammation, which leads to a laundry list of physical problems. Many sugar substitutes, especially artificial ones, are also problematic. Do you really need two spoons of sugar or caramel syrup in your morning coffee? 

2) Stand up for what you believe in – your health. Sedentary lifestyles lead to long-term health problems, and some of them are permanent. Standing desks are actually a trend that have legitimate health benefits. 

3) Shop and eat seasonally and locally. When you can, buy organic produce and free-range protein. Better still, start a vegetable garden in your own yard – gardening is some of the best exercise out there. 

4) Be present in the moment. Adopt a few quick mantras that you can incorporate into your day. Practice deep breathing. Thousands of cultures have practiced these traditions for millions of years for a reason. 

5) Spend quality time with people. Humans are social creatures. There are health benefits to live, in-person social time. Smiles, laughter, and hugs actually have positive physical effects on the body. 

6) Cut the crap. Fast-food chains like McDonald’s are losing money because people are opting for healthier alternatives. There are better convenience foods available, but those can have long term effects on the body, as well. 

7) Invest in yourself. If you can afford a daily cup of coffee from a popular chain or weekly take out, you can afford a gym membership, monthly massage, or acupuncture session. They might not be daily indulgences, but they have long-term benefits for your body. If you want more energy, better circulation, restful sleep, and dozens of other benefits, those things come from exercise and Complimentary Alternative Medicine. (Acupuncture can also help jump start stagnated metabolism.) 

8) Limit alcohol. There are health benefits to having a glass of wine or a beer as often as daily, but mixed drinks are empty calories, and mixing alcohol with energy drinks confuses the body. 

9) Reduce or eliminate packaged, refined foods and food products. Need to make meal prep easier? Take an hour over the weekend to cut up all of your vegetables for the week. It reduces cooking time dramatically. Crock pots are your friend. 

10) Sleep. You can do everything else under the sun, but if you don’t give your body the rest it needs, you won’t get the best results from your body. 

Yes, it takes time to prepare food. Yes, it takes time to get prolonged results from exercise, massage therapy, and acupuncture. But you get lasting results. You get more energy to do the things that require your attention on a daily basis. Ideally, you get to keep more money in your pocket in the short and long run because you’ve taken the steps to prevent chronic conditions. 

Take care of yourself. You deserve it.