Health and Fitness Fridays: Weight Loss Fads Part 2 – Cleansing or Detoxing

Last week, I introduced my latest Health and Fitness Friday topic and gave a little background on myself. This week I researched cleanses and detoxes, and actually learned a fair bit. My idea of a cleanse was the 3 day eat nothing but shakes to lose some weight. What I realized over the last week is that whiles these types of cleanses do exist there are other ways or ‘cleansing’ your body that are not so drastic.

Cleansing- What is it?

The premise behind cleansing or detoxing is that your body will accumulate toxins from your environment and the food you eat; every so often you should cleanse your body to rid yourself of these toxins.

The idea is not a new one, as it is based on the Ancient Egyptian and Greek idea of autointoxication, where certain foods can putrefy and produce toxins that harm the body. ( Cleansing and detoxing lives in the realm of alternative medicine and mainstream medicine continually produces evidence that the field is unscientific. But there are a growing number of people that are buying into the idea of cleansing your body.

There seems to be two main types of cleanses, a more moderate method of cleaning up your diet and focusing on eating foods that will help detox your body.  The other, I feel, more extreme type is the fasting cleanses where you only eat minimally for a period of time, usually 3 days to a week.

Clean Eating

The basic premise behind clean eating is to eat whole, natural foods and to avoid processed foods. Based on this it is easy to see the line between clean eating and detox. By avoiding processed and refined foods you will eventually rid yourself of the toxins in your body.

A quick Google search gives a number of Clean Eating Detoxes ranging from 3 to 30 days. The common theme is that they provide a meal plan that doesn’t seem too hard to follow. The meals look colorful and full of nutrients.

The few I looked through had around 1300 to 1600 calories a day. Which is not enough for me, but is not an unhealthy amount for many people.

Here is a sample I found of a 3 day clean eating detox

Fasting Cleanses

When you say “cleanse” most people will think of fasting cleanses. These tend to be shorter and more extreme than the clean eating cleanses, and are intended to kick start your system into a new routine.

The common theme amongst these fasting cleanses is a drink/ shake in place of food. Some cleanses allow for one meal a day, and some do not. The duration can be as short as 48 hours, but I found some that were up to three weeks. The longer ones tended to allow for at least one meal a day and shakes the rest of the time.

The most well-known cleanse is the Master Cleanse and it involves 10 days of drinking six to twelve glasses a day of maple syrup/lemon juice/water/cayenne pepper lemonade and taking daily laxative. See the link for some more common cleanses.

Side Effects

Any time you change your diet drastically you are bound to run into a few side effects, and cleanses are no different.

With Fasting cleanses you are likely to feel fatigued, because they are low calorie and often don’t provide much in the way of carbs and fats. If you are not maintaining your water intake during your cleanse you may also risk becoming dehydrated. People with certain health issues, like diabetes, should not follow a fasting cleanse because they won’t be able to keep their blood sugar at appropriate levels.  You can find a list of common side effects here:

For clean eating cleanses the side effects have more to do with cravings. Suddenly cutting out processed foods, particularly sugar will make your body go through withdrawal, and while it won’t be like a drug withdrawal, it won’t be fun either.

To detox or not to detox?

My personal belief is that you do not need to detox, especially a fasting detox. If I were to get on board for a detox, it would definitely be the clean eating diet, but that has more to do with my eating philosophy rather than believing in the detoxifying effects of the diet.

The body is able to effectively remove toxins on its own and you may end up risking your health if you constantly restrict your food intake.

If you are cleansing to lose weight, you will most likely just put it back on when you start eating normally. The best way to lose weight is through a slight calorie reduction and not restricting your intake.

Next week: Pills, Patches and Powders.


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