Ahhh…detox, it continues to be the buzzword in diet circles. As always, it seems that we will stop at nothing to lose weight, as some of the most drastic detox plans show. But, do these measures really work? And more importantly are they supportive of long-term weight loss success?
The American Dietetics Association is at pains to point out that the primary function of any detoxification diet is “physical purification” not weight loss.
That physical purification includes the removal of toxins from the body including the skin, respiratory system and the digestive tract. “These diets are not primary intended as weight-reduction regimens,” it states with no small measure of certainty.
That being said, try Google “weight-loss detox methods,” and you will be inundated with weight-loss detox diets. They range from extreme to patently ridiculous, from “Beyoncé’s master cleanse” and “water detox diet” to the Air diet, where you consume nothing but air. With the latter, you might lose weight, but you also might be dead.
Typically, detox diets are meant to last for a few days and are not meant as a long-term eating plan.
Most dietitians advise that to be successful, any weight-loss regimen must be sustainable over the long-term.
WebMD’s Dr. Michael Smith does not advise a detox diet as a form of weight loss, since all you’re losing is water and glycogen. It might help you to drop a few pounds, but you’ll gain it all back, he says.
The Mayo Clinic is equally disparaging of detoxing as a way of losing weight, emphasizing that detox diets are never a good long-term solution. However, you could use a detox diet as a way to jumpstart making healthier food choices, like cutting out bad fats, sugars and processed foods. Those healthy decisions will stand you in good stead over the long term.
James Dillard, assistant clinical professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, tells WebMD, that “there’s nothing wrong with going on a juice cleanse, but only for a few days. “ But it’s not a great way to lose weight, because you’ll gain it all back. You yo-yo.” “The old-fashioned way of eating the right foods, getting exercise, clean living, and keeping a positive mental attitude – that’s what works,” he says.
If there is a detox diet that works for weight-loss it is probably the clean-eating approach, according to WebMD’s Dr. Michael Smith. However, the clean eating detox diet, which limits processed, high fat and sugary foods and replaces them with whole foods like fruit and veggies, isn’t all that different from the dietary advice given by most dietitians.
In fact, the Mayo Clinic Diet offers very similar advice to the clean-eating approach, encouraging dieters to eat more real foods and fewer processed items.
The clean-eating detox diet advocates cutting back on foods with added salt and sugar, which is just sensible dietary advice, says the British Dietetics Association, with a balanced diet that includes lots of fresh vegetables, moderate amounts of fruit, small portions of whole grains, lean meats, fish and chicken and low-fat dairy products.
In a nutshell, eat real food. Moderate alcohol intake and eliminate all food made in a factory. Try to ignore all the marketing hype of detox and cleanses that sound too good to be true. Eating a balanced diet, making healthy choices, and changing your habits in general will yield far better and more sustainable results than any detox can.
Start today by considering which dietary habits of yours are dysfunctional. Perhaps you eat more food than you burn, do you always eat dessert, lack of exercise, are your portions too big. Write it all down and make a plan on changing these.