The Dirt On Cleanses

Returning to reality after my holiday has been a bit of a cold shower. Back to diets, back to alarm clocks, workouts and every other lifestyle disciplines I’ve given myself permission to let slide while I was away.

One of the growing trends in weight loss snake-oil these days, particularly after periods of indulgence like the holidays and vacations, are the cleanse or detox systems (“lose pounds and pounds of poison trapped in your body! Lose belly fat, clear your skin, grow three inches, gain twelve I.Q. points and improve relations with your in-laws with these herbal magic-beans!”).

Advocates claim the body builds up toxins that require extraordinary measures to be removed. But the psudo-science at work is fuzzy at best and actually pretty dangerous in worst case scenarios. The consensus in medical circles is that, unless they’re not working properly, your liver and kidneys will do the job. After all, that’s what they’re there for.

I’ve actually tried a few different cleanses over the years but didn’t find the miraculous results the books and bottles toted (quel surprise!). What I did get was headaches, nausea, gas, dehydration and a LOT of time logged in the bathroom (many of them contain pretty powerful laxatives. I won’t get into gory details, but I did manage to reread four of the Harry Potter books in one week). Not to mention a pretty sizable ding in the ol’ bank account! These things are not cheap. I kept the packaging from the last one I tried. It was $40.00 for “the system”, which included two bottles of tablets; organ detox formula, colon cleanse formula and directions. Ok, $40.00 isn’t terrible but when I got to the counter, I found out that I also had to purchase the oil and fibre supplements and the whole thing tagged in at just shy of $230.00 when all was said and done.

The other laughable point to the detox systems is that they come with severely restrictive diets (if you’re allowed solids at all). The instructions that came with the kit I bought included the following:

  • Avoid stress as much as possible.
  • Exercise, even if it’s only a 30 minute walk.
  • Get plenty of rest (7-8 hours).
  • Drink 8-10 glasses of pure filtered or spring water per day.
  • Eat plenty of fresh organic fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat fish, free range chicken, turkey or eggs.
  • Eat well cooked grains: brown rice, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, quinoa, spelt or teff.
  • Eat pasta made from the above grains.
  • Take essential fatty acids (flax, borage and fish oil combinations are best).
  • Eat raw nuts and seeds.

If I’m doing all of that, what do I need the $230 in pills for?!

Lastly, I don’t believe cleansing is conducive to a healthy attitude toward food. Edie Grace put it best on

The biggest psychological danger with detoxing is that it teaches people that they can erase mistreatment of their bodies with fasting and laxatives. The Master Cleanse detox is not a replacement for a healthy diet and an appropriate fitness regimen. If you feel unwell enough to consider using a detox, Harvard HEALTHbeat magazine recommends seeing a doctor instead.

Yes, I let my diet go while I was away. I ate too much, drank too much and slept late. There was a time (not that long ago), I would have attempted to come back to a week of salad and water and over-exercise to try and “make up” for it. Maybe it’s because I’ve reached a certain age, but it just seems easier and more sensible to return to good habits, clean eating and moderate treats, (maybe a little extra effort at the gym to get back up to speed), because it makes me feel good. Sometimes it can actually be that simple.

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Knight and Dave