In the world of health and fitness, cleanses/detox plans/resets are being touted all over as the way to get you healthy and help you lose weight. But are they actually necessary? As with pretty much anything you search on the internet, you can find compelling evidence to support and refute claims regarding these types of programs. So what is the average consumer to do? First of all, investigate your sources. A reputable source will provide scientific evidence to support claims rather than general claims and anecdotal testimonials. Secondly, medical sources concur that the body has it's own detoxing system in place and doesn't need help from a bunch of supplements or time off from digesting food to to it's job. Your liver is very effective at removing unwanted substances from your body.
But why do people report losing weight on these detox plans? Most likely because they are consuming a very low calorie diet for the duration of the program. This will provide short term weight loss (and perhaps other perceived positive effects), however, the weight will likely quickly return when the consumer returns to their previous habits.
The real key to improving health, fitness, and achieving/maintaining ideal weight is to develop a lifestyle that incorporates exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep. For many, making small changes works best for lasting results. Others may feel the need to "jump start" into healthier habits. For those that prefer to dive in, or perhaps need a push back into previously created healthy habits, designating a few days to a week of focused effort can be effective. I prefer this approach to a cleanse because you are building habits that you will continue to incorporate into your daily life. There are times when I have fallen off the wagon in terms of eating for the best nutrition. Eventually I decide, that's enough. Eating poorly makes me feel bad physically and mentally. And I put a plan in motion to reestablish better habits.
My plan usually looks something like this:
Start the day with a smoothie - greens (spinach, kale), frozen fruit, fresh lemon juice, and water
Breakfast - eggs, piece of whole grain toast, fruit,sometimes coffee with a small spoonful of coconut oil
Snack - nuts, Larabar, Kind Bar, piece of fruit, similar items
Lunch - big salad including avocado, almonds, and some cheese along with lots of veggies
Snack - Shakeology, yogurt with granola, or one of the previously listed snack items
Dinner - more veggies (raw, steamed, or roasted), protein such as grilled salmon or chicken or sprouted tofu, small serving of whole grain pasta or other grain/starchy item
Of course, my diet is more varied than the above list as these are just a few examples to give an idea of how I break the cycle of eating too many sweets, portions that are too big, and foods that leave me feeling not great. Staying focused on eating as many whole, unprocessed foods for about a week is usually enough to bust my cravings. Once I'm back on track, my food choices remain similar to those above, but with a little more wiggle room. I might enjoy a few squares of dark chocolate after dinner, or snack on some corn or sweet potato chips, but mainly, I try to keep it simple! A complicated plan can be overwhelming and set you up for failure. Stick to the basics and expand as you learn more about nutritious, whole foods that you enjoy.
For people who need more structure to get them out of a rut and get these healthy habits going, Beachbody just released a program called 3 Day Refresh. It requires the user to focus for 3 days on getting the best nutrition possible and helps build lasting habits. The 3 Day Refresh will be my go to the next time I feel I've fallen into poor eating. It will be my first time ever trying a program like this and I'm excited to give it a shot as it seems to fall in line with the beliefs about nutrition I've written here. It will be nice to have a plan laid out for me so all I need to do is follow along.
Bottom line opinion: ditch the cleanses and detoxes. Focus on building habits that make your body feel good and function well. Use tools if desired, but be sure you're still getting the nutrition you need!