Americans love fads, especially diet fads. One of the latest crazes is adopting a temporary, detoxifying (detox) diet to rid our bodies of toxins to affect weight loss.
It’s true that we live in a toxic environment of humanity’s own creation, replete with airborne and aerosolized chemicals from factory smoke to automobile exhaust, soils tainted with pesticides and heavy metals, waters flowing with hormones from leftover prescription medications and particulate plastics born as litter tossed from a boat, foods packed with additives and empty calories, and all manner of ingestible and injectable prescription and non-prescription drugs in proper and illicit use.
The effect of these toxins on us is profound: cancers, allergies, disorders, and maladies abound. Undoubtedly, a toxin-filled body will be far from its ideal state of well being.
Learning about a detox diet for weight loss means you will likely learn something about positive eating habits and good foods – like the need for more fruits and vegetables, drinking more water instead of soft drinks, and saying goodbye to junk food. The much touted benefits of a “detox diet,” nevertheless, are in many cases tied to a person with poor dietary habits experimenting with good habits! So, it’s unsurprising that detox-diet participants will look and feel better when they drink more water and start eating a lot of fruits and vegetables.
There are simple, logical habits one can adopt to limit their body’s toxicity:
- Don’t smoke
- Don’t drink alcohol and caffeine
- Avoid processed foods
- Seek out organically grown and raised foods
- Be aware of those toxins to which you might be exposed so they can be avoided
- Drink 64 ounces of filtered water daily
- Keep live plants in your home to help clear your air
- Remove hazardous household cleaning and personal products
Proponents of more active detox techniques might recommend the following:
- High heat in a sauna to provoke an outpouring of pore-clearing sweat
- Massages to drive toxins out from muscles and soft tissues
- Enemas and hoses inserted into the anus and sent up the rectum to irrigate the colon with water and flush out all fecal matter
- Partial or absolute fasting for metabolic adjustment and digestive relief
- Chugging gallons of distilled water to “flood” the body and wash out internal organs
- Taking liquid zeolite to capture and remove heavy metals, ions, radioactive particles, and impurities
- Supplementing with herbal remedies
There is an ongoing debate among experts as to whether all of these more active techniques are even necessary for detoxification. Properly functioning liver, lungs, kidneys, and skin collectively have a great capacity, per nature’s design, to rid the human body of most waste, toxins, and foreign bodies when supported with a lifestyle that includes eating quality, necessary foods and regular exercise.
However, use of detoxifying techniques for weight loss is somewhat misleading in both purpose and effect. Detox often calls for limited, particular eating or fasting; little to no eating, hence, little to no calories. Since the key to weight loss is a calorie deficit, cutting out most if not all food will certainly result in a loss of both fatty and lean body weight. Most people wanting to lose weight, however, really just want to lose their fat, not their muscle. Those engaging in an absolute (i.e. no food or water) fast will also be losing water weight.
The contemporary American psyche holds that a diet is something to “go on”, “come off”, “start” or “quit”. In fact, a diet is a reasonable, sustainable, more or less consistent habit of eating that you follow throughout your life. My own diet steadily delivers culinary satisfaction while being healthy. Following wacky fads and eating right sometimes are not the path to good health and longevity. That said, some people do consciously commit to a well thought-out, lifelong, calorie-restrictive diet and there are, in fact, studies supporting this as being beneficial in several ways, from reducing the risk of cancer all the way to increasing maximum life span!
Be sure to consult with your physician before adopting any radical, long term, detoxifying diet so that you clearly understand what it is that you hope to achieve and the risks, benefits, and drawbacks of what you’re about to attempt. You can end up terribly mentally, physically, psychologically, and immunologically weak if you run short of essential macro and micro nutrients. Worse still, you can end up dead if you push yourself to starvation.
More conventional, short term – like 1-7 days – dietary changes for detoxifying and shedding pounds tend toward allowing certain foods and disallowing others. Generally, the things that are allowed are the following:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Unsalted nuts and seeds
- Oats and brown rice
- Plain popcorn
- Herbal, caffeine-free teas
- Pure, unsweetened juices
On the other hand, the things that are generally disallowed:
- Wheat-containing breads, cereals, and baked goods
- Milk, cheese, butter
- All meats, fish and shellfish
- Sauces and condiments
- Processed and prepared foods
- Soft drinks
A typical detox breakfast might be a fruit salad or oatmeal with a banana. Lunch might consist of lentil soup and a salad without dressing. Dinner might be a plate of beans and brown rice.
One thing to consider is the response of your body to a drastic change in diet beyond a week or two. Restricting your calories to below your own basal metabolic requirements (BMR) will prompt your body to slow its metabolism and conserve its resources. BMR is the minimum number of calories per day required to keep all of your body’s systems functioning without weight loss (i.e., without eating itself). So, once you resume a higher calorie diet, you will be metabolically more inclined to retain fat.
For most people, fat can be lost without resorting to drastic measures – be it a stomach stapling or walking on the path of starvation. A sensible (10-20 % protein, 55-60 % carbohydrates, and less than 30 % fat) diet combined with regular exercise can work wonders in losing undesirable weight absent a trendy, weeks long, detox diet.