Lately I've noticed a lot of "detox" and "cleanse" diets popping up on various social media. I know it's that time of year again when we're bombarded more than normal with ways to "lose 7 pounds in 7 days!" but I find the detoxes and cleanses particularly annoying.
The weight loss claims of cleanses are true. You're forcing your body into severe calorie restriction, so you will lose weight. It's certainly not a healthy or sustainable way to lose weight, and you're not really going to lose a lot of fat. The weight lost on detoxes and cleanses is usually a mix of water weight, muscle loss, and a small amount of fat loss.
My big problem with these diets is that they feed into the mindset that food is bad for us. The idea that we need to "cleanse" ourselves and rid ourselves of "toxins" we accumulate just by eating and living our lives.
First of all, we have systems in our body whose entire purpose is to take out the things we don't need. They're called the liver and the kidneys. If those aren't working properly, a juice cleanse is not going to solve the problem.
But the big thing, the number one thing, is: food is not bad for you. Food is your body's fuel. It allows you to keep living from one day to the next. There is no good and evil, there is only food. This idea that food is damaging to us or should make us feel guilty or bad about ourselves is so unhealthy. Your body needs calories, it needs carbohydrates, and protein, and fat. Eating food is not something you have to atone for.
This idea of "clean" eating that is all the rage originally came from a good place. The premise is to eat whole foods rather than processed foods. However, like with most fad diets, it's evolved into something much more stringent than any diet should be.
There's a saying I've seen around the internet on those scenery pictures with text - "You do not have to earn food. You are not a dog." I like it and hate it at the same time. The first half is 100% right you do not have to earn anything you eat. You need to eat to live, it's not about burning so many calories in order to eat a meal or a snack.
It's the second part that I don't like. I know for me, and all of my friends who have dogs, I do not make my dog earn food. I feed her because I love her and I want her to be healthy and live a long life. The same reasons you should feed yourself.
So instead of dedicating a week of your time to "detoxing" your body, spend those 7 days detoxing your mind. Start to heal your relationship with food. When you eat a meal, think about the way it's nourishing your body and all the ways you use that energy (to concentrate on the book your reading, or recover from the workout that morning, or to laugh with your friends on a Friday night out). The human body is a beautiful thing. Nourish it. Appreciate it.
Taryn is a Los Angeles based Registered Dietitian who's passionate about helping you be your healthiest you.