Are you able to find some balance in life?
Like many people, the Christmas season is a time for overindulgence with holiday treats, social gatherings, less exercise and eating lots of baking and other goodies. It’s a special time of year, and food is an important part of many celebrations and holiday traditions.
With the new year here, it’s also an annual time for resolutions for many. Are you considering any diet-related resolutions, such as ‘eating clean’ and trying to ‘detox’ your body to start new and fresh? This extreme-type dieting is not necessary and may even be dangerous.
Dieting, fasting, using cleanses and ‘eating clean’ are various terms for restrictive diets that may do more harm than good.
Typically, cleanses or ‘detox diets’ involve a period of fasting, followed by a strict diet of raw vegetables, fruit and fruit juices, plus water. In addition, some detox diets advocate using herbs and other supplements along with colon cleansing (enemas) to empty the intestines.
The promoted ‘cleanses’ and ‘detox diets’ are a marketing myth rather than nutritional reality. They sound like a perfect solution to starting fresh and clean with eating.
These diets seem like a great concept and it would be a quick fix if they truly delivered all that they promised. Yet, many of the claims made by detox diet promoters are exaggerated and not based on evidence. Plus, any benefit of weight loss is usually short-lived.
Some examples of detox dieting claims include; “ending unhealthy cravings, restoring a healthy metabolism, healing the digestive tract, and balancing your immune system”. Promoters may liken the physical body to a computer operating system and suggest, starting the cleanse to ‘hit the reset button’.
Statements such as “Eat nothing but unprocessed, unrefined, sugar-free food, while also cutting out entire food groups, such as dairy and grains” are common themes with cleanses. These ideas seem like a great way to start a new eating pattern, but can be too extreme and backfire for good health.
The body has a well-developed system and mechanisms to detoxify and remove waste and toxins. Waste products, such as alcohol, medications, products of digestion (fat, sugar and salt), dead cells, chemicals from pollution, additives, pesticides and bacteria are all removed by the natural filtration organ systems of the liver, kidneys, lungs, intestines, and skin.
Fasting, or severely restricting what you eat limits intake of energy (calories) and important nutrients needed for health and wellness.
Rapid weight loss can occur, and this weight loss is largely water, glycogen (the body’s carbohydrate stores), and lean muscle rather than fat. You may feel tired, lightheaded, dizzy and experience low blood sugar and blood pressure. It’s very possible that you’ll have less energy while you are following an extreme detox program.
Long-term fasting can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Colon cleansing, which is often recommended as part of a detox plan, can cause cramping, bloating, nausea, vomiting and dehydration. Also, with detox diet systems, colon cleansing is not a regulated medical procedure and due to its invasive nature, bowel perforations can be a real risk, along with questionable sterilization methods and pathogenic bacteria.
All or nothing thinking doesn’t work well with healthy living.
Get rid of the rules and dogma. Eating a well-balanced diet of variety and moderation will help the body get rid of toxins through the normal functions of organs, such as kidneys, liver, intestines, skin and lungs.
If you live with diabetes, heart, lung, liver, intestinal or kidney disease, the ‘detox’ or cleanse diets can be harmful, since they restrict certain foods and nutrients. These cleanses could fast track the condition into a more critical and dangerous state.
If ‘eating clean’ to you means buying and consuming less chips, chocolate and candy, then it’s a good time to make a fresh start with shopping habits, but to swear off those goodies forever is not reasonable or realistic. Black and white thinking when it comes to eating can do a lot of damage, since it can affect your relationship with food.
Yo yo dieters have seen the effects of rapid weight loss, then re-gaining back the pounds, plus more and more over the years. All foods can fit, as long as there’s some balance, variety and moderation.
Instead of jumping on the detox diet bandwagon, resolve to try to make Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely (SMART) goals that target a particular dietary pitfall.
A goal such as cutting back on double portions at dinner or reducing the mindless snacking while watching TV may help get the ball rolling to small steps in the right direction for better nutrition.
Using the SMART method will help improve daily habits with positive actions and results over time. Ensure that some regular daily activity is part of your healthy living plan. This fitness will ensure your body works more efficiently to improve body functions for long-term health.
While detox diets may encourage some positive habits like eating more fruits, vegetables, and limiting overly processed foods, it’s best to enjoy a healthy, varied diet of moderation and active lifestyle rather than following a restrictive ‘cleansing’, fasting or ‘detox diet’.
Sandra Gentleman, RD, is a registered dietitian and steward of Canal Beach.