Are Detox Diets Good for You?
Recently a friend asked me what I thought about the “cleanses” that are all the rage in mommy circles these days. She was curious because a number of her acquaintances had embarked on a month-long detox: no dairy, no meat, no gluten, no sugar, no alcohol, no caffeine. I told her I thought there was little harm in a day or two of “detoxing”, particularly following a holiday bender or decadent weekend. For some, a couple of days of cutting out the garbage, or juicing, or eating just fruits and vegetables, can kick start better eating habits. It’s like pushing the reset button on a healthy diet.
The Downside of a Detox
That said, many cleanses are nutrient-poor, very low in calories, last for extended periods of time, and often are just code for weight-loss diet. Such restrictive regimens can mess with your metabolism, effectively tricking your body into thinking you are involuntarily starving, and then turn sluggish accordingly.
Nearly as troubling is what it can do to your head. After weeks of deprivation, some folks find themselves bingeing once they return to regular eating. For parents, it’s particularly important to consider what you are modeling for your children when on any kind of special dietary program. Healthy eating and a loving attitude towards your own body are key in raising kids with the same.
After our conversation, I percolated this cleanse idea for several weeks. I’d heard people exclaim they felt “eurphoric” while detoxing: a side-effect they chalked up to their livers eliminating toxins and colons being scrubbed silly.
A Three-Day Trial
In the spirit of keeping an open mind, and just plain curiosity, I embarked on a three-day fruit and vegetable juice cleanse that measured in at about 1200 calories a day: enough to meet my basic needs. There was no euphoria. I’m not sure anything spectacular happened to my internal organs. But the whole experience reminded me of what it’s like when I leave my kids for a couple of days: a kid detox, if you will. I always return with some new insight or perspective.
Some Good Insight
Likewise, stepping out of my eating habits was a consciousness raising” for my diet. I noticed places where I’d gotten at little lazy (breakfast) and a little indulgent (afternoon snack) and in a rut (routinely eating the same vegetables, fruits and grains). I also discovered that my body doesn’t digest milk particularly well. As a result, I’m eating better breakfasts, a wider variety of nourishing foods, almond and soy milk in place of cow’s milk, and sweets only when I’m truly craving them. I was surprisingly not hungry for those three days, though I did miss having a warm meal of chewable food.
Doing the cleanse was enlightening, no doubt. But I feel a little bit like I did after being on the receiving end of a rather aggressive bikini wax several years ago: I don’t regret it, but don’t need to try it again.
For more food for thought on detoxing, I found this post by Ellie Krieger to be enlightening. You might also want to check out my Four Habits for a Healthy Weight