We hear it every year. People decide to go on crazy diets at the beginning of the year in hopes of building the life that they have always wanted. One of the most popular ways to “jump start” weight loss is to go on a cleansing diet. Maybe you yourself are going to start a NYE cleanse soon. I want to share my experience with cleansing & inform you with the truth that often isn’t shared by the diet industry or so called “nutritionists” that swear by cleanses and treat them as the end all be all.
One year ago today I started a 2-week long New Year’s Eve cleanse. My dietician at the time told me that it would get rid of everything that my body didn’t need, and would improve my overall digestion for 6 months. It was $75.00, but my family and I decided that it would be worth the investment. After all, she was a registered dietician, & she went through an accredited program to become one. Her advice was the only advice we needed.
The cleanse was absolutely disgusting. It was 8 oz of thick, chalky, chunky crap. The flavor was wild berry but it tasted more like cough medicine. I don’t even know what was in the cleanse and I didn’t care. I had to take it 3 times a day for the first day and then twice a day for two weeks. I was also encouraged to eat light meals during this cleanse, such as salads, soups, and smoothies.
Looking back, I have no idea why the advice of going on a cleanse was given to me. I was already on a gluten-free & dairy free diet, which is very restrictive. I had already lost an unhealthy amount of weight, all of which my dietician told me is normal when switching to a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. I voiced my opinion and told her that I thought I had an unhealthy relationship with food, & that I thought that I had an eating disorder. She dismissed the idea; I didn’t restrict and binge often enough, I hadn’t lost enough weight to meet criteria for anorexia (yet), and I didn’t look like I had an eating disorder.
The cleanse did absolutely nothing for me. It made me stomach cramp with extreme pain, it made my digestion worse, and it added more toxic things into my body that it detoxed out of my body. I called my dietician halfway through with tears rolling down my face and I told her that I didn’t want to do it anymore. She told me to hang in there and that it was making me healthy, but I had enough. My body was screaming out that this cleanse was hurting me. It didn’t want more chalky cleansing powder, it wanted real food. Unfortunately, this cleanse was one of the last factors that pushed me into a full-blown, diagnosable eating disorder.
Some people do see short-term benefits from cleansing diets. It can be exciting to see weight drop on the scale or to feel clothes fit looser than before. However, the reality is that cleanses don’t produce a lasting, healthy, sustainable lifestyle. The guarantee immediate happiness and results that only seem to last about a week or two.
Before you start a cleansing diet, please read this: If you have a healthy liver, toxins are excreted during the digestion process, & therefore, there is no need to try to micromanage and “cleanse” out the things that our bodies don’t need. Our bodies are smart and they know what we need and what we don’t. The immediate weight that you lose is likely just water weight. Your frequent trips to the bathroom are more likely due to the toxins in the cleanse than toxins accumulating in your body. The “new energy” that you are feeling doesn’t last on a cleanse. Cleanses aren’t sustainable and they don’t lead to lasting lifestyle changes. Time and time again, research has shown that dieting doesn’t work, and that those who diet often always regain the weight that they lost back + more.¹ It is healthier to be at a higher weight within your set point range than it is to constantly confuse your body with yo-yo dieting, binging, purging, and other unhealthy behaviors.¹ Chances are after a week of cleansing, you will feel deprived of the food and nutrients that your body needs, and you will end up eating more food than you would have if you just ate a balanced, healthy, diet.
There is a wide variety of research that refutes the argument for cleansing/dieting. As previously mentioned, it is widely known in the medical community that a well-functioning liver & kidneys are enough to maintain homeostasis within our bodies. Live Science Associate editor Elizabeth Palermo writes, “Our livers and kidneys, if healthy, do a great job of cleansing our bodies on a daily basis…increasing fruit and vegetable intake, whole grain intake and drinking more water over sweetened beverages would go a lot farther to improve someone’s health over the long-term than a cleanse.”² Dr.Michael Gershon of Columbia University also notes that drinking a juice or undergoing an internal cleanse doesn’t help our bodies get rid of toxins faster or more effectively.² Lastly, dramatically reducing caloric intake can lead to disordered eating. In a study conducted by the University of Cambridge Department of Experimental Psychology, research revealed that men and women who go on calorie-restricted diets often become more preoccupied with food, have stronger urges to eat more frequently, and feel more out of control with their eating habits.³
Cleanses aren’t the end-all-be-all of dieting, and neither is clean eating, paleo, or any other diet that promises health & happiness. I want to encourage each of you to step back & examine your motives and reasoning for starting a new diet or cleanse, along with the evidence that you feel supports the diet or cleanse as a positive lifestyle change. If you feel 100% confident that the new cleanse or diet will leave you completely satisfied, that it is sustainable, and healthier (physically AND psychologically), then by all means go for it. If this is true for you, chances are that you are ready to make positive changes & consume more whole grains, fruits and vegetables, & healthy fats, while cutting back some on the soda and fast food. If you are not 100% confident that your diet or cleanse is sustainable, you might want to re-evaluate.
This year, choose to invest in your psychological and physical health. Choose to try new fruits and vegetables. Experiment with different recipes. Try switching out your regular pasta for whole grain pasta. Try a new workout class. Go for a walk with your dog. Dance like no one is watching. Drink more water, cook more at home, & enjoy dessert. Life is too short to be worried about cleansing & micromanaging our diets.
In 2017, I hope you love, listen, embrace, laugh, and live like you never have before.
1. Aamodt, S. (2016, May 6). Why You Can’t Lose Weight on a Diet. The New York Times.
2. Palermo, E. (2015, February 9). Detox Diets & Cleansing:Facts and Fallacies. Live Science.
3. Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EB, UK
Photo Creds: The Boomer Buisness Owner