The definitive guide to why you shouldn't do a cleanse
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Last week I talked about picky eating tips for adults. I get questions all the time on what someone who doesn't like vegetables should eat, and to create a guide to help others with the same concerns. Today I want to dive into another topic I get asked about quite often: Cleanses. "Should I do one? Which do you recommend? Is it good for you?". While they finally seem to be losing a little bit of steam, people are still intrigued by the idea. It's fast, easy and you don't have to turn on a stove. How can you go wrong? Well to be honest, a lot. I think cleanses are a load of crap. They're trendy, unbalanced, expensive and lack a long-term plan. Time and time again the women that I work with tell me they want to feel healthy and be able to enjoy the food they eat. If this is your end goal too, a cleanse is not going to get you there and I'm going to explain why.
So what is a cleanse anyway? A cleanse is usually an all liquid diet lasting 3 to 7 days with claims from anywhere along the lines of ridding your system of toxins to helping you lose weight to gaining mental clarity.
Why cleanses are bullshit: First thing's first, your body is constantly cleansing itself. This is what it is literally built to do. You have a colon, liver and kidneys for a good reason, they each have a very important job to do. They aren't twiddling their thumbs all day. Food goes in, gets broken down and they help sort out what stays and what goes. And then the unnecessary gets sent out, it's not hanging around waiting for a cue from you to let it out. I think it is safe to say we are all familiar with how pooping works, your body tells YOU when it's time.
Secondly, you need to eat food, like real food. Here's why liquifying the bejeezus out of your meals doesn't count: you're pulling out all the fiber from the fruits and vegetables. Fiber is crucial for a well rounded diet. Not only is it going to keep you fuller longer but it helps steady the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. A lot of juicing recipes call for fruit to make the drink more palatable, but when you take out the fiber you're left with all the sugar and nothing to slow it down. You are not going to feel amazing with sugar raging around your bloodstream. Cleanses also lack protein and healthy fats. Both are incredibly important, just like fiber, for a well rounded diet. They give you energy, aid in brain development and help build muscle. If you want to feel great, these are things you're going to want.
Creators of cleanses often make claims that you will have more energy, brain clarity, lose weight, and be in a better mood. Ironically enough, the side effects of a cleanse are the complete opposite. Many who try a cleanse complain of being tired and moody, not being able to think clearly and end up with a pounding headache. I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like feeling better to me.
So let's talk about the weight loss claims. I know a good amount of people are attracted to the cleanse because they want to lose weight. And even if our goal is to feel healthy, it can be hard to shake that underlying expectation that losing weight will be a natural outcome as well. Here's the deal: the weight you will lose if you do a cleanse is going to be all water weight. And the funny thing about water weight is it comes back as quickly as it went away. Your body retains water when it digests carbs. So once you reintroduce them, the water weight will be right back with it. And worse, if you are on a longer cleanse your body will start digging into its stores for energy, and your muscle, not fat, will be the first to be broken down for fuel. You want muscle, muscle is good. If your goal is to lose weight keep this in mind: muscle burns fat as fuel. So the more muscle you have, the more fat you will burn.
Cleanses are one of the least sustainable types of diets out there. This isn't a long term plan by any means, and I get that that is part of the appeal for many, but what happens after? You did your 3 days, you lost your water weight, you made it out to the other side. But now what? Have you learned anything about healthy eating habits that you can apply to your daily meals? I hate to break it to you, but chances are high you will fall back into your old eating habits.
Also, like other diets, cleanses also set you up for failure during the program. With a lack of solid food to leave you feeling satisfied mentally and physically and a giant list of foods you can't eat, you are more prone to go on a binge spree in retaliation to the absurd rules. So often when people give in to their diet rules they go above and beyond to make up for what they've been missing out on. Then they feel like crap, the opposite of what they were striving to feel by starting the diet in the first place.
And let's be honest, cleanses are expensive and usually taste awful. For considerably less money you could fill your fridge with healthy, whole foods that you can cook to suit your preferences and sit down to enjoy at the table on a plate, with a fork and surrounded by friends. And afterward? You will be full and satisfied. Isn't that what you really want after a meal?
Deep down a lot of people who are interested in cleanses know they aren't eating the healthiest diet and want to go about making a change. I get the appeal of a cleanse, trust me I do. But it's right up there alongside get rich quick schemes. They sound good, but guys, the only ones profiting are the ones coming up with these schemes. Instead of diving into a drastic diet that only keeps the short term in mind, make the commitment to make long lasting change. You and your stomach will feel so much the better for it.
Here's what you can do instead to feel more energetic and healthy:
* Cut back on sugary drinks like soda, coffee, and alcohol * Drink your recommended amount of water daily, this calculator makes it super easy to figure out how much you need * Load up on whole fruits and veggies. At dinner make sure half your plate is vegetables * Eat lean protein. For many, this may be an area where you need to actually cut back. Most people only need 2 servings of 6 ounces each day * Fit in healthy fats. YES! Fat is good for you. Fat = energy. Unsaturated fats (the good stuff) can be found in nuts, fish and oil * Eat whole grains. High in fiber, they help you feel fuller longer and thus satisfied until your next meal. No more digging around in the pantry an hour after you had lunch * Exercise 5 days a week for at least 30 minutes. There's no need for crazy exercise programs. If you are sedentary, just getting out there and going for a walk will make a huge difference.. Make it easy so it's doable and enjoyable
Super Helpful Resources:What happens to your body on a cleanse