Posted by Head Nutrition Coach Rachel
Detox doesn’t mean deprivation. Period.
There are many versions of cleansing that diet culture advertises, whether that’s looking like a week off sugar, a three-day juice cleanse, or even an extreme fasting retreat. Yet, detoxing is widely misunderstood—and should be about so much more than removing certain foods from your system for a few days. At its best, detoxing can actually mobilize and excrete toxic buildup from your system, and purposefully rebuild and support your body’s natural cleansing systems and processes.
To root ourselves in science and understand the deep biocomplexity of a true ‘detox,’ let’s shed outdated beliefs about detoxing and debunk some of the most common myths from leading nutritionist Colleen Coffey, MS, RDN, LDN.
Detox Myth 1: Detox = Liquids-Only Diet
Detoxing occurs from deep within, ridding your body of harmful toxins and inflammation throughout your system, and helping train your mind and body to make healthier decisions moving forward. Yet, when you opt for a liquids-only diet, you starve and deprive your body instead of fueling with the nutrients essential to restoring your body’s ability to heal and repair.
Here’s why: When we go on a low-calorie, low-nutrient/nutrient-void cleanse, such as a liquids-only cleanse, we are typically stripping food of fiber and many of its nutrients, which adds stress to the body. On these typical cleanses, people might lose (water) weight and feel lighter at first and for a short while, but after just a few days biology takes over. Your metabolism—via your thyroid—responds to the lack of energy input and slows down its burn rate, causing stubborn extra pounds; your hormones respond to your body’s high-stress state, cueing your hunger hormones to signal more; and you may experience digestive discomfort as your not fueling the microbiome or supporting adequate stomach acid.
Detox Myth 2: If You’re Not Starving, You’re Not Detoxing
If you fuel your body with the right things, it shouldn’t kick into starvation/hunger mode.
When detoxing properly—consuming whole, plant-rich, balanced meals; eliminating excessive inflammatory refined sugars and oil; incorporating detox-supporting nutrients; and fueling your body with gut-nourishing fiber-rich ingredients—you probably won’t experience pangs of hunger. Use your detox as an opportunity to listen to your body, acknowledging the difference between actual physical hunger and midday cravings.
Detox Myth 3: Cut the Fat + You’ll Shed Fat
Fat gets a bad wrap, but it’s essential to a healthy body, it is what keeps us feeling satisfied and energized. Healthy fatty acids (like those derived from avocado, cold-pressed olive oil, nuts and seeds) are one of our bodies’ most basic building blocks—from our cell walls to our brains to our skin. Fat’s also an essential conduit for absorbing a variety of nutrients, including fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Speaking of fat, ketogenic (or keto) diets have ebbed and flowed in popularity in recent years. Keto involves forcing the body into a metabolic state in which it uses stored fat for energy instead of glucose, its preferred energy source. To do this, carbs and sugars are reduced, while real, clean, high-fat foods remain on the menu. This resets your metabolism to burn stored fat moving forward. There is some controversy as to whether the keto diet is sustainable over time.
When we mobilize our fat stores and burn them for energy, we are also mobilizing toxins that have been stored within the body for years.
Detox Myth 4: Detoxing is a Quick-Fix Before Big Events
If we use a detox as a temporary strategy instead of a long-term tactic for optimal health, then we’re defeating the larger purpose of it: self-love. By partaking in this intense yet effective health journey, you’re looking inward, listening closely to your body, and appreciating it for everything it does for you. It’s an opportunity to give your body what it needs to regenerate and heal—and if you treat it as a temporary fix to your problems, then you won’t receive the full benefits.
Detox Myth 5: Detoxing = Low Energy + Cranky + Tired 24/7
We’re not going to lie—you will likely be a little tired and possibly a little cranky on any detox or elimination diet, particularly in your first few days. It takes a lot for your body to effectively rid itself of toxins and inflammation, and we like to equate it to a really tough workout.
But, what you won’t be is exhausted for the entire week. In fact, you might find (as many clients do) that you have a sudden burst of energy halfway through the program. At this point, your body starts burning stored fat instead of glucose, your blood sugar and hormone levels stabilize, your gut recalibrates, and toxic buildup is mobilized and excreted—and you’ll find that you sleep more soundly and wake up brighter and more energized every day.
Dive deeper into these topics, your experiences and find answers to questions on nutrition and holistic health with Ripple Effect Community Fitness and our Nutrition Coach. Email our head coach directly at [email protected]