Nutritional cleanses seem to be all the rage in today's world. They are popularized by the health and fitness industry as a way to rid the body of “toxins”, lose weight quickly, restore the balance of healthy bacteria in your gut, or just as a general “reset” button for various physiological functions in the body.
In this blog I will only tell you the truth and the lies and allow you to make your own decision on whether to do a cleanse!
1. Your body is constantly working to rid itself of “toxins” and non useful byproducts of various physiological reactions. It does not need help in doing this. The best example I have for you is this: after a night a drinking, all the alcohol is out of your system in 24-48 hours and you feel normal again. Another example is if you have done drugs at some point in your life, you are still able to pass a drug test at some future point in your life because the body is fully capable of ridding itself of harmful substances without the help any nutritional supplement.
2. A cleanse generally makes people feel better because they make a DRASTIC LIFESTYLE CHANGE! Lets face it people generally eat like shit. Even the people who think they eat healthy are eating like shit because what is considered “food” in our culture is laughable. Going on a cleanse usually means:
a. More water/less salt: less bloat=feel and look thinner
b. Compared to before the cleanse begins, less calories are being ingested. This means stabilized energy over the course of the day. (Only because people overeat and it makes them sluggish).
c. Less processed food and more real food
3. Drastically changing the way we eat is an extremely difficult task. Eating is a daily habit for humans and create change in what we eat and how much of it is challenging. However, the fitness industry has led us to believe the rewards are numerous and worth the challenge.
Indeed, at the end of the cleanse period most people feel an extreme sense of accomplishment. For some, this is a psychological boost to help us stay on a healthier lifestyle. Unfortunately for others, it’s an end to a period of suffering and they run back to McDonalds for a Big Mac and a frosty! They fall off hard and they feel like a failure and back to the beginning.
4. The things we eat on a daily basis come from years of habit. The way to change habits that have become ingrained in us psychologically(emotional eating), physiologically (how our taste buds respond), and evolutionarily (yes, what you eat has been dictated by evolution) is to make small changes over the course of time. Cleanses are not small changes
1. Excess vitamins and minerals DO NOT make your body more efficient at clearing toxins. Your body uses what it needs and pees out the rest.
2. There is no such thing as healthy vs. unhealthy gut bacteria. The diet you eat dictates what kind of symbiotic bacteria will live in your gut. So if you do a cleanse for 4 weeks, yes your gut bacteria will change but as soon as you go off the cleanse, your gut bacteria will again change. It is impossible to say that every human should have the same make up of gut bacteria and that this mixture of food and supplements will give you that forever!
3. When most people say they want to lose weight they actually mean, I want to lose fat. During a cleanse, it is highly unlikely that you are doing that for the following cascade of events is what actually occurs:
a. Significant calorie reduction
b. Stress time (starvation mode) for the body
c. Lose water (less bloat)
d. Lose fat free mass (muscle mass) because it requires a lot of energy to sustain
e. Retain fat because fat is a valuable source of stored energy that can help get you through a famine (or any period of time of reduction of calories)
Unfortunately our cultural appreciation for being skinny goes against our evolutionary development as a species to value fat storage as a necessary part of survival! We tend to hold fat at all costs until the very last moment when energy is absolutely necessary.
Therefore, if you don’t mind being skin and bones – meaning you don’t care about muscle—go ahead and fast, the number on the scale will drop!
4. Your body does not have a reset button. It is constantly adapting to stimulus from the environment. Change occurs over a period of time (that period of time depends on the system of the body we are talking about) not instantly at the push of a button!
Cleanses do not do much for your body in terms of creating long term physiological change. Sure, they make us feel skinny and less bloated. They give our various subsystems of the body a rest (digestive system, endocrine system) from the craziness that occurs from our daily eating habits, and psychologically we feel accomplished and like we are starting a new! However, most people reach that high and then eventually over the same amount of time the cleanse happened they revert back to old habits.
I wish that someday people could see that the fit and healthy lifestyle that I try to lead is a choice of daily habits I’ve created for myself. Much like the daily habit of brushing your teeth, taking it to an extreme for 2 weeks and then not brushing for 2 weeks doesn’t make your teeth any cleaner or healthier in the long run! The average lifespan of a human Is somewhere around 80 years. Why do we think that a cleanse for 4 weeks is enough to completely change how our body will operate?!
I don’t think that cleanses are inherently bad. They can be used as tools to make us feel better psychologically and get us back on track. I personally have used them in this way. For example, on Mondays after a weekend of excessive partying, eating and drinking, I feel better if I only drink water and black coffee for about 12 hours. Then I typically work out and I go back to eating my normal meal of protein and veggies.
The fitness and health industry is riddled with lies and elixers that promise a better you. Remember, what you truly want and decide whether a nutritional cleanse could be a useful tool to help you get to your goal. Use critical thinking skills, ask someone you trust for help, and experiment on yourself without setting such high expectations that lead you to failure. What most people want is a lifetime of feeling good about your body. In my opinion, the best way to do this is to create healthy daily habits that are enjoyable and eventually become easy!
Yours in the quest for feeling good!
Triad Wellness Philly
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