Cleanses, detoxes, and fasts are ancient rituals which require abstaining from solid food temporarily in order to purify the body and mind or attain enlightenment. In this manner, they can be very beneficial.
Unfortunately, it’s also considered to be the quickest way to shed a few pounds with the added benefit of spiritual self-justification. Currently there’s raw fruit and vegetable juices that can be ordered online, or “superfood powders” to purchase, or the ever-popular cleanse of lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne, just to name a few. All promise the same thing – drink these (and usually nothing else) and flush out toxins that disrupt your immune function, liver function, metabolism and digestion – leaving you feeling better and a few pounds lighter.
People have taken a variety of extreme weight loss attempts, from fasts and detoxes to pills, drops, and painfully restrictive measures. Many people are either always on a diet, thinking about a diet, reading about a diet, or hearing about one their friends are on.
So, people swear off dieting and embrace “cleansing”. Which for some is just a new euphemism for dieting. Now instead of just being skinny, you can be skinny and healthy. That’s a lot of pressure!
In reality though, drinking lemon juice is not a meal, and taken to extremes, cleansing is anything but healthy. It can be just old school self starvation masked in a New Age mind-body rhetoric. Plus, without proper supervision, a fast, cleanse, or detox can leave you severely dehydrated and rob your body of potassium and other electrolytes. This can lead to heart problems and organ damage. This is a high price to potentially pay for weight loss that usually rapidly returns because it’s mostly water weight. After water weight loss you begin to break down muscle protein which slows your metabolism and you burn less calories daily, setting you up to more easily put on pounds later. It’s seldom much fat loss. Eventually people have to reinstate solid foods which can signal the body to cling to the sudden influx of calories. All of this can lead to yo-yo cleansing with weight regain and all the health problems that come with this lifestyle such as heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
It’s easy to put the blinders on and focus solely on weight loss while ignoring health. Ultimately, it will catch up to you though. Health has to be the priority. When at our optimal health, our weight will also be stable. Focus on one and you attain the other.
Not taken to extremes, cleanses, detoxes, and fasts can be extremely healthy. Frequently done with the turn of the seasons, much like spring cleaning your house, a few days or week of a logical mix of foods removing added sugars, bad fats, alcohol, while getting necessary nutrients through broths and vegetables can be very rewarding. Even one day a month can be beneficial for people as a slight deprivation can allow the body functions to rest. These are done not to lose weight though but to cleanse the body of toxins, and take unnecessary burdens from the body. That’s the real difference – intent.