If you’re born and raised as a woman in western society, chances are you haven’t escaped the Detox craze. Juice cleansing, water fasting, colon cleanses, etc etc… We are overloaded with the message that we need a detox to fix ourselves.
We’re told our bodies get dirty on the inside, and we’re also told our bodies are incapable of cleaning up the dirt. So, our poor helpless dirty bodies, victims of their harsh environment, need to get one hell of a push.
The promised results besides… obviously…’weight loss’… are ‘glowing radiant skin’, ‘no more dark circles around the eye’, ‘tons of energy’, a ‘reset’, “health & vibrance” and many more… In addition, I read many times that if your body is ‘dirty on the inside’, it will never release its excess weight. And for many women, nothing quite rings the alarm bell like that message.
I myself have tried so many detoxes back in the days where I was caught up in the diet & beauty culture… I even did the Beyonce one (master cleanse with chili, maple syrup and lemon water for 10 days). I completely understand the motives of anyone here right now that considers a detox and I’m not here to judge. But I want to share my take on it, what I learnt from my experiences and what science has to say about it.
Misery and hope
If I had to find two words to describe my detox experiences it would be: Misery & Hope. During the detox, it truly all felt like self-punishment. The present moment was never really fun. I needed an immense amount of energy to plan it all out, to tell myself exactly what to drink/eat and what not to drink/eat. I had all of this running in the background of my mind all day long in order to not defer from the plan. It also meant I couldn’t dine out with friends, it meant I had a lot less energy, it meant I had to use all my forces to resist the smell of the bakery down the road. I was ingesting much less food but ironically, I was thinking about food all the time.
Now, the only reason we human beings put ourselves through this misery, is because there is a “promised land” somewhere beyond this suffering that looks very enticing: hope of a bright future. I felt strangely good about being in this misery, because I was convinced that I was doing something that would give me all the benefits mentioned above. A clean, glowing body that would shed its excess weight effortlessly, hallelujah! And let’s be honest, what would this clean glowing thin body ultimately give me? Love, acceptance and even admiration from society at large, my permission to wear that dress, my permission to go after my dreams, my permission to have that great relationship, my permission to go to the beach and wear a bikini. I dare say that the majority of women that go on a detox don’t do it for the toxins stuff, they do it for what a thin glowing body will provide them with in this society:
“Detox and you will be beautiful so you will be loved, accepted and worthy.”
There are so many things wrong about this, but let’s start here....
Is the promised post-detox land a myth?
A detox is like a diet, times 100. It’s a short and extreme period of restriction you put yourself through. Mainstream media has actually been debunking detoxes for quite some time now, (look at cosmopolitan ) but the concept persists. Why?... Because the marketing of it persists… And we’re easily drawn into it, like during a weak moment after a stressful day in which you feel guilty and ashamed about eating all those pizza slices and cheesecake…
There is compelling physical and psychological evidence that proves the post-detox land of beauty and love is a joke.
For starters, the majority of bodies are not really truly ‘dirty’ in a way that only a detox could clean them up (not including any serious illnesses in here). Science has proven again and again that our bodies are detoxing all day long. They’re not these helpless victims in our harsh environments as is so often the sales argument. Our bodies are strong! Remember that! It has not even been proven that a detox will improve the health of an otherwise average body. ( review study 2015)
Secondly, doing a detox, aka a diet times 100, can trigger the psychological effects of a diet…only times 100 too. It has been proven that if a food is forbidden, it only becomes more tempting. Chronic dieters who try to suppress their cravings actually tend to have more cravings, which can lead to binge eating. Decades worth of research on the outcomes of diets and weight suppression show that overeating is actually a direct consequence of food control. Linda Bacon’s ground-breaking book “Health at every size” ( 2008) provides a great bite-sized review of the science on the subject. And additional research has shown that when parents enforce very strict eating rules, their kids tend to be more drawn to off-limits snacks — and those kids eat more once they do get their little hands on them. If you enforce very strict eating rules for yourself for a while, what do you think will happen to your little hands?
So what are the benefits of a detox? Well, it seems many people do feel much better after it. And that’s understandable. If you replace a diet of regular processed food/alcohol/coffee with a 5 day juice cleanse, you will feel better. Research is inconclusive but, many health practitioners also talk about healing the digestive system and the opportunity for cleansing on a cellular level.
The Post-detox cycle
The question is, did you need that extreme detox period or would you have felt equally better over time reducing processed food/alcohol/coffee? If your daily diet is such that you feel you need to “detox” every so often, then wouldn’t it make more sense to take a moment to consider why you’re eating in a way that leaves you feeling unwell or ughh…? Wouldn’it make more sense to tackle the root cause? Otherwise you can easily end up in a never-ending cycle of unhealthy eating – detoxing - unhealthy eating - detoxing phases. This does more harm to your body than if you would never have detoxed at all in the first place.
All about risk management
I dare to conclude that the only things a detox brings to the table more so than just a sensible long-term way of eating that feels good to your body are the following points:
- rapid unsustainable weight loss
- potentially fuelling an obsession with food
- potentially creating a breeding ground for an all-out binge
- days of your precious life at only 45% energy
- social isolation
Post-detox land looks a lot less rosy now, huh?
For most women, the dangers, on a psychological level, outweigh the potential of the detox. Now I'm not saying it can't be beneficial: but only if you can undertake a cleanse completely detached from societal acceptance and worthiness. So be a 100% honest with yourself about that, is it to ultimately fit in your skinny jeans? Then hold right there... There’s something pesky that happens when we try to control our foods to reach a certain body and tie up our self-esteem to it: …
We go crazy.
It messed up my relationship with food and I know I’m not alone. Just like there is 10% of the population who can keep up a diet and not gain the weight back, there may be a similar percentage of the population that can do a cleanse without backlash… But 10% is a very small success rate. Would you buy a vacuum cleaner that works only 10% of the time?
Intuitive eating and joy
The sad thing is that all this research has been out there for a long time… Still detoxes and diets can be heavily marketed without any type of warning. If they really worked, then why do we have more obese people than ever before?
The only thing that ever worked for me long term was intuitive eating, focusing on Joy and loving my body as it is now. Many coaches, health practitioners and even dieticians are turning this way because they see it day in day out in their practices: food control just doesn’t work. Going through food misery does not work …
"The more you deprive, the more you desire…"
In addition, everything you may think about your body’s unworthiness is a fabricated lie! You’re simply being brainwashed by the industry who has very intelligently decided only a small minority of women’s bodies are ‘perfect’. So the majority can be sold diets, detoxes, creams, fitness devices, etc.
So what do we do in such a climate? A media detox for starters... and then remember that you are worthy of everything you want, right now. That dream, that relationship, that dress? Your weight & your bodyshape have absolutely nothing to do with it. Believe me!
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