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Detox diets are the trend on social media, especially after the holidays when we feel bloated, fat, and are so motivated to keep our new year’s resolutions. They include among others juice fasts, as well as supplements and weight loss diets of all kinds. They are often expensive, and promise quick results by adding magic foods or supplements, or by limiting our diet to a few specific foods. But in the end, are they really worth it? You probably know the answer is no, but here’s why.
First of all, you should know that the symptoms such as bloating, fatigue, headaches and weight gain that we notice after the party season are not due to accumulated toxins, but to an excess of alcohol, food, sugar, and fat, as well as a lack of physical activity and sleep all along this turbulent time. The theory behind detoxing comes from the idea that we accumulate toxins in our body from pollutants, chemical additives and pesticides, and that these substances can contribute to the development of certain diseases. You should know that the body has natural cleansing or detoxifying mechanisms that are much stronger than any supplement, product or food. These are the liver, which produces enzymes that convert toxins into waste, and the kidneys, which filter and eliminate this waste. In healthy people, the liver and kidneys function well, and there is no accumulation of toxins. In brief, while our liver and kidneys help our body to get rid of toxins, “detox” products help our wallet get rid of money!
Detox diets lead to rapid weight loss through losing a high amount of water, and, long-term, losing muscle mass. These diets don’t provide enough calories and protein to meet the body’s needs. The body is clever and adapts to its new way of life. It reduces its metabolic rate, which means it uses fewer calories at rest to maintain its vital functions (breathing, regulating temperature, etc.). If you follow this diet long enough, you can lose muscle mass, which also contributes to reducing metabolic rate. When we start eating normally again, we gain back the water we lost, but, since our body’s resting energy expenditure has diminished, we end up with a calorie surplus, which causes us to gain more weight than we lost in the first place. That’s what’s known as the yo-yo effect.
Detox diets are difficult to follow long-term for several reasons. Since they don’t provide enough calories, proteins or fibers, they cause hunger and a lack of energy. They don’t offer any variety or pleasure in eating. What’s more, they’re difficult to follow in a social context (meals out with friends, business dinners, etc.). There’s no point of losing weight temporarily, if afterwards we go back to our old unhealthy habits. It’s better to try to change our habits. Even if it takes more time, the results will be felt long-term.
So, this new year, try to eat fewer processed foods, eat your calories instead of drinking them, increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, and cook more. Subscribe to one of our menus and speak to a dietitian online to accompany you towards your goals.