It can be tempting to try a detox or cleanse this time of year. After the excesses of the holidays, with so much food and booze, you might be feeling tired and bloated, and you may be carrying a few extra pounds. Flushing out toxins and feeling renewed and refreshed sounds so appealing. But science says your body is perfectly able to rid itself of toxinsyour liver, kidneys, and digestive tract can do the job! And liquid diets may do more harm than good. I have a hard time with those words, says Jae Berman, MS, RDN, CSSD, and head coach at Habit. Toxin is a strong term, and if you really needed to detoxify, you should probably be in a hospital! The better concept is hitting the reset button and cleaning up your diet, without going to extremes.
Heres what you need to know before you start starving yourself. Plus, the better, healthier way to help your body bounce back after the holidays.
Why Detoxes Dont Work
At the extreme, detox diets tell you to drink liquids only for days or even weeks. That might mean cayenne-lemon water, green smoothies, a rainbow of juices, bone broth, or tea toxes (which may hide laxatives). The crazier trends include tacos, vodka, even charcoal. Some programs also tell you to buy pricey supplements (read labels very carefullythey may not be regulated by the FDA).
Technically, toxins are always hanging out in your body, explains Berman. Youre exposed to chemicals, parasites, and bacteriafrom the food you eat, but also the air and environmentall of the time, and your body naturally defends itself. Post holidays, you may also have more alcohol and sugar in your system, and if youve been flying or up in the mountains, you may simply be dehydrated. So its great to drink up, but lemon water wont kill bad guys.
If you exclusively drink liquid for a series of days, youre just going to lose water and muscle, says Berman. The second you start eating regular food again, youll gain the weight back. Youre putting stress on your bodyit doesnt know youre downtown in an office, it thinks youre starving in the desert! And it will hold onto every morsel.
Another misconception is sweating out toxins. You only lose a trace amount of toxins through your skin, meaning a tiny bit. But if youre doing a juice cleanse, the sauna or treadmill might actually be unsafe. Bermans metaphor: Youre starving in the desert, and now youre being chased by a lion! Thats hard on your body.
How to Recover the Healthy Way
Still want to try it? Rather than worrying about toxins, there are more sane ways to help your body recover in the new year. Hit the reset button, says Berman, But dont call it a detox. Lets just call it clean eating.
Its not about starvation. Dont deprive yourself! You should never feel ravenous. Even if you cut calories, continue to eat real food and have small snacks, every 2 to 3 hours.
Two days is enough. Theres nothing wrong with eating light for a couple of days, but a weekend is all you need. Reset, reflect, and practice healthy habits you can maintain all year.
Just eat clean. Take a break from alcohol. Cut out processed foodsanything in a package, with a long list of ingredients you cant pronounce. Cut back on sugar, salt, and saturated fat, which arent toxins, but arent supporting your health either.
Eat more plants. Replace cocktails, cookies, and roast beef with colorful fruits and veggies. If you really want a detox diet, the soup trend is a good way to do it. Fill a pot with veggies that provide fiber and minerals, plus plenty of liquid.
Drink lots of water. Its one of only things liquid diets get right. Hydrate to help your body to function efficiently, particularly your digestive system and kidneysthe cleansing champions.
Rather than starving and making yourself miserable, the real point is to spend a couple of days being kinder to your body. Get back to basics, drinking water and eating veggies, to give your organs the nutrients they need to do the job. Get back into your workout routine, and give your mind a break, as well! Lay low this weekend, and make a nourishing soup or big batch meal for the week ahead. Then carry healthy habits and self care with you through the rest of the yearclean eating isnt only for the month of January.