One of my least favorite things (right up there with people using "you look so skinny/fit/something weight-based" as a greeting) Is people saying they're going on a "cleanse" or doing a "detox." Because, let me just clear something up right now: your body doesn't need that. And going on said "cleanse" or "detox" does way more harm than good.
I know, I know, it feels so clean and healthy to say you're going on a cleanse or detox, but, in the same way that vaginas are self-cleaning and using a douche does nothing but fuck up your ph, going on a cleanse or a detox winds up messing with your body's ability to understand hunger and satiety signals, and generally winds up having the opposite of it's intended affect.
See, your body is already able to detox itself. Like. It's built for that. It has several organs where detoxification is their main jam. For example, your liver, your kidneys, and your intestinal tract. All three of these baddies, if they're working properly, help to process whatever fun fare you have been eating or drinking lately. There is no need for you to subsist on cayenne pepper, lemon water, and maple syrup (Don't look so shocked, I know we've all tried it) To flush out some "toxins," that your body already has covered.
Beyond that, the amount of research that shows fasting or eating minimal calories leads to bingeing is staggering. When you deny your body nutrients and the fuel necessary for energy? Your body is not gonna take it well. Your body doesn't know you're on a cleanse. Your body just knows that it's not being fed, and that means, it thinks you're dealing with a famine, and boy oh boy will that trigger some biological signals to get food now.
And those feelings of insane hunger won't always go away after eating. The ability to feel hunger signals is like a muscle, and when you're constantly yo-yo dieting, that muscle weakens, and sometimes the only signals that can get through are the really intense ones. The "if you don't get the fuck out of my way I'm going to eat you" signals, you know? By trying one fad diet after another and never fully trusting your body's ability to know when it's hungry and when it's full, we wind up in this place where we're fighting so hard against our body's needs that when we finally listen to it, it's when we're elbow deep in a bucket of chicken wings we don't remember ordering.
"But, Dani," you're saying, "I've been eating so much junk food this holiday season, I have to do something to create balance!"
Remember earlier when I brought up vaginas? I'm gonna go back to that again. You know how sometimes pads, tampons, etc, are referred to as "sanitary products?" Like, somehow having a vagina is a constant, "clean up on aisle 4" situation? Well, as anyone who has a vagina or has been around a vagina or just has common fucking sense knows, vaginas don't need floral sprays or perfumes or any of that other stuff. The same goes for other healthy organs. While words like sanitary and cleanse and detox, all sound nice, they're set up to make you feel like you're dirty. "You need to do this green juice cleanse because your insides are dirty." You see what I mean? And your insides aren't dirty. And what you've eaten and how you've spent your time are not things you need to apologize and punish yourself for.
Now, I do know what it's like to have eaten a lot of what I call "giddy foods" (because you feel giddy when you eat them) And then feeling sluggish and tired and possibly bloated. After which, you generally feel the need to balance things out. And that isn't a bad thing, it's just that, of all the paths to get there, the detox/cleanse road actually sends you in the complete opposite direction of the balanced feeling you're trying to achieve.
Because when it comes to nutrition? Balance is kindness first. Balance is loving, radical acceptance. Balance is letting go of the past and standing firmly in the present. Balance is eating the best chocolate ice cream sundae and enjoying every bite, and then having a lot of vegetables the next day. It's spending an entire day cuddling on the couch with your family and watching feel-good movies, and then lifting weights the next afternoon. It's giving yourself permission to experience everything. We are multi-faceted human beings. I know the curated feeds on Instagram might have you thinking that the only way to obtain health is to be like the chick who only posts pictures of herself drinking celery juice, but that's not living and it's not healthy.
And when it comes down to whether or not detoxes and cleanses actually even work, according to an article by Juliette Steen, ""The bottom line is 'no'. There is no scientific research that indicates detox diets actually work...The theory that we need to follow a specific diet to help our body eliminate toxins is not supported by nutritional science...Because detox diets are very restrictive, what we tend to find is that people lose weight (or fluid) very quickly. This results in them thinking that the detox diet is working, when actually the results are simply due to a restriction in overall energy intake..." So even if you do lose weight while doing one of these things: 1) It's water weight so it will come back and 2) You're doing so by denying your body the nutrients it needs to SURVIVE.
Now, look, I know that after having spent years of dieting, the idea of letting that go and trusting yourself can seem terrifying. There is this fear that if we give ourselves permission to enjoy food we will never stop and we will become recluses whose skin fuses to their couch cushions. If you want to hear how impossible that is, I did the math on it in this blog post here: https://zenandsugar.blogspot.com/2020/07/gaining-50-pounds-in-one-week_13.html
But in the end, as stated in the book Intuitive Eating, "the first step to reclaiming the world of normal eating, free of dieting and food worry is to honor your biological hunger. Your body needs to know consistently that it will have access to food - that dieting and deprivation have halted, once and for all. Otherwise, your biology will always be on call, ready to avert a self-imposed food deprivation."
I remember the first time I read those lines (the whole book, actually) It scared the shit out of me. There was so much safety in the restrictions of a diet. Even when they didn't work! I felt like I had no ability to know what my body needed and that strict regiments were what was going to get me healthy. But they did the opposite. And I never felt the freedom any of these diets promised, nor did I lose any of the weight I had been hoping to. And through all of it, I was missing my life because I didn't believe life could start until I weighed a certain amount.
You are deserving of being present in your own life. Diet culture will tell you otherwise because it feeds on your insecurities to survive, but diet culture is wrong.
One of my favorite pins I've saved on Pinterest is a quote with no listed author and it goes like this: Those extra 5-10 pounds, that place where your body naturally wants to be - that's your life. That's your late night pizza with your man, that Sunday morning bottomless brunch, your favorite cupcake in the whole entire world because you wanted to treat yourself. Those 5-10 pounds are your favorite memories, your unforgettable trips, your celebrations of life. Those extra 5-10 pounds are your spontaneity, your freedom, your love."
Here's to spontaneity, freedom, and love this December.
PS. I have put together a Wellness Podcast Calendar that can be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/10S62u-ro-FchHAsmOOGkO-jw5ZdML_oK/view
And if you're looking to begin building healthy habits based in self-love (because exercise doesn't have to be about weight loss, and learning new recipes doesn't have to be about your waistline) Fill out this form and join our tribe. I'd love to have you.