Is a Detox Diet Totally Pointless?


I gauge people’s interest in food based upon what articles the Internet shares. Ok, kidding, but there are times when I see the same article shared again and again and again.

Earlier this month The Guardian published an article that made the internet rounds. It wasn’t so surprising that people clicked and shared, it was titled You Can’t Detox Your Body. It’s a Myth. I saw one person make a funny comment about how with this information the entire economy of Boulder would soon come to a standstill, and I smirked.

Oh god, green kale smoothies every morning won’t save us? What are we ever going to do?

It’s no surprise that people shared the article. In the last few years we’ve been fixated on detox diets, detox foods and detox methods. And why wouldn’t we be? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that the two weeks of holiday eating you are about to do wouldn’t matter as long as you stuck to two weeks of orange and ginger juice come the New Year?

But deep down, I think we all know the truth: this is not how healthy living works.

The real problem with a detox diet is that it’s still a diet. And we all know what the problem with diets is: they are not sustainable.

Healthy living comes down to having an all-around healthy approach to living. Dieting however is the opposite of that, the good ol’ yo-yo effect, keeping you in the mindset that if you take a few weeks here and there to eat really well, then you can binge and go all out the rest of the time. It’s an approach to eating that has you vacillating back and forth between one extreme and the other.

The reality is that diets don’t work, but healthy lifestyles do. As Catherine Collins, an NHS dietitian at St George’s Hospital, told The Guardian, “The ultimate lifestyle ‘detox’ is not smoking, exercising and enjoying a healthy balanced diet like the Mediterranean diet.”

In other words, the best detox diet you can do is to have a well rounded approach to living: stay active, avoid processed foods, eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains and indulge a little from time to time, but not too much. You know what’s great about this approach? It doesn’t cost very much. It doesn’t require you to go on a retreat to Bali for four weeks. It doesn’t require you to be super strict about what you put in your body. It keeps you away from the yo-yo effect.

In fact, a healthy lifestyle is more about celebrating food rather than demonizing food, something that a detox diet definitely doesn’t have going for it.

Sure, if you overdo it this holiday season, then a week of brown rice, leafy greens and plenty of water is going to be a nice change for your body. But once you’ve done that, it does’t give you the right to go back to nachos, beer and chocolate chip cookies, now does it? That green morning smoothie is only good for you if the rest of your diet is good for you as well.

A detox diet might be pointless, but a healthy, well-rounded approach to living certainly isn’t. Keep eating real foods, indulge a little, and don’t get too down on yourself because you had an extra glass of wine on Friday night. Celebrate food, and enjoy the process. That will keep you far healthier than any detox diet you’ve ever tried.

Originally published on EcoSalon

Image: Stacey Spensley

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