Our favourite foodie Maddy Walters, gives you the facts on why those January detoxes won’t work in the long term….
January is the month of overhaul for so many people. A month in which gym memberships optimistically purchased in the first week of term go unused for the rest of the year, in which people dish out extortionate amounts of money on juice diets and other fads, and in which the word ‘detox’ is thrown about more than ‘down it!’ on a Wednesday night. I’m all for self-improvement and getting into shape, but, much like getting a new puppy, health is for life, not just for (post) Christmas.
The simple fact is, we all approach weight loss wrong. We are taught to see it as as a short-term process we need to participate in, in order to get to an end point. Get-fit-fast fad diets have us viewing health and our bodies all wrong. Up to 80% of all diets fail, if not from loss of interest in the first few months, then usually around the 6th month mark. Either the dieter’s body will slow the visible rate of weight loss, as is natural around 6 months as the metabolism adjusts itself, and the dieter will lose determination, thinking that their programme has stopped working, when in fact the body is just adjusting and will still continue to lose weight in the long term. Or the dieter will see the weight falling off in the early months, and are so pleased with these results they will relax and let their diet slip. Because there is a lag period with weight- where the weight continues to drop, despite a change in diet- the dieter incorrectly concludes they don’t need to be so strict with their diet to continue to lose weight. They relax and return to the pre-diet habits, often putting on more weight than they started with. The key problem, it’s clear, is not so much what the diet is doing, but the very fact that is is viewed as a ‘diet’ in the first place. Losing weight is not about waiting to start eating again, but about a long-term change in food habits.
Which brings me onto all those diets thrown around this time of year. Juice diets in particular have been around a lot since Christmas. There is something about the status symbol of this; the legions of celebrities you’ll see sharing pictures of their juices lined up in a colourful fashion with names like ‘super green’ and ‘raw superfood’.
They claim to help you lose “7lb in 7 days!’ but the question, of course, is if they can claim to help you keep that 7lbs off after? They’ll also cost you a hell of a lot, £145 for 3 days for one programme I found. Essentially, you’re paying that much money for some juiced vegetables and/or fruit. You could buy the ingredients for the juices for literally pennies.
When did we suddenly start thinking that ‘detoxing’ was a necessary part of life, as though we live in a cycle in which we should move from ‘toxing’ ourselves to then cleansing ourselves? It’s based on an idea that we need help, that our bodies can’t handle the flushing away of these toxins, and that we need to eat only pulverised vegetables for a little while to make our bodies better again. In fact, most of us have already got a pretty good system for handling these toxins, the liver, kidneys and colon.
It’s true, in this age of ready-meals, breakfast cereals (even those that claim to be healthy, but that in fact carry more sugar than a chocolate bar), and the complete ignorance the majority of us have about what we are putting into our bodies, we are overtaxing this filtering system. Far too much sugar, especially the refined kind, which hides on practically label in a super market (see my article on sugar..), puts a lot of pressure on our liver, contributing to the 20% of people with fatty liver disease – leading to obesity, insulin resistance, and eventually, liver disease.
However, rather than treating this problem with a short-term expedient, why don’t we try and change the source of the problem? Change the way we eat, stop eating the refined sugar, white flours and start looking to our food as fuel for our bodies rather than a ‘toxin’ to be later ‘detoxed’. The basis of vegetable juicing is great idea, our bodies all need a helping hand sometimes, but why be so obsessive? Why not have green juices with breakfast, after going for a run or even as a replacement for breakfast? If nothing else, it’s a way to bump up our vegetable intake, especially the raw vegetables that we don’t tend to eat, but which are so good for us. But overhauling all food and surviving on only these juices, is simply putting your calories at such a low level that your body goes into panic mode, the result of which would, yes, be weight loss. But how sustainable is that? As soon as you start eating again- as you need to in order to do all that fantastic living we’re so good at- the weight is going to go straight on again.
One central thing we so often forget is that dieting is money; that the industry is worth so much, in America reaching 60 billion in takings last year. These programmes and diets might well be based on some research, but ultimately, their capitalist self-interest is going to call their humanitarian interests into question. We need better education of diet and nutrition in this country; we need to be aware of what we are eating and what it is doing to our bodies, to understand for ourselves why these diets are not sustainable. I had no idea of any of these things before I began to write my column, and myself have done a 3-day juice cleanse in the past, without questioning that it was going to be good for me. We need to stop putting such a price on health, and we need to stop compromising our health with get-there-fast solutions. Not all things can be fast-tracked, and, often, it’s the things most worth having in life that can’t be.
To follow Maddy’s own healthy eating journey, have a look back over her columns here.bookmark me