Cleansing is Craziness

It breaks my heart when I hear of my friends going on a “cleanse” or on a “detox”.

First of all, it’s important to realize that a cleanse or a detox is simply a ‘diet' given a less offensive name. Since it has been pretty common knowledge for a few decades now that diets are bad for your body and mind, the industry cleverly came up with a couple of exciting new terms to market diets anew to desperate and unsuspecting consumers. 

90% of recently polled American high school girls were on some kind of ‘diet’.  Some were using laxatives, some were taking pills and some were vomiting after every meal. Many girls, still pubescent and developing, were limiting themselves to less than 1200 calories a day, which is what the World Health Organization cites as the lowest possible daily healthy human intake. Below that, they classify it as starvation. The healthy RDA of calories for young adult women is 2000 and for men is 2500. Harvard Health Publications suggests women eat at least 1,200 calories daily and men get a minimum of 1,500 per day.

In a nutshell, a diet (aka a ‘cleanse’ or a ‘detox’) is deprivation. They either ‘help you lose weight’ mostly because you are under feeding and under-nourishing yourself, or they claim to 'rid your kidneys or liver of accumulated toxins'. Of course you’re going to lose weight for as long as you only eat grapefruit, or avoid all forms of fruit or whatever trendy, faddy cleanse is popular this month. And your body will be constantly cleansing itself, whether you're starving or not. The safe and intelligent way to clean your liver is to stop eating toxic things. Period. That doesn't mean to stop eating altogether, or to severely limit your food intake. That's not only overkill but it's creating other problems, as well.

While the cleanse is a tempting proposition, the problems are many.

First, as I’ve already mentioned, this is undernourishment. It is not properly feeding your body a balance of nutrients nor is it supplying sufficient calories to sustain life. There is nothing magical about the weight loss people experience from such diets as these. You could see similar results from just about any heavily restricted dietary intake, including eating nothing.  But your body needs a full array of nutrients and a minimum amount of calories to thrive and be healthy. These cleanses often fall short in both of those measures.

Secondly, is the mental damage it does. While on a cleanse, since we are depriving ourselves of important and necessary nutrition, even temporarily, it will trigger our body’s natural desire to be properly fed. This will manifest as cravings. Any deprivation of something necessary for your body will eventually lead to cravings. Usually cravings for the very thing one has eliminated, or a close proximity. This is not a coincidence but the intelligence of your body doing it’s best to get what it needs.

An example I saw recently is a woman who, as part of her cleanse, had a grapefruit and beet juice for breakfast. Two hours later, she found herself helpless against the temptation of a brownie. To me it is clear that her body was asking for fat. And since she was putting herself into deprivation mode, she wasn’t making decisions from a place of centered intelligence, but making a desperate attempt to quell the loud demanding voice of her body. Had she allowed herself some butter with breakfast, (or somehow supplied herself with fat, carbs and protein instead of just pure liquid carbs) she would not have been tempted by the brownie. Her body would have been fully satisfied until lunchtime.

For decades, experts have been telling us the dangers of dieting. One of them is the yo-yo phenomenon that saying dieting basically lowers our metabolism while we’re in the deprivation mode. And once we (inevitably) succumb to the cravings created by the diet, we bombard our lowered metabolism with all the craved food. This makes for a great deal of weight gain. The typical person will then go back into diet mode and do the whole thing over again, losing the same five or ten pounds and gaining it back, plus more, each time.

Psychologically, this is guaranteed failure. Since there is no way to remain in diet mode for very long, it comes down to our external ego-driven will versus our innate body-wisdom. And eventually our body will win out, simply to protect itself. Survival instinct is very strong.

Another drawback of cleanse mentality is the idea that we just need three days of ‘being good’ and it can clean out all the damage we’ve done with a lifetime of improper eating.  The truth is that our organs are constantly cleaning our bodies. It doesn’t require any kind of rest or reset to cleanse. What it requires is plenty of water and a sensible, but satisfying diet.

We would be much better off taking one daily habit and changing it for the better until it becomes a new, more healthy habit. For example, eliminating soda pop with lunch, drinking water in the afternoon instead of coffee, or choosing a fruit-based dessert over a flour-based one. These are just simple examples of something to do that is much more effective and sustainable. Once the garbage is eliminated from the daily intake menu, the organs will eliminate the built up garbage.

Another downside of detox mindset is that it doesn’t get you any closer to understanding your body’s real needs. It is obvious that grapefruit and celery aren’t a proper diet, not even for three days. But if you do stick to only grapefruit and celery for three days, you will probably lose weight. (you’ll also lose health, but it won’t be as visible in the mirror). Many people report ‘feeling lighter’ when on highly restrictive diets, but it is important to remember that people who are starving to death, also will report feeling very light as they waste away.

On the other hand, if you eschew the harmful idea that you should cleanse, then instead you are left to grapple with the question of ‘what do I eat on a daily basis?”  Finding the answer to this question will bring you a lifetime of food enjoyment at  your ideal body weight. You’ll be radiant with health and energy and you’ll never feel hungry or have food cravings. You’ll find extreme pleasure and enjoyment from eating rather than being fearful and depriving yourself.

Also consider the possibility that many of these products contain ingredients that are not known to be healthy or safe to consume. They may contain addictive medications or other additives that are harmful to your health.

Finally, I will say that ‘dieting’ is akin to suicide in many ways. I’ve already mention how it slowly and insidiously robs you of health, Not only is it slowly killing you, but it is ‘the easy way out’. It is much easier to restrict yourself to only a few chosen foods, or to eliminate an entire food group from your life, or to purchase a ‘diet/cleanse/detox’ product or program than it is to experiment, research and discover what works for you in the long run.

Taking the smart route may require you to team up with an expert. And that may even cost you some money, but it is not wasted money, like the money you spend on packaged diets, powders, pills, drinks and supplements. This money is a wise investment in your health now and well into the future.

As with most things, if you take the quick and easy route, you’ll get meager results that don’t last. But if you do the work, you’ll enjoy a nice, long, healthy life, filled with joyous meals and you’ll never feel deprived. 

Which way do you want to be?

Over the years, we have gone on many fad diets. All of them just ridiculous. Many of them probably only being given any consideration at all because a celebrity was doing them. The erroneous thinking being that if a celebrity is doing it, it must be good.

As you read this list, please keep in mind that all of the diets I have listed have eventually been discovered to be entirely or partially dangerously misguided.

In 1820, Lord Byron popularized a diet called the Vinegar and Water diet. Yes, it was only water and apple cider vinegar.

In 1903, President Taft got stuck in his bathtub and went a very public (and unsuccessful) low carb diet. He gained it all back and then some.

In 1925, Lucky Strike cigarettes introduced the diet known as “Reach for a Lucky instead of a Sweet” touting nicotine's appetite suppression.

In the 1930s it became trendy to go on a diet which entailed having grapefruit with or instead of each of your three daily meals. This was called the Hollywood Diet.

In the 50’s a diet known as the Cabbage Soup diet was all the rage. Cabbage soup with or instead of every meal. which was also severely limited.

Maria Callas allegedly dropped over 50 pounds in the mid 1950’s by swallowing a tapeworm and kicking off a new shockingly stupid craze called The TapeWorm Diet.

In 1963 Weight Watchers was born. Effectively turning off all avenues to self-awareness and learning by supplying dieters with a pre-planned nutrition lifestyle. The diet itself isn’t bad, and it does work, but there is little room for growth or education as the food 'choices' are largely prescribed and predetermined.

Elvis Presley made the Sleeping Beauty Diet popular. This involved sedating oneself with drugs rather than eating.

In the 1970’s a Hollywood doctor created the Cookie Diet, which was built upon specially made cookies with added amino acids.

In 1977, SlimFast was introduced onto the poor, confused population, who were eager to believe that it was safe and effective to drink a pre-made, processed food shake instead of eating meals.

In 1978, we were accosted with the Scarsdale Diet, which is a severely limited and strictly prescribed eating plan. Again, keeping any involvement of the eater and the eater’s body signals to an absolute minimum.

In 1979, we were given Dexatrim, which started a whole avalanche of stimulants and appetite suppressants. In 2000, the formula was proven to be harmful, so the recipe was changed, but still one can buy Dexatrim if they think that taking speed to lower the desire to eat is a smart thing to do.

In the early 80’s there was the Ayds Diet Plan. Basically it was the same speed as Dexatrim, but hidden in a chocolate brownie like thing. The product suffered a fatal blow when the killer viral disease of the same name broke in the mid 80’s.

In 1982, Jane Fonda changed the direction of diets and was the catalyst for an ‘Exercise Revolution” as people scrambled to lose weight through hour-long sessions of low to moderate intensity exercise. Jazzercise followed a year later.

In 1985, The concept of food combining  (not having protein and carbs in the same meal) was popularized in a book called Fit For Life by Harvey and Marylyn Diamond. They also touted the evils of eating any sort of animal products.

in 1987, Elizabeth Taylor wrote a book called “Elizabeth Takes Off” in which she advises people to eat veggies and dip every day at 3pm

In 1988, Oprah Winfrey went on a very public all liquid diet and lost about 65 pounds.

In the early 90’s Dr. Dean Ornish wrote a series of books claiming that eating less than 10% of our calories from fat would make us thin and keep our hearts healthy. (McDonald’s experimented with a McLean burger)

In 1992, Dr Atkins taught us all that we should eat high protein and low carbs.

In 1995, the newest trend was The Zone Diet, which said that we should balance our macronutrients in a strict ratio of 40% carbs, 30% fats and 30% protein.

In 1999, following the lead of Victoria Beckham, new mothers started to believe that it was necessary (and safe) to lose their body fat immediately after having a child.

In 2000, Gwynyth Paltrow’s dietary experimentation put the macrobiotic diet craze on the map, which led people to believe that eating raw vegetables and grains is healthy.

In 2003, Dr Agatston cashed in on the old Atkins theory and repackaged it as the South Beach Diet.

By 2004, there had been so many death and heart attacks from people self medicating with diet amphetamines that the FDA had to ban the sale of Ma-Huang and anything containing ephedra.

The Biggest Loser premiered in 2004. A sad program that glorifies extreme, unsafe weight loss, shames overweight people and perpetuates many dieting and exercising myths. 

In 2006, Beyonce used something called The Master Cleanse to lose 20 pounds. It consists of water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper.

In 2007, a new drug called Alli was introduced. This disgusting medication actually works to prevent your body from absorbing the food you eat.

In 2011, a highly specious new diet is introduced. It’s called the HCG diet and it combines a fertility drug with an extremely limited diet. Less than 800 calories/day. (just for reference, a small framed, inactive woman requires almost 50% more than that daily just to stay alive.)

So, there’s no sign of this slowing down or becoming any more sane or intelligent. Don’t feel bad if you’ve fallen for any of these ploys. Clearly you’re not alone. But I hope this list offers a perspective that helps alert you to the reality of what’s going on. There will always be a new diet, cleanse, detox, or whatever new term they come up with once “cleanse’ and ‘detox’ start to enjoy the same negative associations as the word ‘diet’. 

The answer is to eat real food. Don’t be afraid of eating what our ancestors ate. 

My rule of thumb is if it is something that your great grandmother could have eaten, then go for it. Of course, this rules out things like Pringles, Hot Pockets and Totino’s Pizza Rolls, but it also precludes us from being lured into the trap of harmful things like “soy milk,’ “gluten free wheat bread” and “diet soda”

My battle cry these days is “TAKE BACK THE KITCHEN!”  Until we go back to choosing food and leaving behind our terrifying legacy of food phobia and dieting insanity, we will just get sicker and fatter. Instead, let’s find our health and our happy bodies by returning to buying things from local farmers and preparing them in our own kitchens. 

And let’s agree to consider ‘cleansing’ and ‘detoxing’ as bad a concept as ‘dieting’.


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