Lately, nearly every woman I know has filled me in on some form of “diet detox” they’re currently trying.
I’ve seen friends and co-workers consume nothing but brown rice for a week and drink vinegar straight from the bottle. They’ll inform me about wacky drinks they concoct from not-so-appetizing ingredients, or how they’re restricting themselves to nothing but raw vegetables for ten days.
If they complete this temporary “detox,” they’ll lose a ton of weight and – as a bonus - cleanse their system of poisons and toxins.
In my opinion, the latest trend of diet detoxes and colon cleanses teeter on the edge of absurd. To cut out alcohol, sugar, or processed foods because you don’t like the way they make you feel is one thing, but the fact that so many women believe that they need to tolerate a gag-inducing juice or starve themselves for a week because they want to drop six pounds is quite another. Not to mention, there’s no need to worry about flushing toxins from your system – your kidneys and liver already do that!
Here’s why this particular weight loss trend bothers me so much. Up until now, my entire life has been about deprivation. Each and every time I decided to start my new “diet,” I attempted to eliminate anything that I truly enjoyed, because suddenly all of my favorite meals and snacks were “too fattening.” With all of my favorite foods off the table (literally), I had to keep reminding myself over and over again that I was too fat to eat ice cream.
Within a week, I’d start seriously craving all of the foods I declared off-limits. That’s when I had no choice but to throw my hands in the air, tell myself I’m meant to be big, and dive right into a pint of mint chocolate chip.
How was I ever going to be able to stick to salads and carrot sticks long enough to lose a significant amount of weight? It seemed like an unachievable goal, so I figured it was better to live a life where I could enjoy Oreos and french fries from time to time – even if it meant giving up my dreams of being thin and healthy.
I truly believe that these endless cycles of deprivation are what led me to develop such an unhealthy relationship with food. Diet detoxes, unfortunately, work the same way – they perpetuate the idea that there are foods that are “good” and foods that are “bad,” which leaves us utterly clueless when it comes to striking a balance between nutritional fare and once-in-awhile treats. Our bodies aren’t “dirty,” and we don’t need to avoid certain foods in order to lose weight; we just need to learn how to eat well most of the time while occasionally incorporating our favorite goodies.
I certainly have science on my side. When a person successfully loses weight via a diet detox, they are shedding water weight or – worse – lean muscle mass. The pounds that seem to melt right off when a human decreases their daily caloric intake to nothing more than a couple of glasses of fruit juice can and will pile right back on when they return to their normal eating regimen. In fact, the weight you’ve lost can return twice as quickly, because your system has shifted into starvation mode and is clinging to any nutrient it can - so your body will now register even the most sensible diet of lean protein, veggies, and whole grains as an awful lot of food!
I’ve witnessed so many people start these crazy cleanses, genunely believing they were doing something great for their body, only to hit the ‘fridge harder than ever three days later because they felt so deprived. While I certainly don’t advocate scarfing down cheeseburgers and drinking two-liter bottles of soda every night, I also don’t see the need to feel guilty about a visit to Mickey D’s every once in awhile if you make an effort to eat a balanced diet most of the time.
I made a promise to myself that, this time, I was going to lose the weight without any get-thin-quick gimmicks or crash dieting or starvation. If I had forced myself to stop eating pizza or chinese food, I probably would have finished losing “the final forty” a year ago. But how successful would I have been in keeping that weight off if I tried to sustain those habits forever? Just like I’m not willing to blend powdered drinks or pop pills, I’m not willing to cut out something I love just to lose weight faster.
This time, I’m in it for the long run. I want to figure out how to enjoy life – which, to me, includes eating cookies and chips! - in a way that allows me to maintain a healthy weight. And if that takes me a whole lot longer than ten days to accomplish, then that’s fine by me!
(WEIGH-IN UPDATE: Down .6 this Sunday!)