“Detox” and why you likely don’t need it

Get shredded, drop pounds, restore your body, look good & feel great! All this sounds like a dream to the person who has been struggling with achieving long term, sustainable physique outcomes. What are those catchy phrases in the first sentence? Common verbiage when getting targeted online for the latest (or old) detox diet, supplement, or tea. What’s the problem with those catchy phrases? They’re misleading, meant to sell (#Marketing), and used to give a sense of hope to/appeal to people looking for an answer to their physique questions. It’s basically nonsense.

Detox programs are often touted as solutions to a problem. A means to an end, or at least a short term fix until you “need” it again. The problem is “detoxes” are not truly the solution as they do not work on habit change and sustainability (these are the keys to a long term outcome). Often times the person selling the detox tea or supplement is not a qualified health professional (i.e. a Registered Dietitian) and may just be:

  1. Trying to make money selling a product
  2. Sponsored by the product and possibly do not use/do not know anything about it and its functions in the body
  3. Someone who tried the product once and felt good and found a way to make money selling it  

This is not meant to discourage folks from making money, but it is meant to ENCOURAGE folks to do what is right/best. When asked about what toxins are specifically detoxed from the body when taking these detox supplements/products, the answer often consists of an “I don’t know” or “the ones that are bad for you.” Not very assuring.

What they “promise”

Detoxes often focus on promoting fat loss or weight loss. The weight loss industry is a multi-billion dollar one that consists of products sold like “waist trainers,” supplements like “fat burners” that are like the waist trainers in that they do not work for fat loss, and diet beverages including shakes and meal replacements. Unfortunately, these things have existed for a long time and have created repeat customers because they “worked” for a brief period of time. They obviously did not target behavior and habit change. What does work for weight loss? A caloric deficit (eat less than you burn or burn more than you eat). Some detoxes actually do help create a caloric deficit because their 2 week “juice cleanse” is mostly juices, no meals, and approximately 800 calories a day. There will likely be a decrease in weight (water weight loss and a brief caloric deficit and potential diarrhea sometimes, unfortunately) that will increase once the individual returns to a more sustainable lifestyle a.k.a. What they were doing before.

Should folks detox?

The short answer is no. People who may benefit from some type of closely monitored detox program may be individuals suffering from alcohol over consumption/poisoning. Other than that, healthy people should not particularly go on a detox program. The long term solution(s)? See below.

  1. Work with someone or a team of people to help you build new habits
  2. Ask yourself “is this something I can do for the long run?”
  3. Remember that it is a marathon, not a sprint
  4. Don’t rely on a short term, “quick fix” to be the solution
  5. The answer is not a quick one, but it is one that is worth putting in time and effort to. 

Conclusion

Severe caloric restriction (extreme dieting, going on an extreme detox program too often or for too long) can be unhealthy in the long run. In some cases, severe restriction may even increase stress in the body. Quick fixes are often not the solution and oftentimes these detoxes truly do nothing. It is critical to remember that change often takes time, especially when it is one that involves human behavior. Detoxes can be dangerous at times and most of the time they are a waste of time and money. Don’t fall for the “shiny toy.” Trust the process. Be patient. Stay consistent.

References

  1. Tomiyama, A. J., Mann, T., Vinas, D., Hunger, J. M., Dejager, J., & Taylor, S. E. (2010). Low calorie dieting increases cortisol. Psychosomatic medicine, 72(4), 357–364. https://doi.org/10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181d9523c
  2. Tinsley, G., Urbina, S., Santos, E., Villa, K., Foster, C., Wilborn, C., & Taylor, L. (2019). A Purported Detoxification Supplement Does Not Improve Body Composition, Waist Circumference, Blood Markers, or Gastrointestinal Symptoms in Healthy Adult Females. Journal of dietary supplements, 16(6), 649–658. https://doi.org/10.1080/19390211.2018.1472713