The truth about Detox Diets

Whether it’s lemon water or a Instagram model laughing at her salad that’s dressed with apple cider vinegar, it’ s not difficult to be to be sucked into the detox facade. The concept that you can flush out your dietary sins with a daily dose of lemon water and a HIIT session is something that the diet industry has cleverly produced as an antidote to majority of our guilty pleasures like alcohol and cheeseburgers. Before you head off to your local pressed juices and pick up a green juice, you should consider this: the idea that you can flush your body of impurities is designed to get you to buy products and isn’t backed by research and can harm our mental health and well-being. Here we will discuss the myths and mechanisms behind detoxification.

Diet culture type detoxes, insinuate that the human body is incapable of detoxing itself and may end up stopping people from the empowering experience that is learning about how their own bodies work and what it needs. What these detoxes fail to mention is that the body is more than capable of detoxification and does not require additional help, especially ‘clean foods ’. Detoxes are problematic for many reasons, one is that foods that are involved in the detox are said to be clean foods and any foods that are to be avoided, are somehow not clean. When we create a narrative that some foods are clean and not clean, we create shame around eating certain foods. This mentality can create issues with our relationship with food and may contribute to disordered eating. Concepts like Detoxes Clean eating, fitspo and thinspo, further divide us by making these rules and exclusivity around our bodies.

But this isn’t the only issue with detoxes. Detoxification is a vital part of overcoming drug addiction. A drug detox program is designed to rid the body of drugs and alcohol, which can help the body with its dependence on alcohol or drugs and is a necessary step in combating any substance abuse problem. Detoxification is a fundamental and valid part of overcoming drug and alcohol addiction, detox diets however, are not. Detox diets make a mockery of a serious issue. A detox diet is no substitute for a drug detox program. In fact, trying to do a detox diet at the same time as you stop taking a substance on which you are dependent can be unsafe and harmful. When you begin to go through withdrawal from drugs or alcohol your body will be in a fragile state and this time or any time for that matter is not the time to be withholding precious nutrients and calories. Addiction is a serious issue that according to the National survey on drug use and health, 21.5 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled with in 2014. Detoxification, once a tool used to help individuals with addiction, has been taken and used to fuel a privileged and exclusive narrative of health that is centered around having the purest and cleanest body at any cost, including your health.

Are Detox Diets health promoting?

They can actually be and often are health demoting. Charcoal for example, its claim to fame was the result of its detoxification properties. It’s understandable why people may think that activated charcoal can detoxify the body from toxins as its often used in emergency medicine to reduce the toxic load when someone as consumed poison or have overdosed. But in reality, most of the people who are adding charcoal into their smoothie are in a healthy state and have no need to be consuming charcoal. But even if charcoal does draw out toxins from the body, isn’t it also possible that it can draw out the good stuff too? Many people think that charcoal draws out impurities and toxins in the body, but even if this was true, if it pulls out the bad, isn’t it possible that it pulling out the good?

Activated charcoal binds to toxins, but also binds to some vitamins, minerals and antioxidant that you’ve consumed through food. So, if you’re eating a delicious and nutritious foods with charcoal, chances are you’re not going to absorb those nutrients. Charcoal can also bind with some medications such as anti- inflammatory and anti-depressant medications causing them to less effective and result in serious physical and mental health issues.  But if you’re thinking that this is a fair trade because you want your morning charcoal smoothie to rid the body of that big mac you ate last night, you ’d be wrong. The way that charcoal works is by coming into contact with anything in the digestive system, so that big mac you ate last night? Already in your blood stream, therefore that charcoal smoothie you’re having for breakfast isn’t going to get rid of the big mac but it certainly may be getting rid of the vitamins and minerals in the smoothie.

How to recognize a detox diet

Detox diets fall under the diet culture umbrella. Diet culture – the commonly accepted belief that the only way we can achieve health is to follow the strict rules of a diet in order to meet the obscene thin ideals the culture has set in place. Our world is saturated with diet culture and in all forms – print media, tv, restaurants, supermarkets, work, our homes, bus stops, food packaging and social media which has made is damn near impossible to avoid it, no matter how hard we reject diet culture. So even though it’ s almost impossible to discard diet culture, we can be aware of its sneaky ways of disguising itself. Detox diets fall under the realm of diet culture, it encourages the purist mentality that is incredibly dangerous and as we have discovered throughout this post, doesn’t actually work.

Here are some signs that you have come across diet culture in disguise

  1. Certain foods are either good or bad

2. There are rules around food whether it be consuming no more than 30g of fat, or no more than 1200 calories, no oil, salt, sugar, fruit etc

3. The goal is weight centric

4. They say, “it’ s a lifestyle not a diet”

5. Portion control

6. 80/20 rule

7. Moderation

8. They try to shame binging, emotional eating etc

9. They don ’t promote diets, just wellness and wholefoods

10. You ’ re asked to cut out any food groups