Cleanses. They are all the rave these days. You’ve got the Master Cleanse, the weekend cleanse, the jumpstart your body cleanse, and of course the drink this and magically be skinny cleanse. I think everyone usually goes for that last one. When people find out what my background is in they always feel like they can ask me a ton of nutrition questions. Most of the time I really enjoy talking about things with people and helping them learn something new about a certain topic within my field of knowledge, but the other times I thoroughly hate it. Unfortunately, my field is very accessible on the internet and anyone who has read an article on something thinks they are an expert. That is why there are so many conflicting opinions and ideas about how to achieve a healthy lifestyle. One of the most common questions I get, (and an area of differing opinions) is “How do you feel about cleanses?”. As a professional and nice person I answer them politely, but in reality I want to be incredibly sarcastic and mean (sometimes). Thankfully I have this wonderful outlet to let my true opinions on this matter out. Here is my opinion on the fad of the day:
They are stupid. There I said it, they are dumb. The whole point of my field of practice is to educate people on how to live a healthy lifestyle and eat for your HEALTH. If people would just listen for a second they would see that the ideology of eating for your health is much more efficient and longer lasting than a cleanse. You don’t need to jumpstart your body into anything, just start eating well and – you know what – your body is so efficient at what it was designed to do, that it cleanses itself. By choosing foods that are high in fiber alone (broccoli, brussel sprouts, black beans, bananas, apples (with skin) just to name a few) you will definitely see that your body will be “cleansed”. What is the point of a cleanse if you have no idea on how to eat correctly after? There isn’t one. If you eat crappy before you start a cleanse, more than likely you will eat crappy after – rendering your cleanse moot. Also, there are numerous studies that have shown when you skip meals you are more apt to eat a greater portion at the next one; and studies about your body holding on (storing) to what you do eat, thinking that it won’t get another meal again soon. That goes back all the way to the hunters and gathers. They are hypothesized to have a gene called the thrifty gene that caused them to store food in order to survive times of scarcity. The same idea still exists today. Most of us are not carriers of the thrifty gene, but our bodies still work the same when it is deprived of food on a consistent basis. Your body is going to store the food it does get (generally as fat in the adipose tissue). And really who wants to gain fat? Kind of the opposite result that people are striving for. These are just a few examples of why cleanses don’t work. There are many many more.
Don’t get me wrong, I love cold pressed juice from time to time and think it’s delightful. I drink a pressed juice when I feel like it, and also when I haven’t had a chance to eat fresh fruits and vegetables that day (I am actually drinking a Health-Ade Kombucha as I am writing this). That is the correct way of approaching the whole juice fad. There is no clinically proven evidence to support cleanses (I seriously did numerous pub-med searches with no results). It is unfortunately just another way for people to make money off people seeking to be healthier and don’t know where to start. Please people, don’t buy into the silliness. I want to be your sound voice of reason and help you to avoid this monster, and be and feel healthy.
Here is some practical advice to begin putting into practice:
1. Start eliminating processed foods as much as you can. This includes chips, cookies, crackers, breads, pasta etc. The general rule of thumb is when you’re in the grocery, store stick to the borders of the store and try to limit how much you buy from the inner aisles. The shelves of the inner aisles are typically consumed by the processed foods that we all seem to love.
2. Eat whole foods (real fruits and vegetables). This will involve becoming more creative and probably having to cook a little bit more. In reality, most of us shouldn’t have reasons not to cook. We have pinterest at our fingertips with so many recipes readily available. There are some really great recipes there and you don’t have to be a professional to execute them, I promise.
3. Try to not eat out multiple times a week. Even though it is convenient and tastes great, most of the time it is not the most healthy choice to make. There are always a ton of extra calories in food not made by you and usually in the form of fat – and not the good kind.
4. If you really like pressed juice then keep drinking it. I don’t think it is the devil, I just think that drinking only juice for 7 days is! You should never be surviving on only one source of calories. Our bodies need the variety of foods to get all those essential nutrients.
5. Eat based on the season. I know eating fresh fruits and vegetables can be super expensive. I totally understand – my husband and I are also on a budget. If you do just a little research and know what fruits and vegetables are in season, it will be much less expensive. Also, this will help with achieving a varied diet with eating loads of different fruits and vegetables.
6. Eat good carbohydrates. Carbs are not the food source that makes you fat. Your body actually needs carbs to survive, especially your brain. It is where you get your carbs that is the important thing. By eliminating processed foods you are automatically cutting out “bad” carbs. The food sources that you should be leaning towards to get your carb fix are quinoa, farro, legumes (beans), sweet potatoes, bananas, etc.
7. Be active. When you are choosing to do good things for your body you are more likely to also want to eat good sources of food. Find a form of exercise that you really enjoy – and do it. Whether it be walking, running, swimming, yoga, barre, pilates, yogilates, or whatever else is popular – just do it! This is a pretty vital step in leading a healthy lifestyle. Remember you don’t have to be an athlete by any means just do something that you enjoy.
So please everyone, don’t be gullible and buy into the ridiculousness of cleanses. Even if Jillian Michaels tells you it’s ok.. just say NO!