It is finally spring! Many women this time of year start thinking about taking off the sweatpants and pulling out the bikinis. With this wardrobe change tends to come crazy fad diets, cleanses and multiple trips to the gym. Women search Pinterest, their favorite magazine or their favorite celebrity’s blog to see how to get slim, trim and how to do it fast. Unfortunately diet tricks or fads that work quick don’t seem to last for long. So, the question is: Do you cleanse? Do you jump on the fad to get a quick fix? As a registered dietitian I say no! Why???
- You’ll feel starved: Many jump on a cleanse with little to no claories and they are starving all day! It seemed like a great idea until the end of the first day when you feel famished. Cleaning and taking out tons of food takes out calories leaving you feeling starved and likely very cranky with a headache.
- Lack of energy: No calories = no energy. End of story. Food is what gives our bodies energy and the lack of food leaves you feeling tired and fatigued. It is likely that on a cleanse or a fad diet, your workouts will be weak, and you won’t feel great over the course of the day thus becoming less productive.
- Little to no protein: Most cleanses are protein-free or least provide limited amounts. Protein slows down digestion thus helping us feel full faster and stay full longer while also stabilizing blood sugar. So, the lack of protein leaves you feeling hungry. In addition, reduced protein intake amidst extreme calorie reduction, for a consistent period of time, can contribute to muscle loss. You might be losing weight, but it might be muscle thus actually raising your body fat percentage!
- You gain the weight back: Many people do in fact lose weight on cleanses and fad diets, but lots of times that weight comes from muscle and water, not always fat. And typically people gain the weight back because one cannot live on a cleanse or restrict calories forever. In addition, caloric restriction often leads to people wanting to binge on the foods in which they were depriving themselves. So, if you gain the weight back, why do it?
- The body has a natural cleaning system: The body is an amazing machine and it is made to filter and cleanse the body of toxins, free radicals and things that cause harm. The liver and kidneys might be the best “cleansers” a body can ever have! In addition, your large intestine has good bacteria that fight the bad to maintain good health. So, the thought that you need to drink cayenne pepper and lemon juice, only eat 500 calories or avoid all animal foods is a marketing-driven device to get people to spend money and buy supplements. Unfortunately. Nutrition is all about science and scientifically cleanses and fads don’t make since.
So what works? Let me be the Debbie-downer to tell you that it is old school clean eating and exercise that gets your body bikini-ready from sweat pant-sluggish. Not entertaining or flashy I know. It doesn’t come in a pill, cleanse or special drink you buy; it comes from moving more and eating portion-controlled, nutrient-rich meals and snacks. If you really want to cleanse try eating only whole foods for a week or two: vegetables, whole fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, avocado, eggs, plain Greek yogurt, whole grains like quinoa, faro and brown rice. Combining these whole foods will not only give you vitamins and minerals, but they will provide you with fiber and protein to help you feel a little more satisfied and stabilize blood sugar even with a calorie reduction. Eggs and oats for breakfast, Greek yogurt with berries and nuts for a snack, beans and a whole grain at a meal are just examples of how to eat cleaner with nutrition, not a crazy cleanse! The key to losing is fueling your “car” adequately and making that car move!