If your New Year’s goal is to lose weight, you may be considering a cleanse or detox to jumpstart your progress. But is this approach safe?
What is a detox or cleanse?
Cleanses and detoxes often claim to:
- Boost your energy
- Help you lose weight
- Decrease digestive issues, headaches and fatigue
- Eliminate toxins from the body
Cleanses and detoxes have various requirements, depending on which one you choose. Some may require you to:
- Give up solid foods for a certain amount of time and replace them with liquids (like green juice or lemon water)
- Cut out certain food groups (like carbohydrates, fat or sugar)
- Purchase special powders, drinks or pills
Cleanse and detox safety concerns
While it’s true that you may lose weight at first when doing a detox or cleanse, there are many health risks associated with these restrictive plans. The weight loss you see on the scale is likely just water weight, which you’ll regain when you return to a more balanced diet. It may even hamper your long-term weight-loss efforts by negatively affecting your metabolism.
It’s essential to understand that your body naturally detoxes itself through your liver, kidneys, skin and colon. Whenever you use the bathroom or sweat, you naturally release toxins.
When you cut out solid foods or certain food groups, you’ll likely miss out on important nutrients like fiber, healthy fats, electrolytes and protein.
When you don’t consume enough fuel for energy, you’ll also decrease your ability to exercise. Regular physical activity is essential for your overall health and lowering your risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
You may also feel irritable, tired and foggy when you don’t get enough calories and nutrients.
The best way to lose weight
The best approach to weight loss is to do it sustainably. Here are some tips:
Focus on nutrient-dense, whole foods. Aim to eat two-thirds plant-based foods like vegetables and whole grains. Also incorporate lean proteins (like turkey, fish, seafood, chicken and beans) and healthy fats (like nuts, seeds, olive oil and avocado).
Decrease low-nutrient foods. While it’s OK to eat them now and then, cutting back on processed foods (like candy, chips, crackers, baked goods and pizza) can help you feel better and lose weight.
Eliminate sweetened drinks. One easy way to drop pounds is to cut out sweetened beverages like soda, sweet tea, juice and sugary coffee drinks. Instead, opt for water, sparkling water and unsweetened tea or coffee.
Intermittent Fasting. This is an eating pattern that cycles through stages of fasting and eating. For instance, you would choose to fast for 14-16 hours per day and eat for 8- 10 hours per day. I recommend talking with your provider first, but if done correctly, intermittent fasting can be a safe way to lose weight.
Exercise more. Once you have the OK from your primary care provider, add movement to your daily routine. Start with 30 minutes of walking a few days per week. As you increase your strength and cardiovascular fitness, work your way up to 150 minutes of cardio (like walking, aerobics, swimming, dancing and biking) and two strength-training sessions (like resistance band workouts, weightlifting, bodyweight exercises or Pilates) each week. Also incorporate stretching or yoga to keep your muscles flexible.
Healthy, lasting weight loss can take time. Generally, it’s safest to lose one to two pounds per week. More than that can impact your overall health and may not be sustainable. Before starting your weight loss journey, check with your primary care provider about your nutrition and fitness needs. Find a provider near you.