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Look at the world around you. And you will find the weight watchers and body shaming brigade going starry-eyed, and the naysayers and the no-believers giving a knee-jerk eye roll reaction to this one thing that seems omnipresent these days in the world of diet, health and fitness – The Detox Diet. Whether it’s the colourful rainbow palette of fruits and vegetables or super-thin size zero models strutting their stuff sipping a concoction of lemon water and cayenne pepper, it’s tough not to be sucked in by the detox industry. Tell me, who wouldn’t like an atonement to their calorific sins they have committed over 2/5/10 years with the oh-so-promising “detox diet,”and be resurrected? Thanks to celebrity endorsements and promises of a quick fix, detox diets have quite a following. But do they really work? Do they deliver what they promise? Does detoxification really help one lose weight? Sorry to burst the bubble but one does not need the oh-so-magical potion or oh-so-yucky cleansing bowel enemas for the so-called ‘purification’ process to undergo elimination of toxins. So what exactly is detoxification? By definition, Detoxification (detox for short) is the physiological or medicinal removal of toxic substances from a living organism, including the human body, which is mainly carried out by the liver and kidneys. That’s how medicine defines it. However, the word detoxification in local parlance has now gained status of alternative medicine (even quack remedy!) and is loosely defined as any treatment which aims to rid the body of unspecified “toxins” – accumulated substances that proponents claim have undesirable short-term or long-term effects on individual health. Activities commonly associated with detoxification today include crash dieting, fasting, consuming certain foods/food groups exclusively, or avoiding others altogether (such as fats, carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, juices, herbs, or water), colon cleansing, and chelation therapy. And regretfully, most of these activities have ended up becoming ‘fads’ that verge on extreme measures, instead of being grounded in logic or science. We will come to the reasons shortly. But Science, as, always, towers over popular beliefs and that’s the way it should be. Is detoxification really needed? First off, here’s a fact for you: The human body comes with all the detox functionality it needs already built in. There is dearth of scientific evidence (in fact, not even a single study) to support the need or the value of a detox and that’s because our bodies are designed to repair, regenerate and detoxify themselves. In fact, by cutting back and doing a nutrient deficient and a caloric restrictive diet, one is far more likely to compromise rather than support the body’s ability to detoxify. Coming to think about it, it is nice to think that something like a Detox Diet exists that can, with a single stroke, cleanse or purge your body and make that flab disappear. But unfortunately, it doesn’t. The only thing it cleanses is your wallet, purges your sense of logic, and makes vanish your sense of vitality. What really happens when your body is on a detox or a cleanse? Let’s take an example of a ‘juice-smoothie diet.’ Fruits and vegetables are touted to be food types that do all good and no harm, right? With the same logic, they fall in the super healthy category and the juice of these” super healthy “fruits and vegetables should be the elixir to good health and weight loss, right? No, wrong. If you drink only juice for few days, you are bound to lose weight. But that is purely because of the fact that you are NOT eating, and not because your body is detoxifying. If you decrease your calorie intake to a measly sub-thousand kilocalories, way below your BMR, the weighing scale is going to point left. But, is it sustainable? Has it taught you anything about healthy eating habits? Does it put you in a happy space? Won’t you gain all the weight you lost on a rebound once you stop? Let us get a sneak peek of what actually happens internally – Your muscles store water along with glycogen. An extremely low calorie diet puts the body on a starvation mode. And mind you, your body is way more smarter than you are. Once on a starvation mode, the body uses up the glycogen store as fuel along with the water stored in the muscles. So, what is actually lost is the water weight which will find its way back as soon as you switch to a normal diet. If continued for a longer period of time, the body being on a starvation mode with complete lack of dietary protein, will now start breaking down the muscles for its body fuel. And water will finds its way back (irrespective of muscle loss) once you resume a ‘normal’ diet. Unfortunately, muscles won’t and to regain them back would be a hell lot of hard work and strength training. Juice also eliminates fibre from the diet causing an impact on the bowel functionality, and might cause some flu-like symptoms that the gullible dieter might think of as elimination of toxins. The lack of fibre can also cause more absorption of fructose sugar causing the body to go riding on a sugar roller coaster and reducing the insulin sensitivity. The cleanse enemas, which form a part of certain detox diet kits, use stimulant laxatives which can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance if not used under proper monitoring. In essence , you are doing yourself a disservice. In the end, you haven’t accomplished anything, and it is certainly not a healthy approach. The only type of so called ‘detox’ diet that is worthwhile is the one that limits processed, high-fat and sugar – rich foods and replaces them with whole unprocessed foods. And this is not called detox.. It is called clean eating. Final verdict Let the detox diet propagandists shout from the rooftops. But the fact of the matter is, weight loss is and is only a result of ‘Sustained Caloric Deficit’ and that is the basic law of thermodynamics. Eating less (being in a calorie deficit) is the only way to lose weight without ruining your health in the long run. And sustainability is crucial – it should be done in a manner that can be sustained for an extended period of time and should suit your lifestyle. ‘Detox’ today is largely a scam – a case of a legitimate medical term being used as a marketing strategy – all designed to treat a nonexistent condition and likely to do more harm than good. Our sincere request is please stop sabotaging your health and stop falling for these expensive and illogical scams. May the sense be with you. Author credits – Kavita Mehta Thukral
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