I’ve done seven liquid-only body cleanses. I’ve experimented with brands, cleanse types, phase-in and phase-out strategies, exercising and not exercising – you name it. And every time I’ve limited my intake to liquids, my body simply wanted food – real, solid, nutrient-dense food.
I wanted it to work, but it didn’t. Not only did it put my body through a roller coaster of stomachaches, cramps, fainting spells and a lack of focus, but I also never accomplished my goals of feeling better and losing weight. Here’s what’s wrong with cleansing.
1. Your body needs protein and fiber.
Protein is often associated with gaining serious muscle, but it’s necessary for every body type – weightlifters and yogis alike. Not only does protein help muscles recover, it also promotes healthy weight by keeping you full and fueled. Protein also provides essential amino acids the body can’t produce on its own. And, sadly, juice provides little to no protein.
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As for fiber, most people don’t get enough as is. If constipation, low energy and frequent hunger pangs aren’t reason enough to up your intake, consider this: A high-fiber diet also reduces risk for heart disease. Many fruits have a healthful serving of fiber, but the process of juicing them and discarding their nutrient-rich outer layer cuts down on the fiber that makes it into your cup. The one thing you’re still getting plenty of in juices is sugar. Which leads me to my next point . . .
2. Eating fruit is much more healthful than drinking it.
While juice cleanses may seem like an easy way to load up on vitamins and minerals, they’re often full of added sugars and devoid of the good stuff (such as fiber and antioxidants). Plus, all that juice can actually lead to Type 2 diabetes, whereas eating fruit reduces the risk.
3. Juice is expensive.
Cleansing, whether you’re making the juice at home or buying it prepackaged, can cost a pretty penny. For the price of the average cleanse (around $180 for three days), you can buy two weeks’ worth of groceries for yourself. Why not cut back on booze and caffeine for a week and splurge on a massage or class package at your favorite fitness studio instead of hopping on another cleanse? And because studies have found few actual health benefits to detox diets, including cleanses, you’re essentially throwing your hard-earned cash to the wind.
4. Crash diets don’t work.
Losing 12 pounds in two weeks may sound great, but it’s tough to keep it off. When you deprive yourself of sugar and carbohydrates, the likelihood of eventually returning to old habits, and bingeing in the process, is high. The better option: Make small, meaningful changes, such as cutting back on processed foods and drinking more water, one at a time.
5. Cleansing makes you feel crummy.
Sure, several cleansing testimonies say the results were incredible: “My body has never looked better.” “I have more energy than a puppy.” And while that may be true for some, for others – like me – it isn’t.
The lack of nutrients in juice cleanses can cause hunger, fatigue, lightheadedness, dizziness, a rapid heartbeat, temperature fluctuations, impatience and a whole slew of discomfort.
6. Your body detoxes itself naturally.
After you overindulge, purging your system of toxins with a cleanse sounds appealing. But that’s what our organs are for. The liver is constantly working to help purify the body. Our kidneys do the same every time we urinate. And so do our intestines.
Eating healthfully can help our organs do their jobs more efficiently: We don’t need to drink liquid for days on end to accomplish that.
I have identified the things that make me feel bad and those I tend to overindulge in, and I have created my own plan that helps me get back to feeling good when I need it.
For seven to 10 days, I remove caffeine, alcohol, dairy, meat and anything processed from my diet. I fuel up on whole foods such as fruit, vegetables, lentils, eggs and lots of water and herbal tea. While I’m doing that, I decrease my level of exercise and limit myself to such things as long walks, restorative yoga and 15-minute steam room or sauna sessions.
By the end of my “cleanse,” I feel energized, healthy, happy and fit – even if I’m not fitting into my skinny jeans perfectly. I’ve also found that it helps to “detox” my mind at the same time. Taking time to meditate and write, and ignoring social media and mindless Web browsing, help me feel more focused, and I sleep like a baby. It may not be double-digit weight loss, but I’ll take it.
This story was excerpted from Greatist.com.