What a “Cleanse” actually looks like

I dislike the word “cleanse”, almost in the same way people dislike the word “moist”. Juice cleanses and other such methods of pseudo-purification are quite popular these days as Americans throw money away searching for a miracle fat loss cure.

In addition, the prevalence of processed foods, a monolithic and unregulated food industry, and rampant pollution have helped to nurture the growing urge to cleanse the chemicals from our veins, to wash away our nutritional sins. Now, the language surrounding food has always had moralistic undertones, but “cleansing” takes it to a whole new level! Foods can be good/bad, guilt free, clean, sinful – you’d think the catholic church was in charge of advertising: “Like a sinner at confessional, you too can reverse the consequences of your decisions by bathing in the blood of our savior, which happens to be beet juice in this case.”

Going on a cleanse is not going to free you of your toxic shackles or whatever else people say it does. In this post, I will briefly explain why I don’t jive with the cleanse craze, and what a healthy cleanse really looks like.

Juice cleanses are typically unhealthy and will create more toxicity than they reverse.

So can anybody tell me what a toxin is? Which toxins are being cleansed? How do the cleansers know what things to get rid of? How do they identify toxins from other compounds? Isn’t it the liver’s job to get rid of toxins? Won’t the cleansers have to go through the liver as well? How come the cleansers don’t have to wait in line behind all of the toxins? Last time I checked, the liver didn’t have a Disneyland-esque fast track line.

Just because something is good for you in moderate doses, like vitamin A, doesn’t mean consuming a metric shit-ton of it will be better. It is, in fact, possible to overdose on otherwise healthy vitamins and minerals. Removing all of the glorious fiber from veggies makes it possible to easily consume an absurd amount of certain nutrients, an amount you would never consume otherwise. The fiber is a big reason veggies are so good for you and serves as a limit on how much of certain vitamins you can consume. You wouldn’t eat 50 beets in a day, so why would you drink that much?

Consuming huge amounts of nitrates and other compounds can be dangerous; I have heard more than a few accounts of people fainting, and getting sent to the ER while on cleanses.

Even if you don’t get sent to the hospital, drinking ridiculous amounts of certain nutrients while cutting out others(some of which are necessary to process all of that beet juice) isn’t healthy.

They don’t foster habits for sustainable health

Even if cleanses were effective at reducing toxicity, they still aren’t a sustainable approach. It’s a quick, short-term fix and doesn’t provide anything valuable for long-term health.

So you realize you eat like an a-hole most of time; alcohol and cheeseburgers are your favorite food groups. You decide to go on a juice cleanse to clear all of that garbage out of your system and get a fresh start.

But then what? What do you do after the cleanse? Go back to eating a ton of junk food until you decide you’re “dirty” enough for another cleanse? This is the same cycle yo-yo dieters follow: binge, diet, binge, diet.

The plight of the yo-yoer isn’t usually the diet, it’s the mindset. Any diet that consistently puts you in a caloric deficit will result in weight loss. This is why cleanses seem to “work”. Bouncing from diet to diet in hopes that this will be THE ONE won’t work if the yo-yo dieter’s mindset remains the same. The lack of consistency is the root cause of failure in this case.

Extreme measures, like cleanses, do nothing to create any long term health benefits, even in the rare case that the cleanse itself isn’t completely asinine. It serves as a band aid, a short-term fix for those desiring instant gratification.

They perpetuate an unhealthy relationship with food

On that same note, the band aid mentality does nothing to forge a healthy relationship with food. Intense, short-term diets only exacerbate the tendency to view foods as either good or bad. As far as health and weight loss are concerned, foods exist somewhere on a spectrum, and can be judged based on the context of the whole diet.

How healthy can something be if you can only do it for a week or two? Cleanses are inherently temporary and compulsive and thus perpetuate disordered eating habits.

They are expensive and miserable

It seems silly to spend a ton of money on not eating. Only in America do people pay extra to starve themselves. Between buying insane amounts of organic produce (only to waste the bulk of it) and whatever supplemental materials are required, cleanses can end up being much more pricey than a week’s worth of groceries.

Beyond that, not eating is just plain unpleasant. Why would you put yourself through that? Especially if it’s not even effective? If something is healthy for you, shouldn’t it make you feel better? If your energy levels and mood are that of an emaciated puppy, maybe that’s your body trying to tell you something.

How to cleanse your body

Don’t consume the “toxins” in the first place!

Gradually shift your diet so that you are mostly eating whole, unprocessed foods and occasionally indulging. Big surprise, right? The best way to keep your body “cleansed” is a sustainable, balanced, healthy diet that you can easily commit to in the long term. I sort of wish this section were longer, but it’s truly that simple. Deal with it.

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