Today is your day. To start fresh. To eat right. To train hard. To live healthy. To be proud.
If I’m honest, I’ve been skeptical about detox diets for years. I’ve always thought of them as ‘fad diets’, for people who want to lose weight fast and are not bothered whether they’re losing water, fat or lean mass. So, when I recently became a coach for the TLS Weight Management Solution, which advocates that people undertake a detox at least once a year, if not 3 times, I felt I ought to delve a bit deeper into the science behind it.
And, after a week on holiday, eating far too much German bread and various other treats, what better way than to get stuck into the TLS 7 day detox plan myself?!
What is a detox and why bother?
A detox is a bit like changing the oil in your car. It’s a short change to your eating habits to cleanse the body, and help the nutrients you put into it to work much better in a clean environment. Just as you wouldn’t put clean oil into a car without changing the dirty filters, when changing to healthier eating habits you shouldn’t put ‘clean’ foods into your body without cleaning it first.
During a detox, people typically eat ‘whole’ foods (fruits, vegetables, small amounts of protein, good fats and lots of water). This cleanses the body of toxins which have gathered there over time from eating processed foods, including refined grains, starches, sugars and fats. These leave the body nutrient-depleted and feeling tired and hungry, and lead to constant overeating.
Over time, with poor eating habits, the digestive system and liver can become overloaded and unable to fully metabolise fat. This can lead to vitamin deficiencies and poor digestion.
A period of detox is therefore likely to:
- start improving your metabolism
- help with any cravings for sweet or salty foods
- allow your tastebuds to appreciate the taste and flavours of healthy foods
- kick start your weight loss programme.
What did I do?
For 7 days I did not have any caffeine, dairy, grains, starches, sugar, salt, processed foods or ‘bad’ fats. My daily intake was made up of the juice of half a lemon in hot water, 3 pieces of fruit, as many vegetables as I wanted to eat, 2 portions of protein, 2 portions of ‘good’ fat and lots of water and herbal tea. Food was flavoured with herbs and spices. I also limited my exercise to walking the dog as I was not eating enough to sustain a vigorous training programme.
I’ll admit, I looked at this outline and thought ‘oh man, I’m going to be hungry!!’ But, I started on day 1 and I felt absolutely fine, not a single pang of hunger – I was pleasantly surprised. Day 2 was also fine, and then on day 3 I started to experience some of the detox ‘side effects’. As a detox encourages the body to get rid of toxins and ‘withdraw’ from sugar and caffeine etc, people can experience various symptoms. For me, I felt dizzy and sick first thing in the morning on days 3 and 4, I had headaches on day 3, skin breakouts from day 3 onwards, and diarrhoea. Thankfully, these symptoms only lasted a couple of days and from day 5 onwards I felt more energised each day. By day 7 I felt refreshed, revived and truly cleansed.
Did I miss anything? I dreamt about coffee all week! Not that I drink a lot of coffee, just a couple of cups on a morning, but nonetheless. By day 8 when I could have it again, I no longer wanted it!
Has it changed my view of a detox and would I do it again?
Well, I have to admit that the timing of this detox was perfect for me. I had just returned from holiday and had a week of eating a range of foods I wouldn’t normally eat. As a result, my body was feeling very sluggish, bloated and generally run down. The detox got me back into healthy habits very fast. It also helped me to lose some weight gain and I lost a total of 5lb over the course of the 7 days. This amazed me, as the most weight I would usually lose in a week is 3lb at most! Of course, some of this was general water weight from over-eating processed carbs the week before but it really did help me to kick-start that process.
In short, yes it has changed my views. I did feel energised and refreshed at the end of the detox, my skin felt better and I was raring to go to get back into my training. 7 days is a manageable length of time and long enough to cleanse the body and allow it to reset. Of course, this is for someone medically cleared with no underlying health needs.
I’d love to hear your thoughts – maybe you’re skeptical like I was, or an advocate based on your own experience? Why not comment below…