Confessions of a Detox Junkie

Will a carb-free, sugar/free, wheat-free binge instantly turn you into a lean, mean glowing machine. Mindfood Magpie finds out…

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Detox. Is it just a new, flashy word for diet? I’m really beginning to think so. Nobody goes on a “diet” anymore, do they?  It’s old-fashioned, makes you appear unhealthy and obsessed with your weight. Nope, the new trendy buzzword on the block is detox, and we’re devouring it like Fro-Yo’s on a hot summer’s day.

At first, I found the idea of a detox to be exciting – they all claimed to do insane things and I am a sucker for a phase! These detoxes would make me healthier, give me clearer eyes and smoother skin, clean out my insides, de-bloat me, make my non-existent periods miraculously reappear, give me shinier hair, plump out my crows feet, make my nails strong, shrink my bum, lose my water weight, give me thinner ankles, bestow me with razor-sharp cheekbones to rival Angelina Jolie’s… hell, why wouldn’t I try one?!

What nobody tells you is that detoxes are really bloody ridiculously hard to stick to. You see, much like a diet, a detox is a very restrictive eating program and sure, if you do them correctly you may get some or all of the above benefits. But it was going to take a lot of work, maybe six weeks or more of no alcohol, sugar, caffeine, wheat, red meat… the list goes on.

That wasn’t attractive to me. I wanted to see instant results, something that was going to work by the end of the weekend and give me slimmer hips and a face that beamed health by Monday.

So first I decided to give the Lemon Detox Diet a try. It’s the one they spoke about on the radio and TV as being easy to do, with amazing benefits and instant results. Also I’d heard it was the one Beyonce did to lose dramatic amounts of weight for the movie Dreamgirls. Okay, mainly because of Beyonce, even though I doubt she has endorsed this detox in any way, shape or form. Hmm. Quick fix? Lose five kilos in 10 days? Sign me up. I bought the syrup online for $90, and chose Monday (of course) to start.

The first time I tried it, I didn’t even make it through one day. The lemon-syrup-pepper combo didn’t taste too bad, but by 5pm, I was getting head spins and needed to chew something, anything. False start, guys!

The second time around, I’d put on a fair bit of weight (from eating double dinners. Yes dinner at work and then again at home. This demonstrates how ill suited to a detox regime I may be) and really wanted to get it off before my upcoming debut ski trip. (Uh, all I can say is that my fat obsession was interfering with my thought processes to the point where I thought I could look thin in ski gear. Riiiight.) Anyway, the LDD and I stuck it out for four days, at the end of which, if you were to show me anything remotely resembling syrup or cayenne pepper, I would have certainly thrown up. Yes, I did lose weight – two kilograms – but it was torture. I couldn’t think of anything but food the entire time, and I was so lethargic it was lucky I made it through the day!  And of course, I put the weight straight back on. After starving myself, a burger and fries had never looked or tasted so good so I find myself ordering another meal for my imaginary friend to take away, telling the waitress “she loves Lucky Sevens!”. This looks even more tragic written down…

The jury is out on detoxes where you substitute food with liquid. Juice fasts, lemon detox, vegetable broth detoxes… there’s nothing scientific that says our bodies need a break from digestion and breaking food down, which is where these detoxes stem from. Any dietician or naturopath I’ve spoken to don’t advise them. The problem is that they’re a quick fix to a long term problem., which can only be solved by your lifestyle. There’s no point in not drinking alcohol for a week, only to binge at the end. That puts huge pressure on your organs, which have to work overtime to break down what you’ve poured into your system. That’s not to say I learnt this from my LD experiment. It took a number of deprivation weeks where I tried the raw food detox (cucumber, anyone?!), the pineapple detox (breaks down fat!), the grape detox (cleans out insides), the herbal detox (came from a box in the chemist), no carbs, no sugar, no wheat, no fun, and still no bloody results.

It was when I was on the Dr Joshi detox (Gwyneth Paltrow is a fan) that I realised how ridiculous I was. Dr Joshi’s plan was much healthier than the others. You could eat, for one thing, and his holistic approach aimed to get the body back to an alkaline state (we eat far too many acidic foods apparently – I’m totally aware that many doctors contest the fact that food influences ph.of blood and the validity of this sort of diet, but there are millions of people who swear by alkaline diets. I’m not convinced either way yet). Dr Joshi says that if you must drink alcohol on the detox, you can drink vodka, which has a lower GI than other alcoholic drinks.

So there I was at a party with my fellow detoxes and flatmates, with two of them drinking vodka on the rocks with a twist of lime. Yes, clever of us, wasn’t it? To deem it a good idea to drink straight vodka having eaten minimal food for two weeks. I wasn’t drinking alcohol but I had sanctioned, supported and bought rounds of these (now considered lethal) drinks. That stupid decision resulted in them both getting extremely drunk and us all leaving before the party really started. I spent the whole night playing Florence Nightingale of drunks. The upshot was the girls were totally off food the following day. We did view this as a victory at the time, which makes me wince now.

The very next day, I threw in my detox towel. The diets were unsustainable and detrimental to my health and happiness. I was putting my body on such a roller-coaster, it has no time to ever be on a straight ride. So I gave them up. And decided to just attempt eating healthily and in moderation.

But just as I’d given up the detoxes, I’d see other people around me go on them, but for a different reason than just losing weight. Their health. Remember that? The thing we cast aside flippantly when we try those ridiculous quick fixes in our quest to drop three kilos. A friend of mine, Nicola, went on the Jason Vale 7 lbs in 7 Days juice diet in a bid to try to clear her psoriasis. By the end of her 7 days, Nicola was feeling on top of the world, with a clear nose, clear head, no allergies and a significant reduction in her psoriasis. Her detox had worked because it was for health purposes – not to eliminate her cellulite. Yes, she lost loads of weight, has clearer skin, glossy hair and high energy levels, but it had taken a truckload of work. I have since tried this juice diet for myself and got incredible results. So much so, I’ve tried to make everyone I know do it. Of the eight people I’ve coerced into trying this cleanse, only two have stuck out the seven days. Those who didn’t, thought it was horrific, those who did got fascinating results in all sorts of areas. I’ve done it since and again felt like utterly brilliant, as has Nicola. But, my goodness, does it take effort!

And this brings me, very long-windedly, to my conclusion. There are no quick fixes. Nothing works unless you stick to it, and the only way to stick to it is to pick a sustainable healthy eating plan that works for you. Yes, I’ll do the Jason Vale again from time to time because for me, it was magnificent, but I also accept that I’m much happier working a giant bar of Galaxy into my weekly eating, rather than bingeing on six donuts because I’ve deprived my body of sugar for six days. As with everything in life, the most important thing is balance. A balanced diet is the only one worth talking about most of the time.