It's that time of year when even the most diligent healthy eater is thinking about dieting. Summer, the season of fewer clothes (shorts, tank tops, sundresses and bathing suits) and more skin, is just around the corner. As a nutrition editor and registered dietitian, I hear about tons of quick fixes and fad diets. But the one I've been asked about a lot lately is detox diets.
"Will a detox diet help me lose weight?" I'm often asked. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but no. A detox diet, whether it's all-liquid or based on supplements or allows just a few foods, is a fancy name for a crash diet, which according to a December 2010 study in the Journal of Neuroscience can raise stress hormones and make you more likely to binge later. You may feel lighter and less bloated because the detox evacuates your gastrointestinal system. But this can lead to dehydration—and the weight lost is mostly water. When you return to your usual habits, you'll likely gain back those pounds.
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Here's another myth busted: a detox regimen doesn't remove toxins from your body. This theory is not supported by science. Your liver and kidneys already naturally eliminate toxins from the blood.
However, detoxes can be good for your psyche. "It brings optimism to people," says Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., R.D., author of Doctor's Detox Diet (2011). "They deliver fast results and people want to be successful when they're sacrificing something."
You can get the benefits of "detoxing" safely: "Eat three small meals—liquid or not—plus a couple pieces of fruit for snacks," says Gerbstadt. Essentially, limit calories and make sure they come from nutrient-rich foods. Pick a calorie level that gives you enough energy to be physically active—at least 1,200 or 1,500 calories a day. You'll safely kick-start weight loss and gain confidence to stick to a healthy eating and exercise regimen.
Would you try a detox diet?
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