Can a Detox Diet Safely Help You Lose Weight?

By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., "Can a detox diet safely help me lose weight?," March/April 2011

EatingWell's Nutrition Editor weighs in on this diet fad.

"Me and my husband do a 3-week detox diet every year and we feel it is a great way to start the spring season in gear. We shed our winter weight, feel lighter and healthier. We follow a supervised detox and we eat very well. We also do...

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.

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. You’ll safely kick-start weight loss and gain confidence to stick to a healthy eating and exercise regimen.

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