Deep Thoughts on Detoxing

Detox.  I’m not sure that there are a lot of other words in the dieting/health world that are so charged.  And so vague.  (Unless you include cleanse, but they’re so often used interchangeably that I’m just going to treat them like the same word, except I’ll use the word detox).  Hmm, maybe people say detox over cleanse because it sounds more legit and less like crazy people drinking cayenne/maple syrup/lemonade and not eating anything for days (because while the lemonade doesn’t actually taste bad, doing a full on “Master Cleanse” is insane.  Insane.).

 *Note: See my disclaimer page above. I’m not a doctor, haven’t formally studied anatomy or physiology so please excuse me if I speak awkwardly or use slightly incorrect terminology. I hope that I’m getting my point across accurately, but if I’m really saying something wrong, I want to know so that I can fix it, so please comment!  That said…


Our bodies already have pretty great and generally efficient detoxification systems in place to get rid of all of the crap that we expose ourselves to (both intentionally and through the environment).  Our blood, livers, kidneys and the rest of our digestive system (to name a few) are pretty incredible.  And there’s no solid evidence that we necessarily accumulate extra toxins such that we require detox (except of course where actual disease or other issues exist or the body has been overwhelmed by drugs, alcohol or certain environmental toxins, in which case detoxification takes on a whole other meaning that is way beyond the realm of my knowledge or this blog).  I’m good with that – I would not expect to change my diet for a few days and magically release a bunch of crap that my body has been holding onto for years.  And I like to eat, so I’m not interested in depriving myself of a lot of food just to get some stuff out of my body that, again, my body doesn’t need help eliminating.

If you look closely, a lot of so-called detox diets are really just people telling you to eat clean.  Eat real foods.  Avoid processed foods.  Limit sugar.  Limit anything taxing on your digestive system.  Eat foods that support your liver, kidneys, intestines, etc.  To me, that sounds like pretty good advice and is not so crazy (as opposed to juice cleanses where you’re supposed to go for long periods of time by only drinking fresh juice and not eating any foods and really not chewing ever but only drinking juice because that is crazy and you will go crazy, I speak from experience).  Also, I want to point out that I’m not talking about taking pills and vitamins and supplements marketed for detoxing.  Not what I’m talking about AT ALL.  I am very skeptical of that and would not start taking additional supplements without speaking with my doctor or pharmacist.

But back to a not crazy detox, like I was describing earlier.  I’ve been losing weight steadily since changing my eating habits at the beginning of the year, but the scale didn’t move this past week and, while I know that’s normal and nothing to be worried about, I was getting worried that I might approach a point in the near future where I was going to get into a rut with my meal planning (separate post on that coming soon) and just self sabotage.  So, to work through it (without using up all of my willpower stores, which are already being tested by my disinclination to leave the house in this weather) I really just wanted someone to tell me what to buy, prepare and eat for a couple of days, knowing that if I followed the advice, I would maybe lose a few pounds, definitely feel better and be more motivated going forward.  After all, this is the time of year that most people give up on their resolutions and I’m not about to give up on my health. Rather, I needed something to remind me; re-focus me.

I didn’t want anything too lengthy or complicated because I believe in setting myself up for success and not in setting myself up for failure.  So I searched the internets and found a 48-hour detox on that looked pretty reasonable.  I’ll admit that I was very skeptical at first – I don’t usually think of Dr. Oz as a very reliable source.  But based on what I already know about healthy eating, the comments and reviews I read, and just some plain common sense, his plan actually made sense to me.  It definitely helps that it’s only for 2 days.  And that you eat real food.  You still have to prepare/cook it, but he gives you a meal plan, grocery list and recipes for both days.  It’s not terribly labor intensive and, for what it’s worth, the recipes are tasty.  If you’re interested in learning more, click here. (Sidenote: there are a bunch of detox plans on his website – I didn’t read about any of the other ones, I just looked at this one and this is the only one I’m commenting on)

So as you may have already figured out, I decided that this was definitely something I could handle.  After all, I can do anything for 2 days and it certainly isn’t UNhealthy (as opposed to some other detoxes I’ve come across).  Today was day 1, tomorrow is day 2.  Then it’s done.  On Saturday I’ll probably still eat some leftovers (especially of the soup, wow was that a lot of soup), but I’ll eat other foods as well.  Maybe we’ll even go out for a meal and I might even have a drink!

Vegetable Soup with a side of sauerkraut and apple

Tonight’s dinner: Vegetable Soup with a side of sauerkraut and apple

For me, doing a short detox like this is not really about detoxification.  Rather, it’s about hitting a re-set button.  Reinvigorating my dedication to my diet by introducing some new foods and helping me break some of my more challenging patterns that I’m trying to change (like sugar).  For 2 days I’m not eating any sugar (except that which is naturally found in fruit and vegetables).  Saying that I’m going to do that for 2 days is a lot easier to grasp and to achieve than saying I’m going to do it for forever.  But by doing it for two days, I have that success to build on and the knowledge that I can do it.  (No, I’m not going to give up sugar for forever, that’s crazy talk, but I would like to eat a lot less of it on a regular basis).  Also, it totally blows apart any possible argument that I might have that my current eating habits are overly restrictive. If anything, it helps me to see how many great options (within the gluten free, dairy free, refined-sugar free, non-processed food world) I really have.

So for these reasons, I think that doing brief “detoxes” or otherwise following a stricter diet for a few days every once in a while can be a really useful tool in the greater scheme of losing weight and making a permanent lifestyle changes.  You may discover new foods (hello, sauerkraut!) or new recipes that are worth throwing into your regular rotation.  You may help yourself to break a bad habit.  Or gain a good one or two.  I’ll probably do another one in March or April. I don’t know if it will be this exact program again, it’s usually good to stick to seasonal foods and this one is definitely designed for winter vegetables (except that the smoothie at lunchtime was really cold and I don’t usually eat smoothies during the winter), but I could see myself doing a two-day “detox” or “diet intensification” (whatever you want to call it) every month or two just for the mental re-set.

I don’t feel crazy for that, and if this is something that you do, neither should you.  All the same, based on past experience, it’s probably not a great idea to walk around telling people that you’re doing a detox or a cleanse because they’re going to assume that you’ve gone off the deep end and are on a lemonade-only diet.

Agree?  Disagree?  Do you detox?  Am I crazy for not wanting to do a juice fast and not thinking that it’s necessary for weight loss, detoxification or any other purpose other than maybe making yourself insane?


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