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Detoxing from Detoxing

I’ve done it.

I’ve found the most efficient possible way to cleanse my body from toxins. It really can be quite dizzying sorting through all of the possibilities. Should I use Gwyneth Paltrow’s detox diet? But maybe Beyonce’s cleanse is superior. Then again, Dr. Oz has multiple options. Depending on my desire for efficiency and level of commitment, I could choose a 10 day detox, a 3 day detox, or a 48 hour weekend detox so I could cleanse my body while simultaneously failing at whichever weekend house project I’ve chosen to focus on.

But none of those measure up. I found a website that promises it can detoxify my body in just one hour. All I need to do is drink 16 ounces of its “One Hour System Cleaner” and I’ll be good to go. Actually, because of my body weight, I’ll need 32 ounces. Never mind that it’s mostly just high fructose corn syrup. It’s “formulated to aid in your body's natural detoxification process of eliminating unhealthy toxins”. I thought that seemed a bit redundant, but they assured me that “millions” of customers trust their products’ “cleaning power” in the human body. Depending on the product, I can choose to detoxify my urine, saliva, blood, or hair roots. They even offer individualized products based on your own personal level of toxicity, although I could not determine if my body was “highly toxic” or just plain old toxic. Maybe they should sell a test for that.

I’m not sharing the name of the company because I don’t want to do anything to market products like these that are so clearly trying to deceive consumers.

The point I want to make is that many detoxes and cleanses are totally pointless and a waste of your money. They’ve become an enormously profitable branch of the diet industry that, for the most part, provides no real benefit to anyone other than a generous helping of placebo effect and a thicker wallet for those selling them.

The main principle behind most of these is that your body has, over time, accumulated various toxins. Depending on what product or program you choose, you can be cured of carrying these toxins in your body in a matter of hours, days, or weeks. Why hasn’t your body eliminated these toxins already? The rationale varies, but usually there’s an implication that your liver and kidneys need a boost of some kind to do their job. For most people, however, their liver and kidneys work just fine.

I want to be clear that I am not advocating for people to put whatever they want into their body because their liver or kidneys will just “filter it out.” Poisoning from a variety of things, including alcohol, does occur, so it’s appropriate to be careful about what you’re putting into your body. That, of course, includes the foods you are choosing and putting into your body. And if you treat your body poorly by eating poorly, being sedentary, and not getting enough sleep, your body will indeed feel “toxic.” But a weekend cleanse won’t change that.

One of the main draws of most detoxes and cleanses is that you’ll lose weight. And it’s true, you often will. People often lose weight quite rapidly (and gain it back rapidly afterwards) because they’re restricted from eating most to all of the things they usually eat. Making a change to your diet to more whole foods, more plant foods, less sugar, and less alcohol would impart positive changes for anybody. But why are you only interested in changing behaviors for a day, a week, or a month? Why not take a look at the changes you can commit to long-term? If you go back to your usual habits after your detox or cleanse is done, it didn’t really accomplish anything. Your health does not fix itself in one day or ten days, and it definitely didn’t fix itself because you drank 32 ounces of glorified Gatorade. Sorry, Dr. Oz.

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