Category Archives: New Year’s Healthy Habits Series

What People Really Mean When They Want To Detox


It’s almost New Year’s Day, and in the fitness business, marketing is everywhere, catering to the desire for a fresh start (hey, you can’t blame us, you’re looking for us right now and we’d be silly to ignore you.)

And on that note, I’ve been seeing two things for the last few days in my feed:

1. Totally bullshit offers for products that will cleanse/detox your body to shed fat/pounds/toxins/bad juju.

2. Fit pros screaming about how we don’t need detoxes because we have a liver and kidneys for that.

On this matter, the fit pros are correct, by the way. Detoxes are bogus. In fact, I have growled about this a number of times, including in this article.

But I was thinking about how often that I have been guilty of what I call the “hand slapping” mode of communication with friends, family, and readers who don’t spend all day knee deep in fitness literature.

To be fair, I think fitness professionals do this because we get so tired of debunking myths that can actually be harmful to those whom we care about.

But I am beginning to think that we are going about it all wrong.

We talk all the time about meeting clients where they’re at in terms of workouts or habit formation. But what about common terms and ideas that are often misunderstood?

Take these examples. I have been guilty of using the “hand slap” rebuttal for all of them at some point, so don’t think I’m all high and mighty here:

Client: I just want to tone up.
Fit Pro: OMG toning isn’t even a thing. You want muscle and less body fat, stop saying toned, for the love of Christ.

Client: I don’t want to get bulky.
Fit Pro: OMG lifting won’t make you bulky, too many cupcakes make you bulky. Do you even science?

Client: I feel fat.
Fit Pro: We can’t talk about being fat. Stop shaming yourself right now.

Client: I need to quit sugar.
Fit Pro: Why? Let me quote all of this stuff debunking sugar being toxic and tell you how stupid this is.  (The over simplification of sugar’s impact on the body drives me especially nuts, I can’t lie. But still. I need to keep it together a bit better.)

As fit pros, we’re often technically correct. We have valuable experience and wisdom to impart. But when we respond with smack downs to debunk misunderstanding, we first of all come off like assholes; we also fail to even attempt to comprehend  the place from which people are coming.

For all of these ideas, perhaps we have to actually meet people where they are at in terms of their current framework for understanding. Then we can peek at what they’re really trying to say.

Yes, detox products are worthless, unnecessary, and sometimes dangerous. People who sell them are usually either misguided or shady. I’m looking at you, Dr. Oz.

We can communicate this. But in a kinder, more productive way. And instead of just blasting that message off hand, maybe it would be more useful to try to figure out why this concept is so popular in the first place.

I don’t know for sure, of course. This is just wild speculation. But all the New Year’s chatter made me wonder if perhaps the overarching theme of renewal correlates to the ever popular idea of detoxing.


When we’ve been eating like an alcoholic on a bender over the holidays, sometimes it feels good to rein it in and feel a modicum of control. Is a radical diet a wise answer? No, no it is not. But I get that urge to want to stuff some spinach in my mouth after days of eating lots of sweets. I actually crave it. Have you ever experienced that?

The idea of a detox appeals to many, I wager, because it plays into a powerful desire to renew our relationship with our nutrition and our health.

I think the more interesting question would be to ask people why their relationship with food is an all or nothing proposition: are we completely on the wagon or off it? Is that something that we could avoid in the future?

Do we maintain a relationship with food and exercise that causes us to not be able to sustain what we’re doing, thus bingeing and then feeling like we have to take drastic measures?

Or maybe we just ate all the cookies on Christmas and want to feel like we have a fresh start.

Instead of a lecture, let’s start with a few questions first. I think in the end, that will get everyone down a positive path.

So no. I promise you don’t need a product to detox your body. You do indeed possess organs in your body that do that. But if by “detox” you mean commit to putting more things into your body that sustain good health and taking actions that help you feel like you’re gaining some momentum, then go for it. Let’s just look a little deeper for ideas that could help you gain some ground – ideas that are safe, effective, yet don’t come in an overpriced bottle.

Here are a few ideas for a fresh start that my online coaching clients have enjoyed:

  • Eat a new vegetable every day for a week to feel more excitement and curiosity and see how it impacts your overall well being each day.
  • Try a consistency challenge, committing to just one small new behavior for a period of time.
  • Drink more water every day for a week.
  • Move every day for 20 minutes.

Peeking behind the curtain of bullshit  reveals pretty outstanding insights into what people are actually seeking. If we listen, we’ll learn.

Happy New Year!


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