Tag Archives: detox

You don’t need a detox. But I know why you want one, so do this instead.

If I owned this sticker my life would be better.

If I owned this sticker my life would be better.

I didn’t set out to write about pooping today. But apparently the time has come to do just that. So I’ll talk a little about pooping – and other things that make our bodies feel good. 

Why am I talking about poop, aside from the word being fun to say? Because yesterday as I chatted with a friend about the growing popularity of detox drinks, diets, and pills, two thoughts popped into my mind.

Marketers are selling you a whole bunch of “detox” products that you don’t need. That’s a shady ploy, as my coach just recently pointed out in an excellent video. You’re being told on a daily basis that your body is full of toxins. And that if you just follow their plan, take their pill, or drink their shake, you’ll get rid of them. And then feel like a million bucks.

You don’t need this stuff. Your liver is fully capable of getting rid of toxic substances in your body.  And sometimes these products may make your health even worse.

What’s more important: there’s a reason that marketers are selling detoxes, cleanses, and other nonsense. They make you believe that you need something special. They know that the idea appeals to us. They’re just giving us what we want.But what do we want? And why?

When clients, friends, and family come to me asking about detoxes,  what they’re really sharing is something deeper. Here are the big issues. And along with that, my thoughts on how to tackle them. Without an overpriced product.

siplay

“I just came back from vacation, so I’m detoxing.”
My client Becky told me this last month. She is an excellent example of someone who exercises reasonably and regularly. And she normally eats well. After a long weekend of being whisked around to restaurant dinners, she came home feeling bloated and yuck. I asked her what her detox entailed.

“Oh, I’m eating some salads.”

That put a big smile on my face. She wasn’t doing anything bonkers.

When we get out of our routine and eat more calories, junkier food, and maybe throw back a lot more adult beverages than on average, you know what feels really, really good?

Eating a damn salad.

It feels good physically, because we get more nutrients and water. It also feels good psychologically: probably because in our heads, it’s a clear line in the sand that we’re getting back to normal. And this is a perfectly good thing.

So sometimes what we think of as a detox isn’t actually silly. It’s just a word that people use to say “stop behaving like I’m still on that beach vacation where the waiter brought me food and drink every time I gave him a sideways glance.”

bloats

“I feel bloated and gross.”
A party weekend may do this. Drinking dairy does this to me, because I’m lactose intolerant. There are a lot of reasons that we may feel bloated.

Overdo the food and drink? You most likely don’t need to do anything other than let your body get back to normal after a few days.

Certain foods may lead to extra gassiness, even if you don’t have a food intolerance. We all know about beans, but veggies like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and other foods that contain particular starches and sugars can make your stomach feel bloated.  If bloating is a regular issue, see a doctor. There are all sorts of conditions that cause chronic symptoms. 

Fizzy drinks may temporarily make you feel full and uncomfortable. That’s an easy one to replace with water or another drink like hot tea on a day when you feel blah.

And after a day of eating foods high in sodium, you may retain water that makes you look and feel puffier than normal. If you don’t normally eat a ton of processed food, most likely your daily sodium intake is just fine. But by eating mostly whole foods for a few days may help you feel less like an inflated balloon. 

Finally, some experts recommend chewing more slowly so that you don’t draw so much air into your body as you eat. Eating more slowly is a good practice for developing mindfulness around hunger. So hey, why not give that a go too? 

yay!

Yay!

“I just want to poop, okay?”
Sweet. We’re in the pooping portion of the program today.  So you know that most likely, you’ll never need a colonic cleanse to poop better. Thank God, because that sounds terrifying.

First of all, if you get plenty of water and fiber in your diet on a daily basis, things should be moving along well.

If you’re not currently eating plenty of fruits, veggies, and other sources of fiber like whole grains, but you want to begin, don’t do it by diving in hard with a detox diet you saw on Pinterest. Ease into eating more fiber. That’s because fiber just helps forms better stool. And if you suddenly go from eating no fiber to eating tons of fiber, you may feel worse. So gradually increase your intake.

Instead, begin by increasing your water intake. Fiber absorbs water, so drinking extra will help the process move along more smoothly. Avoid harsh laxatives and if you’re really backed up, try a gentler stool softener. My doctor recommends Miralax, but ask your own M.D. here.

If despite eating plenty of healthy fiber from fruits and veggies you find that you’re still having wonky issues with your digestion, see a doc. Soluble and insoluble fiber both play a role in helping food get broken down and pass through our bodies. Foods with soluble fiber attract water and firm up stool, while foods with insoluble fiber can make it easier to relieve constipation. People who have gastrointestional issues such as IBS may be particularly sensitive to what kinds of fiber they ingest. So get that checked out if you suspect you have an issue. 

Finally – try the squatty potty. Aside from having an adorable name, those stools help your stool. See what I just did there? Hahaha. Okay. Moving on.

These drinks will not detoxify you but they sure look tasty.

These drinks will not detoxify you but they sure look tasty.

“I need a detox to lose this belly fat.”
I don’t even know where to begin with this one. No. You don’t need that. But sometimes going out and buying the special foods and drinks sends a message that we’re doing something. That we’re kick starting a change. Unfortunately, after the excitement wears off, people are left with some crappy drink and a burning desire to inhale an entire pizza. Screw that diet.

It’s fine to gain momentum with a more aggressive fat loss plan, but it should be one that is safe, not absolute misery, and can transition into a more moderate nutrition approach.  

I’m not opposed to a “rapid fat loss” diet. When you give yourself more structure and see big results initially, it may help you believe that you are capable of change.

But when I use these with my online coaching clients, I carefully monitor them to take note of how their bodies are functioning as they lose fat. Don’t go in blind when it comes to nutrition – partner with someone who will help you create a safe, sane plan. And remember, the more radical the approach, the more likely it will fail you. Especially if there’s nothing about it that you can take with you for long term healthy eating. 
So the bottom line – you don’t need anything special. But it’s completely normal to want to reset, recharge, and make your insides feel better.  Make sleep a priority for a few days. Drink water, put veggies (but not all the veggies) into your body, and go get a workout. You’ll be glowier than the chicks hawking detoxes on the Internet and keep more money in your bank account.

What People Really Mean When They Want To Detox

detoxing

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.

cookiecat

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!

Amy

P.S. Did you dig my article? If so, make sure you sign up for my newsletter. You’ll get my free e-book, Fat Loss on a Budget, delivered to your inbox right away. 

One Crazy Trick: What We Can Learn from Fad Diets, Detoxes, and MLM Insanity

magicpillsMy friends who have known me for a while are aware that I know a thing or two about getting fit. Not because I’m a personal trainer. They’ve seen my transformation first hand: I’ve been through the process of adopting fitness as a lifestyle.

I was over 200 pounds and inactive. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being 200 pounds, by the way. But on my frame, I didn’t feel good at this weight. I was clinically obese. I wasn’t very active, I didn’t have much energy, my joints hurt, and I felt bleh.

My friends and family watched me complete my first Olympic triathlon, get my first heavy-ass deadlift, and pack on some sweet looking muscle. They have seen my body completely transform and also have witnessed a big change in my overall mood and self confidence.

So when friends still come to me asking about the latest MLM (that’s multi-level marketing) crash diet plan or other quick fix they heard about on Dr. Oz, it makes me die inside a little bit. Or at least want to bang my head against my desk.

computer-head-slam

My first instinct has been frustration and maybe a bit of annoyance. After all, I’ve been preaching my interpretation of healthy behavior change. At times I have behaved like a preacher, as if I could be on a street corner with a big book called CONSISTENCY that I’d wave around fervently as I spread the good word of moderation and habit formation.

pensatucky

We’re really talking about fat loss here, first of all. I rarely see MLM schemes marketed to people seeking better cardiovascular health and improved coordination or athletic performance. Most people want to look better naked. There’s nothing wrong with aesthetic goals, though coming to a place where our self worth isn’t defined by our size is a huge step in personal growth. But successful, long-term weight management is something I’ve experienced. My friends know this. So why do some still look for the quick fix or the new promise of a special solution?

As an industry, fit pros are missing out on an opportunity to serve all of the people who are currently doing nothing. We cluck our tongues at people trying out these fad diets yet we aren’t listening to why people throw their money at them. It’s time to consider changing our approach.

Why Fitness Professionals Hate MLMs, Detoxes, and Magic Pills.
I won’t launch into a tirade on MLMs here. Others have explained the fallacy of MLM supplements and predatory practices associated with them. But in short, we dislike all of these products for a few basic reasons:

  • Supplements are often little more than cheap protein powder, which you could buy for much less cost at a number of different places. Often, the quality of protein is inferior to products that cost less.
  • Many of the supplements are “fat burners”, “energy drinks” and so on that are basically expensive pee. They’re vitamins, herbs, or caffeine that do absolutely nothing to actually help you lose fat. But the placebo effect is real, and people believe that the supplements are doing all the work.
  • Most of these products come with the caveat “works with a healthy diet and exercise”.  Often the accompanying program includes a very restrictive diet that people follow.  Basically, you’re losing fat with them because you created a caloric deficit. This drives us bonkers.
  • All of these plans are unsustainable for the long term. I’m looking at you, 21 Day Fix, Whole 30, and (insert most every other program here). Eventually, you are going to start eating bread/potatoes/other calorically dense foods again.
  • These plans don’t teach you anything about how fat loss actually works. Once you end the plan, you’re back to square one again.

What Can We Learn?
Talking to each other about how much we loathe these products does absolutely nothing to help the people who need the most help. These are folks who have often tried “sensible” solutions in the past. Most likely, they needed a little more support and understanding about what realistic changes look and feel like. They weren’t there yet. It takes a lot of time and patience to find sustainable change.

They’re seeking: all of the people who come at them with their stories of their progress and how it comes so effortlessly are pretty damn appealing. They hear it from people who seem to have some kind of authority, like Dr. Oz, and from friends who have recently dropped a ton of weight. And the people selling the programs are so freaking happy and enthusiastic. They are cheerleaders. They also play into people’s insecurities, feed them just a little, and then offer them a neat and tidy package of fixing it. Yuck. But it’s sneaky, and it works. It’s also more specific. The conventional wisdom of “eat less, move more” teaches us nothing about how to accomplish those things.

The tactics of these companies make me a little sick. But they have also addressed factors that fitness professionals often refuse to acknowledge. We don’t all share the same education, outlook, and goals. We need to understand why people look to these sources in the first place.

oprahliquiddiet

The Case of the Liquid Diet
One of my best girlfriends knows me well enough to suspect that a new crazy plan was probably a terrible idea. We all still remember Oprah’s disaster from the 1980’s. Still, my friend brought the product to my attention. “Help talk me out of this,” she begged. Her co-worker was raving about a liquid diet that had allowed her to drop 25 lbs in a month. Sure, much of it was probably water weight. No, it wasn’t going to last. I wanted to just shut that shit down. NO! Bad! But instead, I asked her more about it. Even knowing that it’s not a great idea for her health and long term success, why is this tempting?

She shared these thoughts:

I think for me the temptation lies in the fact that it’s a simple solution (meals/supplements planned and thought out for you) AND proven results with people I know. If I’m seeing a photo or seeing someone I know shrinking, I’m totally fascinated with how that’s happening. BUT that’s also how I feel now since I’m not super happy with my body. When I’m at more of my normal/ideal weight, I don’t pay much attention to how others have lost their weight at all. So it’s definitely psychological. And of course, I know it’s not sustainable either. But the lure of weight loss plus energy plus less meal planning plus NO exercise is totally appealing to the lazy bum in me.

And this:

I lost 100 pounds after I had my baby. It was quick though. I started doing yoga and it all just came off (and I also was dealing with a ton of stress and subsequent IBS). For me, I’ve never ever had to work to lose weight; I just find something I like to do and then the weight comes off. Watching my food intake has never been a necessity. I feel like the more I focus on my food, the more i gain (or at least eat). So for me the quick loss is enticing because struggling with my weight is a completely new thing.

It’s like I’m ok with restriction if that means I’ll have guaranteed, fast results. Also, no thinking. No work on my part. Quick fast results! It’s the American way. Forget about the fact that it’s terrible and unhealthy. The only thing right now that makes it appealing is the quick fix… I have an event in 4 weeks!
So out of this we can get a few big takeaways: 
  • Simply knowing that a plan is potentially unhealthy or unsustainable isn’t enough to dissuade people from trying something.
  • Quick results are highly motivating to many people.
  • Having to commit to both exercising and new eating habits can be overwhelming to people just starting out.
  • Having restriction in the form of meal plans or other rules can be attractive because it requires less planning and rewiring of multiple habits initially.
  • People are often driven by tangible results. Even if I believe that your progress of getting stronger, more resilient, and more consistent in your practice is more important than the size of your waistline, that might not motivate you. What’s the MOST motivating marker of progress? How can we track it?
 mlm
MLMing without the MLM?
Can we create an environment for ourselves that incorporates some of the appeal of these programs without the unneccessary cash expenditure and potentially dangerous practices? It’s possible that acknowledging and reinterpreting some of the insanity actually lead to better long term outcomes.
  • The idea of a challenge is overwhelmingly appealing to people. Can you create your own challenge? However, instead of making it based upon taking pills, what about a consistency challenge? I railed hard against challenges for a long time, but in doing so I ignored a truth: often, more significant early success breeds more success later on. I’m not just making that up, there’s emerging research that backs the theory. Initial greater weight loss can correlate to greater weight loss in the long term. 1
  • Put some skin in the game. Instead of a bogus shake, if you are motivated by a financial commitment, sign up for a fitness class, hire a nutritionist, or purchase sessions with a trainer. My friend believed that committing to the purchase would help her stick to the plan. This may or may not be relevant, but if you believe it will help, give it a go. 
  • Having a little more calorie restriction for an upcoming event isn’t the end of the world. It’s possible that you really don’t care about your long term results. More likely, it’s that the present need is emotionally more important to you. One month of behaving like someone getting ready for a figure competition isn’t always a terrible thing. However, excessively low calorie intake will backfire. Binging happens, shame ensues, and then we abandon ship. A more aggressive calorie range still needs to be healthy for your body.  Working with a dietitian rather than a Beachbody coach would be a good plan if you go this route. FYI: “coach” means they sell products, not that they have nutritional expertise. 
  • Give your plan rules and structure, but keep it simple. People crave structure. For the long term, I still believe that developing habits will breed the best success. Sustainable habits let us live healthy lives without having to measure food, calculate calories, and track data daily. But if you’re a newbie, that doesn’t happen over night. Having fewer things to choose initially may bring comfort and success.Examples of more structure may be having a calorie goal daily; a limit on alcoholic drinks; committing to 3 walks per week; temporarily keeping food out of the house that you can’t moderate (Oreos, holla).
  • Measure progress for a specific time period. For whatever period you choose, you’ll have pictures or measurements or whatever you want to use to chart.
  • Hate exercise? Put it off. At least for the short term. Work on nutrition first. When you’re ready, move a little more – think small, like walks around the neighborhood.  And then choose something new to try. People often become more open to healthy movement when it isn’t prescribed in large, grueling doses.  Then you can build from there.
  • Start reflecting on when and why you hit roadblocks. This is where MLMs fall flat. They know nothing about why you couldn’t stick with something before. They don’t know that every time you feel stressed out about work that you dive into cookies. They simply ban the cookies and don’t encourage the process of untangling your relationship with your body, your food, or your health.  Even if you’re doing a challenge for a month, take note of what’s easy and what’s hard. Why is it hard? This will bring more wisdom for your long term effort.
  • Grab a friend.  Many people doing fixes, cleanses, and challenges are doing them in a group. They have entire forums devoted to going through the process. Part of what attracts us to diets is almost religious – we have a church of diet, with a flock of true believers who will encourage us when we feel frustrated. Sure, it’s often really fucked up advice, but it’s community. Make your own community. Find a friend or 3 who want to commit to a similar change. You can even make your own amazing supplement  if you feel the need to have a special thing that you buy. #lifechanging #notreally #tastesgoodthough.

Here’s the recipe!

MAGICAL PROTEIN SHAKE OF MAGIC
1 scoop protein powder (Vanilla burns more fat. Just kidding, it’s only delicious.)
1 cup of milk (only organic milk from happy cows birthed in a nurturing environment- again, kidding – it doesn’t matter for nutrition).
1 handful of spinach (you won’t taste it, promise)
1/2 cup berries (yo, berries are good — and sweet.)
1 cup of ice cubes (frozen unicorn tears)

What’s the magic? It fills up your belly and gives you nutrients. And it doesn’t cost $300 a month. You also don’t have to sell it to your friends for an insanely inflated cost. That’s pretty damn magical to me.

unicornboy

Have you bought into fad diets before? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Leave a comment below.

 

Notes:

  1. Jessica L. Unick, Rebecca H. Neiberg, Patricia E. Hogan, Lawrence J. Cheskin, Gareth R. Dutton, Robert Jeffery, Julie A. Nelson, Xavier Pi-Sunyer, Delia Smith West, Rena R. Wing. Weight change in the first 2 months of a lifestyle intervention predicts weight changes 8 years later. Obesity, 2015; 23 (7): 1353 DOI: 10.1002/oby.21112