If you want to see me grit my teeth, ask me about a cleanse — you know, a one-week kick-start to a whole-new-better-you simply by subsisting on a “proven” blend of herbs, juices, and whatnot. Even better, proclaim that you’re doing a cleanse — and that it’s worth every penny you paid to an online guru, your local personal trainer who’s “a nutrition expert,” or the celeb author with a picture of a puke-green shake on his or her book cover.
BEWARE. Because they’re hailed as a quick fix to rid your body of toxins (sounds great, right?), lose weight and cure just about every ailment imaginable, cleanses are all the rage. As it turns out, they’re not a new phenomenon: the lemon juice/maple syrup/cayenne pepper cleanse, commonly referred to as the “Master Cleanse,” was popular in the 1940’s, long before our fast-food revolution and bloated midsections began to appear. Are cleanses new? No. Are they a big business? Yes. A cure-all? Heck, no!
Let’s start with the toxins that cleanses are purported to rid from your body. WHICH TOXINS? As a scientist, I want to know. And how come we don’t flush these toxins like we do other toxic substances in our bodies — like ammonia, for example, which is a by-product of protein metabolism? Ammonia is toxic to the brain in high concentrations, so the liver and kidneys do this amazing thing — they help clear the body of it, through our urine.
Cleanses also promise quick weight loss. Well, yes: restricting your intake to a funky concoction of juice and spices, or only pulverized vegetables, for 10 days will lead to temporary weight loss. It’s simple math — and simply unsustainable. And it’s not nutritious. By completely ignoring several food groups, you’ll be depriving your body of many essential nutrients. (Well, some adherents say, “take a supplement while you’re on this cleanse to ensure nutrient balance.” Huh? If you’re cleansing your body, why would you take a PILL?!) You’ll be starving yourself, which results in your body SLOWING down its metabolism — which is the last thing you want to do if you’re trying to lose weight.
When people come off a cleanse, which they always do, and resume a normal diet, which they almost always do, most gain back all the weight they lost — and then some. Finally, if you’re devoid of calories and low on energy during a cleanse, how do you exercise? In fact, exercise is a key part of reducing your body’s quotient of THE great toxins: excess sugar and fat, both of which raise your risk of excess inflammation and chronic — and life-threatening — diseases.
Exercise boosts metabolism, burns fat and calories, and moderates your blood sugar levels. So you want to get rid of toxins? Great. Don’t put too much alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, or artificial sweeteners in your body in the first place. And then exercise — and let your liver and kidneys do their job too.
But if you must cleanse, try my “vegetable, fruit and exercise cleanse.” It includes skipping all processed and packaged food items, which are loaded with added sugar and bad fats (trans and saturated)…along with banning things like caffeine and alcohol and pastries and chips, which we could all use a little less of. Load up on wholesome foods, including lean protein and some whole grains, with a major focus on WHOLE fruits and vegetables (don’t pulverize them!) — which are loaded with great nutrition; are “all natural”; and are packed with loads of fiber, which has a funny little way of cleaning you out. And then exercise daily, at a moderate-to-vigorous level. Try Jen’s cleanse. It WORKS.