Detox or cleanse diets are often synonymous with weight loss. These plans promise to remove toxins and impurities from your body by including certain supplements and foods while discouraging others. Often, cleanse programs aren't based on nutrition or science, and only drastically reduce calories that make weight loss inevitable.
The idea of a cleanse isn't inherently bad, however. Cleaning up your diet routine to include more whole, unprocessed foods and less alcohol and sugar, and fewer refined grains can help boost weight loss. You'll also need to watch your calorie intake, and move more to change your physique, though.
The Principles Behind a Cleanse
The recommendations, results and safety of cleanses vary. Extreme cleanses, such as the Master Cleanse, which has you subsist on lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper for 10 days, can leave you weak and nauseous. You may lose weight in the short term, but are likely to gain back all the weight you lost shortly after returning to your old habits.
Other cleanses claim that their marketed blend of supplements and dietary protocols will leave you feeling lighter and refreshed. But supplements aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and the menus in these cleanses are usually simply extremely low-calorie diets that are not sustainable in the long run.
Some cleanses that are based on whole foods, though, can help you jump start a long-term, weight loss program. They teach you how to steer clear of processed foods, added sugar, refined grains and saturated fats to help you focus on nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains and lean protein.
These diets support the cleansing organs already present within your body, including the liver, kidneys and lymphatic system. A whole-food cleanse helps your energy, and helps provide clearer skin and less bloating, because you've eliminated excess calories and sodium and enhanced your nutrient intake.
What to Eat on a Whole Foods Weight-Loss Cleanse
Shop the perimeter of the grocery store to buy foods you can eat on a healthy cleanse for weight loss. Choose plain fresh and frozen vegetables; focus on green, watery vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli, fennel, asparagus, green beans and bell peppers. Pick up colorful fruits such as citrus, berries and melons.
Raw nuts and seeds provide healthy fats and protein. Dried beans and legumes, such as lentils and chickpeas, provide protein and phytonutrients. Brown rice, quinoa, teff and millet are whole grains that you can find in the bulk bins at health-food stores and in some grocery chains. The fiber in the whole grains and produce will help keep you full and helps regulate your digestive tract.
Whether you choose to include dairy, eggs and animal protein, is up to you, but if you do, look for pasture-raised products. If you do decide to abstain from animal-derived foods, seek calcium from fortified milk alternatives and speak with a dietitian about the possible need for a vitamin B-12 supplement.
Eating these whole foods and not eating sugary treats, fried foods and processed snacks may be enough to reduce your caloric intake to prompt weight loss. In some cases, you may need to monitor portion sizes so that you are able to maintain a low-calorie regimen that helps you create a calorie deficit and lose weight.
Exercise on a Whole-Foods Cleanse
A cleanse to lose weight should include exercise — especially if you don't already have an exercise routine. Aim to get at least the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio work per week that's recommended for good health; increase the duration to 250 minutes per week to lose significant weight, says the American College of Sports Medicine.
If you train far more than this on a regular basis and you feel that it's leading to fatigue and staleness, consider moderating your effort to give your body a break.
Exercise helps relieve stress, but chronic over training can contribute to stress. A review published in the Journal of Novel Physiotherapies explained that too much exercise and the pressure to perform can lead to chronic fatigue and burnout.
Over training syndrome may affect elite athletes, but it can be an issue for anyone who feels compelled to work out — regardless of how they're feeling that day. If you fail to recover between sessions or if you don't give yourself days off and you notice excessive fatigue, diminished performance and sleep disturbances, you may be over training.
Good forms of exercise during a cleanse for weight loss include walking in nature, rebounding on a mini trampoline, yoga and light weight training to maintain lean muscle mass. Stay away from any cleanse regimen that discourages all exercise; it's advocating unhealthy behaviors and severe calorie restriction that doesn't serve you in the long run.
Movement actually works your natural cleansing systems. You stimulate the colon, you purge the pores with sweat, you breathe deeply through the lungs and you assist the lymphatic system in processing waste.
Feel Better With a Weight-Loss Cleanse
Abstaining from sugar, refined grains and preservative- and chemical-laden foods can help you feel better, according to alternative-medicine practitioner, Dr. Mark Hyman, on his website. He recommends that along with eating whole, unprocessed foods to cleanse that you also engage in practices that nurture you.
Sleep 7 to 8 hours every night and indulge in a little pampering and self love. Avoiding tobacco, alcohol and caffeine helps reset your system. Drink adequate amounts of water. Registered dietitian Joy Bauer suggests that you have at least two 8-ounce glasses within 30 minutes of lunch and dinner, and additional water throughout the day. Herbal or green tea also fits in with a weight-loss cleanse.
- Today's Dietitian: Diet and Detoxification
- Berkeley Wellness: The Truth About Detox Diets
- NBC News: New Year, New You: Joy Bauer’s Simple Detox Diet
- Journal of Novel Psychotherapies: Overtraining, Exercise, and Adrenal Insufficiency
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Position Stand on Physical Activity and Weight Loss
- Mark Hyman, MD: 5 Reasons You Need to Detox and 5 Ways to Detox, Lose Weight & Feel Great
- Sports Health: Overtraining Syndrome