Short Term Diets without Long Term Crazy

Should you do a cleanse?

With summer around the corner, the pressure to be “fit,” “toned” and “in shape” for the warm weather grows with each rising degree.

And with the pressure to be in shape before beach season comes the bombardment of quick fixes for sale:

  • Claims for diet plans where you can lose 15 lbs in 6 weeks.
  • Juice cleanses for sale on Groupon.
  • Whole30’s being undertaken on left and right.
  • Questions from clients about which detoxes are worth the money.

I get the appeal for a promising 5-20lb drop, fast. I’ve been there. We all have those moments. It’s that place of mind where you are so sick of your current physique, that roll of flesh you can pinch between your fingers; you just can’t stand it being part of your body for another minute. You just want to get rid of the extra pounds NOW, so you can start living the rest of your life already!  You make a decision, a commitment in your head to just knock your fat loss of the park, get it done, and then finally move on from the obsession with your weight!

Sound familiar?

The biggest issue with any kind of short term detox or diet plan is the idea that you will be done with the diet at some point, when you can go back to your normal eating habits.

If you’re still pinching the extra pounds of fat on your body now, your “normal” is the problem. Your normal eating habits, daily movement expenditure, sleep patterns, and stress levels combined have brought you to this point. If you return to “normal” your body will return to its “normal” in response, and sometimes even faster than you believed possible.

The second biggest issue with your short term, hard core, get-in-and-get-it-done diet or detox is that the extreme rigidity and restriction will set you up for cravings, bingeing, and general rebound upon completion (if you even make it all the way through!). I love a challenge as much as anyone…but tackling the strictest, “healthiest” diet I could find got me good results and feelings of superiority, it completely drained my willpower and focus from other endeavors. I also had to rely on a second round of restrictive eating to handle the aftermath of the first round (which may or may not have involved an evening of THREE cookie sundaes…after all it had been a whopping FOUR WEEKS without ice cream, I deserved it). Thus the beginning of what we all recognize as yo-yo dieting.

I felt great after my first Whole30...until just 2 months later, I had to go back on it to lose the fat I had regained before my vacation!

I felt great after my first Whole30…until just 2 months later, I had to go back on it to lose the fat I had regained before my vacation!

 

If you DO decide to start some kind of detox, cleanse, or elimination diet without wanting to lose your mind or your results in the process, I would urge you to consider the following guidelines:

1) Weight loss during a cleanse is not always a good thing.

The goal of a cleanse, detox, or elimination diet should not be weight loss. If you are doing something extremely low calorie for just a few days, you probably will see the scale move, but it will be from a combination of mostly water, along with a bit of fat and muscle as well. (NOTE: the more muscle you lose as a result of calorie restriction, the higher the chance of slowing your metabolism to adjust to the new lower calorie intake, which increases the chance of regaining the weight all in FAT…not what we want!!)

2) The goal of elimination diets is improved health, not fat loss.

Elimination diets provide a method for self-experimentation, to test the effects of a single variable (i.e. type of food) by removing it from your diet entirely for 3-4 weeks and reintroducing it systematically. Elimination diets are not for fun or for proving how hardcore you are! The purpose is to identify food intolerances or allergies in your diet. Basically, remember this:  if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If you generally feel good throughout the day, despite the fact that you may have a few pounds to lose, you do NOT need to eliminate everything and reinvent the wheel. You can be perfectly healthy and hormonally balanced with a just a few extra pounds of fat, and just need to cut back on the extra indulgences or bad habits like mindless snacking. However, if you notice poor digestion or discomfort after certain meals, or regularly suffer from migraines, poor sleep, low energy, mood swings, breakouts, and other symptoms of systemic inflammation, you may want to try attending to the types of food that may be causing your distress.

(From my experience, this was my downfall. I was at a healthy weight and body fat percentage but desired to be the “best” at eating healthfully. I figured that a month of 100% “perfect” or “clean” eating without any potential allergens would help me tighten things up, but all it did was absolutely rewire my relationship with food for the worse and ultimately lead to extreme yo-yo dieting and a net gain of over 20 lbs!)

3) You don’t need any special products or kits.

For cleanses and detoxes specifically, focus on taking things out, not adding them in. For example, you don’t really need any special juice to flush your liver of toxins. Your body flushes toxins naturally! Try instead to eliminate as many toxins as possible to lessen the load, for example by opting for farm fresh or organic produce and animal products, or by ditching alcohol, added sugar, and processed foods.

Raw veggies with apple cider vinegar and some seasonings. You don't need a kit to nourish your body!

Raw veggies with apple cider vinegar and some seasonings. You don’t need a kit to nourish your body!

4) You can jump start your fat loss with a sane, short term program.

If you are really looking for a “jump start” to fat loss, then make sure it is one that is nutritionally balanced and is calorically sufficient for your daily needs. It’s fine to be a little stricter with food quality for a few days to help establish better food habits and avoid trigger foods. Sometimes it’s easier to know exactly what you are choosing avoid for a day or week or two, to take away the “should I or shouldn’t I” debate when facing every indulgence or off-plan food item. Your jump start should be comprised of 90-100% whole foods, and include mostly vegetables,  adequate sources of protein from animal products, beans, and/or nuts, as well as healthy fats from olive oil, avocado, etc. For lasting results, your “jump start” should be the way that you eat at least 80% of the time once you are done.

5) Have a plan for re-entry.

This is THE most important step of any short term plan: integrating it back into your normal everyday habits. The completion of a short term program should be a jumping off point for future good eating habits, not cause for celebration due to the end of deprivation. It’s time to work in a few indulgences throughout the week that weren’t a part of your jump start, not the time to undo your hard earned results. Plan out what your one indulgence will be at first, and commit to sticking to your plan. Remember that the jump start should be what you do most of the time to continue seeing results. The indulgences are there to help you keep your sanity and social life in tact!

So there you have it! I’d love to know what your experience has been with short term diet fixes…did you get sucked in? Did it work? How did your relationship with food change because of it?

 

Always here to help,

Jamie

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Comments

  1. LBC says

    Hey there,
    I’ve got a question- I am not into doing those detox- change everything I eat to lose weight- programs because I am generally happy with my weight and know I eat a reasonably good diet. . However, I am quite health conscious and wonder if I should ever do a detox to actually flush the toxins out of my system? Or is the idea of our body being filled with toxins just a myth. Is my healthy liver ( as you mentioned in the blog) taking care of everything?

    • jlchenelle says

      Great question!! I have never seen any compelling research that says you need to detox your body to achieve optimal health. However, there is something to be said for supporting your liver (i.e., with warm water and lemon first thing in the morning), or for giving it a break occasionally. I’m not recommending it, per se, but there is research that supports fasting every other day for longevity, with the theory being that the low calories and break from digestion is less taxing on your body. It’s not a straightforward answer, but I hope it helps!!

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