There’s a dark side to cleanses that come with promises.
I wrote a book on weight and weight management. It did well enough, but certainly not as well as books that promised changes in 10 days—10 day cleanses, 10 days of juice, 10 days to skinny. Ten days is apparently the magic number. I suppose any of us can tolerate just about anything for 10 days.
Ten days may be as long as it takes to develop some scary habits as well. The science on dieting is pretty clear that diets don’t work. Rigid adherence to medically unnecessary food or calorie restriction is associated with the development of disordered eating or full-blown eating disorders. The pattern of counting calories, eating at rigidly specified times, cleansing, detoxing, and liquid diets is often accompanied by distorted body image. The last stop on this train can be a lifetime of self-doubt, shame, self-disparagement, and compulsive food rituals.
The “diet plans” that are most commercially successful have some key ingredients and promises:
A quick fix (rapid weight loss in a short time period)
A set time period (7, 10, and 30 days are most popular)
Rigid rules and plans (eat this, don’t eat that, times of day, specific quantities)
Limited choices (ONLY consume fruits, vegetables, juices, cabbage, grapefruit)
Do these 10-day fast/cleanse/plans/restrictions work? That depends on what you mean by work. Some notorious diets such as the HCG diet have people taking HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin, a pregnancy hormone) and requiring the person to consume 500-700 calories per day max. Anyone would lose weight eating only 500 calories per day. The weight loss here is due to the starvation, not the snake oil. It’s the placebo effect gone bad—and makes the starvation seem like it is “medically appropriate” (it’s not).
Cleanses play on illusion—and the sell of “detoxification.” Medical science has been very clear—a cleanse does NOT detoxify the system. It results in losing water weight and clearing out your colon—giving the illusion of weight loss, which will return as soon as you start eating again. We watch celebrity testimonials (Beyoncé, Ashton Kutcher) for these cleanses, and figure if it’s good enough for them....
You want to detoxify? Eat wisely—load up your diet with fruits, vegetables, grains, avoid the processed stuff.
These rigid diet plans may provide a quick sense of weight loss “accomplishment.” But the dark side is that they can result in an obsessive approach to all things food and weight, like wasting time and energy overthinking food, experiencing frustration and distress when the weight loss doesn’t last and then engaging in more restrictive regimens to create weight loss. It is a dangerous cycle.
After 10 days of deprivation and starvation, people make bad choices, and the rebound can find people overeating and experiencing a yo-yo between starvation and overeating. After 10 days, 10 weeks or 10 months of 500-calorie regimens, you will be double-fisting In-N-Out burgers before you can spell kale.
I have worked with many clients who have undertaken highly restrictive diet plans, and have directly observed the fallout. They become isolated from friends, family and themselves because they are afraid of food, weight gain, and losing control. These restrictive diets and cleansing hacks hijack people’s lives.
Think about spending the next 10 days on a different strategy—eating mindfully, listening to your body, nourishing instead of depriving, making good choices, and finding pleasure in actually chewing your meals instead of drinking them. Spend 10 days appreciating your body and mind. Spend 10 days accepting yourself.
I can’t promise you will lose 10 pounds, but you may gain some peace.