It’s that time of year again…the festive period is over, the mince pies have all gone, the mulled wine has run dry and you’ve eaten enough turkey to last you a lifetime. As January is upon us, many of you will be embarking on New Year’s resolutions and health kicks after a little Christmas overindulgence. At this time of year it’s hard not to get caught up in the detox hype. Each January there seems to be a new quick fix on the market that promises “rapid weight loss” or “clearer skin” and trendy detox fads that claim to “cleanse” your body and rid you of all the toxins from the party season. It all sounds too good to be true?? You’re probably right….
What is a detox diet?
Most detox diets tend to temporarily remove certain foods or food groups or prescribe specific supplements, detox teas, special juices (that usually cost a fortune) and even charcoal in an attempt to eliminate toxins from the body.
Do we need to detox?
The short answer is no. The human body already has a natural detoxification process. Our lungs and kidneys work alongside our gut and skin to remove harmful substances and naturally cleanse the body.
What are the dangers of detox diets?
Cutting out foods or entire food groups is not a healthy or sustainable way to eat. Many people buy into the detox diet due to the short term gains. As detox diets are pretty restrictive and generally low in calories, most people will lose weight. This isn’t because of a miraculous cleanse but rather as a result of a huge restriction in overall energy and the elimination of alcohol and junk food.
Juice diets are also a fad to be avoided. When you juice a fruit or vegetable, you strip away the fibre leaving a sugary solution that spikes the blood sugar often leaving you hungry and wanting more.
What’s more, the strict and regimented nature of these types of diets can lead to obsessive and disordered eating. They can trigger feelings of guilt and anxiety around eating, creating an unhealthy relationships with food.
What should we be doing then?
Lifestyle changes need to be realistic and sustainable. There’s no point in being super healthy for just a few weeks each year only to throw it all away for the rest of the time. We should have a healthy relationship with food and focus on balance and moderation. Food should be enjoyed and if you are more mindful with your eating you can eat more of the foods you like and still be “healthy”.
Humans are unique and sadly there is not a miracle diet that works for everyone. However, broadly speaking, if you are looking to lose weight, you have to balance energy intake with energy expenditure. It may sound obvious, but you have to burn more calories than you consume in order to lose weight. There are lots of other factors including sleep, stress, genetics and even the “gut-brain axis” that can influence this but try not to get caught up in all the hype and keep things simple.
It is well known that a reduction in alcohol, processed foods, saturated/ trans fats, salt and refined sugars will generally lead to a healthier lifestyle and weight loss, however, my advice for healthy eating in 2019 is this…
Keep things simple, stay active, get enough sleep, enjoy everything in moderation and try my top tips below:
- Keep hydrated: The ideal fluid intake hugely varies depending on the age, sex and activity levels of an individual. It’s commonly thought that you should drink 2 litres or 8 cups of water a day. However, ideally you should consume 1ml of water for every kcal burned. So whilst 2 litres may be adequate for a sedentary individual, the more active population may require up to 8 litres a day.
- Eat the rainbow: We all know that we should be eating 5 portions of fruit/vegetables a day (ideally 3 vegetable and 2 fruit) but if we only eat beige/white foods we miss out on key nutrients. Experts believe that the most vibrantly coloured foods have the most nutrition and one single serving of fruit does not contain all the vitamins and minerals that our bodies require. We should be eating a variety of different fruits and vegetables to get our full quota.
- Mindful eating: Try to tune into your body and focus on what it actually needs by using a hunger scale. Imagine a scale of 1-10 with 1 being painfully hungry (headaches, dizziness, poor concentration) and 10 being completely full (think post Christmas lunch, can’t move, don’t want to look at food again). You want to try and stay somewhere between a 3 (stomach feels empty with a strong urge to eat) and 6 (satisfied and full).
- “Super plate” over “superfood” : Don’t get caught up in the “superfood” hype. Eating a diet rich in smashed avocado, nut butter, coconut milk and dates may sound healthy, however these foods are actually pretty calorific and should be enjoyed in moderation. Focus on the idea of a “super plate” and prioritise eating a balanced diet rich in wholefoods as per “The Eatwell Plate” ( https://www.nhs.uk/tools/documents/eatwell/eatwell.html)
I hope you can benefit from my thoughts and tips and if you have any nutritional concerns or questions that you want to ask, please feel free to grab me for a quick chat.