The detox myth

Anyone who reads my blog (hello mum) will know that I am highly sceptical about some elements of the diet and fitness industry, especially those who have a vested interest in selling you stuff and more stuff – stuff that you don’t need.

As ever at this time of year, the marketing of health and fitness products is at a high. As we lament the festive excesses, the relentless new year new you message encourages a turn towards a healthier lifestyle – for a while at least.

And what we want most of all, is a quick fix.

When I lost my weight, I was asked over and over how I did it. No one wanted to hear the real answer: I ate less junk and exercised more.  At little over simplistic perhaps, but true all the same.

One of the quickest alleged fixes, is the miracle detox. From cleanses to teas to foot pads (yes, really) there is a company ready to take your money with little, if any, evidence to back up their claims.

Here’s the thing. Our bodies are built to detox themselves.  The function of the liver and the kidneys is to rid our body of toxins.  You can treat these organs badly, but most of the time they will bounce right back.  They don’t need juices or stick-on patches or specific aids to assist them in doing their jobs.

Outside of specific medical terminology (eg, detoxing from hard drugs via a controlled programme) a detox means, well, pretty much nothing.

But it is worse than just marketing and sales. It’s something more than that too.  The detox myth is dangerous. It encourages the idea that you can do what you like to your body, and balance it out with a couple of days of abstinence.  It is the encouragement too of the notion there are quick solutions to this difficult stuff, as opposed to choices to be made every day, for life.

These ideas are that also lead people to embarking upon unhealthy diet plans and schemes promising quick results but which are impossible to sustain. And I should know; I’ve tried most of them.

If you want to be a little kinder to your body, to those organs performing such vital functions, then go right ahead and do so. More fruit, vegetables, water.  A little less alcohol. And so on.  You know the drill.  But a detox?

Your body has it covered.

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Dry (ish) January

The first (and so far, only) time I completed Dry January, was in 2016.

Now I am known as a girl who likes a glass (or five) of Prosecco. Or a nice crisp, cold French white.  But that year, I was preparing for a number of key events, including my first triathlon and half marathon.  So it seemed like a good way to start my training.

Although if I am completely truthful, that wasn’t the only reason. Over the Christmas holidays I’d seen mention of Dry January on the telebox.  I half-heartedly suggested I might take part.  And my then husband had hysterics at the very idea.  There was no way, in his mind at least, that I could achieve such a thing.  So that became the main aim: prove him wrong.  There is nothing like someone thinking that I can’t to ensure that I can and I will.  Stubborn should have been my middle name.

After the month was out, I got it. I understood why a month of abstinence can make you change your habits for the longer term.

I did miss having a glass of wine. Especially when I went out for a meal.  But, you know, not that much.  And as the month went on, I missed it even less.

After Dry January my drinking habits changed considerably. Where in the past I’d quite often have a glass in the evening or finish off a bottle on a Saturday night, without any real effort or fanfare my drinking dropped down to a glass or two a week.  Add that to the days of abstinence before one of my many events that year, I was barely drinking at all. As a result, I lost weight, had more energy and my skin was better.

But of course, you slip back into bad habits oh so easily. I’ve found of late that it’s getting all too easy to open a bottle mid-week….. and finish it.  One beer with our Friday night pizza becomes two.  From a calorie point of view it all adds up.  From a nutritional point of view, well, there isn’t any.

So it’s going to be another Dry January in our house.

Or maybe just a slightly damp one………