It normally starts around this time; the same old messages from fitness bloggers and jacked insta models. “Relax”, they tell you, “Christmas is only one day a year”. Well, great, Richard, I’m proud of you for not tracking your macros for a whole day, perhaps I’ll put a fucking medal in your stocking. For the rest of us, Christmas is less one day of slightly too much turkey, and more an entire month of unavoidable Yuletide revelry and hedonism. Once we finally make it to January, blurry eyed and bloated, there’s only one thing to do; it’s time to detox.
January detox business is booming, and I kind of get why. You can feel bloated, tired, and generally out of sorts after overdoing it for a while, and it’s easy to imagine that there are a whole host of toxins in your body that need removing before you can feel like yourself again. It just isn’t the truth. Your body doesn’t need any extra help where removal of toxins is concerned, and the host of teas, powders, and potions thrust down your throat in January are nothing but a scam. If you want to feel like yourself again after Christmas, there’s a better way.
Detoxes are restrictive diets aimed to “cleanse” your body by flushing out toxins, improving digestion, and facilitating weight loss. A quick google of the word detox brings up a bazillion different juice cleanses, teas, and grim looking smoothies the colour of drain water all aimed at giving your insides a spring clean. The word toxin is banded around a lot, although there is never any talk of which specific “toxins” are supposed to be removed. In fact, it’s likely the companies themselves don’t know.
In 2009, a group of researchers led an investigation into the science behind detoxes. Along with hair and skin products, several nutritional detoxes were investigated, including the products listed here with their taglines.
- Innocent Natural Detox Smoothie: “Helps neutralise nasty free radicals which can cause damage to your body’s cells”
- Vitabiotics Detoxil 15 day support: “Helps the body cleanse itself of toxins and pollutants caused by the excesses of a busy life”
- V-Water Detox: “Cleanse your system and whisk away the polluting nasties”
- 4321 Shape Up and Detox: “To drain off water and toxins” and “purify the body”
- Boots Detox 5 Day Plan: Works “in harmony with your body to flush away toxins”
The results of the investigation were unsurprising. On questioning, not one of the companies could name any of the toxins their products were said to remove, nor could any of them give a formal definition of what they meant by the word detox. It turns out your body does a fine job of getting rid of any potential toxicity itself.
It’s often been said that the dose makes the poison, and where toxins are concerned, this is certainly true. Small amounts of alcohol might be beneficial for health for instance, but you don’t have to end up in the hospital getting your stomach pumped to realise that too much isn’t a great idea. Even water can kill you if you drink enough of it. The point is that several of your internal organs are working flat out 24/7 to remove anything harmful from your body. However, it isn’t just zapping toxins that makes people want to detox, after Christmas especially, detoxes are often all about weight loss.
Detoxes are famed for their rapid weight loss, often put down to ridding fat cells of toxins or some other BS. In reality, existing off kale and ginger smoothies for two weeks just puts you in a huge calorie deficit.
- Kim et al compared a detox to a regular fat loss diet
- Two groups of people tested both diets, but the researchers made sure the calories were the same between them both
- When the calories were matched, there was no difference in fat loss between the detox or regular diet
You don’t have to gain weight at Christmas. Cutting calories back hard on the days you’re not eating out or drinking is a pretty simple way to maintain weight or even end up in January lighter than you started in December. If the allure of mince pies is just too much, starting a fat loss diet in January is a legit, and honest goal. Whatever you choose, you don’t need to detox. Leave the toxin removal to your liver, and stick to reducing calories in a sustainable way to lose weight.
Your liver, lungs, and kidneys work non-stop to remove any harmful substances from your body, and no amount of nettle tea is going to help them do that better. If you want to lose weight this January, then go for it, just don’t dress it up as detoxing, because it isn’t a real thing.
Want to lose weight while still going out to eat the foods you love? Get the eat out stay lean system and never worry about eating out again.