No matter where we look, whether it’s the mirror, a magazine, social media or the internet, opinions are everywhere. We’re told, “don’t eat that, eat this,” preferably combined with something else in a certain order, maybe even on a certain day. We may hear about a great weight loss program that has worked for a friend or a celebrity, but the only thing we can actually rely on (other than death and taxes), is that health (and skinny) chatter doesn’t stop. Unsolicited and often conflicting advice barrels its way to us and by the end of the day, we may not know which way is up.
With dry January behind us, many of us may be thinking about the next steps for keeping our resolutions on track, whether that’s cutting out certain foods or incorporating more of others.
As a society, we tend to gravitate toward a quick fix. With all the new weight loss medications on the market, we’re fixated on what works the fastest. Rarely do we consider how long our weight loss will last and often don’t even take potential side effects into consideration. I remember a friend — who had recently become her new skinny self, thanks to SlimFast — lamenting that, with all the ingredients listed on the label, it couldn’t be healthy. She was skinny, though, and that was all that seemed to matter.
Once the weight came back on, that same friend decided to try a new weight loss medication. Wearing white in New York City as a 20-something was of the utmost importance; after all, we only had from Easter until Labor Day to sport our summer togs. Thanks to this new medication, my friend couldn’t wear white. It literally said on the bottle that people taking the medication should steer clear from light-colored clothing, thanks to some of the possible side effects. This was years ago, yet new weight loss systems complete the cycle and offer similar solutions: more short-lived weight loss and side effects.
To juice or not to juiceMedications aren’t the only weight loss “solutions” with side effects. Juice cleanses have been all the rage for decades, not the oldest of which is the Master Cleanse, or the lemonade diet, which has been around since 1941.
Juice bars abound across the nation. Some of their programs claim to do everything from helping us to lose weight and boosting energy to the extreme of being medicinal and sponsoring major health benefits. It’s not that tough for juice cleanses to deliver on their weight loss promise. As with all fad diets, once we give up our beloved processed foods, sugar, alcohol, grains, dairy and anything else that may bring us pleasure (or nourishment), we will lose weight! Until we meet again, that is …
Although by 2026, the global market for detox products is projected to surpass $75 billion, all those cleanses, juice, herbs, teas and pills may not be all they’re cracked up to be. Short-term cleanses show little detriment to the gut or our overall health, but we may not be getting the benefits we hope to. Those of us looking to detox from chemicals are likely to be disappointed. Overall, we can’t pinpoint specific chemicals we may have ingested with certain foods or juice combinations. The only method is to avoid the chemicals we can, eat well, sleep well, drink enough water and rely on our God-given detox system.
Our bodies have natural detox systems — we excrete toxins through our sweat, breath and bathroom excretions. Our skin, lungs, liver, digestive tract and kidneys all act as a filtration system as well. While many experts concur that there most likely aren’t any long-term negative effects sponsored by doing a juice cleanse for a few days, others worry they lead to disordered eating. Using cleanses as a quick fix can mean that we eat less consciously when we’re not on our detox.
Natural detoxing can be done by focusing on whole foods, steering clear of sugar and booze, getting enough sleep, exercising and drinking enough water. Quick fix? Think again. Many of us attribute the way we feel when we’re focusing on a detox to just that: the detoxification process, but often these are simply manifestations of having given up the things we include in our diet like caffeine, sugar and alcohol. It’s not rocket science that a juice diet may sponsor more frequent trips to the bathroom, something we might attribute to our cleanse. Dizziness can be a simple effect of low blood sugar, which is easy to experience if we’re not eating enough during our detox.
From one extreme to another
When we juice fruit or even vegetables, the pulp, the “garbage” that the juicer spits out, is the fiber from the produce. Fiber is the stuff that makes the sugar in fruit and veggies break down less quickly. It’s one of the reasons we’re told to eat vegetables. This is stuff we should be ingesting with the fruit or veggie, not treating as garbage. Without fiber, sugar levels in the juice are higher, making juice consumption on the regular a questionable idea.
Rarely, if ever, might you sit down to all of the whole fruits or vegetables that are used to make a single serving of juice. Whether it’s in smoothie form or juiced, these drinks host a much larger serving of fruits and vegetables than we would be able to eat in their whole form.
Aside from lacking fiber and protein, juice contains little vitamin B12 and could lead to loss of bone and muscle mass over time. Muscle loss can slow our metabolism, which can lead to weight gain once we’ve started eating regularly again. So this year, skip the juice cleanse and enjoy whole fruits and veggies as part of your meals and snacks. Focus on fewer ultra-processed foods, more sleep, water and exercise to really get the detox going.
Naturally detoxifying veggie soup
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, roughly chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
3 stalks celery, roughly cut
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
3 sprigs, fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons salt
Pepper, to taste
1 quart vegetable stock
2 sprigs parsley, with stem
1 teaspoon turmeric (more if desired)
2 to 3 stalks kale, destemmed
½ lemon, juiced
In a large pot, heat olive oil.
Tie thyme and bay leaves into a bundle, using cooking twine.
Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic, parsnip, thyme and bay leaves.
Cook until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Add tomato paste, sauté, adding salt and pepper.
Stir in stock, bringing to a boil.
Add parsley, turmeric and kale.
Cook for 30 to 45 minutes.
Turn off heat, allow to cool.
With an immersion blender, puree mixture to desired texture.
Stir in lemon juice.
Heat again and serve, topping with chopped parsley.