Ahh “swimsuit season” – the time when every stupid fitness or fashion magazine devotes endless space to “getting you bikini ready.” Also known as the time of year when I want to strangle the people that write those articles. Before you (men or women!) decide to follow the advice of any of these magazines, please consider this:
1. Your body *already* knows how to detox. It’s called your liver. And it works. Quite well in fact. Thanks Mother Nature!
2. Many detox diets *only* work because they are low in calories, not because they contain magical ingredients. And, given the lack of variety of foods they typically prescribe, they are boring, not tasty, and you’re not likely to stick to them very long. Back to square one anyone?
3. Drinking only fruit and/or veggie juice is a bad idea (so is maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and whatever other stuff gets thrown in those “cleanse-y things”). You get all of the sugar of these foods and none of the fiber that makes them filling and satisfying. You typically also lose some nutrients in the juicing process. Put together, this means you’re (a) not full, (b) your blood sugar rapidly spikes and falls (not good for your energy or your metabolism) and (c), you’ll be hungry again in about 5 minutes.
4. Losing weight super rapidly can actually *lower* your metabolism, causing you to lose less weight (and/or gain it back and then some after your stop “cleansing” — your hormones adjust in a way that encourages you to regain weight!). Your body thinks it’s starving, a la the cave man years when we all weren’t sure when the next meal was coming. You also tend to lose more muscle than fat, which is not healthy, and further slows your metabolism.
5. Contrary to popular belief, your body REQUIRES fat – for a whole lot of important functions and processes (hair, skin, hormones, etc.). Ditto carbohydrates (rapid energy, fuel for exercise and daily living, cool stuff like your heart beating and your brain working…). Don’t believe you can just cut these out willy nilly with no adverse effect.
INSTEAD, if you want to jump start some weight loss, reduce “bloat,” or just clean up your diet, consider these options:
1. Cut back your calorie intake (use an app like LoseIt to track calories if you’d like) by 500-700 per day. Plan on losing 1-2 lbs a week for a healthy, sustainable, defensible weight loss strategy.
2. EAT REAL FOOD. I know, I’m a broken record, but please, eat fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean meats (as desired), fish, low-fat dairy, eggs and beans. Use olive oil, eat nuts & seeds, even enjoy a big ol’ spoonful of peanut butter every now and then. Skip all that processed crap, as even the “healthy” or “low-sodium” packaged, canned or frozen meals typically have more calories and/or sodium than you need. Also, you can eat a lot more real food than you think. Consider 100 calories of potato chips vs 100 calories of broccoli (about 10-15 chips vs 3+ cups of broccoli!). You are going to be a lot more full and happy from the broccoli. Really.
3. Moderate your intake of grains. You don’t need to avoid them altogether (unless you have celiac or other GI or health issues), but focus on eating them in the morning to fuel up for the day and/or before exercise. You really don’t need the rapid energy that grains provide at night (unless you are an evening exerciser). Eating lots of grains and/or processed carbs at night just ends up being stored as fat while you sleep.
4. Add an extra workout or two each week (more if you like) to your regular schedule. Try HIIT (high intensity interval training) or tabata training to really get your heart racing and burn a ton of calories in a short period of time. Alternate these workouts with weight training (and make it heavy, please). Throw in some yoga or other flexibility training one day a week and your body will thank you.
5. Get plenty of rest. As much as you possibly can (I know, it can feel impossible!). Studies have shown that individuals who sleep less (under 7 hours) have fluctuations in their hormones that encourage their bodies to put on weight (and always be hungry). Recent studies have also shown that people who sleep less crave carbs and other starchy foods more (don’t I know that!), as related to the reward centers in their brains requiring additional “love and attention” in their underslept state.
And you know what? In the end, it’s just a bathing suit. Here’s what I want to know: Can you keep up with your kids? Can you run a few miles (or a few dozen, in the case of my awesome sister)? Does the work day kick your butt, or do you kick its? Healthy isn’t about a shape, it’s about what your body allows you to do. You have one life. Live it well.