Matt Smith's End of the Spectrum

Melbourne-based writer and journalist. Purveyor of finally crafted radio plays. A Muppet of a man.

Detox diet the refuge of the desperate

First published in The National Times on 8th October, 2010

I’m one of many Australians who step on the scales regularly, and end up disappointed at the number it displays. My weight can vary a kilo or more from day to day. Dieting doesn’t seem to work, exercise remains ineffective, and there’s a slow but incremental rise in weight.

Losing weight can be as easy as surviving on just water for a day, but it will quickly come back, often with reinforcements. I’ve tried regular sport. I’ve tried jogging. And yet when I step on the scales they continue to mock me. I feel like Batman, continuously convincing myself that the Joker has reformed and can be given a second chance, just to be let down in the end.

Like many people in this situation, I’ve turned to what can be seen as the easy way out – the detox diet. For those of you who don’t know, a detox diet is essentially dropping some weight by starving yourself. It might masquerade under the pretence that it’s getting rid of evil toxins in your body, but most people prefer to call it for what it really is – a drastic way to get rid of a few kilos. Like all people who undertake this endeavor (in a few weeks time I’m getting married, and wanted to be able to look at myself in the photos after the event) there was a tinge of desperation in my reasoning for going through with it.

My detox diet consisted of water with a mix of lemon juice, syrup, and a pinch cayenne pepper, six to eight times a day for a week. There are many companies out there that would be willing to bilk you of lots of money for a secret formula that does exactly the same thing, but ultimately all it adds up to is to ingest as little as possible. You’re left surviving on the reserves of your body – and herein lies the “detox” part of it – anything that can be considered a toxin has well and truly left you within that week of no food.

It’s rather alarming how much misleading information there is relating to detox dieting. Go and google it, and see for yourself. I bet you all the entries on at least the first page are full of advertised products saying how brilliant and effective the detox experience is. I bet you most of those pages also take the time to mention Beyonce Knowles, who apparently went through the detox diet to slim down for a movie role. While these websites extol the “benefits” loudly, they’re ultimately trying to sell you a product you never knew you needed. Make sure you read the small print carefully.

That week was one of the roughest I’ve ever been through. If you ever decide to go through a detox, no matter which method you take, there will always be a long list of side effects that you could encounter along the way. Several of these were my constant companions for the week – I suffered from tiredness, aching joints and constant exhaustion. My attention wavered, I dragged myself around my job, and I was in need of a daily afternoon nap. Hunger never leaves you, I found myself craving hotdogs and salmon (weird, I know) by the end of the second day, and by the fifth night I found my sleep being haunted by food horror dreams. Twice I managed to get cayenne pepper in my eye (which admittedly isn’t one of the listed side effects), proving that the detox is hazardous to your health in more ways than one.

The flip side of it is that over the course of the week, the scales and I seemed to have come to some kind of agreement. In seven days I lost six kilos, and managed to convince myself that my pants seemed a bit loser in the process. It was hard work, but it seemed to be worth it, and I was lighter than I’d been in about three years.

The trouble with losing weight by starving yourself is that sooner or later, you’re going to have to start eating again. You’ll try and pace yourself, you’ll try and eat healthily, but regardless of whether you manage to do that or not your body is crying out for food, and will take what it can get.

Now, two weeks later, I’m sitting at a kilo less than what I weighed before I started the detox diet. Was that kilo worth the week that I went through? Not by a long shot. I’m eating healthy foods, I’m exercising daily, but it still leaves me wondering how long I’ll be able to keep even that one small kilo at bay.

While it seems to work in the very short run, the detox diet is hard work for ultimately little payoff. I’m sure there will be a few people out there will protest loudly and say that it worked wonders for them, and believe me, I wish I could count myself among that number. As much as I wish it were otherwise, detox dieting is nowhere near as effective in the long run as a healthy diet and exercise.


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This entry was posted on October 31, 2010 by in lifestyle and tagged , , , , .
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