Cleansing the Body and Soul
“Cleanses” are currently one of the hot buzzwords in the weight loss industry. A cleanse is basically a weight loss term for fasting and detoxing the body of built up impurities. This method of weight loss is a method I give to my clients only when they insist on trying it, and nothing else is working. In most cases the weight comes back on but for a few lucky ones it does work, if done correctly. The best way to lose weight is to eat a sensible balanced diet and increase your metabolism with eating at the right times and exercising.
Fasting and cleansing are basically the same technique but done for different purposes. Fasting, especially in India, are usually for religious purposes. The most common is eating only one meal, either lunch or dinner, the remaining times fruits and milk are allowed. There are also cleanses for many types of ailments which are very popular in Ayurveda such as cleanses for the colon, liver, asthma and joint pains.
Touting that their method is the best way to remove toxins from the body and give us more energy, there are all types of commercial cleanses being promoted. They promise clearer skin, brighter eyes, weight loss, stronger immune system, greater mental clarity, and self confidence. If you google search ‘cleanse,’ you will find numerous pages of info. Many of the sites try and sell their own miracle cleanses for which you need to buy the right supplements or recipes from their company. These are unnecessary. A simple, short cleanse on your own without over-priced products will do the job.
Do cleanses work? The calorie restrictions on most cleanses is less than 1200 calories and with such few calories, you will lose weight. Maintaining this weight loss after the cleanse period is the difficult part. In terms of removing toxins, cleansing does do this to some degree if you have a diet consisting of junk foods, sugar and caffeine. The body however is able to digest a variety of foods as long as they are wholesome. For example, whole wheat is better than refined flour and jaggery is better than sugar and eating them in moderation does not create toxins in the body.
When should you cleanse? The cleanses we are talking about here are for weight loss. If you are finding it difficult losing weight with a balanced diet – cannot stay away from fast food, or get cravings for sweets, then a cleanse may be the discipline tool you need. Deprivation and hunger are not nice feelings but again, if your eating is out of control then some drastic measures may be needed. Just like dieting, cleansing is not easy.
What are the different types of cleanses? There are hundreds of commercial weight loss cleanses on the market –after all weight loss is big business. Herbal supplement cleanse, master cleanse(only lemon water, maple syrup and cayenne pepper and made famous by Beyoncé), juice cleanse and many more. You do not need any specific products for the cleansing process and I do not recommend any extra supplements other than the regular muti-vitamin.
How do I get started? Decide how you are going to fast –just juices, eating fruits and vegetables only, eating only raw foods. One client recently did a fruit only cleanse with a protein shake in the evening. She did this for 3 days and lost 1.5 kilos. The good news is that she did not gain it back because she was so thrilled with losing that one kilo that she was eating more balanced low fat diet. Another client ate only fruits and vegetables for 2 days. She felt more energetic and lighter since she broke her sugar habit of daily sweet lassis and candy bars(strange combination, I know). She had tried to cut them out before but never succeeded until the cleanse.
How often should I cleanse? Pick a short term for the cleanse. Once a week, three days a month, or once every six months – losing nutrients for a short period will not have long lasting damaging effects. It is like getting the flu and not eating for a couple of days, eventually your body recovers. If you deprive your body of calories for an extended period of time, then your metabolism will slow down, defeating the purpose of the fast in the first place. Most commercial cleanses are for longer periods of time – 28 days, 10 days, etc which is too long for the body to be deprived of certain nutrients.
Preferably, give your body important nutrients during the cleanse process. Use a meal supplement that has nutrients already in it for at one meal. The calorie intake is low but your body gets the energy it needs for proper functioning. You should also be taking a multivitamin pill for a few days prior to the fast and a few days after. Three days in succession is the maximum I recommend doing a cleanse, and at the most once a month. A once a week fast is also ok.
Are there any Side-Effects? Again, for a short duration there are no long term side-effects. You will be hungry and with hunger come crankiness so warn your loved ones to bear with you during this time. You may feel lightheaded from lack of food and find it difficult to maintain a normal work routine. Strenuous workouts are not recommended during cleanses but some light yoga or walking is fine. Water plays an important role in the cleansing process so make sure you drink at least 2-3 litres of water a day during this period.
Other factors Ease into your regular diet regime after the cleanse is over, do not eat a greasy dosa immediately the morning after your cleanse is finished. It will take some time for your body to get adjusted to fats, oils and other items that were eliminated.
Cleansing is a holistic approach to weight loss. To be successful a holistic approach to life is also important – moderation in all food types and living stress free. Stress usually plays a large role in weight gain so it is important to get it under control.
Remember all the safety points of cleansing – Stay healthy and good luck.