It’s that time of year when everyone’s abuzz about resolutions, healthier eating for the whole family, and let’s be honest, at least when it comes to us, a desire to lose weight, whether just a few holiday pounds or that “baby” weight we’ve been carrying for, oh, eight years. (Or is that just me?). And after a month or more of holiday feasting, this is the one time of year when cleanses and other extreme measures tend to appeal to even the least likely candidates. (Again, raising my hand.) But are cleanses really worth it?
The research and experts are split so, I’m sorry to say, there’s no definitive answer. The only way to really know is to give a cleanse — or, really, any diet or way of eating — a try and see how you feel. If you feel great, then it works for you. If you don’t feel great, well then, no matter how many others say that it’s fantastically healthy, don’t believe the hype: it’s not for you. Your body knows best.
As you contemplate whether or not to give a cleanse a try, you might want to consider these BTDT pros and cons. They may help you make an educated guess about whether it’s the right move for you.
Before we get to the pros and cons, I’d like to strongly urge you to consider cleanses that don’t call on you to starve. Because though some will say there is good science behind starving yourself — at least for short periods of time — going around hungry when you’re a busy parent strikes me as a bad idea for the whole family. It’s just a practical thing, to be honest.
I once tried intermittent fasting and that worked really well because the “starvation” period was mostly while asleep, so I was well fed during the hours when I had to be a hands-on mom. It made a huge difference.
If you’re looking for cleanses that can keep you nourished and energized for your busy life, we found these five healthy detox diets that don’t require fasting that look pretty fantastic, and five more detox diets that are designed to help you feel energized, not hungry.
You’ll lose weight… probably. Generally speaking, people lose weight while doing cleanses or switching their diet to eliminate things like refined sugars and carbs. We saw this when Kristen lost weight on Whole30 (and, actually, she lost inches too!) and also when she lost 10 lbs on a juice cleanse. Kate also lost weight and inches when she went Paleo.
That said, when I went Whole30, I barely lost weight. I didn’t cheat. I was totally in it. And in the end, I lost only 4 lbs. So frustrating, because if I’m being totally honest, losing weight was the number one reason I went Whole30 in the first place. So, if losing weight is your goal, you might be better off starting the year off with a commitment to a longer-term program that will work over time. That, and exercise. Basically, losing weight the old fashioned way.
Because, also, I hate to be a Debbie-downer, but even if you do lose weight, the weight you lose on a cleanse is likely to come back if you aren’t on a long-term weight loss plan anyway.
You’ll learn a lot about your eating habits. Everyone I know who’s done a cleanse of any kind has learned a ton about their eating habits. You’ll get a much better sense of when you’re really hungry, when you eat because your bored (or emotional, or… fill in the blank), what you stop craving when you cut it out, what your body truly needs, and so on.
For example, when I cut out refined sugar, I completely stop craving sweets after a few days. Like COMPLETELY. And I normally have a serious sweet tooth. But dairy? Even after being off of it for a whole month, my body craved it badly. Not a lot: But as soon as I could have small portions of hard cheese and a little bit of milk back in my diet, my body was much happier. Weird, but true.
You’ll kickstart new habits. Even if you don’t get the results you want, it’s hard not to reset after a cleanse. You’ve either been subsisting off of very little or tons of juice, fruits and/or veggies and, if nothing else, you can continue to make a habit of keeping those healthy foods in regular rotation, which is good for you and your family too.
If you lost weight, you’ll probably gain some back. I already covered this up top, but it bears repeating. Research shows this is true. I know it feels nice to kickstart weight loss and, by all means, go for it if it’ll help make a difference mentally — I’ve been there — but I’m just telling it like it is.
You’ll probably be moody. I started by urging you not to starve yourself, but even still… there’s not a whole lot of eating on cleanse diets, even the ones with food. That’s sort of the point. And being hungry and moody while having to deal with kids is, if you ask me, pretty much the worst. If you can time your cleanse so that a good portion of the time overlaps with the weekend or other days when you have back up from a partner, friend, grandparent, or other caregiver, I’d suggest planning that way. Otherwise, maybe more screen time for the kids during your cleanse? Ha!
It’s very hard work — especially when you’re trying to feed a family at the same time. I don’t mean to brag, but you’ll honestly not find a harder worker than me, so don’t think that I’m discouraging hard work in general. It’s just that when you match up the amount of work a cleanse takes when you also have to feed a family with the long-term results, it’s seems a questionable endeavor for us parents.
For some, it might make more sense to make smaller diet adjustments for the whole family, like making a commitment to reducing sugar at home and eating more meatless meals. Or, if you’re someone who does better with more extreme measures, try going Paleo where you can still find tons of resources for satisfying family-friendly Paleo meals that work for everyone.