Is Your Detox Doing More Harm Than Good?


Have you noticed that detoxes are all the rage these days?  If you are plugged in to the health universe like I am it's likely that you won’t be able to go to your yoga studio, scroll down your Facebook feed, or surf the web without hearing about the latest and greatest detox.

I can’t help but think that “detox” has just become the trendy, in vogue way of saying “diet.”

Yes, of course, there are people out there who have a healthy weight and complete a detox to achieve even greater levels of optimal health.

Much more common, however, seems to be another subset of women that have been sucked into the detox mentality only to find themselves back on that old dreaded diet rollercoaster of highs and lows.

Keep reading to hear more about some of the most troublesome booby traps that I see with clients on the detox roller coaster, and what to look for in a nutrition program if you are serious about transforming your health and creating hormonal balance.

1) Using a detox as a way to regain a sense of control:

I have noticed through my own personal and professional experience that those of us who have had a challenging relationship with food use diets and detoxes as a way to regain the feeling of control in life.  The problem with this is that every period of tight control is followed by a period of reckless abandon.  Think of it like a pendulum.  When we tightly restrict our foods for a period of time like on a detox, we often lose weight, feel great, etc.  But what I’ve seen with myself and SO MANY clients is that oftentimes a detox is followed by a period where one loses all sense of control, falls back into patterns of overeating and mindless eating and gains back all the weight and more.  Not much different than the old yo-yo dieting problem.

Now, this is not to say that creating boundaries in our relationship with food always leads to the diet rollercoaster.  Because many of my clients struggle with ongoing hormonal imbalances, I actually see boundary setting as an important aspect of the healing journey.  It is important, however, that a) the healing protocol is not overly restrictive, b) that the boundaries are created out of a desire to feel more freedom rather than to experience more control, and c) that listening to and honoring body wisdom is at the core of the healing plan, both during the more restrictive phase, as well as during the re-introduction phase.

2) Using a detox as a form of self- punishment:

Maybe you just returned from a holiday weekend of boozing and binging on high sugar or processed foods.  You feel pretty disgusting from the gluttony and you feel angry at yourself for your lack of dietary discretion.

The problem is that any diet or detox done in the spirit of self-punishment will only backfire- maybe while you are on the detox or maybe once it’ s over.  Either way, the stress response elicited from a self-punishing frame of mind will cause a hormonal response that supports weight retention and appetite dysregulation.  Get ready, that weight loss may not last.

If you are serious about the success and sustainability of any nutritional approach, then it is important to initiate it from a place of body love rather than body hate.  When we cultivate change from a place of acceptance, love, and presence, we set the stage to relax into the experience.  All healing, regeneration, and detoxification takes place within the relaxation response.

3) Using Detoxification to resist the shadowy or messy aspects of life:

We want things to be clean, orderly, and harmonious.  But life just isn't like that all the time.  Qualities exist in pairs or opposites.  We can't embrace one and reject the other and expect to find balance and harmony in our lives. Rejecting the shadow or the dark, in an attempt to always exist in the light just creates suffering and dis-ease.

Mama Earth teaches us this lesson best: we can't have day without night, summer without winter, or the rainy season without the dry season.  What we can do is learn how to maneuver through the darkness and the light as gracefully as possible with acceptance and love (and even then expect to trip, pout, and yell every now and then)

Be sure when choosing a nutritional plan, that it also supports you in the re-introduction phase.  Many detox plans lay out the 10 day or 2 week plan, but then when the detox is over, you're left in the dark about how to navigate through the gray areas when the rules are no longer so black and white.  The re-introduction phase can be complex and scary for many, yet this phase also holds the most power.  During this phase, if we re-introduce foods mindfully and intuitively, we can discover which foods actually work for our unique body, as well as those that don't.  This is what distinguishes a healing elimination plan from just another diet.

4) Hoping a Detox will be the treasure you’ve been seeking on your quest for perfectionism:

Perfection doesn't exist.  Those seeking it often want to stay on a cleanse forever thinking that anything less will qualify them as failure.  They forget how to feel good about eating when they don't have a program or plan telling them they are doing it "right" or "perfectly".  They crave that external framework of what "perfect" looks like.

If you are on the quest for perfection, expect to fail, and suffer like hell in the process.

Ok, now we are coming up on what I think is the most perilous booby trap of all...

5) Using a detox because you are looking for something “out there” to fix you or to give you the answers:

This mindset is so problematic because every time we abandon our own body wisdom in order to follow a set of rules or guidelines set forth by someone else, we weaken our trust in body intelligence.  This lack of trust is one of the greatest roots of suffering around weight and food that I see with my clients.

The wonderful thing is that when we do relearn how to use our body intelligence as our guide, we actually find the RIGHT diet for our specific constitution.  There is not one diet that is right for everyone or even one diet that is right for one person all the time.  One person may thrive on a raw, vegan diet while this same way of eating may wreak havoc on another person’s weight, energy, and digestion.  The same is true for all diets.   Our dietary needs change from season to season and year to year.  The best way to find out what diet best supports your health and vitality is through curiosity, experimentation, and tuning in to body intelligence.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm supporter of detoxifying the body, mind, and soul!

Clearing, cleansing, and detoxifying are natural processes that the body and psyche go through on a regular basis. I strongly believe in incorporating foods, herbs, and practices that support gentle detoxification each and every day.  I teach clients how to detoxify from an embodied place, using body intelligence as the guide, and tapping into the healing power of Nature to help facilitate the essential process of clearing and renewal.  When done appropriately, with integration of the soul and the mind, this renewal provides the foundation for optimal hormonal harmony.  When our hormones are balanced, we experience optimal weight, joy, energy and radiance!

Jessie Kuehn4 Comments