Are we there yet? Why are we not there yet?

As you start making nutritional and behavioural changes you expect to see results right?!

Like – bam! Because you’re doing everything asked of you and you’re a super focused machine!

However, it didn’t take you a few days or weeks to put on the weight you’re wanting to lose or to have depleted your body of the micronutrients it needs to function at it’s peak. Many of your negative behaviours or attitudes around food are also a product of your life to date – many starting right back in your childhood. So, logically – it’s going to take time to see any nutritional improvements to be reflected in you. As for the formation or breaking of any habit – behavioural change also takes time and it is often this which is the hardest to address.

glitterGenerally, by the time most people come to see a nutritionist – they have figured out (often via the hard and expensive way) that there are no ‘silver bullets’ and that there is no fairy dust that anybody can sprinkle on you to turn you into the woman, man or unicorn of your dreams overnight.

 

Many ‘diets’, 12 week challenges or shake programs may well provide quick weight loss results in the short term, but can leave you feeling exhausted and awful with downright weird and unnatural attitudes towards food. Unfortunately, the quick weight loss is more often than not associated with quick rebound – where often more weight is gained than originally lost. Few of these programs teach you anything worthwhile about nutrition for long-term health. There’s a host of reasons for this – aside from it being really good business to have the steady stream of return customers, but I won’t start ranting on that now.

In short – Be realistic about your expectations – true results will gradually come and they will be far longer lasting and enrich your life far more than ‘weight loss’ results alone.

For long term improvements of health and improved weight management, you need to:

food-babe1. Learn basic nutritional principles – You wouldn’t ask your mechanic to teach you the principles of neurosurgery, so don’t get your nutrition advice from celebrities or wellness bloggers – they are true fountains of nutritional liquid excrement!

Invest in yourself by making a few appointments with a reputable nutritionist to really learn about nutrition – knowledge that will benefit not only you but your family and friends around you. As seeing a personal trainer once won’t transform your beer keg into a 6-pack, don’t expect to walk away from one appointment with all the knowledge and skills you need for real change.

2. Prioritise your nutrition – organization is key and you must make time in your week to shop and prepare food properly – see our article ‘How to meal-prep like a boss’ for some ideas. You may even have to learn to cook if you don’t already know how – otherwise, you’ll have to work hard at becoming the most skilled shopper and evaluator of processed foods/take-out meals. However, without controlling or undertaking most of the cooking yourself, most will find it exceedingly hard to reach their goals.

3. Be prepared to ‘win some and lose some’ – ride the ups and downs, be flexible and indulge in moderation without guilt of shame – as food is there to be enjoyed and life is there to live. While not losing sight of your long-term goals, appreciate and enjoy special moments with a cheese platter or a mud cake without transforming into a humanoid demolition derby!

4. Listen to your body – this will take time and practice – but tune into your hunger and satiation cues, learn to use food as fuel – not as a stopgap for boredom or to deal with emotion. Start counteracting external cues with strategies – such as those suggested in ‘The Dreaded After-Dinner Munchies’.

It takes consistent attention to what you’re doing to make lasting change and some are lucky enough that over time, good decisions and eating appropriate diversity and quantities of food become second nature and they never have to think about what they’re eating (or not eating) again – good nutrition has simply become part of their lifestyle. Others though will have to maintain more vigilance and consistently or periodically monitor what they’re eating and how they are using food in their life.

So if the scales aren’t budging yet or weight-loss is not the primary goal – How do we know what we’re doing is working? Assuming you are not monitoring your glucose or are on a first-name basis with your local pathologist who is periodically monitoring your bloods for inflammation markets, lipid profiles or micronutrient status, you may notice signs of beneficial changes reflected in:

  • Improved satiation. One of the first signs when you improve your diet quality and hydration is that you feel more satiated. You may find that even though you are consuming less energy per day than before – you no longer feel hungry!
  • Reduced cravings – we all tend to want more of whatever we’re eating – this certainly goes for dopamine-inducing alcohol, sugar-sweetened beverages, chocolate, or those optimally-designed processed foods that are deliberately formulated to provoke embarrassing public drooling. Put simply, the more you have, the more you  will want. So when these are reduced in the diet, the desire to track down these foods like paleolithic hunter looking for a Big Mac also usually falls. There is also research to suggest that micronutrient deficiencies increase the likelihood and strength of ‘cravings’, so these get fewer/easier as your diet becomes better rounded nutritionally.
  • Better moods – you’re now smiling more than you are scowling – goodbye resting b**ch-face! Both improved nutrition and your new direction and positive focus on change will improve your brain chemical balance, hormonal balance and outlook on life.
  • pony-tailMore energy and strength! You actually feel like getting out of bed and starting the day, you’re pumping out your workouts (or for the first time in ages – you actually feel like doing and are enjoying a workout) and you find you have enough energy at the end of the day to actually do your dinner dishes and not leave them until tomorrow! Winning!
  • Better sleep – poor nutrition can affect sleep patterns – notably caffeine, sugar or alcohol ingestion, especially late in the day will certainly interfere with your zzzzz’s. Also having dinners that are too heavy can also negatively affect sleep. Poor nutrition and lack of the right proteins and micronutrients can negatively affect hormone production and functions which are required for a restful night.
  • Better fitting clothes – So your ‘weight in kgs’ may not have budged at all – but you may start noticing that your waistband is a bit looser. This is as your body composition is changing and you maybe losing fat while increasing your muscle and perhaps even increasing your bone mass – or if you have lowered your sodium intake, you may have found that you are bloating less. Periodic body composition monitoring is far more useful to illustrate these changes than weight scales.

So whenever you may be feeling worried that the scale is not moving yet – please reflect on the above and assess when you have started to make progress as real progress is so much more than just a number.

 

To detox or not to detox?

Detoxing is huge news at the moment – today, a Google search for ‘detox’ alone brought up over 76 million hits. So there is much excitement (and billions being made) out there by alternative therapists who are offering to ‘cleanse’ your body and detox you of all sorts of nasty chemicals and ‘toxins’ – but does the human body even need help detoxing?!

Approaches to detoxing can include colonic irrigation, homeopathic remedies, teas or use of electromagnetic devices. And then there are of course a whole suite of detox diets – often celebrity-endorsed and involving copious amounts of green juices and exotic, expensive Amazonian berries, exclusive herbs or mysterious root extracts. It is the efficacy of these which are going to be addressed in this article.

So, if your definition of ‘detoxing’ is a few days or weeks of easing off chocolate or alcohol, cutting back on processed foods and doing a bit more exercise in the interests of improving your health, then by all means – go for your life. Doing so will improve your intestinal microbiome, blood glucose levels and give your liver and gastrointestinal system some ‘breathing space’ to adjust, especially after a period of over-indulging.(1-3) However, undertaking such temporary ‘detoxing’ unfortunately barely begins to make up for long-term dietary abuse (sorry!). You’re far better off aiming for long-term lifestyle and dietary improvements for optimal health and nutrition.

So, lets discuss detoxing in the context of ‘toxins’.

By definition, toxins are small molecules, peptides or proteins that, though medically useful in some cases – may in sufficient doses potentially contribute to the development of disease through contact with or via absorption of body tissues. Most toxins that cause issues in humans are actually of bacterial origin, including those which cause tetanus, toxic shock, cholera or Botulinum neurotoxins – the toxins responsible for the potentially fatal food poisoning disease botulism (possible culprits – raw honey, poorly canned food).(4, 5) No amount of green blends, juices, herbs, superfoods or celebrity ‘detoxing’ program is going to remotely deal with such toxins. Needless to say, if you are suffering toxicity from any of these – please go see your doctor immediately and I also strongly encourage you to take preventative steps by accessing the wide range of potentially life-saving vaccines available.

On the other hand, toxins can be found in our environment, including heavy metals, pesticides, phthalates, VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), dioxins or asbestos and these should certainly be minimised through product choices and optimising your living or working environments.(6-10) High levels or over-exposure of environmental toxins in humans has been linked to increased cancer risk, endocrine disorders, skin issues, liver damage, headaches and a host of other adverse medical consequences.(6, 10) Toxins can even be found lurking naturally in our food supply – whoever would have suspected the humble, unassuming broccoli of containing the potentially deadly mitochondrial toxin cyanide?!(11) However, don’t panic and clear out your vegetable drawer of this wonderful vegetable – there are no reports of anyone who has managed to achieve cyanide poisoning by munching their way through daily mountains of raw broccoli. In fact, in small amounts, this cyanide in broccoli (and other cruciferous vegetables) has actually be shown to be beneficial for some enzyme functions in the liver.

So, toxicity hugely depends on the toxin itself, the dosage and the human body’s ability to do with it. Anything is toxic in the right amount – even oxygen or water. The mode of exposure as well as the gender, genetics, age, general health and nutritional status of the exposed individual will all affect whether accumulation of a toxin occurs and whether that will cause health issues.(12) It is more than worthwhile noting that symptoms of toxicity from heavy metals or pesticides do not include generally feeling a little blergh or getting a few extra pimples. They can involve heart palpitations, breathing difficulties and loss of muscular control – so if you have these – again, we highly suggest you get yourself off to your hospital for immediate treatment (possibly involving dimercaprol chelation and atropine but certainly not involving ‘Ultra-slimming, Quick-cleanse lemon-coconut-detox’).

Our body’s detoxification organs work 24/7 and include the liver, kidneys, skin, lungs, gastrointestinal tract and lymphatic system.(7, 12) These are constantly breaking down toxins into other forms which we can then excrete via urine, faeces, sweat or via our respiratory system. Most of the time, for the vast majority of us, our body can handle the typical toxin load and accumulation will not result. Therefore, the best way to ensure that this natural detoxification system is working at optimal levels, is to provide your body with optimal nutrition to support the function of these organs.

Most detox diets or juice cleanses are low in proteins or amino acids, fibre, probiotics and ‘good fats’ – unfortunately, these are many of the key nutrients that our organs need to be fully juicefunctional. This can lead to impaired organ function and actually allow more toxins to accumulate causing many adverse and potentially dangerous side effects.(12, 13) Additionally, those detoxes that involve high volumes of juices can cause dangerous blood sugar swings which could also be potentially very dangerous for diabetics.(14, 15) Also, what many people may not realise – the manufacture of these products is very unregulated and there is no true review or control over the inclusion or quantity of many of the ingredients which result in a range of unintended interactions with medications and adverse, potentially dangerous side effects.

Though lots of fruits and vegetables are undoubtedly good for you, pulverising kilograms of raw fruits and vegetables over several days or weeks may actually stress organs which suddenly have to deal with a huge quantity of oxalates, nitrates and ironically your exposure to pesticides could increase during such a ‘detox’. The headaches commonly reported during detoxes, have nothing to do with the clearance of any toxins, but more to do with energy restriction, electrolyte imbalances, possible withdrawal from caffeine and potentially also nitrate overload (as nitrates promote vasodilation).(16) Also, there are compounds called goitrogens in raw green vegetables which if consumed in great quantities can also negatively affect thyroid function in some susceptible people.(17) None of this is usually a problem for fruit and vegetables consumed within a normal, healthy dietary context – but can become significant problems when over-consumed in a detox or juice ‘cleansing’ context.

Therefore, in conclusion – no, there is no scientific basis or consistent, reputable clinical evidence that nutritional ‘detoxing’ is required or effective in removing ‘toxins’ from the body.(12, 13) If you’re feeling generally unwell or run down – it is far more likely to be due to poor diet, fatigue, stress or a general virus or infection.

Other reasons people may want to go on a ‘detox’ diet, has nothing to do with ridding their bodies of toxins, but has more to do with the weight loss that some celebrity experienced while doing it. Restricting calories significantly (as is usually the case on a detox diet), will cause a very rapid ‘weight’ loss of around 2-3kg within the first few days or week which seems fantastic on paper. However, hold back your excitement as most of this is merely the 500g or so of glycogen in your muscles and 1.5kg of associated water which your body has had to use up in the absence of sufficient caloric intake.  It will come straight back as soon as you start eating normally again.

Detoxes can lead to disordered eating and will only contribute to the mindframe of yo-yo dieting – there is nothing logical about the idea of taking a ‘week’s holiday’ from long-term poor lifestyle and imbalanced dietary intake. Additionally, if you continue detox diets for more than a few days, you risk the development of micronutrient deficiencies and you will also start to lose muscle mass which is detrimental to long-term weight loss. Life Nutrition is able to show you much better strategies to enhance your health, maximise your natural detoxing abilities and lose weight safely and keep it off.

Please do not resort to celebrity detox diets or purchase expensive magic herbs and restrict dietary groups to cleanse your liver and colon – the only thing that will be detoxed and lightened is your wallet.

 

References

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