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The Pros and Cons of Health Cleanses

The Pros and Cons of Health Cleanses

Vicki Santillano | DivineCaroline

January 26, 2011

At the start of 2011, countless men and women vowed not to budget better or volunteer more, but to shed the last of their holiday pounds and start the new year off on a healthier note. And in an attempt to fulfill that resolution more quickly, many of them will turn to extreme dieting methods like juice fasts and cleanses, which drastically cut out entire food groups—or, in some cases, food altogether.

When Beyoncé credited the Master Cleanse with her weight loss for the movie Dreamgirls a few years ago, everyone and her mother (and at least one guy I know) jumped onboard, too, eschewing whole foods for cayenne-spiked water. This new year will likely usher in a whole new group of converts. But are plans like this actually worth the trouble? I asked nutritionist and wellness coach Rania Batayneh to weigh in on the trendiest programs.

The Master Cleanse

The Plan: Mix eight ounces of water with fresh lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne powder and drink the concoction at least six times a day (more if you’re hungrier). Take laxatives in the morning and at night to stay regular. The only other thing you can have is herbal tea for the next ten to fourteen days.

“This is just enough sugar to keep your mind, brain, and muscles working before your body shuts down,” Batayneh says. Because this plan is severely deficient in protein, fat, and other essential nutrients, any weight fluctuation will come from water or muscle loss. Muscle loss slows down the metabolism, meaning that participants are that much more likely to gain back the weight they lost and then some once they go back to eating again.

Oprah’s 21-Day Cleanse

The Plan: Give up sugar, gluten products, dairy, meat, alcohol, and caffeine for twenty-one days.

Batayneh quickly pointed out that the mastermind behind this gluten-free, vegan diet, Kathy Freston, doesn’t actually have any accreditation or a professional background in nutrition. But she does have Oprah’s backing, which will probably lead more than a few people out there to adopt this plan without considering its possible drawbacks. While the 21-Day Cleanse focuses on wholesome, balanced eating (permitted menu items include quinoa, tempeh, and lots of veggies), it also incorporates a lot of soy into the mix, which could be problematic for some. Plus, by cutting out certain foods, it teaches people to demonize them, rather than tweak their eating habits to make them healthier and more manageable. “With an elimination diet, what happens after twenty-one days? Now what?” Batayneh asks. Instead, she recommends a “limit, but don’t eliminate” mantra for weight loss and maintenance.

Next: Fat Flush >>

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