Nutrition Counseling

Cleanses & Detox Diets

Your client comes to you excited to share their weight loss success from a cleansing diet— the Master Cleanse (aka the Lemonade Diet). Seasoned RDs probably already have talking points on speed dial regarding detox and cleansing diets, but new RDs may feel uncomfortable about relating the facts. While acknowledging a client’s success and commitment to weight loss is important for their morale and maintaining a positive relationship with them, it’s equally if not more important to properly educate them on the potential risks of these types of diets.

The Lemonade Diet, like many other cleansing and detox diets, is predominately liquid based and promises rapid weight loss in a short period of time. Although the terms often are used interchangeably, cleansing diets claim to “cleanse” the digestive tract by eliminating toxins, fecal matter, and other substances from the gut, while detoxes are said to eliminate toxins from the body by converting them into waste. Regardless of their differences, their outlandish and overly exaggerated health claims deviate far from the principles of healthful eating and sustainable living.

As RDs, keeping up with the misinformation and misconceptions of detox and cleansing diets is no easy task, especially since their popularity often is fueled by celebrity endorsements. Therefore, creating a simple list of talking points to refer to during counseling sessions can come in handy. The following are some bullet points you may find useful:

While studies have shown that very low-energy diets will inevitably result in fast weight loss, the truth is they aren’t a sustainable lifestyle and regaining weight is highly likely.
Highly restrictive diets usually mean essential nutrition needs aren’t being met.
These types of diets often can lead to an unhealthful relationship with food.
Very little clinical evidence exists to support the use of these types of diets to eliminate toxins from the body.
The kidneys and liver handle “detoxing” of the body.
There’s a high chance of overeating after a cleanse/diet.
Clients can experience unpleasant side effects such as headaches, dizziness and fainting, muscle weakness, diarrhea, nausea, and hunger pangs.

Clients can detox their body in a healthful way by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, staying well hydrated, eating enough fiber, maintaining regular bowel movements, and consuming lean sources of protein.

For more information, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide practical resources and tools on weight loss and weight maintenance.

— Rema El-Mahmoud, RDN, is a freelance writer and public health nutritionist from California. She’s the author of her blog and writing business, Rema Writes, which focuses on simplifying controversial nutrition and health topics and providing positive food and diet advice.

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