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Avoid These Trendy (and Unhealthy) Weight-Loss Detoxes

A woman looking depressed on a set of scales.
New Africa/Shutterstock

Spring is when tons of “bikini body” diets start flooding your inbox and social media feeds. Of course, all of them claim to be the best way to lose all that winter weight. The truth is, though, most of them not only won’t help you lose weight, but they can also have serious long-term effects on your health, and not in a good way.

There has been some promising research linking certain diets to longevity and overall health. It also appears that eating specific foods can be beneficial over the long term. Still, there are a ton of unsupported, inconclusive, and outright wrong claims that can seriously damage your health and make you sick.

Below are some of the detox routines you should definitely skip.

Detox Teas and Coffees

Since Instagram influencers started posting pictures with the coveted detox tea and coffee sachets on their feeds, the world got hooked on their “amazing results.” Many claim they magically lost 5-10 lbs. overnight.

First, when a shredded fitness model is promoting weight loss, that’s already wrong on so many levels. However, the bigger problem is that these are the people inspiring, motivating, and “influencing” others to get in shape and live a healthy life, knowing this can’t be achieved simply by drinking a detox tea.

The majority of these products aren’t actually bad in terms of the ingredient list and quantity of herbs. The problem is how you use (and abuse) it. Every single one of them contains some herbs considered to be diuretics, as they promote flushing out the water from your body. This, in turn, makes you less bloated, puffy, and heavy.

So yes, you will “lose weight,” but only your water weight, which you’ll then have to replenish to prevent becoming dehydrated.

Based on the initial water weight drop, people get hooked and start drinking a couple cups of these teas and coffees per day. They might even skip dinner and think the tea is doing all the work for them.

More often than not, this results in low blood pressure, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, digestive issues (some drinks have a laxative effect), and severe dehydration caused by the strong herbal diuretics.

Please, don’t do this to yourself.

Water Fasts

A woman drinking water at the beach.

Although fasting has been practiced for thousands of years, and intermittent fasting can have great effects on overall health, water fasts take it a step further. Basically, a person consumes nothing but water for long periods—72 hours is the most popular.

Studies and evidence on water fasts are scarce. Although being a bit hungry won’t kill you, the trouble starts when people get into it without any preparation or guidance. For example, just because a celebrity tries a trendy diet or fast doesn’t mean you should. After all, celebrities have an army of nutritionists, dietitians, trainers, and physicians making sure they don’t damage their health.

Starting a prolonged water fast without any preparation can result in getting migraines, nausea, digestive issues, insomnia, and even hypoglycemia if your sugar crashes way too quickly. There’s also a strict regimen on how to introduce food back into your diet afterward. You can’t simply prepare your regular breakfast and expect your body to know how to deal with it.

This is known as the “refeeding syndrome,” and it can be even more dangerous than the fast itself. This is because extreme shifts in fluids and electrolytes may occur in your body and cause serious clinical complications.

So, before you decide to go on an extreme fast like this one, consult your physician and make sure you’re even a good candidate for it. Certain groups, like pregnant or nursing women, and those with cardiovascular diseases, must keep their nutrients and electrolytes constantly in balance.

You have to ease your body into any type of fasting. Intermittent fasting is a good place to start, and then you can gradually progress to longer fasting periods.

Elimination Diets

A pile of veggies, meats, breads, fruits, and berries on cutting boards.

Limiting your intake of refined sugars and processed foods is one thing, but completely cutting out carbs, fat, or entire food groups is an unnecessary step. In fact, it only leads to nutrient depletion and overall imbalance in the body. This actually causes more inflammation, as your cells have to work twice as hard to figure out how to replenish what they’re missing.

Elimination diets were invented to help people figure out which foods were the possible sources of allergies and intolerances. Unfortunately, they gained popularity for a completely different reason. People soon figured out that cutting out certain foods made them lose weight more quickly.

Although this approach (especially ditching calorie-dense foods) can help you drop some unwanted pounds, the long-term effects on your body can be really harmful. It puts you at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiency, as well as hormone disruption.

Unless you’re dealing with an undetected allergy, intolerance, or autoimmune disorder, there’s no reason to completely cut a certain food group from your diet. When you do, you also cut out all the benefits it provides.

When it comes to fad diets and fasts, don’t trust everything you read. Always do a bit of medical digging or consult your doctor before you decide to implement any drastic weight-loss measures. It’s not worth getting sick over! And remember, if you have a bikini and you wear it, you already have a “bikini body.”

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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