LIFESTYLE – Ditch the Detox!

Right about now people are waking up and starting their New Year’s resolutions. Many resolutions will be broken before the end of the day. Of course, there are some very strong willed people out there too, but often resolutions unsustainable and unrealistic. And then some are just plain bonkers. I came across an interesting one the other day in one of my running groups. A lady, let’s call her Agatha, was so excited about beginning her two week distilled water detox. Two weeks. Nothing but distilled water. Not a nutrient in sight. Sounds like a good plan, right? Errr, wrong. It sounds like a really BAD plan. There were many helpful people offering evidence based advice but Agatha, and a frighteningly large number of other people, had their fingers firmly in their ears and were singing ‘lalalalalalalalal’. Apparently, Agatha is doing this under the supervision of a ‘doctor’ in the USA. There is no medical evidence to support ‘detoxing’. I have no idea how much this doctor is charging, but nice work if you can get it!

I have a number of concerns on the subject. Firstly, what ARE these toxins everyone (by everyone I mean the marketing hypers) are going on about? Nobody is ever specific, it’s just a generic ‘toxins’ sweep of the arm kind of thing. Secondly, our bodies are perfectly well equipped to deal with toxins, that’s exactly what the liver, kidneys and colon do, e.g. the liver breaks down alcohol, the kidneys expel unwanted chemicals and reabsorb any the body needs, and the colon, well, let’s not go there. Then there is the lymphatic system. So really, what else do we need, and if we need it, why do we only seem to need it in January? I can understand cutting back on the excesses if you’ve overindulged during the holidays, but detox? And wouldn’t cutting fiber out of your diet for two weeks stop anything already in the system from being dragged out?

Starving your body of nutrients is not a great way to feel good or look good. Shovelling unregulated snake oil into yourself probably won’t help much either. Even if you’re not using the hyped up products, living on juice or water for extended periods is not good for you.

There are many ways you can help yourself become and stay healthy. Here are my top tips for the New Year, all are things I’ll be paying some extra attention to throughout 2018, and none are rocket science:

  1. Get some sleep! A good 7-9 hours for adults. There is a stack of evidence that sleep deprivation is linked to a whole host of health conditions like obesity, diabetes, stroke and heart attacks. If you can’t sleep at night, then napping for 20 minutes (no more than 30 minutes at a time apparently) has been shown to help, and also boosts your ability to think clearly, multitask and reduce stress (I’ll post more on this in a day or two). I can vouch for this, I’m a big napping fan, especially when I’m training hard.
  2. Eat natural foods. By natural, I mean unprocessed, a.k.a. whole foods. It doesn’t take long to whip up a stir fry or to chop a few veggies and drop them in a slow cooker before you go to work (or uni, in my case), even if, like me, you are not confident in the kitchen. Does that mean you can never eat a takeaway or have a cheat meal? No, but having the majority of your meals made with natural ingredients, and including plenty of fresh, frozen or canned vegetables will pay health dividends.
  3. Drink plenty of water. Instead of reaching for the fizzy drinks or caffeine, swap a couple of those for some water. You can add fruit if you find water boring, and making hot water/fruit infusions can be nice in the winter. We don’t need stacks of water in our relatively cold climate in the UK, just 1-2 litres, according to the NHS website. Just enough to replace the water we lose during the day, so that our body can function properly. Remember to increase the amount before and after exercise though!
  4. Go do something! Go for a walk (or run/cycle/yourhobbygoeshere). The health benefits of physical activity are many, but if you really want to expel some toxins take up running, or any aerobic exercise, as the increased breathing and heart rate stimulates the contraction of intestinal muscles. Way better than laxatives (cheaper too) and more effective than a ‘detox’. The perfect antidote to waste build-up (or waist build-up!). Yoga can be pretty helpful here too, utilising full yogic breath combined with particular poses.

So what are YOU planning for the New Year? Dry January? Yes, sure, it will do you good, but if the mere thought of it causes you stress then why not just lower the amount you drink and give yourself some ‘rest’ days if you’ve had a particularly boozey Christmas and New Year. Perhaps just have a glass or two at the weekend rather than getting blathered or hitting it as soon as you get in from work, giving your liver a rest during the week. Cutting down on alcohol can work wonders if you want to lose weight too, alcohol is just empty calories that can be stored as fat.

There’s also RED (run every day) in January, but hey, no need to go that far if running isn’t your thing, perhaps just walk every day, or do 10 minutes up and down your stairs (if you have them) for a great fat burn session without spending hundreds of pounds on a gym membership that will lie dormant by Chinese New Year (16th Feb, in case you were wondering). Just getting out for a walk can give you many benefits, especially if you have some green space nearby. In Japan, forest bathing (just being among trees) has been shown to reduce stress and improve mental wellbeing, so now you have a great excuse to find a park and a few trees in your lunch break!

You could even try Veganuary, as we did last year. I found it a bit difficult, as I’m not a great cook, but we mostly muddled through and did slip into vegetarian territory a few times, rather than strictly vegan. I found it really useful to highlight what we were eating and it certainly increased our fruit and veg intake. If you don’t want to go the whole hog (excuse the inappropriate pun 🙂 ), and you are doing it more for health rather than ethical reasons, then you could try it for a certain number of days per week, which could make it more sustainable longer term.

Don’t get me wrong, I think all of these challenges are great, and I have many friends who will take part and succeed in them. I’m just saying that whatever you are doing this January, do it because you WANT to do it, not because you think you should, or because someone else says you ought to and especially not because a multimillion dollar industry tells you to. Remember that small steps can lead to big changes, just a few tweaks here and there can make a real difference to your overall long term health.

Happy New Year! I’d love to hear what your health goals are for 2018!

Vicky, Heart London Magazine

Vicky recently switched from a successful corporate marketing & PR background, life coaching herself to become a yoga teacher, PT and sports massage therapist. Now in her final year of studying a BSc Health & Sports Science, she spends most of her free time running with her dog, or chilling with her teenage daughter. An NHS Couch to 5k graduate in 2012, she’s since completed from 10k  up to 100k. Vicky is passionate about all things health and fitness, and reviews health and sporting venues, events, clothing and accessories.

Want to ask Vicky a question or are you looking for a personal trainer? Contact her here: