We’re all too familiar with the guilt-ridden aftermath that follows a particularly rough month of unhealthy eating. Before you commit to a four-day raw juice cleanse or commercial tea-tox to reset and reboot your body, take note that those seemingly healthy plans could be totally sabotaging your system and setting you up for a slow metabolism in the long run.
To help you jumpstart your weight loss goals and feel good doing so, read on for the worst detox mistakes you can make, according to experts who have seen it all. And to help you along your weight-loss journey, subscribe to the new Eat This, Not That! magazine now! It’s full of healthy recipes, supermarket shopping guides, and essential nutrition tips—available right at your fingertips. For a limited time, you can save 50 percent off the cover price here!
Relying on Laxatives
They may promise a flat belly overnight, but that shouldn’t give you the green light to take a stab at the stuff post dinner. “Using laxatives to promote detoxification can be dangerous because they can cause habituation,” says Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, plant-based dietitian, and author of The Vegiterranean Diet and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition. “Using laxatives for more than a few days can promote dependency—and, worse, can lead to dehydration, irritable bowel syndrome, and kidney and liver problems.”
Indulging in a ‘Last Meal’
Might as well, since the next few days will be so virtuous, right? Not exactly. “Detoxing does not have to be a painful process of sacrifice,” says Lisa Hayim, MS, RD and founder of The WellNecessities. “To prepare, many ‘go out with a bang,’ having a ‘last meal’ full of fried foods, refined sugars, and sometimes even foods they normally wouldn’t ever eat. This type of behavior sets you up for failure, hunger, and hormonal changes. Instead, approach the detoxification as a treat, like a gift to your body to slow down and repair. No need to give it extra work.” We recommend The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse because of the amazing benefits of tea (along with the soothing, zen vibes). Plus: Test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in one week!
Throwing Back ACV Shots
While apple cider vinegar may be all the rage among Hollywood starlets and health junkies, there’s insufficient scientific evidence proving that the elixir is as magical as many believe. While a review in the journal MedGenMed highlights that vinegar can promote healthier blood sugar levels and feelings of satiety, the report warns against adverse side effects. Since drinking highly acidic liquids like vinegar can irritate the throat and stomach, it shouldn’t become a daily habit, Caroline Cederquist, MD, a weight management doctor and founder of the meal delivery service bistroMD, tells us in 50 Worst Ways to Lose Weight. Instead of trying to rid your body of toxins by throwing back ACV shots first thing in the morning, Cederquist recommends using vinegar as a healthy alternative to salad dressings while eating a nutritionally balanced diet.
Giving It 80 Percent
After you’ve stocked up on our 25 Best Foods for Instant Detox, it’s really an all-or-nothing mentality that gets you the gold. “Committing to a detoxification means you have made your body the priority. Therefore, having ‘just one bite’ or ‘taking the weekends off’ won’t cut it,” comments Hayim. “During your set time for the detoxification, prepare properly, and schedule social events accordingly!”
Going Into Starvation Mode
Your rash decision to drink green juice and give up solid food altogether for days on end to tame the pufferfish belly isn’t a smart move. “This always backfires,” say Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CDN, CFT (aka The Nutrition Twins), authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure. “It can make you feel exhausted, lead to dehydration, and can slow your metabolism by causing your body to eat its calorie-burning muscle for fuel, making it harder for you to lose weight in the future.” Speaking of things that hurt your metabolism, check out these 31 Ways You Messed Up Your Metabolism Today!
Just. Don’t. Go. There. “Diuretics are substances that promote urine output. Several different mechanisms are used for the various types of diuretics, most of which target the kidneys,” says Hever. “Using these without a physician’s guidance can lead to dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, and heart arrhythmias.”
Trying Weight Loss Pills
“Weight loss supplements have ebbed and flowed over time with respect to ingredients,” warns Hever. “Many key ingredients (and additives) used in these supplements have been associated with some serious side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, insomnia, high blood pressure, heart issues, and even death. Supplements targeting weight loss usually contain some sort of stimulant, which makes them very risky.” Yeah, we’ll pass.
Overdoing It With the Lemon Water
Don’t get us wrong, we’re all about infused detox waters to liven up the ol’ H2O routine. “This is a great way to stay hydrated, drink more water, and get some extra vitamin C and antioxidants. But if it’s your main beverage and you drink it without a straw, you’re putting your teeth in danger,” say The Nutrition Twins. “Lemon makes the water acidic and can erode the enamel off your teeth.” So if you drink lemon water, be sure to sip through a straw.
Eating One Meal a Day
You may have heard your cousin swear by this method, but eating one meal a day isn’t the path toward fitting into your skinny jeans again. “Many believe that detoxing is a time to eliminate food. In reality, what the body needs is nourishment to be put back into it,” cautions Hayim. Need more convincing not to skip both breakfast and lunch? A study in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that mice who ate just one meal daily wound up gorging on their food and packing on dangerous belly fat.
Not Choosing Organic
Apples and berries are wonderful sources of antioxidants, but if you’re including them into your detox plan, it’s best to grab the organic stuff. “If you eat strawberries every day, this is the fruit to invest in,” say The Nutrition Twins. “[Strawberries] rank at the top of the Environmental Working Group’s most contaminated produce list [also known as the ‘dirty dozen‘] thanks to the pesticides used, which are linked to cancer and reproductive damage.” Worried about your apples? Find out the best way to wash an apple to remove pesticides before you toss them into your smoothies.
Starting a Crazy Exercise Routine
If you’re eating super clean, doesn’t it make sense to boost your workouts, too? Even though those feel-good wheatgrass shots inspire you to continue your efforts at the gym, you shouldn’t over-exercise while on a cleanse. Drastically increasing your activity level can make you hungrier and drive you to eat more, according to a study in the journal PLoS One. Remember: Your body requires a day or two away from the weight rack in order to recover and build muscle efficiently, as well as avoid inflammation, Time reports.
Popping Sketchy Supplements
Scary, but true: “Unfortunately, the FDA does not regulate our supplements,” warns Hayim. “This means we have to be extra careful and read actual ingredients. Many of them have GMOs, heavy metals, and even carcinogens.” Need a vitamin refresher? Check out 21 Things You Didn’t Know About Vitamins before you pop your next Flintstone bottle open.
Not Considering Your Other Meds
Speaking of popping pills: “Supplements may have synergistic effects with other supplements, foods, or medications that you may be taking when combined—so it is crucial to ask a healthcare practitioner before self-prescribing,” advises Hever. For example, many cholesterol-lowering statins negatively interfere with grapefruit. If you’re unsure about incorporating new foods into your diet, always consult with a doctor or nutritionist before you begin.
Keeping Ground Flaxseeds in Your Cabinet
Getting ready to toss those nutrient-dense superstars into your smoothie, salad, or yogurt? Not so fast. “If ground flaxseeds are not refrigerated, chances are they’ve started to oxidize and will act as a [harmful] pro-oxidant in your body and not as an antioxidant like you hoped. Store your ground flaxseeds in a dark, securely-tightened container in the refrigerator,” advise the Nutrition Twins.
Experimenting With Colonics
“People who administer colonics—or colonic irrigation—glorify them and make colonics sound like they’ll give you the detox that we all need to get healthy,” say The Nutrition Twins. “The truth is that the body is very good and very efficient at detoxing itself because your bowel and digestive system already eliminate waste and bacteria. Colonics can be dangerous and cause dehydration, cramping, bloat, nausea, vomiting, bowel perforations, and can even lead to death.” The smarter way to detox? You guessed it: Lots of water and high-fiber whole foods packed with plenty of antioxidants.
Replacing Meals With ‘Diet’ Foods
Just because a product is labeled “low-fat” or”light,” it doesn’t mean you should stock your fridge and replace your meals with the stuff. “Diet shakes, bars, and boxed meals are highly processed. They’re filled with sugar, sodium, chemicals, and provide little nutrition,” Kristin Reisinger, MS, RD, CSSD, and owner of IronPlate Studios tells us.”Even so, many people in their 20s turn to these products to lose weight—and they often work in the short term. However, once we’re in our 30s, insulin production is more sensitive to sugar and processed food, so our bodies tack those calories on as fat more readily. Stick with clean, healthy foods to keep your metabolism running strong and energy levels high.”
Nixing Entire Food Groups
Considering divorcing your daily yogurt and granola habit? “Axing carbs or dairy may help you cut calories, but it can also set you up for lower nutrient intake, which is increasingly hard on the body as it ages,” says Elisa Zied, MS, RDN, CDN. “If weight loss is your primary motivator for eliminating food groups, focus on reducing portions and eating nutrient-dense versions of shunned foods instead. Rather than eliminating carbs, for example, keep portions small and stick with whole grains over refined varieties.” So if you’re vying to keep parfaits on your breakfast menu during your detox, opt for using plain Greek yogurt and topping it with fresh fruit and chia seeds rather than relying on a flavored ‘gurt blended with sugary cereals.
Trying a Commercial Cleanse
You know all those fancy tea cleanses your favorite celebs endorse on social media? Chances are, they don’t live up to their lofty claims. “The body does an amazing job all on its own and does not need silly detox programs to cleanse it,” Jennifer Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND divulges. “It’s absurd; there aren’t caked-on toxins hanging around your colon that need to be removed. Want to detox? Purge your diet of [processed foods] and eat fruits and veggies, whole grains, and lean protein!”
Loading Up on Fiber
So you’ve sworn off giving laxatives a shot, but doubling up on fiber shouldn’t be your next best plan in your efforts to counter some GI traffic. “Yes, fiber is important, but don’t overdose on it,” celebrity nutritionist Lisa DeFazio, MS, RDN warns us in 37 Breakfast Habits Making You Gain Weight. “A large amount at one sitting will make you very bloated and gassy by mid-morning. [Make sure to] drink a lot of water when you eat fiber to move it through the digestive tract. Otherwise, it can get stuck!”
Going on a Grapefruit Diet
While grapefruit is a prime detox food because it improves insulin resistance and helps you drop pounds fast, according to a study in the Journal of Medicinal Food, that doesn’t mean you should revolve your diet around the citrus. Even if replacing three meals a day with the fruit results in pounds lost, it’s bound to cause subsequent hunger and a binge, and, in a worse scenario, an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead of swapping all your meals with grapefruit, opt for pregaming your breakfast with a few slices to reap its benefits. For more ways to incorporate the tart produce into your diet, check out these 50 Best Detox Waters for Fat Burning and Weight Loss.