By: Alison Dunn Nov 30, 2010
Dangerous diets

She almost seduced me with her rock-hard abs. She looked so fit, so muscular and so gosh-darn thin, she almost had me convinced… to buy her detox and cleansing kit.

Oh, you know the kind I mean… the kits you see at the drugstore or discount department stores. The kits you see with that perfect, athletic woman posing on the box, promising that you will lose 20 pounds in a week and look just like her if you buy the kit. Admit it – you’ve been tempted by those fantastic promises.

It’s not just those beguiling women who tempt us, either. There’s also that diet book that swears if you cut out a certain food (carbs, dairy, meat, fat, or whatever the fad of the day), you’ll lose weight and improve your health. Or the magazine article with the great diet and fitness plan promising to blast-off the last 10 or 20 pounds, seemingly in a matter of minutes.

But as tempted as I have been by these quick-fix promises, something has always stopped me. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of detoxing and cleansing, but at the same time, I can’t help but think: Are they really safe?

Recently, I had a chance to talk to holistic nutritionist Laurie Burrows about cleanses for our article, “Cleaning up.” Laurie opened my eyes to the dangers of these types of one-size-fits-all cleanses. For one thing, many of the drugstore cleanses don’t come with any type of dietary guidelines.

“There are some cleanses out there where you just buy the supplement and they don’t tell you to cut down on your coffee or alcohol intake, or to stop eating fatty processed foods,” she says. “Some people continue to eat those things and think they’re cleansing, but they’re not.”

Not only that, but those supplements can even be dangerous. Some can actually add toxins back into the body, doing you far more harm than good. They may also interact with medications you are taking, which is why it is so important to check with a health professional before taking any kind of supplement.

Finally, Laurie reminded me that each of us is different, from our body chemistry to our health. She’s right to suggest we exercise caution when thinking of doing a cleanse. There are some health and medical reasons to do a cleanse – like trying to remove toxins from the body, or cutting out foods to detect a food allergy. But if you’re going to do a cleanse for those reasons, you should be under the guidance of a qualified health professional. As for quick weight-loss? There is simply no healthy way to do that.

A couple of days after I talked to Laurie, I was surfing the net and came across an article (on a well-known women’s magazine website, no less) all about another fantastic cleanse that was guaranteed to help me shed 10 pounds in 10 days.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted… but then I remembered Laurie’s warnings. These quick fix cleanses are not good for me and not sustainable. Consider me warned.

A journalist with more than 10 years experience, Alison’s work has appeared in a number of top Canadian publications, including glow, Oxygen, Canadian Running and more. She is the former editor of a number of well-respected Canadian and American trade journals and recipient of a Kenneth R. Wilson Gold Award of Excellence in feature article writing. She is a part-time faculty member at Sheridan College’s journalism department, as well as an avid runner and fitness enthusiast.