Is Detoxing Paleo?

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So it’s a new season and you’re realizing that you’re more than a few pounds away from wanting to put on that swimsuit or fitting into your skinny jeans. You start to think about quicker ways to shed pounds, and then the magical concept of detox comes to your attention.

What if you eat a super-strict diet and take some supplements and down some chalky-tasting fiber powder, or what if you severely restrict your calories, or what if you toss salt over your shoulder every time you eat and hop three times while visualizing smaller thighs? What if you could detox your way into the perfect body?

The Truth About Detoxing

I don’t think there’s ever been a more misconstrued idea within the world of nutrition or dieting. The cultural concept of detoxing is that if you deprive your body of calories or carbs, or if you go on some kind of harsh dietary protocol, that you will achieve faster results that will somehow stick around.

The fact is that when you majorly change your diet to achieve fast results, they’re rarely longterm and usually do more harm than good to your overall wellness. You may drop weight quickly (or you may not), but you could be negatively affecting your metabolism, digestive system, nervous system, cardiovascular system, and more by using these harsh methods to try to force your body to do something that isn’t entirely natural.

The Fact Is, You’re Already Detoxing

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Did you know that you have several organs devoted to getting rid of toxins from your body? They’re detoxing you at all times by preventing your body from carrying around a toxic load of chemicals, pollutants, and carcinogens.

Your liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, intestines, lungs, and skin all play critical roles in cleaning house throughout your body. These organs work most efficiently when you eat the necessary nutrients to support them, all of which can be found in a well-rounded, whole foods Paleo diet. It’s actually when you go on a funky kind of “detox” program that you handicap your detox organs and actually slow down the process. While it may make you lose weight, you’ll be increasing your toxic burden in your body and that has more longterm consequences than not looking great in a swimsuit or skinny jeans.

We live in a polluted world and we can’t help the fact that we breathe in all kinds of chemicals. Even the people living the cleanest lifestyles need their organs to rid the body of these airborne and food borne pollutants. So what should you do if you need to drop a quick 10 pounds? Don’t do a fancy detox program or put your body through a complicated cleanse. The answer lies in asking yourself a few key questions:

Why do you want to lose weight?

Do you actually need to lose those 10 lbs, or are you asking your body to take itself into an unhealthy weight range? Maybe you legitimately need to lose more than 10 pounds, but if you want true and lasting weight loss results, making them happen overnight isn’t the best answer.

Are you hydrated?

Even if you think you’re drinking enough water, you may still be dehydrated. I encourage people to drink half their body weight in ounces of water as a baseline, but if you still feel thirsty, if you’re sweating a lot during workouts, or if the weather is warm, adding an additional 10-20 ounces could make a big difference.

Sometimes people can’t shed extra weight because they’re actually chronically dehydrated.

At the same time that you’re adding fluids, you also need to make sure that your electrolytes are balanced. This can be done through eating a rich and varied Paleo diet, and by including sea salt on your foods. Salt isn’t bad, and it doesn’t lead to weight gain. In fact, you actually need salt to stay alive.

Are you eating enough vegetables?

Sometimes the mistake that people make when trying to cut calories and go low carb is that they avoid starchy vegetables, when the reality is that unless you’re aiming to get into a state of ketosis, you need carbs to fuel your body.

If you’re not eating enough calories, your body may believe that you’re starving and go into storage mode, preserving the glucose you’re eating in the form of fat to be burned later for fuel. By eating enough food you can tell your body that it’s okay to let go of the extra weight. How many calories you specifically need is determined by a number of factors, but almost rarely are 1,000 calorie diets a good idea.

Allowing your hunger to dictate your appetite can be a great gauge, especially if you quit sugar (even Paleo sugar). Sugar can skew your ability to have proper hunger cues, so quitting sugar can lead to improved appetite as well as reduced pounds. Sugar can promote inflammation, which can in turn lead to weight gain or inability to lose weight. Quitting sugar has zero negative consequences and tons of great ones!

Are you moving your body?

Exercise isn’t the only key to losing weight, but it can certainly have benefits well beyond getting ripped muscles. Exercise improves digestion, which allows your body to better utilize nutrients, and which improves the function of all your other body systems.

So if you aren’t motivated to exercise because you want a six pack, find some method of movement that is enjoyable as well as motivating because you know you’re helping your organs, including the ones that rid your body of toxins, work better and more efficiently.

Bottom Line

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So the short answer—when you’re struggling because you want to fit into skinny jeans or you want to look better in your swimsuit—is that there is no shortcut. Not if you want to achieve lifelong and lasting results.

Juice cleanses, starvation diets, and eating fake foods are not the answer. However, by living a healthy Paleo lifestyle, and eating healthy, detoxifying foods, you’re actually doing the only detox you’ll ever need. That may not give you instant gratification, but with health, as with many things in life, it’s far better to take the long view instead of short-term results.

So is detoxing Paleo? The fact is, eating Paleo naturally detoxifies your body. By eating real food, you’re supporting your body’s natural detox outlets and that’s the healthiest cleanse of all.

To take your Paleo detox to the next level, quit sugar and focus on gut-healing foods like bone broth, collagen peptides, and cruciferous vegetables.

Aimee McNew

Aimee McNew, MNT, CNTP, is a certified nutritionist who specializes in women’s health, thyroid disorders, autoimmunity, and fertility. She is the author of The Everything Guide to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: A Healing Plan for Managing Symptoms Naturally (Simon & Schuster, 2016) and the editor-in-chief of PaleoPlan. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.