When faced with the challenge of losing weight, don’t ask which diet works. Lots of things will make you lose weight. Unless you’re preparing for a film role, I’d guess that you don’t just want to lose weight for the next little while. You want to keep weight off for good. Losing a few pounds or a few stone is only really a success if you keep it off long term. So with that in mind, I’d like to name my number one contender for weight loss failure: Juicing.
Whether it’s juicing guided by a book, some commercial form of juice cleanse or seemingly high-nutrient meal replacement plan, I can predict your future. If you stick with it beyond the initial excruciating periods of food-less hell, you will lose weight. If you can resist your body’s urge to eat and feed its cells, you will be thinner. And after the juice cleanse is done, you’ll start the post-cleanse pile-on. You’ll gain weight. You’ll be likely to regain all you lost, plus some. Your body will prefer to store the new weight as fat. You’ll be overcome with cravings. And worst of all, you’ll feel like a total failure.
You won’t find these predictions as a health warning with your juice cleanse. What you will read about with juicing are the inches and pounds lost after a short period of time and improvements in energy, skin tone and digestive problems. Yet other experts warn of the dangers of low fibre intake when juicing (http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/juicing-health-risks-and-benefits), problematic blood sugar levels when we survive on juice alone and how any positive changes are temporary (http://www.grassfedgirl.com/fat-sick-and-nearly-starving-9-problems-with-juicing/). It is thought that much of weight loss and improvements in energy are related to coming off food products that contain common allergens, such as wheat and dairy, or toxins in the preservatives found in our food. But the symptoms of sensitivity – bloating, low energy, bad skin, inflammation- return along with the weight after the initial purge and cleanse from toxins and allergans.
But those in desperation counting the mere weeks before that Christmas party or holiday might be tempted to consider this quick fix. Is a quick fix better than no fix at all? My thinking is, no. In fact, psychologically speaking, I’d suggest that the mindset encouraged by a juice cleanse does more damage to an already fragile and tenuous relationship with food and so is not a fix at all – just another factor to ultimately keep the weight problem going.
This is my question to those contemplating the juice cleanse- If you woke up tomorrow in your perfect body, what would you do differently? Would you treat it differently? Feed it differently? Be more social? Be more active?
This exercise in imagination illustrates that weight loss is about adjusting lifestyle. Lifestyle is more than what you eat, it’s a collection of behaviours and attitudes that define you. The task of someone committed to changing their weight forever is to change their attitudes, behaviours and approaches to food. And to do this with the idea that these changes need sustain you through a lifetime.
Juicing simply takes away the need to think about what you need to eat, how to cook it, how to incorporate a healthy lifestyle into your family and social life. It robs you of the opportunity to learn the skills required to maintain a healthy body for life – like cooking, smarter food shopping, how to say no and nutrition awareness. It leaves you unaware of the hidden beliefs about food you hold and how they keep unhealthy habits alive – like ‘I have to eat takeaway/cake at so-and-so’s birthday/the whole pack once it’s open’ or ‘I eat the same as others/less than others’ or ‘Healthy food is too expensive’. These are all the essential tasks of someone committed to losing weight permanently.
For better or worse, juicing is out there. Try it if you must. But be aware that other than being a short term, it reinforces the unhelpful attitudes about eating that will keep you fat for life. Be warned.