Detoxing – Fad, Fear or Ancient Science? (part 1)

Today’s post is the first of a 2-part blog, by guest blogger and extendYoga teacher, Leslie Edsall.  In part 1: Leslie shares her thoughts about detoxing: what is means to detox, dispelling myths/rumors about detoxing, our relationship with food and how we let our fears (and excuses) get in the way of living a healthy life.  In part 2 (posted next week), Leslie will tell us about how we can reduce our toxic load– not just through our diet, but in our daly lives and begin the detox process.  Happy detoxing!

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It seems like everywhere you turn, someone talking about a cleanse or a detox program. I have no doubt you have heard about juice cleanses, raw food diets, gluten free and the new craze is the Paleo diet. But, the questions on everyone’s minds are, “why should I do it, is it sustainable and can I eat real foods?”  These important questions should be clearly answered by an expert leading a specific detox. Personally, I always aim to guide my clients in a safe, effective manner by offering detox programs that are based on real foods and education-based.  But this article is really not about what I offer, but more so about helping people to better understand the many facets of a detox.

The most interesting question that I enjoy tackling when working with clients is – what is the real issue that is holding you back from trying a detox?  You might be surprised or you might not be, depending on if you have considered a detox or perhaps you tried one for more than three days and you failed the first time around, like I did!

When the initial fear-based questions about detox safety can be answered, I find that the sticking point for people is actually their own relationship with food (or drinks), rather than the detox itself.  Please don’t think that I am perfect in this sense because I am here to tell you that I am not!  I avoided going gluten and dairy-free in nutrition school for an entire year in 2007 because I did not want to give up these foods, even though all the research showed that my skin issues, digestive issues and joint pain were related to how these foods effected my body through inflammation.

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After I finally went gluten and dairy-free, it took me another three years to try a detox to clean out the toxins because I did not want to give up wine for 30 days.  I committed myself to a 30-day detox the first time out of the gate!  As a nutrition & health coach, I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person when I try something.  If it doesn’t work for me, I’m not going to suggest it to clients or create a program that I don’t believe in 150%.  I also wanted to see if I could go to social events for 30 days and not have, “a drink in my hand” that was based on alcohol.  This was foreign territory and I was really nervous, but after my first happy hour with just soda water and lime, I knew that I could do it for a month.  It’s that first step in to the unknown, away from the habits that our society has set up as, “socially acceptable,” that are the biggest hurdles of all.

When people get anxious about social events and adapting meals for a detox, I encourage clients to be okay with, “fitting out,” not just on the detox, but in today’s society overall. Don’t be afraid to ask for considerations with foods/ drinks as you work through food and drink triggers.  Anyone who acts like a food or drink doesn’t trigger something for them, is lying.  We all have these triggers.  Even if someone’s triggers are not always inflammation-based issues, they do exist because we all have some sort of relationship with food.  Sometimes the triggers are brain-based and this is where fitting out may have previously created stress.

You can sort through what sets off habits and just know that you are not alone in these struggles.  Relationships with food are real-life struggles due to manufactured substances that cause addiction and they are not uncommon by any means.  I see it every day and the food industry is more than happy to have you addicted so that they can sell more goodies to make the population sick and health insurers can make more money off the sick, the cycle continues… but, this is another topic. Just know that big business is behind the marketing of our food supply and you don’t have to fit in to their mold. You can be okay with “fitting out,” as you consider what doesn’t serve your body and how it is different from someone else.

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In essence, our own relationship with coffee, wine, bread, cheese, chocolate, sugar and so on holds us back from being 100% healthy. In a world where we have processed foods laden with fillers and sugars, super-size options, comfort foods and desserts to ease our depression, drinks to forget our sadness, coffee or energy drinks to ignore our insomnia, is it really surprising that more people are afraid of detoxing than interested?  Not at all.  I’m always ready for more, “no’s” than, “yes’s” when I start to promote another group detox program.  And isn’t it eye-opening to see that we are not willing to commit to doing something 100% positive for our bodies?  And let’s think on that for a moment.

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In today’s society, we’re in such a rush (traffic, deadlines, obligations) and pulled in so many directions (socially, career-wise, relationships, fitting in exercise), that we don’t think we are, “strong enough” to detox, mentally and physically.  People think they can’t break away from addictions or change habitual patterns even for 3, 7, 10 or even 14 days.  What will it take to get to your own point of readiness to change?  Will it take a health scare? F or some, unfortunately it does take a health scare because again, our society and most doctors don’t worry about us unless we are already sick.  But, what happened to disease prevention?  It is now in our hands to figure this out – how can we stay healthy or bring our bodies back to health?  We are the future of health insurance and you are strong enough to do what it takes to make your way to a healthier you!

Check out next week’s post to learn more about how we can reduce our toxic load– not just through our diet, but in our daily lives and begin the detoxing process.



Leslie Edsall loves to work with people to develop healthier habits in nutrition, yoga and self care from her training at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She offers a variety of online and in-person health coaching programs, teaches yoga classes at extendYoga and leads wellness retreats. Leslie also offers private sessions via telephone, skype, or in person in Bethesda, Maryland. To learn more about Leslie: