The thought of going on a seven-day detox diet can be incredibly daunting. With so many different diets touted online and in books, it’s tough to tell which approach is right for you. And as do-it-yourself detox becomes more and more trendy, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the purpose of cleansing: focusing on whole, unprocessed foods that nurture your body and lighten your toxic load. A seven-day detox diet can be helpful if you use it as a way to begin a healthy way forward when it comes to your eating. But embarking on one every now and again to "right" eating and drinking "wrongs" is not a healthy approach.
Eat all the foods you enjoy—but the key is to do it in smaller quantities, says Elisa Zied, RDN, who has lost and kept off more than 30 pounds since her highest weight in high school. In fact, she says it's the number one change she made that's helped her maintain her smaller frame. "I didn't want to feel deprived as I had in previous attempts to lose weight," she says. The worst thing you can do is be too strict, then rebound by overeating because you're not satisfied.
Avoid alcoholic drinks (such as wine, beer, and spirits) during the cleanse. Alcohol is metabolized in the body mainly by the liver. It is broken down briefly to acetaldehyde, a chemical that has the potential to damage liver cells and body tissues, before it is further broken down and eliminated from the body. Besides lightening the load on your liver, avoiding alcohol (and caffeine) for the week can help to shift habits you've cultivated.
What is moderation? In essence, it means eating only as much food as your body needs. You should feel satisfied at the end of a meal, but not stuffed. For many of us, moderation means eating less than we do now. But it doesn’t mean eliminating the foods you love. Eating bacon for breakfast once a week, for example, could be considered moderation if you follow it with a healthy lunch and dinner—but not if you follow it with a box of donuts and a sausage pizza.
Fasting indeed has a long-standing spiritual tradition. "Almost every religion has some type of fasting ritual -- Lent, Ramadan, Yom Kippur ... the Hindus and Buddhists fast, too," says James Dillard, MD, assistant clinical professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. He's author of Alternative Medicinefor Dummies.