Why I Don't Believe In January Detoxes

Why I Don't Believe In January Detoxes

Known as the bleakest month of the year, January is characterised as the ultimate come-down from the excitement and indulgence of the festive period. Our everyday lives must be resumed, the Christmas decorations must be returned to the attic, and there is an absence of the general cheer which we have become accustomed to over December. Most disappointing, however, is the sudden lack of wholesome and hearty food associated with Christmas, replaced instead by incessant claims from all outlets that January should mark the beginning of our new year ‘diets’ and ‘detoxes’.

Almost immediately after the clock strikes midnight on December 31st, we are saturated with the idea that we can no longer eat the foods that we have been enjoying. We must now ‘detox’ in the name of our health! But is a ‘detox’ really as healthy as we are forced to believe? The word itself implies that the food we have been eating up to this point is somewhat poisonous and toxic. It implies that such food does not belong in our stomachs, and immediately encourages us to view food as something to be feared rather than something which is required to fuel and nourish our bodies. We are led into a trap which tricks us into believing that we must compensate or ‘make up’ for what we have eaten. We are led to believe that a ‘detox’ is the only feasible way we can return to full health. But this is not true. Believing that we must earn the luxury of eating simply triggers extremely unhealthy relationships with food, and the seemingly harmless ‘detox’ becomes a never-ending cycle of guilt and shame.

Don’t get me wrong, if your goal is to shift some weight in the new year then go nuts! There are hundreds of ways to lose weight gradually and healthily without developing detrimental preoccupations with food. ‘Detoxes’ however are often associated with ‘quick fixes’, which pose a risk. Juice diets and fasting diets which are hailed as being able to dissolve fat and weight faster than you can say ‘I’m depriving myself!’ have no place in any type of healthy lifestyle. Sure, perhaps a few pounds will be shifted in just a few days but at what cost? You are likely to be depriving your body of the essential nutrients and vitamins that it needs to function. More worrying however, is the mental impact of even feeling like it is necessary to put yourself through one of these diets in the first place.

The words ‘diet’ and ‘detox’ are so freely and regularly used in our culture that we generally neglect to think about the messages we are actually sending when we use them. Most of the time ‘I’m doing a detox’ or ‘I’m on a diet’ translates to ‘I am restricting the foods I can put into my body’. While such throwaway statements may be harmless on the surface, the messages they send can be toxic to our mental health. Perhaps it’s time we instead focussed on providing our bodies with what they need to continue functioning, rather than what they need to avoid in the name of weight loss and compensation.


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