The scoop on detox, cleanses & “eating clean”
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calgary_HeraldAt this time of year you may be thinking about spring-cleaning not only your home but also spring-cleaning your body or the food you eat. Cleansing and detoxing is an old trend that has resurfaced as the miracle cure-all by so called “health experts” and celebrities. Proponents of these regimes, as well as “eating clean,” claim they improve energy, boost health and can help shed unwanted pounds. But are these plans beneficial and even needed?

What is a detox or cleanse?

Andrea HolwegnerDetoxes and cleanses are defined differently depending on the person. It could involve fasting or solely drinking a mixture of lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water for days. Other cleanses have you relying on an exclusive diet of fresh pressed fruit and veggie juices or following a set list of whole foods and taking a range of expensive supplements (many of them laxatives). There are also extreme and dangerous detox plans that involve colon irrigation or coffee enemas.

Should I follow a detox or cleanse?

Since many detox and cleanses encourage plenty of fruits and veggies and limit caffeine, alcohol and sweets they can serve to kick-start some healthy habits. But don’t be fooled, a short term detox or cleanse will never make up for a horrible diet. It is far more effective to make small healthy changes you can sustain for the long-term.

The human body is equipped with a highly sophisticated detoxification system that has been scientifically shown to be effective. Your body extracts nutrients from food and then waste products in our blood are removed by our liver and sent to our kidneys for excretion as urine.

Rather than improving energy, many cleansing plans that are low in calories can cause fatigue and dizziness. Ironically cleanses may actually increase toxins into the body if you are following a severe calorie restriction or fasting for days as a result of soaring stress hormones.

Our large intestine does not need to be cleansed internally especially since you don’t want to disrupt the important job it has for water and mineral absorption. Colonic irrigation should be avoided as they can cause serious damage to the intestines and negatively affect the balance of friendly bacteria (probiotics) that live in the gut.

Can a detox or cleanse help with weight loss?

Claims that a detox or cleanse can cause weight loss by removing toxins to allow the body to function better and let go of weight is simply not true.

Any nutrition change that results in a caloric deficit can result in weight loss. If your eating plan has removed a significant amount of gluten, sugar, grains or other carbohydrates you can expect to lose some temporary water weight since carbohydrates store plenty of water on the body.

Also note that simply having more bowel movements and taking laxatives does not help with long-term weight loss since most of our food is absorbed long before it reaches the colon.

The problem with “eating clean”

The idea of “eating clean” can mean different things to different people, but in general, eating clean is associated with eating so-called good (natural foods) and avoiding so-called bad (processed foods).

fruit and nut power bar recipeAs a Registered Dietitian and passionate foodie, I dislike the word “clean eating” and the dieting all-or-none mentality that goes along with it. Simply put, all foods can fit including greasy cheeseburgers, chocolate cheesecake and other delicious treats. Rather than thinking about clean eating which implies you are either eating good or bad, instead choose to acknowledge there are no bad foods, only bad entire diets. Just because you choose to eat a white grain instead of a whole grain or enjoy something sweet or salty doesn’t mean all is lost. Replace eating clean with simply just eating better. Eating better allows you to sustain changes for good since you take small nibbles at your goals that are relevant from wherever you are starting at. For some just starting out this might mean eating fast food one less time this week, for other nutrition geeks this might mean baking your own homemade energy bars with oats, flax and chia seeds.

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"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

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I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
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