Health experts typically suggest that people who want to trim down should aim for about a pound or two of weight loss per week. However, a 2007 book intended to provide fast weight loss and cleanse your body of toxins, also known as a “detox,” makes the case for shedding weight much more quickly.
Detox: About the Martha’s Vineyard Diet
In 21 Pounds in 21 Days: The Martha’s Vineyard Diet Detox, Roni DeLuz, a naturopathic doctor and registered nurse, lays out a program featuring juices, supplements, and enemas, in which the average person loses about 24 pounds in less than a month.
This detox weight-loss plan is based on a liquid diet, including fresh juices and vegetable soups. It focuses on the idea that “slimy sludge” builds up in the colon, causing up to 25 pounds of toxic material to gather in the organ in many people and requiring certain supplements, including “green drinks,” “berry drinks,” digestive enzymes, and a so-called herbal cleansing formula.
Diet Detox: Sample Menu
Don’t expect to do a lot of chewing on this detox diet, but you will be drinking fluids, and you will be “flushing.” For example, at 8 a.m., you will be doing the “Inner Cleanse Daytime Formula,” followed by some “liquid berry,” digestive enzymes, herbal tea, and an eight-ounce glass of water. At lunch, pureed veggies, and at dinner, pureed soup, along with other liquids, are on the menu. You drink various liquids throughout the day.
Diet Detox: Pros
In the short term, you’re indeed likely to see weight loss. Part of this may be because detox is often code for purging or going to the bathroom a lot, says dietitian Susan Burke March, RD, a former vice president of nutrition services at eDiets.com and author of Making Weight Control Second Nature: Living Thin Naturally.
Diet Detox: Cons
March says that losing weight this quickly is not necessarily a healthy thing to do, as it may leave you dehydrated or cause you to poorly absorb nutrients. In addition, there’s no scientific basis for the idea that you need to rid your colon of sludge, says dietitian Mary Beth Kavanagh, MS, RD, LD, a senior instructor of nutrition at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
“You’re losing weight very quickly,” says March. “All studies show that rapid weight loss is associated with rapid regain. There are some exceptions, but for the most part, healthy people want to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week.”
Also, the weight loss you see on the scale might not just be due to fluid draining from your body, given that this is a low-protein diet. “You would be losing muscle mass,” Kavanagh points out. “Without protein in the diet, there’s a real problem with regard to immune function. We know that five days of a fast without any protein is going to start to compromise your immune function.”
Diet Detox: Short-Term and Long-Term Effects
“I would not encourage people to go on this,” says clinical dietitian Susan Kasik-Miller, MS, RD, of Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, Wisc. Kasik-Miller says that she anticipates that the weight loss would vanish after people go off the detox program and go back to their previous patterns of eating and drinking.
She also says that the program stresses an unsustainable way of eating. Although the authors do touch on a long-term maintenance diet with more traditional foods, the main focus of the book doesn’t show readers how to assemble a healthy, balanced eating plan.
Diet Detox: The Authors’ Position
The authors, however, feel that in coming years, dietitians and doctors will be changing their minds about detox programs. “Diet detox has a bad reputation. We’re trying to change the definition of detox to maximal nutrition in small doses,” says Roni DeLuz, RN, ND. “The average person who does [this program] gets more nutrition in one day than the average person gets in a whole week.” In addition, due to their salty diets, typical Americans are carrying around too much water bloat, she says. “I think the hardest job for us is to educate people that detox is not fasting. I can’t fast — I need to eat,” adds DeLuz. “A lot of dietitians are old-fashioned. This is a new way. We’re going to see a lot of people’s lives changed with detox.”
Her co-author, James Hester, who went through DeLuz’s Martha’s Vineyard retreat in 2003 and now does the detox program several times a year, agrees. “I’ve gained 21 pounds in 21 days in my lifetime, and I think that’s more dangerous than losing 21 pounds in 21 days,” he laughs. “Six years later I look and feel better than I’ve ever looked in my entire life, so I can’t agree with the dietitians on this one.”