Why Health Cleanses Aren’t So Healthy

Maybe it’s just me, but the cultural craze around “cleanses” seems a little questionable.  In the last year or so, the trend of juicing seems to have exploded, going from what was once a celebrity fad to a generally accepted food trend. This trend is hailed as the ultimate rejuvenation, and often linked with those of the yoga/vegan/raw-food crowd (read: health nuts).

You’ll be hard pressed to name a major city that doesn’t have at least a few juiceries scattered about, or a coffee shop that hasn’t at least modified its menu to accommodate the eager juice connoisseurs.

“Cleansing kits” can readily be found in the supplement section of most major grocery stores, and it seems like most everybody I know has gone on a detox or cleanse at one point or another. Between the juicing trend and a bag of kale, it seems like we are gearing ourselves towards becoming a healthier generation, yes? I beg to differ.

The key issue that I see with cleanses is that people generally adopt them to counteract other seriously unhealthy choices. How many times have you heard a friend come back from a crazy weekend of reckless imbibing and express the need to subsist off of juice for a week to avoid gaining weight? A coworker who is getting ready to go to Vegas only consumes lemon water and cayenne pepper for the week before. Your roommate only eats raw fruits and vegetables for two weeks for the sole purpose of looking good in wedding pictures.

Our generation is founded on the idea that we can “have it all.” It has implications to our health in weird ways that are often overlooked. There seems to be a strange juxtaposition in a lot of the traits we possess surrounding our health. Maybe the guy in your building who runs marathons never seems to sleep because he is up partying every night. As a young culture, we come across individuals like this and think not only that they are totally normal, but also that we need to be more like them. We want to be able to stay out every night clubbing and be able to bounce back for 6 AM yoga.

We confuse our youth and vitality for health and wellness, when in actuality, most of us are traveling down unhealthy, albeit normal, paths of binge drinking, ramen slurping and 40+ hours of desk sitting every week.  Juicing, cleansing and detoxes seem to be the answer to all of our prayers. So you drank and smoked all weekend, but a weeklong diet of eating next-to-nothing should help you bounce back?

Sure, I understand the need to clean up your diet every once in a while; I’m guilty of it myself. The issue that I have with cleanses is that we use them as an answer to our poor health choices instead of changing our behaviors to adapt to healthier lifestyle choices. We are at that awkward age where junk-food binges of high school and four consecutive days of drinking in college don’t seem that far off, but are starting to hurt more than they used to (and it’s showing). Being aware of the toxins that you put into your body is a great thing, but you shouldn't have to cleanse every other week to then rid your body of them. While you think it’s helping your health, it’s actually having the reverse affect.

That guy who runs marathons and raves every weekend? His lifestyle isn’t sustainable. Neither is partying like it’s sophomore year on the weekends or living like a yoga goddess during your nine to five.  If you want to feel a little healthier, try out healthy eating habits rather than habits of not eating at all.