Have you ever considered if your health or ‘detox’ program could be making you sick?
I knew it would be a fine line to walk by toying with a well-known detox program, a program including supplements and whey protein shakes for breakfast and lunch, along with a modified food diet and weekly cleanse.
I told myself I was doing it purely for ‘the energy’. For years I’d suffered from fatigue. It was the last health issue no one seemed to be able to help me with. After many tests, eating plans, and suggestions, I was desperate for a solution. And so I was suckered in to what I now see was a pseudo ‘cult‘. A group of vibrant, energetic go-getters who were so lovely albeit convincing. So beautiful and successful. Oh, and really, really healthy.
This is how dangerous [some] health coaches are.
For those susceptible, vulnerable, looking for *something* they seem to have the answers you are looking for. They also look vibrant and beautiful. They seem to have it all. They initially make you feel wanted and part of something beautiful. They also make you feel like they are the answer to your prayers. Your unresolved health issue. Your financial and relationship problems.
As I embarked on the so-called ‘health’ program I believed I was doing so wisely. Having researched any ramifications on my anti-depressant medication and overall well-being, I refused to do the 1-2 day ‘cleanses’ and made sure I ate more than the health program instructions stated. I also investigated the ingredients in the supplements and shakes, as well as the validity of the entire organisation. With a few references to a ‘cult’ in Google search, I felt as though I was entering the trial period with my wits about me. I also made sure that I stuck to my guns -my saving grace – and refused to refer the program to anyone until I had experienced it for myself.
I saw immediate results, including weight loss, and in my mind believed I had more energy and looked AND felt better. But it also messed with my brain chemistry, hormones and self esteem, and after a couple of weeks my old habits of self loathing and ‘fat talk’ came back with a vengeance.
Look at my thighs. They wobble. There’s stretch marks and cellulite. They’re fat. They are getting bigger by the day.
And then there’s my calves. They are puffy, wobbly, fat.
And the ankles – or rather cankles… they are swollen…
And my butt. Well I swear last week it was a size 8 and now its a 20, it’s that big. And its flabby. It jiggles when I wiggle…way too much. Butts are apparently in, but not my butt. That is the exception, because its me.
My fat talk and body shaming became increasingly cruel, negative, and vicious. As the body bashing increased in intensity I began focussing on everyone around me who was skinnier and ‘happier’ – especially ‘realistic’ [note the sarcasm] role models within my peripheral vision including those in music video clips, the Victoria Secret annual specials, and glamour magazines. I destroyed myself with thoughts of a flat midriff, thin thighs and a great set of lean pins
The pressure to look good, to have a flatter stomach, to have less flesh on my muffin top to pinch, to be less bloated… the thing messed with my concept of body image. There was also the pressure to become a joiner. To take part in conferences and to act and be energetic. For the thing to change my life and become a money spinner.
Who was I kidding.
I was doing the detox program to lose weight. To be a smaller size. To look ‘good’ on the outside. And to belong to something. I swear it was like being at high school all over again. And the thing was, I didn’t fit in. They weren’t my kind of people. I didn’t belong with them.
It took a matter of weeks to unravel years of counselling, self-reflection, persistence and work on myself. It took only a matter of weeks to disrupt my hormones, brain chemistry, and anti-depressant medication. In a matter of weeks my self-esteem also plummeted.
Hungry, tired and grumpy (okay – I was hangry), I found myself rugged up under blankets in the middle of the day in the midst of summer shivering.
Fatigue and nausea hit me in increasing waves. Feelings of discomfort followed as I struggled with my introvert nature and the feelings of failure because I felt as if I was letting people down, that I was letting myself down because everyone else was a success and I wasn’t.
As I grew increasingly sick, my partner questioned what the detox programs was doing to me. To be completely honest with you though, I’d kept the detox program secret from him in the first place knowing how he would react;
1) that it was a cult,
2) that it would drag me down, and
3) that it would mess with my body image and eating habits.
The last straw
The last straw came in the form of a simple blood test showing incredibly high iron levels. Markers of inflammation. Recurring daytime chills. A fuzzy brain. Signs there was something sinister going on within my body. I was also faced with denial from those running the program that any of my issues were related to said program.
I was on the detox diet for two months and let’s be honest – it was killing me. That might sound a bit harsh but after only a few days of normal living – minus the program – I was feeling like my old self again. And after a few weeks? Follow up blood tests were normal. Chills had stopped. Brain was clearer. Iron levels were normal. I was so angry at myself. As it turns out, I was allergic to why protein. A lot of people are.
I’m angry at how gullible I was.
I’m also angry that there are people out there who label themselves as ‘health coaches’ who continually draw people like myself in, milk them for their money, and then leave them high and dry – and sick – before moving on to bigger and better things.
I’m further incensed to have seen others with known mental health issues walk the same path only to turn aggressively on those who have supported them in the past simply because they refused to buy any of the products.
In the end I peg this down to another hard learned life lesson.
It taught me that detox programs don’t work AND that cleanses are bullshit. It also validated my opinion that diets are a load of bollocks, that calorie counting is pointless, and that most supplements are worthless.
More importantly I was reminded that body image, mental health, and wellness are fragile things and that eating real food is the best thing.
And so I leave you with my tips for maintaining / improving your mental and physical health:
- Do comprehensive research, both on and offline, before you embark on any health or detox program/diet, including any ingredients, negative reviews and side effects. Check out this article on the potential dangers of juice cleanses and liquid diets
- There is growing evidence that detoxes, cleanses and diets DON’T work! Consider the evidence closely
- Don’t believe someone just because they say something is good for you. Keep questioning them. Challenge them. Ask for validated statistics and research. If they are legit, they will respect you and deliver
- Ask your health coach, dietician, trainer, etc. what their qualifications are. Truth is, many have no qualifications whatsoever! Scary shit!
- Ask around for opinions and other people’s experience. Try to remain impartial, as you will talk to people who have experienced amazing results and it can be so easy to be swept away by their elation!
- Consult with your GP, especially about the potential impact it will have on your existing medication
- If you embark on a diet program, do so for a trial period AND keep a journal, monitoring how you are going (honestly). Whoever is offering it should respect you enough to allow this, rather than asking you to sign your life away for a period of months
- If it doesn’t work for you and if you are suffering from side effect, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It doesn’t mean you are imagining it. It just means that it is not right for YOU. After all, every body, every mind, is unique!
- Stay focussed and look after yourself holistically. That means looking after your physical AND mental health! Here’s some tips for practicing self-care
- Being ‘thin’, being ‘beautiful’, being ‘successful’ is not all that. Anyway, it’s all how you define beauty and success. Whose definition are you living by?
- Take a look within – why are you thinking about signing up to a detox program or starting a diet? Have you ever considered the thought that YOU don’t need to change?
- Anything that involves a financial outlay or commitment – you need to question it!
- If in doubt, DON’T DO IT!
It’s all how you define beauty and success. I mean, whose definition are you living by, anyway?
Additional articles on body image & health
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