I’m no stranger to a ranty post or two about detoxes, but recently, I’ve found myself frequently biting my tongue as the whole of Twitter seems to be on a detox or special diet of some description. I’m not knocking those who follow them and find they work; different strokes for different folks, and all that.
What I cannot fathom is the 30 day detoxes, particularly the Whole30 detox. For those unfamiliar, the rules (and make no mistake, it is a long and prescriptive list) can be found here. In principle, what the writers of this cult-like diet are saying seems sound; cut out the crap from your diet, and focus more on natural, unprocessed foods, and you’ll reap the rewards.
What seems odd to me, like with the paleo cult, is the choices of foods that are strictly off limits. I understand why processed ‘white’ carbs are foregone, but to ban a white potato yet allow a sweet potato? Seems a little odd to me. Surely both are ‘natural’ sources of carbohydrates, and I kinda believe a calorie of starch is the same regardless of what kind of potato it comes from. No legumes- oh, unless they’re green beans, sugar snap peas or snow peas, because, I shit you not, the rules say these are ‘more “pod” than “bean”‘. Glad they’ve cleared up that nonsensical segregation of legumes then. I could go on with the list, but I won’t.
I’ve read with interest blogs from people following the Whole30 plan, and hats off to them- because I don’t think I could be arsed to completely overhaul my diet, make life inconvenient and expensive for myself, and go through feeling like shit whilst my body gets used to such a weirdly spartan way of eating. Then- and this is the good bit- after for 30 days teaching your body not to tolerate things like sugar, which are kinda necessary if you’re going to use sports nutrition as a runner, you reintroduce the foods you cut out, only to find you can’t stomach them and things like gels and sports drinks are now a problem for you. Great!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not in any way against cleaning up our diets, and god knows I could do to after the biscuit, cake and crisp-laden rampage that is revision season. But I kinda think there are easier, more sustainable ways to go about it; that it doesn’t have to be so all-or-nothing. Following the 80/20 rule (eating well 80% of the time and not worrying so much about the other 20%). Slowly replacing some of the cakes, biscuits and crisps with fruit and vegetables. Making sure each meal I eat has some protein and some vegetables on the plate as well as *whispers* carbs. Sometimes even potatoes. Reaching for water more often than reaching for tea or coffee. Swapping a couple of dinners a week to being veggie or based on fish, rather than meat. Thinking whether I genuinely want that slice of cake or if I’m just mindlessly eating it because it’s there and I’m bored.
To me, diet and health don’t have to be so black and white. Most of us that write running blogs are not elite athletes, and are unlikely to ever be, so why not cut ourselves some slack? Eating healthily and treating your body well is one thing, but taking most of the joy out of eating by going on a detox seems like a step too far. Even Chrissie Wellington (uber hero of mine) acknowledges in her book A Life Without Limits (a top read!) that diet isn’t everything. A former eating disorder sufferer, she has since completed 13 Ironman triathlons, remaining unbeaten over the distance, including winning the World Championships 4 times, and holds several of the fastest times ever recorded by a woman over the distance.
‘I don’t deprive myself of any foods. Nothing is ‘naughty’- it is just eaten in moderation. A few pieces of chocolate a day definitely doesn’t do me any harm, and as for pizza- well, I can always squeeze one of those in.’
If Chrissie doesn’t beat herself up over eating pizza and chocolate- and here is the key- in moderation, then neither should we. So let’s regain some perspective, think for ourselves and get back to making healthier choices as routine, not because the writer of some diet tells us to.
This is an opinion piece, and as ever, I welcome comments and opinions from others about it!