Detox. One of the buzz words of the now. Along with sustainability, eco, green, mindfulness, fair trade or carbon neutral the word has the ability to attract unsuspecting minds from all kinds of peripheries.
We are inherently attracted to the idea of ‘detoxing’ and being ‘toxin free’ despite not usually having the faintest idea of what toxins are afflicting us in the first place.
Food detoxes came first. There is a liver cleansing detox, the raw food detox diet, the rapid cleanse system, the juice fast, the brown rice diet and a myriad of other programs available.
Walk into any health food store, pharmacy or supermarket health section and you’ll see the detox packs lining the shelves, grinning out at you with their promises of cathartic purification.
Although many reputable scientists have stated there is no scientific reason concluding our body needs extra help in ridding itself of toxins, detoxes are growing in popularity.
I had a brief foray into the marketing power surrounding the ‘detox’ on a yoga retreat in Thailand where I was somehow convinced eating brown rice, miso soup, tahini and warm water with mint was the path to nirvana.
I have since reformed and maintained a healthy scepticism of any ‘detox’ knowing that our kidneys and liver, if not subjected to unreasonable levels of punishment, do a perfectly acceptable job of clearing unwanted substances from our bodies themselves.
The liver is self cleaning (unless you have liver disease) and all waste products from the kidneys are excreted in the urine or stay in the blood, they don’t accumulate in our organs like sludge as some detox kits claim.
There is scant scientific research conducted on the actual medical benefits of detoxes and knowing they are mostly an elaborate concoction of laxatives makes me eschew all detoxes in favour of a regular healthy diet, lots of sleep and some activity.
However the weak points in this sceptic’s armour were recently tested.
Andrea Balt is a writer, nutrition junkie and self proclaimed creative renaissance person with online courses and detoxes including the 30 Day Wellness Alchemist Detox, the 30 Day Write Yourself Alive and soon to be introduced Spring Equinox Detox, all based on the principles of radical self love and radical self care.
Although initially believing I was immune to the marketing power of any detox movement, something about Andrea’s wording hauled me in.
Whether it was the “rebelle” part of wellness factor, the chance to be a creative renaissance person, or simply because it purported “radical self love” rather than boring old health, I cannot tell.
It promised to be “life changing” by helping you to recalibrate the mind and body connection, to release all the blockages holding you back, to change superficial beliefs into a deep and meaningful practice, to become the ultimate artist of your life and learn to live more deeply, abundantly and shine from the inside out.
And on toxins, they also took a stance. The detox homepage states;
“From the air we breathe, to the water we drink, to the food we eat and the company we keep, we are continuously taking in toxic elements. And the more we expose ourselves, the more toxic we get. We can, however, reduce unnecessary exposure and in tandem improve our body’s efficiency and ability to heal and eliminate them.”
It was also cheap. So I paid my $20 and signed up to the 30 Day November Course. It was alluring enough to get three other friends to join me on this journey as well.
The 30 Day Wellness Alchemist Detox had three ten day stages, categorised under Awareness, Sensitivity and Honesty.
In the first ten days we were asked (invited) to be aware of our thoughts, our monkey mind and the way thoughts interact with our life.
In the second we were asked to examine how these thoughts make us feel, by sensing them deeply and allowing these feelings to wash over without judgment.
The third stage was all about brutal self-honesty, to face your untruthfulness, let go of the ‘unreal’ you and move forward into a place free from bullshit and pretence. This is the so-called path to becoming your own best friend and to radical self care and self love.
The program involved choosing three things we would give up and three things we wanted to add to our life. These could be emotional, physical, mental or metaphysical.
It also involved downloading a daily enquiry and mindfulness activity, with one word for each day. Empowering terms like “gratitude” “resourcefulness” or “compassion” were the daily mantras, while the inquiries asked us to look at our relationship with food, past traumas or patterns of behaviour.
Also included in the detox were some small handouts on nutrition (advocating lots of tea drinking and greens eating) and three yoga and meditation videos.
The detox started well. My friends and I were excited for the first few days of our foray into healthier eating and committing to our ‘three give ups’ and ‘three adds’. The idea of detoxing without having to really do anything other than think about stuff was an added bonus. We were filled with the excited anticipation of imminent change.
But by about day five the excitement had waned, the contact decreased and the realities of day-to-day life got in the way of the regular ‘daily inquiries.’ By day 20 most had dropped off completely and by day 30 we were all well onto other distractions.
Maybe it was the honesty part.
It turns out that “becoming the ultimate artist of your life” and “releasing all the blockages holding you back” is far harder than reading some downloads each day and following some yoga videos.
But I didn’t take the course to figure this out.
I took this course because the pseudo scientific beliefs it contains are inherently appealing, as undertaking cleanses to purify ourselves of toxins in a ritual humans have been partaking in for 1000’s of years.
I also took it as a few of my friends were going through hard times and I thought it would be a nice way for them to check in with themselves, reflect and for us to stay in touch more often.
Finally I took it to see if it really was possible to commit to something day in day out for 30 days. On this, for me at least it seems not yet.
Still, go forth and detox I say. Whilst physical detoxes have their risks, when it comes to online courses like the “30 Day Wellness Alchemist Detox” the only advice I would lever is “Expect nothing and be happy with anything.”
It won’t change your life; you may not be a creative alchemist, and who knows about radical self love, but at the very least you’ll be reminded of the value in reflection, in awareness, in living cleanly and simply and remember that it is up to you and you only to continue to strive towards a superior existence.
Toxins or no toxins.