You’ll often hear people talking about what a menace toxins are. They make you sick, they cause cancer, and maybe even stop you from losing weight.
Technically, a toxin is a poisonous substance produced within living cells or organisms, like snake venom. So the chemicals in plastic (like BPA) or inorganic substances like lead or mercury are actually called toxicants. Let’s not worry about the linguistic technicalities. This isn’t going to be a complicated, science-intensive blog post.
Calling something TOXIC is scary because it means that the substance can cause damage to your body. Yet practically any substance can become toxic to the human body at the right dosage. Consume too much water and you may develop hyponatremia (low blood sodium) and DIE.
Toxic substances are dose-dependent. A small amount may cause no harm at all and a large amount can kill you.
There are lots of claims out there, mostly by people peddling scam detox diets and products, that ridding your body of toxic substances (in general) can help you lose weight. While it’s certainly true that chemical exposures to substances like asbestos, mercury, or lead are harmful to your health, the question of certain chemicals promoting weight gain is a little more complicated. Some evidence does seem to show that chemical exposure to BPA (found in dental resins, food cans, and some plastics) can affect energy balance. The actual material effect of that is very minimal, perhaps an additional 1/1000 of a pound of fat on a 200 pound body. So not much really. While avoiding this type of chemical exposure is probably helpful for your health, the impact on weight loss is probably very minimal.
Well then, why do detox diets “work”? You did a juice detox for a week and you lost weight. Wasn’t it because it helped your body get rid of toxins?
Juice detox diets force you to consume a limited amount of calories over the course of several days. And getting light-headed and dizzy doesn’t mean you’re “detoxing”. It means that apart from pumping your body full of sugar throughout the day (that’s what juice is, after all!) and causing yourself drastic insulin surges and crashes, you’re starving yourself as well. Reducing your calories leads to weight loss, at least initially.
So are chemicals the cause of people’s weight gain? Highly unlikely. It might not be exciting, but it really does come down to the basics for most people. The fundamentals are what you eat and the physical activity you do.
If someone’s eating a lot of crappy food and not exercising, toxins may be impacting their health, but they’re not a big part of the fat loss issue. It’s kind of like looking for ghosts in the attic when you hear a dripping sound in your home, rather than addressing the leaky pipes in the house. Ghosts may be causing strange noises in your household, but it’s probably best to address the obvious (and less supernatural) stuff first.
The most important thing holding back fat loss is eating the wrong quantity and quality of foods. And while many people spend a lot of time looking for obscure solutions, in most cases the key to fat loss is relatively simple (although not always easy to carry out!).
Eat the right amount of food, with adequate protein, move as much as you can throughout the day, and work out with weights consistently to build muscle.
It may not be sexy, but it works. And you can stop being afraid of toxins holding you back at every turn.