It's tempting to see the new year as a fresh opportunity to make yourself into the person you want to be. Especially after the garbage fire that was 2016, you may want to wipe the slate clean with a New Year's cleanse. There's plenty of advice out there about what the best cleanse is (and there's plenty of money to be made off of people buying these products, too). It's easy to understand why. After all, who wouldn't want to start fresh on January 1? Here's the thing, though: Cleanses are bullshit. Every one of them. The truth is, detox diets are a myth, and cleanses do nothing. No matter how much lemon and cayenne water, smoothies, or apple cider vinegar you drink, you're wasting your time. Sorry, Gwyneth.
Now, before you spit-take your mug of detox tea, hear me out. For as long as human beings have been alive, we've tried myriad pseudoscientific ways of purifying the body—saunas, fasting, eating herbs, and performing ablutions. Most of these rituals are so old that they predate germ theory, which means that none of these remedies were really based in anything we could call science. They may have seemed advanced for their time, but so did bloodletting, which is not only wildly dangerous and unscientific, but also led to the death of George Washington. The point is, it's important to ground medical decisions in empirical evidence and modern medicine.
The first thing you need to know about cleanses is that your body rids itself of toxins naturally. If you feel like you're carrying around lots of toxins in your system and can't seem to shed them, you're probably imagining things. How does your body do it? Look to the liver, kidneys, and circulatory system, which all work as a human filtration system that takes care of toxins and impurities on their own. Blood carries toxins to the liver, which serves as the first filter in the circulatory system. Next, the kidneys filter your blood by way of nephrons, removing nasty bits and unnecessary compounds through your urine. Note that this process is devoid of any juices, pills, or cayenne pepper drinks. So if you're eating and drinking like a regular human being (and don't have liver or kidney disease, naturally), you're already getting rid of toxins like a pro.
It might be hard to believe that the body takes care of toxins, impurities, and other crummy bits on its own. After all, think about how easy it is to gain weight, age prematurely, and feel generally gross most of the time. Hell, the amount of effort it takes not to feel like a garbage human seems the unnatural option half of the time. But here's the thing: Our bodies were made for leaner, tougher, and scarier times than anything we typically face in the developed world on any given day. Our bodies are made for survival: Our genes have found ways to survive for millennia, which means that the body's got a pretty darn good way of regulating itself without any help from us. Try as you might, all of the homeopathic remedies and ayurvedic Pinterest recipes aren't going to match what your own body is capable of handling.
It seems easier to try to heal ourselves than it is to make better decisions about what we put into our bodies in the first place. After all, why would detox plans stress weight loss benefits if they weren't trying to prey on most people's biggest source of self-consciousness? And who wouldn't love to down some juice to undo all of the eating, drinking, and merry-making from the holiday season? Human beings are naturally reactive creatures—we want to be able to indulge, but also to undo the damage of indulgence. It's natural to want to detox after weeks of bad behavior; but just as there's no way of erasing past mistakes in your mind, there's no way of doing so in your body, either. All you can do is press forward through diet and exercise, and if you want a mental detox, take a break from the internet. That last one is good advice for just about everyone.