If you've ever shared a meal with a detox dieter who regales you with the intricacies of her digestive tract or, on the flip side, ever had a friend wave a French fry in your face while you're on a juice fast, you'll agree that a code of etiquette is in order this time of year.
The detox trend has hit the mainstream, with newly svelte singer Beyoncé Knowles pushing the Master Cleanse, which consists of only drinking water spiked with lemon, cayenne and maple syrup, and a new wave of detox diet books hitting store shelves.
In short, the next four weeks could be a socially touchy time.
It doesn't help that detoxers often find themselves feeling irritable.
"It's a total minefield," Toronto dietitian Erin Colburn says. "You're going to be on edge if you're going without whatever your vice might be. You're bound not to be a happy camper." And who wants to hang out with a grump?
So in the interest of friendships everywhere, we present our detox do's and don'ts, for dieters and the people who love them (or at least have to hang around them).
Don't complain. "People whine and complain about detoxing," Colburn says. "They're often starving. And when you're really hungry you're totally preoccupied with the fact that you're hungry. It's top of mind. . . . I find they can't help but be obsessed with it."
Don't be evangelical. "It's hard when you're feeling terrific," says Ann Louise Gittleman, author of the new book Fast Track Detox Diet (Morgan Road Books). "Many people feel this mental clarity -- they can't help but spread the word. But you shouldn't proselytize. You be the example. If people are interested, they will ask you."
Don't call attention to yourself. "You have to think about why you're doing a detox," Colburn says. "Are you trying to call attention to yourself as a martyr? Act like women who are trying to hide their pregnancy: They just don't drink. People don't check the alcohol in their cup. They're stealth about it."
Don't talk about your bowel movements. It seems obvious, but it bears repeating. "If you want to mingle with your friends while you're [detoxing] you keep it out of the conversation," Colburn says. Gittleman suggests keeping a journal to mitigate the urge to blather.
Do hang out with other detoxers. "People who aren't sensitive to the detox message will tend to pooh-pooh what you're doing and make you feel uncomfortable," Gittleman says. "So find the proper support -- friends, family or online."
A spa retreat is an obvious answer. "I just left the dining room and there were six women talking about their colonics," says Madeleine Marentette, founder of Grail Springs Health and Wellness Centre, near Bancroft, Ont. "They're talking about bowel movements, yeast infections, bad breath, body odour. It's a hot topic of discussion."
Do respect other diets. Just because your friend is allowed chicken while you're choking down only tofu, do not suggest that your detox is superior. "There are many different roads that lead to Rome," Gittleman says. "What may work for one may not work for another."
Do be nice. Don't roll your eyes and talk about the futility of detoxing. Your friend is weak and delirious due to eating only veggies and rice, so a monster debate wouldn't be fair. Talk about politics. Religion. Anything to move the conversation away from what people are or are not ingesting.
Don't say, "Oh, c'mon, just this once." People detox because living a normal, balanced life is hard. Don't throw them off by being an enabler. "I don't believe in egging anyone on. . . . You have to respect people's choices. Unless they ask for an opinion," Colburn says.
Do meet your detoxing friends on their level. They might want to chat over shots of wheat grass. Or go for a walk. Now is the time to try that new raw-food restaurant.
Do say something if you're worried about their health. Colburn will express concern to friends doing extreme detoxes such as the Master Cleanse. But even then, she'll be gentle. "I'd say, 'I'm not sure how supportive I am about going without food. Don't be so hard on yourself. If you're starving, eat something. Vegetables.' People feel like they fail if they can't do it. I'd offer a compromise."