The question: I really want to kick-start some healthy changes to my life, so I'm thinking of doing a two-week boot camp and cleanse. Are they effective, and are they safe?
The answer: It really depends on the severity of the boot camp and cleanse you choose to do. I am not a fan of quick-fix regimens; attempting to change your entire lifestyle all at once is unrealistic, not to mention unsustainable and often dangerous.
So if you are thinking of drastically limiting your calories or doing extreme workouts, then no – I am not a fan. I am particularly against any plan where you simultaneously diet and exercise to excess, as doing both at once can be particularly harmful to your health.
But I understand the desire to frame your goals as a cleanse. When I have gone on modified ones, I have enjoyed the sense of purpose, commitment and the feeling of control – however fleeting. They can be empowering and often feel like a fresh start.
The trick is to figure out what program is realistic for you. Your perfect cleanse might be to limit processed foods, while your perfect boot camp might be to simply move daily for a prescribed period. Remember: One person's interpretation of what makes for a physically demanding challenge may be someone else's regular Tuesday.
The main takeaway: If contextualizing your goals in a certain way helps you eat better and exercise more, fantastic. Just keep in mind that cleanses are not a miracle panacea for good health. The process of adopting positive lifestyle changes is hard work and requires long-term dedication.
It is a marathon, not a sprint. Aim to make gradual adjustments to your life, so that you will always have more healthy habits at the end of the month than at the beginning.
Before starting any cleanse, analyze why past diets may not have been successful for you. Maybe your expectations were unrealistic or vague? Use your reflections to create a unique program that is realistic and tailored to your current lifestyle and future goals.
For me, month-long challenges, rather than cleanses, are a better strategy. A month is not overwhelming. (Added bonus: New habits can be formed in about four weeks.) If I like the results that I am seeing, I just keep going.
Take the time to figure out what works best for you.
Kathleen Trotter has been a personal trainer and Pilates equipment specialist for 10 years. Her website is kathleentrotter.com.