How to do a negativity detox, according to a weight-loss expert

While proponents argue that detox programmes can yield rapid weight loss, experts caution that this is often due to losses in water and muscle mass rather than fat.

While proponents argue that detox programmes can yield rapid weight loss, experts caution that this is often due to losses in water and muscle mass rather than fat.

Published Jan 9, 2024


The new year is a popular time for making resolutions and evaluating goals. Coupled with the holiday season, which often includes an over-indulgence of food, drink and lazy days, it makes it the perfect time to assess what is working in your life and what isn’t.

Just like when you go on a detox diet to flush out the toxins from your body and cleanse your internal organs, it is helpful to flush out toxins from the mind and heart.

Mental and emotional toxins are not often considered but they are just as essential to prepare our bodies for the fat-burning process.

As the quest for healthy living intensifies, buzzwords such as “detox” and “cleanse” often take centre stage, with promises of purging the body of toxins and aiding in weight loss.

Amid this trend, a concept known as “negative detox” is emerging, stirring curiosity and scepticism alike.

Detoxification, in its traditional medical sense, refers to the process by which harmful substances are removed from the body. However, the term has been co-opted by the wellness industry to describe diets, fasts, and products meant to “reset” the body’s systems.

“Negative detox” isn’t a term officially recognised in scientific literature, but it typically implies a process where the detox methods themselves might induce stress or harm, counteracting potential benefits.

First, it’s important to understand that our bodies are naturally equipped with robust detoxification systems, primarily involving the liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract. These work tirelessly to filter out and eliminate toxins without the need for extreme diets or supplements. Nonetheless, the idea of assisting this natural function with external interventions persists.

Turning to scientific studies, the evidence supporting commercial detox diets for weight loss and toxin elimination is scant at best.

A review in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics in 2015 examined the literature surrounding detox diets for toxin elimination and weight management. The researchers concluded there was no compelling evidence to support the use of these diets for either purpose.

While proponents argue that detox programmes can yield rapid weight loss, experts caution that this is often due to losses in water and muscle mass rather than fat.

Such weight loss is typically unsustainable and, in some cases, it can be detrimental to one’s overall health.

Furthermore, severe caloric restriction and the use of laxatives, common in many detox plans, can lead to electrolyte imbalances and nutrient deficiencies.

Critically, negative detox can arise when the body is subjected to stress from harsh regimens that promise fast results. For example, overly restrictive detox diets may lead to fatigue, irritability, and dizziness.

In extreme cases, they can cause more severe issues, including metabolic disruptions and organ damage.

It’s not about the latest diet fad; it's the unresolved emotional stuff that’s tripping unhealthy eating habits.

However, not all detox approaches carry negative effects. Some individuals may experience positive outcomes, such as increased energy levels and improvements in digestive health when they adopt moderate changes that focus on whole, unprocessed foods and adequate hydration.

In the pursuit of weight loss, the most effective and sustainable approach remains a balanced diet combined with regular physical activity.

The American Heart Association and other health authorities recommend a lifestyle that includes a variety of nutrients, portion control, and moderation rather than short-term detox solutions.

Dr Leila Sadien, who isn’t your typical doctor, shed light on her take on weight loss. Sadien, known for combining her medical knowledge with a touch of “shamanic wisdom”, believes in a rounded approach to slimming down.

It’s not just about what you eat or how much you exercise. To her, it’s about a complete lifestyle shift that nurtures the mind, body, and emotions.

“Before you can truly start losing weight, you’ve got to detox,” Sadien recommended. She says that our bodies hold onto more than just physical waste – they store emotional baggage too. “Think of fat as a storage unit, not just for the leftovers from junk food, but also the leftovers from stress and bad vibes,” she said.

Dr Leila Sadien, a medical doctor, intuitive healer and shamanic medicine woman, says she practises holistic and multisensory medicine with the aim of teaching her clients how to access their inner power and potential.

Sadien shared: “People come to me down in the dumps, convinced they’ve failed because nothing sticks.

But they’re missing a piece of the puzzle. It’s not about the latest diet fad; it’s the unresolved emotional stuff that’s tripping them up.”

She believes that these psychological burdens often manifest in harmful habits such as “stress snacking” or turning to unhealthy substances.

From her experience running a weight-loss programme, Sadien advises a deep cleanse of one’s life to kick-start the shedding of pounds.

“You gotta get to the heart of the problem – it’s not always about calories in and calories out. Start with cleaning up your emotional house. Once you do that, your body usually follows.”

Sadien highlights the need for sustainable change rather than quick fixes.

Listen to your body

Your body is an ecosystem that is integrated into the environment around it. Skin conditions such as acne and eczema, as well as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), water retention and weight gain, can all be your body communicating that something is imbalanced and that toxins need to be unloaded.

If you’re putting on weight and can’t find the reason through conventional medical tests, there may still be an underlying subtle dysfunction not picked up by the disease screen.

Commonly, early thyroid disease, insulin resistance and IBS, for example, are missed as causes.


For those who have spent years yo-yo dieting, it’s easy to feel that their body has betrayed them. This affects the way that we feel and view ourselves and can lead to self-sabotage.

There’s a direct correlation between our relationship with our inner selves and our relationship with food and both can be improved by befriending the body.

Work on listening to and honouring your needs and begin to develop trust in yourself as a caregiver, Sadien said. As the body begins to trust you, it can let go of the trauma held in the fat, where your inner child could not trust in nurturing

Let go of or redefine toxic relationships that no longer serve you. Often you find that excess weight is directly in proportion to the toxic relationships you have with those around you.

“My weight-loss clients are often ‘people pleasers’ who do not have healthy boundaries with their friends and families. The fat then takes on the function of trying to protect and hide you. That’s why they don’t recognise themselves in the mirror any more,” said Sadien.

A negative detox will help you feel more connected to your purpose in life and your relationship with your body, she said. It’s important to be open and honest with yourself about where this negativity comes from and how you wish to deal with it.

Cape Times

Related Topics:

Health Welfare