A warning to anyone thinking of signing up for a late-summer detox programme to cleanse your body of those holiday excesses, bring a fresh glow to your complexion and kickstart those energy levels: You’re going to find yourself behind a queue of men.
Image and health-conscious men are turning to detox diets in ever-growing numbers leading experts to coin the term the ‘mantox’.
And while some might have had a gentle push in the direction by the women in their lives keen to see an image overhaul, most men are actively seeking treatment themselves.
‘I was incredibly dubious about the thoughts of a mantox,’ says James Donald, a lawyer in Dubai who sought a programme at the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery Hospital (AACSH).
‘I considered myself to be healthy and I train three times a week. I didn’t see what benefit it would offer me.
‘My wife nagged me to go as she had had a positive experience herself and eventually my arm was twister to at least “attend”.
‘After meeting with the team and learning more about the key elements of real healthy living, I discovered there were loads of small changes I could make which would significantly alter my general health and help me to lose some weight in the process.’
James, 32, signed up to the nutrition counselling programme and started following a healthy-eating regime designed by nutritionist and wellness therapist Kay Bodanza.
The clinic says it’s seen an increase in the number of men signing up for its programmes.
The top three treatments were colonic hydrotherapy (up 21 per cent), the 14-day detox programmes (up 12 per cent) and nutrition counselling services, which were up 11 per cent year on year.
Dr Jenna Burton, a GP and aesthetic physician, warns that the clinic focuses on lifestyle changes for improved long-term health rather than offering ‘quick fixes’ to patients.
‘If someone came to me looking for a ‘detox’ I would usually inform them that this is not a “quick fix” but a lifestyle change that we were about to embark on. It is important that they realise that we cannot change them 360 degrees within a 24-hour period and expect these results to last,’ she says.
But she was delighted at the clinic’s latest patient demographics reflecting cosmopolitan trends. An ‘average’ male patient is 36.5 years old, full-time resident in UAE and educated and employed.
Dr Jenna adds: ‘Men in the UAE are evidently taking an increasingly proactive approach towards improving their health, which can only be seen as a positive development, and we look forward to helping more and more men and women improving their health through our variety of holistic therapies.
‘The term “you are, what you eat” becomes more apparent once a patient begins to detox and break down what they consume.
‘Here in the UAE, many fast foods, readily available and the majority with delivery, results in temptation for the vast population to consume fatty additives and preservatives.
‘The general public, including men, are becoming more educated and aware of the importance of healthy eating when combined with other “cleansing” holistic treatments such as colonic hydrotherapy and professional dietician counselling.
‘We’ve noticed a general shift in increased patient knowledge on well-being.’
Dr Burton said ‘the initial stimulus’ to attend often comes from a woman but men have to be motivated to follow the programmes and many realise that their career choice is partly to blame for their unhealthy lifestyle, particularly if they lead a sedentary life sat in front of a screen for hours on end, day after day.
‘Yet improving lifestyle can support career progression,’ she notes. ‘Eating well and exercising gives you more energy and confidence.
‘There have been many studies demonstrating the positive mental effect exercise has on both sexes. Initially it can be difficult to insert into a regular hectic work and family routine, but it is possible.
Australian naturopath Kate Troup adds: ‘A detox diet can relieve a host of health problems, from weight gain, abdominal bloating and indigestion, to headaches, poor skin, loss of energy and the feeling of not quite “being right”.
Thomas Zacharia, a 29-year-old IT manager, lost more than 3kg when he was given a ten-day personal diet plan by the clinic.
At 170cm tall and weighing in at 82kg, he sought a detox programme that would re-energise him as a lifestyle sitting in front of a computer had left him feeling ‘tired all the time’, gaining weight and battling to find time to exercise.
‘Before, I was not really concerned about healthy eating,’ he admits. He regularly ate out in restaurants, relied on meat and rice to fill him up and found himself reaching for fast food too frequently.
His new regime sees him preparing fruit and cucumber for breakfast, reducing the rice and eating lots of salad and vegetables.
‘I feel much healthier than before,’ said Thomas, who now weighs 75kg. ‘It’s a change for a new lifestyle – we have to change our minds not just our food. Detox brings a mental and physical change.’
A friend recommended the clinic to Thomas when he complained about his persistent tiredness.
‘I was personally motivated to go because I thought it wouldn’t be nice to look unhealthy and very aged. So I hope in that respect it’s good for my career.’
Fundamentally the plans are the same for men and women in their structure, explained Dr Burton. ‘But men and women have very different considerations and we must remember to consider these thoroughly. What is right for a woman is not always right for a man and vice versa.’
‘I still wouldn’t say I was unhealthy before – but I certainly did not feel as energetic or good in my skin as I do now,’ says James.
‘Usually I associate detoxing as being a quick fix that women try and sign themselves up to then forget about the following week.
‘After starting the programme, I realize this is not the right way to look at it. It is learning to detox your lifestyle, saving room for fun and cheats along the way. Otherwise mentally, I do not think I could handle it.
‘It takes some motivation to want to change but it is well worth it. I feel better than ever. I may not tell my wife that she was right… but I guess she was!’
So what does a detox – whether male or female – involve?
Well, it’s not all about juicing. A typical 14-day detox diet would include cutting out all dairy products, wheat and gluten, and ready meals; eating regularly every three hours – a maximum two-fist sizes portion per meal; with a recommendation to chew your food well and eat slowly.
Patients are advised to get plenty of sleep – going to be no later than 10pm – and waking up to a cup of hot water with freshly squeezed lemon juice, which helps expel gas from the intestines, purify the blood, alkalise the body and boost liver detoxification.
The diet recommends eating at least five different types of grilled or steamed vegetables every day from a lengthy list including broccoli, zucchini/courgettes, green beans, mangetout, asparagus, artichoke, green or red cabbage, bok choy, peas, spinach, aubergine, Brussels sprouts, carrots, sweet potato, parsnips, butternut squash, pumpkin, baby corn/sweet corn, capsicum, celery, leeks, fennel, mushrooms, onions, radishes, tomatoes, avocado, cucumber and lettuce.
Drink a glass of water every hour, but not with meals, and take light exercise for about 30 minutes a day with yoga and Tai Chi suggested.
Relaxing complementary therapies including massages, facials, reflexology and acupuncture are also recommended as aids to detoxing the body (and mind).
Negative side effects at the start of the detox programme can include sugar cravings, feeling more tired than usual and an increased need to sleep, mild diarrhoea or constipation.