Jane Wolfe looks at the consequences of lockdown on the UK’s diet and the gentle solutions health stores can offer to provide a much-needed cleanse to consumers’ bodies and minds, often with the added bonus of shifting a few kilos too 

COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives, and the nation’s waistlines are suffering, as anxiety about social distancing, more time at home, stress and financial worries have led to a rise in comfort eating and alcohol consumption. 

In fact research conducted in April by Opinium for Direct Line discovered that over a quarter of a million Brits admitted to drinking alcohol before 12pm on a weekday since lockdown measures came into force, with 27% having increased the amount of booze they drink each week – on average by 12.6 units in the daytime and a further 14.6 units in
the evening. 

The survey also found that 27% of us are snacking more, with 20% claiming to be eating unhealthier food compared to pre-lockdown, resulting in about a third of the population consuming an average 671 more calories per day. It further showed that people have only been upping their exercise by an average of ten minutes a week, not nearly enough to negate those extra calories.

These figures paint a pretty grim picture, especially considering Government figures indicating almost 63% of adults in England are already overweight or living with obesity, with obesity-related illnesses costing the NHS £6 billion a year. In addition, obesity has been linked to a greater risk of serious illness or death from coronavirus: almost 8% of critically ill patients with COVID-19 in intensive care units have been morbidly obese, compared with 2.9% of the general population. 

The good news is that over 57% of consumers are already making, or thinking about making, their diets more healthy and sustainable (IGD), so the situation does present an opportunity for health food stores to dispense safe and nutritious options for those looking to slim down a bit. 

However, although nutritionist Emma Wight-Boycott has noticed a rise in people investing in their wellness, she’s seen less of an emphasis on losing weight and more on ‘feeling good and being healthier’. And this seems to be a trend – rather than focusing on slimming per se, consumers are looking to adopt healthy habits which make them feel better from the inside out, with weight loss being more of a happy side-effect. 

Cleansing completely rejuvenates your body and can therefore help with a lot of the challenges people are facing post the COVID lockdown

The detox-diet dilemma
Although diet and detox are frequently mentioned in the same breath, ‘detox’ has become a problematic word, sometimes being associated with unhealthy crash diets. 

“The term detox may have had its day,” says Wight-Boycott. “I see us going back to the old version of it: ‘cleansing’ or ‘rejuvenation’. A detox is generally a short-term method for purging our bodies of toxins, thereby helping with weight loss, slimming or general health. In fact our bodies are constantly in a state of detoxification via the liver, kidneys, digestive system, skin and lungs. If we were to gently focus on reducing the volume of toxins we are exposed to, we would begin to feel better.”

Kate Segal, owner of Inside Out Health in Reigate, agrees. “We’re a team of nutritional therapists here and although we do talk to people about weight, the name of the shop is Inside Out Health, so we focus on feeling healthy and well, then you’ll naturally end up losing weight. Overall, we say that by upping your level of greens, reducing or stopping alcohol for a period of time and having soluble fibre in your diet, you can do a gentle cleanse.

“My colleague is currently using Pukka Chlorella and has noticed multiple benefits, including some weight loss,” she adds. “Chlorella is a blood cleanser, so that’s something people could use. We sell a lot of Pukka’s Clean Greens – a mix of chlorella, spirulina, wheatgrass, and eight other green-rich nutrients. I use it myself in a morning green juice. For me, making a morning juice with a Swiss chard, kale or spinach base, then adding celery, cucumber, lemon and apple, feels like you’re soaking your cells in goodness – and adding the Clean Greens gives an additional boost.”

Inspired by post-lockdown conversations in store, Segal is working on creating a weekend cleansing kit for her customers. “The idea is to look at some of the basics. So, people start the weekend with aloe vera juice – because that’s anti-inflammatory and soothing for the gut lining, so if people have been drinking lots of alcohol or eating sweets or inflammatory foods over the lockdown period it is cleansing and cooling. I find that just by starting your day with something like that, which feels and tastes so clean, it sets the note for the day. Then looking at using some Clean Greens, maybe incorporating a probiotic, some straightforward recipes all the family can enjoy, but heavily fruits and veg-based to increase fibre and antioxidant levels. It will be a gentle way of helping them become more alkalized and cleansed – and when people start feeling better they begin to notice a slight shift, and losing weight will naturally happen.”

Segal says the store does have people coming in who are following more extreme regimes they’ve seen online, but she always advises caution. “If you put some things into your body for detoxification when it isn’t functioning correctly, you can end up with headaches and feeling unwell because you’re releasing toxins which will just end up recirculating around your system,” says Segal. “We suggest people increase their fibre so they are getting a regular bowel movement, maybe increase use of flax or go for some additional magnesium, and obviously probiotics to make sure they’re supporting their gut health. If you correct some of these simple things, for a lot of people you will be helping them towards a detox or a cleanse because you’re aiding their body to operate better.”

A system reboot
One brand with a solution for consumers wanting to cleanse and reboot their systems and shore up their immunity in light of the continuing crisis is Purearth, which offers a range of organic juice cleansing options, including the Alkaline Cleanse, Immunity Reboot and Gut Nourish.

“Cleansing completely rejuvenates your body and can therefore help with a lot of the challenges people are facing post the COVID lockdown,” explains general manager Paul Gurnell. “A juice cleanse can assist in dealing with some of the major issues driven by the crisis like lack of exercise, bad diets and poor mental health. In addition to these, now is as good a time as any to do a cleanse for the immunity and gut health benefits that it will offer, giving you more strength and improved immunity as we move into the second wave.”

We work more on trying to find things that are going to have a positive impact on health and encourage the body to not want the wrong foods

He explains that raw juicing extracts the richest nutrients and vitamins from plants and fruits, enabling the body to assimilate these quickly to reach the vital organs, resetting the digestive system, re-oxygenating the blood and flushing out deep-seated toxins. “It is by far the quickest, safest and most effective way to detox, as it also kick-starts the process of autolysis (‘self-digestion’). During this process your body starts to selectively decompose only those cells and tissues which are excess, diseased, damaged, aged or dead and starts to produce brand new cells which are full of energy.”

Gurnell stresses that Purearth doesn’t put weight loss as the focus of its cleanses – ‘As a starting point, we would not recommend or agree with using our juice cleanses as a slimming aid’ – but rather on the numerous benefits including a stronger immune system, better digestion and absorption, improved elimination, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, increased energy, improved mood, better skin, hair and nail condition and hormonal balance.

Explaining his take on the term ‘detox’, he says: “In recent times the word ‘detox’ has been used to signify restricting your body of what it needs in order to lose weight quickly, however we want to change that. Yes, our cleanses are a detox, but we want to educate people on the short- and long-term benefits. Our cleanses are about flushing out and ridding your system of any toxins or free radicals that have built up, and have a much wider reaching impact than weight loss. 

“It is also something that as a wider industry we should be taking responsibility for, and whilst you will never see Purearth positioning our products as a ‘crash diet’ or ‘slimming aid’, we need to ensure this definition is not talked up by others in the market. As with anything, education is the key, and we will be investing heavily to deliver this message to consumers, influencers and journalists.”

From the inside out
There will still be consumers seeking a rapid result when it comes to shaping up, but thankfully independent health stores are in the perfect position to steer customers in a healthier direction. 

Inside Out Health doesn’t stock weight loss-specific combinations, but offers a number of single nutrients that may help. “We have matcha green tea powder, which a number of our customers have used very successfully, and we have got things like Nutri Advanced Gluco-Chrome to help with blood sugar balancing, which people do say makes them feel less inclined to eat. We work more on trying to find things that are going to have a positive impact on health and encourage the body to not want the wrong foods.”

“There will always be people looking for a quick fix,” says Wight-Boycott, “but it takes time to lose weight and for the physiological factors – such as cholesterol, homocysteine and blood pressure – to be reduced. I have seen [diet trends] all work to varying degrees, but I am not a fan of low-fat as we need fat for our nervous system and brains. Low-carb can be useful for those with metabolic syndrome as long as the carbohydrate isn’t replaced with too much protein, but rather with vegetable fibre. Low-calorie is a more acute medical approach where the benefits outweigh the risk, for example if heart health is very low – but it needs to be used in conjunction with a longer term education of alternative ways of eating.”

When it comes to weight loss, there are many varying factors to consider with each individual. “It really is different for everyone, and finding what works for you and is sustainable is the most important thing,” says Wight-Boycott. “I am seeing a lot of people finding success with intermittent fasting and with food psychology at the moment. Also gut health – by looking at the microbiome and tailoring diets to the individual.”

For a great ‘fat blaster’, nutritionist Emma Wight-Boycott suggests combining 1tsp each of cinnamon and cayenne or paprika with 500ml water or cold green tea, the juice of a freshly squeezed orange and a few Ice cubes. This can be sipped throughout the day or used as an afternoon pick-me-up.

“Cayenne is a thermogenic that burns fat by activating lipid cells – one study has shown that inclusion of these compounds in the diet may aid weight management – while cinnamon stabilizes blood sugar levels, keeping them balanced and reducing cravings,” she says. “Additionally, it’s obviously great to drink as much water as possible to keep hydrated, flush out toxins and assist metabolic processes in the body, and if you use green tea you will reap extra thermogenic benefits.”


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