There is discussion about eating disorders and disordered eating in this entry. If you or loved one need help or more information about eating disorders, please check out National Eating Disorders Association for resources.
I first heard about cleanses in college. Supposedly Beyonce, Britney, and every Hollywood star did cleanses to lose weight and toxins. You could also pull one off after a binge drinking bender of a weekend to “get better quick”. On Real Housewives, cleanses gained even greater prominence. Particularly with Yolanda Foster, who memorably chastised a recovering alcoholic (Kim Richards) for why she missed out on their cleansing meetup.
What is a master cleanse exactly?
The master cleanse is essentially a fast. The “suggested” amount of time for the master cleanse is 10 -14 days, but I recommend 0 days.
The proponents claim you can get all your nutrients from drinking this special lemonade diet consisting of:
- lemon (or lime) juice
- maple syrup
- cayenne pepper
- sea salt
- herbal laxative tea
- optional peppermint tea
- that’s it. No really. That’s it.
The fast consists of doing the following:
- Preparing for the cleanse 3-4 days in advance with minimal food consumption and consuming mostly liquids
- Then for 10 days: “Salt Water Flush” in the morning
- Consume 6-8 glasses of the lemonade mixture throughout the day
- An ‘occasional’ cup of peppermint tea
- End your misery with a cup of herbal laxative tea
- Repeat for another 9 days
What happens on the cleanse?
Like most, the thought of drinking a quart salt water every morning is unbearably disgusting. But the disgusting part barely hits the iceberg.
The emphasis on laxatives and the lack of solid food means you will be essentially tied to your bathroom. There is also a significant amount of pain with the fast. Fatigue, aches/pains, headaches, nausea are normal, plus potentially vomiting and burning pains while using the bathroom. You are also only consuming 500-650 calories per day. A mere one-third of what is required for healthy adults. You would be consuming HALF of what even on a stricter 1000-1200 calorie diet permits. Your liver is perfectly capable of filtering out any toxins- that’s its job! You do not need to do a “cleanse” to get rid of toxins, you have a functioning organ that dedicates itself to the cause. The liver doesn’t do a half assed job and doing a master cleanse after a bunch of drinking won’t rid you of alcohol. (If anything, it’s going to make that hangover much much worse.) There is ZERO scientific evidence or credibility that the Master Cleanse (or any other “detox” diets) do any ridding of toxins or have any other health benefits.Would you lose weight? Sure, consuming a paltry amount of calories you are supposed to get and daily laxatives will of course make you lose weight. Because it would be very difficult to exercise, one would be susceptible to losing muscle mass over fat.
Yikes is the appropriate response.
Are cleanses an eating disorder?
Cleanses are also particularly triggering to those with eating disorders or suffering from disordered eating.
On pro-ana/pro-mia groups, the juice cleanses and detox diets are a way to show you are “healthy” while still being able to “follow” your diet. Treatment centers for eating disorders note the trend has only grown, providing a kind of “pathway” to eating disorders:
Statistics don’t exist on the precise link between eating disorders and juice fasts, but Debbie Westerling, director of nutrition services at the Renfrew Center, one of the nation’s best-known eating disorder treatment facilities, says that among the program’s 60 residents, discussion of juice fasts has “exploded.” During intake questioning, at least half of patients now report experimenting with juice fasts.
This is quite alarming, especially as the cleanses are marketed as “healthy” and the general public sees nothing wrong it, making it even more difficult for loved ones to help someone with an eating disorder and someone with an eating disorder coming to terms about the fact that juice cleanses are unhealthy.
The “Master Cleanse” is only two weeks in duration, but the bar is constantly moving as other juice cleansing companies promote 30-60 days of cleansing. When the women on the show, particularly Yolanda Foster who has a model past and two daughters of her own who are models, share this on the show, there is lending legitimacy to the idea that these cleanses are healthy when there really are no benefits.
Enjoy a nice glass of lemonade with your lunch, but for your sake, use some salt water when you have sore throat, not drink a quart of it to begin what sounds like a day from hell.
Again, please see the top of the entry for resources for those struggling with eating disorders.