Living in Boulder you simply cannot avoid “doing” a cleanse at least once in your life. It is sort of a rite of passage, like shaving for the first time.
My first foray into cleansing was when I was 21. My boyfriend and I got it in our heads that we needed to detox our systems and we were going to do so by “juicing”. So we went to our local boutique grocery store and spent what seemed like a month’s worth of rent (we were really poor) on fruits and vegetables. Our intention was to consume nothing but raw fruit and vegetable juice for a week. Come to think of it, I don’t think we even had a juicer.
I made it past breakfast okay, lunch was tougher, and by dinnertime I found all the fast-food commercials on TV to be more fascinating than anything I had ever seen before. I wanted that burger. Bad.
With a paycheck’s worth of vegetables rotting in my fridge, I came to the conclusion that juice fasts should only be done in full-media isolation, like in the desert. Taco Bell can’t tempt me if I’m staring at sandstone in Canyonlands. The only problem is that I hate the desert and how am I supposed to plug in my non-existent juicer while on some solitary camping retreat? It was years before I considered a cleanse again.
My next cleanse was a “product” cleanse, wherein I purchased many containers of aloe-exotic-fruit-extract juices, supplements, hunger pain management tablets and shakes. Having just dumped a truckload of money into it, and being ten years older and wiser, I steered clear of the TV and the evil, glistening, juicy hamburger ads.
My husband was a good sport and agreed to do it with me for moral support. To our credit, we completed the full cycle of the cleanse, I think it was 10 days, starting with a three-day fast.
My most vivid take-away memory was of sitting in bed with my husband, we weren’t tired but we figured that we couldn’t be hungry if we were asleep, right? The only problem was that our elderly neighbor, whose air ducts were tied in with ours, had the habit of having a little toast before bed. Do you know what smells better than anything when you haven’t eaten in 48 hours?
Lonny and I lay there thinking, “You know what I’m gonna do once were are done with this fast? I’m gonna eat me some toast.”
The juices tasted horrible, the hunger tablets were worse, and the shakes tasted like dirt mixed with some cinnamon and cocoa powder. I read the ingredients and wondered why this product was superior to real food.
To be fair, I lost about 10 pounds on the fast, mostly water from what I’ve since learned, but I was careful about not succumbing to my toast obsession too soon and it set me on a good path to long-lasting weight-loss that only ended when I got pregnant with my first child, but that’s another story.
Despite my “success” I felt that becoming that obsessed with food, weird food, food that I couldn’t have cared less about when not fasting, couldn’t be a good thing. So when the Master Cleanse became all the rage, I stood back and watched the same script play out with many of my friends.
Here’s how it went. Someone would get depressed about her weight. She would go out and mix up several gallons of lemon/cayenne/maple syrup water. She would announce to the world that she was “doing a cleanse”. She would then get very quiet about it. When asked she would say that she gave up on it after a day because of the headaches, dizziness, inability to think straight enough to work, handle her kids, or act like a decent human being.
So here’s my completely uneducated, non-scientific opinion about detoxes.
We have this wonderful organ called the liver. Its’ job is to detoxify our blood. If we don’t overwhelm it with a constant stream of “bad” things (like processed food, alcohol, and hard to digest foods) it will be free to do its job more effectively. Whole grains, vegetables and raw nuts aren’t what I would want to eat all the time, but I can do it for while. It’s better than starving myself and then going on an eating rampage at Dairy Queen, that’s for sure. It also gives me the energy I need to function, and then some.
I’ll be honest, whether I actually feel better eating this way is debatable – so much of that stuff is in your head – but I know I don’t feel worse, like how all other cleanses made me feel. And I definitely feel better about myself. Common sense (and just about every nutritionist you talk to) says that you are doing your body a service by feeding it clean, simple, wholesome foods.