Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Master Cleanser

Although this is a food blog, the holidays often leave us with such a food hangover that we resolve to lose weight and detox in the new year. With food comes diet and health, and here's one for the books! I decided to try an extreme version of a detox diet called "The Master Cleanser" by Stanley Burroughs. It's also known as "The Maple Syrup Diet" or "The Lemonade Diet." It's been around for over 60 years, and many people swear by it. In fact, Beyonce followed this for 14 days and lost 20 pounds for her role in Dreamgirls. Although weight loss is a nice perk, my primary goal was to clean out my body and give my digestive system a little rest. There's a ton of literature online about this cleanse, although my go-to resource was simply The prescribed amount of time for a beginner to follow is 10 days. I decided to be less ambitious and start at 5 days. I did this while I was still on winter break, and quite frankly, I'm not sure how people manage to have a normal life at all while doing this detox. There are claims that it boosts your energy levels and you can go about your life per usual, but that was not my personal experience.

To make this concoction, you combine purified water with 12 tablespoons fresh-queezed organic lemon juice (I cheated and used regular lemons... organic ones were $3 more per 2lbs!), 12 tablespoons organic grade B maple syrup (this comprises most of your day's caloric intake and nutrients), and as much cayenne pepper as you can bear (but at least half a teaspoon). That's about a bag of lemons and more than half a bottle of maple syrup per day. The mixture doesn't taste great, but it's not too bad, like spicy lemonade. I made two nalgene bottles full and carried them around with me everywhere, taking swigs whenever I felt hungry. The liquid diet part isn't all that bad, I felt hungry but it was bearable. It's the other part of this cleanse that makes it so miserable. Each night, you are supposed to do a "saltwater flush" which entails mixing a tablespoon of sea salt (not table salt) with a liter of water and chugging it. The first day, I did it with cold water, and I suffered indescribable chills after wards. I was so cold that my fingers were all numb, and even two coats and a down comforter couldn't warm me up. By the time my body finally felt warm again, the saltwater was starting its job. The purpose is to flush out your intestines and colon, and since you're not eating anything solid, this is essential for your digestive system to keep moving. The flush is unpleasant to say the least. After about an hour of drinking it, I was in the bathroom for the next hour. Each time I thought I was finished, my tummy would gurgle and it would start again. It wasn't painful, just the novel discomfort of essentially peeing from somewhere else. It's actually quite exhausting.

Day 1 went by without any major complications. I cheated and ate a few crackers late night (when I am most prone to snacking) but more for the flavor and texture of food, than because I felt so hungry as to need to eat. Day 2 was a different story. I had gotten tired of the spicy lemonade taste, and the act of squeezing 2lbs of lemons each morning and mixing your concoction takes about 30 minutes. I went through the day ok, but by the time I came home from work, I was exhausted. I had a pounding headache, felt extremely fatigued, and was just plain cranky. I yelled at Justin for having the audacity to eat anything within sight or smell range of me. I yelled at the dogs for smelling like dog food. I even wanted to yell at my fishtank. The combination of crankiness and fatigue made me dread the flush even more. But it had to be done. After it was over, I felt woozy and light-headed. I thought I might pass out. I finally caved and had a bowl of butternut squash soup. It made a world of difference, I felt SO much better. I awoke the next day with memories of my crankiness, fatigue and close knowledge of our bathroom, and decided that it just wasn't worth it! I quit after 2 days.

I think this detox cleanse would be easier for someone who doesn't love food as much as I do. Not eating takes such a joy away from your daily life. But that alone is bearable if it wasn't for the daily flush, that takes at least 2 hours each day where you cannot be far from the toilet (and I doubt you'd want to be near a public toilet). The upside is that I lost 4 pounds in those two days, and have managed to keep it off since with exercise and healthy eating. I wonder if a lot of the benefits people report are from placebo effect. Of course there aren't any empirical evidence to support this cleanse, and plenty of nutritionists recommend against it. From my own experience, I will second Beyonce when she says: "Unless you have to lose weight quickly for a movie, I wouldn't recommend this. There are other ways to lose weight."


funwithyourfood said...

this master cleanse thing scares me. TOO extreme for me

federito said...

Hey Justin, this is Fede. Just found your blog! I wanted to pass along a recommendation from my coworker re: a restaurant in Austin. Its called the Blue Dahlia. I don't know anything about it, but thought I'd pass the wisdom along. Take it easy man, congrats on buying a house