03 November 2010


[Well, crap. Blogger just ate most of a post. Grrrr. Redoing. Sigh.]

Warning: girly talk ahead.

Cleansing diets seem to be all the rage these days. From lifestyle changes to three-week detoxes to elimination diets to pinpoint food sensitivities, everyone seems to be cleansing.

Cleanses fall into two broad categories to me: 1. Can't hurt, might help, and 2. Stuff white people like. (I've not seen cleansing diets on that site, and I don't follow that site closely, but it seems like cleanses would be a good candidate for inclusion.) My friends who have cleansed for the most part find the experience rough, but worth it, purporting to feel healthier and, uh, less toxic when it's over.

Part of me wants to jump on the bandwagon. I could eat better, for sure. I do OK with fresh fruits and veggies, but I also do OK with chocolate, ice cream, and an "occasional" bowl of chips with a glass of wine at the end of the day. I've weighed less in my adult life; I've also weighed more, but I don't like the effort it takes to button many of my pants, it's true. After years of being migraine-free, I've been getting them again over the past few months. And I like a food reward. I don't care what the New Age gurus say: ice cream makes me feel better at the end of certain bad days, better than herbal tea and better than going to bed early and better than doing yoga. I'm old-fashioned like that, but I know that's also just a habit that I've not been interested in breaking.

The real question is will the cleanse help get rid of the migraines, make me feel more energetic, help my pants fit better, and help me find a better reward system for myself? Seems like a tall order. Also, my friends in real life are probably quaking in their boots at the idea of me doing a cleansing diet because oooooooh, boy, I am not fun when I'm hungry, and I think any of the cleansing diets are going to involve some level of hunger or feeling of deprivation.

I think that what I should probably consider is giving up soda (I drink a good-sized diet soda four or five times/week), cutting back on the junk food, and being good about going to bed on time. A moderate approach rather than a radical, if brief, regime. But maybe there's something to the cleansing that makes a radical approach worth it?

Who out there has cleansed? Which cleanse did you do? Why did you do it and how did it make you feel? Help me out, Internets. I know you have experience and opinions, and I want to hear them.


Anonymous said...

I've never done an actual cleanse - but I am/was/am? a junk food junkie too, and have been trying to cut back.

I used to drink a lot of coke and had ice cream every night. It was really as much of a habit as anything. I practically gave up coke years ago, and though I still have one now and then for sure, it doesn't have the same appeal it used to. It shocked me that the ice cream, though I still like it - a lot - doesn't feel as good to eat every night as it once did.

I replaced it with chips for a while, and was trying to cut back on those too - I was actually doing fairly well with getting out of the nighttime junk snacking until halloween hit and now I'm raiding my kids candy . . . . . and man, is my skin paying for it!

I've definitely found that once I can manage to go without these things for at least a while, they don't feel as good as before to have so much of, I slimmed down a bit (though I didn't 'really' need to, and the stress of widowhood/single parent/new business probably impacted that too) and my skin had improved some.

Now I need to work on getting more sleep and staying off the computer more. On that note . . . .

Good luck!

Penny said...

I can't do cleanses - too weird, too restrictive, too dubious.

What has worked for me - a twist on Alton Brown's healthy eating plan. Basically, he gave himself daily requirements - eat fruits, whole grains, leafy greens, nuts and carrots every day. Eat oily fish, yogurt, broccoli, sweet potato and avocado 3x a week. Dessert, alcohol, pasta and red meat was only 1x a week, and no fast food, soda, processed meals, canned soups or diet anything. He lost a TON of weight (apparently he also runs 4 miles a day now, which obviously helped).

I was intrigued by his approach - it wasn't so much about "you can't have this, you can't have that" It was a nutrition-based deal - more of a positive "check off the good stuff I've eaten today" list instead of a litany of forbidden foods.

I've struggled with my weight for 20 years and a year ago was deeply depressed. I'd lost my job, was unhappy in my marriage, had an injured back and foot, and was generally miserable and felt like there was no escape. I slept like crap, woke up exhausted, never felt truly hungry.

The ONLY thing I changed was my eating habits - I stopped drinking soda cold turkey (10 months later it tastes TERRIBLE to me - and I was a Diet Coke fiend) and slowly adopted AB's approach, although I can't bring myself to eat sardines like he does.

I've lost 20 pounds (30 still to go) but the difference in my body and life is astounding. I have SO much more energy, I am in a better mood all the time, and when I haven't eaten for a while, I am genuinely hungry. Which seems to have stopped all the candy cravings and late night fridge raids. I have had all of one piece of Halloween candy - last year I ate two bags all by myself (and hid the evidence because I was embarrassed). Getting rid of processed foods has made a world of difference for me. I feel cleansed even though I didn't actually DO a cleanse.

It's hard work - lots of meal planning, I now food shop 2x a week in order to buy fresh produce (the biggest drawback so far) and I've had to learn how to cook (never did before) and I cook pretty much every night, which can be challenging when my 4 year old is acting up.

For me, the solution had to come from within me. I tried WW and failed. I tried organizing my life with FlyLady and failed. I had to devise my own system for me and me alone. It works for me precisely because it is mine. I make up the rules. WW was "here are our rules, follow them and you'll lose weight. Promise." And it was true. But for me, I just can't mindlessly do that. I hated calculating points and worrying that I would have none leftover. I also hated that it was perfectly fine to have a day where you could eat nothing but a big honkin' slice of chocolate cake and that was A-OK as long as you sliced it so you stayed within your points. What's healthy about that?

So I guess what I'm trying to say is... shit, I don't know. :-)

Anonymous said...

Re: the diet sodas. I used to get migraines too, and then I read somewhere that Nutra Sweet (aka aspartame) was linked with migraines. I switched to Splenda (sucralose) sweetened diet sodas and the migraines went away. Just an idea...

Anonymous said...

Aspartame gives me migraines. I can't say whether this is common but since I stopped consuming it in the mid-90s I've only had two bouts of migraines since, and one was related to accidentally eating some.

I don't personally think cleansing does much for long-term habits and that it's sort of just another facet of north american unhealthy food culture - the "quick fix" whether the fix is a hit of junk food or a hit of healthy food.

But that doesn't mean I have better answers. Before I had my son, I had developed much better "treats" - baths, massages, walks outdoors. But as those have become harder to do (or out of the budget) I've gone back to food treats myself.

I do try to health them up - a big bowl of fruit (frozen grapes are amazing) with a bit of chocolate syrup or a smaller scoop of ice cream, etc.

Keeping a food journal helps me too.

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

Judging from my very occasional reading of Elle magazine and frequent conversations my sister-in-law, chic Parisiennes love cleansing diets. So do retired French "of a certain age" (the post-holiday cabbage diet is a classic -- yikes!). I've been blessed with pretty consistent, healthy weight, so I don't bother, though maybe I could find something that would help with my complexion? Anyway.

My husband, on the other hand, lost 50+ pounds and has maintained a new, healthy weight for almost two years now by using a self-styled diet he calls "Worthy/Unworthy."

Basically, nothing is off-limits, as long as it is "worth it." He's a food snob, as I am, and he shuns processed junk and soda and all the rest. BUT, giving up wine or good cheese or foie gras during the holidays would have been torture. So, his solution was just to think (and think hard, at first, since he tended toward reflex eating) about everything he put in his mouth. If he declared it worthy, he didn't worry about the calories.

At the same time, he relearned his body's hunger signals. When he was hungry, he made sure to eat fruit and vegetables before eating anything else. We started eating lots of dinner salads in this house, and still do. For many months, he ate only an apple for breakfast, and relearned (painfully) what it meant to be very hungry indeed. To be honest, he was often grumpy and insufferable during the period when he was dropping 3+ pounds a week, but it was well worth it. Once the initial weight had dropped and he started to trust his new instincts, his eating returned to a new, more mindful "normal."

In general, I think that diets succeed if they force you to eat mindfully. If you restrict what you eat so some arbitrary list, it hardly matters just WHAT the list contains, and that's why so many of those cleansing diets work. Whatever unhealthy, mindless habits you had are temporarily disrupted by your good intentions. The problem is that when the diet is over, you go right back to eating the way you did before and the weight comes back. It is better, but much harder, to make more sustainable changes. But, like I said, my experience is second-hand, and thus probably not worth much...

But if you do try the "worthy/unworthy" diet, know that it makes that glass of Sancerre or that bowl of ice cream at the end of the day taste that much better. Or so I've been told!

Alayna said...

I vote against the cleanse and for smaller changes and moderation! We've had friends do cleanses and lose a bunch of weight and feel so cleansed and then just gain it right back. I think the key is implementing some smaller changes you can stick with. Just my two cents! If you do do the cleanse, might be best to wait until after the au pair has been here for a few weeks, just in case of possible crabbiness :)

Hawkeye said...

I've never done a cleanse either, but I do vote you try just giving up soda for awhile.

I've given up soda for years at a time, and currently am on a 11 month streak of no-soda. Be prepared to have a few headaches at first, but in the long run, SUCH a good idea.

Kate said...

i've recently started getting migraines...and boy, do they suck! i haven't been able to pinpoint a specific food or drink that causes them. i've been doing a lot of research lately and there are so many factors that contribute to them...even exercise can cause migraines. i've never done a cleanse, but my advise would be to stay away! especially if you find that you're extra irritable when hungry. from reading your past few posts, my guess would be that stress is the cause of your migraines. my mom gets migraines and only when she is stressed. do you drink a lot of coffee?

maybe try yoga or pilates for exercise. maybe they will provide a little stress relief.

oh! and as an ex pringles addict...i find that salted pistachios taste very similar! they are the BEST salty snack.

sorry for the ramble. i have recently become intrigued by migraines and have been talking to anyone i can who suffers from them! have you been prescribed any migraine meds? in any case, i hope you find some relief from the migraines...they really are a downer.

Elizabeth said...

I bet the migraines are stress related and will ease up when the au pair is settled in! Also ... no soda, more water, and 100 mg of B2 (riboflavin) per day all helped my migraines. There are clinical studies to support the use of B2.

Mama Nabi said...

My sister does a variety of cleansing (liver, colon, as well as ionic foot baths) on a regular basis, cycling them as needed... and she does say that they do make her feel clean, lighter, and more alert. Over the past 10 years or more that I've known her to do this, I can see an outward difference in her health. She does also do yoga... :-D I can ask her for details if you want.
(speaking of girly details, you had offered to tell me about your experience with a certain birth control thing - I've been meaning to ask...)

enilorac said...

What a coincidence! I just finished my first day of my cleanse and yep this is my very first one. I decided to do it because I want to seriously change my eating habits and read that a cleanse is a great way to begin to get you all cleaned up. Plus my body wasn't feeling too good. I was lethargic and always bloated. I can't say anything good or bad about the process yet, but we'll see.

Anonymous said...

This article at the NYTimes about a juice cleanse is very interesting --


What I took away from this article is that juice cleanses done poorly can contribute to diabetes risk and the "alertness" following cleanses of many kinds is probably a result of ketosis (which is not great for your kidneys).

liz smith said...

My nutrition back ground tells me "say no to cleansing" It just doesn't seem like a good idea. I did lose 25ish pounds 2 years ago. I found out my blood sugar was creeping up and I was not about to get a DX for diabetes. I went on a very strict eating plan (used a diabetic exchange plan) but gave myself free days on holidays and one day a month. Those days i don't have to worry about what I eat. I added exercise and it took me about 6 months to get to a healthy wt and my sugar stabalized. Its hard to maintain forever, but what I've found is knowing I can eat things occasionally makes it doable on a daily baisis. I do use coffee and diet soda as my "reward food" but I don't consume enough that the caffeine bothers me.

Deborah said...

ok, never done a cleanse, but I gave up dairy and reduced significantly the amount of refined flour products I eat back in August. In two months, with absolutely no other change to my diet, and, in fact, due to busy life circumstances, a drastic reduction in the amount of exercise I've been getting, I have dropped 6 lbs.

Anonymous said...

I am not a fan of cleansing, small changes that can last a lifetime are your best bet.
I read that deit sodas actually make a person eat more.
When I feel yucky and bloated, I know it is because I've eaten too much sugar and simple carbs. Sometimes it takes two weeks of no sugar/simple carbs for the cravings to end but it is worth it.

CV said...

I don't know, maybe things are on a different continuum in Portland - but I'm not at all seeing the "cleanse trend" around here.

As you know, I'm not a shining example of good health/nutrition - so take my advice with a grain of salt (or a grain of bulgar or whatever you eat on a cleanse)...

I think cleanses are a little kooky. (My sister has done them regularly over the years, if that's any evidence.) I think they can't possibly be healthy for you if you undertake them regularly. But I doubt any major harm can occur from trying one (if you don't have underlying health issues.) I doubt you'll find it to be a silver-bullet to solve your poor eating habits. But I'm curious, so let me know how it turns out.

Ruth said...

At 64, I've finally become serious about being "plant strong," which is Rip Esselstyn's term for a vegan diet. It sounds less scary to folks who are put off by veganism. He's written a book called The Engine 2 Diet, which he developed to help his fellow firefighters get heathy. He's also a former professional triathlete and did all this while eating a plant strong diet. He also has some serious cred in his family tree; his father is the well-known cardiologist, Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic. I've lost 10 pounds in two months, which is a good rate for me, but even better, I feel great! Good energy, motivated to get up early and exercise, good mood, and now that you mention it, headaches are less.

So...I wouldn't cleanse per se. I do think making life long changes that you can be happy with is a better way to go.

Also, watch for the documentary, "Forks over Knives," which will be released in March. Discusses the typical American diet vs plant based diets.

Good luck!

Catherine said...

I've had a lot of success on Paleo. The one great thing about it, there are no points to count, no foods to measure, you eat until you are full. I'd recommend it and can't image ever eating another way. Good luck in whatever you end up doing.


Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

Cleansing sounds like something I would think is a good idea, do it for a day and a half, and then give up because I've come to the conclusion that it's really ridiculous. You could always go that route.

I'd kick the diet soda to the curb and see if that (and the arrival of your nanny) puts an end to the migraines. Plus, do you really want something with the name aspartame floating around your body?

Penny, good for you with the weight loss!

Anonymous said...

I have never cleansed. I don't think that it is good for the soul or the body including for the metabolism. 14 days of something like this might be good for you: Eat every four hours. Miso soup with seaweed and tofu for breakfast at 7:00; large salad of only local seasonal veggies with with olive oil for lunch at 11:00 (include avocado and olives for flavor and good fat); pure veggie juice or pure green smoothie at around 3:00; big basket of steamed seasonal veggies with quinoa for dinner. Steamed fish with herbs every few days. Fresh local fruit or berries with all of the above meals. A gallon of water with lemon or lime daily. This may sound like a cleanse to some, but with some add-ins and different recipes for variety, it would really be healthier than it sounds like is your current diet.

Anonymous said...

I did my first cleanse about two years ago and now make an effort to repeat every six months or so. My favourite is from a company called Wild Rose, and it comes with supplements and a diet plan. The plan is almost identical to what Penny described, and allows a moderate amount of coffee (without which I would be a terrible ogre!).

For me, it is a fantastic re-set. The first few days (out of 12) are hard, but the supplements reduce any hunger or cravings, and from the 4th or 5th day onwards I feel terrific. I have way more energy and my headaches vanish. I find that the healthy eating is easy and desirable to keep up - especially because it isn't super restrictive and gets me back into cooking/shopping well.

Anyway, it can't hurt, right? And you *do* live on the west coast! ;)

Good luck!

Amber said...

I just did my first cleanse a couple of months ago - a 7 day total body cleanse. I didn't change my eating habits (there are suggested foods to eat in the instructions, but I didn't follow that too closely), just took 2 pills and a scoop of fibre in a glass of juice in the morning and at night. And I tried to drink much more water.

Seriously, by day 3 I felt fabulous.

I used to be in constant pain with a stomachache or headache ailing me. I wondered what it would be like to feel GOOD. Now I know. :)

I even was able to give up my daily Coke and/or slurpee to do a second cleanse (parasite).

I am now very aware of what makes me feel good. And I want that. I don't even like bread much anymore and I used to like it way too much. LOL Tortillas, on the other hand, are FABULOUS. :D

Here's a link to the cleanse I used: http://www.renewlife.com/total-body-rapid-cleanse.html

Good luck. :)

Anonymous said...

Coming out of hiding to say that I did an elimination diet recently with a naturopath's guidance, which overlapped with a slightly stricter yeast cleanse. The whole thing lasted about 10 weeks. It was "based" on a blood test which "indicated" sensitivities to yeast, sugar, almond and a handful of other things. The scare quotes should indicate how certain I am about the whole thing's legitimacy... but I was desperate for something that might help me figure out my migraines, finicky stomach, and maybe help get rid of my skin cysts.

It was crazy and very hard, esp. when I was traveling in June. I was extremely strict on the sugar elimination, which meant a lot of bland food and feeling v. annoying when out in public. And, unfortch, a LOT of chips - plain or Mrs. Vickie's Salt & vinegar. I called it my chips cleanse. But if I hadn't planned things carefully and was stuck somewhere, hungry, I could count on being able to find a bag of plain chips. Soooo.... not exactly super healthy.

I dropped 5-7 pounds that i wasn't really looking to drop - I've kept it mostly off, largely because my sugar cravings just totally dwindled, and I don't eat nearly as much bread (exception being the past 10 days, and I can sure feel it in the new pants I bought).

I can't say that I felt miraculous, though I think I did become a little more regular and had fewer migraines. In fact, I think I discovered that almonds & other nuts are a big migraine trigger for me. And my naturopath told me my eyes looked clearer... whatever.

But I haven't gone back for another follow-up appt recently b/c I've become a bit dubious about the whole thing.

It didn't do any real harm - other than the pricey supplements and annoyingness - and might have done some good. I am more mindful of the sugar in EVERYTHING I eat, even if I don't try to avoid it as much any more. In the end, a mixed bag. If you feel like it, go for it - you can always stop, right?

Joy said...

I did an elimination diet when I was nursing my daughter because she was having allergic reactions to something I was eating. I ate only organic turkey or chicken, sweet potatoes, brown rice, pears and oatmeal for three weeks with salt as my only seasoning. It was super, super hard and because I was nursing, I was starving all the time. After the initial three weeks, I added in one food every four days to see if she would react, starting with the least allergenic and eventually getting to the culprits (dairy and soy, including all whey protein and casein proteins -which are in pretty much everything processed).

It was really tough, and I think if my daughter's health hadn't been on the line, I wouldn't have been compliant. That said, I've had mild eczema my whole life, and what do you know, it went away during the diet. Once I started eating dairy again (when my daughter weaned at 18 months), the eczema came back. I still eat cheese and put milk in my coffee because to me, a few small patches of eczema are worth it for cheese. Although if it's manifesting that way externally, who knows what it's doing internally.

Fairlington Blade said...

There was a great article in last Thursday's NY Times on the subject. Evidently one can spend a lot of money on the liquid diet. I'll go with Michael Pollin's advice:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.


Anonymous said...

I haven't done the cleanse, but do know people that have. They both did the same one where you only drink for a week or two(?). The first guy did it for health reasons (to clean out his colon) He did it with church friends so they also looked at it in a spiritual context because of the fasting. He swore that he felt much better because his insides were clean of a LOT of yucky stuff. The weight loss was only a bonus. The second guy did it strictly to lose weight quickly to fit his tux for a wedding because he didn't want to buy a new one.

Karen said...

Hmm. I've done a colon "cleanse" for a scope and hated that. But that's not what you're talking about.

I have Crohn's and over the years since my diagnosis it has become clear to me that eating simpler foods (not processed), less gluten (more oats), much, much less sugar (fruit juices, sweetened drinks, candy all make me immediately feel blech) and salt is how I need to eat to not suffer the ills of IBD. Not that I'm cured; never will be. This is just how I get by day-to-day and feel ok. I am so self-centered that it puzzles me that my kids and DH actually LIKE ice cream and candy. Why would they like those things when I feel bad after eating them, LOL!

An easy thing: say goodbye to the soft drinks. Add sparkling water to your fridge to get the bubbles; you don't need anything else out of that caramel colored sweetened beverage.

Anonymous said...

As one of the other comments stated, my background in nutrition makes me extremely leery of "cleanses". Our body naturally cleanses, a la the kidneys, liver, etc.
That said, there was a wonderful article in Self mag recently about cleanses and solutions to avoid them.

Snickollet said...

@Fairlington Blade:

I [heart] Michael Pollan.

Diana said...

I do a fast 2 to 3 times a year. I'm in PDX, but didn't know it was popular here as I'm the only person I know IRL that's done one! I do the Master Cleanse, which is a 10 day juice fast. I know a lot of people look down on fasting, but I really like how it makes me feel. I've been doing them for the last 6 years. The fast I do is supposed to be for a minimum of 10 days, but I've quit on day 6 at least twice. I also once did 30 days.

I did my first fast because I wanted to loose weight. I continue to do them because they make me feel good, both physially and spiritually. It's hard to describe, making it through a cleanse gives me a feeling of accomplishment. While I'm fasting, my mind is very clear and I sleep really soundly.

I don't think they're for everyone, and I don't think weightloss is the main reason to do one, others are right to say you'll just gain the weight back when you go back to eating. But for me it's like pushing a reset button. Sometimes you get into a routine of eating the wrong things and it's a hard habit to break. A fast stops everything and forces you to think about your eating habits. I also don't think it's bad for humans to fast, it's been done for thousands of years, both for the benefit of mind and body.

My best piece of advise if you decide to do one is to make sure you wean off of caffeine before you start. I didn't do this the first time and had a 3 day raging headache!

I've been reading your blog for a couple years and really enjoy it, thank you for sharing your life with us!

comebacknikki said...

I've never done any really restrictive, scary cleanses that had horrible side effects (my friend is doing one right now that causes explosive diarrhea! YUCK!), but I have done several simpl elimination-based detoxes. Actually, I tend to do it at least one a year - I'll add in another round if I start to feel too sluggish. The one I usually follow (and love) is part of the Whole Body Action Plan. It involves a four-day detox (it includes both liquid & solid meals) & then moves on to whole foods plan. There are also some steps that deal with stress and exercise that you can follow. The entire plan goes for 28 days, but I've found it helpful to just do the four-day detox.

I definitely get a little tired and cranky during the detox, but that's because I abstain from all caffeine. I always feel fantastic at the end of the detox period though - it really cleans you out (in a good way) and helps reset some eating patterns. If you do follow this though, be careful not to overtax yourself during the four days!


Watercolor said...

My doctor says they can be dangerous. Get your electrolytes all out of wack. Get you dehydrated. Body is very efficient at keeping it's insides clean when we eat healthy. He suggested "The NoFad Diet" by the American Heart Association which isn't a diet but a learning how to properly eat the food pyramid. I'm working it. Lost 10 pounds so far.

Anonymous said...

I heard something on the radio that they are a waste of money, and no one loses weight long term on a cleanse. It is just a scam IMO. WE all know what to do to lose weight, eat less, eat better, and exercise more. You don't need to pay money for a liquid cleanse to lose weight and feel better. Just drink water and eat less sugar!