Lucy is a friend, educated and familiar with nutrition basics, who eats a relatively healthy vegetarian diet. Lucy recently surprised us by announcing she is going on the Master Cleanse Diet. For those unfamiliar, this is one of many “Detox” diets that purports to clean up our insides and provide quick weight loss. The Master Cleanse has been around for decades, originally called the lemonade diet. People doing the cleanse can consume nothing but a lemon drink for 4 days up to 2 weeks!
A “serving” of the lemon drink consists of:
- 2 tsp of juice from fresh-squeezed lemons.
- 2 tsp grade-B maple syrup
- one tenth tsp cayenne pepper
- 10 fl oz. water
The magic result at the end of the cleanse is supposed to be up to 20 pounds of weight loss. That’s a very strong incentive. Especially for our friend, who is trying to lose a winter’s worth of weight gain in a very short time. Yes, there is a wedding date, and she absolutely must be skinny by then.
What you need to know:
The cleanse diets make 2 claims: 1) clean your guts and 2) lose weight fast.
With respect to weight loss, they are right – this is basically a starvation diet. Your body loses mostly fluids at first, then starts to lose muscle and fat in order to keep basic bodily functions running. There is a potential for serious bodily damage for people who maintain calorie deprivation for several weeks. If you’re going to starve yourself, at least go on a political hunger strike to free Tibet or something.
Another problem with cleanse diets is that the low calories don’t provide enough energy for you to perform strenuous mental activities (such as working, studying) or exercise. In fact, you’ll get light headed and dizzy just from standing up. So basically you’ll be a zombie for the duration of the diet, watching TV reruns all day, or LOL CATZ on Youtube.
With respect to detoxification – guess what? That’s what your liver is for. Our body is an amazing machine that knows how to rid itself of toxins without any intervention. Calling these starvation diets “detox” plays off people’s fear that there are poisons lurking in their body that can be magically removed by subjecting oneself to days of a concoction that tastes bad.
Scientifically there is no evidence that cleanse diets do any good. Most people who go on rapid weight loss diets often gain the weight back with a vengeance.
Dear Lucy – lose a little less weight but do it the right way. Keep eating healthy food, exercise, and be patient.
One last note to celebrities – please DON’T share your diet tips and tricks with us mere mortals. The fact that your are gorgeous and can sing and act (at least some of you) does not mean you know anything about nutrition. Our idolizing societal norms mean that you are setting examples for millions of people. That’s too much of a responsibility for you to pass off quack diets to your fans.