When a dear friend wrote and told me that she's consuming nothing but distilled water, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper under the misguided assumption that she would be "detoxifying" her body, I was concerned. And when she told me that she's planning on doing this for a full forty days, I was horrified. Following is the letter I sent her in response. I share it here in the hope that it will prevent others from following the nutritional counsel of others who are ill-informed about human health and nutrition, yet very willing to make a quick buck selling books, gadgets, pills, potions, or other ineffective and often dangerous "quick fixes" to unsuspecting health seekers.
I hope you will read the following in the spirit in which it was sent: With total love and heartfelt concern for your well-being and a sincere desire for your most vibrant health.
It's not all good. I am very familiar with the "Master Cleanse," and it scares the crap out of me that you would do this for 40 days. You are in "ill health" (overweight) due to years of engaging in poor lifestyle habits, and you have been convinced that starving your body of nutrients (NO, the Master Cleanse "diet" is NOT nutritionally complete), for 40 days will solve your problem. This is simply not the case. It is far more likely that doing this for such a prolonged period will only create other health problems.
Since you seem to be inspired by what celebrities do, think about this: If I wrote a book in which I said that drinking your own urine was the key to vibrant health and weight loss, would you do it? If I told you in this book that you'd be regaining lots of lost nutrients by drinking your own urine, would you do it? If you read that Beyonce or Gwyneth Paltrow or some other celebrity was drinking her own urine to lose weight for a movie role, would you do it? I hope you wouldn't, but there are people who start each day with a nice tall glass of their own urine.
Here are some points I'd like you to consider:
1. You lost 5 pounds in 4 days, which is not surprising, because most of it is water weight. Unless you are extremely obese, the most fat you can safely lose on average, is 2 lbs/week. At best, what you are on now is a calorie-restricted diet. At worst, you are starving yourself of vital nutrients. Lemons, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and water, do NOT contain all of the essential nutrients your body needs. You'd be much better off eating a low-fat, low-calorie (1,200 calorie) diet, consisting of ripe, raw, organic whole fruits and vegetables, rather than starving yourself.
2. The "cleanse" does not "detoxify" your body. Your body "detoxifies" itself. The body is an amazing organism that has the ability to heal itself of chronic dis-ease, given the opportunity to do so. The quickest way to achieve this is with TOTAL and COMPLETE rest. A water-only fast, which requires you to be in a completely restful environment (extremely limited activity, zero stress, low stimulation), and absolutely requires medical supervision is the speediest route. (Your body's vital signs must be carefully and continually monitored.) The second fastest way to do this is by adopting the purest, simplest diet possible, so that your body is not spending enormous energy resources performing the bodily function of digestion. (The way most Americans eat, this is what their bodies are spending most of their energy doing: Trying to digest the unhealthful overabundance of junk that is constantly assaulting them.) So short of a doctor-supervised water fast, the safest, quickest, and most simple thing you can do to regain your vibrant health is to eat healthfully. Period. What you are doing now is unsound and DANGEROUS.
3. Please don't take my word for this. You say you have done your homework. But it seems to me, you have not really done so. Read what others have to say about the "Master Cleanse" program. You can start here, and then you can honestly say that you have begun to do your homework:
4. You will eventually regain ALL of the weight you lost and likely even more, after you end the "cleanse" program. By starving your body, you are not training yourself to adopt healthier life-long lifestyle habits. When you reintroduce solid food into your diet, and return to a maintenance level of calorie consumption (as opposed to starvation level), you will gain weight. No doubt about it.
5. There are safe ways to lose weight, which offer a lifetime of pleasurable and healthy eating and lifestyle habits. It's simple math: Calories consumed vs calories burned. If you consume more than you burn, you gain weight. If you burn more than you consume, you lose weight. If you consume the correct amount of calories to meet your body's nutritional needs and burn the appropriate amount of calories, you will maintain your weight. Period.
There's a reason why the folks on the popular TV show The Biggest Loser don't show you these very obese people losing weight on a "Master Cleanse." It's because it's not healthy, and it does not teach these people how to live healthfully and maintain their new bodies once they achieve them. You'll notice they feed these people real food (while restricting their caloric intake), and then they work their butts off in the gym and on the trail to burn calories.
In my personal and professional experience, (and I've worked with some of the leading health and nutrition experts in the world), the safest, most effective long-term way to achieve and maintain your ideal weight and vibrant health are by adopting these strategies:
1. Eat a diet mainly comprised of whole, ripe, raw, organic fruits and vegetables, with minimal amounts of healthy fat from coconut, avocado, nuts, and seeds. (10% of total caloric intake per day.)
2. Eat enough calories to meet your body's nutritional needs. (Likely around 1,600 calories per day, but this depends greatly on your height, ideal weight, and activity level.)
3. MOVE! Exercise is the key to a lifetime free from excessive weight, depression, and bone loss. Get a pedometer. Wear it! Strive to take 10,000 steps each and every day. If you do this, you can't help but burn calories, prevent bone loss, and feel great! Indulge in activities you enjoy: Hiking, biking, tennis, dance classes, or whatever else it is you choose. Just get away from the computer, out of your seat, and MOVE!
4. Consume lots of water. If you are practicing #1, you are going to consume lots of water-rich fruits, which help to curb your appetite. You won't need to drink 8 glasses of water a day like most people, who are eating foods with low water-content and are constantly dehydrated. If you don't believe me, just see how much time you'll be spending in the bathroom peeing and pooping, once you are eating a diet largely comprised of nutrient-rich, water-dense whole fruits and vegetables.
While I don't usually endorse any one "diet," I do recommend that you read The 80/10/10 Diet by Douglas Graham. He has counseled thousands of people (including many celebrities) and has helped them achieve vibrant health, he has supervised thousands of water fasts, and most important, he has a deep and profound understanding of human nutrition and biology.
People who undertake "juice fasts," "cleanses," and "detoxes" are generally looking for a quick-fix to resolve a lifetime of poor eating and lifestyle habits. But there are no "quick fixes." Developing new, healthy diet and lifestyle habits and maintaining them over the long run, is the surest and safest way to achieve the vibrant health and body of your dreams. This is my wish for you, and I'm here to support you in any way I can.
Love and hugs,