The bizarre maple syrup potion I’ve been swigging on all day instead of eating food seems to be mostly working it’s magic and keeping the hunger at bay. But the overwhelming smell of my Fiance’s Carne Burrito is giving me the illusion of hunger. It’s an illusion so strong that it is taking all of my character not to launch myself at him in a violent attack to retrieve even the tiniest morsel of succulent steak.
I work with models. All day freakishly tall, thin and beautiful women surround me and I have been around it for years. To date, it hasn’t been of any detriment to my own self-esteem and for that I am thankful. Being constantly surrounded by such relentless, physical superiority can send some in my industry into a bitter and twisted place of tremendous insecurity and gross, negative body image. But that’s not me. I’m surely not overweight in anyone’s eyes (except perhaps my own once a month for a couple of days but I could be forgiven as it usually comes accompanied by pajama pants, a lot of weeping, a chocolate smeared face and an inability to see reason in anything).
So why then am I starving myself? I am starving myself because I feel a shift. It’s time for a change. I’m no spring chicken anymore. I’ve quit smoking (again) and I’m off the booze for a while. It makes sense at this juncture in my life to attempt some kind of detoxification program; it has been a long time coming. It also doesn’t hurt that as a byproduct, I might lose some lumpiness in time for my wedding (my chosen gown fits like a second skin and it’s making me nervous – it appears that some body consciousness has rubbed off).
Despite never having involved myself in dieting or really any form of restraint or self-discipline over any earthly pleasures, this world is something I do know one or two things about. You don’t spend years working in an environment where regularly clients disappear on mysterious and spontaneous vacations only to return 2 bra cup sizes larger, or a handful of inches smaller around the hips or with decidedly pregnant lips where used to reside thin lines, without learning what goes into all of that.
Dieting, detoxification and rehabilitation are all the rage in this game and in particular in Hollywood in this game. Although there are many options of ways to detoxify or lose weight, I chose the most extreme, the Master Cleanse. I am a Scorpio. Extremes are my turf. Saturday night I was dancing on tabletops, swigging directly out of a bottle of tequila, chain-smoking a Tijuana fiesta away (really). Today, I am imbibing nothing but a quart of salt water when I wake and a couple of liters of some strange elixir throughout the day. Dangerous? Probably. Irresponsible? Maybe a little. But I figured if Whole Foods West Hollywood could dedicate a whole display to this diet/ detox and Beyonce could whip her booty into shape for Dreamgirls after 10 days of this kind of hell and no one has died – then I could give it a go.
Over the past few years I have heard endless tales about the Master Cleanse (also known as the Lemonade Diet). The most searched Recipe on Google for 2007 it is no longer simply the realm of weird, west coast raw foodists, yogis and starlets on a mission. I know nutritionists who slam it heavily and yogis who practice regularly, models who abide by it, quacks who endorse it and people whose opinion I genuinely trust who sing its highest praise. The best thing to do I felt was to find out for myself.
Developed in the 40s by natural healer, peddler of cancer cures and nudist, Stanley Burroughs, he finally published a book on it dispensing advice and the recipe in 1976. If his background isn’t questionable enough, the book itself smacks of cheap, holistic-bookstore, mumbo jumbo, is poorly written, full of typos, terribly phrased and appears to have no basis whatsoever in science. But somehow, all this was not enough to perturb me.
I know people who have taken the Master Cleanse for as little as 5 days up to as long as 40 days, but 10 seem to be the preferred. I went with the common choice of 10 days. In addition to alleged detoxification attributes claiming that all bodily toxins and mucus are purged from the large intestine (toilet time is greatly increased), the Master Cleanse is said to improve mental acuity, brighten the eyes and skin and result in a loss of anywhere between 5 and 20 pounds and cure a plethora of ailments. I know those who’ve gotten sick from it, those for whom it made no difference and an ever-growing number who swear by it and do it annually. Now at day 3, I myself am not yet convinced.
Commencing the day with the salt-water flush has been truly grotesque. I’m no baby about such things, but drinking a quart of that saline solution each morning usually takes me one, begrudging, nauseating hour to complete followed immediately by what one actually would describe as a ‘flush.’ Every morning I get the feeling that to have contracted Delhi Belly would have felt more reasonable – at least I’d have gotten to eat first.
I wake early to prepare all my liters of liquid nutrients (Grade B, dark maple syrup, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and spring water) – my only sustenance throughout the course of this masochistic venture. This way I am equipped to self-administer my meal substitute all day at work and all night at home (because of course there’s now way you’re going outside of your house and into a world filled with the temptation of food come sundown). In the evenings I have a natural, herbal laxative tea and the excitement and anticipation over that aromatic cup is reminiscent of a crying baby to its bottle. I think about that cup of tea most of the day.
It’s a very mean thing to do to your self the Master Cleanse. It’s also totally bizarre. Prior to this experiment, I had never gone a day without a meal. Not a day. At the writing of this article, I am 77 hours without food (I don’t own scales so can’t tell you if I’m lighter but I feel much lighter). As much as I feel perfectly energetic, not really hungry - whenever the hunger pains should rear their head, a bang on the old syrup bottle instantly quashes any tummy rumbles – and feel bright and in good health, I am struggling substantially with denying myself the joys and rituals of eating. It appears that quitting eating is 2000 times harder than quitting smoking.
For me, this cleanse is about kick starting new habits and saying farewell to old. It’s also about testing my limits and an exercise in understanding abstinence. And although I won’t be disappointed if I lose a few pounds, I certainly wouldn’t suggest this as a means of weight loss. If you, like myself can’t be dissuaded and feel the need to try it yourself, take these tips from me:
Do it in summer, you’re always cold.
Don’t watch TV it’s bursting at the seams with food reference.
The darker the maple syrup the better.
Take as much cayenne pepper as you can handle.
Give yourself a good couple of hours to prepare, ingest and relieve in the mornings.
As with quitting most things it’s one day at a time – no different when quitting food.
You may feel flu symptoms in the first few days, depending how toxic you are. They will pass.
By beginning of day 4 you should feel a very sharp rise in energy. If you don’t and you are in fact feeling lethargic, increase the quantity of maple syrup you’re using – it just might not be the right combination for your body.
Follow the rules about transitioning back to solids after the fast explicitly.
It appears that I - the keep-it-real little Australian - have fallen hook, line and sinker for Hollywood –well at least for ten days. Whether or not I’ll be tap dancing to my car an hour earlier than need be for work is yet to be seen. Whether or not my skin will take on a pretty glow, my big-enough-eyes grow even wider and whiter, my waistline come to rival the youngest model’s and the word ‘hamburger’ vanish from my vocabulary, only time will tell. But what this enduring, cult favorite of a fast is heartily reaffirming is that food is a many splendid, sensuous thing and the ritual of not only eating but preparing it and the social interaction that comes with it is something we mostly all take for granted.
A Few Days Later: