The Skeptical Gawker: "Cleanses", "toning shoes", and cookie diets
Thank you, Hamilton Nolan of Gawker for shattering illusions with science and reason:
The cleansing craze is a socially acceptable variant of bulimia.* Crash diets are no longer socially acceptable. These days, even the women's magazines that promote crash diets insist they are offering healthy, sustainable 1200 calorie meal plans.
There is so much evidence that starvation diets are ineffective and dangerous that even quacks now claim to reject them. But evidently, people still want permission to subsist on 800 calories a day and use lot of laxatives. Marketers have responded to the demand.
Enter, the Master Cleanse. During the lemonade fast portion of the diet, dieters replaces solid food with cayenne spiked lemonade. Once a day, they chug salt water as a purgative. Additional laxative teas are optional. (The creator of the diet was convicted of second-degree felony murder for trying to cure cancer with lemonade and colored lights, but I digress.)
The ostensible goal of a cleanse is to rid the body of "toxins," not fat. Therefore, the dieters can tell themselves that they're not really dieting. The expected weight loss associated with drinking nothing but juice and purging for 10 days is just a happy side effect of a noble project of self-purification.
Back in October, Double-X assigned reporter Samantha Henig to endure several days of fasting and purging with the Master Cleanse in the name of (pseudo)science. She gave a pretty good description of the process. Henig ultimately abandoned the fast after a real doctor convinced her that the alleged benefits of Master Cleanse were illusory-an object lesson on the importance of doing your research before the interview.
*Relax, I'm not diagnosing anyone with anything. It's safe to assume that the vast majority of people who waste their time and money on cleanses do not have eating disorders and won't develop them as a result of their crazy diets.
Still, there's no getting around the fact that "cleanse" is a euphemism for modified fasting and purging.
Incidentally, bulimia is characterized by binging as well as purging. It should be noted that many cleanse enthusiasts recommend juice and saltwater benders as a form of purification after a period of overindulgence. Again, no diagnoses. Just observations.
The cleanse craze is insidious because it provides pseudoscientific cover for behavior that would otherwise strike reasonable people as bizarre and unhealthy.