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December 08, 2009

The Skeptical Gawker: "Cleanses", "toning shoes", and cookie diets

Thank you, Hamilton Nolan of Gawker for shattering illusions with science and reason:

You know what else is bullshit, besides juice cleanses? The idea that wearing some ugly Reeboks with a curvy sole will give you an Ass of Steel. Bullshit. Also, cookie diets? Bullshit.

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.


If I can't binge on cookies, life isn't worth living.

Just promise you won't chase the cookies with salt water.

Nope - freshwater for me. I already eat twice as much salt as a healthy adult should.

Bravo. I knew someone who did the the “cleansing” thing. I couldn’t understand why someone would believe in such a gross, intestine-centric theory until it was pointed out to me that it was an excuse not to eat.

I've known weight-lifters who only eat 800 calories a day, during periods where they are cutting weight. But, just because it didn't kill 'em/cause 'em to pass out didn't make a it a good idea. And they were usually pretty uptight about what they were eating with those 800 calories (i.e., lean protein.)

Only pure grain alcohol and rain water for me. It's the "Purity of Essence" diet.

"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." Haha, talk about doing your research. Come on honey, I suggest you do a little research into what you're writing about so you get it right. Was he convicted of second-degree murder, yes. But it wasn't even close to the reason you explained. Ps. no real feminists support troop escalation in Afghanistan. And when I mean real, I mean real.

Um, Jun, honey... He was convicted of second degree felony murder because he killed someone while practicing medicine without a license. His particular flavor of unlicensed medical practice involved trying to cure cancer with lemonade, colored lights, and other crackpot interventions. My original statement is an accurate, if abbreviated, description of what happened. If you want to get technical about it, California Supreme Court ultimately reversed the felony murder conviction because it found problems with the original jury instructions. The court felt upheld various other convictions against Burroughs and found that his actions still left him open to a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Wait, this murder & lemonade thing is amazing!!! I had no idea. And me with a law school test on medical malpractice tomorrow.

what happened to the good old tried and true "jenny crank" diet?

I'm skeptical of anyone who claims to be able to perform a medical miracle or ensure total health something that requires less than a medical degree to understand. Anyone that claims anything involving the words, "all you need to do," "three simple steps," "the Eastern secret," "previously unknown to medical science" or "what doctors don't want you to know" is not only suspect, but likely a criminal.

It's a scam when someone says doing something will "rid the body of toxins" without saying which toxins, or citing a controlled experiment in which a control-group maintained their levels of that toxin while the experimental-group decreased their levels of that toxin.

I'm still surprised, though I shouldn't be, at how many people are just convinced that their intestines are like century old plumbing, and simply have to have caked-on accumulations of toxins and shit.

It's simply not scientific or medically proven, but if some quack selling a weirdo ass-blaster tells you, then, by god, I've got to cleanse my colon!

And shine some colored lights on me while I'm at it, because, you know, white light from the Sun doesn't have certain colors in it! I'm sure!

El Cid wins the thread. The "old plumbing" theory of the gut made sense in the days before medical imaging, or autopsies. I don't know how it survives to this day.

"It's a scam when someone says doing something will "rid the body of toxins""

Eric, the toxin they are always referring to is money, which of course corrupts, producing ill health. They will selflessly take it off your hands.

The best way to rid the body of aterial sludge and crap that coats the large intestines for years is to stop eating junk food and start eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, organic meats, and unsaturated and saturated fat (not transfats).

I have eaten a raw vegetarian diet and felt enormously hale and hearty but I couldn't sustain it because it was way too much work. There's nothing wrong with periodic short term fasting, but you have to know what you're doing.

Most North Americans consume way too many calories and could do with eating less. Unfortunately, the food they eat is loaded in calories but fails to keep them satisfied for long. The trick is to up the fats and proteins and eliminate refined carbohydrates.

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