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Cleanse Mania

I received one of my guilty pleasures in life in the mail earlier this week - Self Magazine.  I always enjoy dramatizing the big cover story promises with Marc - "'Beauty tricks for busy chicks'??  Why, I'M a busy chick!" - and analyzing just how much airbrushing has gone into the cover model.  But I find once I open the page, Self often has interesting and empowering articles among the standard "Lose 8 pounds in one week!"-esque empty promises.

So I was intrigued, as a yogi, as someone who loves food more than words can possibly describe, and as a lover of alliteration when I came upon this article:  Detox Diets Debunked.  (At the bottom, be sure to continue to click on "Beat Bloat," etc. to read further - it's less general information and more "eat this instead of detoxing with that" but it's still interesting)

Given our body obsessed culture in our modern world (even in the magazine that publishes this very article), plus the "detoxification" obsessed culture in the yoga world, it's no wonder that Cleanses just keep getting more and more popular.  This morning as I was sitting to read the New York Times before writing this blog, I came upon another article about detoxes/cleanses:  The Juice Cleanse:  A Strange and Green Journey.  (I think it's also worth briefly mentioning - the Self article is actually more investigative and the NYTimes article is more fluffy.  Interesting.)
Mmmmm.  Dinner.
I'd hear about them occasionally in college - a friend or two wanting to drop weight fast or get back to feeling good after some junk food binges left them feeling sluggish.  Since I moved to New York, however, I seem to hear about them all the time.  I have several dear friends who have done the Master Cleanse (it's crazytown to me how detailed this website is).  They lost weight, they sometimes felt wonderful and sometimes awful, and they survived.  Some people do it once a year or even once a month.

Personally - I have never understood it.  I certainly understand the desire to hit a reset button on your body when you've overdone it and I understand the desire to shed weight and to feel - well, cleansed.

But what I understand more?  My body needs food to survive!  Not just "craves," not just "desires" - needs.  If you go without food for a time - yes, you will likely lose weight.  But what kind of weight are you actually losing?  How long will it last once you inevitably start eating again?  What happens to your metabolism, your blood sugar, your muscle mass, and your necessary fat stores in the meantime?

As a New York yogi, I'm not sure just how in the minority I am on this.  Often it's  justified through the concept of saucha, or purity, which is one of the niyamas (observance) of yoga.  To me, however, that just implies that your body is a dirty thing which requires extra effort on your part to cleanse it.  That's not what I think saucha is supposed to be about.

The cleanse trend seems to be commonplace, but all I hear and say in yoga classes and conversations all day long is honor your body.  How on earth are we honoring it by depriving it of fuel?  It's about as logical as "honoring" your car by driving on fumes for a week to cleanse and detox.  We can honor our body by trusting our internal organs that work just fine at detoxing and taking care of waste, thank you very much.  No cayenne lemonade diet required.

Anyone else have any thoughts?  I'd love to hear opinions.


  1. I totally agree. We have livers for a reason, thank you very much! I love your point about trusting our internal organs to take care of us. I think that's the great thing about yoga in general - I often find it teaches me that my body will take care of me as long as I let it.


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