… On The Master Cleanse

There are some that thought this post was too provocative. And by provocative I of course mean borderline undignified. Fortunately for all of you, I was not one of those people. I debated being real, but frankly the public needs to know that as Betty Davis said, this cleanse is no place for sissies. And so on with the show.

Once upon a time I was living in Chicago, during which I entertained such ventures as working at a “chocolate lounge,” observing a new breed of men deemed “metrosexuals” (I was born in Pittsburgh and went to school in Ohio. They don’t have those there) and also interning at casting agency. It was at the latter one day that one of the lovely ladies working there came in with a drink that appeared so foreign to me in its thermos that I had to inquire as to what in the blazes it was. Not to mention I hadn’t seen her actually eat anything the past few days I had been in the office.

“Oh, I’m doing the Master Cleanse. It’s seriously awesome.”

A drink that was “seriously awesome”?

“What do you mean? What’s the ‘master cleanse’? Where is your food?”
“It’s great. I found it online and it’s this thing where you don’t eat any food for at least ten days, and instead drink a combination of lemon juice and water and a few other things. It sounds awful I know, but it seriously cleans out your system. And my skin feels so much better!”

Now, please allow me to give you some background information that could prove important in understanding why I would even entertain the thought of not eating for ten days on purpose. While living in Chicago I had read the book Skinny Bitch and subsequently, it having scared the crap out of me, became a vegan. I was doing pretty well at it actually and it was proving more cost effective from a grocery standpoint, not to mention a digestive standpoint, so I was trying really hard to clean my diet of its meaty components. As a result, the word “cleanse” seemed to stick in my mind in ways I couldn’t seem to push aside. For a time I would put the thought out of my mind. But I couldn’t shake it.

Not long after that conversation, I found the job market in the city (and my situation) stagnating. So I moved back to Pittsburgh to reassess my life. The life reassessment apparently included thinking once again of this cleanse. I couldn’t get out of my head the challenge of not eating. It’s sick, I’m aware of this. But I thought “if only I can get rid of any meat debris in my body, then I’ll just be set!” These thoughts literally went through my mind. I can’t justify it. I also was starting to worry myself because my dedication to what had slid down to vegetarianism was wavering. Pittsburgh has cheese and meats like you don’t know, and I somehow found myself throwing bites of cheddar in the pie hole every now and then. The icing on the cheater’s cake came when I inadvertently (I will still argue this was an accident though I can’t explain how) ate a chicken nugget at a Halloween party. Something had to be done, and done fast!

And so one day, I went online and looked up the rules to the Master Cleanse. It seemed simple enough- buy a crap-ton of lemons (organic if you can), cayenne pepper (organic if you can…) and grade B maple syrup (O.R.G.A.N.I.C.). Additionally, load up on non-iodized salt and laxative tea (organic organic organic…oy oy oy). Your drink of choice? A mixture of warm (barf…) filtered water with two tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice, stirred together with two tablespoons of that grade B maple syrup and a dash (1/10 teaspoon to be more precise) of cayenne pepper. Salivating yet? Questioning my sanity yet? Answer neither. Read on.

The rules were deceptively simple- you wake up in the morning and drink two liters (yes, I said that) of salt water. The next thing to keep in mind is that at least six times a day, you will drink your special concoction. Then at night, you will drink a cup of your laxative tea. Fantastic! Sounds so tasty, too!

This is what happens in real life.

I went to the grocery store to pick up my essential materials. The first thing I did was buy out the lemons. I’m not kidding. I think I bought somewhere around 25. But that wasn’t even enough to ensure I could go a full ten days. I had to dip into the limes. It was absurd. The next thing I did was make sure I could pick up my grade B maple syrup. This was when things started going slightly awry. They only had grade A and the website had been VERY particular not to use anything but grade B. Well, they’d have to make do. I may have been carrying upwards of 30 citrus fruits but I certainly wasn’t driving around the city in search of a different syrup- I knew when to say when. Finally, forgetting to get the special salt, I went and purchased probably more cayenne pepper than I’ll ever have in my life. I can actually attest to this fact as I haven’t eaten any cayenne pepper since this experience. Lastly, I grabbed my “Smooth Move” laxative tea. Yes! Cleanse time!

I awoke the following morning and went downstairs to pour myself my heaping two liters of salt water. How much salt goes in that thing? Two tablespoons. Now, I don’t know if anyone else has ever actually drank water that is mostly salt. I’m sure there are some of you that have used it to gargle, and if memory serves, most likely found this difficult and disgusting. Just try drinking it. I DARE you. Additionally, many don’t think about this (why would you?) but your body actually gets slightly confused when it ingests salt with a side of H2O. It’s thinking to itself, “Hey man, what in the hell is this? Is this food? Naw, that’s not food. Well but wait a tic, I can’t throw all that salt in her bladder, what are we gonna do?”

It’s not ok. It’s just not ok.

Thank the good lord there were two notes on the warning part of an online blog I HAPPENED to come across during my prep. One of which was “DO NOT LEAVE THE HOUSE FOR TWO HOURS after your morning salt water cleanse.” Do you understand where I’m going with this? No? Your body can’t tell if it should pee or head out the back door. The creator of the cleanse was counting on this and will tell you that the salt is “gently scraping food particles” from the lining of your intestine and thus cleansing you out. What is actually happening is, forgive this, you’re shitting water. I’m sorry, it’s true. Not only that, but according to the second warning I happened to come across, any gas emissions must be denied wholeheartedly or else disaster may ensue. That was my morning.

Onward to my first helping of my awesome drink! I freshly squeezed my lemons into ten ounces (about a mug) of warm tap water. If you’re keeping track of my mistakes, we’re already up to three: wrong syrup, wrong salt, wrong non-filtered water. But hey, who’s counting? Anyways, suffice it to say I gagged and accidentally spit up the drink. How in the world am I going to drink any more of this one cup, let alone a minimum of six helpings a day for the next ten days? What have I done? How many damn lemons are in that bowl?

Thankfully, I had loads of support from family and friends to whom I could turn in this my hour of need:

Mom: “What are all those lemons? What are you doing? Do you want a sandwich? Oh my god.”
Friend 1: “What the hell?”
Friend 2: “Seriously? That’s insane, how are you not going to eat for ten days? I feel like that’s not healthy. You put pepper on it?”
Friend 3: “What do you mean you can’t fart?”

I’m really not sure how I did it but I managed to make it through the first day. That night, I took my laxative tea and hoped for the best and then went to bed. Or so I thought. I awoke at 4 AM the following morning with some not so Smooth Moves causing my intestines to feel as if someone was playing jump rope with them. It was absolutely awful and there was nothing to do but drink water and wait out the pain. It’s also worth noting that the longer you do the cleanse, obviously the less of anything is left in your system. Therefore, when your tea goes to contract your tract, it literally becomes a belabored horrible pain because THERE IS NOTHING IN YOUR DIGESTIVE SYSTEM to get out.

Day two, same deal. Sucked, and I was afraid to even burp lest I poop my pants. Yes, I just said that. Remember, this is for your own benefit. Day three was absolutely the hardest day of the entire thing. I was in the denial stage. “What am I doing? I want pizza! I should be able to have it! No! you can’t have it, you’ve come so far! Look how well your pants are fitting! HAM AND CHEESE!!!” It was horrible. I may have eaten a carrot. I’m not entirely sure.

The next few days were a blur. I started thinking crazy thoughts. I was at the mall with a friend and thought “Hey, those jellybean samples aren’t real food. There’s only 5 of them!” And I ate the samples. At the same time, I started to actually crave that repulsive concoction because it was essentially the only thing I was allowed to have. It was never a “YUM! This is awesome!” but more of a “Well, this pepper isn’t THAT bad once you get used to it.” This was not a good sign for things to come.

There was an incident that took place where I really should’ve known it was time to stop. And please remember, you can stop reading this now. I’m telling you, you don’t have to go on. But if you really want to know how not eating or drinking anything but lemon juice, laxative tea, water, salt, maple syrup and pepper can affect your mind and body, just go ahead. As mentioned previously there was a warning that if you toot you shoot. Well I accidentally did toot one day and nothing happened. “Those liars!” I thought to myself in my day 5 delirium. “They’re just trying to make me suffer!” So the next time I felt compelled, I decided “It’ll be fine! They’re a bunch of liars!” All I can say, is thank god I was in the shower. And that is all I will say because though there isn’t much left, I would like to save some semblance of my dignity to forfeit at my eulogy.

Now, why did I tell you that? To gross you out? I mean sure, but that’s not the primary point. The point is that if I had been of sound mind and not delirious from food deprivation and borderline masochism, I should have known that sharting in all cases is a time to reevaluate a situation. But I decided I couldn’t stop the cleanse. Not now, I had come so far! This was the epitome of my insanity, I thought. Or was it…

That night, I did something more shameful than what I have just mentioned. This was the night the cleanse came to an absolute, irretrievable halt and I pretty much officially lost my mind. My mom had recently gotten a bulldog named Bogie. Bogie was their first puppy and a really cute little guy so he was totally spoiled. One of the ways that he was spoiled was a little doggie treat bag. These bags had not only bits of kibble, but also whole chunks of high grade cheddar cheese and cooked sausage. Basically (kibble included) things you should avoid if you are a vegetarian, not to mention a vegan. I cannot defend my actions other than to plead insanity. But that night I snapped. I swear I only wanted the cheddar initially. But somehow in my crazed food frenzy I also ate the sausage and kibble. The sausage was a no no, but the worst part of it is, I clearly remember acknowledging the dog food was in my mouth and not even caring. I ate Bogie’s treat pack. I ate kibble. It was my lowest point.

And so what the hell is the moral of this story? The moral is, if you choose to go down the path of cleanliness, this could absolutely happen to you. And the worst part of it is, the cleanse actually does nothing. It literally does nothing. If you’re blocked up, hey, pick up that tea for a night. But otherwise, for the love of God, just don’t do this. It gives you a story not a clean colon. And PS, my skin broke out from all the maple syrup.

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