I aimed for 3. I made it to 6, then committed to the full 10. Now, after 14 days, I am done with the Master Cleanse!
I started the Master Cleanse as a remedy for the physiological and psychological bloating I had accumulated from my overindulgences over the previous months of summer and more recent weeks of fall: snack-filled days at the beach, meaty barbecues, multi-course dinner parties, rich birthday dinners and endless ice cream and cake and sweets — and with it all, a lot of beer and wine and other complementary substances. Despite my regular yoga and frequent hikes in the woods, it all left me feeling a bit less than the healthy, hearty, enlightened fit femme and glowing goddess I aspire to be.
I was contemplating my next steps to turn this pattern around when I encountered two people in my life doing the Master Cleanse. http://themastercleanse.org/ They were smiling, radiant, professing clarity and energy and enhanced self-awareness. My interest was more than piqued. I had begun researching and preparing for the cleanse years ago, but then became pregnant with my second son and abandoned the idea. While it was one I returned to time and again, after the depleting breastfeeding and toddler-rearing years, I never felt confident in my ability to sustain a fast while running a household and managing a family--chores, dinners, errands, plus work on top of it all--how the hell would I manage that without killing or isolating everyone? I could see the headline, “Mom Fasts, Locks Family in Basement for 10 Days.” This time, however, after a buttload of research on fasting and this one in particular, I felt I was ready.
I can do it for at least three days, I thought. Not including the easing-in process of cutting out all processed foods, going vegan, going on a liquid diet of broths, soups & fresh-squeezed juices, and then a final day of organic orange juice before the first day of the fast. This meant I was off solid food for 2 days before the fast even began. It wasn’t much of a hardship. Even on my son’s field trip amongst all the sandwiches and chips and salsa and protein bars and nuts and fruit on my soup day.
I eased into the cleanse like easing into a hot tub. Once I was all in, I was comfortable and happy. So much so that now, 3, 6, 10, 12 days later, I am not ready to get out. While food smells nice, I don’t really want any. Even now toward the end, the idea of food is still more appealing than its reality.
Some are dubious about my supposed self-discipline or self-deprivation. My husband worries. My mom worries. Both in the same, “tsk, tsk” kind of way, as if I’m depriving myself rather than rejuvenating myself. But let me tell you, I am more surprised than anyone that I have made it this far with such self-control. FYI, am not one known for my self-discipline (insert inside-joke winky-face emoticon here). I am hedonistic by both nature and nurture. And yet, the exact thing that supports that part of my personality and lifestyle—a lack of moderation—is likely exactly the thing that supports me in this endeavor. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it fully and to the extreme. Why the fuck else would I do it if I were only going to do if half-ass? Full-ass it is! (And, I am happy to say, that while I have whittled away several pounds and inches on this fast, I still have my ass and my tits! There’s one advantage of middle-age—the fat sticks, and not just in places you don’t want it!)
But what are the benefits of this cleanse aside from shedding a few unwanted fat cells? Shedding all the toxins stored therein, for one! Purifying the blood stream. Flushing the body of mucus. Cleansing the colon. Giving the digestive system a vacation. Reversing cell inflammation. All of the body’s energy goes towards repairing cells and cleaning house rather than accumulating more toxins. It’s said that years of toxins are flushed from the body. No wonder I keep feeling like I can keep going—I’ve got 46 years of dead food matter, pharmaceutical residue, animal byproducts, legal and illegal substances to flush from my system. Whether it's from lack of toxins or food, the effects are obvious.
I’ve noticed that the shape of nature seems more clear, its feeling more intimate, its colors more vivid. (And, no I am not hallucinating from starvation.) My thoughts are clearer, my breaths deeper. I have received compliments from many friends and acquaintances—that I am glowing, my eyes are bright, my hair is shiny, my skin radiant, I look slim, happy. ... And inevitably, the conversation goes something like this:
“Oh, you’re on a cleanse? What are you taking?”
I describe the ingredients of my drink: fresh-squeezed lemon, pure maple syrup, cayenne pepper, water.
“But what are you eating?”
“Nothing,” I say.
“Nothing? What do you mean?”
“Nothing but the drink.”
“What? No food at all?!” …. “Not even wine?” my mother asks.
Incredulousness and skepticism is the general reaction. Followed by curiosity and admiration. Others have heard of the Master Cleanse or done their own fast and profess their support and cameraderie.
Things I’ve realized on this fast: Food is a habit. Licking my fingers while cooking, eating my kids’ leftover snacks, lunch items, and dinner plate morsels. Grabbing a piece of candy. Eating free samples at the store. Getting a quick bite or sugary caffeinated beverage to kill some time. I also realize that food is very social. I haven’t had lunch with my friends. I make everyone self-conscious at dinner parties as they sit there with their dinner-plate sized steaks and big-gulps of wine and I sit there with my wine glass of spicy lemonade. People want me to eat. People do not trust others who do not eat. People do not like to eat alone. They certainly don’t like to be stared at while they’re eating by someone they have reasoned is starving herself for no reason.
My husband worriedly asks when I will eat again. My 12-year-old wants to share his dinner. My youngest son asks if I want any of his ice cream. My friends ask me when they can invite me to lunch or out for a cocktail. My besty tells me that if I don’t stop at day 14, she will force feed me a hamburger. And yet, despite my refusals and no thank yous, everyone has been very supportive. My husband took up much of the cooking in my second week, though I have not waned on providing food for my family—I just can’t taste what I’m cooking.
And I’ve also dropped more than physical aspects—I’ve dropped all expectation, dropped my guard, dropped my self-loathing and doubt, my impatience (well, most of it—I did endure PMS during this timeframe). I am shedding so much both literally and figuratively. It is said that self-enlightenment is more attainable during a fast. Well, so is time! I have so much more time to do what I want to do as well as what needs to be done without chasing after and running away from my neuroses all day.
And I have not really experienced any of the major or bothersome side effects of the fast. I've been able to maintain my normal on-the-go daily life and work schedule. I've continued to do yoga and take walks, but I have not done any major cardio. I have had a couple of times when I stood up too fast and had to stop myself until the faint feeling went away. But I never hit the floor! And today was the first day I experienced a headache, but that is more likely from the Botox I got yesterday than symptoms of the fast. This may surprise some of you. But don't judge. Yes, I am 46 and a bit—no, a lot—vain. And, yes, I know, here I am detoxing, just to get poison injected into my brow. But I looked it up on Islam.com--per Ramadan rules, getting Botox does not break a fast. So there!
Today, Day 13 of the cleanse, day 2 of my period …. I am eliminating more than I have in the last weeks. My body’s natural cleansing process extends beyond my uterus and is working in conjunction with the cleanse it seems.
Another side effect, both boon and bane, of the cleanse, is that my senses are heightened. Especially my sniffer. If you have eaten garlic in the last 3 hours to 3 days, I can tell. I’m also sleeping like it’s a sport. I am in bed many nights before the kids, but awake in the night not, for once, because of a blood sugar spike post too-much wine, but because by 4am I am actually well rested enough to get up. I should. But I do not, purely on principle.
On day 14, I integrated orange juice into my lemonade. And today, I have had the pleasure of sipping on carrot-ginger soup and miso soup. Main goals: To reintegrate more healthful eating and lifestyle habits (much to the chagrin of many of my friends) into my life. Not to worry, those hedonistic roots are still intact. But I am returning largely to a plant-based diet and attempting moderation in the rest of things. Wish me luck!
As I begin to ingest food, I must also remind myself to ingest only positive input from around me. I need to remember all that I have shed and not invite negative or unhealthy communicative or emotional habits back in. This will be tougher than uninviting processed foods, meat and dairy from my diet. I was a vegetarian for 12 years but I have never been free from crazy for that long. It is definitely a longer detoxing process, dropping all of those old patterns and eliminating all of the elements that poison my mental state and invite stress and anxiety into my life, both of which I have been incredibly free of on this cleanse. One step closer to enlightenment? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But I am happy to be on a path where it certainly seems more attainable.