January 29, 2009

Detox Diets? Bah. Try the MeTox diet!

What do people mean when they say detox diet?

The term "Detox Diet" has more meanings than Paris Hilton has brain cells outfits.

I understand people wanting to get rid of toxins in their fat cells.
I understand people who want to avoid ingesting toxic fats, like Dr. Sears.
But when people say "Detox Diet" they seem to be referring to a different concept altogether. Usually it seems to be code for "another dramatic way to lose weight."

There are myriad stories on the web about people who spend several days doing things like eating bean sprout (yes, just the one) and drinking naught but lightly steamed water. It makes me wonder -- are they trying to imitate what celebrities do in fancy resorts, only without the high-priced tonic water and paparazzi?

Master Cleanse: More legal than LSD, but just as healthy

The most popular Detox Diet I've found out there is the Master Cleanse, wherein the victims dieters are required to subsist on water, lemons, maple syrup and cayenne pepper for days. They start hallucinating and rave about all the weight they lost. (Okay, not all of them hallucinate. Or at least, not all of them talk about it, like Gwyeth Paltrow.)

Sheesh. It would be much simpler to find a local friendly drug dealer and purchase some over-the-top hallucinogenic substances. You'd enjoy the process as much, if not more so, and hey! You might lose weight!

Oh wait, sorry, the phone's ringing...

What's that? Lawsuit? Oh, nobody's going to... Oh. All right. Fine.

Ahem. I have been reminded that it should be made clear that Cranky Fitness does not in any way endorse indulging in activities whose side effects might include getting arrested, roughed up, or mildly deceased. Please consult your physician, pastor, or parole officer before proceeding.

All the same, I think it makes as much sense to put illegal substances into your body as it does to try and get by, even for a few days, on a diet that provides one vitamin (vitamin C) in small doses and has no other nutritionally redeeming qualities.

What is up with people who insist on these extreme cleansing diets, but refuse to eat sensibly the rest of the time? A diet has to hurt, that's okay with them, but God forbid it should make sense?

The Perfect World Detox Diet

Though you'll never find it on the Internet under this name, there's also the "In a Perfect World" detox diet:

- Switch off the computer, television, blackberry or children* and get some sleep
- Drink unembellished spring water
- Wear only unbleached cotton
- Follow only organic vegetarian-based meal plans
- Rid your mind of all negative thoughts, anger, or resentment
[Brace yourself, here comes the tough part]
-Cut out all meat, dairy, alcohol, sugar and caffeine from your diet

(*And if you can manage that trick, please let the rest of the world know about it. You'll earn the gratitude of thousands and make millions.)

Y'know, if you follow this Perfect World diet, it really will help your liver, and your kidneys, and your waistline.

And afterwards, you can go on to solve Global Warming, eh?

I think the only way I would follow this diet with any degree of fidelity would be to move to a shack in the middle of the woods and become a hermit. And even then I'd probably find a way to cheat.

Sure, you probably should avoid all the bad stuff and subsist on lightly steamed bean sprout(s). But seriously -- are you going to do it? For more than a week or so? The Cranky Fitness philosophy is that exercising and eating healthy are both a pain sometimes. If too much of a pain, you probably won't do it, at least not for long.

So why not try a different approach?

The Cranky Fitness Metox Diet

- Switch off (if possible) the computer, television, blackberry or children and get some sleep.
- If you want to get toxins out of your body, then focus on not putting them in your mouth! Avoid meat or dairy that has been messed up with antibiotics or hormones; buy organic vegetables.
- Go work up a sweat with Manuel (Or whoever makes you hot and sweaty.)
-Rather than cut out all meat, dairy, alcohol, sugar and caffeine from your diet, try cutting out two or even three of the five. Leave yourself some leeway for the occasional 'bad' food.
- Avoid any food or drink with a long list of polysyllabic ingredients.
Note: sodas, even Weight Watchers soda, usually include wood ester. The people who make this stuff say the amount is too low to affect humans. The people who analyze this stuff say there are no long-term studies to verify one way or another. Me, I say if you have to add wood by-products to keep the soda stable, then I'll pass.

The Metox principle is to limit the bad stuff to a level that you and your liver can both accept. It's not as dramatic, but it is a lot more doable than some of the other DeTox diets out there. Plus, you don't have to send 3 simple installments of $24.99 to get the secret!

What's that? I supposed to charge people for this information? Oh crap.

Additives to 'flush' your liver? Flush the additives instead!

What really bothers me is when people want to 'flush' the liver with additives. The liver is not a sewer! If you want to flush, use a toilet. Any additive that claims to 'flush' things is definitely wandering into Ask Your Doctor territory. Especially if you're already losing weight.

Even people who advocate Caloric Restriction (severely limiting the number of calories you eat -- not as a short-term diet, but as a lifestyle) do not recommend losing a lot of weight in a hurry:

"Our foods contain various chemicals (e.g. pesticides) that are fat soluble.... losing fat (weight) too quickly will flush lots of toxic chemicals into our bloodstream -- too fast for our bodies to effectively eliminate."

A Detox Diet really should be a list of things not to eat or drink, plus some obvious injunctions to sleep more and exercise more. Things you already know, in other words.

If you want to do something exotic, go on a round-the-world cruise or climb to the top of a secluded Himalayan peak and consult with some ancient guru. But please don't go messing around with any additives that purport to 'flush' your liver without having a chat with your friendly local physician first.

I realize not all the people who advocate flushing your system are trying to scam you. Some really are trying to be helpful. But there are enough dangers inherent in the whole concept that it drives me into skeptical mode.

Here are some more views on detoxing:

Flush those toxins! Eh, not so fast

Woman left brain damaged by detox

'No proof' detoxing diets work

If I sound cranky, it's because it pisses me off to see people being taken advantage of by other 'experts' who claim to 'help' the patients while helping themselves to their cash.

Or else it's because I'm jealous that I'm not hanging out with Brittney and Paris by the pool.


  1. Love! This is a fab post Merry. So funny!! I totally agree that its all about lifestyle change for 'detox'. I mean if I,er, I mean someone could just put the bottle down for a month or so, I'd, I mean they'd get better sleep, likely eat better AND detox...that's a package deal! Thanks!

  2. I had a friend who was making fun of Kat Von D (LA Ink) for doing the master cleanse. I agreed it was ridiculous, dangerous, etc. And then a few months later .... the same friend says she's going to do "this master cleanse thing, it sounds so great!" Luckily, she didn't go through with it--but the gullibility required to even think something like this could be healthy just blows my mind.

    My mom used to suggest eating nothing but brown rice and water for a few days in some sort of bogus cleansing ritual, too.

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  4. Hey Cranksters, thought I'd come out of lurking for this one. In another life I worked performing Colonic Irrigations (don't ask!), and many of my clients were on the latest and greatest detox..... most of them slightly mad, all of them racing to return to their previous bad habits as soon as the detox was over. All I can say is, slow and steady wins the race people.

  5. youre so freakin funny, merry.

    and had me.

    until it meant relinquishing my one Dr Diet Whatevs! per day.

    Im not there yet.

    I guess Im still Toxing?

  6. Ha. That is really funny. Nice one. Detox, a nice way of convincing your self, that all your bad behaviour can be cancelled out be eating celery and carrots for five days.

  7. That detox thing sounds scary! Of course I am so pure I am positive that a toxin would dare not ever reside in my bod... :-)

  8. For me, it's everything in moderation, and making sure I get enough fiber.

    And drinking lots of tea.

  9. I was once tempted to try a detox thing - even went as far as to buy a whole lot of supplements and then I had the WTF moment and realized how dumb it was. And also - not losing the chocolate thx!

    I have a friend who brags about going a week on a water detox and I worry about her and I try stop her but she lives a million miles away and I can't control her.

  10. Funny!!! I'm glad you did a post on this because we see them all over lately. I have to admit, even though I know "how" to lose weight, I have been strangely curious about these diets. The thought had crossed my mind, "maybe I'm not just 60 plus extra pounds of fat but maybe it's all those toxins clogging me up!" I'm not fat, I'm clogged :) After reading this and the links, I won't be trying it any time soon :) SO, thanks!

  11. Very funny! I love your writing style! And it's so true as well.

  12. Detox diets have always made me shake my head. And the story about the woman left brain-damaged by her detoxing shows why.
    There are no quick fixes. Sheesh.

  13. Love this one Merry. The infomercial that has the thinly mustached guy talking about his great and wondrous cleanse always makes me laugh when he talks about the waste stuck like spackle on the walls of the colon. Maybe that's the product that someone should be selling as an agent to be used to keep out the drafts in the winter.

  14. It's the beauty of the human mind - that we're suckers for a quick fix and a good anecdotal story.

    I like your version! Do the work, see the results! lol. Seems so simple, doesn't it.

  15. In my younger days - when I really was stupid enough to try ANYTHING and everything to lose weight (including jogging in a plastic suit), I was forever on some or other 'detox' programme. My favourite though was 'the grape cure' (read: diet) which I did with a sort of religious zeal ever year for years until I not only hated grapes, butone year managed to faint whilst riding my bike (ironically right next to a vineyard)after eating nothing but grapes for 3 weeks!). Fortunately I think the fall must have knocked some sense into my thick skull because I guess I finally got cured of doing the infamous 'grape cure...

  16. Fantastic post, Merry! I love the "metox" diet - very sensible and no hallucinating involved. It is strange what people will do to achieve "perfection", no?? (Am off to read the story about the woman getting brain damage from her detox. Those articles are like car accidents - I know I won't like it and yet I MUST look! Now, if you'll excuse me.)

  17. LOL!! Merry is Always Right is the new mantra!!

  18. So funny! "If you want to flush use the toilet." I love you. :)

    Thank goodness for silly Gwyneth setting the example of all that is unsane - showing us what *not* to do. "Nourish the inner aspect" - my big toe! Whilst starving the outer aspect? No thanks y'all!

  19. Count me in for metox.:)

    I have a few granola friends who swear by the Master Cleanse. They don't listen to me anymore when I tell them to just eat natural foods and drink more water. They do it not for weight loss so much as health. They rave their "proof" is how after a few days they just felt absolutely awful...because their body was fluching out al the toxins.
    You feel like crap because you're doing nasty things to your body...
    Then there's the cleanse where you drink nothing but "nature's perfect food" which is apparently hot water + maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Apparently this has "all the nutrients your body needs" and will flush out your system. It seems to just give everyone I've seen take it kidney stones and abdominal cramps.

    I know I'd be ready to kill if I had nothing but but maple syrup and cayenne pepper for 3 days...

    At least colonic irrigation sounds a bit less whackadoo.
    I think I'll just stick to not eating crap and see where it gets me...

  20. Oh Geosomin, you'll never turn into a celebrity if you keep exhibiting common sense like that! :)

  21. I love the idea of the Metox diet!

    Er, but it's probably still almost as good if I add back in a little coffee, right? And some chocolate, wine, the occasional diet soda....

    OK, I'd be crap at even the Metox.

    The thing that makes me mad is that our society has made it so HARD to avoid pesticide-laden produce and hormone-filled meats etc. You have to pay a premium price and often seek out special stores. Grrr.

    Great post!

  22. I had a friend tell me one evening that he was about to start this master cleanse program, which was the first time I've heard of it but it didn't stop me from ripping into him about what a dumb f*cking idea that was. He tried for over an hour to tell me all about why he thought I was wrong and how this was going to be so good for him, blah blah blah. When I saw him again 2 weeks later, (after my initial shock that he was even still alive!) I asked right away if he went through the stupidity of the cleanse and then I had to hear for another hour about how wonderful it was blah blah blah. But nothing about his eating habits since that time has changed and last we spoke he was talking about maybe doing it again "because I did so well not eating the crap for the first month or so". Ugh! I lost respect for him right then and never looked back. Idiot.

  23. "If you want to get toxins out of your body, then focus on not putting them in your mouth!"

    Love that!

    I think the metox diet is awesome! Thanks for not turning it into a 200 page book and charging us $30 each for this valuable information!

  24. "move to a shack in the middle of the woods and become a hermit"
    Um. Tried that.

    Mary Anne in Kentucky

  25. Good post! I was thinking that I'd like to try something like a 7 day whole foods "detox", but I don't consider it a detox, more just like 7 days of committing to good eating to get me out of the bad habits I picked up from munching my way through the holiday season.

  26. "A Detox Diet really should be a list of things not to eat or drink, plus some obvious injunctions to sleep more and exercise more. Things you already know, in other words."

    Um YES! :)

  27. MeTox MeToo. Moderation in all things including moderation.

    I said I wasn't going to make any New Year resolutions this year, but I realized I did sort of accidentally. BUY MORE ORGANIC. I started buying organic milk and veggies. It's cool that organic milk lasts so long. I used to buy a quart of milk, use half of it and have to throw the rest out.

  28. Terrific post!!!! Should be read by every person even considering one of these "detoxes" (and the entire population of Los Angeles).
    A bit more perspective: these detoxes are often done by people who willingly inject toxic chemicals into their faces and chests, smoke 2 packs of cigarettes a day, and drink more alcohol than a fleet of sailors on shore leave.

  29. I think what's important to note here is that detoxing can be an important and crucial thing for some people to do, especially if they have symptoms of a lot of heavy metals in their body. However, these detox plans are doctor supervised and do not have strange restrictions that would eliminate necessary micro and macro nutrients.
    Medically supervised "Detoxing" can be an important way to change negative lifestyle and eating habits, but should certainly not be considered a way to lose weight. A "metox" seems to be a far healthier approach!
    And Crabby, I agree about the ridiculousness of finding food that is not laden with pesticides and hormones, but I also hate the difficulty in finding foods without added sugar, artificial sweetner, HFCS, and the like. My "metox" right now is avoiding all of those.

  30. Candice, that's an important distinction. "Detoxing" should not be confused with the "Detox Diet" craziness.

  31. I'm cranky about that too!

    Love your MeTox Diet :)

  32. thanks for that..the bit that I would love to do is 'turn the kids off'. That would be detox enough for me.

  33. If you want to flush, use a Toto. Anything else is just a hole in the ground.

    If you want to kill everything in your system..get a real detox, choose chemo!

  34. Love this! "Master Cleanse: More legal than LSD, but just as healthy" - genius! And I couldn't agree with you more.

  35. The grandmother of a friend drinks one glass of the detox maple lemonade with cayenne pepper every morning. Sips on it after breakfast. She's been doing it for over 20 years. Swears it's been great for helping her avoid some of the aches and pains (and phlegm) which plagues people her age. She's 86, so there might be something to it, whether actual or just in her head. She walks daily, and has always eaten a balanced diet, so it's hard to say.

    Even though she's a dedicated drinker of the stuff, she thinks it's a load of hooey that people are going on a weeklong cleanse, or wasting money for special kits and premixed drinks.

    Ack! To sum up, before this comment becomes any longer...
    Yea! to healthier living all year, and skipping the week of detox agony.

  36. Super post Merry! Thanks for the info and the laughs, I agree with you completely.

    I think there's supposed to be some Ayurvedic principles for using cayenne and lemon juice, but as a diet aid or cleansing agent? not so much. I'm too lazy too Google it at the moment. Cayenne (as capsaicin) is great for arthritis when applied externally, I saved the horse's liniment when I sold the horse and use it on my knees when they act up, it's super!

    It's also super in the chili I have finishing up on the stove right now, which also has beef and coffee in it! :)

  37. Oh, and do I think you should copyright MeTox and write a book.

  38. I have to say it,

    *HOLY CRAP!!!*

    I couldn't read any farther than this:

    "half a cup of castor oil"


  39. Oooooo-kay.
    Y'know what, TK? You can try this diet. I'll watch. From waaaaay over there. :)

  40. Merry,

    Hilarious post! Yet so true.

    Funny story: I get your updates via e-mail. For some reason, the e-mail doesn't say who posted, you or Crabby. You sounded so cranky, I thought you were Crabby! Tee-hee.

  41. Really? I sound like Crabby? Thanks, Ruth! :)

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