A Candid Diary of the Master Cleanse

What better time of year to flush out your body’s toxins then right after Christmas? I think I actually went to a Cookie Swap at some point this holiday season, mere days after an annual Christmas party with some friends, a party rife with snacks like buffalo chicken dip and drinks up the wazoo. Imagine the saturated fats, toxins, and nasty stuff coursing through my body as I guzzled egg nog spiked with whiskey in between mint crinkles and peanut butter cookies!

But here we are on the sadder side of Christmas where my belt is one notch looser, my pants that much tighter. Remember when I was a gym rat and drank protein shakes and smoothies? You know, back when I could see that six-pack inching through that blubber? No. Not really. The holidays make us all a little more lax about these things. And it’s good to treat ourselves, but the time is nigh to start making some healthy choices.

Enter: the Master Cleanse!

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Whoever took this photo: nice touch with the poopoo wipes.

The Master Cleanse is one of those recent fad diets for losing weight, but it was actually created by Stanley Burroughs decades ago as a natural way to flush toxins and waste out of your body. More recently, it was brought back to popularity by Peter Glickman, who claims that the cleanse will help you Lose Weight, Have More Energy and Be Happier in 10 Days (yup, that’s his book title). He maintains that the cleanse will detox one’s body and remove harmful toxins left over by preservatives, pesticides, and loads of other things that cause nasty digestive sludge. Glickman takes it one step further to boast that the cleanse will increase your energy and make you happier, but isn’t that just what everyone say about diets nowadays?

What does the Master Cleanse include?

Basically you consume nothing but Saltwater, Laxative Tea, and a Spicy Lemonade concoction for anywhere between 3 to 10 days. Any more and you seriously might die due to malnourishment that could cause one or more of your organs to shut down. But don’t that that deter you, brave souls!

Specifications might vary, but here’s all the necessary items and ingredients that we went with for the duration of our cleanse:

Saltwater Flush

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You start every morning with a cup of saltwater:

  • Pint glass
  • 2 tsp of non-iodized sea salt
  • Fill with warm-hot water

For many this is supposedly the most difficult part of the whole deal, mainly because the salt makes some people gag. Call me crazy, but I thought it was really easy. The half-hour that followed was the harder part. Maybe toilet paper should be listed as an ingredient here too…

Natural Laxative Tea

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Just before bed every night you have:

  • Cute mug with a colorful design
  • A piping hot cup of natural laxative tea
  • No additional fixings

These two elements make up the “Colon Blasting” portion of the cleanse, which is about as fun as it sounds. The theory behind it is to flush out your colon and intestines, clearing out the sludge that normally just clings to the outer lining while your lunch brushes on by. With no food coming into your system and saltwater and laxatives compelling your bowels to do their special dance, your body has no choice but to attack that nastiness that’s been building up since your pre-teen sleepovers riddled with smores and Cheetos.

To put it bluntly, each of these two delightful beverages will give you a unique and exciting diarrhea experience.

Neither is particularly painful by any means, but you can bet it’s uncomfortable. The truly telling factor is how clean you do actually feel each time you relieve yourself. For me, the tea didn’t do much until the morning. It settles in your belly and works its magic while you sleep. Within two minutes of standing up after waking, however, I was dashing to the bathroom. But rest assured, for those more adventurous light sleepers, you might wind up waking in the middle of the night to wind sprint to the bathroom.

Then you tackle the saltwater, which took a bit longer to affect me, but when it did, it packed a wallop on my bowels. For many, the saltwater makes you run to the bathroom nigh immediately. One hilarious review of the cleanse I read suggested that you avoid farting for the duration of the cleanse because if you do, a burst of hot air might not be the only thing that comes out.

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When you’re cleansing, poopytime is all the time.

Spicy Lemonade

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In between the morning saltwater and evening tea is the lifeblood of the cleanse, a “Spicy Lemonade” of simple ingredients that you drink whenever you get hungry – which will be every five minutes. The useful thing about the lemonade is that the cayenne pepper agitates your stomach just enough to stifle your cravings for food. You get hungry, you drink it, and you’re not hungry anymore because your stomach is so pissed off at you for not shooting a few burger sliders down your gullet that it just sort of goes quiet for a little while.

They say that you get just enough sugars and calories to keep you going with the following ingredients, with a calorie intake of anywhere from only 650 to a maximum of 1300, depending on how many cups you actually have:

  • 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons of organic, pure maple syrup (ideally grade B)
  • 1/10 tsp of cayenne pepper

The taste of the lemonade really isn’t bad at all. It’s sweet and citrusy with the one drawback being the harsh spice of the cayenne that lingers in your mouth. There’s far worse things out there to be drinking, and after awhile, you start to look forward to your next dose of spicy lemonade. What you have to ultimately realize about this cleanse, however, is that it’s not really a diet. It is controlled fasting. You consume just enough stuff for your body to subsist on. Your organs (supposedly) get aggravated enough to work at maximum efficiency and flush your system out, made all the more effective by a lack of anything substantial coming in. Because this is a fast, there are quite a few side effects that can happen. So be wary of that.

To give you a better idea of what the cleanse is like, here’s a nice breakdown of what it was like for me over the course of the two days.

9:33 AM – Day 1

I woke up the day after Christmas ready to cleanse. Unfortunately, I had slept at my parents’ house and not at my apartment, so we didn’t have the right ingredients. We settled for bottled lemon juice and Aunt Jemima’s syrup. Two terrible substitutes, but what the heck.

10:47 AM – Day 1

The first dangerous hunger pangs and feelings of utter bitchiness struck me. You often forget how natural the sequence of eating is: you do whatever for awhile, you get hungry, and then you just eat. Maybe you wait a little bit until dinner. Maybe you have just a snack. Maybe you gulp down some water to fill the hollow corners of your stomach. But how annoying is it when you just…can’t eat? This is perhaps the epitome of #firstworldproblems, when there are millions of genuinely hungry people out there.

12:04 PM – Day 1

I found no greater shame than when making my third “Lemonade,” I began the ritual of ravenously licking the tablespoon clean of all traces of maple syrup every single time. Normally, licking straight syrup would be pretty disgusting, but when your stomach is making unearthly rumblies out of hunger, anything tastes good. Especially when it’s sugary tree puss.

3:18 PM – Day 1

We spent the afternoon cleaning the apartment, feeling great, and beside ourselves with energy. Maybe it was the delirium of not eating? The giddiness felt quite random, but we took advantage of the fleeting burst of energy. We tried out “Just Dance 2014” for the Wii – a nice little Christmas present. I danced to “Roar” by Katy Perry and got only 3 stars out of 5, which is a travesty in and of itself. Afterwards, I felt a bit woozy and had to sit down for a spell before I went and made another lemonade.

4:41 PM – Day 1

After exhausting ourselves fake dancing to Katy Perry songs, we began the arduous task of laying on the couch and alternating between episodes of Downton Abbey and Breaking Bad. We found ourselves getting tired very quickly and nodding off to sleep despite it being so early. We promise it wasn’t because it was the boring episode where Walt and Jessie chase a house fly the entire time.

6:47 PM – Day 1

After passing out during an episode of Downton Abbey due to hunger, we awoke with headaches and realized that we never bought our laxative tea. To Whole Foods!

7:01 PM – Day 1

Going to a grocery store while fasting / cleansing was the worst possible decision I have ever made. While wandering the aisles and deliriously peering at all of the strange and colorful people, I began to imagine how delicious gluten free pasta and rice cakes would be together, two foods I regularly make fun of. I also imagined licking fingerfuls of organic peanut butter right from the jar. My anger and grumpiness was perhaps at an all-time high as we walked out of Whole Foods with just an extra bottle of syrup and a small box of Natural Laxative tea.

7:30 PM – Day 1

This is perhaps the nastiest tea ever. At least falling asleep was easy. So…tired… No…energy…

9:30 AM – Day 2

I woke up somewhat delirious after a night of feverish dreams. For some reason Paul Walker was working with me at a start up initiative looking to get college students better public housing. It was just us and a bunch of pretty girls working there in my dream. Our office was in a first-floor housing suite. Such a weird dream.

I also woke up drenched in sweat with an odd kind of headache. Felt the effects of the tea almost immediately after standing up (i.e., I hobbled right to the bathroom).

9:45 AM – Day 2

We fired up the Wii Fit and weighed in after drinking the Saltwater. I lost 2.9 pounds! And then I went to the bathroom again! Great success.

10:15 AM – Day 2

The plan for day 2 was to go to Urban Sweat,  an earthy yoga-sweat lodge place where for the decent price of $40 a head, you can enjoy six different sauna rooms of various cultural origins, temperature, percent humidity, size, and texture. I made a huge batch of the lemonade mix and put it in a water bottle. The plan was to add that to regular water bottles and mix it as we go. Much easier than getting lemon juice on the open cat scratch on my finger every 45 minutes.

11:35 AM – Day 2

We arrived at Urban Sweat. It was amazing. In addition to all of the different saunas, there was even a common area room with heated water beds, bean bag chairs, and hammocks to rest in and readjust after each sweat session. One sauna room is lined entirely with Himalayan bath salts. One room is 100% humidity with steamed eucalyptus in the vents. Another sauna peaks at 180 degrees dry heat. Seriously the coolest thing ever. Spicy Lemonade, sweating, meditating, and napping all the live long day.

4:06 PM – Day 2

We emerged from Urban Sweat drenched in the cleanest sweat possible, feeling utterly refreshed and enlightened. Maybe the cleanse was really working or perhaps the tranquility of the yoga flute music playing in my ears all day relaxed me to the nth degree. We were neither particularly hungry nor miserable. The closest word I can think of is “zen.” I think over the course of the second day, we kind of hit the point where we got used to the hunger and began to really feel the positive effects of the cleanse.

We also resolved to cut the cleanse to only 2 full days because we missed food like you miss a friend that moves away when you’re just a kid. Which reminds me: Mike O’Neill, I miss you. Fourth grade wasn’t THAT bad! Why’d you have to go and move to Philly?

8:15 AM – Day 3

The previous day’s nirvana wore off overnight with more fever dreams and sweating through the sheets. The tea is probably the worst part. Definitely the worst part, actually. But hey, I lost another 1.3 pounds for a total loss of 4.2 pounds in two short days, and all of it apparently sucked right out of my stomach and waist, which is pretty ideal if you ask me.

And the cleanse was done!

We eased back into food with a couple of fruit smoothies and called it a job well done.

So there you have it folks, a candid diary of the master cleanse. If you have any questions about the Master Cleanse or my experience, feel free to comment below. 

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