A Celebrity Craze for the Masses

By Matthew Breen

Originally published on Advocate.com November 05 2013 3:00 AM ET

The promises of cleanses are multiple: detox your body, drop a few pounds, increase your energy, and have something to talk about with Ashton Kutcher and Gwyneth Paltrow.

I added my own reason: I wanted to know if I had the discipline to follow an austere prescription for three short days. And I added my own skepticism: Detox- ing might not really be a thing, since your kidney and liver are designed to do that anyhow. The goofiest cleanse, the Master Cleanse (did you know it was popularized by a Scientologist?) has a built-in but rather flawed circular reasoning: If you drink lemonade, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper for 10 days, your cramping, hunger, headaches, and spicy bowel movements are supposed to be evidence of your body’s toxicity — not evidence that you’re not actually getting too few nutrients and a ton of cayenne pepper.

The new variety of cleanse, the one that has evolved from mere celebrity fad to popular trend in the last couple of years, is a much more reasonable proposition. They hover around 1,000 calories a day, and generally include some fats and some protein. I tried the Seasonal Reset Cleanse by Ritual Wellness, a Southern California-based company. Every day (I opted for three days) means six bottles of juice, each 16 ounces, made from over 20 pounds of USDA organic produce. A typical lunch salad weighs, what, half a pound? A pound? I’m not certain. But just picture 20 pounds each day. That’s a sizeable heap of produce.

The price for three days was $236, and included courier delivery (delivery fee depends on location; FedEx is available too). The bottles arrived in a green, insulated bag, packed with some freezer packs and zippered at the top. Three of the bottles were variations on green juice, with kale, romaine, spinach, celery, cucumber, apple, and either lemon or ginger. The midday bottle included seasonal tropical fruits; the current season’s offer are watermelon, straw- berry, young coconut water, green apple, and lime. One bottle included lemon, cayenne, and agave. And the final bottle of the day was made from cashew milk (for a bit of fat and protein), cinnamon, nut- meg, and vanilla. It’s all vegan, raw, and dairy-and gluten- free. I found all the juices to be refreshing, and pretty tasty. The green juice took a bit of getting used to, but it certainly felt fresh. By the third day, I started to think of the cashew milk bottle as dessert.

Not surprisingly, I was food-obsessed for the three days, I didn’t actually feel hunger pangs. I’m 6-foot-3 and over 200 pounds, so I knew a 900-calorie-per-day cleanse would have an effect on me physically and cognitively. The first day was fine, but by day 3, my boyfriend was com- plaining that I couldn’t hold up my end of a conversation. I felt quite healthy, which isn’t always the most satisfying feeling, and lighter, like I had hit a reset button. I did miss chewing, and opted for an additional, but sanctioned, green salad (no dressing, just lemon) one afternoon, which I chewed while floating around in a mild, lightheaded haze.

To Ritual Cleanse’s guidelines (no alcohol, talk to your doctor before doing this), I’d add my thoughts: Don’t do it for more than a few days. I’m not a doctor, and this is not medical advice, but you’d probably be fine eating nothing for a few days in a row if you went back to eating healthy afterward. Fasting is a worldwide, ancient tradition. But a modified fast of fruits and veggies full of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients — well, that’s all good stuff.

Theoretically, I could have done the juicing at home, but it’s a mess, and I’m as unlikely to do it as I am to go the juice shop on the corner — quite literally two blocks away—and organize my own cleanse. But give it to me all in one package, and I’m on board for a short stretch. And then I need to chew again.