Being Wary of “A Detox”
June 29, 2009

master_cleanse

Hello folks!

Have you all been enjoying banana ice cream? I hope so! If not, get thee to thy food processors!

So did anyone happen to catch this article in the latest issue of Self Magazine? It’s called “The Dangers of Detox Diets,” and it addresses the rising trend of popular cleanses and detox protocols in Hollywood. My buddy Kath blogged about it today, and I’ve been meaning to mention it here for obvious reasons: my blog is devoted primarily to raw foods, but it’s also a vehicle for sharing responsible information about my personal experiences with cleansing and detoxification. The keyword there is, of course, responsible; I applaud Janelle Brown’s article for shedding light on the misinformation and falsely articulated motives that so often accompany so-called “detox diets.” At the same time, I take issue with some of the article’s oversights and generalizations, and I think it’s worth laying out my two cents about the article’s strengths and weaknesses.

The basic premise of the article is this: it’s no longer acceptable—in Hollywood or elsewhere—to openly say that one is dieting (or, as is often the tragic case, starving). To be on a “diet” makes one look bitchy, disordered, or, worst of all, naturally inclined to be heavy. But to be on a “cleanse”? Different story: this looks noble, spiritual, green. It looks cool. At best, of course, this is nothing more than superficiality masquerading as depth; at worst, it’s a way of masking disordered eating—consciously or unconsciously—as a healthy regimen.

For the most part, I agree that this is real and very dangerous phenomenon. In fact, nothing annoys me more than the following statements:

“I’m trying a detox.”
“I’m doing this cleanse…”
“I’m on a detox diet.”

Why? As with so many matters in my life (I’m an editor, after all), it’s an issue of grammar. My friend Gil is always reminding clients and audiences that “detox” and “cleanse” should not be preceded by articles: we don’t do “a cleanse;” we cleanse. We don’t perform “a detox”; we detoxify. When people talk about “a detox” or “a cleanse,” they’re most likely referring to a program that transpires over the course of days or weeks, or (worse) an herbal protocol or “flush” that is supposed to magically rid the body of poisons overnight. I take serious issue with all of these measures. For one thing, they’re often ill-advised: I’ve looked at the ingredient labels on some of the herbal “cleanses” out there, and they’re pretty freaky. Furthermore, I don’t believe that these products do much to cleanse the bowel or the body; for the most part, they’re nothing more than overpriced laxatives.

But it’s the notion of short-term success that really bothers me. Real cleansing—that is, really ridding the body of many years’ worth of accumulated toxins—is a process that should be undertaken carefully, consciously, and slowly. It should progress gradually, and it should take a long time. It isn’t as simple as picking up a book or drinking some vegetable juice. It involves gradual dietary change and long-term dedication. It means the slow and steady incorporation of alkaline foods into the body and the encouraging of healthy digestion and elimination to release old waste. Anything less—especially sudden extremes—is most likely a diet in disguise.

I cannot tell you how often I get asked whether there’s a book or plan that I recommend for detox. And my answer is always no. There are books I recommend for their recipes, and there are books I recommend because they contain some useful information. But there is no single resource that I recommend as a guide for detox. Why? First, because each body is different. And because any kind of “plan” tends to reinforce guilt about obeying or breaking rules. A few of you have picked up The Raw Food Detox Diet. This is great: the book contains plenty of tasty recipes and knowledge (and an interview with Gil). But I don’t recommend it—or any other book—as a specific protocol. Any long-term shift towards healthier eating involves individualization; it is contingent on one’s specific needs, goals, emotional history with food, and lifestyle. Books can’t account for these factors, because they’re written for wide swaths of people. They can offer useful information, of course, but that’s all they can do: they can’t serve as specific guides. And oftentimes, healthy eating plans—even those aimed at detoxification—can reinforce the very perfectionism, guilt, or food fixation that readers are looking to escape. If you’re looking to eat more raw, try small, feasible, everyday steps that work for your body, such as starting with one raw meal a day, and see if you can personalize your journey.

Plans and “detoxes” also tend to suggest that if you eat a certain way for a few days or weeks, you’ll suddenly be clean for life. If only it were so easy! Detoxification isn’t a quickie process; it’s a journey that can, and should, take a long time. Any effort to speed the process overnight is bound to fail. If you’re seriously intent on detoxification or cleansing, you should be prepared to move slowly and devote a solid chunk of your life to the process. If you’re impatient—if you’re looking for a quick fix—it’s wise to examine your motives.

Another frequent question I receive is whether or not I endorse popular three-day juice fasts (like Blueprint) or the master cleanse (a protocol that gets a lot of heat in the article) as a means of kick-starting detox. No, I don’t. You all know that I’m in favor of incorporating juices into a healthy diet. But I believe that juice fasting should only be undertaken on top of a very clean and alkaline diet, and (ideally) with the supervision of a colonic hydrotherapist. Otherwise, you run the risk of drudging up too many toxins too quickly, of shocking your system with the sudden absence of food, and of reabsorbing toxins that have been awakened in the process.

More fundamentally, I don’t believe that trendy juice deliveries or fasts do much to teach the real life skills of detoxification: learning how to eat healing foods each and every day; learning how to make juice, rather than waiting for it to be magically delivered in a box. Anyone who’s done a short fast can probably attest to the fact that fasting for a day or a few is actually a lot simpler than eating healthy on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, many people who go from unhealthy diets to short-term fasts end up going right back to old habits when they finish. Which is why I’m often suspicious of women who claim to be fasting for a few days in order to “detoxify”—since it’s nearly impossible to detoxify in a lasting or meaningful way from a single fast, it seems to me that weight loss is the more likely motive.

So obviously, I’m very much in agreement with some of the Self article. I dislike the false designation of magic plans as “detoxification,” and I’m even more unnerved by the dissonance between people’s stated motives and true intentions.

The article goes on to detail some of the wackier and more extreme cleanses on the market: the master cleanse (which I disavow except as a pleasantly spicy lemonade recipe), various herbal tinctures, powders, which I also think are nuts (there’s not a single powder mix that I recommend—sorry guys, this includes the popular Amazing Grass), and diets that eliminate all sugar. I’m glad it does this: I think that all of the regimens above are highly inadvisable and impermanent—not to mention opportunistic marketing ploys.

The article attacks colonics, making the mainstream claim that they wash out healthy gut flora and cause dependence; here I disagree firmly. Gravity-administered colonics, performed by an ethical hydrotherapist, are specifically intended to restore colon health and gut flora, and to stimulate peristalysis that’s been impaired by digestive distress or disorder. The article also takes a little stab at raw foods, with its description of Aimie Popovitch, a “39-year-old Los Angeles homemaker and mother who went on a raw-food diet, eating only uncooked fruit, vegetables and nuts and started drinking a lot of water.” Aimie felt great until the day she was hospitalized for malnourishment, electrolyte imbalance and kidney failure caused by hyponatremia (over-hydration). (In fairness, the article goes on to say that Aimie still eats a mostly raw diet and feels great.)

What it doesn’t say—and what I wish it would—is that Aimie was clearly following a raw diet incorrectly. If nothing else, she was over-hydrating, which any practiced raw foodist will warn you NOT to do: in fact, raw foods are so hydrating that it’s often wise to decrease water intake as one begins a high-raw meal plan. Perhaps if Aimie had sought the guidance of a counselor—or at least researched enough to know that the hydrating foods on a raw diet provide quite a bit of water themselves—she could have avoided the frightening scenario.

And herein lies the article’s big weakness. In criticizing the pitfalls of detox plans gone awry, it fails to address the realities of detoxing and cleansing done right. And the implicit suggestion—the suggestion of omission—is that true detoxification doesn’t really exist: if someone says they want to detoxify, they must be disordered or looking to lose weight.

Naturally, I disagree with this implication. It may be true that there are countless ill-advised and dishonest “detox” plans out there. But that does not mean that there isn’t such a thing as detoxification. Anyone who has embarked on a conscientious and well informed detoxification journey can attest to its realities; it’s an incredible and health-altering process. But it must be done carefully, patiently, and mindfully. The goal shouldn’t be four-week transformation, but rather a lifetime of improvement. The steps shouldn’t be radical regimes or painful restriction, but rather manageable steps towards overall improvement. And it should be undertaken in an educated manner, or with the guidance of someone who is disinterested—not, in other words, someone who’s marketing a special elixir or powder.

In choosing not to address the possibility of this kind of detoxification, and choosing not to incorporate the perspective of anyone who’s lived through an entirely health-enforcing detoxification journey—let alone a health practitioner with a knowledge of raw foods or detox—the article errs, I think, on the side of bias. I can’t convince anyone that there is such a thing as detoxification done right—either you’ve studied this topic, and you believe in cleansing (and hopefully, if you read my blog, you do), or you don’t. We’re all entitled to either perspective. But the best magazine-length journalism incorporates varied perspectives, pro and con—even if the ultimate thrust is a sharply definitive one. And in this regard, I think that Janelle Brown fails.

The article also fails to call attention to personal responsibility. It vilifies fad diets and radical detox plans; this isn’t a bad thing, of course. Those protocols deserve every bit of criticism they get. But those wild plans exist because people support them, often under false pretenses. And no matter how pressured those people been by the media or society to lose weight, it’s ultimately their choice to endorse the craziness. At the end of the day, we can all abuse various methodologies for self-destructive purposes. I see plenty of women abuse exercise–especially distance running–for the calorie burn. This saddens me, but it is hardly the fault of exercise; in the same way, the abuse of a practice like juice fasting, which serves a purpose when undertaken mindfully and carefully, is not the fault of vegetable juice.

At the end of the day, we’re all accountable for both the dietary choices we make and the rubric under which we make them—true or untrue. Raw foods and cleansing are certainly vulnerable to abuse and misuse, but in that regards the lifestyle is no different than any other; I think it’s safe to say that just as many women abuse conventional diet plans under the guise of “healthy eating” as they do detoxification.

What ultimately differentiates “a cleanse” from “cleansing” are one’s personal incentives. I encourage all of you who are interested in raw foods to examine your motives: if you’re thinking about detoxification because you want to drop pounds fast, look great in a bikini, or maintain an inadvisably low body weight while all the while appearing “healthy,” I gently urge you to take stock of your feelings towards your body. No way of living, not even a whole foods and plant-based diet, can bestow good health on the body if a truly unhealthy mindset is in place.

If you’re suffering from ill health, low energy, or digestive distress; if you feel that a cleaner and greener diet might benefit your lifestyle; if you want to make more plant-based and whole foods upgrades to your way of living, then I encourage you—now and always!—to explore raw foods and cleansing. I can attest–as can many others–to the joy of this way of living. But as always, I encourage you to do it intelligently.

True detoxification—the kind that nourishes and heals—is a process that demands patience, a well-informed perspective, and—most of all—an immense respect for one’s body. This kind of detoxification can’t be had in quickie cleanses or in a tub of powder. It’s not that simple, and it’s not that shallow. But it’s out there!

Be careful, everyone, and follow your own best and most honest intentions.

xo

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    98 Comments
  1. The “raw lady” in the article, Aimee, is in my family. She was not trying to lose weight, I would say it was more of a health obsession or OCD. She ate a lot of kale, other green veggies, and made a lot of juices. She is book smart so I am guessing she read all about it. She had her son on the diet and her breast-milk since he was born and he was pale and weak and is now behind in school. He didn’t have a choice. I know this article is old but I just came across it. I’m sure many of you do this to be healthy or trendy, but this seems like a disorder most of the time. Go get some fresh caught salmon and eat it with some vegetables, rice, and a glass of wine. You won’t die from it. Get a life beyond eating this, reading this, and blogging this. Other people read this shit, think it’s cool, emulate the trend, and almost die. Smoking weed is less harmful then what many of you are doing to yourselves yet raw/vegans sit on their high horse and promote a lifestyle that was created for giraffes, not humans.

  2. […] of varying information as to whether or not it is beneficial or harmful to us and to what degrees. Gena had a great post about being wary of detoxing. and Courtney has a wonderful blog where you can […]

  3. So well written. I have that Self magazine sitting on the shelf in my room having arrived whilst I was overseas, so I’ll be sure to read that article with interest. I learned the hard(ish) way that one should listen to ones own body after a quick change about this time last year and the way my body reacted. Now I’m moving at a slower pace and listening to my body as I go, using Natalia’s books among others for reference when questions and thoughts arise. I very much appreciate how you underline the need for individualization.

  4. It’s definitely important to be informed and learn all you can to make good decisions for your body! Sometimes people jump into a style of eating (such as raw or vegan) without really knowing how to properly fuel their bodies with it.

  5. Wow, you are a wonderful writer! A raw diet or a cleanse is not for me, but I really enjoyed reading your post after reading the SELF article. I am curious though why you wouldn’t recommend Amazing Grass. I feel like it has helped me feel better and has definitely helped me regulate my digestive system – which was a bit of a problem for me before. But I am curious to hear the other side of the story – since all I seem to read of it are positive reviews.
    Again, wonderful post.

  6. WOW! Get out of my head!
    This post was spot-on.
    My “issue” with the article was lumping together practices that can enhance health with “popping Prozac and phentermine” in the first few paragraphs.
    I won’t write a whole novel here (I could) but I always get aggravated because while the term “raw food diet” is not a misnomer in the technical sense, it is misleading because most people use the word “diet” in a technically incorrect way.
    Thanks for this!

  7. Thank fuck!

    It’s about time someone wrote a post like this. As soon as I started reading this, I knew you were a woman after my own heart. “Detox/cleansing diets” are utter BS and anyone with half a brain should know that!

    • Dude, one of my clients sent that to me. Junger is someone I respect, but again — I HATE the idea of “a detox.” Make good choices everyday!

  8. Gena – this was truly an incredible and very well though-out post. Thank you so much for addressing the article Self in such detail. I have actually been to a colonic and plan on eventually going back – after reading the self article, I initially was second thinking colonics – thanks for clearing this up for me =)

  9. Oh! And off topic…. I think my Juiceman Jr is finally DEAD! (yyyyaaayyyy). Are you familiar with the difference between the Breville Juice Fountain and the Breville Ikon Juice Extractor? Besides the obvious price difference? I’m looking on the CSL website and they provide both for sale but with no real explanation of the difference. Any recommendation? Thanks girlie 🙂

    • I’ve owned a Breville juice fountain for YEARS and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever bought! Well worth every cent. They’re really long lasting, too. I’ve had mine for about 6 years now and use it almost daily… and have NEVER had a problem. It still works as well as the first day I got it!

      I recommended it to a friend when her old juicer died and she was in absolute shock when she realised she was getting about twice the amount of juice out of her produce than with the old juicer!!

      Can’t recommend it enough!!

  10. What a balanced, well informed post this is Gena. You are a healthful example to the blogging community. If only more women, like the ones doing these “detox diets”, could read this. I am in total agreement with you and think you articulate your thoughts on the matter exquisitely. xo

  11. oh gena. have i mentioned lately how much i love you!
    seriously. insightful information, and as always, presented in a clear, level-headed responsible way…nothing makes me happier than people who present both sides of an argument and rationally back up the opposing side. i disagree with the colonic part of your post, but that doesnt even matter. im perfectly capable of accepting that people have different beliefs than i 🙂

    i think its great that you take such issue with verbs becoming nouns…i was raised by grammar obsessed parents, so i understand. haha.

  12. another great post! i have always been so weary of all or nothing approaches (‘diets’) that to hear you acknowledge everyone’s differences is so refreshing 🙂

    i hadn’t thought about the water issue, but it totally makes sense!

  13. This is such an important issue to address. It has been my experience that people come to me looking for a ‘cleanse’ or detox’ to follow up or pre-empt weekends/weeks of indulgence. Like drinking raw smoothies for a week can undo the damage of a quart of vodka and rolling in to bed at 3:00am for a week straight.

    My biggest challenge with my clients enabling them to feel comfortable with new dietary changes around their friends, family and at work. No one wants to be on a diet, a cleanse is so much trendier but to say they are just approaching a new healthy living plan just sounds lame to them.

  14. I so agree with all the praise above, Gena! I am a bit curious though, about the water. How much is enough, how much is too much?
    Love your blog!

  15. To further Melissa’s point, the 3 day juicing does make you feel so great that people might me more inclined to research and properly embark on a healthier lifestyle.

    Wonderful, informative post. I agree with everyone who says you should send this to Self.

    I

  16. Well done Gena. I definitely agree with your points. But as an instant gratification junkie, I do like that it is possible to know the amazing power of green juice in only 3 days. 🙂

  17. Thanks so much for this. I stopped reading Self a while ago, but I do enjoy keeping up with the current hot topics. I personally found the article quite hypocritical because they definitely promote their own diet rather vigorously, and promote it as the only healthy way. Some, including myself, would argue that the meat, dairy, and processed foods they suggest are not the healthiest options. To each her own, though.
    As a nurse and a paramedic, I feel the bit about the raw food woman was quite sensational. Yes, raw foods do have more water content, but they also have natural sodium and electrolytes to balance that. She was most likely drinking an insane amount of water and eating far too few calories in an attempt to lose weight. If you seriously restrict your calories on *any* diet – Atkins, raw, the Self diet – and drink an unhealthy amount of water, hyponatremia and weakness will occur. For Self to put it in a light that blames the raw food diet is completely irresponsible and inaccurate. It leaves people thinking that raw foods where the cause of the serious illness, rather than shedding light on the large amount of water she was taking in – something that women need to be wary of as they attempt the fad detoxes.

    • Manda —

      I couldn’t agree more with all you say, and I love hearing from a nurse. Thanks. The woman in question was clearly doing it all recklessly.

      Gena

  18. Please submit this to SELF. Please please please. The sad part is that it is really hard to find anyone with as nuanced and articulate a perspective as you in the raw food/detox literature. It doesn’t surprise me that general-interest articles pass on so much misinformation, because the vast majority of “detox” “information” out there is misinformation. When one is starting out, how is one to know?
    I actually think that starting out with a single book/plan is a good idea, because it allows you to experience what a cleansing plant-based diet is like, and gets you in tune with your body and how it responds to different foods. Personally, I needed the rigidity of Natalia’s system to get me to the point where I can consciously evaluate raw/detox information and how it feels for my body. I can pick and choose and personalize now that I know how these concepts work for my body. But I do think you need somewhere to start.
    I will reconsider the language I use in describing my way of eating. I generally do say that I follow a “detox diet,” meaning a detoxifying diet, because I believe it captures the overarching goal of my food choices. I have shifted recently towards “plant-based” or “hi-raw.” Sure, we shouldn’t need labels, but I find they stimulate conversation about healthy eating and I have the chance to dispel any misconceptions that I am on a short-term “diet” or that I believe in brief bouts of “detox.” Sigh.
    I personally believe that most of the misinformation problem stems from lack of proper scientific research. If I can indulge my own rant, I get so frustrated with the unnecessary vilification of science in the raw/detox communities (not you!). We NEED research on raw foods, on detoxification, on colonics. I firmly stand with the “alternative” and holistic communities in embracing and promoting that which has worked for them. The reason that misinformation overshadows invaluable information, however, is also the lack of interest, open-mindedness, and funding (funding, drug companies, politics…) for the scientific community to test all the competing claims. “We” may have access to pieces of truth, but personal testimony alone will not move masses without backing from science. Detoxification may not fit neatly into the mainstream model of the human body, but such growing pains are the inevitable signs of progress in science (and why I love it so much!). It’s a necessary step for our culture to evolve toward health and peace with food (and means of food production, but that’s another story).
    Fantastic post. Keep it coming!

    • Laura — GREAT comment. I could not agree more that we need to do something to bridge the gap between allopathic and holistic approaches. If the raw approach is ever to gain more traction, those who support it have got to get more comfortable with using science as a tool, rather than villifying it — especially since there is NO need to. Thanks!

  19. Very informative post Gena. I’ve curious as to what your thoughts were on this topic. Thanks for sharing them in a very thorough and well written post. People always seem to be looking for a quick fix, and you’re so right. They need to be ready for a lifetime of cleansing, not just a short-term fast.

    Amazing Grass…blech!

  20. That article really irked me because it seems as if there’s one person who “does the diet wrong” then everyone calls it a sham. I’m always hearing people say things like, “I had a friend who was vegan but she was so pale and sick looking! That possibly can’t be healthy.” I know the entire point of the article was to point out exactly what you have here: the dangers of detoxes, cleanses and other things that are essentially codes for laxatives, but then it said something about women restricting themselves to raw foods. I guess you can’t win them all, huh?

    Also: the Master Cleanse. Is this seriously not the most ridiculous thing ever? I’ve ALWAYS been wary of it, but so many people rave about it. I just.. I don’t.. I can’t.. WHY?!

    (Sorry this comment is all out of sorts. I’m tired!)

  21. I agree with everything you said! I always call my raw days “cleanses” but I doubt one day of raw is really and truly cleansing my system of all the wine, beer, salt, oil, and other crap I put into it throughout the month. It’s more of an exercise in self-discipline for me (and an excuse to play with my raw uncookbooks!). At this point in my life, I’m not dedicated enough to start a real long-term cleanse that might actually do some good.

    The banana ice cream looks divine. I’ll be having some of that soon fo ‘sho!

  22. First off, I am seriously LOVING the banana ice cream. I made it on the weekend and gave some to my fiance and he didn’t believe me that it was just bananas in the food processor. I think I’ve found my new favourite summer treat!!

    Secondly, I really appreciate your opinions and insight on the article in Self. I don’t read a ton of those magazines but am very familiar with their promises of “7 foods for flat abs” and such. I wasn’t aware of your stance on “cleanses” and “detoxes”, and I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the topic.

  23. I love love love how at the end of the day…the message you clearly want to make, is to OPEN our EYES… REFELCT and do what is best for ourselves…

    Some days I am so hard on myself, I love how your articles remind us that one it’s a journey and two we are all different.
    a good look in the mirror and asking why am I really wanting to fast or “cleanse” or go raw or raw or no diary…. what is the REAL reason.

    LOVE IT and thank you as always for the great great read!

    I needed it today for sure!

  24. Hi Gena. I just started reading your blog and was curious about the term “detoxify”. Even in its unabbreviated form, it’s a word I find rather startling and jingoistic. It suspect this is because it fetishises the idea of purity – an idea which, I admit, makes me very uncomfortable, partly because it appeal to a very disordered part of my brain that would divide foods neatly into balms and poisons. And, at the same time, it seems to encourage very individualistic thinking – as though we can become “clean” solely by eating and drinking the right substances, irrespective of the health of the planet.

    If what is being promoted is simply healthier eating, then why not just use these more nuanced (though less sexy) terms?

    • Hi Debra,

      When I (and raw foodists who think similarly) use the term, I mean the process by which our body awakens and expels toxicity, be it toxic residue from environmental pollutants, steriods, hormones, and sprays in our foods, the residue from processed foods, or the lingering toxins from smoking or breathing polluted air, among other things. This process is initiated with the transition into heavily alkaline foods and the movement away from dense and poorly combined foods, and it’s often aided by improved elimination.

      I agree that the term is jingoistic, but I have yet to encounter another phrase that captures the process above accurately, and so I continue to use it.

  25. SSorry to be picky (especially because I loved what you wrote!), but as a grammar snob myself, didn’t you mean when you said “‘detox’ and ‘cleanse’ should not be preceded by pronouns”, that they should not be preceded by ARTICLES? Because a pronoun is “I”, “we”, etc, and you went on to say that the correct thing to say is “we cleanse”. So really you are elimintating the article, “a”, not the pronoun “we”. Just had to point that out!

    • God bless you!!! I wrote this post at 10 PM last night, after a long work day, and I absolutely messed that up. SHAME on me! I am so glad you wrote in, and I’ve edited accordingly. Merci 🙂

  26. I totally agree with Sarah: when are you writing a book? Because I have to say, your thoughts, views, and experiences are amazing and the best I have ever seen on a raw blog. Or just about any food blog, for that matter. I continue to be blown away by how great your posts are. Beam Green was right to tap you when it comes to health!

  27. Thank you so much for your fantastic insights! You said what I would have wanted to say about the article about ten times more eloquently than I ever could. It reminds me of what Gil said at the teacher training earlier in June about “creating a daily experience” of cleansing, alkalizing and detoxification. Nothing irritates me more than when someone insinuates that someday I’ll be done cleansing and go back to eating junk. True detoxification comes about because of the “daily experience” of cleansing. Mainstreamers don’t tend to understand that even though I often juice until dinner that I would not do that if I ever felt hungry, deprived or “diet-y.” It’s all about mentality. If someone can eat hoagies and cookies for lunch, then feel and perform their best, that’s great for them. For me, it’s been a really eye-opening spiritual practice to just accept non-judgmentally people where they are, even if they are judging my rather unique lifestyle choices.

  28. Amen. The thing that always bugs me about magazine articles is they refuse to show all sides to a story. It happens with everything. They pick a stance on the issue and pretend like the other side doesn’t even exist. That is one thing I’ve found very refreshing about your blog. You pick a position on an issue, but you always acknowledge the arguments of the other side and present a complete view. Thanks!

  29. Beautiful post as always.

    I totally relate to the over hydration. I have been trying to get out of my mind that I have to drink 64oz of water a day, on top of about 24 oz green juice and fresh veggies. I felt like I was swimming! I’ve been drinking less water and don’t feel like a fish anymore. 🙂

    It really is all about individualizing. For me I’m finding I need to add more whole grain carbs into my diet to gain weight healthfully. Lots of watery and starchy veggies and fat just aren’t doing it. It is a learing process of what feels balanced and right. For me dipping into raw at the beginning of the year has made me a much healthier eater, even if I don’t do 80%+ raw. It’s not about how much, but quality.

  30. Gena, at the risk of sounding like a parrot, your response to the Self article is amazing. Bravo!

    The more I learn about science and nutrition, the more I appreciate how much we don’t know and how hard it is to establish any hard-and-fast rules. My sister-in-law, whose diet is quite different from mine, has taught me to appreciate the idea that everyone’s system is different. What works for her would not work for me, and vice versa. I think detoxifying diets may be the same way: while I have no desire to try them myself, I cannot argue that they don’t work for other people. I just don’t know. I am blessed with good digestion and no food allergies, but not everyone is. I have to remember that, and I have to remember to have compassion for other people and their choices.

    xo Rose-Anne

    PS I loved your line about “a pleasantly spicy lemonade recipe.” Even in the middle of such a serious post, you are one funny lady!

  31. Yes…I just was reading this article on the eliptical last night! I was a bit irked that it was kind of dogging on raw food/vegan “diets” but I understand the point they were trying to make. I eat a vegan diet for soooo many reasons…..maintaining a healthy weight being on the low end of the priorities and moral, ethical and environmental issues rising to the top. I hate when articles make it all about the “diet” aspect while ignoring that many women chose to go vegan after reading skinny bitch because of the horrific explanations about animal abuse, etc. What can you really expect from a magazine like that, you know??? It frustrates me that it just adds to the image of vegans/raw foodists as “diet crazed” women who follow that eating style to be skinny when it is so much more than that. 🙂

  32. Thanks for the perspective, a very well written piece. It’s definitely reminded me not to jump into anything too suddenly, just take it step by little step.

  33. Great info Gena! What do you think about the detox claims from hot yoga? Is it true that all the sweating is good for detoxification? And I keep wondering, WHY do we need to detoxify our bodies? Interested to hear your thoughts…

    thanks!

    • Hi Anne —

      I think that sweat is one way of releasing toxicity, yes.

      Please read my detox and cleansing tab for more on the process and why it’s necessary!

      Gena

  34. Wonderful response to an article that does not examine everything it claims. I always enjoy your perspective and elegant voice that comes through in your writing.

    But I am wondering if you do ever partake in (having trouble finding the right word since cleanses and detox’s are out)I will call it juice “breaks” or something along the lines of a liquid diet, for a few days. But more as a way to give our colons and intestines a break, rather then to be used as a diet/detox/cleanse. I think I have read about these in Natlia’s, Sarma’s and Kris’s books. And I remember Kris talked about a juice diet on her blog. I was wondering what your opinion on this was. Thank Gena! Off to juice some green lemonade and can’t wait for my banana Fo-gurt tonight!

    • Hi Amber,

      I do partake in short periods of juicing, yes: the most I have done was three days, which was fine for me. There are many in the raw community who fast longer and more intensely; for various reasons, which I’ll expand on at some point, I don’t feel compelled to do that at this point in my own journey.

      Not least because I enjoy all of my delicious food so much.

      If you do have interest in juicing, that is great, but whether or not it’s good for you really depends on your level of transition and various health factors, so it’s something to discuss with a coach!

      Gena

      • Cool! Right now I just juice for breakfast, no juice fasts for me yet. I just wanted to clarify that there was a difference in a weight loss fast and one for health concerns. Thanks again =)

  35. Okay, so I am staring at you in AWWWWWH! You are full of information, so thank you! Keep it coming, girl!

  36. Gena,

    I love how you offer so much of your insight, but still maintain that everyone is different. Every body is different! I also appreciate the genuine concern you seem to express through your posts. The most important thing is to TAKE CARE of ourselves.

    I agree, that when people make those decision they should consider it as a long-term journey towards a more fulfilling life and not just a quick fix to fit into a certain size dress. I feel a lot of these extremes are being fueled by very unhealthy motives in the first place.

    p.s. I’m not sure if you got my e-mail, my MacMail is being FUNKY, but I’ll be featuring you on my next post. I also have a question on behalf of my mom. She is looking to lower her acidity mainly for her arthritis. Do you have any advice or know of any other sources I could forward to her? Thanks

  37. Wow Gena, again… great post. I feel like this post actually ties in with the one about your new client (Food Matters: What I’m Learning) and how every ‘body’ is different. Sometimes I feel like I’m being a bit neurotic by altering my diet, or trying this and eliminating that but this post puts me at ease. Everybody is different and it will take time, trial and error to see how your body can be at it’s healthiest (or just healthier!).

  38. Way to throw it DOWN, Gena! I read that article the day it arrived in my mailbox (it was teased on the cover) and immediately had issues with it. I skimmed the surface of my own reservations in a blog post last week, but what I really wanted was for you to to speak on it. Way to deliver, as usual! This was a great reminder to take these magazines with a grain of salt – sometimes they can be motivating in the right way (most likely for someone further down the “pyramid,” if you know what I mean), but the minute they addressed something I actually knew a bit about myself, I had issues with it, so there it is. It would be great to see a letter from you in the reader mail section of a future SELF issue.

    You were right – this was a way juicy post. Like, 16-20 oz at LEAST. 😀

  39. I’ve been reading for awhile now and felt inspired to comment today! I did recently follow Kris Carr’s 28-day cleanse, and I loved every minute of it. However, I knew I was going to be cleansing intensely and had altered my diet in the 2-3 weeks prior to mostly raw and was cleansing once a week for about two months prior, so I was already in the mindset when I started and had already purged my kitchen and cabinets. There was an internet forum where fellow cleansers could post and comment and I was surprised by so many people who just jumped on board being virtually clueless about the rules and the ingredients in their food, and just lacking any sense! It saddened me that they wouldn’t want to educate themselves first. I enjoyed this particular post of yours today because detoxing and cleansing has become trendy (I go to an alternative medicine school, I see it all the time!) and it’s disturbing. Healthy and skinny are not synonymous as some people seem to think…this lifestyle should not be a fad diet! So anyway, it was refreshing for me to read your post this morning, thanks. 🙂

  40. ok enjoyed your entire article…but really enjoyed the comment about the pimple too! I tried switching to more natural face cleaners and suddenly broke out all over the place..makes me sad because I would prefer to use natural things, so I wonder if i just need to transition more slowly.

  41. Hi Gena. I read the Self article and I was eager to read your “response.” I am very impressed. You present a sound argument and analysis, and I really respect your knowledge, research, and experience. I don’t know if the raw lifestyle is for me, but that is besides the point. You are obviously very wise and clearly this is not a trend, “diet” (in the weight loss sense), or temporary fix for you. After reading your blog for a while now, I can see that this is truly a lifestyle that makes you feel wonderful.

    I agree with Heather–you should submit this to Self!

  42. If I could have just applauded out loud without my coworkers thinking I was insane, I would have. As always, you have presented a very unbiased, non-judgmental response on a very important topic.

    Since completing treatment for my ED (this month is my 3-year anniversary!), I have become increasingly disenchanted with our society’s diet mentality. I don’t BLAME society for 15 years of eating disorder hell, but I can’t help but wonder what those years would have been like if I wasn’t fed marketing schemes and magazine ads since being birthed. I’ve tried every diet under the sun, all thanks to genius marketing. I’ve “cleansed”, and dieted until I literally could not cleanse and diet anymore.

    I become very sad now when someone tells me that they’re dieting. Last weekend, my boyfriend’s mother was singing the praises of some crazy “herbal cleansing” system that she purchased. She has no idea of the benefits of a raw food diet, and she wouldn’t even know where to begin. Unfortunately, incorporating more raw foods into the Standard American Diet is not a mainstream teaching.

    I have decided to pursue my master’s degree in Holistic Nutrition for this very reason. I want to help put an end to this type of madness. How will the general population ever know about ways to alter their diet in order to improve their life, if all they read are biased magazine articles and television ads for Xenadrine?

  43. this is such an informative, well-crafted response to the article. i read it as well and had mixed feelings. i’ve found that so few people seem to respect that healthy living, whether it be raw or not, has a multitude of benefits when done the right way (with respect, as you’ve said). it frustrates me that someone living a raw lifestyle can be vilified for being too restrictive, while someone who eats a burger and fries “just” twice a month is applauded for exemplifying moderation. i believe that there are benefits to both ways of life, and how one chooses to eat is a very personal decision, but i do wish society as a whole was better educated about both sides of the coin.

    you’ve stirred up so many thoughts in me! thanks for writing this. 🙂

    • Leslie,

      I also find our culture’s fetishizing of “everything in moderation” unbelievably peculiar. There’s nothing wrong with indulgences or food choices that are unusually rich or sweet, but it’s also really weird to applaud them and celebrate them with gusto.

      Gena

  44. Gena, as with everyone else, I thought of you while reading the article. I knew that if you chose to respond, it would be as eloquent and thoughtful as this post is. I’m so glad that you presented the healthier side of detoxing and the true benefits. I do find it ironic, though, that a magazine which always gives “insight” regarding the quick fixes (ie. tone your butt in just 3 moves for only 5 minutes a day!) could present such a narrow critic regarding those that “detox”. I know their job is to sell magazines with hyped cover stories, but I do wish that they would also offer something a bit more educational for those of us that take health and fitness as serious as we do. Thanks again for being that sound voice of reason! Have a great, SUNNY day!

  45. Excellent post! Thank you. Working in a health store, I am constantly getting peppered with questions about cleanses, etc… I just don’t understand! Why don’t people just eat right and exercise. Then they won’t need to worry about what is in their bodies. It’s seems like such a simple concept. Okay… stepping off my soap box now. 🙂

  46. Beatifully written, as always G 🙂 I do think motication is at the core of this, and how can you really know someone’s thoughts?

  47. There is something about the way you write that really strikes a chord with other people’s consciousness. It is non-judgemental, loving and open, yet rings with perception and truth. This allows the rest of us to gently absorb the knowledge without feeling threatened by what we may currently be doing/living/eating. Brava!

  48. You are wise beyond your age, Gena. I always learn something new everyday from your blog. 🙂

  49. Thank you Gena for this super informative post! I think your blog is wonderful. I have followed your suggestion and have begun incorporating more raw foods into my diet, basically, I eat vegan for 3/4 of the day and then my lunch and part of my dinner and a snack are raw. I realized that after eating more veggies and cleaner foods, I have started to crave them over baked goods! Yay! Thanks again.

  50. Great post! You make some really excellent points. I am not a huge fan of “detoxes” as they make you feel horrible – I’d much prefer to commit to eating a lot of salads, fresh fruits, juice, etc. for life and feel good all the time, than eat crap and try to “fix it” with the Master Cleanse or some kind of crazy liquids only diet.

    One thing I did want to point out though is that the reason a lot of women want to “detox” is to lose weight. A lot of girls/women I know will fast for a few days to lose a few lbs. fast, especially from eating too much junk (ie. on vacation) or drinking too much, not because they want to truly detoxify their systems. And speaking from experience, back in the days of an eating disorder, I’d fast for a few days after I even felt like I had eaten ‘too much’ – I didn’t know back then about real detoxification though. “Detox” diets like the Master Cleanse are popular because they supposedly help you lose weight fast, but it’s only short term because then people go back to their original eating habits. Sadly, we live in a society where image is everything and people don’t care enough about their health or establishing long-term, sustainable habits.

    PS – I finally made some banana ice cream tonight. All I can say is…delicious! I practically started licking my food processor haha. Thank you so much!

  51. Gena,

    When are YOU writing a book? Seriously. You just breathe wisdom.

    I am so quick to defend my lifestyle, based on emotion and irrational thoughts, and you on the other hand are so eloquent, calm, sensitive and understanding. My gosh, I already knew this, but I can learn SO much from you.

    I love that you say: “The goal shouldn’t be four-week transformation, but rather a lifetime of improvement.” This is going up on my fridge. The day I stop trying to improve myself is the day they bury me.

    I think I say it every time we “speak,” but thank you.

  52. Gena – thanks so much for addressing this, I think that your response was well-written and much needed. While I do not follow a raw diet or do colonics (and there are issues I have with certain aspects of these practices) vilifying practices that have health benefits does not benefit anyone. A greater focus on the article should have been on the unhealthy American obsession with food “trends,” whatever they may be.

  53. I tried a sort of banana ice cream! My nanners weren’t frozen though … they turned out into a soup kind of thing but it was still yummy!
    Detoxes like this are silly.
    -Muffy

  54. I read that article in Self and immediately thought of you and what your response might be. I really enjoyed reading your perspective! Honestly, I take everything I read in those women’s health/lifestyle/etc. magazines with a grain of salt because they boil it all down to generalizations – eat 1500 calories a day and lose weight, awesome abs in 3 weeks, etc. It’s completely unindividualized. What works for one may not work for another.

    • Ashley, I could not agree more. I take a dim view to most of that prescriptive and generalized stuff, and I often find that it’s uneven and hypocritical.

  55. Hey Gena, I read the article and I totally agree with you about one’s motivation. I guess I just have a hard time believing that everyone who cleanses or detoxes, even in a healthy way, is doing it for the right reasons. It bothers me because I think it gives credibility to the article’s arguments. But, I guess it’s none of my business.

    Also, I wish they had given more information about the raw girl who passed out. I mean what exactly was she eating. To say she was eating raw fruits, veggies and nuts is completely vague. 🙁 I hope you write in to Self.

    • Heaths–

      I think that it’s really all to do with motivation and also time — the more short-term the goals, the more I question the cause. Then again, I know women who’ve gotten into the raw lifestyle whose motives were entirely superficial, but who felt so great and whose health improved so much that they’ve become really deep and sincere devotees of it for non-superficial reasons. Again, something the article doesn’t even consider.

      And I know! For all we know, homegirl was eating some crudites and water and nothing else. Very misleading.

      G xo

  56. Gena-

    Seriously, you are amazing! This post if PACKED with wise and sound guidance. You are one smart lady, and an incredible source of educated information!

  57. As always, I’m enlightened by your insight and thorough information – it’s a shame that the woman who did the detox did not research properly ahead of time, since she most likely could have avoided the ‘nasty symptoms.’ Thank you again 🙂

  58. Fabulous post Gena. Critical writing at it’s best and as you know, I completely agree on all points! I’ve recently had a spate of clients coming to me because they want to do a quick “2 week detox”. The term is so misunderstood!

    Casey

  59. Wow, I just read this article today at the gym. Thank you for addressing its pros and cons–I love that you see both sides of things, as always, Gena. It’s great that you believe intentions and the mind are so vital to health. And wow, may I say that your writing is amazing and that your passion for raw foods really shine through? Hope you have a lovely evening!

  60. I have to agree with Hayley, that was an extremely well-written post and well though out post. I love how passionate you are about this topic and your dedication to getting accurate information out there! It is truly inspiring and makes me even more excited to get more involved. (I’m slowly transitioning myself to the raw diet, and plan to get Natalia’s book tomorrow! Yay!)

  61. Thank you so much for writing about this article!! I just checked Natalia’s book out of the library and I’m really looking forward to incorporating the information from Gil’s lecture with Natalia’s approach. I’d really like to start pursuing the raw the diet more aggressively but I think books will have to be my primary info source (along with your blog!!) since I don’t know many other raw foodists or people who are exploring the raw diet. Good thing I’ve got the rest of my life to work out the kinks right? 🙂

    One thing I know for sure – no more fads or “noun” diets!!!

  62. Beautiful post Gena! You always have so much information and you always answer the questions I never ask. I remember when my ED first started out…I went on a water/juice diet for a whole week (mostly water with one glass of juice per day), then I did only fruits and veggies for one week. Yikes! Never doing that again!

    I have a quick question…is it normal to get the occasional pimple? I wash my face every day and night with organic, natural washes, eat (mostly) unprocessed foods, and exercise. Do you think its my diet or is this just normal for my age?

    • Hey sweets — I think it’s likely a combination of age and the fact that you’ve been consistently eating more clean in the last year (and alkalizing your body with lots of veggies). Be patient with it. Regardless of which of these two causes it is, it will pass with time.

      And hey, I just had a big zit on my chin. Happens to the best of us 🙂

    • Mara dear, it’s all about personalization! I think you know me well enough by now to know that I don’t vilify anyone else’s diet 🙂 Hope it was tasty.

  63. Gena this was an incredibly well-written response to that article and so informative! I love your insights and feedback on all of this. I am learning so much from you…have you thought about responding to Self with what you just posted?