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Juicing Cleanses and Eating Disorders

In recent decades, the fad of juicing fruits and vegetables for the purpose weight loss, “cleansing”, and “detoxifying” has reached alarming new heights. With claims such as “purifying the mind”, “cleansing the colon”, and promoting the ability to drop weight at a record pace, the juicing cleanse fad is a scary monster. There can be many similarities between the thought of a 5,7,14, or even 30 day juice cleanse and eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. This article will look at some of these similarities, as well as some of the claims of “cleansing and detoxification.”

One of the first things that come to my mind when I read about the claims that a juicing cleanse proposes is the current obsession of the ability to have control over one’s food intake to the point of it becoming an eating disorder. To only allow your body to take in ONLY liquid for weeks at a time (or however long the cleanse is supposed to last) is nearly the same as starvation. We currently live in a society that, for the most part, shames body fat in almost any form. People have no problem pointing out body fat on others as if the presence of body fat on an elite level athlete will somehow diminish their accomplishments. The dedicated men and women of LBEB are all too familiar with this. This constant shaming can be a driver that leads to eating disorders, and for the most part, we seem to recognize some of the signs of an eating disorder. The question then remains: how do we not notice the implications of eating disorders in most juicing cleanses?

An elite athlete with…eeeeek! Body fat!

How is it that we do not seem to bat an eye when a co-worker tells us they are going to drink ONLY cucumber and lemon water for a week in order for them to lose weight? If someone said that they would not be eating any actual food for a week, we might be getting slightly concerned. But if you throw the words “juicing cleanse” into the conversation, suddenly it is not only acceptable, but it may even turn into a workplace-enforced cleanse.(1) What is a workplace-enforced raw juice cleanse, if not mandatory starvation? Now, there is obviously little wrong with fruits or vegetables, even if a juiced form. The problems arise, however, when juice is the ONLY thing that is being consumed. When fruits and vegetables are juiced, the pulp is discarded, leaving only the liquid present in the produce. This robs the produce of the fiber present in it, which also contains antioxidants and enzymes that are useful for us. For example, the white pulp in an orange provides flavonoids, but that is usually left behind.(2) The act of removing the fiber from the produce will also increase the rate at which the sugar in the juice is absorbed, essentially leaving you with sugary water that has antioxidants in it, and little caloric value. It is quite fascinating to think about how drinking only juice will provide you with more energy when your caloric intake is severely decreased for weeks at a time. There is little evidence to suggest that a juiced fruit or vegetable is superior in any way to eating the whole piece.(3) I attribute this to the need in America for everything to be ate and drank on-the-go.
Another obvious physical drawback to juicing cleanses for individuals who are already at risk for an eating disorder is the community and camaraderie aspect of the juicing world. There are juicing cleanse parties, juicing cleanse conventions, and entire websites dedicated to juicing cleanse recipes that contain as few calories as possible.(3.1) The community aspect provides positive reinforcement for something that can be quite harmful. Juicing nearly eliminates the intake of proteins and fats. Fats are of special ironic importance here because there are so many vitamins that need fat present in order to be absorbed.(4)  It’s not a question of whether or not a juicing diet will help someone lose weight (starvation will absolutely decrease bodyweight) but the question is, is this a sustainable and healthy way to lose weight, and will you be able to keep the weight off once you finish the crash diet?

Another one of the glaring issues I personally have with juicing cleanse diets are the claims of “detoxifying and cleansing” that they promote. We have discussed many times on LBEB that the body is not a vessel of sickness that can only be fixed by drinking a lot of fruits and vegetables. The body is absolutely capable of cleansing itself. Are there toxins present in our body from things like BPA and carcinogens? Yes. Can we get rid of them by drinking juice for a week, or even a month? No.(5) If toxins are present in our body, most of the time they reside in the bodyfat. Reducing the bodyfat will not decrease the toxins, and juiced produce certainly won’t flush toxins from bones and adipose tissue.(6) Those who make these claims seem to fall into the same crowd that believe meat somehow clings to the walls of your GI tract and colon like hairs on the walls of your shower. Anyone who has ever performed autopsies knows that meat and other foods do not rot in the colon. Just imagine if we were carrying pounds and pounds of rotting material in our bodies for long periods: we would die from the inside out. Or worse, we would resemble a baby’s dirty filled diaper.Our liver does a fantastic job of filtering out toxins, because that is it’s job.

I feel that the obsession for juicing cleanses stems from the fear that cooked foods are somehow robbed of nutrients because they aren’t raw any more. It has been shown time and time again that cooking foods actually unlocks nutrients and kills antinutrients in them. For example, cooking tomatoes unlocks the lycopene in them that would otherwise not be available to us.(7)

I am going to dismount my soapbox now, and close with this: Do I think that fruits and vegetables are worthless to us? No. I view vegetables and fruits and vitamin pills with fiber in them. They are absolutely necessary from a micronutrient standpoint, but they provide little caloric value. I feel that the average American diet is filled with garbage, and we could all benefit from improving our food intake. I do not believe, however, that we must subsist on juice or water-based cleanses alone in order to improve our lives. “Cleanse diet” type companies make billions of dollars a year by purporting claims that do not need FDA approval because they are vague as possible. Subsisting on juice very closely resembles eating disorders, but they are widely accepted as beneficial. What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments.

22 thoughts on “Juicing Cleanses and Eating Disorders

  1. Pretty spot on. Juice fasts/cleanses are a bunch of crap. The idea of getting “toxins” out of your body by not eating, or by drinking something specific for some period of time, is totally idiotic. Your liver and your kidneys are already doing that for you, and your colon’s getting rid of the rest of the debris.

  2. I agree juice cleanses/fasts are a load of crap. However juicing when implemented with actually eating will allow people to get more servings of fruits and vegetables. It can be used as a tool to load up on some extra calories when paired with eating real food too.

  3. I agree with everything you said and would like to add that Americans love to jump on so called “healthy lifestyle” bandwagons, because they are too LAZY to try and LEARN how to obtain optimum health. Period. They want to be spoon-fed with something that “seems” to work and say, “Hey I can do that too”. That was the biggest problem with the video that I think catapulted this, “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”. The subjects of the video, and his doctor friends, never once mentioned how important fat is. Anyone who starves will lose weight. Now, on the other hand, I enjoy using my VitaMix to create delicious fruit and vegetable smoothies, spiked with protein and fat, so that I can increase my caloric intake and vegetable intake at the same time.

  4. I LITERALLY spent all day arguing with my two lady coworkers about how I refused to join their juice cleanse. They said, as a woman, I should also consider doing it. Its 10 days of eating 1000 calories worth of vegetables, drinking water with 50mg of salt in it, and drinking a “special” laxative tea. After the first 10 days, you only eat vegetables for another 10 days and drink a gallon of water with cucumber.

    Every time I kept pointing out that there is no protein or fat in the diet, and that drinking salt water and laxatives will severely dehydrate them, they kept saying “at least we’ll look skinny.”

    I got so angry that I said, “At least I can squat 200.” And walked away. Probably not my most mature reaction, but I was tired of hearing about it.

  5. It’s important to understand the difference between “food” and “supplements”, and make sure you categorize the things you’re eating into the right bucket. Juices belong in the supplement bucket.

  6. That’s an awesome response. In their case, the methods are entirely appropriate to their goal. It’s the goal that’s screwed up!

  7. Have you guys seen the movie Fat Sick and Nearly Dead? It’s basically a vlog of a guy on a juice fast. Not super scientific but it seems solid and helped a few guys a whole lot with health problems. Maybe juice fasting isn’t so bad? I’d recommend watching it, for science.

  8. Thing with “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”, along with “Forks over Knives”, is they are comparing their new found diet against the Standard American Diet of nearly pure crap. Of course you’re going to find benefits and the participants are going to see improvement.

    Even going from SAD to vegan will probably show some improvement that science can back up.

  9. I absolutely love your response. Mature or not, it’s accurate. Good for you!

  10. This.

    Also, nobody should base their eating choices on a movie… Do your own research and figure out what YOU need.

  11. Thanks! I’ve been struggling with body image issues, weight loss, weight gain for the last ten years. Lifting and the enormous amount of awesomely delicious and healthy food I have to consume to support it, was what steered me away from the crazy amounts of cardio and fad diets I had been doing.

  12. I propose a “meat” cleanse! I’ve done beef and liver and sardine cleanse for 10 – 14 days and fealt phenomanal.

  13. If you think fruits/veggies don’t have proteins in them you’re wrong. Complete proteins should be the argument as all vegetables have amino-acids.

  14. More pics of Talia in a bikini please!!!!

  15. I’ve been lifting and making my own all natural juice’s for 25 years. There’s nothing like it to stay healthy especially now that I’m over 60.

  16. Good to hear some common sense about the lack of need for detox, The human body is an amazingly efficient thing and nothing “sticks” to the GI walls. although I do like juices in addition to a healthy diet because they are flavorful and can be made from whole foods. that is your key right there “whole foods”. I am a registered dietitian by trade, and a LBEB man at heart.

  17. :drool:

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  19. LOL at the pics of Talia and saying body fat, pure lies, very pretty lady.

    Anyway, I recently started a LBEB mentality and started hitting the gym. I consume twice as many calories, have gained 10 pounds, and lost 10% bodyfat (According to Army APFT measurements) I still eat veggies, but I have a high protein diet now and I feel better and look better than ever. Similarly, a few people I know are currently doing a “cleanse.” Funny how I don’t complain of being tired and having dry mouth like they do, and I am “progressing” faster.

  20. Thank you for great information! I agree with you, juicing cleanse need to be taken with serious caution. This can be easily turned into starvation. I like juicing but I use it as addition to my daily meals and not only juicing. I like your ideas here.

  21. A friend of mine, who does not eat SAD, developed cancer, went on a fast, and the cancer disappeared.

  22. This comment is directed at the “Anonymous” person who stated “If you think fruits/veggies don’t have proteins in them you’re wrong.”

    Yes, although it is true that fruits and veggies do have some trace amount of protein, it is not adequate (especially in juice form) to sustain lifters or athletes in general.

    If you do a quick google search of “vegetables high in protein” you will find that the veggies with the greatest amount of protein per serving are asparagus, broccoli, artichoke & watercress. None of which contain more than 3 g of protein per serving. 3 g does not sustain an athletic body!

    I, for example (a 170 lb female), aim for 90-100 grams of dietary protein per day. I don’t think I am going to achieve that through solely vegetable sources and especially not in juice form.

    If you are referring to other non-meant forms of protein such as soy (legume) or quinoa (psuedocereal), then yes there is more protein per serving in those options. I doubt however, that quinoa would make a tasty juice ingredient and if you have been to the LBEB website before then you should already know what we lifters think of soy!

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