Chelsea Asplund/The AS Review
The recipe calls for four simple ingredients: ice cold water, half of a large lemon freshly squeezed, two tablespoons of maple syrup and just a pinch of cayenne pepper. Now stir those ingredients with a spoon and let it settle before drinking. Now just drink this six to eight times a day for the next two weeks and nothing else.
This notorious diet is known as the “Lemonade Detox,” and is reportedly used by celebrities for rapid, extreme weight loss in a short amount of time.
The detox, which has also garnered attention as the “Master Cleanse,” dates back to the 1940s as a promotional detoxification program. The diet promises rapid weight loss as harmful toxins are released from the body, resulting in of the loss of diseased cells and fat tissue.
While the idea of purifying your body and losing weight sounds appealing, Western dietitian Jill Kelly said detox diets are starvation diets, which almost guarantee a rebound weight gain.
“The most harmful part about starvation diets is the fact that they are low-calorie,” Kelly added. “Eating too little calories leads to muscle wasting and inadequate vitamin and mineral consumption, as well as a significantly lowered metabolism. Your body needs fuel; you can improve your health by choosing ‘clean’ fuel.’”
Kelly said the idea of cleansing your body is a great idea, but starving it is a whole other issue. She suggests other natural, healthy ways to cleanse the body, such as only drinking water or limiting sugar intake and processed foods. She also said exercising can help boost metabolism, which is nearly impossible to do on a detox.
For Whatcom Community College student Aimee Wright, doing detoxes once or twice a year helps her body start over and feel refreshed.
“I always find I have more energy afterward and my system feels really clear, especially after Christmas and getting all that gunk out of your system,” she said.
Wright, who is currently studying health and nutrition, said she compiles different detoxes and blood-type diets together to customize one that suits her and her lifestyle. Her detox includes drinking only fresh fruit juices or smoothies and eating only raw fruits or vegetables. She cuts out all wheat, dairy and meat entirely, as well as any processed foods and alcohol for a week.
“There are a lot of detox diets out there that are very extreme and can be harmful to your body,” Wright said. “The same detox won’t work for everyone, so you really have to personalize it for yourself.”
As for side effects, Wright said she only suffers from low energy the first few days, but says that’s common because she’s not eating her normal amounts of sugars and fats. In the end, she said her body feels restored and refreshed without the help of any medicine.
“I’m kind of a nutrition nut and I am really into natural medicine and natural health in general. I really don’t like taking medications and antibiotics, so it’s really important to me to keep my body functioning well so I can avoid that,” Wright said.
Wright currently works at Avenue Bread and said the hardest part about the detox process is fighting yourself because healthy detoxes require a lot of mental discipline and stamina.
“It’s definitely a lot of mental control because I work at Avenue, so I can’t really eat a pastry here and there or take a little nibble on something,” she said. “But your body eventually learns to work off of what you are eating and learns how to re-operate itself.”
Following her week long detox, Wright said she slowly incorporates whole grains and foods back into her diet, to be sure that her body does not go into shock.
Student Health Director Emily Gibson said what appears to be positive and appealing about detox diets is only negative and discouraging in the end. Just because something feels dramatic, she said, doesn’t mean it’s positive.
“I fail to understand the appeal of causing extreme diarrhea or a ketotic state from fasting,” Gibson said. “These have never been proven beneficial or healthful in any kind of credible study. They are stressful to the gut lining and to the individual.”
Since her freshman year, senior Iris Craig has done countless detox diets, including the lemonade. Similar to Wright, Craig does not use the detoxes as a form of weight loss, but rather as a way to cleanse her body. Some have varied from one week to several months, but through them all Craig said she has learned what works and doesn’t work for her.
What works, she said, is learning what to specifically cut out, but never cutting out everything.
“One of the biggest problems about detoxes is that you’re supposed to cut out so much. But your brain can’t function on that little, especially living a student lifestyle,” Craig said. “The purpose of a detox shouldn’t be to get rid of everything; it’s to heal your body that you have been abusing. [Starving yourself] isn’t a good answer.”
Wright said she was first introduced to detoxes through her mom, who works as a sales representative for a nutritional company. For several cleanses she has focused on nutritional shakes, mixing whey powder and powdered greens and berries.
“I think, especially being a student, I feel like my body becomes toxic. I feel like someone could just touch me and my skin would hurt,” she said. “Detoxes are all about trying to normalize. I can’t necessarily control my academics that are inherently stressful, but I can control what I put into my body.”
Craig said she focuses more today on cutting out dairy, gluten and sugar from her daily diet. Rather than consuming squeezed lemons and maple syrup, she challenges herself by going a week or two without meat, or a week or two without dairy.
“This is more of a natural detox, and that I can do,” Craig said. “And in the end my body feels so much better. It moves better and it thinks better. I feel like my body is thanking me for being more respectful towards it.”