I’m just going to go ahead and say it – I have no idea why anyone is taking health and wellness advice from Gwyneth Paltrow. After all, she is one of the main reasons we have to deal with the staggering idiocy of the Tracy Anderson Method (which really ought to be renamed the “Muscles are Ugly Tee-Hee Method”). That alone should disqualify her from ever being considered an expert on anything, ever.
But in case you needed another reason, I offer up: the GOOP cleanse.
The GOOP cleanse is a 21-day program that has its adherents choking down shakes of rice bran and rice syrup twice a day, plus a handful of enzymes, extracts and barks. (Don’t worry, you get to eat lunch, as long as it comes from a “set list of foods,” so you won’t be completely crazed from hunger.) I checked out the nutritional information, and honestly I don’t know if these are typos or not, but I’m pretty sure it’s not possible for something to only have nine calories?
Here’s the best part: all of these rice powders and encapsulated bark enzymes will only set you back $425. (Recession? What recession?)
I’d like to think that it should go without saying that a cleanse is really not necessary. Millions of years of evolution have given us these built-in cleanses called “kidneys” and also “livers.” And if your kidneys and liver aren’t functional? You may want to consider closing the tab for the GOOP cleanse and calling your freaking doctor. I’m just saying.
But as much fun as it is to make fun of Gwyneth Paltrow’s cleanse, it leads me to feel like I ought to make a confession. Because there was once a time when I would have regarded the GOOP cleanse with more than just the bemused skepticism it deserves. There was a time when I would have maybe even considered doing it. The only thing that would have stood in my way was the $425 price tag.
I still remember my attempt at a juice fast as clearly as if the glass was sitting right in front of me. I was in my early 20s at the time, and my now ex-husband had gotten it in his head that he needed to lose weight. This was a regular occurrence in our lives, as we would go for several months at a stretch where we never did anything more strenuous than pass the bong back and forth and maybe get really excited while playing Madden, and then one day he’d wake up and decide that we needed to change everything so he could lose weight.
But he never wanted to change the way he ate, and he wasn’t really interested in exercising. He just wanted to be slim and cut, like he was in high school, and he wanted to do it as quickly as possible. So he’d do things like eat tablets of chitosan before eating fast food (because the chitosan was supposed to keep the fat from being absorbed into his body). There were a few weeks when he’d chew up bites of his Big Mac, then spit it into the garbage. In retrospect, I realize this was some seriously disordered eating, but at the time I just thought it was gross. Because, hey, it totally was!
One day, after listening to Robin Quivers talk about doing that cayenne pepper-and-lemon juice cleanse on the Howard Stern Show, he decided that we should do the Hollywood 48-Hour Miracle Diet. I, being the supportive wife, agreed to go along with it. After all, I figured a juice cleanse could maybe counteract all of the bong resin and hops and fried cheese clogging up my body’s various parts.
We plunked down $40 for two bottles of the stuff and set aside a weekend where we would do nothing but the juice fast. The plan called for four ounces of the vaguely carrot-juice-looking concentrate mixed up with four ounce of bottled water, and then we were to drink it every four hours. At the end of the two days, our bodies were supposed to be leaner, sparklinger and better looking in tight jeans.
The next Saturday, we arose for our ritual wake-n-bake (god we were SUCH stoners) and then we got down to the business of cleansing ourselves. We carefully measured four ounces of water and four ounces of concentrate, mixed them up and started drinking the juice, which was kind of orangish and tasted not all that great. I can’t remember the exact flavor cornucopia, beyond that I was not all that thrilled to know that the juice would be my only sustenance for the next 48 hours.
Less than an hour passed before I realized I thinking about all of the food in the kitchen. It was a weird thing, because I was never much of a breakfast eater and in fact could go until noon without eating, but here it was, ten a.m. and I was already doing a mental inventory of the contents of the pantry. Another hour passed, and I found myself wandering near the kitchen and looking longingly at the fridge, which was teasing me with its promises of pickles and lunch meat and leftover tuna macaroni salad.
You know how when we were kids, we paid no mind to the people who had crushes on us until they had crushes on someone else? And then almost instantly, we become obsessed with the fact that that person no longer has a crush on us? (Or was this just me?) I had taken food for granted my whole life, had just assumed it would be there whenever I wanted it and that I could eat it whenever I liked, but now that it was off-limits to me, it was all I could think about.
The four-hour mark found us sitting in front of a digital clock, staring at it like a pair of obedient dogs, waiting for it to hit the predetermined time. Once the numbers changed, we ran into the kitchen and mixed up our next batch of juice-drank. I tried to sip it but I was so hungry that I ended up chugging it. When I put the glass down, I felt so disgusted with my lack of self-control. And worst of all, I was still hungry.
A couple of hours later, after a weird non-nap in which I just flopped around on the bed like an impatient fish, I got up and paced around the apartment. I picked up a book, saw nothing but the word “food” on all the pages, then put it down. I went into the front room to watch television, but found myself abnormally focused on every commercial for fast food, every scene that involved eating. I ended up breaking the fast and smoking a cigarette. It was either that or wear a groove into the floor by the kitchen through the sheer force of my anxious pacing.
We finally made it to eight hours, and I sadly drank my juice-sludge down while sitting listlessly on the couch. Everything annoyed me – the air conditioner, the hum of the television, my skin – but I was too tired and cranky to do anything about it.
Darkness fell and found us lying on the couch, staring at the TV. I thought of another day like this, one where I wanted nothing more than to pick up the fridge and tilt the contents directly into my mouth, and I felt tears burn my eyes. He must have been thinking the same thing, because we looked at each other with glassy, irritable eyes and almost simultaneously said, “Fuck this shit.”
Then we got off the couch, marched outside and went to the nearest McDonald’s, where we picked up Big Mac Value Meals, the made a quick stop at the nearby 7-11 to buy some beer. We came home, sat down and gorged ourselves until we fell asleep.
The next morning, we poured the rest of the juice down the drain. Neither one of us lost a single pound. In fact, as I recall, I gained two.
Juice fast adherents might say that I would have gotten more out of it if I had stuck with it the whole way, or maybe if I had committed to a different one, or maybe if I had made my own juices, or blah blah blah blah blah.
All of that is just a diversion from the real point, which is that good health is not something that you can achieve by abstaining from solid food for 48 hours or 21 days or whatever. It is not something that can be purchased in the form of pills or powders. It’s about a commitment to making changes in your lifestyle that you can actually maintain throughout your entire life.
It’s so tempting to think that a lifetime of crappy habits can be reversed through a fast or a cleanse, and it’s tempting because it seems easy. But you know what? It’s not easy to not eat food. It’s actually really, really hard. We’re so much better off just making better choices in our day-to-day lives, and not just because it’s healthier, but also because it’s easier. Yes, I said it – easier. I’ve been eating fairly clean for a couple of years now, and never once did I find myself feeling quite as deprived as I did I was in the final hours of my aborted attempt of that juice fast.
So, I’m chalking it up to a lesson learned. To paraphrase the late, great David Foster Wallace, it was a supposedly healthy thing I’ll never do again.