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August 1st, 2011
12:30 AM ET

Not expecting miracles, but I love my cleanses

Editor's note: New research out Monday says there’s no scientific evidence that colon cleanses enhance well-being. CNN Showbiz writer-producer Lisa Respers France, a detox devotee, has a different opinion. She wrote this last spring, during her last cleanse. Our colleague in New York, “AC 360” senior producer Jill Billante, was wondering about the process and went to a Mayo Clinic doctor for some answers. It’s an interesting contrast.

I swear I’m not trying to be Beyonce.

Not that I would turn down being rich, talented and gorgeous, but I’m not trying to lose 20 pounds as she reportedly did by using the Master Cleanse detox.

Allow me to explain. I have way more than 20 pounds to lose. Five times more than that, actually. And I know that the only way it will come off successfully and permanently is through diet and exercise.

That’s not why for the past several days I have existed only on a diet of distilled water, fresh squeezed lemon juice, cayenne pepper and Grade B maple syrup. And other than a nightly cup of laxative tea, that’s all I have had for more than a week. No food. Not one bite.

I know all of the controversy surrounding the Master Cleanse - and detoxing in general - but that hasn’t stopped me from doing it twice a year, every year for the past five years.

I first learned of the detox from a friend who used it to stop smoking. I was intrigued by the concept of not eating as I am absolutely obsessed with food. Seriously obsessed.

About a third of the books in my extensive library are food memoirs – that class of nonfiction that intertwines the author’s life recollections and memories of food. It’s my favorite kind of food porn.

The first time around I purchased Stanley Burroughs’ book “The Master Cleanser with Special Needs and Problems” and I stuck to the program: as much of the lemonade as I needed to feel full, laxative tea at night and a salt water flush in the morning made up of two tablespoons of noniodized sea salt mixed with a quart of room temperature water.

While the minimum recommended time period is 10 days, my first attempt ended after three. I hadn’t counted on a pizza party at work or the intensity of the detox symptoms, which included a headache and flu-like aches.

But I was determined and within a few weeks I successfully completed my first cleanse. Over the years I’ve managed to stay on the cleanse for longer periods of time with the longest being 30 days.

For me, the positives outweigh all the chatter I hear from friends and relatives who worry that it’s not healthy: I have tons of energy, my adult-onset acne completely clears, I sleep like a baby and my allergies disappear. I’ve even managed to shake a case of chronic hives, the cause of which my allergist was never able to pinpoint.

I’ve also learned a great deal about my, and society’s, relationship with food. I’m more cognizant of my co-workers discussion at 9 a.m. of what they plan to eat for lunch and how so much social activity revolves around food and eating. Every other commercial on television is for some fast food restaurant and we are a nation seemingly obsessed with superhuge portions.

We also don’t seem to deal well with folks doing things outside of the norm i.e. eating. I’ve been doing it so long that my husband barely even registers when it’s detox time because I still cook for him and his diet doesn’t change at all. Honestly, it seems like it’s way more difficult for my friends to deal with it and I don’t at all mind the good-natured ribbing from those who say “You are crazy!” or “I would die if I went more than one day without food.”

Trust me, you wouldn’t.

A few years ago, in the midst of a 20-day cleanse, I went for my regularly scheduled physical and my doctor was thrilled when he called me a few days later with the results. “Your cholesterol has dropped, your blood pressure is normal and you’ve lost weight. Whatever you are doing, keep it up.”

I didn’t have the guts to tell him about the Master Cleanse. I know that modern medicine is doubtful of the benefits of detoxing, but I believe there is much to be gained by giving your digestive system a rest. And it makes sense given that if your body isn’t using energy to consume calories, that energy can be devoted to healing.

There definitely are some downsides, including the dreaded “fasting breath,” which ensures that I don’t do too much close talking with friends and colleagues while I am cleansing. I also, inevitably, reach a point where I am completely bored with drinking what is essentially lemonade with a kick. By the end, I don’t want to see another lemon - even as garnish - for awhile.

I don’t believe detoxing is wrecking my metabolism, because unlike a water fast, with the Master Cleanse I’m consuming calories in the form of the sugar in the maple syrup and lemon juice. I also slowly introduce foods back into my life using the method introduced here.

Not everyone agrees that a cleanse is needed, as the body has its own natural, detoxing methods. But I have five years of avoiding hypertension and diabetes (which both are rampant in my family) and the peace and feeling of accomplishment I have every time I give my body a break from eating.

Follow @LisaFranceCNN on Twitter


soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. fernace

    It's amazing that, because we live in a nation that throws away more food in a year, than a 3rd word country consumes, starvation is thought of as some form of holistic cure! Fasting has been part of most societies & goes through the whole fade-resurect cycle of most trends. It seems that it's such an un-natural shock of 2 extremes, to your system. 1 week you're eating normally, the next,Nothing! I think if it works for you & you derive some positive outcome, then stick with it, but it's not for every 1! I just cant get that whole "starvation on purpose juxtaposed with Somalia" picture out of my mind, to find it helpful!!

    August 1, 2011 at 01:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dv

      They probably don't have many computers in Somalia either. Guess you should give yours away.

      August 1, 2011 at 21:57 | Report abuse |
  2. Will

    The answer is not cleansing...the answer is squatting. Go to naturesplatform.com click on health benefits and read.

    August 1, 2011 at 01:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Bonita

    If Americans give half their fortunes to the charity missions and forget about being in shape, the problem is solved instantly.

    August 1, 2011 at 06:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Bonita

    It's sheer tragedy that the people living in rich countries have to think about diet and being fit for 3-4 decades and then die. Humans have better purposes to live than health or body-shapes. The middle-agers should think about making kids happy and excel more than selves being fit.

    August 1, 2011 at 06:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Cleansing is stupid

    "Cleansing" twice a year for the past 5 years and you are still over 100 pounds overweight is probably the best evidence that starving yourself twice a year is not the answer.

    Most people who are overweight are so becasue they have developed a bad eating pattern. You need to change you LIFE, and learn how to eat within your means and be consistent in exercising. The funny thing is that everyone I know who LOVES the master cleanse is still overweight.

    Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When examining the habits of healthy people and obese people they both display very different habits.. Develop the habits of a healthy person and the rest will follow. Follow the habits of a yoyo dieter and you will stay fat forever.

    August 1, 2011 at 08:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Randy

      Seriously, good point! I think people love these things because self-deprivation gives a sense of accomplishment, except unlike exercise, there doesn't seem to be any sort of long term benefit to this sort of cleansing. Now maybe changing your eating style, and jumping on the P90X wagon (an exercise craze I actually support), that'll probably net you some benefit.

      August 1, 2011 at 09:42 | Report abuse |
    • Somewhat Shocked

      I suspect that most of the people who swear by these types of diets have either undiagnosed allergies or food-intolerances. They feel better because they've eliminated the item that is making them ill, but then they go right back to eating it after their "cleanse." Then they get sick again, so they "cleanse" again, and it turns into a vicious positive feedback loop.

      August 1, 2011 at 12:59 | Report abuse |
    • dv

      Read the article. She says RIGHT IN THE BEGINNING she doesn't fast to lose weight.

      August 1, 2011 at 22:43 | Report abuse |
  6. college_student

    How can she tout doing this for years when she is 100 pounds overweight???? Doesn't make sense

    August 1, 2011 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Veronica Y

    Great article, Lisa – Thanks for sharing! I had my 1st Colonic performed two days ago & I can already see the results. Like you, I have tons more energy & there's a major difference in how I feel after a meal and throughout the day. I'm no longer bloated after the first few bites. I didn't have a Colonic in hopes if losing weight, as I am not overweight. I did it because I wanted to cleanse my body of toxins that are clearly evident in the waste our bodies carry. Yes, if you are healthy, your body self-eliminates; however, there's no denying all the waste that was removed during my Colonic could never have been removed during a single BM – or even one week, for that matter! The difference is clear. And in my opinion, so are the benefits. I'm planning on trying a detox cleansing next, maybe even the one you mentioned! Thanks again for sharing your story. Take care, be encouraged, and don't allow negative responses to hinder your process. -Veronica

    August 1, 2011 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
    • fjawodfc

      Placebo effect / insanity.

      August 1, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse |
    • dv

      Read the article. It's about fasting, not colonics.

      August 1, 2011 at 22:46 | Report abuse |
  8. SomeGuy

    The Author Wrote: "And it makes sense given that if your body isn’t using energy to consume calories, that energy can be devoted to healing."

    Wait, what? That makes absolutely no sense. Calories ARE energy. A calorie is a unit of energy. The calorie count on food is a measure of how much chemical energy it contains. Our bodies utilize those calories to do stuff.

    August 1, 2011 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Andy

      @SomeGuy – I scratched my head at that one too. Lisa's a little crazy. So if you're not eating, you start healing? THAT makes sense to you? Where in the world does that warped logic come from? So if you twist your ankle would not eating help it heal faster?...because, you know, the body isn't busy with all that digestion stuff. These people really need to take some anatomy classes.

      August 1, 2011 at 13:44 | Report abuse |
    • dv

      She's still consuming calories, and they aren't being used for digestive processes. I've heard similar arguments for going on all juice diets (juice from a lot of fruits and veggies), that the body uses less energy to digest the juice and therefore the energy can be used for other things.

      Not saying I agree, but you didn't seem to understand the idea.

      August 1, 2011 at 22:48 | Report abuse |
  9. Shawn

    God this woman and anyone who partakes in this pseudo-science is an absolute idiot, makes me sick

    August 1, 2011 at 19:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Healthman

    There are indeed many varieties of cleanses that exist and most unfortunately are marketing money making schemes. Cleanses that involve specific diets or herbs if applied properly and under careful supervision with a proper and constant Acid/Alkali check and preparation before one begins the cleanse can be extremely helpful. Cleanses are indeed excellent in identifying an item one may be allergic to through a process of elimination and then bringing new items in carefully one at a time till the culprit is identifiable. I've carefully completed several specific (diet) cleanses that i must admit I felt absolutely amazing and re-energized. But most importantly I successfully cured myself of my allergies. Colonics are another beast of their own and in certain instances can be extremely helpful for assisting in the removal of any mucous plaque buildup that may exist in some peoples colon. Any pathologist will tell you that they very often see a ton of mucous and plaque deposits in the colon, hence the importance for some to be more aware of their diet or to cleanse. Improper cleansing or just jumping into a cleanse without researching it beforehand can be very risky. However this article should not sway the true benefits a proper cleanse can have on the person in need of it.

    August 1, 2011 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Avser Bastian

    GOVERNMENT "AFTERLIFE" FLASH MOB OR REAL SHOOTING IN UTOYA, NORWAY !!? stateofterror.blogspot.com/ or stateofterror.wordpress.com/ TEARS OF SORROW AND PAIN ON FACES OF MOURNERS OR TEAR GAS AND THEATER/HYPOCRISY ON FACES OF MULTICULTURALISM MANIACS !!? NORWEGIAN OSLO POLICE or COMMUNIST/LIBERAL CRIMINALS IN BLUE UNIFORMS WHO WERE PREPARING FOR TERROR AGAINST NORWAY ALREADY HALF DECADE AHEAD !!? No doubt about bombing in Oslo, but what about shooting in Utoya which was no different from the one in Arizona !!!? WILL THERE BE OBAMINATOR MORALES'S APOCALYPSE NOW OR TOTAL WAR AGAINST NEW WORLD ORDER(multiculturalism) !!? STOLTENBERG = BREIVIK(90 minutes vs 30 and for government vehicles or police even 20 minutes the most) !!!

    DICTATOR OBAMA = STALIN = BUSH or USA = SOVIET UNION http://avsecbostjan.blogspot.com/ or http://avsecbostjan.wordpress.com/

    COMMUNISM(Slowenien/Slovenia) IN CENTRAL & EASTERN EUROPE TODAY(2011) !!! http://sloveniatoday.blogspot.com or http://easterneuropetoday.wordpress.com/

    August 2, 2011 at 04:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Master Cleanse Secret

    I'm extremely pleased to uncover this great site. I need to to thank you for your time for this fantastic read!! I definitely enjoyed every bit of it and i also have you book marked to see new stuff in your blog.

    March 19, 2012 at 10:18 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.