Why I'll Never 'Cleanse' My Body Again

by Daniella Fleischer
Originally Published: 
body image dieting juice cleanse
AleksandarNakic / iStock

I’ve been aware of my body for as long as I can remember—its measurements, its image, its power. I can’t help it. It’s been made abundantly clear to me that as a woman, it’s part of my net worth and will affect how successfully I make my way through the world. It should be lean but not without curves, sculpted but not too bulky. And thin—above all else, it should be thin.

But now it seems that skinny is no longer enough. Now you have to make it to those 00 jeans cleanly. Heck, your body image depends on it. You have to meditate on your third chakra in order to find your inner goddess while you honor your light by sitting in chair pose next to your composting machine while steaming your vagina.

And guess what—marketers are on to us and our distorted body images. They realize that while the goal is essentially the same, the vehicle to get thin has gone green. So despite the fact that I’m an absolute ogre when I’m hungry, last month I decided a juice cleanse was the way to go for me. Because, well, cleanse! It’s right there in the title. This wouldn’t be the same thing as grapefruits or cabbage soup.

This would purify me, rid me of all those nasty toxins that my “dirty” living has deposited inside me. And obviously I’d spend enough money to ensure maximum health benefits and upgrade to the package that includes wafer vitamins and vegetable pills. I mean, I’m not an animal.

What could possibly go wrong?

I’ll tell you.

Cleanse Day 1

I wake up excited to be smaller! Cleaner! I gather the ingredients and make my “breakfast”: a blended deliciousness of cucumber, kale, apple, lettuce and spinach. I fill up one of my newly purchased water bottles, take one sip, and immediately spit the green liquid out and begin to retch. I didn’t realize something so clean could taste so horrendous. After some deep breathing and encouraging affirmations (“You are a winner, and you can do this”), I plug my nose and gag the drink down.

I feel skinnier already.

After a refreshing mid-morning juice made of apple and pineapple, and a surprisingly enjoyable lemonade with cayenne pepper, I blend my dinner: carrots, apples, ginger, lemon juice, and beats—with the greens still attached. More deep breathing, more affirmations, more gulping, more retching.

Before I know it, it’s time for a nice refreshing bedtime treat—cashew “milk.” Raw cashews soaked in water for eight hours, blended with more water, agave nectar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. I’m basically drinking a cup of water with a lot of cashew backwash in it. What a positive step I’ve taken with this cleanse.

I go to bed as early as I can to end the horror of day 1.

Cleanse Day 2

See Day 1, except with headaches, fatigue and listlessness. I try to focus on all the negativity that’s being purged from my body. And weight loss, obviously the weight loss.

Cleanse Day 3

Upon awakening from a fitful night of sleep, I raise my fist in defiance and decide that I shall no longer be a slave to some misogynistic ideal of beauty, nor will I let my sense of self-worth be determined by how much flesh is wrapped around my bones—I decide to quit the cleanse in the name of all women everywhere.

Then I get on the scale and like what I see, so I’m back in.

Cleanse Day 4

As the roof of my mouth begins to burn from all the cayenne pepper in my lemonade, I get a text from my boyfriend telling me that I’ve been distant the past few days and he wants to feel closer.

Um, I’m in the middle of this purifying journey and may literally die at any moment, and he wants to feel closer to me? I’m not distant—I’m fucking starving! How could anyone be expected to be close to someone else while being deprived of their basic human right to food and sustenance?! Would he ask a starving child in Ethiopia for more intimacy? Idiot.

I apologize and say I’ll try to do better.

Cleanse Day 5

In an effort to feel closer, my boyfriend tries to touch me. I practically unhinge my jaw and glower at him as he then slowly, and wisely, backs away, knowing that I might just be hungry enough to eat his soul.

Cleanse Day 6

I wake up to find that I’ve gained back a pound. I quit for good, spending the rest of the day eating anything in my sightline. I feel like a failure and want to punch someone.

Cleanse Day 7

I return to normal eating and go online to research any other quick weight loss fixes that are on the market.

I wish I was evolved enough to dismiss the equation that’s been fed to me my whole life: skinny=desirable=worthy. I wish I could move beyond this distorted body image. But the honest truth is, I’m not. It’s hard as hell to rewire such a deeply ingrained belief, regardless of what my better self might know to be true.

But what I can do is try to slowly chip away at that equation so that in time the paradigm might begin to shift. And that starts with getting honest: Regardless of words like clean or purify or detoxify, the juice cleanse was just another starvation tactic dressed up as something else. I wasn’t trying to get healthy; I was trying to get skinny. And if I want anything to change, first I have to own that. So I do.

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