Stress Reduction

Holistic Wellness

Do Cleanses Make Any Sense?

Jason Gootman

Founder of Puvema

I was sitting in the waiting room while my car was being serviced last week, and I overheard an absolutely fascinating conversation.

Car Mechanic: I have some bad news for you, sir: Your car broke down because your engine failed and your transmission failed at the same time.

Client: This can’t be! I’m planning to drive to Poughkeepsie this week with my family. It’s my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.

Car Mechanic: You’re not going to be driving this car anywhere this weekend. Have you been performing regular maintenance?

Client: Of course. And I always change the oil right on schedule. Recently, I’ve been using a mix of regular engine oil and Sherwin-Williams paint. Green. Lush Forest is what it’s called. I know it’s not the best thing for my engine, but my exhaust is a lovely shade of green.

Car Mechanic: You’re kidding, right?

Client: No. As I said, I know it’s not the best thing for my engine, but I like it. You’ve gotta live a little, right? And every few months, I do a cleanse.

Car Mechanic: You do a what?

Client: A cleanse. For two weeks, I cut out all paint, peanut butter, rocket fuel, and wet sand and use only the fluids recommended for my car. I’m very strict about it. A good cleanse always does the trick.

Car Mechanic: It stopped doing the trick, sir. You need a new engine and a new transmission, or you need a new car.

At this point, it’s probably clear this isn’t an actual conversation I overheard.

No one would do this to their car. But people do it to themselves all the time.

Cleanses are all the rage. But cleanses, a sneaky derivative of toxic-vapid diet culture, are based on supremely faulty thinking that goes something like this:

  1. For extended periods of time, a person eats in a way that accumulates a lot of toxins in their body (and more importantly, provides them with very little nourishment). During that time, they feel bad.
  2. For brief periods of time, the person goes on cleanses in an attempt to remove toxins from their body (and more importantly, whether they realize it or not, nourish themselves better). They start to feel better.
  3. After said brief periods of time, they go back to eating in a way that accumulates a lot of toxins in their body (and more importantly, provides them with very little nourishment). They feel bad again.

Visit the happiest-healthiest societies on Earth and you won’t find a person on a cleanse anywhere in sight. What you’ll find are people enjoying meals made from whole, natural, real food with their close ones. On a daily basis, people in the happiest-healthiest societies on Earth sit around tables, talk with each other, and savor delicious meals made from whole, natural, real food. That’s eating well. No cleansing required. No cleansing even considered.

In the United States these days, many people are taking a very different approach. Many people live off junk food most of the time then occasionally go on cleanses in an extremely misguided attempt to balance things out.

But, Jason, you’ve got to live a little.

I disagree. You’ve got to live a lot. You’ve got to live each day like it’s both your first day (with massive wonder) and your last day (with massive gratitude). You’ve got to bask in the sublime. You’ve got to hold your life partner and look into their eyes with every ounce of love you have. You’ve got to laugh your face off every chance you get. You’ve got to let yourself come undone when you see a sunrise, sunset, or mountain vista. You’ve got to live with unrestrained passion.

And nowhere in this approach to life does it make sense to live in a way that’s harmful to yourself, and every six months or so, try to clean up the mess with a cleanse.

Does anyone spend six months paying only some of their bills so they can “live a little” then spend two weeks doing a credit-report cleanse?

Does anyone skimp on routine cleaning and other home maintenance so they can “live a little” then spend two weeks doing a mold cleanse?

Does anyone practice safe sex only some of the time in order to “live a little” then spend two weeks doing a sexually-transmitted-infection cleanse?

Of course not!

In most areas of life, people who are concerned with things going smoothly simply consistently take care of things.

With eating, how did self-harm become associated with “living a little”? How did cleanses emerge as an off-the-mark attempt to justify eating poorly most of the time?

One reason is that cleanses are often sold to people by weight-loss charlatans and snake-oil salespeople. If you’re interested in truly eating well and truly taking great care of yourself, I encourage you to run away from all attempts to sell you another one-size-fits-all quick-fix. Whenever a pusher offers you a cleanse, just say, “No thanks, I’m doing a nourish.”

A nourish is simple—and absolutely awesome!

You make a list of nutritious foods you enjoy: nutrilicious foods. They taste great when you eat them, and eating them leaves you feeling great hours, days, weeks, months, and years later. Then, you make a list of other “things” you enjoy that also leave you feeling great: moving your body in ways you enjoy, getting plenty of sleep and rest, engaging in fulfilling work and fulfilling relationships, spending time with nature, and more. Now you have a nourish list. It’s all the food and “things” you enjoy that keep you feeling you’re very best. Then, you eat those foods and do those “things”. Then, you keep living this way.

Because it feels good to feel good.

Doesn’t that make a lot more sense?

About Jason Gootman
Jason Gootman is a Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach and National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach as well as a certified nutritionist and certified exercise physiologist. Jason helps people reverse and prevent type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other ailments with evidence-based approaches to nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, holistic wellness, and, most importantly, lasting behavior improvement and positive habit formation. As part of this work, Jason often helps people lose weight and keep it off, in part by helping them overcome the common challenges of yo-yo dieting and emotional eating. Jason helps people go from knowing what to do and having good intentions to consistently taking great care of themselves in ways that help them add years to their lives and life to their years.