I've wondered whether juice cleansing could be a form of anorexia for some people -- basically being able to deprive themselves of food, but in a "healthy" context. What are your thoughts on that possibility?
Yes, but I don’t think it necessarily starts out that way… Take the non-pathological person who seriously wants to drop some pounds: while refusing to eat food for 3 days straight would likely not fly with those around them, calling it a “cleanse” makes their behavior seem more legitimate and socially acceptable. In this case, the person, like you said is “depriving themselves of food but in a ‘healthy’ context.”
How does a Juice cleanse become unhealthy?
It’s a slippery slope because when one does this type of strict cleanse, they will likely see results—this can act as reinforcement for one’s efforts (i.e., when the outcome of a behavior is positive, this increases the likelihood that this person will engage in said behavior again). Further, they might receive praise from others (“you look great! Did you lose weight?!”…. “Oh wow, I really admire your self-control, you are so disciplined!), which further reinforces one’s juice-fasting efforts, and makes them—you guessed it-- hungry (pardon the pun!) for more. So they do it again… and again…
Is it possible for someone to abuse a juice cleanse, as they might a drug?
Yes. Juice cleanses are to be done sporadically, and in isolation. Juice cleanses go wrong when they aren’t used properly. For example, someone may follow a juice-cleanse regimen for a prolonged period of time to lose weight or they might do several shorter cleanses within a short period of time to lose substantial amounts of weight.
OK that makes sense. What else? When does it become pathological?
Someone goes on a three-day bender of eating and drinking whatever they want, followed by a three-day “cleanse” to counter-balance the “damage” they did. It may be seen as a quick fix and might be appealing to someone with that type of lifestyle. BUT it becomes “pathological” when an unhealthy habit is formed: It could quickly turn into detox, then retox, then detox again pattern. This is not unlike the binge/purge cycle of Bulmia Nervosa: consuming a large amount of calories in one sitting and then “purging” the body of said calories through a variety of means. It’s the same underlying cycle regarding impulsivity and loss of control followed by compensatory mechanisms to restore one’s sense of control and emotional peace.
So why do some people try a juice cleanse and emerge just as mentally healthy pre-cleanse, while others may fall into a full-blown eating disorder as a result?
It has to do with the person’s goals, coping skills, and personality factors. Many people will do a cleanse as a way to lose weight but really it’s supposed to be a springboard for weight loss—a kick-start to a healthy and balanced low-calorie diet. But people don’t get that and instead see this as a quick fix: they do the cleanse… and of course they lose weight—much of which is water weight—and the body goes into starvation mode; then they resume their normal eating habits (and most likely indulge a bit as a ‘reward’) and not only do they gain the weight back, but they might even gain additional weight which might compel them to adopt unhealthy habits in efforts to “re-lose” the weight in addition to that which they gained post-cleanse. They think to themselves “well I thought I was going extreme by doing this intense & expensive three day cleanse but not even that worked so I guess I need to go even more extreme!”
On the other hand, do you think it's probably okay for someone who really has no eating disorder tendencies to try a cleanse if they're curious?
Definitely. The most important thing is to educate your self, and have a good understanding about yourself. What makes you tick? What triggers maladaptive coping behaviors? If you have struggled with disordered eating, it’s probably not a good idea for you to introduce a rigid diet into your life because that would trigger all kinds of thoughts and behaviors that aren’t good for you.
Regarding juice cleanses, I choose to remain completely neutral. I am not saying that you should do them, and I am not saying that you shouldn’t do them. For some people, doing a juice cleanse can be the beginning of a beautiful journey towards better health, totally! I am only saying that, like adopting any diet or lifestyle change, you educate yourself.
Any advice for those of us who are curious to try a juice cleanse?
Let me first say that I am no expert in juice cleanses! Nor do I possess advanced knowledge in nutritional counseling! If you want to try it, do your research so you know what you are putting your body through, because it is a shock to the system and should only be done per the directions of the company supplying the cleanse in conjunction with a consultation with your physician. Set realistic expectations. If you want to try it, make sure the reasons for which you are doing it are healthy.
What is the WORST piece of weight loss advice you have ever heard?
Such a good question! I have definitely heard many things, but the sad part about that is most of the things, no matter how disturbing/ grotesque etc. they may be, do work to some extent other wise they wouldn’t have been expressed to me. I choose not to comment on that or repeat these kinds of things because that makes those tips available to others. It’s so easy for things like this to be taken out of context and used for evil instead of good! Even though most people would see those things and laugh or cringe, someone who is not well, psychologically, would see or read that and think “oh. I’m going to try that!”
Article via Redbook Magazine Online & image of Lithe Food's Cashew Milk Mini via Lauren