Q&A Wednesday: My Thoughts On The Master Cleanse

Q&A Wednesday: My Thoughts On The Master Cleanse

Q: Thank yo so much for having this site/blog! I am a “thick” sista who is now rolling over into the “fat” category. I am having SO much trouble eating healthy, etc. As I start my “lifestyle change”, I plan to use your site regularly. One question though, how do you feel about detox and colonics? I hear they are great to start out with and soemtimes do on a regular.

This topic makes me nervous.. I’m not going to lie.

The very last thing I did before I gave up on dieting completely was the master cleanse… so while I’m not particularly or personally familiar with colonics, I’m familiar enough with the master cleanse and know that it felt like a damn colonic.

Whenever people bring up detoxes and colonics, I’m always curious. Why are you interested in a detox?

If the answer is weight loss, I’m not interested in continuing the conversation.

Let me make a few things clear.

1. You can lose mass on a detox like the master cleanse. If you are someone who was 300lbs, living off of processed foods and eating almost 3000 calories a day, and you go to a 1500 calorie-a-day liquid diet, you will lose weight. If you do the sea salt flushes every day and drink the teas, you will poop. Let me repeat that. You. Will. Poop.

The bathroom was my best friend and worst enemy. The number of times I spent bent over with stomach cramps on the toilet because the flushes and teas were wrecking shop within my insides… amazing stuff.

2. You will absolutely lose muscle mass on the master cleanse. The very thing that feeds muscle – protein – is not included in the daily intake. So you’d be walking backwards.

3. You can, in a nutshell, consider this a liquid manifestation of the twinkie diet. Seriously. It is another diet consisting of enough calories and sugar to keep you from feeling completely miserable, but because there’s no actual nutrients in your daily intake (even supplements are discouraged), you will feel like crap.

And really, that’s the important thing, here. You will feel like garbage. You will be more vulnerable to illness because as there are no nutrients pouring into your system like when one eats cleanly, the body cannot heal itself or properly protect itself from disease. A healthy diet consists of a vast array of fruits and vegetables, because those are the things that are most intended to help our bodies heal themselves. If you are intentionally depriving yourself of that for the sake of weight loss? You’re sacrificing your insides for your outsides… when in reality, if you treated your insides properly, your outside would fall in line.

As far as the actual detoxification process? The “cleansing of your colon?” You wouldn’t need to do it if you didn’t skimp on the fiber. And I mean, fiber from food. Not drinks or sea salt flushes or teas. A body that has a regular stream of fibrous foods combined with water flowing through it does not need to detox. It will do it on its own. The body has taken thousands of years to learn how to detoxify itself. It doesn’t need you starving it in order for it to make detoxification happen.

But what if you know your eating habits have been poor? What if you know you have all kinds of goo trapped within your intestines and want to clean it out? Eat more fibrous foods! Drink water! Trust me, you don’t have to torture yourself by gorging out on silly lemonade mixtures to clean yourself out.

In fact, let me tell you a little story that I still, to this day, find hilarious. I was trying to make myself a raw vegan (raw vegans don’t add heat to their food) strawberry quinoa salad one day, and instead of heating my quinoa to cook it, I soaked it in cold water until it softened. Let’s just say that as far as fiber goes, this was the most potent thing I’ve ever eaten in my life. Most raw vegan dishes have that effect.

Are there people who have lost weight doing the master cleanse? Yes. I know that there are tons of people who’ve done youtube videos talking about “Look how my tummy went down!” Yes, because you were, literally, full of crap before you started. (This is why, when I talk about building a flat tummy, I talk about getting enough fiber.) I know there are people who were more hopped up on the fact that they couldn’t eat to recognize how rude or lethargic they were feeling. I also know there are lots of people who don’t know enough about their bodies to tell me what’s best for me and mine… so recommending a detox to me sounds wayyyyy off the beaten path.

There are detoxes that aren’t starvation, I get it… but you absolutely must remember that any way you lose the weight is the way you’ll keep it off. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life eating nothing but fruit. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life eating nothing but vegetables. I for darn sure don’t want to spend the rest of my life subsisting on maple syrup, cayenne pepper and lemon juice. There’s so much more beyond all that, that I’d rather learn how to navigate life eating with a default understanding of what works best for me instead of going into this cycle of detoxing, slipping back into old habits, detoxing again… having to avoid or cancel engagements because food will be there that I don’t want to tempt myself on, or going to those events and failing at trying to not eat anything there… only to guilt myself in having to detox longer… and then think less of myself for not being able to “do it.” That’s… not wise, to me.

My experience with the master cleanse was interesting. It’s not my intent to be hypocritical, it’s my intent to explain that I’m in a position where I now know better. All the things that the master cleanse did for me – ridding my body of the gunk piled up from processed foods – are things that can be done with a cleaned up diet. Not only that, but I wouldn’t have needed the master cleanse to “rid my body of gunk” if I was eating enough fiber and drinking water instead of juices and punches.

I know that “skinny” is serious enough business for some women that they’re willing to sacrifice actual chewable food in order to obtain it… but I’m not. Seriously – I’m only willing to go so far to lose weight, and I’ve lost well over 150lbs thus far. In fact, at this point in my journey – considering the way I’ve learned to love food without guilt and without blame – there’s no way in hell I’d give food up for “skinny.” (And since, as I mentioned, there’s no actual ability to build muscle on a detox… it’d definitely be “skinny,” not “fit.”)

In short… don’t do it. No, really. I know that my “in short” paragraphs usually wind up being another hundred words.. but that’s it. You don’t need a “lead in” to clean eating. You can start eating clean at your next meal. Don’t do it to yourself.

By | 2014-06-05T12:19:32+00:00 June 5th, 2014|Q&A Wednesday|48 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes food and fitness, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also certified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because she likes having alphabet soup at the end of her name.


  1. Sweetpea December 8, 2010 at 11:55 AM - Reply

    Awesomeness! I’ve had several friends who have completed the Master Cleanse diet multiple times, and realistically, your explanation clarifies so much. It is unhealthy, and you could replicate the effects of the M.C. if you ingested more fiber!

    • Erika December 8, 2010 at 5:45 PM - Reply

      Awww, mama… glad I could help. 🙂

  2. "Mira Luma" December 8, 2010 at 12:30 PM - Reply

    I have done the master cleanse twice and let me tell you – I hated not eating solid food for 10 days straight, but I loved the weight loss effect. I lost about 20 pounds in 10 days each time I did it, and of course, gained the pounds back and then some after I started incorporating solid food back into my diet. Will never do the “master cleanse” again!!

    • Erika December 8, 2010 at 5:41 PM - Reply

      Oh, girl… we ALL love the weight loss effect… until we gain it all back and wind up mad as all get out! LOL!

  3. Nicole December 8, 2010 at 12:40 PM - Reply

    This was powerful to me. I know you have said it many times before on this site, but this right here:

    “A body that has a regular stream of fibrous foods combined with water flowing through it does not need to detox. It will do it on its own. The body has taken thousands of years to learn how to detoxify itself.”

    This part really hit home for me. Light bulb totally went on. I have done most of the above, colonics, teas, etc, etc, and eventually once the fast was over the weight came back on. I HAVE switched my diet by “making the salad the main dish” and everything else sides recently. I have increased my intake of water. Subsequently, I HAVE noticed a huge difference in my body. HUGE. It is because of the awareness in reading your posts, that have totally changed my way of looking at food.


  4. Tracie G., The Brown Skin Lady December 8, 2010 at 12:46 PM - Reply

    I did the Master Cleanse once back when I was just over 250 lbs, and feeling terrible inside. I didn’t mean for it to be a lifestyle change in and of itself, and used it more as a medicinal remedy to clean myself out and reboost. It worked for me for just that purpose; I specifically wanted to resume a pescetarian diet as well (I’d gone back to eating beef and pork prior to that from doing Atkins), and doing the Master Cleanse really helped alleviate cravings I had for meat while transitioning. To date, I have yet to gain a single pound back that I lost while doing the cleanse either, and maintain my red-meat free diet comfortably.

    I agree that making immediate changes to clean foods works best; simultaneously, I know from my own experiences that the Master Cleanse–when done as directed by its creators–can be pretty helpful if you have the time and patience to devote to it, and want to do a starting fresh kind of approach that doesn’t involve major withdrawal feelings. It would be absolutely useless (I think) as just a means to keep eating trash between each one you do–the cleanse creators say that as well.

    • Erika December 8, 2010 at 12:56 PM - Reply

      While I can respect what you’re saying, I’m cautious because this method does not work for everyone, and I’m concerned about the cycle it can create. I’m glad that you reached success – and I approved your comment because it deserves to be heard – but I am also very aware of the cycle it can and does create… and I’d personally advise anyone to proceed with caution. Sorry.

      I didn’t go this route when I first abstained from red meat – I’ve written about it here – and it can be done healthfully other ways. I simply can’t co-sign this. At all. Ever.

  5. Finomenal1 December 8, 2010 at 1:48 PM - Reply

    I’m so happy you wrote about this! I have been reading your site avidly for the past couple of weeks and wondered if you touched on it. A relative gave me the “master cleanse” book last year. While it seemed like the outcome might be desirable the process seemed ridiculous! At one point I beleive the authors encouraged 30 days of that mess, once one gets “accustomed” to it. No thank you. Fruit, veggies and water will cleanse me just the way I need. Thanks to you, now I am armed with solid reasons why it isn’t such a good idea whenr my “helpful” relative asks why I didn’t try it. 🙂

  6. Rosalind December 8, 2010 at 3:23 PM - Reply

    It is very clear that you are not a fan of detox, master cleanse and other fads or of colonics. What are your suggestions for one that has done both the detox and master cleanse. I have also changed my diet to vegetarian for a few years. I am no longer vegetarian, but continue to watch my diet. I am a huge juicer of fruits and veggies. I have always been a fan of the gym and the great outdoors. I continue to push myself, but have only come as close as 5lbs away from my leanest weight of 145. Even with dietary changes,water and working out i have continued to have bowel movement issues. I am constantly bloated. I was diagnosed with IBS and was on meds for a few yrs. I joined the military and the meds were not authorized and were eventually taken off the market.
    Without colonics i can go for months with out not even 1 bowel movement. Its discouraging because i workout hard and still weight loss is slow, i think its because i am literally full of poop. I am 33 years old with 39lbs to lose. I don’t want to have a dresser full of medications anymore.
    My doctor does not support colonics she only suggests seeing a Gastro, but i’ve been down that route. Lots of test and trial meds with no answers. So i thought i’d run it by you.
    I’d appreciate any feedback.

    • Erika December 8, 2010 at 5:04 PM - Reply

      I mean, obviously I’m not a suitable replacement for your physician who is familiar with your body and its particular needs (hopefully), but I’d wonder what’s going on in your daily diet where there’s no movement? Is your water intake up to snuff? Do you get in around at least a half-gallon of water a day ( drink a gallon, myself)? How about your fiber? You’re bloated… have you stopped to test what’s causing the bloat in your diet?

      Juicing removes the fiber from the fruit you are taking in… so you’d be better off eating the fruit. I do have a post about alternative methods of getting yourself to go potty, but they’re only for drastic measures. This… kinda feels drastic, if you can go weeks without going number two.

      There are actual physical changes that are taking place in your body if you’re going months without going potty. Your doctor IS going to suggest the quickest, easiest and simplest way for you to cleanse yourself, which would BE the colonic… but he’s treating a symptom of a larger problem… he’s not treating the problem by offering up a colonic.

      I don’t want to make assumptions about what you are doing or have done (right OR wrong), but I DO think you should seek out what’s going wrong in your diet. Being a vegetarian means little in this context, especially if you’re a processed vegetarian. Just because food is vegetarian doesn’t mean it has the fiber you need. It may still be lacking. That’s not a “pass.”

      You are more than welcome to e-mail me and we can dialogue hypothetically there, though. There are TONS of little details that we’d need to address in order to give you enough information to do some digging on your own. The best I could do is offer information, and if I can help, I will. 🙂

      • Tracie G., The Brown Skin Lady December 8, 2010 at 5:13 PM - Reply

        Hey, Erika–

        Thanks for posting Rosalind’s comment, and for your reply. If she doesn’t mind, could you keep this conversation online for others of us to follow? While my issues are not as extreme as Rosalind’s, I to find myself challenged by extremely slow bowels at times, even though I drink at least 10 cups of water daily, and eats lots of fruits, vegetables (5-6 servings a day), and non-processed foods (whole grains, nuts, seeds, minimal sugars). Just this week I ran into some challenges, although I’ve been especially focused on clean eating for the past week. If you have anything that can be shared publicly on this, I’d greatly appreciate it as well.

        • Erika December 8, 2010 at 5:22 PM - Reply

          What do you mean by “slow bowels?”

          • Tracie G., The Brown Skin Lady December 8, 2010 at 5:30 PM - Reply

            Sorry–slow bowel movements, movements taking a day or two to pass, although I’ve eaten significant fruits and vegetables throughout the days prior. As an example: I had my first BM today after about…two days of meals with nothing passing at all. I eventually started using prune juice last night, because I could feel the pressure, but couldn’t get anything to move when I sat at the toilet. The bowels that came out were bulky and cylindrical (sp?) as well, which made me even more confused…but not so much, since this has happened before. I mean, I try not to stress about it-it just gets difficult to gauge hunger when I have this pressure from the large intestine sitting on my stomach, you know?

            • Erika December 8, 2010 at 10:48 PM - Reply

              Does it float, or sink? Are you getting adequate fat in your diet? Have you tried a cassia or senna tea?

              I mean, the reality is that there’s a combination of what you’re eating and a lack of fiber that’s allowing this to happen. You have to make sure that every day, your fiber balances out in a way that allows you to pass out what you take in. You should never have a gang of food sitting up inside of you. Ever.

              Without knowing the intricate details of your diet, it’s hard to say… but it’s indicative of an imbalanced diet to me.

              • Tracie G., The Brown Skin Lady December 8, 2010 at 10:57 PM - Reply

                Ooh–the “have I had enough fat” question is a good one for me to think about…I don’t usually add oils to my food (besides when frying omelets or something–then I use olive), and don’t eat many oily foods AT ALL. I’ve only recently started eating nuts & seeds–which means I still don’t eat that many. DEFINITE question to think about, as it would explain a lot (extra-dry skin, slow bowels…). THANKS!

    • Nina May 19, 2011 at 3:45 PM - Reply

      Rosalind, please, take your doctor’s advice and go to see a Gastroenterologist. Soon. Reading your post brought back alarming memories of two relatives that eventually died of intestinal cancers. Both went through a series of bad diagnoses and both were told it was IBS and given meds. I know for sure that one tried repeated cleanses, teas, stool softeners and laxatives (natural and prescribed) before finally having a colonoscopy and being given a diagnosis. I do not mean to alarm you, but it really can’t hurt you to rule out disorders of the stomach, intestines and colon. Even breast-fed babies poop, so even if your diet is mostly liquid, the infrequency of your bowel movements may be pointing to something else. At least find out what it isn’t. For your health. I know your frustration is with the weight loss plateau, but please give the specialist a try.

  7. De L Bee December 8, 2010 at 4:23 PM - Reply

    I attempted the master cleanse once and it didn’t last very long. I had headaches and was just all around miserable. If the desired effect is to cleanse, you can simply do that, as many have already said, with raw fruits/veggies and water. I drink a kale “smoothie” which helps me to get in enough fruits/veggies in the morning. Also, I don’t know if there are any studies to prove it, but regular exercise seems helps with cleansing. Simply put: eat right and move around.

  8. Sharon December 8, 2010 at 5:30 PM - Reply

    Several months ago, I asked my Nutritionist about doing a “Master Cleanse”; she looked at me like I was smoking something and politely said “If you eat right, that is The Master Cleanse”. I got her point….

    • Erika December 8, 2010 at 5:35 PM - Reply

      LOVE IT! LOL!

    • LaLa May 20, 2011 at 7:41 AM - Reply

      LOL…So true!! Great Nutritionist!!! LOL

  9. Nicole December 8, 2010 at 11:01 PM - Reply

    Interesting. I also had a similar issue. I started eating more veggies and for the last week trying out making the green smoothie. It has gotten better, but still rather slow. I am going to try to bump up my water intake. I am struggling big time with drinking an adequate amount because of having to run back and forth to the restroom and its difficult at work.

    I also have drank the senna tea and cascada segrada (sp). It helped, but I really don’t want to depend on those things.

  10. JoAnna December 9, 2010 at 1:09 AM - Reply

    I never did the Master cleanse. I know my limits and 1 day of no solid food eating would’ve sent me to the first all-you-can-eat chinese buffet for 1-2hrs of gorging.

    I have taken a herbal chinese “tea” that supposedly raises your internal temperature and helps to clean you out and melt intestinal fat. The first time I did it, I was cool the first 2 days. Day 3 at exactly 1:15pm, I was stuck in the restroom at work for 25mins. And then at 45 mins intervals the rest of the day. I barely made it home without messing up my clothes! I was told to take the next day off (I guess so they could air out the building…) By day 5 I did notice that my skin had cleared up, no bad morning breath, much flatter stomach, and my craving for fried food was gone. Of course that only lasted 1-2 weeks after I stopped taking the tea, upon which I eased back into my bad habits.

    I now take a daily vegetable protein and fiber powder in a mixture of raw honey and apple cider vinegar to add fiber to my daily diet in addition to granola or hot old fashioned oatmeal 4-5 mornings/week. The rest of the day, I just make sure I get at least 1 raw salad, or some raw vegetables, along with my cooked ones and 1-2 servings fresh fruit (due to diabetes).

    My doctor is lovin’ my latest lipid panel which showed a huge drop in my LDL and triglyceride levels. Since I still have 100+lbs to lose, he also authorized a supervised exercise program that is kicking my butt, and forcing the fiber to work its way thru my insides.

    Let me tell me y’all: whole fruits and vegetables taste a whole lot better than that brown dirt tea, and no stomach cramps afterwards either!

    • Chaya June 26, 2013 at 3:53 PM - Reply

      Lol@to air the building out!!

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