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The Master Cleanse: Fad diet in disguise

The Master Cleanse. It sounds healthy – detox, purify, cleanse, etc. Unfortunately, these are the buzz words of yet another fad diet – a fad diet that does far more damage than good.

On the Master Cleanse & similar “detox” programs, participants are expected to exist on little more than water spiked with maple syrup, cayenne pepper & lemon juice. No solid food is eaten during the fasting program. The detoxifying fast lasts for 10-45 days.

We all want to believe in a fast fix or miracle cure. Hollywood is certainly not immune to these trendy diets. Beyoncé Knowles did the Master Cleanse to prepare for her role in “Dreamgirls” (she does not recommend the program for sensible dieting or a healthy lifestyle). Denise Richards made an attempt to go on the Master Cleanse before heading to Hawaii for a relaxing vacation (she could not swallow the concoction nor follow the regime). Gwyneth Paltrow claims she no longer does the Master Cleanse as she feels it is too radical & does not wish to hallucinate (ummm, hello?!).

The health claims of these detox diets are dubious at best. It’s not detoxification – it’s starvation. Radical regimes & painful restrictions don’t work in the long run. You might feel good about dropping a few pounds, but the weight will return as soon as you return to your normal routine – much faster than you lost it. Substituting all solid food with slightly fortified water is not the way to live! When crash dieting or fasting, your body goes into “starvation mode” which wreaks havoc with your metabolism & ravages your muscle tissue. One LA Times blogger tried the Master Cleanse for 9 days & was pleased with the results – until she gained the weight back within two months. The only way to lose weight & maintain a healthy weight is a change in lifestyle – choosing & eating healthy foods that are part of balanced diet.

A few tips on how to recognize a fad diet:

  • concentration on one food group & eliminating most other foods
  • extreme restriction in calories
  • promises big results in a short time
  • fixation on one type of food such as grapefruit, cabbage soup, spicy lemon water, shakes, etc.
  • elimination of all solid food
  • all of the emphasis of the diet is on food not on exercise (you’re usually not consuming enough calories to have the energy to exercise)
  • impossible to maintain without developing an unhealthy eating regime

Fad diets come & go. They have different names & proclaim extraordinary results, but they are all the same in the end. Believe it or not, the Master Cleanse has been around since 1941! Fad Diets do not work in the long run. In fact, they can be extremely dangerous & can lead to a lifetime of bad eating habits without any true satisfaction. Do yourself a favor – stay away!

Note: Always consult your doctor before starting a new diet or exercise regime. A nutritionist is another excellent source of information when considering a new diet.


  1. Oprah Winfrey Show
  2. Master Cleanser by Stanley Burroughs
  3. Los Angeles Times Blog: All the Rage
  4. Denise Richards It’s Complicated Season 1, Episode
  5. Goop Newsletter 15