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Are We Glowing Yet?

With the city swimming in juice cleanses, a food writer’s attempt to detox releases her inner smugness.

Most of all, I meditated on what (aside from an impending bikini-clad beach vacation) compels people to cleanse. Like the rest of its kind, Living Greens literature speaks much of eating “clean,” which implies that we normally eat dirty. There’s a dash of Scientology and a sprinkle of Catholicism mixed in with the beet juice—the idea that we’re tainted, but can be made pure again by repenting in a liquid confession booth. You can’t deny the element of guilt.

If a juice cleanse could actually heal your body to some extent, as Living Greens states, or—better yet—reverse aging, as Urban Remedy promises, I’d be more than willing to submit to the occasional fast. Not surprisingly, though, it’s probably not so simple. “My patients seem to have this vision that somehow the juice is pulling the metabolites and heavy metals out of them,” says locally based, holistically inclined Dr. Daphne Miller, author of The Jungle Effect and a cohort of Andrew Weil. “But there’s no evidence to substantiate this—although traditional communities that adhere to a modified fast schedule for their religious calendar are shown to have a better cholesterol level.” As for juices in particular? “I think we’re a quick-fix culture,” Miller says. “Things we can buy and sip with a straw that we’re told will make us feel better are really appealing.”

Dr. Jane Hightower of California Pacific Medical Center, who is known for her work on mercury toxicity, concurs. “We live in a chemical soup, but does our body need help to get rid of these things?” she asks. “I try to get people to have a good diet, stop the exposure, and let their body rid [itself of toxins] on its own.” Even Michelle Hall, the cofounder of Living Greens, can’t provide proof that a cleanse works. “When I do a three-day, people are stopping me on the street and asking why my eyes are so brilliant, why my skin is glowing,” she says. “I just know that people feel amazing after they’re done.”

Hall isn’t wrong. I did feel amazing: amazingly svelte and—it must be said—amazingly smug. On the last day, sipping my detox tea on the couch while my husband ate some annoyingly delicious-smelling Indian takeout, I looked at him with the kind of pity you feel for people polluting their bodies with curry and meat. “Do I look like I’m cleaner on the inside? Like I’m better than you as a person?” I asked, sucking in my warrior-thin frame. He rolled his eyes. “Well, I can tell you one thing,” he said, turning back to watch Homeland. “You definitely look full of it.”

Read More:
The Cleanse-O-Meter: Five Cleanses for Every Tolerance Level


Originally published in the January 2013 issue of San Francisco.

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