By i am real estate photographer/ Creative Commons/ Flickr

Ingredients for a ‘Master Cleanse’ Photo by i am real estate photographer/ Creative Commons/ Flickr

Los Angeles is the only place I’ve ever been invited to someone’s house for a meal and been served a glass of juice, period. That morning, I sat on my host’s patio, sipping a small, bright glassful of antioxidant-rich juice, listening to the gentle crash of waves, and thinking that surely the plate of bagels must be coming. It never did.

I moved here for film school. During my first week, I saw a classmate sitting on the floor eating what appeared to be lawn clippings. When I invited some friends over for dinner at my small rented bungalow, one arrived with her own dinner and explained she was only eating “foods that were sprouting.” Then there was the friend whose spirit guide told him he should only eat lettuce, and the friend whose healer prescribed a diet of only yellow and orange foods.

Still, most of these dieters eventually gave in to that ancient evolutionary urge called “hunger.” Ninety-five percent of diets fail, according to various studies.

Only the juicers seem to soldier on when their comrades fall. The first true juice regimen I heard about was the Hot Lemonade cleanse. For several days, you’re supposed to drink hot water with lemon and cayenne and a drop of maple syrup. I was informed that it neutralizes acids and releases toxins from the body.

I admit I had some questions—and still do. Will lemon juice and cayenne really conquer the contaminants in my body? Even if they will, when I’m through juicing, I will still live in a polluted big city. I will bathe in its treated water and breathe its air. Besides, isn’t getting rid of toxins in our bodies kind of what our kidneys and liver are supposed to be doing?

Despite my questions, I have attempted two juice cleanses. The first time, when I was on the recently much-hyped Master Cleanse, I lasted eight hours, maybe nine, before reviving at Starbucks with a latte and Snickerdoodle. The second time, my juice cleanse included green tea, which at least lessened the caffeine withdrawal headache. That attempt lasted a full 24 hours.

So why do people like me, who know better, do this to ourselves?

I suspect part of it is just where we live. Yes, telling people how and what to eat is more than a California concern; diet industry revenue nationally was $61.6 billion in 2012. But Los Angeles was the first place where immoveable foreheads became normal. Thousands of people move out here to be a part of the “Industry.” You work to see yourself captured forever in time, forever young and healthy. No wonder we’re attracted to juicing and its promises of cleansing away the decaying, the “toxic,” and the old.

But there’s also a darker side to it. Sixty-five percent of American women between the ages of 25 and 45 report having disordered eating behaviors, according to the University of North Carolina. Juicers often use terminology that sounds all too similar to the lingo of eating disorders. They speak of the “euphoria” they experience as they leave food behind, a sentiment that is eerily reminiscent of the “pro-ana,” starvation-promoting underground, and the purge of toxins, all too reminiscent of the celebratory side of bulimia.

“I’m getting ready to introduce solids,” my juicing friends announce. The last time we talked about “introducing solids,” we were talking about our infants. One theory about anorexia is that it is a rejection of womanhood, that the adolescent anorexic is seeking to nullify her emerging body, her adult body—her hips, her growing breasts. Perhaps the youth quest leads naturally to eating disorders.

Every year, I make resolutions on New Year’s Day that I write down in my date book. So far, since January 1, I have driven my children to school 15 times without muttering obscenities about other drivers. Also on my list is another juice cleanse. I haven’t attempted it yet. But if you see a small blonde woman desperately trying to cut the line at Starbucks later this year, it might be me. Please, have mercy.

Claudia Grazioso is a screenwriter whose credits include Are We There Yet?, and Bring It On Again and the upcoming Christmas Bounty. She teaches writing at UCLA. She wrote this for Zócalo Public Square.

Below: KCRW tries juicing

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25 Comments »

  • Vivianne said:

    pretty uneducated overall statement about juicing in general… stick with those lattes and snickerdoodles… see where that gets ya.

  • Jess said:

    why do people like you "who know better" do it to yourselves? god knows, but it's a shame juicing won't cleanse you of your inflated ego…

  • gter said:

    Because it's just another fad that will be gone in a few months. You people.

  • ern said:

    It's never good to deprive your body of nutrients! The purging of "toxins" from the body is a medieval medical practice, not a modern one.

  • Kim said:

    First of all, the master cleanse is not a juice fast. So lets just get that clear. Also, when I juice, I am well aware that I'm actually getting more nutrition in that time period than when I eat sandwiches all day. Lets look at it logically. Juicing actually gives your body more nutrition than those days/weeks you eat only pizza and sandwiches. I juice twice a year because I think its gross to not clean the inside of my body, not because I have some type of eating disorder. To be honest, I think people who don't cleanse the inside of their body are kinda nuts. The aversion to it reads as crazy to me. Why would you shower yet refuse a colonic a few times a year? People are so illogical these days.

  • hotdogla said:

    I don't think its a fad. Latino neighborhoods and in Mexico juicing is a norm. Yup. It is. The Punchbowl Los Feliz has some of the most awesome juices Ive tasted.

  • Tom said:

    "Claudia Grazioso is a screenwriter whose credits include Are We There Yet?, and Bring It On Again" – I suppose that explains why this article is completely meaningless…

  • Jesse said:

    The editing done on this article makes it much more disjointed in reading than the original posted on Zocalo Public Square. Here is the original – http://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2013/08/01/is-j

  • steve said:

    You are complete and utter idiots. Smart people have been doing this forever and are the healthy people you don't see on the news every day, in the hospital, ripping off the insurance company and living on crap food and pills. Stop trying to make something into a trend that is nothing short of a miracle that anyone is paying attention to their body and what they put into it.

  • Mattia said:

    Whoa, I thought this article was hilarious. The vitriol in the comments was unexpected. Maybe it's a side effect of over-juicing?

  • celebrity style said:

    I juice a tonne of stuff each and every week. I've never felt better and healthier.

  • Matthew said:

    I've never thought of juicing as an eating disorder until I saw this post, but I suppose juicing can be an unhealthy addiction just like anything. I juice as often as I can and simply pay attention to the way I feel. If I feel I need something more substantial then I listen to my body. If I feel wonderful and energized after juicing then that's all I need! More often than not I feel wonderful.

    I have a health resource over at eatingdisorderinformation.org. If you find the information useful would you mind linking to it in this article for the readers that would like to know more about the more common types of eating disorders?

    Thank you :)

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  • lemonade-diet said:

    Juicing and detox diets like the lemonade diet are beneficial to do during the appropriate occasion. Most people should only undertake them a few times a year. They are not meant to become a lifestyle type of diet. Over the centuries, fasting — or consuming only a liquid diet has been done by large quantities of people for health and wellness reasons.

  • Bill B said:

    Everything in moderation. It's okay to cut back from time to time and introduce more toxin ridding liquids, but moderation is key. If you live a healthy lifestyle and consume the right greens, berries, nuts and lean meats and drink lots of water, you will do great. I never believe in one extreme or another. Balance, balance, balance. Remedies for losing weight

  • Berry Childes said:

    Hi! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my good old room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!|

  • Cecelia Tabisula said:

    I used to be able to find good information from your blog posts.|

  • Charlene Jerauld said:

    I absolutely love your blog.. Pleasant colors & theme. Did you build this site yourself? Please reply back as I’m attempting to create my own site and would love to know where you got this from or just what the theme is named. Cheers!|

  • Carly Sajous said:

    There’s definately a great deal to know about this issue. I like all the points you have made.|

  • Jaqueline Friedberg said:

    Your point of reference in our life often changes how we see things. Sometimes this alteration is good and sometimes this change is bad but it is our outlook that influences how we feel.

  • opaler said:

    Juicing is definitely not an eating disorder any more than drinking tea is. I read a great article on http://www.transferfactor-us.com/ about the real factors that influence our life decisions and drinking juice is not one of them.

  • gorila said:

    I don't think this habit is an eating disorder. I enjoy a lot to eat, even drinking natural juice and wine. I found the best online wine store last month and since then I've ordered only from this store. I don't know why, but I never had problems with my weight although I am a foodie person.

  • marvin said:

    I don't think that it's a bad habit if the juice is prepared at home. I drink almost daily natural juice made from fresh fruits bought from the Albritton Fruit Company Inc. But if you buy the juice from the store it can be dangerous for your health.

  • Pick On Us said:

    Juicing is not a bad habit, in my opinion, as long as we are talking about natural fresh juices, the home-made ones. Just try to also squeeze a fresh vegetable in, and you will see you get the entire dose of raw energy to make it during the day. Let`s face it, we need this so much because big cities, at least, drain all our energy on a daily basis.

  • Petter James said:

    Many people have some type of eating disorder. To be honest, I think people who don't cleanse the inside of their body are kinda nuts. The aversion to it reads as crazy to me. Why would you shower yet refuse a colonic a few times a year? People are so illogical these days.

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