This post was adapted and updated from ?Surviving the 10-Day Lemon Juice Cleanse?, originally published by @ninaterol in Rappler.com on January 25, 2014
The Lemon Juice Cleanse, a.k.a. Master Cleanse or the Lemonade Diet, is a 10-day cleanse that involves fasting on all solid foods and drinking only a concoction made of freshly squeezed (or fresh pressed) lemon juice, pure maple syrup (grade B), and cayenne pepper. It was introduced by Stanley Burroughs in 1940 and regained popularity after pop icon Beyonc Knowles reportedly lost at least 20 lbs. on the cleanse, for her role in Dreamgirls (2006).
I first tried it in January 2009 as my way of detoxing after the holidays and preparing myself for a new and demanding job in government. Now a five-time ?survivor? of the cleanse, I?ve since adopted this as an annual ritual ? beginning after the New Year festivities and ending shortly before my birthday on January 23rd ? as a symbolic reboot not just of my body but also of my mind and spirit.
Here are some things I?ve learned along the way.
Mind and body bootcamp
Going on the Master Cleanse is like going undergoing an intense, 10-day bootcamp that tests your body, mind, and soul on so many levels. Let me get one thing out of the way: it can be extremely difficult if you?re not prepared for it. In order to succeed and finish the cleanse for 10 (or more) days, you need to prepare your body, condition your mind, and create a support system at home and at work.
- Take the Ease-In and Ease-Out period seriously. Just as you would need to warm up and cool down before and after any rigorous exercise, the Master Cleanse program requires that you ?ease in? for three days, then ?ease out? for three more days after your 10th (or last) day. This is important because it prepares your body to be consuming only juice for 10 days, and it also prepares you mentally to be without your favorite food and drinks.
- Enlist as much support as you can. Crucial to my success on all my years of going on the cleanse was getting the support of my family, friends, and teammates ? whom I had asked to avoid offering or serving me food no matter what. (Some of them have also helped by consuming just tea or light soup and drinks during those inevitable meetups and ?coffee sessions? that happen during the course of the cleanse.) Getting your family and friends on board is important because just the slightest bit of negativity or guilt can throw you off-track. Again, this is an emotional journey as much as a physical one, so all the emotional support will greatly help.
- Think ?mind over matter.? I?ve found that while the body can adjust rather quickly to consuming just lemon juice for 10 days, it?s the mind that?s more difficult to still. For this, I summoned everything that I had learned from years of meditation practice, to condition myself that all my cravings were just all in my mind; that having a cleaner, lighter body was worth the sacrifice. I found that being able to say ?no? to excellent food toughened my will, built discipline, and ? I realized ? helped build character.
- Use this period to strengthen your spiritual practice. For some Christians, this time of the year is also a season of prayer and fasting, so the cleanse would be well-timed for those who want to observe this practice. Regardless of your faith, a cleanse like this can also be aided by a deeper spiritual practice that focuses on spiritual nourishment and periods of deep prayer and reflection, instead of obsessing over the meals that you?re not able to enjoy.
Okay, now that you?ve gotten an overview, let?s dive in.
Pre-cleanse: The Ease-In
- Day A: Gradually decrease your intake. Eat only raw fruits and vegetables, such as salads. Use only olive oil or vinaigrette for the dressing.
- Day B: Prepare your body for liquids. Drink juiced fruits and vegetables or fresh (not processed) broths and soups
- Day C: Drink only freshly squeezed or fresh-pressed orange juice.
BASIC INGREDIENTS. Fresh pressed lemon, pure maple syrup (grade B), cayenne pepper (approx. Php3,600 for 10 days worth of ingredients, available at Healthy Options if in the Philippines). Photo by Nia Terol
Your 10-day ammo
The best thing about the Master Cleanse is that its ingredients are fairly easy to source, and the juice is literally as easy to make as lemonade.
- Fresh lemons or fresh-pressed lemon juice* (NOT lemon concentrate or lemonade)
- Pure maple syrup, grade B* (NOT maple-flavored syrup or pancake syrup)
- Cayenne pepper
- Sea salt (optional)
- Senna-based laxative tea
- A LOT of water**
*Available in specialty stores such as Healthy Options and S&R in the Philippines
** Drink plenty of water throughout the cleanse
How to make the lemon juice:
- Mix 2 tbsps. lemon juice and 2 tbsps. pure maple syrup for every 10 oz. of water.
- Add a dash of cayenne pepper, to taste.
- Store in a translucent or opaque tumbler or pitcher, away from direct sunlight.
Nighttime tea or salt water flush
In order to complete your detoxification and rid your body of junk, take the laxative tea at night, preferably before 10PM. It will usually take effect 6 to 12 hours later, and you?ll find yourself cleansing your system early in the morning. If you have an early day the morning after, take the tea early or skip it altogether.
If you want really intense cleansing action, go for the salt water flush. Mix 2 tsps. of sea salt into a liter of water, and try to drink in one go, early in the morning, on an empty stomach. You?ll find yourself thoroughly cleansing your system within 30 minutes or so. (Warning: this can be a VERY unpleasant experience. I cried the first time I did it; now I avoid this as much as I can and go with the tea instead.)
Days 1 to 3: Bathroom buddy
If you?re going on the cleanse for the first time, you?ll find that Days 1 to 3 are the most intense; it?s best that you stay at home and make peace with your bathroom because you?ll be in it a lot. This is the time when your body starts releasing months or even years worth of gunk and toxins, so don?t be surprised if you find yourself feeling light-headed and dizzy. If you feel like taking frequent naps, go ahead; this will also help take your mind off food and your bowels. That said, it?s always best to start the cleanse on a long weekend.
Days 4 to 5: Energizer bunny
Once you get past Days 1 to 3, you?ll find that your body stabilizes a great deal on Day 4. Instead of feeling dizzy and light-headed, you?ll feel much lighter, much sharper, and with a lot more energy than you?re used to having. It was on these days when I found myself staying up until 2AM, working, reading, and writing because my mind was abuzz with so much energy (I even placed a sketchpad beside my bed so I could capture my sleeping thoughts without getting up).
(During my latest cleanse in 2017, I found that I dropped around 10 lbs. by Day 5 and could already wear clothes that often take a lot of guts for me to wear. I definitely took advantage of this time to show off a tighter figure!)
Source: @ninaterol on Instagram
Days 6 to 7: Hunger games
In some years, the euphoric sensations of Days 4 to 5 were replaced by some sharp hunger pangs by Days 6 and 7. There was one year when Day 6 coincided with our office?s out-of-town planning session, where there were buffet meals and plenty of snacks all throughout. I tried to avoid thinking about food by avoiding the dining area altogether, and I kept myself busy by working through mealtimes.
Days 8?10: Light and breezy
In the early years of the cleanse, the hunger pangs would usually be gone by this time, and I would feel light and energetic throughout the day. One year, Day 9 coincided with me having to conduct a workshop, and I found that my energy was high despite not having time to drink enough juice throughout the day. On Day 10, however, I was feeling rather nostalgic about the entire process and was anxious about having to plan what to eat again.
The Ease-Out prepares your body to start consuming food again. Don?t rush yourself, and eat in small quantities so as not to shock your system. There was one year when I got too excited on Day 2 of the Ease-Out, and I ended up feeling sick and nauseous the entire afternoon.
- Day A: Drink only freshly squeezed or fresh-pressed orange juice.
- Day B: Drink juiced fruits and vegetables or fresh (not processed) broths and soups
- Day C: Eat only raw fruits and vegetables, such as salads. Use only olive oil or vinaigrette for the dressing.
HYDRATE. If you?re attempting the cleanse, make sure to drink plenty of water (Image source: Rappler.com)
2014: After the entire 16-day process, I found that I had lost at least 2 inches on the waist and lower abdomen, around an inch on the upper arm area, and a bit of the flesh on the cheeks and chin. My thighs and legs were also visibly smaller, and my face was starting to look oval again. I avoided weighing in and out this time around, in order to not obsess about the numbers, but I found myself being able to wear clothes that would not have fit me just a month ago. (Note: This was a year when I worked really hard to get back into shape. Read more of that weight-loss journey HERE.)
(2017: I lost around 12 lbs. in total, but since I had come off a relatively light year, I was already starting to look emaciated at the 10-lb. mark and was looking forward to getting more flesh on my cheeks again.)
I also got my period on the first week of the cleanse, but I surprisingly had zero PMS ? no cravings, no menstrual cramps, no bruises on my upper arms and thighs. Aside from the apparent loss of weight and inches, the cleanse did make me feel a whole lot cleaner and more balanced inside and out.
More importantly, going on the Master Cleanse taught me that I had become too much of an emotional eater, and that I don?t need to use food in order to respond to stress and mood swings. I learned that I can use the strength of will and discipline to say ?no? to things that aren?t healthy for me, and that it doesn?t take much for me to truly be in touch with my body and with myself. The entire process taught me to be more mindful, to be more focused, and to take better care of my body, mind, and spirit.
Five years and counting?
In all my years of going on this now-annual cleanse, the practice has become more than just a diet fad or a post-holiday weight-loss tactic; it?s become as spiritual, as meditative, and as physically engaging as doing yoga or preparing for a marathon. To me, the Master Cleanse is a mind-body exercise that detoxifies me physically and strengthens me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, while giving me the chance to reflect on the other things that I need to purge from my life in the year ahead.
It?s become the perfect year to start my year. Maybe it will give you that much-needed reboot, too. ~ N
*Author?s note: Please do not try this without advice from a licensed healthcare professional.