Cleansing and an Eating Disorder

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2. May 2013 by swissfitchick

Hey friends,

One of my favorite blogger friends, Sloane, posted a great article about juice cleanses/fasts and their dangerous connection to eating disorders and disordered eating patterns.

I was reading it with great interest, since I made many and essential experiences when it comes to this issue.

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During all these years of disordered eating, I did for sure between 10-20 cleanses, at least for 7 days. I tried different types. The juice cleanse, the juice/soup cleanse, whey cleanse, gingertea cleanse. Means, I did not eat any solid food for more than a week. Let me get straight and honest to the point – the cleanses I did were not done with the purpose of cleaning, but of losing weight. Most of the time, it was an ’emergency action’ to stop myself from binging and to get ‘rid of the junk and calories’, I was so scared of having in me.

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As Sloane said, it’s not, that cleanses are bad in general. I believe in the good things that a cleanse can do, and I am also convinced that a green juice during the day has great health benefits. But I can surely not recommend doing a treatment like this when you are in the middle of an eating disorder. For me, it held me back from a good recovery. It held me back to establish a healthy relationship with food and calories, with a balance between workouts and food.

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Sloane: ‘But besides those severe cases, juicing has become the most socially acceptable form of bulimia. Its so common to hear about the benefits of a 3 day cleanse after vacations or the holidays, after weekends of partying, or simply after a few too many days of “over-indulgence”. For many, juice fasting is the new purging.’

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I can only agree with that. I was an acute bulimic, but I did not purge that much – my ‘purging’ consisted more of excessive hours of exercise (3-5 hours after a binge), pills (appetite blockers, diuretics, laxatives, aspirine, guarana) and FASTING. Instead of hanging over the toilet after a binge, I stopped eating and told myself that ‘a cleanse was needed’. Sometimes I even PLANNED them – I planned a week of juicing. Guess what happened 2 days before – while panicking about the thought of not getting food for more than a week, I stuffed myself with everything I could grab for 2 days with the ‘excuse’ that I won’t have any calories for 10 days after that. For me, fasting WAS the alternative to purging. In the end, I did a ‘cleanse’ almost every month, which is probably the worst you can do to your body. Binging, working out like mad, purging, taking pills and fasting – how thankful can I be that my body is still functioning properly, I am healthy and my body looks good. It’s a wonder.

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Let me get this right – I did 2-3 professional cleanses, with advice and guidance and I did benefit from that:

  • Soft and clean skin after 3-4 days
  • Great sleep
  • The fast-high; great energy after 4-5 days
  • Feeling light
  • No stomach issues
  • Being more mindful and aware of food after the cleanse

For ME, the downsides of the cleanses were:

  • The approach was focused on losing weight
  • I got addicted to fasting
  • Stoking the bad relationship with food
  • Holding back my recovery
  • Binging before starting the cleanse

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My last cleanse is only a year ago. I went to a fasting-vacation. Again, it was my desperate urge to lose weight. But it was different. I was already too far in my recovery. The Non-Food plan for the whole week made me sick. I was miserable almost all week and I counted the days till I could go home and eat again. It was a drag, and – I did lose some water, but no weight. My body was probably just as fed up as I was and held everything back in defiance of cleansing. Which is pretty smart I think. The amazing thing happened a few weeks after that last fasting experience: I was so convinced that me and my body need food, I started to feed it with healthy and solid food and by Summer, I was in shape – without any pills, purges, sport excesses or fasting cures – but with REAL food and an almost normal account of exercise.

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Spain August/September 2012

I am very interested in your thoughts about this! 

Have you ever done a cleanse before? 

xxx

Lucie

26 thoughts on “Cleansing and an Eating Disorder

  1. Wow Lucie, you look fab in your picture, but thrn you always do :). I have never done a juice cleanse but have often been tempted. This post has made me think twice about it. I think I’d be tempted to binge before too.

    • Thank you so much Clare! I think there are benefits when cleansing, though I would not recommend it when the relationship with food/starving/body image/eating patterns isn’t stable.

  2. As always you look fab, and you write well. I’ve never done a juice cleanse, but they are SO popular right now. I agree that they are another way of reinforcing people’s negative relationships with food. There are so many diets, cleanses etc out there, it’s so sad that people keep punishing themselves instead of learning about proper nutrition, and keep supporting an industry that’s been built around high profits and empty promises. x

    • Couldn’t agree more. I think a cleanse should only happen with the ‘real’ purpose of cleaning the body and gut but not with the approach of losing weight. Losing 3-5 kilos in 1 week can’t be healthy!

  3. I have never done a cleanse myself personally and I definitely agree with your assessment of them. I’m currently recovering from an ED and doing a cleanse would be definitely counterproductive for me. I think the whole idea of a cleanse for anyone is really disordered. Eating foods, whole, solid foods is normal and what one’s body needs. I think straying away from that and only having liquids is not a healthy way to be. I know for me personally it would only hurt me and set me back into disordered eating..which is exactly what I want to avoid!

    • I am so glad that you can relate and that you don’t consider it while being in recovers (or ever at all). I couldn’t have said it better, but eating solid, healthy food IS what our bodies need!

  4. Thank you for being so honest about this! To be honest I hate that these juice cleanses are becoming the “new thing” for weight loss. I think they can be beneficial for cleansing the system for health but only if you have little to no disordered thinking about weight loss/body image/etc… I totally agree with you on the green juice though. One a day can be awesome but I think when we start using these cleanses as a form of purging they become unsafe and can just make you miserable. I think I would last all of one day on a juice cleanse before desperately reaching for the chocolate 😉

    • Thank you for this great comment Danielle! I totally agree with you. Weight loss shouldn’t be the priority in a juice cleanse at all. And YES, I would do the same – 3 juices and then a huge bite of chocolate 🙂

  5. I couldn’t agree more with you about the dangers of these cleanses and fasts for someone suffering from disordered eating… and about how they’ve become a more socially acceptable form of restriction and weight loss. The first cleansing diet I went on was 100% raw foods, and I’m pretty sure that was one of the main catalysts that lead me to my eating disorder. Also, I think cleanses are just too extreme. We can add juices to our daily diet and cut out some of the more processed crap and still see great energy and health benefits. There’s no reason to go that far.

    • Yes, I think the thought of a cleanse isn’t that wrong at all, but it just does not have to be that extreme, as you say. There are so many healthier ways to get rid of toxins and still eat solid food and nourish our bodies.

  6. sloanepitman says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience Lucie. This post was really powerful, and proves that out popular conceptions of eating disorders leave out a lot of people. I too was addicted to pills/laxatives/diuretics and went through periods of exercise addiction, and that is HELL. I know that admitting these behaviors in such an open forum takes a HUGE amount of courage, and I am blown away by your bravery here. I’m so glad you are feeling better, and SO proud of you. I too am in the best shape of my life now that I am living in full recovery, and am so thankful. Our bodies are FREAKING amazing. That’s mostly what I’ve learned through your post and my own experience. They can handle YEARS of serious serious damage, and still find a way to repair themselves and perform at an incredibly high level. That knowledge alone should prove that we don’t need to cleanse! I started an ayurveda workshop and am learning about how to eat in a way to avoid the buildup of toxins and how to flush them out. Its different for everyone, and requires a LOT of respect and intuition for your body.
    Before this turns into a novel, I just have to thank you one more time for writing this, and for linking back to my post. I love you girl!

    • You are so welcome Darling, YOU inspired me! It feels so relieving, if there is someone whoo went through the same sh**t and can understand what a HELL it is. And I agree – our bodies ARE freaking amazing, we should be grateful for them every single day. I am SO happy for you that you live in such a healthy place now, you came so far!! Superproud!!

  7. Ugh, I definitely agree with how dangerous those things are. I know a lot of people tout their benefits, but I really don’t think anybody should be doing them, disordered eating patterns or not. I can understand why someone may add fresh juices to their diet, but completely eliminating solid food for a few days is completely unnecessary and seems pretty harmful to me – our bodies are not meant to function that way, even if it’s for a few days at a time!

    And of course for those who have disordered eating patterns, it’s an absolute nightmare. It does nothing but fuel restrictive/binge behaviours. So unnecessary and dangerous!

    • Back in the days when I did the cleanses regularly, I thought this was super disciplined and even normal. It was my compensating tool for all my ‘sins’. I can not believe how convinced I was that I was doing my body something good with 8-10 cleanses per year!! Too dangerous!

  8. kepotts says:

    Interesting issues you bring up Lucie! I agree that “cleansing” can have a negative connotation for those with food issues. It’s very difficult to put the focus on that restrictive amount of calories & have it be a positive thing. I’m sure for some folks it’s ok. I’d rather sink my teeth into “real food” & focus on eating clean than cleanse! ps. Rockin’ pic above 🙂

    • Thank you!! 🙂
      I am with you – real food is satisfying, juices are not – at least for me. Though I was a master in telling myself that my monthly cleanse was the best thing ever! 🙂

  9. I LOVE cleanses, almost too much but stick to them 4 times a year for cleansing purposes nothing more. I do understand though there is a place and time for it and when I was at my worst ED if I had known I would have been like you with the cleanses/fasting experience. I love how you are seeing that there is no magical powder/cleanse that will give you what you want but SOLID food + exercise! Sending you a great trip/weekend! Love + Shine CourtStar

    • Exactly!! I absolutely think that cleansing has benefits, but as you say, in moderation, in a healthy state of your mind and body and with enough knowledge. I just don’t believe in weight loss in 7 days, or at least not in a healthy way. It needs patience right 🙂 Thank you so much!! xxx

  10. Great post Lucie, so honest as always! I am very careful when recommending cleansing to my clients for EXACTLY this reason. It is seen more as a way for people just to go all out with their eating because they have a cleanse coming up when they will just lose it all again, which really just encourages a negative eating pattern. It sounds like you have found the best way for yourself to detox!

    • Thank you so much Anna!! It makes me so happy to hear that you agree, especially since you are professional. It’s so important to be aware of this tricky connection.

  11. This was such a great post and a great follow-up to Sloane’s post. I don’t think that non-food cleanses are really good for anyone, especially not those with eating disorders. I know I tried a number of different cleanses over the years and they were all focused on losing weight, I didn’t really care about cleansing at all. You are so right, stick to real food and exercise enough to give you energy, not you make you completely run-down.

    • Thank you for that inspiring comment, Devon!! I am glad you agree and as you say, focusing on losing weight is just the wrong approach in a cleanse.

  12. Oh honey! What a raw and honest post! I’m so so glad that you are in a better place now…healthy and happy!

    I never did any of the actual cleansing programs where the diet was strictly liquid, but I did do Slimfast and other shake for meal type things. They were never really effective…but mostly because after a week (if I lasted that long) I would be so tired and fed up with things that I would give it up.

    Honestly, I don’t think that non-food cleanses are good for anyone! I think the best thing to do when a person wants to “cleanse” is just to start eating whole foods and cut out the processed crap and extra sugar just like you did!

    • I totally agree! There is so much great clean food out there that makes our bodies happy, there is no need to go for juices when you want to lose weight. I think that cleansing isn’t bad, but it can be dangerous and fuel the already disordered eating patterns. And the shake thing…not a fan at all, so glad you gave that up!!

  13. […] Cleansing and an Eating Disorder […]

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