The Master Cleanse – A Followup

Back in March of 2009, I discussed a 30 day Master Cleanse that I had just completed. It was one of my more popular blog entries, and generated quite a few comments, some of them a bit heated.

It’s been three years since that entry. While there are no shortage of blog entries or general postings about the Master Cleanse and its immediate results, I feel that a followup on that post is long past due. What’s gone on over the past 3 years, and where am I now?

To summarize, I was around 215 lbs when I started that cleanse, and ended up around 185. Today, I’m hovering right around 200 lbs. Most will be quick to say, “Ha! You’ve gained most of the weight back!” And while it’s true that I’m 15 lbs heavier than I was after finishing the cleanse 3 years ago, I’m still 15 lbs lighter than I was when I started that cleanse. One notable difference is that I was at about 33% body fat back then. Today I’m at 23%. So the weight comparison is really not apples-to-apples.

So 3+ years later, still down 15 lbs, am I still a fan of the Master Cleanse? In a word… no.

To understand the reasoning behind this turnaround, I’ll need to explain what’s gone on during the past 3 years.

One of the major arguing points against the Master Cleanse is that when people stop it, the weight comes back immediately. For the most part, I suppose that’s true. Especially if you go back to the same (bad) habits that you held before the cleanse. Habits such as eating poorly or eating too much or not exercising. But for me, I think I actually did a pretty good job of turning around my lifestyle. I was exercising regularly. It started off with the Wii and Wii Fit, and I added the occasional light run and eventually joined a Krav Maga gym. I was also eating much better. Salads, smaller portions, no fast food, no soda, etc. I had gone over 30 days with no food, which was not an easy feat. I had accomplished what I had set out to do. As I mentioned in that original post, I felt very much like I had hit a “reset” button, and wasn’t about to let the effort of the previous 30 days go to waste.

But shortly thereafter, I left a full time job to start contracting. We moved from California to Phoenix. I had a lot going on. And I’ll readily admit, with all the work pressures and pressures of moving, I stopped focusing on a healthy diet and exercise. I figured I’d get back to it once we got “settled in”. As a side note, it’s been 2 years since the move, and we still have boxes we haven’t unpacked… so, not quite “settled” yet.

It didn’t take long, but eventually my weight got back up into the “two-hundred-and-teens”. I wasn’t looking good and I wasn’t feeling good. I needed to get back to where I was post-cleanse.

I signed up at a Krav Maga gym here in Phoenix. My conditioning was shot, though. Non-existent. So I didn’t actually take any Krav classes. They did offer other classes, such as bag classes, strength training classes, and endurance classes. I took those fairly regularly. Maybe 2 to 4 times a week. They helped. I also started eating better again, but not as good as I did after the cleanse.

It was late 2011, and while I had been doing the various classes at the gym a few times a week, and eating better (but not necessarily “good”), I still didn’t feel that I was where I wanted to be. So I decided that 2012 would be “the year”. I would do another cleanse for the first month. All of January. And then from Feb 1 on, I would go vegetarian. It was a big decision, and I knew that 2012 would be challenging. With that knowledge, I allowed myself to “enjoy” the last couple of months of 2011. I ate… everything. And on the evening of December 31, 2011, I weighed in at 215 lbs. I didn’t have a scale that measured body fat %, so I don’t know where I was exactly, but it wasn’t good.

But now it was a new year. And I was starting what would be my next big Master Cleanse. I felt really good about it. I had a lot of positive energy going in, and it was actually easier than the one back in 2009. I wasn’t craving food. I saw the weight start to drop immediately. But almost 2 weeks in, I noticed something else. Something that really bothered me.

I was visibly losing muscle mass.

Now, I certainly wasn’t “built”. But over the course of the previous year, I had spent enough time in the various classes at my gym that I had built up some muscle. It was clearly visible in my arms, chest, and shoulders. And suddenly, I was clearly and visibly seeing it go away. My arms looked smaller and felt softer. I realized that when I did the cleanse back in 2009, I went straight from being a sedentary programmer who ate horribly into the cleanse. I didn’t have any noticeable muscle mass to lose. This time though, I did. And I didn’t like it.

With that, I cut the cleanse early. After two weeks, I had dropped down to about 200 lbs. While I felt better about that number, I realized it was a false indicator. The pounds don’t really matter. The body fat % matters. I don’t really care what I weigh. But I want to lose fat and build muscle. In theory, that should cause an increase in weight, depending on where I was exactly.

I did start my vegetarian diet. Not vegan… I do eat eggs and cheese, but since Jan of this year, I’ve stuck to a vegetarian diet, and tried to keep it healthy. Let’s face it… the term “vegetarian” itself is odd, as it doesn’t necessarily mean you eat vegetables. It just means you don’t eat meat. I could eat nothing but cheesecake all day every day and accurately label myself a vegetarian. But I signed up for a meal planning service and had been rather happy with the variety of vegetarian meals they offered up. For the most part, I didn’t feel as if I was missing out on anything. I do miss seafood every so often. Especially sushi. But the transition to vegetarian was much easier than expected.

That’s the wrap-up. For the past six months, I’ve been on a vegetarian diet, I’ve attended classes at the gym regularly (including the Krav classes), and I’ve maintained the 200 lbs. that I hit after that last 2 week cleanse in January. As stated above, my new body fat measuring bathroom scale says I’m at 23%. I’m working to get that down to 18%. If I can do that, I really don’t care about the weight.

As far as the Master Cleanse itself, while I wouldn’t recommend it today and don’t foresee myself ever doing it again, I don’t regret doing it 3 years ago. Not in the slightest. It absolutely did serve as a reset switch for me. While I’ve had ups and downs over the past 3 years, I’m pretty happy with where I’m at right now. I still have work to do (specifically, dropping more body fat), but I’m happy with where I am, and the progress that I’ve made. And all of it started with that cleanse 3 years ago.

A quick plug for local Phoenix folks: Want an amazing workout that dials the intensity up to 11? check out REACT Defense Systems. I’ve never seen anything like it before. Incredible classes and dedicated instructors. My wife and I have been house hunting the last few months, and my only restriction on location has been that I need to be within driving distance of one of the 4 REACT locations. It’s that good.