A MONTH ago I went on a juice cleanse. You know what it cleans out of you best? The will to live.
This is not entirely fair, because I didn’t strictly play by the rules. But I was trying this increasingly popular purge after realizing there was perhaps room for improvement in my lifestyle choices. When did I know this for sure? Was it when I was at the Temple Bar one evening, having eaten nothing all day so I could enjoy my repast of three mojitos, five bowls of popcorn and six deviled eggs? Or was it the day I realized that I was about 20 pounds overweight as I rounded out my 40s?
I had to start somewhere. Why not here?
The idea of consuming only water or juice to rid the body of so-called toxins is not new. Virtually every major religion has some fasting and cleansing ritual that supposedly allows the body to heal, regenerate and, in a sense, apologize for being such a jerk. The Hebrew word for fasting, for example, is “tsum” — which means, roughly, “to afflict the soul.” But everything old is new again, which may be why juice cleansing has been on the rise; this year, juices and juice-cleanse companies were as ubiquitous at Fashion Week events as cigarettes and Adderall.
Cleansing’s more recent popularity is traceable to the 1990s, when Peter Glickman, the Scientologist and entrepreneur, repackaged a 1940s diet called the Master Cleanse (Stanley Burroughs wrote the book “The Master Cleanser” in 1976). The Master Cleanse involves lemon juice, cayenne pepper, maple syrup and 10 days of your life. Celebrities as varied as Beyoncé, Jared Leto and the Moore/Kutchers (Demi and Ashton were tweeting about it this week) swear by its energizing and weight loss effects, weight loss being not all that surprising, when you consider that you are essentially sucking lemons and a few teaspoons of sugar for 10 days. And the diet has a glorious circular logic to it. As Mr. Glickman explains on his Web site, if you experience symptoms like cravings, fatigue, irritability, headaches, pains, nausea, vomiting, hot bowel movements (!) … congratulations! That means you were supertoxic, and the cleanse is working.
In the last few years, the idea of cleanses has again evolved. Now there are kinder, gentler — and seemingly saner — alternatives. The new cleanses contain about 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day; there is generally a nut-milk component for fat and a little protein, and vegetable juices for vitamins and minerals and live enzymes. Salma Hayek, a juicing aficionado, started Cooler Cleanse, a home-delivery juicing program with Eric Helms (who owns Juice Generation); and the detoxina Gwyneth Paltrow champions a similar system called Organic Avenue. On Ms. Paltrow’s Web site, goop.com, Denise Mari, the Organic Avenue founder, explains that her juices are based on the elements of LOVE: live, organic, vegan experience.
Many people make their own concoctions. But being able to buy the prepackaged juices and a philosophy is convenient and comforting. These programs are meant to convince the trend-averse among us that cleanses are not just the province of vegans and breatharians, but are also pretty mainstream — or at least mainstream for the reasonably chic; as vital to one’s upkeep as, say, Pilates and an oxygen facial.
I decided to go with BluePrintCleanse, founded a few years ago by the raw-foodist Zoe Sakoutis and Erica Huss in a Chelsea kitchen, and now the big macher of cleanses in Manhattan. I chose the company after extensive research, which consisted of liking the clever copywriting, the pretty sky-blue labels and the friendly font. I felt healthier just looking at the spare design and architecturally satisfying containers, which — not coincidentally, I believe — are reminiscent of baby bottles. In the way I believed my Vitamin Water instills in me a pure shot of nutrients and hydration (rather than, say, the trace amounts of vitamin and nine teaspoons of sugar a bottle that the F.D.A. recently noted), I believed that for $65 a day, BluePrintCleanse would set me right.
Besides, BPC, as it is known, has the right people behind it. The designer Jason Wu recently said that he cleanses with BPC one to two days a week because he “forgets to eat.” And Sarah Jessica Parker was recently photographed carrying a bottle. Roland Barthes could find no more persuasive signifier than S.J.P. and a bottle of this juice.
BPC has a raw-food option, allowing you to combine raw-food delivery (quinoa tabouli, cucumber macadamia soup) with juices, but no food for me. I was All About the Juice.
There were three levels of intensity in these cleanses: Renovation, Foundation and the ominous-sounding Excavation (“We’re digging deeper”). The difference in intensity has to do with the number of green juices consumed every day. While common sense should have dictated that I take the beginner’s Renovation level, I opted for Foundation, since Renovation involved drinking beet juice. Maybe beet juice is considered a fruit, or fruity, or something. But in my mind beet is a fruit in much the way Joe Lieberman is a Democrat.
Before I ordered I asked the service representative, delicately, if a cleanse meant that I wouldn’t be able to be more than 10 feet from a bathroom for three days. She laughed. “No, not at all,” she said.