Recently, I went on what I assumed was going to be a coffee date with a friend of mine. We arrived at the coffee shop, I ordered my coffee (black, like my shoes and my soul), and sat in bemusement as she whipped out something that resembled bottled liquified grass clippings.
“Sorry for being an asshole,” she said, “but I’m doing this three-day cleanse and it’s my last day. All I want is a sandwich but I paid $80 for this so I’m committing. Don’t you dare order that scone.”
Once I got over the initial shock of paying $80 for a liquid nightmare (do you know how many Domino’s pan-fried pizzas that amount of money can buy??? DO YOU???), we moved on. But one brief perusal of my Instagram feed —apparently to get to Coachella you need not only a ticket, but also a mandatory pre-festival cleanse— brought me right back to that feeling of incomprehensibility. I just don’t get it.
I mean in theory, I do get it. Things like an impending beach vacation or a general desire to live past age 40 are enough to make people want to live healthier lifestyles, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s admirable. Whenever I’m out to dinner with someone who subs in a side salad for fries, I always stare at them a little in awe, wondering what post-human being I’m in the presence of.
But I feel like what began as a positive movement towards being more health-conscious —a 2015 report found that younger consumers are becoming more concerned with clean eating— has spiraled out of control and is bordering on the ridiculous. There’s a new detox plan coming out every other week, and the phrase “I can’t go out tonight, I’m on a juice cleanse” is no longer a line from an SNL skit, but something incorporated into everyday parlance (full disclosure: I live in NYC. People are brats here.). If one more person tries to convince me that the seeds they’re eating as a snack are “super filling, no really!”, I will punch them in the face. Yes, I still eat cheese from a real sheep and not a sheep-substitute. Please stop acting like I just announced I want to sacrifice baby ducks to ISIS.
When did this happen? When did people start saying “I need to buy some Moon Juice dust, I’m almost out” with a straight face? Detox culture cannot possibly be sustainable. At some point, you will have to consume a solid.
Admittedly, my perspective on this is heavily biased. In Greece, announcing you’re vegan is like announcing you’re going to marry a Turk: heavily frowned upon and a good way to end up in Greek hell (ftou ftou). Without fail, every time I try to skip breakfast or have a smoothie instead of a full dinner, I get a message from my mother telling me that if I don’t eat protein and a little bread it won’t end well for me. You don’t “go on a cleanse/liquid diet/detox” in Greece. You just eat healthy. And look at the people who live in mediterranean countries: they eat well and often, look great (ok so maybe not Greece, but Italy and Spain for sure), and live longer. And all without so much as one bee pollen-infused beverage.
I also feel like I need to disclose that my own diet is far from perfect. Yesterday I spent most of the hours between 17h and 22h eating an entire pan of brownies, the last of which I polished off for breakfast this morning. I also cannot remember the last time I ate a leaf.
But I can’t be the only one who thinks it’s bizarre that 18 year olds are going on weeklong detoxes to prep for prom. It’s kind of insane. Not to mention, kind of pointless. Because PSA, eating two burgers and a shake the day after finishing a juice cleanse “because you’ve earned it” pretty much cancels out the aforementioned juice cleanse.
And yet we continue to propagate the idea that cleanses are healthy, that carbs are the devil, and that if you accidentally go overboard on the weekend, all that’s needed is a few days of starvation and the help of overpriced “fruit juices” to remedy the situation.
We are a culture obsessed. I blame Gwyneth Paltrow.