The Master Cleanse. “Today is my 45th day without eating any solid food.” ~ via Harold Linde

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Editor’s Introduction: I was in LA last month, meeting with Discovery re my Walk the Talk Show. The first night, I was whisked to a fundraiser with a bunch of leading greenies…including Harold Linde. He looked good. He was with it. Bright. Relaxed. Normal (unless you consider his huuuuge achievements, see his bio at bottom). Then, I found out he hadn’t had a bite to eat for a month point five. Holy Master Cleanse, I cried, and begged him to write up his experience for us. Et, voila: ~ WL.


Today is my 45th day without eating any solid food.

I’ve been on the “Master Cleanse” (without the daily saline laxatives/didn’t “feel” the need for this part). All I have essentially consumed this past month and a half is the special lemon-based liquid the Master Cleanse is know for (often referred to as “that lemonade diet”). The contents are simple: grade B maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice. I did not do vitamins. And feel effervescent.

I have done this cleanse before but never anything approaching this long. I was inspired this time by a visit to the Año Nuevo State Reserve and Park—regular haunt of elephant and other species of seals—where a docent explained how this aquatic mammalians would beach themselves and not eat anything but live off their blubber stores (females eat nothing while giving birth, nursing, and mating; males go without food for up to three months).

If they could do it, I decided, so could I. After all, I had some blubber stores of my own after a summer spent in the gourmet-enthusiast neighborhood of San Francisco Noë Valley. Daily visits to the cheese shop and delicacy markets kept my palette happy with triple-cream Brie, whole-wheat gnocchi, Belgian milk chocolates, French country loaves, and cream—in my coffee, tea, and baked egg dishes.

But that feels like another lifetime ago….

I already have my first solid meal planned for tomorrow morning. When I say “I” what I really mean is my body’s own internal culinary guidance system—for my intuitive digestive mechanisms have already had me prepare the following menu: organic red quinoa, uncooked tofu marinated in miso/ginger/garlic/Bragg’s, farmer’s market-fresh kimchi, and heirloom lettuce leaves. I already know my portions will be moderate, my chewing thorough, and my taste buds highly aroused. What my body wants my body gets. It has cooperated splendidly these last 45 days.

In fact, (except for the last three days where I started to actually feel hungry) this physique performed splendidly. I have even attended two haute cuisine weddings, a fully catered environmental fundraisers (complete with organic/vegan/local buffets), and various salons and workshops accompanied by colorful and delectable hors d’oeuvres , snack trays, fruit-and-cheese platters, and sandwich mounds. But it hasn’t been hard at all. I simply have not been hungry.

I actually feel better than I have in many, many years.

By the way, I have not been lying on my bed with the curtains drawn like some forgotten prisoner in a Turkish jail. Every morning I either trundle a couple of miles through the sand dunes in Marina Del Rey while utilizing my Nordic walking poles (like cross-country skiing this activity gives a full-body workout) or yoga. Just last week I was cutting down spiny limbs of a friend’s palm tree with a chainsaw while balances atop a rickety ladder. I’ve made love. I’ve sat in a classroom for 12+ hours.

I’ve been very relaxed. And my chronic back pain (I herniated my L5/S1 three years ago) has disappeared. Completely.

My friends’ reactions are inspiring: “You look so much younger!” and “I expected a gaunt look and dark rings under your eyes but you look fabulous!” Quite frankly, I feel sexy as hell.

My clothes all fit again. My body feels good on as well. Most significantly, I have re-established a healthy relationship with food. The habitual, unmindful eating I notice around me constantly (a great reminder of how I was eating before the cleanse) reminds me of how easy it can be to act like a zombie when something edible is available.

Curious, too, how much extra time I have. When it is time for nourishment, I squeeze some lemons in my double-sized Nalgene bottle, pour in some syrup, add a pinch of red pepper, and I am good to go.

The greatest challenge has been all the negative thoughts other people have projected onto me when I tell them what I am doing. In my recent experience, other’s food issues are more virulent than swine flu. They are concerned, or worried, or fearful, or judgmental. They think I am killing myself or insane or tortured—even when I tell them I feel fabulous.

My childhood wasn’t always rosy, and I developed an unhealthy relationship with food for the escape and succor.

“Twinkies, Big Macs, Kentucky Fried Chicken, 31 flavors abounded.”

Now I cannot stomach the thought of even tasting one of these so-called “foods.” My body wouldn’t let me close enough to touch them.

I have this sense of being clear, almost monk-like

As I mentioned before, only during the last three days have I started to feel hungry. But I haven’t minded. I appreciate the opportunity to actually feel what not eating is like for a change. And experience a noticed contrast to the years I spent stuffing my face with mac’n’cheese or popcorn or whatever.

Our species relationship to food might be our most basic and powerful with an outside substance (air and water don’t count; we don’t direct much consciousness or will toward these except in dire emergencies).

It has been thrilling to discover, viscerally, that all this hubbub about food really is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Simply put, food just hasn’t been an issue for me.

Harold Linde uses his creativity to inspire audiences about the environment and cultural evolution though visual and social media. Previous organization and projects he has worked with in the past include: United Nations, Peace Corps, Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, Burma Relief Center, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, Forest Ethics, Ruckus Society, Evolver Project, PETA, 5 Actions Campaign, International Fund for Animal Welfare 11th Hour, Battle in Seattle, 30 Days; PBS, DragonflyTV, Edens: Lost and Found, and Big Ideas for a Small Planet.

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anonymous Jun 2, 2014 10:38am

Fun trivia: The Heaven's Gate cult loved the master cleanse. In fact, long fasts are popular with many cults because the cognitive impairment they induce makes one less able to critically process the cult's messages.

anonymous Aug 22, 2012 8:47pm

Just a note to AMO, the MC is no where near a starvation situation. Maple syrup has 100 calories per 2 tablespoons so depending on how many glasses you drink, you will get those calories. I am going into day 13 and drink 10 glasses day with various amounts of MP and have lost 11 pounds. No need to worry about the MC crew starving.

anonymous May 14, 2012 11:20pm

Bravo for listening to your body and connecting to nature. Our bodies truly are blessings, aren't they? 🙂

anonymous May 27, 2011 3:17am

It's actually scientifically understood why people feel euphoria when they're starving. The scientists guess that this is due to some trigger in the brain that keeps you from suffering as you die. It happens when you freeze to death too. You begin to feel hot and even remove your clothing as your body shuts down. Scientists also assume that the euphoria keeps you from hibernating in your cave and dying when you have no food. The euphoria will drive you out into the world, it's assumed, to find food. Your body assumes you want food of course. It's one of the reasons anorexics can't understand how skinny they are. The messages firing in their brains, due to a severe lack of certain necessary minerals, are giving them false messages about what they look like. Even while they starve to death though their brains are hyper focused on food, what to eat, what not to eat, what they look like because of what they eat. Extended periods of time without a varied and healthy diet does not make people well. I understand that cleaning the body can feel wonderful, and I understand how hard it can be to moderate food on a regular basis. I very seriously doubt that the writer will keep his food clean on an ongoing basis. Sure, that first meal will be all pure and clean for the body and the earth, but the truth is that the body will react with a kind of shock to the reintroduction of food after such a long period and, having been made clear that you WILL starve sometimes, it will begin to conserve calories, driving you to eat. The more often you starve your self, the more reactive your body will become to this. When it has food available, in the West that means whenever you decide to eat, your body will drive you to eat more. Soon you'll be needing another "cleanse" though cleaning really isn't the point is it? If you were so committed to clean you wouldn't eat all that crap in the first place would you? Let's just be honest. It's a diet. It's an extreme diet. A person can lose up to 30 pounds on a 45 day fast, which can be dangerous and is extremely unhealthy. If you're not fat, you definitely don't need to go without solid food for a month and half.

Finally, maybe the writer is one of those people whose metabolisms will bounce back, maybe he's one of the 1 in 1000 who, having undertaken an extreme diet/"cleanse" will stick to the program after the extreme period is over and maintain healthy eating for longer than a year, but what about the other 999 who read this and convince themselves that starvation is the road to euphoria in the body? What about the women in yoga rooms all over America studying every lump and bump on their bodies in the mirror (never mind that women's bodies are supposed to have lumps and bumps) who hear diet when you say cleanse, especially if you talk about weight loss.

Yes people can have extreme feelings about food. I'll bet you got some feedback of a fairly extreme nature. Of course, you're doing something extreme and presenting it as "normal" and "healthy" so people will tend to have extreme responses to that. Not surprising. Sometimes the feedback you get is a message that you're not in sync with the natural world.

The body can store enough glycogen in the muscles and liver to last about 3 days. If you're obese you can live off your fat for a while, but be careful not to burn through the brown fat, you need that. Don't know what brown fat is? Maybe you don't really have enough information to go this route. Longer than 3 days without solid food is not healthy or safe for most humans. Extreme processes bring extreme results. Please be careful…

anonymous May 5, 2011 4:44am

I did the MC 1.5 years ago for 13 days. In fact, I prepared a large Thanksgiving feast without tasting anything. THAT was difficult. I did it. I lost weight. I definitely purged whatever was in my system. For me, the stomach churning and hunger pangs, especially at night, were palpable and loud. My dear wife dealt well I think. She was not a fan of the diet. Apparently I was surly! I have low blood sugar issues which usually crop up around feeding time, yes, like a zoo animal feeding schedule, where tempers can quickly rise and the sole focus of existence becomes food. I don’t think my family will ever let me do the MC again unless I sign a no jerk behavior while cleansing pledge.

anonymous Oct 21, 2010 12:42pm

I tried the Master Cleanse recently and didn't make it through one day. Maybe I'll try again! Thanks for sharing your story Howard:)

anonymous Oct 19, 2010 9:02pm


anonymous Oct 6, 2010 1:59am

I've just started what I hope is a 30-day stint on the Master Cleanse, and I found this post so encouraging!

anonymous Apr 11, 2010 9:06pm

I thought of more…. Think of your body as a vehicle.. (or a Conscious Meat suit). If your exhaust pipe (colon) is all clogged up all the toxins go back into the body (back up in the Meat suit). You wash it (hygiene and practices to keep the windshield of your Heart clear) you use the best fuel, (what you eat, drink and put on your skin). You empty your oil, flush all the fluids (Master Cleanse) and all systems good to go… It was GREAT for my well Being…

anonymous Apr 10, 2010 6:00pm

I did the Master Cleanse two years ago. I had never even fasted at Yom Kippur. I started for just half a day, then the whole day.. I went 13 days and felt EFFERVESCENT.. LOVED it.. would’ve kept going but I had to travel in a week. Someday when I have a few weeks at home i will do it again. It was for sure a boost to my system on every level, and I feel better than ever.I will do it again the first chance I get! And… an old ganglion went away.

anonymous Jan 10, 2010 6:23pm

You are always an inspiration!! I want to try this… or maybe I should just squeeze some lemon on my mac n cheese?

anonymous Nov 16, 2009 3:48pm

[…] is good news, though. There’s a new diet about town, only this time there’s nothing new about it. This diet is actually an ancient lifestyle that has […]

anonymous Nov 8, 2009 12:27am

I am glad that you feel so good, that you have reconnected with your body in a new way.

How's your mind? What were your thought processes, intuition changes, spiritual awarenesses,,,just curious if your intention was to move away from the societal influences of food, or to have other aspects of this world experience of ours here on this planet, assist with changing your outlook on it.

anonymous Nov 7, 2009 3:14am

This was fun to read! And….wow. You made me hungry listing all those delicious foods you ate in Noe Valley. Sounds like a great place for food!

anonymous Nov 7, 2009 12:46am

God bless you…someone has to do it.

anonymous Nov 6, 2009 9:27pm

You"re at it again…another amazing story!

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