Guess what? Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are doing the Master Cleanse!
Hello? I said they're doing that juice fast thing, where you only drink water with lemon, cayenne pepper and maple syrup for like 10 days. Don't you have questions or want to talk about it? No? Me neither.
But they do. It's an undocumented phenomenon: when people fast, they really like to rub it in everyone's face.
Here are a few unsolicited twitter updates from the Kutcher-Moores this week: "Starting the Master Cleanse today" and "9 hrs into the master cleanse" and " "2nd day of master cleanse and off to hike with hubby and the dogs."
You'd think they were the first people ever to attempt this feat. They're not. Beyonce did it. So did Eddie Vedder. My best friend does it periodically. A couple of guys I knew in college did it together. I did a variation of it. What I know now, and what Demi and Ashton are about to learn, is that a side effect of the fast is an extreme, cult-like obsession with telling people about it.
You've seen that guy at the party, swigging from a giant water bottle filled with what looks like urine. "What, oh this? Doing the master the cleanse!" And then inevitably, "The first few days were hard but now I'm not hungry at all!" [Cue: Psychotic eye-glint] "In fact, I feel better than I have in years. I can smell everything and I'm just clearing out all these toxins from my body."
mmm yummy yellow water
Why would anyone want to talk earnestly about bowel movements...at a party...with a complete stranger?
"It's all they can think about," says my friend, Seema Desai, M.D. a psychiatrist who has led workshops on food meditation. "Eating is a basic human need that is being challenged, so it's possible that it's difficult for someone to focus on anything else." But why do I get the distinct feeling people on the cleanse want to convince you to do it too?
A few weeks ago, I drank only vegetable and fruit juices for two days. Not only were they the longest days of my life, where my mind replayed b-roll of Ruby Tuesday's Triple Prime Burger commercial, but I also found myself telling everyone I encountered about my dietary situation. Toggling between "I'm so hungry!" and "I feel really alive! I really recommend this!", I figured people wanted my input now that I was a Gandhi type. Even if they didn't, I craved their attention.
"It's not all about hunger. Eating is a way of socializing. So when you're on a particular diet you can feel ostracized by limited capacity to share with other people," says Desai. "Telling people about your fast is a defense to feel less of an outsider. Talking about it also forces you to commit to it. Witnesses motivate people to follow through."
Great. So that means we have all been dragged into Demi and Ashton's bodily excavation. If they need me, I'm happy to help. (Side note: I kind of like them. What?). But I just wish they, along with the rest of the fasting population, wouldn't be so smug about the whole thing. "2nd day [of the fast] is better than the first!" tweeted Demi.
Desai has an explanation for that too: "There's a narcissistic component. People want to be seen as doing something 'good' for themselves, making themselves a 'good' person."
It's debatable whether the Master Cleanse is actually 'good' for you.
In an interview with the New York Times, Dr. Samuel Klein of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, warned of long-term damage. "Fasting for too long can deplete muscle tissue, including your heart muscle, and it can reduce the size and functioning of organs like the kidney and liver," Klein told the Times.
Meanwhile, several nutritionists and raw food enthusiasts swear by it as a way to clear out the, ahem, cobwebs. It's also a method of breaking habits like smoking or excessive drinking.
But as you break old habits, you pick up new ones, like extreme self-absorption and a bizarre evangelical fervor for all things not-eating. Those are two qualities guaranteed to drop your number of party invitations or twitter followers. On the upside, after the second day, you're hardly hungry at all!