In reality, however, lemon juice is not a meal, and taken to extremes, cleansing is anything but healthy. Nor is it an effective way to drop pounds for good. To reach this contradictory healthy-skinny ideal, L.A. ladies have developed some disordered techniques that cross old-school self-starvation with New Age mind-body rhetoric. And these techniques will probably land in your town soon -- if they haven't by now.
After all, healthy eating and green living are already fashionable across America, and Los Angeles can lay claim to launching that trend. The city has long had a love affair with its yoga centers, vegetarians, organic-food markets and health food stores, holistic healers and New Age religions. So perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that the latest wave in weight loss in L.A. borrows heavily from the religious tradition of fasting. An ancient ritual, fasting requires devotees to abstain from solid food temporarily in order to purify the body or attain enlightenment. These days, it's considered the absolute quickest means to shed a few pounds with the added benefit of spiritual self-justification.
That's one way of looking of it. Another is that it's simply the latest twist on your garden-variety starvation diet. "The attitude is, I'm going to call it spiritual, like a vision quest," says 31-year-old Mishna Wolff, a 5-foot-11-inch, 140-pound comedienne and the author of the memoir "I'm Down" (St. Martin's Press), who has watched some of her friends suffer through the master cleanse and who has herself tried Atkins, among other more mainstream diets. "There's a subterfuge of health. But it's just vanity."
Some L.A. women chug raw fruit and vegetable juices that are delivered regularly to their door by companies such as Izo Cleanze and BluePrintCleanse; others sip tinctures from kits ordered online, like the Blessed Herb's Colon and Internal Cleansing Kits; many whip up their own beverages using "superfood powders" (21 Day Detox) or recipes that call for lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper (the ever-popular master cleanse).
Although the ingredients vary, the marketing promise is largely the same: Consuming these brews -- and often nothing else -- for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks can help flush out toxins such as food additives, heavy metals, medications, cigarette smoke and other pollutants that disrupt your immune function, liver function, metabolism and digestion; as these toxins leave your body (through increased bowel movements), you'll feel better and perhaps even drop some pounds in the process.
Fashion producer Dawn, for example, did a three-week fast last summer, during which her only sustenance was soups and red and green juices made from superfood powders, vegetables and sometimes berries, complemented by a regimen of detoxifying supplements, digestive enzymes and colonics. The 34-year-old spent hours cooking up broths and blending beverages from daikon radish, kale, cauliflower and other produce. "I made one of mustard greens and garlic that I could not get down," Dawn says. "Do not put garlic in a juice -- I almost vomited."