Last Thursday was day four of my cleanse, and at about 3:00 PM that afternoon my caffeine-withdrawal headache subsided for a few hours and I got a rush of energy that I had hoped would be an indicator of things to come. But that night I did not sleep a wink, and I felt like puking all day Friday. Saturday morning I woke up with a sinus infection to end all sinus infections that I tried to ignore, but by that afternoon I was lying prostrate in bed moaning in pain. By Sunday the entire right side of my face was paralyzed, and I could only chew food with the teeth at the back of the left side of my mouth. Which basically narrowed down my food choices to whatever would fit through a straw. My dead grandmother was allowed to eat more than I was.

Monday morning Jon said that if I didn’t call the doctor to get some antibiotics he was going to call up there himself, except he wouldn’t say it was because his wife had a sinus infection, he’d say it was because his wife needed a lobotomy. Did they have any spare q-tips? How about some cotton balls? Could he borrow a pair of dull-edged scissors? So I made an appointment for that afternoon, hauled my miserable body up to the clinic and told my story to the doctor. He nodded, said, yep, sounds like another sinus infection, and as he picked up his pen to start writing me a prescription I casually mentioned that I had started a diet cleanse a week earlier. Not a crazy one, no. It’s not one of those cleanses that requires you to shove a garden hose up your colon, so you can stop worrying that I am going to poop right here on the table in your examination room.

He stopped himself immediately, set down his pen and was all, you’re doing what? So I repeated myself and listed off all the things that I had not eaten in almost eight days. He shook his head silently, leaned over so that his elbows were resting on his knees and said, “Do you want to know my medical opinion about that?”

“That depends,” I said, not sure yet if I wanted him to agree or disagree with me. Here I had gone almost eight days on this cleanse without slipping up once, and if he was going to tell me that he thought I was crazy then I might just have to poop on his examination table. Because DO YOU KNOW WHAT I HAVEN’T EATEN IN ALMOST EIGHT DAYS? I COULD GIVE YOU A LIST BUT YOU’D GET BORED AFTER PAGE 200. But if he thought that what I was doing was fine, then oh my god, I’d have to go how many more days without sugar? Thirteen? I can’t even count that high.

He continued to shake his head. “I am absolutely certain,” he continued, “that the reason you have this sinus infection is because you’re doing this cleanse. And my opinion is that you should stop.”

I almost kissed that man on the lips.

I hadn’t gone into that room looking for a reason to stop the cleanse, but when those words came out of his mouth I realized just how miserable I had been all week. And because my emotions were so out of whack it felt like he had told me that from now on when I peed, one hundred dollar bills would fall out of my vagina and into the toilet.

So I got in my car, drove to the grocery store, dropped off my prescription at the pharmacy and then walked over to the British foods section, picked up a package of Hobnobs, and ate one right there in the aisle BEFORE I EVEN PAID FOR IT. I had to grab hold of the shelves to balance myself because I experienced a full-body orgasm.

And then Mama had a glass of wine with dinner.

But the interesting thing has been that I haven’t gone off the cleanse all that much. In fact, I tried having a cup of coffee yesterday morning, but it tasted rancid. And all day today my meals have been meals I would have eaten on the cleanse. So I think that what I experienced and learned in those eight days has made a huge difference in my attitude and awareness of food. I’ve already made the decision to give up artificial sweeteners and to cut back dramatically on milk, cheese, and bread. I’m also excited to eat more of the foods that I found that have no added sugars (pasta sauces in particular, and I’m loving pasta made with brown rice), and am ready to cut back on all meat that hasn’t been raised ethically (yes, I know, many of you will have so much to say about this in the comments, I can see the adjectives now). This means I will most likely go without meat for long periods of time which doesn’t seem like such a big deal to me now that I’ve found The Sweet Potato. Also, I don’t see myself ever being a regular coffee drinker again. That’s a huge change in just eight days.

The biggest difference I noticed and continue to notice is how much better I am at handling my anxiety, it’s almost like night and day. I’m knee-deep in the middle of making revisions to the manuscript of my second book that comes out next year, and because I’m looking squarely between the eyes of a deadline I’d normally wake up feeling like I’d just swallowed a box of razors. And I haven’t felt that in over ten days. It’s been a refreshing break from the dizzying nausea that usually greets me in the morning.

My friend Carol had been doing the cleanse with me, and she got just as sick if not sicker than I got, so when I was driving from the doctor’s office to the grocery store I called her from my cell phone, something I don’t normally do because if it were legal I’d carry around a gun and shoot people who drive and talk on their cell phones at the same time, but this was important, I was about to change someone’s life. When she answered her phone she sounded like she was on the verge of dying, so I told her what my doctor had told me, and I thought I heard the faint whisper of a tear roll down her cheek. “Thank God!” she said. “Thank God you got sick and went to the doctor!”

And then we agreed that we should both send him flowers.

  • http://CHANCE-TECH.COM Andrea

    good on you for taking a chance. and being brave enough to share it with all of us! i find solace and inspiration in-between the fookin funny bits. thanks!

  • Catlin

    It’s my own humble opinion that most radical “progroms” like that, weather about food or anything else prey on those of us who suffer form anxiety.

    I’m so glad you quit. Be healthy, feel good, and remember this motto: “Always question Oprah.” :)

    BTW, you were the light in the darkness for me when I found your blog during my own bout with postpartum depression a while back. Thank you for existing.

  • Becka

    I’m really curious as to the exact nature of these “toxins” that everyone says are clearing out of your body causing the sinus infection. I can’t help but feel that they’re somewhat apocryphal. I mean, your kidneys and liver clear out toxins from things you eat, I think, not your sinuses. They clear out toxins from things you breathe, sort of. Right? What do I know? I’m just really curious what “toxins” are in this case. I’m also curious as to exactly what about the cleanse DID cause the infection.

    That said, this cleanse did exactly what it needed to do, and that’s get you to think more carefully about what you put in your body, and make conscious decisions about it instead of just choosing randomly or out of habit, and I think that’s awesome. I’m so sorry it made you sick, though. I hope you’re feeling better now.

    I thought about posting this in a comment the other day, but I don’t think I did: If you’re ever craving bacon but don’t want to overdo the animal fats, I totally recommend getting an heirloom tomato (or anything delicious and chewy) and sprinkling olive oil and smoked salt on it. It’s healthier than bacon and tastes divine. Of course, I still eat bacon anyway, but sometimes I don’t want to overdo it.

    This is my first time commenting here, but I’ve been reading for ages and I love what you’re doing. You are quite awesome. Feel better!

  • Amber

    I did an elimination diet last summer to find out what was making me have ulcerative colitis and constant symptoms of inflammation. Turns out it’s dairy. I felt terrible for about 5 days and then I felt better than usual, but not like F’ING AWESOME or anything. I also use a supplement called UltraInflamix which helps my tummy lots. The biggest thing that helped me and my anxiety actually was stopping taking hormonal birth control. My body hates extra estrogen, so I finally stopped fighting it. Something to consider…

  • http://BUSINESSTSI.COM Mary

    what does Leta have to say?

  • Lynn

    I wanted to tell you about these fabulous treats that are actually ok for you. they’re called thinkThin bars. you can google them. they are gluten and sugar free and rather tasty. they should have them somewhere in Utah, but if not you can order them over the interwebs.

  • Amber

    it makes that you got sick…that’s detox for you. ;)

    in any case, those changes are huge ones and as you go on you’ll feel better and better. eventually detox won’t be so hard on you. your body gets used to it, it gets healthier and stronger. when i eat the “average” north american diet i get symptoms very similar to what most people get when they eat a cleanse diet because my body isn’t used to all of that crap. it gets better, much much better.

    congrats to you!

  • California Chef

    So there was a time when I worked for a couple, who were seriously wealthy, as their chef. It was a great job when they were not around as I could make normal food for the rest of the employees. But I dreaded cooking for them. They were always on some sort of plan or another. Weird stuff. Lots of fasting, juicing etc. Anyhow, my point is they were always sick. Not to mention I now believe having alot of money messes you up. Talking to you, Oprah.

  • http://ELZNIC.NET Liz

    there is a fine line between genius and just plain fundamentalism. i love how you dance on that line sister!

  • Kara

    Hi Heather,

    I hope that you and your friend Carol are shortly feeling much better. Sinus illness is the worst in my opinion! Also, sorry for the dauntingly long entry. I promise not to be too controversial!

    After reading a mixed bag of comments, I just wanted to add my two cents and hopefully keep it positive. First, I wanted to say thank you for being honest, and not feeling any shame that you had to stop the cleanse. I think it is *Amazing* that you went 8 days on such a sudden-dietary-change-regime. Way better than I could do, and I’m already vegetarian.

    Thank you for posting such delicious looking food and recipes from your experiences, and I hope you will keep doing so. Just reading your blog while you were on the cleanse encouraged me to take up (again) my goal of going increasingly vegan, or at least eating more vegetables.

    As for ending the cleanse, my feeling is that you felt awful and who could be expected to keep up a cleanse under those circumstances? I’m sorry you had to suffer at all, but it sounds like you are still going to enjoy some lifestyle changes from the experience.

    For what I know about toxins, you might want to consider taking some liver-cleansing herbs for awhile, just to get things back in balance. This is what my doctor recommended to me to counteract a slightly out of whack liver brought on by an unhealthy diet. I think a professional herbalist, or even the more knowledgeable staff members at Whole Foods or The Vitamin Shoppe could direct you to the right stuff; I personally take Milk Thistle.

    Finally, I was going to mention that you could take Probiotic capsules or Acidophilus caps to replenish the healthy bacteria in your body (which I too, think is fairly critical after a round of antibiotics). I personally like both kefir and the Stonybrook farms yogurt smoothies, but if you want to keep avoiding dairy, the capsules will do the trick too.

    Best of luck and looking forward to your future progress!

  • http://THEREALODDS.COM Fran

    i know i could never do this. but, i sure love reading about it! thanks for sharing. any photos?

  • eddeaux

    I made it 18 days on the detox. On day 8 or so I had a failed root canal. I thought it was just sinus issues as well. I wonder if the detox caused the failure? I haven’t ruled it out.

    On day 18 I cheated and had some popcorn that night. Day 19 I tried to stay on track, but splurged on some Indian food. Day 20 I tried to stay on again and found some cookies in the freezer. Finally I said, Effit, and patted myself on the back. I did lose 25 pounds though in those 17 days.

    I’m back to eating the same crappy way I did before the detox though.

  • Lisa

    That’s funny, I was considering trying the cleanse. I already don’t eat meat but I didn’t think I could live without dairy and sugar. Thanks for the test run. I don’t feel the need to jump on any band wagon now.

  • Collier

    Weak! You’re weak! 96 hours (or less) of clean unprocessed food and you got a sinus infection? That’s the stupidest thing I have heard. You’re weak, and your weak American sicko culture allows you to perpetuate bad health. This is a sad, sad, terrible and childishly early end to a perfectly simple task. I live in England and you don’t deserve Hobnobs.

  • The Horror Diet

    Heather – I’m delighted you ventured down this less-traveled road, and have come away with some valuable insights!

    And as a cleansing afficionado, I’d offer that a) the sinus infection, et al. you suffered was most likely a Herxheimer (detox) reaction, which is part of the cleansing process, and b) the degree of detox matched the severity of your cleanse.

    Most people start giving up foods one at a time so they don’t have to part with everything at once. That way it’s easier to find out what foods work and what don’t, and makes bingeing less likely.

    But then we all know that British digestives and the like contain little magnets that pull us to their exact location and demand to slide down our throats. I’ve had it happen many times.

  • eddeaux

    I’d like to shove a can of Hobnob’s up Collier’s butt. He’s probably never tried this detox…

  • Jodie Zoeller

    Heather, glad you went to the doctor too. Sounds like the cleanse stirred up lots of stuff. Giving up coffee is good. I wish I could give up coca-cola… I would be asleep 24×7 if I did. tried herbal teas, no dice. I don’t ever want a caffeine headache again. I had one in Mexico City once when staying with locals that fed me Manzania tea (herbal).

    Doctors are conservative by nature and it pays off usually… except for those radicals that do experimental treatments. My doctor is a D.O. and avoids antibiotics like the plague if possible. I have fluid in my ear and have had 3 courses of steriods. The latest was a shot today. After this fails, then he’ll send me to an ENT specialist for them to poke, prod and hopefully cure my blasted ear, as I can’t hear out of it much at all (right ear). I’m a left ear phoner so no problems there, but try being in MEETINGS and trying to LISTEN is hell. People talk from all sides and then there’s the conference call phone talking too. I need a new right ear!

    Interweb, come read my blog too! It’s not as cool as Dooce, but I have POLAR BEARS and BIPOLAR info and ranting and some raving, and some fun stuff.

  • Love and Laughter,Amy

    I did the master cleanse some odd 7 years ago. It was horrible and amazing. I’m glad you survived, and I applaud you your bravery. though I admit, you probably had no idea what you were getting into. ;-)

  • Anne

    OK, so I’m going to be another of those opinionated commenters that knows so much better than you do… sorry. But this is one of my own private bugbears, so please bear with me.

    Don’t go gluten-free without talking to your doctor first. Seriously. This is as big a deal as ‘wear sunscreen’. If you go gluten-free and feel worlds better, there is a good chance that you are Celiac (see, I’m even using US spelling for you). If you are Celiac, then there you need to know – being rigorously gluten-free is tough, you need the support of a dietician, and there are various other complications (e.g. osteoporosis) that need to be checked for. The complete &*&$^£& of it is that for the tests to work, you have to be eating significant amounts of gluten. So if you go gf and feel wonderful, the first thing you will be told is to start eating gluten again. Which can make you feel 1000 times worse than you did before.

    And it’s not rare – “they” are beginning to realise that about 1 in 133 to 1 in 100 people have it – the vast majority are wandering around undiagnosed. The symptoms are many and varied – and not always obviously gastro-related. (My son was picked up because of his bad teeth.)

    Sorry, rant over. Wear sunscreen, don’t go gluten-free without talking to your doctor.

  • Kim

    Hey Commenter 346, maybe the reason no one has mentioned the elephant in the room is that Dooce ISN’T underweight, she is naturally slim. I have been petite all my life and eat like a horse, I can say to you that you can’t assume that just because someone is skinny that they have an eating disorder! Some of us have small frames and high metabolisms. I think it’s dangerous to make assumptions like this.

  • Lozza

    Well done.. Im proud of you for sticking with it that long.. And glad to hear it has helped you make some changes in your life!

  • Laurie

    I am so grateful you’ve gone back to the glass of wine with dinner. It’s ok with me if you have a couple before dinner as well. Anyone with a name as cool as Dooce has got to be enjoying cocktails along with her life.

  • MeganInMunich

    Six months ago, my husband and I vowed to change our eating habits and get healthy. During the week no drinking, no eating out, lots of vegetables, low fat. On the weekends, from sundown Friday to sundown Sunday EVERYTHING is allowed. I’ve lost almost 20 pounds and he’s lost 40.

    But lately we’ve been getting depressed. Jobs suck, everything sucks, Tuesday night we almost cried in each others arms (and we’re not that kind of couple).

    Solution: break the fucking rules. A glass of wine and an ice cream sundae later and the world is shining brightly again.

    Food has an amazing effect on your well-being.

  • American Dooce Lover

    To #389, above:

    FUCK YOU, you little snob. This is AMERICA! Heather is an AMERICAN. If you don’t like what she has to say then stay the hell in your own little Brit world.

    And? If she doesn’t deserve Hobnobs, there are a million products we produce here, in the great USA, that are so much better. I know. I have lived in the UK.

    Watch your mouth, Collier. And stop being a hater.

  • Deanna McNeil

    I am so sorry you have been sick. I have noticed when I have done big things to my diet, like stick to food that looks the way it did when it came out of the ground, is still a color found in nature and the like that I feel differently and not always “bright & shiny” and wondered why. And I too have discovered the joy of limiting myself to one or two cups of coffee in a day. It is such a personal journey to wellness…I wish I understood all the things I am convinced my body must be telling me that I don’t know how to interpret. You would think the splitting headaches could at least come with captioning instead of just stars when you close your eyes?!

    I live in the Washington DC area. I wonder how hard it would be to find ethical meat? And can I afford it? Why should it be hard & expensive to eat ethically? See, sometimes it doesn’t take 4 hours for the comments to turn into crazy talk!

    Rock on Heather and get well soon.

  • Single mom in New England

    WOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOO! I’m so happy for you. It’s all about BALANCE, not EXTREMES — listen to your body — if it wants Teddy Grahams, it needs Teddy Grahams!! (Just not the whole Bulk package of them) You are going to feel great, I just know it. Yay You!!!!

  • Anonymous

    I’m wondering why some people are assuming that because your doctor told you that he was opposed to your cleanse, that automatically means that he also told you that eating healthy is bad and that you should reintroduce junk food into your diet immediately. My guess is that your doctor was opposed to the sudden shock of deprivation and withdrawl of the cleanse, not the healthy food itself, and advocated that you make those dietary changes moderately and over time.

    People. They so crazy. [chomps into cheeseburger]

  • C’tina

    I LOVE SWEET POTATOES!! Baked in the toaster oven…cooled and wrapped in foil, where they get carmelized and sweet….sprinkle a little cinnamon on sometimes….anyhow, I’m in So Cal this week and have loved visiting some of the spots suggested about 4-6 months ago from your readers…Hash House a Go Go, Starlite on India St. and Extraordinary Desserts tonite…..

  • KC

    @118 – yikes, settle down and breathe… it’ll all be ok in the morning!

  • C’tina

    AND Black Mission Figs are the perfect sweet snack…with your daily allowance of almonds. I buy the figs dried…carry them in the car…livesaver.

  • Briony

    I get sick within a week, every time I try to change my diet. Insanely annoying when I’m trying to be *healthier*.

    Oh, and Hobnobs are the food of the gods – we go through about a pack a week per person in my office. They contain oats and fibre, and therefore are nutritious and healthy food. So there.

  • Single mom in New England

    Heather – I really enjoyed your radio interview — I think reading web blogs fits our busy lives so well because it feels to me like we’re reading a novel — the story of your life – one chapter every day! Thanks so much for letting us in and making us laugh daily.

    Feel better soon after you get over your sinus infection!

    Responding to these other comments — it’s just like dooce said in her radio interview – it all goes downhill in the 11th hour!!

    As the 20somethings at work say, Peace out!

  • anais

    Coffee is definitely my drug of choice. Can´t imagine going without it for a day. So way to go on sticking to that diet for that long. That takes some will power!

  • bird

    good for you.

    ps i’ll bet oprah cheated.

  • Kathy

    I don’t always have the greatest confidence in medical professionals, but I kind of agree with what the doctor said, though it makes sense if you stop caffeine and sugar cold turkey, even if for a short while, you’ll feel like crap.

    And I am so not one to judge, believe me. I simply do not function without a cup of coffee, but I’ve had periods where I’ve given it up, and I felt awful the first week.

  • TJ

    Oh, that’s the best news ever. I was starting to feel motivated by you and NEARLY started the cleanse myself. Now I think I’ll have a mountain Dew.

  • infi9ite

    Reading about your cleanse experience has been extremely interesting for me, and I’m glad you’ve been so upfront about your positive and negative experiences while on it. About two months ago, I decided to change my eating habits, and became, for lack of a descriptive term that doesn’t sound as self-righteous as “flexitarian,” a “fake vegetarian.” I allow myself 1-2 servings of meat a week, but the rest of the time, it’s veggies and fish and beans and cheese and soy products. It’s forced me to be really creative with how I eat, while eliminating crappy foods I used to eat all the time (like processed lunch meat), without being too drastic.

    Somehow the thought that I CAN have the occasional bite of meat makes it easier to live as a vegetarian (well, technically pesecatarian) 90% of the time, and I’m not bored with my meals when I’m learning to make falafel patties or bean salads. So long as my diet is not tied to moral positions (I obviously don’t believe it’s morally wrong to eat meat, but I do believe in eating less of it), I don’t feel the need to be absolutist.

  • Lisa

    Yea, Hobnobs! Love those cookies. Been reading the book about Fatherhood and loving it. Good for you! I even had to be wait listed at the library to get a copy.:)

  • Spandrel Studios

    With all the talk of these cleanses, I’ve wondered how healthy it could possibly be to make such drastic changes all at once – although I applaud anyone who can do it. But whatever happened to “everything in moderation”? I know that’s a boring concept, but even just Weight Watchers has helped me be conscious of the amount of fruits and vegs I eat – and at the same time get a handle on portions. That was a huge breakthrough that had a tremendous impact on my health. (I ignore all their suggestions for sugar-free this and Lite that because the chemicals wreak havoc for me.)

    Anyway, I hope you’re feeling better!

  • Kristan

    You know, I’m listening to your interview (sorry I know it’s the wrong post) and I have to say (a) thanks for the very insightful comments about blogging and writing the books (and about blogging VS. writing the books), and (b) THIS INTERVIEWER SOUNDS LIKE A MORON.

    I’m not saying he is, I’m not saying he’s a bad person, but omg I am so not impressed right now!

    He must have been too busy thinking of insults about the Avon World Sales Leader…

  • StotheL

    Rock on, Heather!

  • The Horror Diet

    Gah. This is my 3rd comment on this post. I just had to ask if you’ve been here:

    Raw food restaurants are popping up all over the country, I’m sure in part because quite a number of people are ditching meat, wheat, dairy, sugar, etc. from their diets. Apparently this restaurant is getting rave reviews. If you go, let us know how you fare.

  • chocolatechic

    I am so sorry you became ill, but whatever works for you is great.

    My mother has done cleanses before. I just don’t have the will power to do it. I like my chocolate way to much, I like my beef way to much, and most of all, I like to stay unsick.

    Kudos to you.

  • Bob

    If you would of just kept the “word of wisdom”, you would not need to do a cleanse… Just thought you would like to know. Love ya… Bob

  • Jennifer

    I did a Curves approved diet once. It was a low carb, no sugar, no alcohol kind of thing. I didn’t get sick, but my emotions made PMS look like a walk in the park. My husband was BEGGING me to stop doing it and eat like a normal person again. It was awful, so I totally understand how you felt. I sincerely hope you feel better soon cos feeling like you did sucks.

  • scrappy

    YESYESYESYES. i just had the exaaact same experience. only, i don’t know if you can wrap your head around this, my cleanse was EVEN MORE LIMITED foods-wise. it just was not ok. and i was miserable and couldn’t figure it out, and had a huge whopper of a headache. but, i did start to think about my food more. i’m so glad i wasn’t the only one.

  • Queen of the Universe

    Thanks for sharing…I was gonna do a different cleanse but fuck that. Geeze, life is hard enough.

    Man, if you figure out how to make that $100 bill thing work, will you post that too?


  • Anonymous

    I would like to know how you know that the beef you consume is “ethically raised?” I am a beef producer myself and we sometimes sell our calves to another rancher who raises the “feeders” and then they sell them to the feedlot. I really don’t know how you could check all of these avenues for certain to see that each step is done “ethically”. And again for your vegan readers, google “beef-by-products” and make sure you are giving up all products that come from beef if you are going to be a true vegan. That means no leather shoes, (I can’t tell you how many vegans I have seen wearing Birkenstocks, driving cars, or eating yogurt.) I laugh. Just thought I would post again since you seemed to have deleted my last post, maybe us non-vegans shouldn’t point out the facts of the beef industry.

  • Adele

    DOOCE! You got sick because your body was going through a “Healing Crisis”. Which is a GOOD thing. YOur body will get very sick before it gets better. Talk to a Naturopath, or a Holistic Nutritionist. A firend of mine, Laurie, has a great web site you should check out.

    I do a yeast/candida cleanse every year during the transition from winter to spring (get out all that crap I ate), and I get bronchitis every time! Green slime and goo, the works! But I pull through and benfit from the cleanse for the rest of the year.

    I also suffer from anxiety, and find that the 30-day cleanse of no caffenine, sugar, yeast, wheat, dairy etc. makes WORLDS of difference.

    I still applaude you for trying, just TRY AGAIN!

  • Lynne Thompson

    Heather, I am doing Atkins right now because low-carb definitely fixes all kinds of insulin resistance problems and it’s the only thing that helps me lose weight. But someone mentioned that it also is a wheatless diet and that some of us may have wheat allergies and feel way better on the Atkins may have a sensitivity to wheat and feel less anxiety because your cleanse basically cut the wheat down in your diet. I had a bipolar friend who wasn’t as bipolar when she cut out wheat. Thank you for being so honest…good luck LT