An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation


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.

  • Inspired by Heather, I started my own cleanse. Here’s my Journey.
    She lasted longer than I did. Thank God she saw the light. However, last night I got some type of VIOLENT stomach virus. Talk about cleanse. So, I’m still going to try and lay off the vino.

  • Maureen

    I agree with the Neti Pot recommendations. I tried one for the first time on Monday during a horrible sinus infection. Despite the irony of deliberately putting water into my nose, I can now breathe easily through both nostrils for the first time since allergies hit in March. I’d also recommend watching some you tube demonstrations, as well as carefully reading over the “how to blow your nose properly” instructions.

    Feel better.

  • I have been following your blog for months (which I guess makes me pretty new…considering how long you have been doing this!), but this is hands down my favorite post. Hysterical! But is it bad that I do the same thing to hobnobs in the store even when I haven’t been on a cleanse?

  • The Sweet Potato is pretty good really.

  • Jen

    Read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and What to Eat. No cleanses, no deprivation, just knowledge that will naturally lead you to healthier and happier eating. Eat food (i.e., real, not processed shit), not too much, mostly plants. Amen!

  • Tez

    On the fifth day of my cleanse I was so sick and stayed that way pretty much for two weeks. I had cleaned everything tempting from my cupboards and was literally two weak to get to the store. After I didn’t return to my evil habits . . . well not exactly. I drink one cup of coffee per day but it has to be the perfect cup at the perfect temperature or I won’t drink it all. And I am making smarter choices shopping carefully for organic foods. The only side affect (besides being sick) is chocolate tastes nasty. I crave chocolate but I am always disappointed with the first bite.

  • Heather,
    I can not express enough how glad I am that you went through that and not me. I am sorry that you had to go through it though. I was waiting to see how you did before I started. And now, thanks to you and your doctor (bless his heart) I don’t have to. YEEHAA!!! I am guessing though that these last two yummy brownies shouldn’t be part of any diet that is meaning to lose weight. Or, maybe it SHOULD. Glad your going to make it through.

  • Meat Hustler

    Bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon.

  • Carrie

    458 comments and not one person has explained what “toxins” are leaving the body and how that happens, or provide any scientific research to support this claim.

    Also, be VERY wary of “nutritionists”. There is no liscensing, no education, and no requirements whatsoever to call yourself one. Registered Dietitians, on the other hand, have 4 year degrees, complete post-grad year long internship, by 2009 or so will be required to have a Master’s Degree, AND have to pass a nationally administered exam to be considered “registered”. They also have to maintain yearly liscensure in their state as well as attend a certain amount of continuing ed hours per year. This is the person you should take nutrition advice from.

    Another also, most MDs don’t really get much of an education in nutrition beyond the Krebb’s cycle and the biochemistry of metabolism. None of the practical what to eat and what nutrients are in which foods. At least that is true for med school. Most who know more, have taught themselves that.

    -Carrie, almost R.D. married to an M.D. And who also had Eggos for dinner.

  • tea

    Wow. I’d like to agree with the other four hundred people who commented on this entry and thank you for telling us this story in a genuine yet clever and humorous way. Wishing you well with the new way of eating!

  • You sure the cleanse you followed was preferable to the hose in the colon type?! *lol*

    As for the post appointment “binge”, as a Brit, I’m kind of tickled you fancied some Hob-Nobs! *l*

  • This post is EXACTLY why I love reading you – anyone who would abandon their principles (the ban on driving and using the cell phone) to commit a grade A number one humanitarian selfless act (like calling your friend Carole to save her from THE CLEANSE) is someone I need to keep tabs on.

  • Indeed. I got angry, grouchy, bitchy, and downright ugly. I was mean and hateful. I stopped the “cleanse” after I saw my doctor this week as well. There is no reason you should not have things in moderation and appropriate proportions. 2 cups of food at each meal, and 1/4th a cup of food for a snack 2 times a day – you are good. So – I am taking stock, and I am careful to look into where things come from, and I am better about proportions.
    Now if I could kick this nasty meth habit…

  • Honestly that Quantum Leap woman on Oprah gave me the creeps.

    Also, every time I see Hobnobs at the grocery store I think of penises.

    loving you


  • Anonymous

    i always say that you should do everything in moderation. Going on the Oprah cleanse sounded really hard and it really isn’t a realistic way to eat for the rest of your life but i am glad you feel kind of better for it. My diet is pretty bad since having the children and i jnow i should really give up caffeine, sugar, alcohol etc etc but i really don’t have the energy to live like a monk with two small children!!!
    Rebecca from Salisbury, UK xxx succession

  • Moderation is my mantra. Seems like eating a balanced, unprocessed diet makes the most sense and avoids all the “do this, don’t to this” fads and diet advice.

  • Man, the LEAST Jon could have done while you were sick was to buy you a baby hippo!

    Glad you are feeling better and good for you at making those dietary discoveries!

    (But wouldn’t a hippo have been nice to come home to?? Just saying..)

  • Wow! I’m sorry you got so sick through this. I was pulling for you, but it sounds as though you got out of it some things that will really work for you.

    My belief: Moderation is key. Oh, but wait, I drink tons of coffee and I really like red wine. Sigh . . . guess I need to find another belief!

    Take care of yourself :0)

  • I’ll still trust the judgment of any billionaire. Love ya, Oprah!

  • michelle

    To #488 et al.

    Yeah, factory farmed anything is gross but let’s include in that the organic baby spinach that got contaminated with e coli last year and the tomatoes that got contaminated this year. There is a major, sometimes unseen, high cost to cheap food–animal, vegetable, and mineral.

    Also, as for sinus infections being toxins leaving the body…please, show some scientific evidence otherwise it’s the same to me as pain being weakness leaving the body–HOO HAA.

  • The reason you may have gotten the sinus infection is because the yeast in your body was going nuts trying to gain an advantage. When you cut out the sugar and booze you were starving those yeasty buggers.

    Try adding some kind of probiotic and see if the sinus infections ease up for you all. We’ve had our son on Threelac (a yeast buster) for almost a month and he’s gone from having some serious behavior problems to our normal, happy dude again.

    He took antibiotics all the time as a young tot because he would get a febrile seizure with EVERY ear infection he got. So hell yeah I wasn’t leaving the Dr. without a prescription. But the theory is that the antibiotics kill the good bacteria as well as the bad. So at the end of the prescription you become a yeasty petri dish just ripe for a sinus/ear infection.


  • Pat yourself on the back dude!

    You lasted about 8 days longer than I would have..

  • PS – I’m hoping you got those button hair slides I sent in the mail for Letta awhile back. Something to clutch at night other than the local circular. 😉

  • Oh sure, 32 hours into starting the same cleanse myself, you’ve jumped ship. Seriously though, the changes I’m having to make to do the cleanse are minimal, and the moment I don’t feel well, I’ll scrap the whole damn thing. Why? Because I’ve done an elimination diet before (for food allergies), and had symptoms just like you described. I felt like shit on toast. I remember calling my mother in tears, migraine raging away, and her telling me to quit the damn thing and go eat whatever I wanted. Best damn Taco Bell meal I ever had.

  • Cherie

    Hooray for trying something new and hooray for realizing when it isn’t working for you (and hooray for wine for dinner, CHEERS!…hiccup)

  • Cleanse smense. Women will do the craziest things to their bodies I swear. I say this as a woman who is surrounded by other women obsessed with numbers and what not to eat because God forbid should ice cream touch their lips and they gained a pound that they actually needed. It’s just ridiculous.

    I am aware that you wanted to be more conscious of what you’re putting in your body and that’s cool but our bodies need protein. Protein, vegetable. Carbohydrates. Protein Vegetable. Carbohydrates. Rinse and repeat. Moderation is the key to anything in life but I applaud you, I think, for giving it a go. I’m glad you found a middle ground.

  • I hope he appreciates the flowers as much as you appreciated his lovely advice. 🙂

  • Kosher meat is lovely. And sweet potatoes apparently increase a woman’s fertility. In the twin sense. They got it from a case study of some tribe in Africa who have the highest ratio of twins. Sweet Potatoes.

  • Isn’t life about making the choices that are right for ourselves? …as in you making a choice right for you, me making the choice right for me, etc. and appreciating that they (yours and mine) might not be the same.

    So as said by many before me – Kudos!!! for making the choice right for you, for learning some things and for sharing what you learned in a wonderful way.

  • ~j.

    I love this post.

  • I certainly don’t have the willpower to go on that kind of diet. I’m doing good trading in my Cinnamon Toasters for Honey Nut Scooters in the morning.

  • KG

    Just watched the first minisode (6 mins) of Rescue Me (Dennis Leary) – one of the guys at the station decides to do a cleanse also. Given your decision you will enjoy this one



  • Chubby

    Well, I have to admit that I’m not going to read through hundreds of comments to see if this has been beaten to death yet, but: “Dairy products are not only the end result of rape and torture and the direct foundation of the veal industry, but they are pure poison for humans to ingest.”

    Really? As the neighbor and friend of several organic dairy farmers, allow me to say “spare me the histrionics.” Thanks.

  • Jill

    When I think about all the starving people in the world, it makes this topic seem so bizarre. Too much damn food, too many choices, that’s my problem. Pretty high-class problem, I guess, when you consider the alternative.

  • Eve

    You’re supposed to feel sick!!! It’s the toxins leaving your body. When I quit smoking (all four times) I got sick as a dog like that, INCLUDING a sinus infection which I have NEVER in my life had before. Should I just have started smoking again? Oh well, sounds like a lot of the toxins left your body anyway.

  • meme

    I hope you might tell us a bit more about why the doctor thought the cleanse had something to do with your being sick. Just curious.

    I am a dietician. I haven’t seen the particular diet you are doing, but I know that many of these diets are not based on any science whatsoever. I’m not a real hardass about this, because I know that there’s a lot science doesn’t know about food, and your body, and how the two interact. But I do know that some of these so called cleansing diets can be downright dangerous. And sure, most people do feel better on just about any diet, no matter how wacky, weird, or unhealthy. Look up the HAWTHORNE STUDY and you will know why.

    The best diet I’ve found–for those who want to follow a plan–is the Pritikin Diet. Balanced, low fat. etc.

    I do support the use of organically grown foods in your diet—I don’t see any reason to put chemicals in your body that don’t need to be there. I do think you feel better–and it’s better for your digestion and elimination—when you limit consumption of refined foods, like white flour and sugar. Caffeine is a DRUG people. Use it like one. Hydrogenated fats have been processed to have a longer shelf life. Limit those. And margarine–I think that is just about the worst “FOOD” ever INVENTED. There is NOTHING natural in that. Use butter—it tastes better and you don’t need as much to feel satiated.

    And the best “quick meal” you can make? A baked potato with good toppings or a quick stir fry with rice. You can use one of those Bird’s Eye mixed vegetable stir fry kits and it will work pretty well. Quick, easy, tasty.

    PORTION CONTROL is my mantra. Most people have no idea how much they eat of anything. MEASURE IT< WEIGH IT< whatever.

  • We bought this book before I read about it here on your site. We too wanted to become more conscious of what we put in our bodies, etc. We stared the cleanse around the time that you did and MY HUSBAND GOT SICK TOO. He was totally believing it was b/c of the cleanse, and I was like, “yeah, nice try.” But his doctor said the same thing (and just for the record, his being sick was more like a stomach flu, so it can come in all different varieties I guess.) We’re still doing a modified version–being off meat and most dairy has been fine, so I’m sticking with that for now.

  • kris

    i am so glad you stopped the cleanse! you are more aware of what you are eating…heather you are so thin! whatever happened to eating and being happy…? just living?

    oh sweet jebus i could eat a case of those in a sitting.

  • Oh, the coffee will come back…it’s insidious.

  • Um, I doubt you’ll ever find this in all these comments, but I thought I’d share anyway. The best thing I’ve ever taken for sinus infections is Turmeric (based on Ayurvedic medicine). Well, usually I take it when I start to feel the pressure building and it just loosens the snot up and makes it flow right out. I’m not kidding. I give it to my daughter when she’s sick, but not right before bed because it makes her nose run so much she can’t sleep. (They sell it in capsules at the health food store.)

    Though, it sounds like it wouldn’t have helped you as much as the antibiotics if it was that advanced. Just something to keep in mind for next time. (And, yah, it’s the spice, the one people put in their curry, so, unless you’re allergic to it, it’s fairly safe.)

    I’m glad you’re feeling better.

  • Enna

    I thought so much about emailing you and telling you that any diet that made you feel like absolute hell was BAD for you – but I worried it would be presumptuous. I’m so glad the doctor helped you out, and that you’re still eating healthier, without semi-starving your body of carbs, protein, and sugars. Depriving your body of so many nutrients and macronutrients that it is used to having – and using – can’t be good for it.

    There’s lots of diet health “knowledge” that comes and goes. (A hundred years ago, they thought roughage – raw vegetables – was bad for you.) If your body is absolutely screaming at you that it is hurting, listen to it. It knows what it needs better than the latest diet guru, telling you that half the foods that sustained your forebearers for generations – bread and meat and milk – are completely wrong.

    I read a Duke medical study that said a cup of coffee would raise your stress level for 6 to 10 hours. Caffeine is not something your body uses, so by all means give it up. But your body uses carbs and sugars (even sucrose). Feel good about feeding it.

  • Anonymous

    Did your Doctor explain why the cleanse caused you to get a sinus infection? I would be interested in knowing because I’m on the verge of slowly becoming vegetarian.

    Umm, I’ve never left a comment before, but my girlfriend and I read your blog all the time. So hey!!!

  • Stacy

    I’m sorry you got sick and vegetarian diets do work well with most people, but I suspect that this “cleanse” that Oprah was on wasn’t a balanced diet, hence the reason that nobody should follow her and her stupid ideas of what sound nutrition is.

    I really wish the woman would stuff a box of Twinkies in her mouth and shut it. If she ate well and got some exercise everyday, she wouldn’t need a stupid cleanse.

    People don’t need all the crap in their diets that they claim to, but eating well isn’t hard. Nobody needs a 500 calorie coffee from Starbuck’s with a gallon of Mountain Dew and a few large cheese pizzas as a chaser…

  • fi

    wow, i’m very pleased to hear that hobnobs (nobhobs) have passed over the pond. i take it they were the chocolate ones? mm.. try bashing them up in a bag and sprinkling them on caramel ice cream. xxx

  • Dooce! I was going to comment on how great that was you were doing a “cleanse” in your other post. I recently did my first cleanse for 5 days and felt great, but it was a juice fast, monitored by my naturopath (not this Oprah thing). Personally, I balance my health between western medical and naturopath opinions becuase they both have good & crazy points. I never told people I was going to do the fast because you get all sorts of “expert opinion!” I was a bit skeptical about the 21 day “Oprah” one you were on… because gosh darn, anything that long has got to be hard. The sinus infection was no surprise, definitely getting sick is part of cleansing.

    A couple of comments on Tofu above are absolutely on target. Sometimes even our “healthfood” marketing is crap and full of complete lies. Marketing soy as a replacement for dairy or protien is ridiculous. Tofu is not fermented. The Japaneese eat FERMENTED soy. Unfermented soy (soy milk, tofu etc.) is linked to nasty thyroid reactions. What I do is listen to my body. My body NEVER liked soy milk anyway, so i wasn’t surprised when I read about it. Since i was a child my body never liked cheese or dairy (taste and body reaction), and it’s not surprising based on how its processed here in the US. Surprisingly enough, in France, I eat tons of cheese with no bad reactions and even enjoy the taste of it. Here in the states, i found out, I LOVE rice milk and almond milk. I know, weird!

    Although the cleanse made you sick, it probably was detoxing your body. (Think a junkie going off heroin.) BUT: who needs to suffer that much? The best thing this did was made you conscious of what you like to eat!

    My fast was one of the hardest but best things I ever did. I did it to clear up a 2 year health problem I’d been having and I truly did relieve about 80% of my symptoms. I’ll probably keep doing 2 or 3 day juice fasts 2x /year or something like that. I feel like it resets my body. It gives the body a break from digestion and the energy goes to healing other areas of the body. The “no-pulp juice” keeps the glycogen levels at good levels so you don’t need a labotomy or go too crazy. If you can get past the hunger pains in the tummy (just stay busy), then it’s not that bad!

    Oh, and didn’t anyone ever tell you never take advice from Oprah? 😉 More power too you!

  • And now I am canceling my book order for that cleanse book. Hell to the no for the side effects.
    Thanks for taking one for the team!

  • Helen

    Hi Heather,

    I think cleanses help us re-evaluate our relationship to food and also to where it is we have stored up “toxins” from our past. I worked with a nutritionist for two years and UP FRONT she warned me that as we began to take more trash out, our cells way deep in our system would begin to let go of trash that’s been there a long time, and this would cause what is called a “reverse healing crisis”. What that means is that we (unfortunately) will go in reverse to cleanse those ailments. For a while our chronic sore throats will be worse, or (for me) our acne would get worse. So, if sinus infections tend to be where your body breaks down, this is where you will cleanse the most and temporarily be sickest. I found this on a website:

    “This is called the reverse healing process. You are retracing the path you went down as you became ill in the first place. Some days on the crisis times you may feel sick enough to think you are getting worse, not better. The body is eliminating toxins and poisons, but you should start to notice that the lows are not low as they used to be and the highs are getting higher. Most experienced health people will tell you there is a time of feeling worse before getting better.”

    Honestly, the work that you have done with this cleanse, and the changes you’ve made in your long term diet, will help your sinuses. Best wishes!


  • That’s great! So, essentially you learned that making healthier food choices & using moderation is a good plan. Gotta love that whole moderation concept–you know, the one that some “organizations” claim they beleive in & then go on to ban everything…ha!

  • I believe that any diet that requires one to live without chocolate was invented by some one very Evil with devious tendencies. No one should have to endure that.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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