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.

  • I have a steak and a bottle of Southern Comfort with your name on it. Just say the word.

  • I’m really happy that you are so open about your experience with this “cleanse.” It seems like so often you see celebrities – Oprah, I’m talking to you – who push these sorts of diets and regular folks think “well, heck, Oprah did it, it must be okay” and the fact is, they just aren’t healthy.

    By the way, the verification words for me to type in are: SENDING DEFEAT. Awfully pessimistic for a computer.

  • May I suggest trying the Caramel Bar recipe in the link to celebrate? They are dangerous, in all the good ways, and just might lead to another climactic day. For real.

  • The Sweet Potato truly is a gift from the Gods.

    Glad that this cleanse has helped you learn more about your approach to food, but it’s a shame that you ended up sick in the process.

  • Eight days is cleansing enough, for God’s sake.

    How clean do you want to be, anyway?

    Glad you’re feeling better, enjoy the subdued retox 🙂

  • You’re the valedictorian of honesty.

  • I recently blogged about doing a cleanse (June 12) and ultimately decided against it right before you began blogging about yours. Sorry Heather, but THANK GOD. If yours had gone well, I might have reconsidered. There goes $65!
    Anyway, what I have found is that there are many blogs out there that have recipes that are super healthy and packed with natural foods – shop the perimeter of your grocery store only and check out some of the blogs I listed in my April 17th entry – Delicious Wisdom has this vodka tomato penne that my family loved and it’s good for you! 🙂
    (I didn’t include the links cuz I’m trying not to be spammy)

  • Sarah

    Giving up caffeine is HUGE; good for you! On a completely unrelated note, I enjoyed listening to your interview. You know, it’s kind of Buddhist – the fact that you enjoy the writing about here and now and not having to string longer narrative together with a theme; you’re staying in the moment. It also reminded me a lot of that same tendency I’ve been struggling with in myself. BUT, we may be rewired to be that way. Check out the article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” in the current Atlantic. Maybe it’s becoming that way for writers who blog, too 🙂

  • Oh, thank god! I was hoping you’d come to this very conclusion but didn’t want to be the party pooper. Getting rid of caffeine, white sugar and white flour, and minimizing the alcohol, will do wonders and you can still LIVE. Congratulations and now that you have that sinus infection – nettie pot anyone??

  • It sounds like you really learned a lot from this experience.

    I think cleanses are good–sort of like hitting a reset button on your system. In many ways, it sounds like that happened for you in spite of having to cut it short.

    Good for you for listening to your body and to your doctor!

    Now get well soon!

  • I made the sweet potato fries tonight. Yum. 🙂

    Cleanse, schmeanse. You rock no matter what. 🙂

  • Ava’s nanny

    I did a mini-version of your cleanse and realized on day 2 how much I love Pink Prosecco. Now I won’t feel guilty for having some, knowing it’s hard for others, too. 🙂 Thank yoooooooou.

  • Mandy

    I’ve been thinking about doing this cleanse, too, so I’m also curious to know why it was your doctor felt the cleanse was causing the problem.

  • Ava’s nanny

    P.S. Sweet potato fries rawk with edamame.

  • Lisa

    Good to know! You saved the rest of us from having to do our own cleanse! I hope you are feeling better! Good for you anyway, for sticking it out so long! That takes a lot of will!

  • Emily

    No judgment, Heather. Two steps forward, one step back, you did what you needed to do. ROCK ON.

  • I tried the Sweet Potato. It’s great. I think I might adapt it into my life without the November turkey involved on a more regular basis.

  • Heather,

    I’ve only shared this with my closest friends but in this case I will make an exception.

    Better Than Cleanse Cake


    * 1 (18.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix
    * 1/2 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
    * 6 ounces caramel ice cream topping
    * 3 (1.4 ounce) bars chocolate covered toffee, chopped
    * 1 (8 ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed


    1. Bake cake according to package directions for a 9×13 inch pan; cool on wire rack for 5 minutes. Make slits across the top of the cake, making sure not to go through to the bottom.
    2. In a saucepan over low heat, combine sweetened condensed milk and caramel topping, stirring until smooth and blended. Slowly pour the warm topping mixture over the top of the warm cake, letting it sink into the slits; then sprinkle the crushed chocolate toffee bars liberally across the entire cake while still warm. (Hint: I crush my candy bars into small chunks as opposed to crumbs – I like to have pieces I can chew on!)
    3. Let cake cool completely, then top with whipped topping. Decorate the top of the cake with some more chocolate toffee bar chunks and swirls of caramel topping. Refrigerate and serve right from the pan!


  • i am right there with you on the coffee thing in terms of anxiety. you should try brahmi aswell. i know it sounds funny from a strange person with a crappy blog (mine is crappy.. not yours.. just to state the obvious).. but brahmi is like gingko belibo (or however you spell it).. but better. it is ayuverdic and just bloody awesome. seriously just try it. it will change your life. (and it is natural)

  • Lou

    you always make me spit my milk! even though this is almost tangibly less edgy it is still funny as hell.

  • Moderndayhermit

    When I stopped smoking I was (seriously) sick from sinus infections and colds for 2.5 months. It was insane how shitty I felt.

    On one hand I think “what a load of shit” when people claim that the toxins are leaving but on the other hand…I have to wonder.

  • Mmmm….Hobnobs. I *love* Hobnobs.

  • coffee is a killer. i find the same thing with most of the foods you mentioned in terms of really cranking up the stress levels.
    it is the same for kids ya know.

  • i think it is such a smart idea moving toward a really healthy diet. Leta will thank you when you live to be 100. (or maybe not!..)

  • Sounds like you had a great experience…or at least discovered some great things because of an awful experience 🙂

    I do think that Moderndayhermit might be right, however…it could just be the toxins leaving your body. As a massage therapist, it isn’t uncommon for people to get pretty congested after a massage. My understanding is that we are moving toxins.

    Having said that, I think you made the right decision! And I am glad that you are happy!

  • My little sister tried something similar years ago. She was surviving on cranberry juice, 4 mile jogs and tree limbs. Her Doctor told her that her knees were now destroyed, and to go directly to Burger King and eat a cheeseburger before her spine caved in. 2 knee replacements and 10 years later she is on a balanced diet and back to normal. Good luck to you.

  • Jennifer B

    I’ve never done a cleanse before, so sorry to pick out a little area of the whole blog. But, I did have MAJOR anxiety after my third child and can relate to waking up every morning feeling like I was going to puke. Went to a GREAT therapist, cut back on any caffeine consumption, and started anti-D’s! I am grateful for wise medical professionals.

  • I’m curious…did the doc give any specific reasons why this isn’t good for you? Sounded like you were eating all the right things. I guess the sudden withdrawal? Heck, if the doc says you have to have alcohol and hobnobs, you have to have alcohol and hobnobs!

  • Wow, so many unexpected changes just from changing what you eat! I’m glad you shared this, it’s really fascinating.

  • Wow. I really try to find and eat ethically grown meat. I do my best to stay off all the artificial crap. Beer is my weakness.

    Good luck to you. I’ll be monitoring your progress.

    Ms Sparky

  • my god woman! you are my hero!! srsly.

  • thanks so much for sharing. i love the idea of ethically grown meat. but it seems like such an oxymoron in today’s society. we want it. and we want it fast!

  • props to your hubby. i am really seeing a different, more manly man, coming through lately. glad to see he stands up and shoves some male ego into the equation. thanks as always for a great read.

  • i have been vegan for about 6 months now. i totally relate to the de-tox sickies.

  • k

    hmm. im on an allergy elimination diet (my throat closes up and i almost die with startling frequency and i cant figure out why) that is very similar to the cleanse. i cant eat diary, red meat, shellfish, wheat, glutten, citrus, tomatos, potatos, nightshades, sugar, sugar subtitutes, any prepackaged foods, grapes, corn (corn starch/baking power/dextrose), table salt, caffine etc etc. I’ve been on it for over 2 months without a problem. im sad it didnt work for you 🙁

    also, the fact that you mentioned brown rice pasta exists and its just my stupid grocery store only selling me the white rice pasta has just made me extremely happy.

  • Starsky

    I rarely comment on anybody’s blog but I found yours to be truly captivating. I want to commend you on your cleanse and lasting as long as you did. You are talking to the queen of cleansing and the kind of willpower involved, if given the opportunity, could manifest itself as the anti-christ.

    What I wanted to recommend to you (if you didn’t already know this), is after you finish your stint of antibiotics, you should begin a regiment of probiotics. Now I understand that the word “regiment” might cause your airway to constrict but dont panic just yet. Basically, when you take antibiotics you are not only killing the bad bacteria but you are killing the good bacteria as well. This is beyond detrimental and can lead to even worse illnesses and more frequent infections in the body.

    I spent a good five years of my life as a walking sinus infection, taking a string of antibiotics. I spent another five years on a diet consisting mainly of organic, lean meats and vegetables because I was so ill. Not fun.

    Yogurt is a form of a probiotic as well as a product called kefir (much like yogurt). Kefir is used primarily in european countries but I believe you can find it at whole foods or trader joe’s or markets like those. Just check around. But yogurt and kefir are your best options. You should probably have your husband do it as well. And I know you wanted to cut out dairy products but yogurt/ kefir is definitely not the same as drinking pasteurized milk and eating pasteurized cheese. The cultures/ enzymes in these products feed the body in the proper way. Mind you, few mainstream doctors believe this is necessary. But this is only used to help the body bring itself back into balance.

    The reaction that you and your friend experienced during the cleanse is more than likely a normal occurrence. Usually when you cleanse, you are allowing toxins to remove themselves and sometimes you experience old symptoms or the toxins get stuck and cause you to become ill. Cleanses can be tricky. I have definitely wandered onto the side of error more than once.

    And while I may seem a bit creepy (fava beans or chianti, anyone?) that I would be so concerned with your cleansing, I only try to spread whatever knowledge I have been afforded. Just take it into consideration. It’s a small addition to your already changing diet. Good luck with your new found awareness.

  • Honey

    Even after reading both your and Carol’s last entries, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the concept of the cleanse, itself, foibling your immune systems. (Then again, I am jonesing for an idyllic biochemistry or physiology course about now.) Moreover, is it sudden deprivation itself that depletes immunity, rather than the body’s specific need for gluten, alcohol, meat, dairy, caffeine, or artificial something? I have enjoyed sharing in your short journey on the dietary straight and narrow. Twelve years ago, I went cold turkey off pop, soda, and soda pop. To this day, a single sip of it gives me an instantaneous painful hiccup. More than the carbonation, the high fructose corn syrup or carcinogenic artificial sweeteners became revolting to me, not just in pop but in a myriad of processed foodthings. Don’t even let me go off about the partially hydrogenated oils or, lord forbid, cigarettes! I don’t miss any of that.

    Let’s not forget that the world is a hungry place.

  • I tried giving up Starbucks, but I can’t. It’s like my DOC: drug of choice.

  • There’s a lot to be said about cutting back on all the items listed in the cleanse, but I love that your doctor told you to knock it off. I wasn’t about to get all 100% pure on the cleanse, but after you brought it up, I did reduce the Sugar and Coffee intake. I also added in some of the snacks you blogged about. And you know what? I feel pretty good. Sorry you had to suffer for the greater good of the blogosphere, but thanks for your honesty.

  • lol. so funny. i would be sending him flowers too!

  • something i have been wondering is if you have had any depression? especially from the coffee cut-out. i quit drinking coke when i was just out of college and i got so depressed. and then i would not drink it for ages, and then even just one bottle would send me heading for the razor blades. jokes.

  • ethical meat. nice one. i am with you on the sweat potato too.

  • Interesting and yet not surprising to hear that from a medical doctor but you do need to do what is best for you so I’m glad to hear you’re taking care of yourself. As I was reading your post I was thinking that it was probably your body detoxing – some people get horribly sick like that from detoxing. Glad to hear that the cleanse was valuable though and hope you’re feeling better STAT!

  • I gave up caffeine about six months ago, in an attempt to improve my fertility. I haven’t managed to get pregnant yet, but my anxiety has dropped significantly. It is shocking how much the caffeine, “fed” my anxiety. I am so glad I gave it up and doubt I will ever go back to drinking diet coke.

  • No milk? Seriously? I thought milk was so good for you! I can honestly say I have no idea what I would do if milk was cut out of my diet.

    P.S. I laughed so hard when I read the line: “…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…”

  • What about soy meat? Soy burgers taste really, really good.
    I am trying to cut way down on dairy (mostly cheese) as well… Although there are other alternatives such as rice/soy/almond milk, etc.
    The ethically raised meat is good. Definitely. It just breaks my heart what animals have to go through. (but it’s still easy being a vegetarian! I’ve been one for 15 years now!)

  • The reason you have been feeling miserable is because while you were cleansing, Candida Albicans were dying in your body. Candida is a bacteria that lives in harmony in your stomach along with normal body flora. But, when our diets become sugar, yeast and dairy rich, opportunistic Candida overpopulates and jumps into the bloodstream, where it causes all kinds of problems. It also causes things like sugar cravings, because it must live. Guess what feeds Candida? Sugar, yeast and alcohol. Guess what feeds cancer cells? Sugar, yeast and alcohol.

    So when you began to cleanse, the Candida began to die off thus causing sheer misery for you. The WORSE YOU FEEL, THE MORE YOU’RE KILLING OFF CANDIDA. This is called die-off symptoms. Get the book, “The Yeast Connection” By William Cook, M.D. It will change your life. Warning: most Western doctors do not take Candida into consideration when treating a patient. Antibiotics and birth control pills also feed Candida. It’s actually an epidemic in our culture today.

    You are handling your stress better because 1) You’re eating healthier and 2) the caffeine is no longer over-stimulating your adrenal glands [these are glands which rest above your kidneys and are responsible for a number of functions, one of which is releasing adrenaline when stressed]. When you stimulate the adrenal glands, you feel stressed. When the adrenal glands overwork, it can cause you to feel exhausted and edgy.

    Take grapefruit seed extract and eat a low sugar, no wheat diet if you want to keep the high energy level and reduce stress. Trust me, you will see a huge difference in your thinking and your body. Great job lasting 8 days on your cleanse!

    Good luck!

  • MissM

    Best. Entry. Ever.

  • Minka

    Hi Heather,

    Not to burst your bubble. But at least in ayurveda and naturopathy, they believe that you are likely to suffer from congestion and even skin breakout during cleanses because the body is draining toxins out faster than usual. You should probably check with some certified person. I know because I had a strange skin condition and congestion when I started naturopathy and I was told it’s normal. My two cents !

  • Sammyhill Hagar

    You and my mother need to meet. You are exactly the same. I love you both for the hilarity you make life out to be.

    Enjoy those diarrhea bombs coming back to real food. It’s a bitch.

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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