Cleanses Can Lead to Relapse in Eating Disorders


Most of you all know that I have done a few cleanses in my time. I have done the famous Master Cleanse of lemons, pepper and syrup, which is not only torture, but also terrible for you. I have done the Shakeology 3 Day Cleanse, more than once, and most recently the Beachbody Ultimate Reset 21 Day Detox.

You may also know that I spent most of middle school and high school flip flopping between bulimia and anorexia, more commonly the former, but more severely the latter. I distinctly remember not ingesting anything but Bacardi 151, Newport light 100s and tanning bed rays the entire month leading up to my high school prom. As an adult I decided to skip the purging part of bulimia and just binge. I can recall a time or two where I went through multiple drive through fast food places in a row on the way home. If you are a binger you know what I am talking about.

Keep in mind this wasn’t all the time, eating disorders don’t always work that way. Cycles of life kept brining be back there though, a loss of control in one area of my life or super emotional experience, would always trigger it.

When I found Beachbody, it was the first time I felt like anyone got me. My coach suffered from the same issues and she know what it meant to not be able to stop eating. 2010 was the first time in my life I started, and stuck with, losing weight the RIGHT WAY. Long term goals, slow and steady progress, and commitment to permanent life change.

When I did the Master Cleanse I made it 6 days, didn’t lose a pound, felt like a crazy person and totally went out drinking that Saturday and ate everything I could find. Not super effective lol.  I have done the Shakeology cleanse 4 times and that one I do love, I’ll continue to do that one for sure. It is only 3 days, and you get to eat on it, actual food that I eat now anyway like veggies and meat. I have always lost at least 6 lbs and kept it off without feeling restricted or bad about myself. I do however only do it for 1-2 days, because I have figured out that my IBS will act up if I take it for too long and I start to get really irrational on it. Then of course there was The Reset …

Let me back up just a smidge. If you are new to my blog, you may not know that last January I decided to do two things: 1) Learn to cook and 2) eat Paleo. If you don’t know what paleo is, there are far better sources than me to explain it, but the basics are if it wasn’t around in the paleolithic times you don’t eat it, AKA The Caveman Diet. No processed foods with an emphasis on organic and grass fed foods.

This way of life was working for me! I saw the benefits of the food changes IMMEDIATELY! Of my 90 lbs lost, 27 of them were this current year with Les Mills Pump and Paleo eating. I loved the food, everything tasted amazing. I had lost all cravings for bad foods and realized this is how my body was supposed to feel. I also LOVED cooking. I was proud and happy every time I made something really good and healthy. This wasn’t extreme because for me it was all about what I CAN eat not about what I can’t. I had a great time learning how to cook new foods and trying things I’d never even heard of. I ate, a lot, and it was all amazing. Then I committed to doing a 21 day detox program. Seemed easy enough, I mean hell I’ve done P90X and I don’t eat bread or dairy, I can do anything right? Wrong.

Being forced to follow a meal plan with such strict rules, from what to eat exactly, recipes to follow exactly, exact time of the day to eat, exact minutes between meals, etc. brought back the rebellious, pissed off, binge eater with a vengeance.  The mental game of restriction took such a toll on me, I started craving foods I hadn’t wanted to eat in a year! I was crying at a few points, and eventually just stopped eating all together for a couple of days. I even started weighing myself every day. I lost 60+ lbs without weighing myself ONCE at home and all of sudden I was OBSESSED. Coincidentally the two days I didn’t eat I gained weight, so eat food everyone 😛

I talked to my best friend and got it together long enough to finish strong and complete my 21 days. I actually lost 11.6 lbs and was really happy with the results. I was proud of myself for not quitting and was looking great. Overall it seemed to have a happy ending.

When it ended I was LOST. All I wanted to do was eat EVERYTHING I “wasn’t allowed” to eat on the reset. I couldn’t control it. I didn’t want to work out, I didn’t want to cook, I just wanted to eat. And eat I did…

In the 3 weeks following The Reset I have gained 7 lbs back that I had lost and I feel horrible about the backslide mentally. The weight I can get over, I am sure it’ll be gone in a week or two. But the “old me” creeping in is the hard part to handle. I have eaten fast food, a lot of it at once, and I am sure you remember the chocolate cream pie incident a couple weeks back. I finally sucked it up and called my therapist and had an amazing session where we really got to the root of why it was happening this time, and a lot of things came together for me. This BUR is clearly a great program, that has wonderful results, just not for people who have severe issues surrounding food!

I realized that as someone who is recovering bulimic/anorexic/ binge eater the kind of restrictions that come along with a cleanse, or following a specific meal plan, are dangerous. The reason paleo works is because we don’t count calories, we eat when we are hungry, and we don’t feel restricted. The forces that want me to binge are not interested in being told no, they are not interested in giving up control, and they certainly aren’t interested in all those rules. I am positive that this Beachbody Ultimate Reset is an AMAZING program for people who need that structure or just don’t know what to eat and need to really hit “reset” on eating. I can absolutely see the benefits for most people. I however, am not most people.

I know I can only speak for myself on all of this. Still, I would urge anyone who is struggling with these kind of issues to learn about food, learn how it works, learn how to cook, learn to try new foods, embrace all the food you CAN have and avoid the world in which it’s all about what you can’t have. Avoid any extreme or restrictive diets unless you are certain you can take them on, it’s not safe space, at least not for me, and it’s not a long term solution much of the time anyway. If this IS you right now still, contact me and let’s see if we can’t get you learning some healthy and long term habits instead. There is a contact form to your right —-> Use it! Also if you need serious help please National Eating Disorder Association site or call 800.931.2237 to get support!

If anyone is wondering, the story hasn’t ended, so I don’t have a happy ending for you. I can tell you that yesterday I ate clean all day and today I worked out and got my Shakeology in. So far so good this week, taking it one day at a time, as always. As my girl Heather V. taught me: TODAY I will not eat a donut lol :0)

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  1. That backslide of the “old you” is one that I struggle with now too. It’s such a hard tug-a-war you play with who you are and who you once were. Thank you for sharing, this really made a lasting impression on me.

  2. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! I’ve felt like a freak for so long, thinking I was the only 1 who had these issues and it’s SOOOO great to know that I;m not alone 🙂

  3. Great story Amber!!! You are very strong and remember we are all human and no one is ever perfect. Live and be happy!!! By the way h ow can I subscribe to your newsletters?

    1. Lori the only way I have right now is to send me a message on the contact form and do NOT un-check the little box 🙂

  4. I am so happy to read real stories about weight loss & the struggle. I am currently doing Optifast through Kaiser. I have a lot of anxiety about when I start to have food again. It’s working great & I’m super determined & focused. Will I be when I’m done though, is the question. I read your post everyday & see your pics of foods. It’s all inspiring & motivating.

    1. Efua, I just wanted to comment on your post. I myself did Optifast thur Kaiser 6yrs ago & have kept it off and completely understand your anxiety of getting back on real food. The best advise I can give you would be to make sure to go to the support/follow up group after you are finished with the diet. As well as follow the “get back on food” plan to a T. It will help you stay on track & keep in contact with Amber! I wish she would have been around when I got off my diet for the support, recipes & understanding. Keep being determined & focused and you will have no problems! Good luck & best wishes! 🙂

  5. I personally did not understand The Reset.. Here at BB we R soo motivational in getting people to exersice and to eat healthy..then this Reset comes along. Its like, okay..now Stop Everything BB has been telling You and Now..Try this. We All know Portain Control,Exersice and Healthy Choices are The Healthy way to live Life.. But this Reset.. BB has me confussed. I personally do not agree with The Reset and would not sell. The faster ya lose weight..the faster it Will come back. Thank u for sharing your Journey with us Amber.

    1. Shakeology was very tasteful and if you’re a chocalote lover the chocalote flavor is awesome. I made a smoothie out of mine with bananas and peanut butter and it was delicious! I like all the nutrients it has in it and low in calories. Can’t wait to get my own. Thanks again!

  6. Thanks for the great honest post, Amber!!! I eat paleo too, and I have considered doing all of the above cleanses because, well, the results promised are quite seductive, especially when you’ve been working your butt off to lose weight (the right way) and hit a plateau. I discarded the Master Cleans and juice fasting because I did not want to stop working out and/or lose muscle – that’s just going backwards in my mind. The BUR seemed appealing (I have IBS too and thought maybe a true “reset” would help) but when you told me you can’t workout, I scratched it off the list. Maybe I will try the Shakeology cleanse and see what I get. Thanks again, for all you do! 🙂

  7. Amber, thank you for your authenticity. You nailed it on the head for me.
    I failed the UR, big time. Like relapse. I knew in big part it was do to the ‘control’
    being in the program and not my hands. It IS an amazing product and is
    impacting so many lives. Thank you for helping me validate what I felt.

  8. Thank you Amber!! I have gotten off track in the last 2 months after my accident. I hadnt been able to exercise because I messed up my neck and the simplest task made my back and neck hurt. I just got CLX and I am so happy to start again. I went up 5 lbs that I had worked so hard to lose. I felt like crap for letting that happen. I say letting it happen becasue I shoudl have been in better control! …reading this just makes me realize no matter what happens….getting back to what I know is right is so much better than continuing what I dont want. Thank you from the bottom of my heart! You continue to make a difference in my life and pull me back in!

  9. I too have an eating disorder that comes back to haunt me sometimes. I went for 6 months without eating. I lived on 7 Up. I wish I was joking. I lost a lot of weight then. It frightened me terribly. Food was so repulsive. But I started eating a cracker one day and said, ok, I can do this. I lived on saltines for about a week, then went to grapefruit. Then to other easy digesting foods. I am plenty chunky now and struggle to lose weight. I work out a lot (hike, bike, walk, swim, gym) and I have gotten much more toned but still am huge. Every now and again I still go a weekend or several days without eating. Food just kind of repulses me sometimes, and certain foods repulse me totally. When that old feeling comes on me, I try to accept it as part of who I am, and know that it will resolve. I don’t revel in it or fight it. I just let it. It has happened twice this year, a couple or three days. Then I have gotten back.

  10. Thank you for your post! It made me realize that we are all human and we all slip up sometimes! Consistency and determination are key! Great review on the Ultimate Reset! Thanks 🙂

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