Meet Today's Silly Diet Fad: The Ice Cream Cleanse

Warning: You're going to hear digestive TMI.

(Photo: Alex Cao/Getty Images)

Jason Best is a regular contributor to TakePart who has worked for Gourmet and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

What do you get when an alternative health craze meets the tabloids' truth-is-stranger-than-fiction ethos? The Ice Cream Cleanse.

As in this headline over at tech site Gizmodo’s Fitmodo blog (presented by New Balance!): “I Did the World’s First Ice Cream Cleanse: Yes, Really.”

Like a bad episode of one of those true-crime TV shows that sucks you in only to leave you wondering halfway through why the hell you’re watching it (yet you keep watching), such a headline is practically guaranteed to ensnare you, even if you are, like me, sick of hearing about “the cleanse.”

Because you know at some point you’re going to have to start actively suppressing your gag reflex. Why hasn’t anyone told these cleanse chroniclers that just because you’re “on a cleanse” doesn’t give you license to break what has got to be pretty much the No. 1 social taboo on the books? No one wants to hear about your poop.

Sure enough, halfway through day 1 of Brent Rose’s account of his and his girlfriend’s four-day ice cream cleanse, there it is, complete with a flourish of almost sommelier-like descriptive prose.

“I don’t know if it was the salt or just the accumulated saturated fats, but it was like, ‘Hey! You need to go, like, now!’” Rose writes. “Not emergency style, but it was definitely assertive. It wasn’t horrible or acidic, but it was a long way from solid. Is this why they call it a cleanse? Girlfriend [who wisely chooses to remain anonymous] reported that she was in the same boat.”

Awww.

All this for what even Rose finally admits is likely more or less a publicity stunt by alt–ice cream maker Kippy’s, located in (where else?) Venice, Calif.

First off, this isn’t ice cream in the traditional sense, so it’s not like you’re scarfing down pints of Breyers Rocky Road for four days in a row. It’s “raw, organic, and coconut-based,” as in coconut cream sweetened with raw honey and other natural flavors, then frozen.

So while a couple postprandial scoops of Kippy’s is likely a healthier alternative to a heaping Baskin-Robbins waffle cone, subsisting on $240 worth of "ice cream," the equivalent of 280 percent of your recommended daily allowance for total fat and 820 percent of saturated fat, is (no surprise) likely to throw your body into a kind of bad acid trip without the side benefit of transcendental hallucinations. (Not to mention the 360 grams of sugar you’re consuming per day.)

Nevertheless, Rose and his game girlfriend embark on 96 hours of Kippy’s-only nutritional chaos. To summarize what at times feels like an interminable navel-gazing (or toilet-bowl-gazing) narrative: They’re alternately giddy and energetic, then crabby, weak, and shaky. They go to the bathroom—a lot. And in the end, they lose a few pounds, which Rose, at least, packs on again in the span of one long post-cleanse weekend.

Save for celebrities, who, judging by the supermarket rags, only seem to actually work a few weeks a year, one always wonders how these fanatic cleansers manage to find a stretch of four or more days where they can spend dealing with what seems like hours of digestive fallout following a cleanse while also using their bursts of health euphoria to engage in four-mile runs, meditation, and CorePower yoga.

Rose calls in a nutritionist formerly with the Harvard School of Public Health to assess the health claims of the Kippy’s Ice Cream Cleanse, and she offers a “measured” analysis: The fat content of coconut oil is worrisome, but some studies suggest coconut’s health benefits outweigh its risks. Buried (at least in Rose’s summary of it) is what seems like the most salient point: “She did, however, note that consuming too much of a ‘good thing’ can be problematic [and] that a balanced diet is extremely important.…”

That’s pretty much what any reputable nutritionist is going to tell you. The cleanse craze (may it end soon) seems to be a byproduct of a chronic paranoia we collectively have about the toxins we surround ourselves with on a daily basis. I’m no shill for the modern medical-science-industrial complex, but our bodies are, in fact, exquisitely designed to rid themselves of nasty chemicals—whether through sweat, urine, or (yes) feces. Whatever risks those chemicals pose likely come from long-term exposure—something four days of eating only raw coconut ice cream and enduring explosive bowel movements is not likely to remedy.

But hey, it may give your skin a great glow.

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