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The Counter-Intuitive Ice Cream Cleanse

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I, ElinorD via Wikimedia Commons
I, ElinorD via Wikimedia Commons

LA-based fitness writer Brent Rose was enjoying some Kippy’s coconut-milk-based ice cream with his girlfriend in Venice, California… when they noticed the shop was offering a ‘cleanse.’   We kid you not: a multi-day diet regimen involving only coconut-milk ice cream… in the vein of the juice-only binges that have become popular lately.  (The goal being to detoxify and invigorate, though the science is still murky).  Brent lived to tell the tale, and shared it in article for Gizmodo.  He sat down with Rico and revisited the experience – over, yes, more ice cream. Masochism!
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Rico Gagliano: So tell us how this cleanse is supposed to work.

Brent Rose: The way it’s laid out is you have 5 meals a day and each meal is a pint of ice cream. So you start off with a breakfast pint of ice cream –

Rico Gagliano: A whole pint?

Brent Rose: — A whole pint. Now, you don’t have to finish it. But I pretty much finished all of them.

Rico Gagliano: Really?

Brent Rose: Yeah, surprisingly enough.

Rico Gagliano: Is that because you’re a glutton?

Brent Rose: I don’t know! I think it was, at first, because I was so worried that I would be hungry later — but you never find yourself starving during this diet. You’re getting plenty of calories.

I used to joke, back in the low-carb diet days for a while, that I wanted to create a diet that was all lipids and carbs and just call it “The Fatkins Diet.”  And that’s essentially what this is — this is the Fatkins diet! There’s almost no protein. It’s all fat and all carbohydrates.

Rico Gagliano: You’re living the dream.

Brent Rose: Yeah, or something.

Rico Gagliano: So you were very kind to bring into our studio some of the ice cream that you ate incessantly for 4 days. And one is labeled “Master Cleanse #4,” and one is labeled “Super Food #5.” I’ve never seen “super food” ascribed to ice cream before.

Brent Rose: Right. “Four” and “five” indicate that this is the fourth and fifth meal that you’d be eating during the day.

Rico Gagliano: So you had different ice creams at different points in the day?

Brent Rose: Right.

Brent Rose photo
Brent Rose, Cleanse Survivor.

Rico Gagliano: All right. So this would be #4, so this would be towards the end of the day.

Brent Rose: Yeah.

Rico Gagliano: Hold on, I’m gonna take a bite of this. It’s almost like a sorbet.

Brent Rose: Yeah. I think this one uses more coconut water than coconut cream so this one’s probably got a little bit less fat.

Rico Gagliano: My first instinct is to now say “I can almost get this,” because it’s not like you’re eating Baskin Robbins 4 times a day. You aren’t getting rocky road.

Brent Rose: But at the same time, if you look at the saturated fat ratio of coconut milk, it’s higher than butter.

Rico Gagliano: Well this is a question that I have for you: What were your trepidations going into this for 4 days, eating nothing but basically saturated fat?

Brent Rose: I guess my biggest concern was that my heart would just explode. Each day you’re eating about 180 grams of fat, 160 of which are saturated fat.

Rico Gagliano: What would be the typical, or the recommended?

Brent Rose: I don’t remember off the top of my head, but I know that that is 820% of your recommended daily intake of saturated fat.

Rico Gagliano: Now, you have relatives who are medical folk. You actually consulted with a former Harvard Medical Center person who’s now at Kaiser Permanente. Did they really give you the okay to do this? It seems a deeply unhealthy thing to try.

Brent Rose: My brother really didn’t want me to do it.  But my friend who’s from Harvard and the CDC, she was a little bit more measured. She’s like, “you probably won’t die doing this.” And she went on to explain that although it is saturated fat, coconut oil has been shown to raise your levels of HDL cholesterol — which is the good cholesterol — and lower your levels of LDL cholesterol, which is the bad cholesterol. So, theoretically, it might help unclog some of your arteries and sweep cholesterol buildup away that you’ve got in there. But at the same time, is too much of a good thing a really, really bad thing?

Rico Gagliano: And it almost always is, right? I have a friend who is a lab technician, who said if you give enough of anything to a rat, it’ll develop cancer. But on the other hand, it turns out that it doesn’t sound like this was a horrible experience for you.

Brent Rose: No. That was a surprise, because my girlfriend and I had done a juice cleanse once before, and it was just miserable. Splitting headaches, low energy, giant emotional mood swings. It was just—

Rico Gagliano: And you’re still together?

Brent Rose: We made it through that somehow. But this didn’t have any of that. We had plenty of energy the whole time. We both were exercising regularly throughout it, which is very rare for a cleanse. There were some indigestion issues—

Rico Gagliano: Yeah, gastrointestinal.

Brent Rose: —exactly—that plagued us pretty much the entire time, and really for about a week afterwards, before we got back to normal. So that was a drawback.

Rico Gagliano: This kind of brings up a larger issue: Should we be doing cleanses, period? This one, it sounds like, wins only because it was not miserable.

Brent Rose: Right. Personally I don’t really think so. I’m not a big believer in cleanses. I think if you really did do something and consume something very bad — heavy metals or something horrible — there is some evidence that maybe cleanses could help you in that capacity. All that stuff about weight loss and how it detoxifies your body, it’s iffy science.

And the weight loss… my girlfriend and I both lost about 6 pounds during this week, but we gained it all back immediately. And I think it wasn’t that we were losing fat during this, because we were consuming more than 3,000 calories a day. But what probably happened is, that level — that amount of saturated fat — acts as a diuretic. So it was actually dehydrating our cells no matter how much water we were drinking. We were drinking tons.

Rico Gagliano: But on the other hand, this is has not put you off of ice cream, is my understanding.

Brent Rose: That’s correct. It didn’t even put us off of Kippy’s coconut ice cream! A week later we were both like, “Oh what do you feel like? Oh, I could go for some ice cream. That wouldn’t be so bad.”

Rico Gagliano: How’s that possible?

Brent Rose: You know, it’s really good ice cream at a normal dose.