Are ‘Office Cleanses’ Just Workplace-Enforced Anorexia?

Not food.
Not food. Photo: iStockphoto

Today’s Times reports on the burgeoning phenomenon of group cleanses in the workplace, which apparently accounts for a hefty percentage of many juice companies’ business. Places like BluePrint Cleanse now offer options that cater specifically to corporate groups; Cooler Cleanse founder Eric Helms says office cleansers now make up 30 percent of his customers. What’s the appeal of opening one’s office fridge to find rows upon rows of liquefied spinach? Apparently co-workers help each other get through their cleanse regimens, and treat it like a group-bonding exercise akin to name games or after-work cocktail hours. Some workplaces even have rituals to help colleagues make it through their 1,200-calorie-per-day diets, according to the Times:

At the Madison Avenue office of the fashion Web site Moda Operandi, every empty bottle was slammed triumphantly on the Ping-Pong table. At the Brooklyn outpost of a Big Four accounting firm, there was a first tentative sip in unison of that hour’s concoction, followed by tasting notes — while cleanse dropouts were referred to as “doing the walk of shame” to the refrigerator. Employees on the business side of Shape magazine devised a relay-style warning system when there was free food around.

Yes, a relay-style warning system! We have a similar network at The Cut, except it’s slightly different: “There’s free cake in the kitchen — go try the red velvet, it’s going fast!” Or, “Ally has stroopwafels at her desk!” When imagining the prospect of a staffwide juice cleanse (which, by the way, are NOT recommended by health professionals, nor anyone here at The Cut), we envisioned the following scenario:

Day 1 of The Cut’s fictional juice fast
9 a.m.: Hilary slaps a banana out of Charlotte’s hands and stomps it into mushy pulp on the carpet. “You’ll thank me someday,” she says kindly as Charlotte sobs with relief. They clink their bottles of lemon juice over their cube walls and toast to all the water weight they’re about to lose.
1 p.m.: Sally warns everyone to stay out of the kitchen. “Free pizza,” she cautions darkly. Ally asks about the crumbs on her blouse. “THOSE AREN’T CRUMBS, THEY’RE LINT,” Sally roars, hastily picking them off her shirt and eating them.
2 p.m.: Maureen goes to the bathroom for the seventh time.
5 p.m.: Diana, appearing to be on some sort of juicer’s high, climbs on top of her desk and announces to the office that she can fly before fainting noisily onto a pile of unopened mail. 

Day 2 of The Cut’s fictional juice fast
8:30 a.m.:
 Diana calls in sick. 
10 a.m.: Steph catches Christina Google-imaging pictures of steak and pulls up a chair to join.
11 a.m.: A pigeon perches on the windowsill; Stella eyes it hungrily.
1 p.m.: Charlotte’s hair starts coming out in clumps.
5 p.m.: Maureen whittles her teeth into sharp points. “Screw this, I need meat,” she murmurs under her breath, and makes a beeline for the elevators. Ally manages to tackle her, but not before her pants, which are now hanging loosely from her gaunt frame, fall down around her ankles. 

We could keep going with this, but instead, we’re going to go eat our lunch. Moral of our fictional story: Workplace cleanses — and cleanses in general — are not healthy. And if you’re really strapped for ways to bond with your co-workers, we can suggest some much more fun alternatives.

‘Office Cleanses’ or Work-Enforced Anorexia?