Obesity and poor health is a major issue in developed countries throughout the world. In many ways, the simple answer is for people to lose weight. But, as most of us know, that process isn’t nearly as easy as it sounds. Because of this, many of us turn to diets and lifestyle changes to try and lose weight.
One such approach is the clean 9 diet, also simply called the C9 diet.
This particular diet is also promoted as a cleanse diet. As such, the diet has an emphasis on the idea of getting rid of the toxins in your body and losing weight at the same time.
But, does the diet actually work and should you invest in it?
That’s what we’re going to find out.
Basics of the Diet
The first thing to know about the clean 9 diet is that it is a branded set of products.
The product comes from a company known as Forever Living, which is actually a MLM. The company describes its program as follows:
Essentially, people buy a pack, which contains a range of different products. You can see these in the image below.
The site itself gives very little information about what is involved in the diet or what you can expect. All the instructions are supposed to come with it, but the kit retails at over $100 on Amazon (and probably a similar price through the company), so buying it to find out seems like a bad idea.
Luckily, some online reviews do go into the process a bit more.
As the components of the pack suggest, a decent aspect of the diet involves taking supplements, including a Therm supplement (which is supposed to help boost your metabolism), a fiber supplement and a Garcinia Plus supplement. That last one comes from a tree called the Garcinia Cambogia and the company makes the following claims about it:
Personally, I’m extremely suspicious of any claims like this. There is very little evidence that the product actually plays any role in human weight loss (1) and some research even suggests that it may cause liver damage (2).
In addition to these supplements, people also take aloe.
Originally, the company’s plan just involved taking these various supplements and replacing all meals with the shakes that are also part of the kit. However, that approach is unrealistic for most people and the company changed it (slightly).
In the new version, the clean 9 diet allows people to also have some free foods, which consist entirely of fruits and vegetables The idea is to only eat these when you cannot stand being starving any longer and to follow these rules:
Even with this change, the diet would still be extremely difficult for most people to follow. For example, the later days of the program involve eating 1,000 calories (total) per day.
You can see the difficulty even more clearly when you look at day 2 of the diet, which the company provides as a sample:
Out of that entire day, there is only one item that even resembles food (the protein shake). Beyond that, you’re just taking supplements and eating aloe.
Even with up to four cups of fruit and vegetables a day – the diet would be torture.
Because the shakes contain a lot of nutrients, you won’t get malnourished. However, you will be extremely hungry a lot of the time.
To make the whole thing even more challenging, a lot of people say that the aloe tastes absolutely horrible. Additionally, you are supposed to exercise during the program. That would be pretty difficult for most people because you would have so little energy.
The Company Behind the Diet
In many ways, MLMs are an unusual type of business. They have a focus on recruiting people into the company and using them to sell products. There are a huge number of companies like this out there but some of the most famous ones include Amway and Avon.
Essentially, the companies sell products, while also promoting themselves as a money-making scheme. That business model can sometimes work well for the company (but not the distributors), while other times companies eventually go under.
I’m not going to go into the MLM model in detail because that isn’t relevant to the diet itself. However, I do want to note that MLM companies often heavily rely on hype to promote their products. A key reason for this is that there is just so much competition, particularly in the field of health, nutrition and weight loss.
So, if the company can convince people that their products are unique, they can make money.
That marketing approach is certainly one that Forever Living takes. All of their discussions on the various parts of the pack seem to focus on how effective they are, yet the company offers little evidence to support any of their claims.
To me, that practice makes me very suspicious of the clean 9 diet.
The MLM Model and Reviews
An underlying issue with the MLM approach is that it is extremely difficult to work out whether or not a product is legitimate and whether it actually works.
This happens because many of the reviews you find on the products are from people who are trying to earn money from the company (Forever Living, in this case). So, those people are very likely to give a glowing review of the clean 9 diet, regardless of their own personal experience.
Additionally, if you truly believe that something will work for weight loss or health, then you will tend to look much harder for results. Because of this, people will often convince themselves that they see results.
So, if you hear someone giving a raving review of this diet or its results, I would guess that they are either a distributor or someone who has been fooled by all of the hype.
The company has a strong emphasis on hype and promotion, with little focus on proving their claims. This, along with the MLM nature of the business, makes the diet suspicious
The Components of the Diet
To really look at this diet, we need to take a closer look at the individual components and approaches that are a part of it.
The idea of detoxing is a nutrition myth that has been around for quite some time. In part, the idea has become so strong because companies like Forever Living use the concept to sell their products. Yet, in reality, there is no significant scientific support that the concept actually works. In fact, detoxing doesn’t even make sense from a biological perspective, especially as the human body naturally removes toxins.
In practice, detoxing could potentially help you lose weight in the short-term, but that weight loss largely comes from water loss along with the fact that you might empty your bowels more completely than normal (which isn’t necessarily a good thing).
Regardless, detoxing itself isn’t going to make much of a difference for weight loss.
But, what about the rest of the clean 9 diet?
Forever Lite Ultra
One significant part of the clean 9 diet is this product here:
Essentially, the product is simply a type of protein powder. In this case, it’s soy protein powder (I prefer whey myself) and it has 17 g of protein per serving. In terms of protein count, that number is okay, but I’ve certainly seen protein powder that is better.
With this type of product, the idea is to have the power with milk (or in some cases water) as a replacement for meals. The original version of the clean 9 diet even have people consuming just these shakes and the various supplements.
Now, if you use protein shakes as a replacement for meals – then yes, you will lose weight.
That’s actually true of pretty much any protein shake, especially the ones that are high in protein and low in sugar.
There’s nothing amazing about that approach though. In general, a protein shake is naturally going to have fewer calories than a full meal – while the protein in it will help you to still feel satisfied.
In fact, many people do replace one meal per day with a protein shake as part of a healthy diet when they’re trying to lose weight.
This aspect of the diet alone would work for weight loss. Realistically, that alone is probably the reason that some people do swear the diet works.
The other reason that the diet works is simply that it involves intense calorie restriction. For example, days 3 to 9 of the program involve eating just 1,000 calories per day (which includes the calories from the shakes).
It goes without saying that if you cut down your calorie consumption that much, you are going to lose a significant amount of weight.
Again, there’s nothing amazing about this approach. It’s just basic logic.
Aloe and Supplements
The other main part of this diet is the various supplements and the aloe gel. In theory, these elements are all supposed to play a role in weight loss. However, there is little evidence to suggest that this is the case.
I mean, the fiber might help a little bit but honestly, you’re only taking a fiber supplement because you aren’t getting much fiber in a very low-calorie diet that relies mostly on protein shakes.
The company places a lot of emphasis on its use of aloe vera.
Now, there has been a lot of hype around the idea of aloe vera for weight loss recently and that might even be the reason that there’s so much interest in the clean 9 diet right now. But, it isn’t an area that has been extensively researched.
In fact, the only reason that aloe vera may play any role in helping people lose weight is that it fights constipation. So, if you don’t have constipation, it may well give you diarrhea (3). That could help with weight loss but not in any way that you would actually want. I mean, you’re trying to lose fat – a laxative isn’t going to directly help with that.
When I looked for any evidence that aloe vera helps with weight loss, I found that most sites simply focus on a few arguments, including:
- Is a laxative
- Increase metabolism
- Removes toxins
Now, there’s certainly no evidence that aloe vera increases metabolism, particularly as this is a claim that is made for all sorts of products but rarely ever proven. As I mentioned before, the idea of detoxing itself doesn’t even make sense and even if aloe vera did do this, removing toxins wouldn’t actually help you to lose weight.
So, at the end of the day, the various supplements (including aloe) are full of hype but there is no evidence that they actually play any role in weight loss at all.
The nature of the company does make reviews hard to rely on. However, the site Last Years Girl offers interesting insight into one person's experience with the diet.
As she points out, the approach does help to promote a healthy diet and lifestyle, which is certainly beneficial. But, the same outcomes can be seen without the products too.
The review is worth reading, as the author did lose weight and was successful - but is also realistic and carefully considers what caused her outcomes.
Beyond this, I did find some other individual reviews.
Most of the reviews were positive but there were some less encouraging ones too.
It's worth mentioning that there aren't many reviews. That's unusual. The presence of fewer reviews suggest that people aren't passionate about the product and/or that it simply isn't popular. Neither outcome is desirable.
Some people also highlighted side effects with the products.
Honestly, this isn't too surprising. One aspect of the Clean 9 Diet is drinking aloe gel. That's not the most pleasant experience and many people won't be used to it.
Aloe isn't a regular component of people's diets. This does mean there are more chances of side effects compared to conventional products (like protein shakes).
You'll notice that many of the reviews are positive, which may seem odd. After all, there isn't that much evidence for the individual products. Much of this pattern comes down to the fact that the diet does work - it just isn't one that's worth following.
The low-calorie nature of this diet and the use of protein shakes is a key reason why it works for weight loss - rather than the proprietary supplements and aloe gel
Does the Clean 9 Diet Work?
The simple answer is that the clean 9 diet does work, providing you stick to it. Honestly though, that isn’t a surprise. The diet basically consists of starving yourself for 9 days, while taking some supplements and protein shakes to make sure your body gets enough nutrients to cope.
So yes, you would lose weight.
Personally, I don’t think it would be worth it.
You would have to be extremely dedicated to be able to finish the diet and not gain the weight back immediately.
Plus, if you wanted to go to those extremes to lose weight, you could just follow a very low-calorie diet.
Realistically, that is the main thing that makes the diet work in the first place, and drinking protein shakes helps to make that achievable.
But, you can get protein shake mix from many other places, without having to shell out for the entire kit that Forever Living sells.
In fact, all of the ‘special’ components of their diet (like the supplements and the aloe) probably don’t do anything at all for your health or weight loss.
Short-Term versus Long-Term
The clean 9 diet spans 9 days, so it’s already clear that the diet is fairly short-term.
The idea is basically to get a decent amount of weight off in a short period of time. People sometimes use this type of approach to kick-start weight loss or to shed some weight that they are struggling to lose.
However, losing weight this way isn’t as beneficial as many people assume. For one thing, you tend to lose mostly water and you may also lose lean muscle mass (4,5). This is also why the site Muscle for Life considers severe restrictions to be the worst way to lose weight.
That is one reason that people often suggest that you should lose 1-2 pounds per week (6).
The other main issue is that a short-term diet doesn’t teach you any healthy strategies.
So, when the diet is over, people tend to go back to their previous eating and lifestyle habits. This practice will mean they put the weight back on fairly quickly.
Now, you can get around this by being careful. For example, you might use the diet for the 9 days and then follow a healthy diet and lifestyle.
However, I would still argue that there are better ways to lose weight in the short-term.
The clean 9 diet would probably work in the short-term for most people. But, that doesn't make it a good diet or a reliable way to lose weight long-term
Is it Worth It?
The clean 9 diet appeals to people because they like the idea of losing weight fast. The diet does let you do that but I imagine that many people would give up before they got anywhere near the 9-day mark.
Regardless of your desire to lose weight, I don’t think that torturing your body (and your mind) like this is ever a good idea.
At the end of the day (as Health Guidance points out), losing weight and getting healthy isn’t about fad diets.
Instead, you need to find a healthy lifestyle that you can follow from one week to the next and one year to the next. If you can’t, then you will simply find yourself losing and gaining weight, which isn’t desirable.
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Based on the truth behind this diet, is it one that you would consider trying?