I have always found the idea to be a little crazy. I eat well most of the time, and I try to be active, but I do have my vices. I’m a reluctant-to-quit smoker, a large coffee-a-day drinker and I can’t say no to a cheesy slice of pizza, but I was determined to “cleanse,” even if it meant surviving on liquid for three days. I wanted to know if the rumours were true. Do “toxins” float out of your system, like sands through the hourglass? Can my problem skin become fresher, more elastic and, dare I say, youthful? Will I sleep better? Will my depression melt away?
I signed up for one of these juice cleanses with a representative from Cedar, a company that prepares six cold-press juices a day and spells the process out for you by labelling each bottle with a number.
So, with my new and easy way to “eat,” I cracked open juice number one: “Kale Made Good.” I like kale, but I don’t love kale. One of my closest friends has made me kale juice in the past, but it was never intended as a meal – it was more of an apertif. This had the fibrous, leafy green, romaine, parsley, pear, ginger and lemon. All I tasted was earthy green, and I told my roommate, “Oh, I don’t like this. I thought the pear would at least sweeten it a little.” Then I realized that I had to drink two of them a day.
I didn’t hate the green juice, and in my head I knew the health benefits of all of those hearty greens in a bottle. But I wasn’t satisfied in the way I’d be with, say, a black coffee and a cigarette. But that’s part of this: changing your routines to re-learn your day-to-day. “I’m making good choices! I’m Goop! My poops are going to be so green,” I thought to myself. I had begun, and I had no concept of how well or horribly this would go.
It feels terrible, like a kind of self-awareness that you think people only experience when they’re dying.
The process thereafter was simple, in that I drank a new juice every two to three hours, ensuring that my last juice was consumed two hours before I went to sleep. What I liked about the juice cleanse was how easy it was to not worry about preparing food or leaving my desk to get food. That’s important, and kind of essential, because your thinking and doing skills slow down to the pace of Methuselah on his last days. Everything happens in slow motion, speaking your native tongue becomes next to impossible and you begin to hear silence, despite the ramblings of a neighbouring colleague. It feels terrible, like a kind of self-awareness that you think people only experience when they’re dying. To my knowledge, I wasn’t dying, but I was hungry, irritable, achey, slow and anxious.
I cracked open number two, which was a mix of pineapple, pear and mint, and incredibly refreshing. So refreshing, in fact, that I gulped it faster than a 1970s porn star. There’s no instruction in any of my preparation e-mails or documents that said, “savour the moment,” but there should have been. When you down a bottle, there’s no bottle for two to three hours, and that waiting can swiftly become all-consuming.
The headaches are unbearable, and I wanted to do this straight, so I refused Advil and just drank tea.
There were other juices, but they simply became juice, and not a culinary experience or something I even wanted to think about. There were beets, more mint, more pear, lemon and coconut nectar, but I became so hungry that drinking simply became a survivalist exercise. By drink number four, the withdrawals began. Ditching caffeine and nicotine is a good thing, yes, but you should wean off the stuff, and not just enthusiastically accept an opportunity to do a juice cleanse. The headaches are unbearable, and I wanted to do this straight, so I refused Advil and just drank tea.
Ah, tea. I love herbal tea, and it’s usually a joy to drink, but tea on a juice cleanse is made to quell hunger, so it’s purely supplemental. I can tell you that this doesn’t work, and only makes you pee more. I had a full bladder, but I was still dying for a morsel of solid food. On my first day of cleansing, I had urinated more than 10 times, and it was only just the beginning.
I’ll tell you, there is literally not a single thing exciting about this at all. It’s juice.
By the evening, I cracked open “Cracked It,” bottle number six that’s a combination of vanilla bean, cashew, hemp and coconut nectar. It’s beyond good – it’s like dessert, but I hated myself for getting so excited about what was essentially another juice, and not a bag of chips. But I think that’s the juice cleanse’s way, to trick you into being excited about the endeavour with a thick and slightly sweet elixir, because, I’ll tell you, there is literally not a single thing exciting about this at all. It’s juice. At this point, I was crying in my bed. By the end of day one I had a horrible migraine, my tummy hurt and I was lamenting the whole experience via text to my boyfriend. I passed out at 9:30 p.m.
That night, I slept for 10 hours. And it’s no surprise that I did, because my body was so fatigued from a whole day of liquid calories (and the caloric deficit that entails). I woke up at 7:30 a.m. and awaited 8:30 a.m., counting every millisecond until I could consume my first dose of the green stuff.
Getting to work the next day felt like shooting billiard balls from your anus. The streetcar, crammed, I was too tired and irritable to even partake in my typical daily ritual of “sorry, so sorry.” Navigating subway stairs and just walking felt like trudging through quick sand, and then there was hazy dizziness, like smoking pot without the chuckles and the munchies. I stopped to hold the wall, as the slurry of human flesh and bone made its uniformed strut out into the working world.
You learn a lot about yourself when you’re peeing 14 times a day.
Upon arrival at work, the elevator was broken. I nearly cried. I like taking the stairs, but even the idea of tackling this emotional Everest felt like too much to handle. It seemed silly to turn around and go home, but I definitely considered it. I made my way up the stairs and proceeded to my regimented schedule of juicing, pissing, juicing, pissing and working.
You learn a lot about yourself when you’re peeing 14 times a day. And then a slight paranoia begins to set in, where you imagine that the woman who sees you consistently using the loo believes you have some sort of workday coke habit. Little did she know I was merely witnessing a routine bowl of blood-red urine, courtesy of the beet juice from the day before.
Had I done this at home, I’d be ham-fisting a bowl or twelve of cereal in the first three hours.
My friends suggested I tackle this particular exercise in self-inflicted cruelty during the week, because I wouldn’t be “close to snacks,” and they were definitely right. Had I done this at home, I’d be ham-fisting a bowl or twelve of cereal in the first three hours. But at work, at least I had, well, work to keep me occupied.
But, here’s the thing, one of my jobs is to edit the food section of this website, so picture me, an irritable and painfully fatigued man, not able to eat, drink coffee or smoke, sorting through images of matcha tea-inclusive recipes. I love matcha tea, and I wanted to so desperately eat everything I was working on. It became clear to me at that very moment that I hate myself.
I had become the equivalent of a back-talking Ann Coulter.
When I’m hungry, I can become a monster. By the end of the day, after four or so juices and a few herbal teas (and, to reiterate, at least 14 potty breaks), I was not having anything. Even totally respectable requests from my boss were met with, “no, I am not.” But that isn’t me at all. I like my job, and I am such an affable person on most days, and yet now I had become the equivalent of a back-talking Ann Coulter.
And then came the bleak sadness, and intense, physical pains. The muscles in my legs began to ache, as if hot coals were being inserted between bone and muscle. And stomach cramps began to take hold, wrenching my insides and leaving me awake and restless, despite being tired. I e-mailed my boss, “I’m feeling incredibly ill, and I’d like to work from home tomorrow.”
They say by day three, it gets easier.
And that’s where I am now, working from home, refusing any impulse to eat anything, lying in bed and counting the minutes until my next juice. I just drank juice number two, the tasty one, and it’s all gone. By 7:30 p.m., this will all be over, and it’ll be one more sleep until I can eat solid food again.
They say by day three, it gets easier. Your body is said to acculturate to this fierce climate of starvation, but that’s not true for me. I’m still unbelievably hungry, and I still keep thinking that I’m going to eat my regularly scheduled lunch. The idea of food, real food, has always been on my mind. I’m crankier than I have ever been, I told my boyfriend I couldn’t see him tonight (we see each other every Friday) because I feared agitation from, well, literally anything, and I’m basically trapped in my bedroom, with the door closed to the outside, free-eating world.
What do I have to show for all of this? I don’t feel better, I don’t look more vibrant, but I’ve lost a few pounds? Pounds, that I’m told, are merely just water weight, so I’ll gain them back anyway. I guess I’ve learned that I can go without caffeine and cigarettes, and that I should be more mindful about when and how I eat. Those are very valuable lessons, so those are definite points for a juice cleanse. But I’ll probably be off juice for a year, now. The thought of juice has officially lost its appeal. So, in a way, I guess I am truly cleansed.
[UPDATE: January 19, 2014, 1:46 p.m.]:
Okay, so I lied. I didn’t finish my cleanse. But don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds. On my last night, my aches worsened, like the nagging reminder from a freshly opened paper cut. And as I worked from bed, praying for death, I somehow made it to my last juice. The 7:30 p.m. juice came and went, and I felt no better than before I had chugged it. “Why?” I remember thinking. If caloric deprivation is the catalyst for a natural high, I wasn’t feeling it. I can say with absolute certainty that I’m not going to parade around in a t-shirt that says, “I don’t pop Molly, I juice cleanse.”
So, if for some reason my tale encourages you to do a juice cleanse (hey, stranger things have happened), make sure you understand your limitations and listen to your body.
And that’s why, three hours prior to the end of this three-day experience, I walked outside, went to Pizzaville, and slowly, cautiously, ate a slice of vegetarian pizza. See, the thing is, you really do need to re-educate your jaw a little. Although soft, I was chewing much more leisurely than I would otherwise. It felt strenuous, like listening to someone talk about the “wonders” of juice cleansing. But I did it, I ate it, and I don’t feel bad about it. The whole cleanse, I didn’t listen to my body. Deprive, deprive, deprive was my motto, and I stuck to it, because that’s essentially the nature of a juice cleanse.
But I couldn’t take it. I was broken. And, truthfully, the pizza didn’t make me feel great. And that’s not because I was “reintroducing toxins,” it’s because I chose melted dairy and stone-baked bread as my first solid food back from a liquid diet. But I wasn’t going to “sip broth,” and for that, I suffered.
Seriously, if you have any energy on a juice cleanse to have sex, you are some sort of bizarre human being.
But the suffering was short, and the real food helped me focus less on my tummy agony, which helped me sleep. And sleep was just not happening with ease, and boy did I need it. So, if for some reason my tale encourages you to do a juice cleanse (hey, stranger things have happened), make sure you understand your limitations and listen to your body. Heck, talk to your doctor (I didn’t, but I did after the fact and his advice was “Oh, I wouldn’t have recommended that”). If you’re not experiencing some sort of cosmic release, maybe it’s a load of hooey or maybe it’s just not gonna happen for you, like heavenly tourism?
For the remainder of my weekend, I ate with small bites, and chewed generously. A small bowl of granola took 20 minutes to consume, and I’ve got eight boxes of granola at home right now and know how to Hoover a bowl or two. Eating was exhausting.
I drank coffee. I smoked. I had sex. I did all of the things that I couldn’t do (seriously, if you have any energy on a juice cleanse to have sex, you are some sort of bizarre human being), and although I view my life choices differently, I will not live on juice ever again. And that’s my choice to make.