After yesterday’s post, I think you guys all have a pretty good idea of where I was at with the whole juice cleanse business. However, after posting yesterday, I had a long, internal fight with myself on whether to quit the cleanse early, or just suffer through it for another 12 hours.
Long story short, I quit. I quit at 2pm yesterday, after barely being able to choke down 2/3 of the Green Apple Juice that morning, and literally driving myself to starvation out of not wanting to drink any more juice after that. I thought I might feel bad about it — like I’d failed myself, and the 6-ish people who actually read and take interest in this blog. But y’know what? After I quit, I realized I didn’t feel bad at all. I felt good. So here’s why I quit, and why I don’t feel bad about it:
I know I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I had tried to drink more of the Beet Juice after posting on Wednesday, and felt incredibly nauseous as a result. Well, yesterday morning I could hardly stomach the Green Apple Juice. I felt as though I was drinking medicine (the kind where you hold your nose and just down it because you know you’ll die of scurvy or whatever if you don’t take it). Just the thought of having to drink the Pineapple Apple Mint, Parsnip Pears and Celery, and the Cashew Milk made my stomach turn. In short, yesterday I drank (I use that term loosely because really I was quickly gulping it down whilst simultaneously trying not to puke) about 10-12 oz of the Green Apple Juice at 7:45am, and then ate nothing until 2pm. Don’t get me wrong, I was starving by that point; but my brain decided that I would rather starve than drink more juice. At 2pm, I came to the realization that my body was trying to communicate something with me: I wanted food. Real food, not juice. Sure, there’s lots of fruits and veggies in those juices, but you know that saying, “Man cannot live on bread alone?” Well, man (and woman) were not made to live on juice alone. No matter how healthy and complete this cleanse seemed when I started it, I quickly realized that there were some glaring deficiencies — both nutritional, as well as physical and mental — in this cleanse.
First, the nutritional deficiency: part of what makes fruits and veggies so darn good for you (in addition to their low-calorie, vitamin-packed nature) is the amount of fiber they contain. However, there are two very important types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water (like Metamucil), so you get to keep this fiber when you juice a fruit or vegetable. Soluble fiber slows digestion and keeps you feeling full longer (one of the ways this whole juice cleanse works — feeling full longer generally = consuming fewer calories in the long-run). Insoluble fiber exists in things like edible fruit peels, root vegetable skins, and whole grains, and doesn’t dissolve in water; thus, when you juice something, like an apple, you don’t get to keep the insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is what keeps things moving in your GI tract; which, as you can imagine, is very important to your overall health.
Second, the physical and mental deficiency: when you consume juice for 3 days straight, as you can imagine, there’s no chewing involved. While this isn’t anything that will likely affect your health negatively in the long-run (plenty of people live on a liquid diet for longer than 3 days after having surgery, etc.), it can affect your physical stress level in the short-term. What I found on day 2 of the cleanse, was that I was incredibly cranky at the end of the day. KC came home late from work and asked, “What’s wrong with you? Are you starving?” I thought about it for a minute (having already consumed a lovely dinner alone of Cashew Nut Milk), and then replied, “I’m not actually. I’m not even hungry; I just want food. I want to chew something.” There’s a certain satisfaction you get from chewing during a meal, which you don’t really realize until you can’t do it, or choose not to do it, for a period of time. Chugging down juices as fast as I could manage (because I was sick of the constant sweetness) was satisfying my physical hunger, but didn’t actually satisfy the part of my brain which was hungry. And as a result, the act of eating was no longer something which was pleasurable, calming, or even satisfying; it was work. It was stressful.
By the time 2pm rolled around on Thursday, I was hungry, cranky, and feeling more stressed than ever. It was at this point it dawned on me that a huge part of being healthy is listening to what your body is telling you: what it needs. It’s difficult to identify the difference between what your body wants (pizza, chocolate, french fries) sometimes, from what it actually needs (water, nutritionally-dense foods, etc.). At 2pm, I realized that my body both wanted and needed real food. If I simply wanted the food, the smell and taste of what I was consuming wouldn’t be making me feel physically ill. Therefore, at 2pm yesterday, I said to hell with it, made myself healthy lunch, and tossed the juice. And you know what? It felt, and tasted, amazing. I felt healthier eating a whole-wheat English muffin than I had in the past 2.5 days of consuming nothing but fruits, veggies, and nuts. I felt full, satisfied, healthy and energized.
So, here are my concluding thoughts on the cleanse:
- The people who claim to feel “amazing” in their reviews of the cleanse: I’m fairly certain these are written after the cleanse, once they return to real food. Eating consciously and healthfully makes you feel amazing, drinking juice for 3 days straight makes you feel tired and annoyed.
- Those who claim it helped their skin and complexion: maybe they don’t eat fruits and veggies on a daily basis, because my skin looked pasty, dry, and sad (and yes, there’s a difference between being pale and being pasty — I should know.)
- I returned to real food yesterday and had a better night’s sleep than I had the past 2 nights while on the cleanse. Coincidence? I’m thinking not.
- Though it’s called a “cleanse,” it doesn’t actually cleanse anything. Your body has a built-in detoxing process, which is best served by eating a healthy and balanced diet regularly. 3 days of fruit and veggie juice doesn’t “kick it into overdrive and flush out the toxins.” These “juice cleanses” used to be called “juice fasts” (for good reason), then they were re-branded just like Global Warming. Guess what? Just because it’s called Climate Change now doesn’t change the fact that the ice caps are melting at an alarming rate. Global Warming is a more accurate description, and so is “juice fast.”
- If, despite all this, you’ve decided to do a juice cleanse (for whatever reason), I would recommend doing a DIY cleanse like the one I did so that you know what you’re actually putting in your body. (Knowing what you’re putting in your body generally is important, but is especially when doing something semi-drastic like a cleanse.)
And finally, while eating dinner last night, I realized that for the past 2 days I’d been eating 2 handfuls of cashews for dinner. Sure, there was some cinnamon and vanilla in there; but the only thing that was really nutritionally relevant in there was the cashews. Looking down at the salad I’d made (complete with greens, bell pepper, tomato, cucumber, lean turkey, white beans, and croutons I’d made from bread I made myself from scratch), I felt the full weight of why my body had been telling me what had earlier that day. Being, and getting, healthy is not something that happens overnight. It’s not something that happens in 3 days. It’s a conscious choice you make everyday. And while you may have some slip-ups here and there, if you make a conscious effort to know what you’re putting in your body, and make good choices based on that knowledge, you’ll be fine.
January challenge: complete (well, mostly).
Currently: happy, healthy, energized, and ready for a long weekend!