A few weeks ago, I woke on a Saturday morning to the hazy, Hangover-esque aftermath of a weeklong food bender. New Year’s Resolutions were a thing of the not so distant past, and a bag of sweet potato tortilla chips and a chocolate bar wrapper had been my bed fellows. I felt like crap, my digestive system was shot, and my skin was rebelling. It was time for drastic measures.
I immediately went on a juice cleanse.
I said “see ya later!” to coffee, and to chewing, and to being an easy dinner guest, and everything but five juices, one nut milk, and one “booster shot” a day. I also cut back on my work outs, became wedded to the steam room, and endured the single most blinding caffeine withdrawal headaches I have ever experienced, ever.
(It was the worst because when I’ve had one of those in the past, I’ve just gone to get coffee. I am weak, I am human, I am a sinner, I happily give into the siren song of Starbucks. I have never willfully ignored that call before. Talk about tying yourself to the mast and living to see that torture through.)
And by day two, the headache didn’t go away. By day three, I almost asked a woman selling churros on the street if she sold churro juice. (After tweet-sourcing, I’ve learned that churro juice by any other name is horchata. And I don’t even like rice-based milk enough be all over that, but I was so. all. over. that. in theory.) Blame the cleanse.
Actually, “blame the cleanse” became my motto for a lot of things. For a grumpy mood. For passing out at 8:30 p.m. on Superbowl Sunday because ugh, I didn’t care if it’s Queen Bey, she of all that is holy, I just wanted to sleep. (And Beyonce has done that master cleanse cayenne-pepper-molasses-lemon-water nonsense, so she would understand my pain. I’ve been absolved by the anointed, don’t give me grief about it.) I even told somebody that I hadn’t eaten in two days when I called in a favor and really, it wasn’t far from the truth.
Because I hadn’t. I’d been drinking nothing but the juice, and a cholorphyll-infused water that turned my tongue and teeth green, and tons of water. Food became the only thing I could think about, and juice was the only thing I could have. Yes, it was self-imposed, yes, it was a really extreme end of the spectrum, but the juices were pricy, and I didn’t want anything to go to waste. So I stuck it out. Every bottle became a bit of a blur. I could no longer distinguish my feeding times, and I had to keep myself busy in ways other than chewing food. Once you realize you can no longer do it, masticating turns into a great amount of entertainment. I would live vicariously through other people’s burgers.
And I woke up on day four, felt a little better, and even worked out. But getting through all that juice had become difficult. I got through the booster, three juices, and one milk, but I physically couldn’t drink more than that. (I have two juices left over for today, yay for saving money?) And my appetite totally changed because every time I looked at food, the concept of chewing it just seemed so… daunting.
Day five was a blur. I was numb to everything about food. I existed in a haze of just wanting to get the last day over with. And on day six, my first bite of food was at lunchtime. It was a carrot, and it took me a full ten minutes to eat it.
It took a full three more days to ease myself back into eating food at most meals. And whatever water weight I lost in those five days of mania, I gained back. My jeans fit the same way they had in the outset. I didn’t mind that. I had just wanted to reset my tastebuds.
And reset them I did. I learned, for instance, that I like vegetables. I mean like, I really like them, and you kind of have to if you’re consistently downing a drink made of romaine, celery, spinach, cucumber, and parsley, the end.
(You have no idea how much I wanted to plan a route with a burger involved. Sadly, I don’t think vegan food joints are all that big on that kind of juice.)
And while I’ve had green juices as part of a semi-daily thing before, I now know that my body will really tap into the theory of, “Oh! She’s feeding me a green juice now! Time to get back onto the healthy rails!” for the mornings when, yup, I ate a burger, and some fries, and like three slices of cake the night before. Because there will be those nights, and there should always be those nights, but there should be a way to put an end to them. Benders aren’t cute. Sleeping next to junk food isn’t, either. Neither, however, is being constantly bitchy and wanting to strangle somebody just because they are eating a sandwich and you are choosing not to.
It really was just the liquid versus solid issue that hit me most. I was still ingesting about 1200 calories a day, which, yes, is a little low, but it’s definitely more than nothing. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie, and I think I wasn’t hit with a constant sugar buzz because the nutrients outweighed the sugar, or something, but I’m no scientist so I won’t claim to know exactly why. My stomach was always full, but my mouth never was. It was a weird twilight zone.
Everyone I encountered asked if I was doing the cleanse for weight loss. And it would be so easy to get sucked into that whole aspect of the ordeal. Not only are most plans pretty low calorie and provide pretty immediate (water weight!!) results, but “I can’t, I’m on a juice cleanse,” seems a hell of a lot more final than the trite “I can’t, I’m on a diet,” or the vague, “Oh, I’m not really eating that right now.” (Here’s a helpful hint: a polite but firm “No, thanks,” actually works wonders. It’s like the spandex blend of turning down food.) You paid top dollar for the thing, you’re committing yourself to only drinking juice, you’re lugging around six bottles a day and are therefore the TSA’s worst living nightmare, and just saying it is enough to instill fear into the hearts of your dinner companions. “Oh, no!” they think. “If I press her further, she might work voodoo magic on me and I’ll be reduced to only drinking juice, too!” And so they leave you alone. Basically, it’s a bad-food eschewer’s wet dream.
Which could be a slippery slope into a… you guessed it, eating disorder.
Could be, because I’ve known people who swear by juice cleanses for their medicinal benefits, and I’m not saying that everyone who is on a cleanse has an eating disorder. I get the science behind how you’re packing your body with nutrients, how you’re ingesting pounds upon pounds of produce that would take you for.ev.errr to consume otherwise, and how it might be a bit of a nice break from coffee, gluten, dairy, and whatever other irritants you might not even be aware are plaguing your body. It might even be a good way to kickstart other healthy eating habits, because sweet stuff doesn’t have a hold on me as much anymore. I find an apple plenty sweet now. And trust me, I love cookies. I’m just underlining the fact that to really stick with it and succeed, you would have to go into this whole juicing process hoping for all of the other benefits, and not with the dreams of losing a few pounds, because they will, in all likelihood, return, and then you’ll just end up being super discouraged.
A friend asked me if I was proud of my will power to get through all five days. I kind of shrugged and said, “I guess?” because it wasn’t so much will power as it was just going on auto-pilot. I didn’t have to cook. I didn’t have to put much thought into it. I just drank juice. And while I feel like I have more clarity, and that I’m sleeping better — or at least, I’m finally giving into my body telling me that yes, it’s now time to just go to sleep instead of staying up for one more episode of Downton Abbey — and that my skin has actually cleared up.
But I did it. I survived a five day juice cleanse, and now I crave vegetables like crazy, and I might revisit things every once in a while when my eating habits get thrown out of whack again. (I’m looking at you, Christmas 2013.) But maybe only for a day or two. Not five.
Because really, five days is way too long to go without dessert. And as amazing and creamy and thick and sweet and fresh as the coconut milk that came with the cleanse was, it still wasn’t real dessert.
I just know now that I might just start calling kale and a cookie “dinner.” Because hey, it’s all in the name of balance, or something.