(some trigger warnings for discussion of weight and dieting)
Today marks, officially, 30 days since I decided to go on a juice fast. I’d like to say it’s been a wild ride, but honestly? This was one of the easiest and most successful diets I’ve ever done. In fact, if I’d had any idea how easy it would be, I would have done this ages ago. Over this past month I’ve had more energy, a more positive outlook, my skin is glowing, and I feel better than I have in years.
So, why live on nothing but juice for 30 days? Well, for starters, I’ve never been happy with my weight. On top of that, I went off a medication early in the summer that resulted in a thirty pound weight gain in a little over three months. I felt horrible, and went out drinking frequently to make myself feel better. One Thursday night in early September, I went out with some friends and drank with a completely nihilistic “fuck it all” attitude. I woke up the next morning ragingly hung over, depressed, and feeling like a failure. I called out of work, partly due to the hangover, but partly to give myself time to think. I found myself craving a serious change in my life.
I told my husband that I wanted to do a cleanse, something to “reboot” my system. When I said I was thinking of doing a juice fast, I expected him to laugh at me, to talk me out of it. But instead, he looked thoughtful. He replied, “let’s do it.”
Excited (and surprised) to hear he was on board, I did some research. First thing was to watch the documentary “Fat, Sick and nearly Dead” (streaming on Netflix), which was inspirational and motivational. I also checked a lot of websites to see what to do, what to expect, ect. And, we went out for cheesesteaks to commemorate the night before we started the fast (not recommended, but damn, they were good).
We bought a Breville multi-speed juice fountain, a whole bunch of produce, and started juicing. I checked out juice recipes on the internet, and was surprised to find how tasty the fresh juices we made were (I thought about doing something like Blueprint, but 4 days of Blueprint = the cost of the juicer soooo…). We stuck to three or four main recipes, with a few new ones thrown in occasionally for variety. I’d make up a whole bunch of juice every few days so we weren’t stuck cleaning the juicer constantly. The system was: wake up, have a juice (if hungry), pack a mason jar of juice for work, sip juice all morning, go to my local juice place for a lunch juice, gym after work, go home and have a final evening juice (or more as hunger required). On days where I was really plagued by cravings for certain foods, I’d occasionally have a miso broth, which helped curb the feelings substantially.
The first four days were the hardest. I can see why a lot of people find juicing unpleasant –I had headaches, I felt hungry, and I was awash in cravings. However, it led to some new awareness. Every commercial tempted me with some kind of fried food or burger. Every store had shelves lined with candy, cake, soda, etc. I’d always thought I’d understood Michael Pollan’s “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants” edict, but I soon realized how much my habits had been shaped by the world around me. I’d thought I was eating ok, but only until I cut out all habits completely did I realize how much food motivated me, rewarded me, and entertained me. And the food I was using for these ends wasn’t healthy – it was all “treat” food. As my landlord likes to say, “there’s yer problem, right there.”
After the first two weeks, the cravings really subsided. I found I had a remarkable amount of energy – more than I’d had in years. My husband, who usually wakes up a grump, was becoming a positive morning-type person. The change was surreal. My workouts grew more intense over the following weeks, and I felt stronger and tougher than before. I mean, how can you not feel tough when you realize how much willpower you actually have? It felt amazing to see what I was actually capable of.
At the end of the 30 days, I’ve lost 24 lbs. My clothes fit better, I’m wearing pants I haven’t worn in years, and my blood pressure earned me a high-five from my doctor. I’m actually going to continue the fast a little longer, because I have a specific weight goal I’d really like to meet and I feel like I’ve really hit my stride. Afterwards, I’m going to try to maintain by continuing to juice for three days each week. So, even if I have an occasional plate of cheese fries, I hopefully won’t have to feel that “it’s all over, I might as well never try” despair – because I know I’ll still be getting plenty of nutrition, and still have some control over my diet.
Would I recommend the fast? Absolutely - although I feel it’s probably best suited for people like me: people who are overweight, feel a loss of control, and want a lifestyle change. I’ve learned so much about myself over the past month, and in some ways I hardly feel like the same person anymore (in a very good way).
If anyone has any questions about juice fasting, please comment! If you have criticisms, I’m happy to hear them…although I want to say upfront I’ve been working with my doctor the whole month, and she’s been really supportive of the cleanse.