Saturday, March 15, 2008
Juice Fast Adventures
(image from Juicey Lucy's website)
I figured that some of you might want to hear a bit about the experience of doing a juice fast; the concept of not eating solid food for ten days may seem quite daunting for some folks. In fact, it is not a challenging or difficult thing to do if one is willing and able to pay for the logistics, and has amazing benefits.
The decision to go on the juice fast was rather spontaneous, though I'd been toying with it for a while. A dear friend had visited me from abroad, and, as a good San Francisco host, I ended up schlepping him with me to various fantastic restaurants and overindulging in food. I felt somewhat heavy and congested and had eaten a few things that didn't exactly agree with me; and so, when I met Lisa from Juicey Lucy's on Saturday morning at the farmers market, I told her I wanted to go on a juice fast for three days. She happily agreed, and the crew made me a set of five juices to go, packed in cute mason jars with handles.
Some experts in Traditional Chinese Medicine recommend going on a cleanse or a fast twice a year, most importantly in the spring. As Elson Haas explains in his Staying Healthy with the Seasons, the spring is associated with the liver and is a particular beneficial time for renewing the digestive system.
Five 16 oz. juices is more than enough food for one day, as I found out; I wasn't hungry at all, and the flavors were fresh and delicious. Each of the juices was different. Some of them were more earthy than others, heavy with beets and carrots; some of them had more liver cleansing properties and contained celery and cabbage. Lisa kindly put some apple in each of them, making them more palatable. The order of drinking them was quite intuitive, except that every morning started with 2 oz. of wheat grass juice, followed by an alkaline green juice with flax seeds.
After three days of cleanse I felt that I could go on for longer, and eventually did the fast for the full ten days. On busy working days, Paul delivered the juices to me in the morning in a cute ice box and I took them with me; nothing quite like going to a luncheon at work, having everyone around me eating sandwiches and fries, and feeling quite content sipping a reddish drink from a big mason jar!
In addition to the juices, I indulged in tea made of fresh mint, and, on occasion, in a clear broth I made with the remaining organic vegetables in the fridge. I recorded some of my adventures and feelings.
For the first three days I felt absolutely normal. I didn't feel pangs of hunger. Those days, on a weekend, helped me relax and go into myself; I was quite content sitting in the garden and knitting.
On Day Four I felt well, save for about half an hour of extreme exhaustion in the morning, that went away as suddenly as it came on. I was thinking about some vivid, colorful dreams I had, and really wanted to go back to sleep. Other than that, I could notice that my hair had gotten shinier and my skin was glowing. Swimming that day was big fun.
On Day Five I had a bit of a runny nose, but none of the splitting headaches juice fasters often report having. I was also a tad constipated; after discussing it with Lisa, she mixed up some psyllium seeds in my morning alkaline juice. That really did the trick.
On Day Six, had another half-hour exhaustion pit in the middle of the day while swimming in the pool. Fifteen minutes of rest and I was like new. I also realized I had lost some weight. And still, I wasn't hungry at all. Some of my juices contained things like nettles and dandelion greens, but there was always one the was tasty and sweet, which Lisa lovingly called "dessert". I noticed that my tongue had been coated in yellow, which is a typical reaction during a cleanse.
On Day Seven I noticed a few things. The exhaustion moments went away, and my swimming workouts were a joy. I even felt propelled to learn new things, and a lovely lady at the pool taught me how to do flip turns. In the evening I felt a tad hungry, but after having had some mint tea the hunger went away. I was very attentive to noise, too, and felt very calm listening to music and to the sound of the wind outside.
On Day Eight, a dear friend invited me to come to a jazz show at Yoshi's, which has a lovely sushi restaurant. Upon consulting with my juice people, I decided to eat miso soup and, possibly, a green salad. I got the salad first, ate something like three leaves and a few sprouts, then gave the rest to my friend (who enjoyed every bite). Just didn't feel the need to eat solid food at all. Then, the miso soup arrived - I drank the soup, which was delicious, and ignored the toppings (didn't feel like eating them somehow).
I also noticed a few other things:
1. My sense of smell had become very sharp. I could smell a cigarette from blocks away, and could identify which restaurants are on the other side of the street without even crossing it. Body odors in Muni were separately identifiable (not always a good thing!).
2. A white spot on one of my fingernails had disappeared.
3. My skin became incredibly soft and glowing. I did have breakouts once in a while, but they were very small and went away quickly.
4. While at Yoshi's, I realized that I didn't really enjoy alcohol very much. Of course, I didn't drink any (juice fast), but I probably wouldn't want to drink any even if I were eating. I realized I much prefer tea, and became determined not to drink things that didn't agree with me, even if social situations created a bit of a pressure to do so.
5. Bowel movements (sorry, guys, but want to be sincere and let you know everything that's happening): none of the dramatic, bulky, strange-looking detox stuff that people report on. Apart from slight constipation in day 3, which was promptly resolved the next day with some psyllium seeds, I felt absolutely fine.
On Day Nine I realized that, when I sang, I felt the sound vibrating in my entire chest. It positively tingled with the singing. I was happy and alert, and had some conclusions to ponder on during Day Ten.
First of all, I realized that I eat way, way too much. I don't need as much food as I eat. I should remember that, if I eat a big meal, the other meals of the day should mostly be fruit and veg.
Second, as mentioned, if I don't feel like drinking alcohol, I shouldn't drink it. There are tons of social situations in which I can have a cup of tea or juice while others have a beer. An occasional cocktail won't kill me, but it isn't much of a pleasure.
Third, I should remember to have whole grains (rice/quinoa/buckwheat) every day. It's really important.
Fourth, I should eat both raw and cooked veg every day. Raw is important, but winter is cold and I'm not a very large person. Cooked roots will do me good.
When Day Ten was over I had to give some thought to going back to eat again... I decided to combine a few solid foods with some juices, to make the transition easier. It wasn't easy to go back to solid food, as my stomach had shrunk, and the half-pomelo I ate in the morning was quite enough to deal with for almost the rest of the day. I did have some wheatgrass juice and an alkaline juice in the morning, and a smallish bowl of vegetable soup in the afternoon. Some carrot juice and a few spoonfuls of guacamole, with lots of herbal tea, did the trick.
A few more days of a similar diet - juice in the morning and the afternoon, a smallish soup or salad later - were quite good for me, and that's how I made the transition to eating again.
Many of the benefits have stayed with me; I've been able to keep the weight off, but more importantly, my senses are still sharp and I still feel terrific. I really recommend this. When done properly, with folks who look after you, are attentive to your needs, and make you delicious concoctions with fresh, organic vegetables, it is not a cheap pleasure, but if you can afford it, it is highly recommended.
One of the challenges is continuing to consume green superfoods. Alas, there is no easy wheatgrass juice source next to my house; so, I have a green food powder mixed with some organic apple juice for breakfast. Whenever I feel like having a juice with a meal, I have to settle on carrot, usually, because fancy organic juices aren't easily available daily near home or work. But every Saturday I bring my mason jar with me to the farmers' market, and let Lisa and her crew treat me to some lovely juice and one of their delicious tempeh burritos.
This is probably more than you wanted to hear about the juice fast; the bottom line is that it is a wonderful experience, not as hard or dramatic as it would seem (possibly because I was eating quite healthfully to begin with), and highly recommended. Thank you, Lisa, and everyone; and best of luck to those of you who would like to give it a try!