I’ve spent the last 18 months living a pretty healthy lifestyle, and I’ve seen the benefits in terms of weight loss and general overall health and well being. I don’t torture myself, and I continue to enjoy occasional digressions into sweets and savories and booze, but overall I’ve stopped treating myself like shit, and I’m definitely better for it.
Late last month, however, I attended a trade show in Anaheim, CA that I spend a few days at every year (8 years running now), and per the usual, I was inundated with a herculean amount of rich, sugary, fatty and salty foods, and rivers of booze. It’s just the nature of trade show life, and it’s hard to escape that culture when you’re immersed in it.
To my grossly overweight, former garbage disposal of a self, the bacchanalian experience of those days never had much noticeable impact because that was just my regular intake, but this year it hit me really hard. Despite my efforts — I worked out at the hotel gym daily; I kept the drinking to a manageable, social minimum (most nights); and I avoided the worst food choices — I still managed to consume way more salt, fat, sugar, and booze than I’m used to, I put on five pounds over five days, and I felt particularly awful when I returned. Despite getting back to my regular healthy lifestyle immediately, and dropping some of the added weight, I couldn’t shake the feeling of physical malaise — a general lack of energy, lingering stomachache, unquenchable thirst for water, a few other minor yet noticeable maladies.
I was presented with the prospect of a juice cleanse — not the infamous Master Cleanse (I’m no masochist), but a mere three-day program of juice that limited my intake to fresh fruit and vegetable juices, no solid foods, and no toxins like sugar, caffeine, or alcohol. I’d become fed up with feeling like shit, so I figured I’d give it a shot.
After deciding that buying a juicer was not the way to go (for various reasons I won’t go into), and researching various pre-packaged juice cleanse providers, I settled on The Pressed Juicery, and for about $150 (minus $50 off the advertised price thanks to having a friend pick up the juice at the company’s Fairfax location and skipping the overnight shipping charge) hooked up a three-day supply of the stuff, which came in three brown bags, with six 16oz bottles of juice and two 16oz bottles of water in each bag.
Each daily allotment contained a variation of recipes along the menu of a “Greens” blend for breakfast, a “Roots” blend for mid-morning, a “Citrus” blend for lunch, a different “Greens” juice for mid-afternoon, a different “Roots” blend for dinner, and a “Chocolate Almond” or “Vanilla Almond” juice for desert. There were also bottles of “Chlorophyl Water” (to drink throughout the day) and “Aloe Vera Water” (to drink before bed). The combination comprised a 1140 calorie daily diet, with the bulk of the calories — along with the only fat, salt and sugar in the program — coming from the almond-based drink at the end of the day. I assume this is because, without that, I’d be waking up hungry throughout the night.
Anyway, I logged some notes throughout the process, so rather than go into some long-winded postmortem of the whole process, here are the thoughts I jotted down while I was in the throes of this cleanse, which I did between a Wednesday and Friday…
Mon. 10pm: I’m starting to realize that I’m not totally prepared for this. The cleanse site says I should ramp down my overall consumption a couple days prior, so I started cutting sugar, meat, carbs, etc. I became immediately frustrated this evening because there’s no dark chocolate in the house. It’s my only real vice, besides a little whiskey, which I’m clinging to until the last second. Maybe. This does not bode well.
Tues. 10am: It’s occurred to me that I’m going to have to adjust my workout regimen. This cleanse will have me consuming approximately 1140 calories a day, and I routinely burn around 400 to 500 during my daily morning workout. I don’t wanna quit working out (I’m addicted to my workout, even though it’s not that strenuous), but I’ve decided to play it by ear and acquiesce to adjustment / reduction if I start to feel all fucked up by it. After all, netting 700 calories a day just doesn’t seem healthy.
Tues. 11pm: Skipped my final whiskey tonight before starting this new age hippie gastronomic torture. Other than the ritual of it, it seemed superfluous anyway…especially without some dark chocolate to go with it.
There are 24 bottles of specially formulated beverage in my fridge — 6 juices and 2 waters for each of the next three days — and I’m actually looking forward to this. I haven’t been right since the NAMM show, I clearly need to reset myself, and a well-measured shock to the system is generally a good thing. My last meal was was relatively clean — a cup of low sodium tomato soup, one and a half organic corn tortillas, a little steamed broccoli in olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt, and a cup of tea. Seems like a fitting last meal before embarking on this adventure.
Wed. 6:30am: Weighed in at 213 lb. (a little heavier than usual), did my regular workout: 30 minutes /10 miles on the stationary bike, sit-ups/push-ups/squats, and dumbbell work. Time to hit the juice. It’s green and looks a little too savory for breakfast, but it’s not bad.
Wed. 9:15am: A few hours after drinking the first juice on the first day of this cleanse, two things are glaringly evident: hunger, and caffeine withdrawals. I don’t eat a lot for breakfast, but what I do eat is apparently enough to keep me satiated, and anything less is not enough. I anticipated the caffeine withdrawals but I’ll never get used to the dual-ice-pick-to-the-temples headache. It’ll subside, but I’ll be a surly bastard until it does. As far rough starts go, though, this seems fairly mild.
Wed. 12pm: I’m sort of spacey, slightly light headed, a little punchy. And cold. And I want a donut, even though there are no donuts anywhere around here. Knee-jerk reaction craving to this process, I assume. I’ve had the mid-day snack juice, a beet-y root concoction that tastes vaguely like dirt with honey in it, and I’m about to crack open the citrus juice lunch beverage.
Wed. 3:30pm: I’m not actually hungry, despite having consumed a net calorie intake of less than 200 for the day. But I’m cold. Like bone-chillingly cold. And I’m having intermittent trouble focusing. I sorta fade in and out, and I just hope that no one catches me nodding at my desk like some kind of fucking junkie.
Wed. 5pm: Goals for tomorrow include not working out…or just doing cardio. Also, I’m wondering if the lethargy I’m feeling is due to caffeine withdrawals. That shit is a serious drug, and a lack of energy is a standard withdrawal symptom.
Wed. 8:30pm: The roots juice I had for dinner is easily the best one yet, sweet and tangy. The vanilla almond desert was a much need hit of fat, sugar, salt and protein, and the sweetest of the daily regimen. I’m still cold all over, posted up on the couch with the heater cranked, in sweats, a flannel shirt and wool socks, under a blanket. Hot tea then bed. My workout might not happen tomorrow morning. The calorie and exercise tracking app on my phone warned me that I’m not consuming enough.
Thurs. 6:45am: Slept in and skipped my workout entirely. Weighed in at 208. Seems like a big drop from yesterday’s 213, but at 6’4″ with a naturally big frame, I can throw 5 lb. around like a rag doll depending on just the salt in my diet, and bathroom action (which there’s been some of). I stood in a hot shower this morning fantasizing about attacking the peanut butter jar in the fridge with a spoon. Clearly I’m craving fat & protein.
Thurs. 11:30am: I think I’m getting past the coffee withdrawals, so I’m not as groggy as I was at this time yesterday, but still feel a little out of my head. It’s not like I can’t focus, but I’m missing that raw nerve edge that coffee and proper food nutrition provide. In it’s place it this sort of ethereal mind state, like I’m conscious and aware, but sort of following my brain around at five feet behind it.
Thurs. 4:30pm: I just tried to describe a photograph taken behind the scenes during the shooting of The Godfather, and could only remember Marlon Brando’s name. I completely drew a blank on James Cahn and Robert Duval, and kept referring to them as, “aahhh you know, Tom and Sonny…those two fuckin’ guys.” I’m starting to think that a lack of caloric intake is taking a toll on my mental acuity. And I’m still super fucking cold. Also still a bit groggy. I’ve read that people reach a point of zen-like laser focus while doing these cleanses, and I have yet to find that point. But I guess there’s always tomorrow.
Thurs. 5:30pm: My olfactory senses are all wacky. I’m smelling food that’s not there. Right now it’s bacon cheeseburger, and I really want a fucking bacon cheeseburger.
Thurs. 8:30pm: For the first time all day I’m not cold to my core. I wonder if it’s because my last juice of the day, the chocolate almond, contains the fat, salt and sugar that my body’s been missing all day. I’m basically two-thirds of the way through this cleanse and I can’t say I feel fantastic, though I don’t feel shitty either. I’m still craving real food, particularly a burger, or some peanut butter (or some peanut butter on a burger), though it’ll be a day or two after this is over before I can mess with any meat. Peanut butter, on the other hand…
Fri. 6:30am: I skipped my workout again. I’m not happy about it, but I just don’t have it in me, and I weighed in at 207 lb. Didn’t wake up hungry or groggy, but had a lot of particularly weird dreams, and woke up to pee five times throughout the night. Going into the last day of this cleanse, I’m already cold, and I’m looking forward to eating real food again. Otherwise I’m no worse for the wear. I still haven’t decided if I’m any better for it, either.
Fri. 4:30pm: Pretty much de rigeur at this point. The day, and the juices I consumed throughout, flew by. I’ve been cold all day, and I got pretty groggy around noon before I drank lunch. I’m really looking forward to being done with this. I’m not sure there’s been much change in my body. I’ve dropped 6lb. so far, but haven’t experienced any of the diarrhea or constipation that is said to come with a juice cleanse. I’ve spent the last 18 months adjusting my eating and exercise habits, and the contents of these juices are a big part of my day-to-day diet anyway. So aside from removing the meat proteins and carbs (which I get from brown rice, quinoa, corn meal, and the occasional bit of pasta or crusty bread), this juice diet is just reducing my calorie intake and increasing the amount of time I spend peeing.
Fri. 7pm: I am currently dealing with the most difficult part of this cleanse: Watching my 5-year-old daughter eat a burrito. Holy fuck, the smell. I never thought a plain chicken burrito could smell so divine.
Fri. 10:30pm: I’m done. Finished the last bottle, a vanilla almond juice (which is pretty good) a couple hours ago. I can’t say that I feel any better than I did when I started this. Of course I can’t say I feel any worse either. I’m gonna try to get in some cardio tomorrow morning, before I start settling back to my regular routine. That should be interesting, seeing as I’ve living half my usual caloric intake.
I went back to my regular diet Saturday morning — didn’t feel the need to ease back into it as the cleanse site suggested, just jumped right in, including a braised pork taco at lunch — and returned to my exercise regimen that Sunday.
While I definitely felt under-fueled throughout the cleanse, I immediately noticed a significant uptick in energy afterwards, once I reintroduced solid food. In fact I had trouble sleeping the first couple of nights afterward. I also weighed in at 204 on Saturday morning, 9 lb. down from where I started three days before, which isn’t bad. I’ve since put 6 lb. back on and I’m hovering around 210 again, but the goal wasn’t to lose weight.
The issues I had been experiencing after the trade show went away, and I’ve felt detoxified since completing the cleanse, which was the point. So I guess I’d call it a success, and I’d probably consider doing it again the next time I expose myself to a sustained stint of unhealthy living. Some people do it every three or six months, just to do it. I don’t know about all that. It wasn’t that cool.