Last week, my sweet husband suggested we do a juice cleanse. I thought it was a super idea (and even better that it was his!). I've never done more than a day of liquids-only before, so I was excited by the challenge, mostly eager to see what I would discover in the process.
In general, I prefer whole food-based cleanses, which gives the body a break in a different way. With a liquid cleanse, the idea is to move all of the toxins out of the system - liquid helps us do this, for obvious reasons - while giving the digestive tract a break. It doesn't have to work as hard to break down solids, so it has a chance to rebuild/ rejuvenate for a few days. (Kind of like when the subway is under construction over the weekend... it's tricky to maintain the tracks and fix any issues when trains are constantly running through.)
We stocked up the fridge with a ton of great juicing veggies (kale, romaine lettuce, celery, cucumber, carrots) along with some local apples. Because I knew I'd be in rehearsal this week for Our Time (a fabulous non-profit arts organization in NYC -- check their work out here, it's tremendously cool), I made a game plan to visit the incredible health food store two avenues over each day before rehearsal to pick up my other 'meals'.
Day One started out well - with a homemade juice using the veggies above - although I will admit I was sorely missing my coffee. Through the day, I felt much lighter than usual, not too too hungry, and comforted knowing that I could grab something liquid (including herbal tea) when I felt like it. Water, too, is an important piece of this puzzle. (I was a little alarmed by a text Michael sent at 4:00 reading, "I just stood up and I am so dizzy. Is that normal?", until I figured out he'd not had any water all day. We can go several days without eating, but the effects of dehydration come on much faster. We fixed that right away.) This is important to remember when you're doing a cleanse! It also helps with feeling fuller, longer.
I noticed early in the afternoon that I had a little more energy than usual and that my mind felt clearer. With fewer resources being redirected to digesting a few times a day, I had more back-up stores of energy to use for other things. Terrific!
By the end of rehearsal on the first day, I was definitely feeling snacky: there's something about the act of chewing that I started to miss! But all in all, good first day, no major meltdowns, all good.
Then Day Two happened. I woke up super hungry and feeling super bloated. (What? That was unexpected. This is supposed to help with feeling light and airy and make digestion a breeze!)
But I think I know what happened. Big clue #1: I woke up craving sugar. BAD. This hasn't happened in months, since I cut sugar out (pretty much in all forms, including fruit -- it never leaves me feeling awesome.) A lot of the time, what we wake up craving is a good indicator of what we overdid it on the day before. Although I'd just had two juices with apple in them, and one with some agave, I think it was too much for me, especially since I'd been without it almost a year.
Big clue #2: I was back to feeling, how can I say this delicately, a little stopped up. Super. I spent a long time feeling this way the majority of the time (none of us loves this, right?), and it wasn't until I cut out sugar that things, erm, sorted themselves out. Could the fruit sugar in my juices be behind this? Probably.
But I was determined to keep on with the cleanse, and because I don't love kale juice straight-up, I resigned myself to having a little more sugar than usual over the next two days.
I blended up another juice at home for breakfast (this time, pumpkin, apple, and pumpkin pie spices), and attempted a workout. (I'd refrained the first day, for fear of overdoing it a little.) I got about ten minutes into Insanity and stopped: just no energy to burn. Oh well. These things happen. I felt better giving my body the chance to rest, figuring I'd jump back in the next morning. I went on with the day, encountering some more intense hunger pangs through the afternoon, which I quelled with some delicious juices from Westerly Market again. I was like a kid in a... crayon factory?... looking at the wall of options. There are a ton made right in NYC - like Gingersnaps Organics and DeLIFEful Foods - and supporting small businesses is always a treat. Their goodies got me through the afternoon and evening of rehearsal, followed by some more veggie-guys before bed.
At some point mid-afternoon, I had a big realization: not having to stress about food (where it's going to come from, what it will be, how much I will enjoy it) was kind of freeing. I also realized something kind of big about myself. Every opportunity to eat, for me, begins with a tiny moment of anxiety: will I be able to stop eating if I start? Really? Do I actually carry this around all the time? It seems like I do, because when not presented with the option to eat, I don't have those little moments of disquiet. I had my bottles of juice and a ton of water: I was good to go. I didn't have to worry about not being able to stop, because once a juice was done, I was done for that 'meal'. It also felt different than eating solid food for some inexplicable reason. Have you ever experienced that? I was thankful for the opportunity to confront something I didn't know persisted in my 'to be dealt with' closet. It was pretty illuminating, and I think as I move on from this cleanse, I will be more aware of this feeling that comes up around food: I would love for it to feel less stressful! I am going to continue to work on that and develop some tools for myself that give me the structure and clarity I need to feel calm (and excited) about eating.
By the morning of Day Three, I was getting pretty pumped for this to be done. The hunger was more palpable, and I could tell my mood was a little off. No ones likes to be snapped at, right? Could it be the lack of solid food, or the overabundance of sugar suddenly back in my system? I feel like it was a bit of both.
I blended up a flax-spirulina-cinnamon-water juice first thing, thinned out with about 10 ounces of water. It was good - it felt like a solid, hearty liquid start to the morning. I grabbed my next few juices for the day before heading to the theatre, including a blended Thai Carrot Soup from Gingersnaps Organics. (To be fair, it was in a juice bottle and is something they sell as part of their cleanse packages.) It had carrot, coconut meat, and some spices, and I really felt like I needed something substantial to get through the afternoon. It worked! I felt great and got through to my last juice of the day at 8:00pm with no issues. No more crankiness, either, which was nice.
Now two days later, I feel great! I've been eating pretty simply to get my system back into the swing of things (soup, steamed veggies, hummus), and drinking lots of water to keep up that glorious detox feeling. I've even felt myself craving juice (go figure!) and have worked in some yummy beet-lemon-spinach and lemon-kale-ginger combos since Wednesday.
Overall, I loved having the variety of juices to choose from - without having to spend too much mental effort on food - and the feeling of lightness and expanded mental clarity was nice. I didn't so much love not having enough energy for a workout, and my reintroduction to sugar wasn't as drama-free as I might have expected. (One bonus is that I have first-hand evidence now of just how sensitive I am to sugars of all kinds! Nothing like cutting something out and reintroducing it to see how it really makes you feel!)
It was nice to have that moment of realization around food anxiety (something to continue to work on!), and great to recognize just how little fuel the body needs to survive. Obviously, we don't wan to sustain low-calorie, liquid-only diets for long periods, but it's one more reason we shouldn't fear hunger.
If you're interested, here's a recap of some of my favorite juices from our little adventure:
Westerly Market's Lemon Ginger Splash [water, lemon, ginger, agave, cinnamon, cloves, lemons -- the cloves made it extra awesome]
DeLifeFull's Green Revival [apple, string bean, spinach, cinnamon -- who knew you could juice string beans?! So good!]
DeLifeFull's Carrotopia [carrot, pear, lemon]
The Squeeze's Chai Squeezuccino [water, almond, cashew, coconut nectar, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, vanilla, himalayan sea salt]
Gingersnaps Organic Thai Carrot Soup [carrot, coconut meat, daikon, ginger, curry spices, sea salt] -- if you're in NYC, check out their awesome shop on the LES (or their website at www.gingersnapsorganic.com)
Have you ever done a juice cleanse? Did it unearth anything unexpected (or delicious) for you?