I needed a reboot with the new year when it came to my eating habits.
My normal, semi-healthy eating habits seemed to get tossed aside around Thanksgiving and pretty much had left the building by the new year. And I was carrying around about four extra pounds on my body because of it.
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Several of my friends had done a juice cleanse and spoke highly about the experience, so I decided to give juicing a try.
First, I did a little research. I watched the documentary "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead," about a guy who does a 60-day juice fast. Then I went to his websites -- http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com/ and http://www.rebootwithjoe.com/ -- which provide information about juicing, including recipes.
I read some of the cautions by the medical community online, such as this one by the Mayo Clinic, about the fact just drinking juice does not give you the full assortment of nutrients that a more diverse healthy diet would: "Detox diets are popular, but they're not scientifically proven … If you're considering a detox diet, get the OK from your doctor first. It's also important to consider possible side effects. Detox diets that severely limit protein or that require fasting, for example, can result in fatigue. Long-term fasting can result in vitamin and mineral deficiencies."
And I read the cautions that weight loss from the cleanse would not be lasting.
"There's nothing wrong with going on a juice fast for a few days," says Dr. James Dillard, assistant clinical professor at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, on WebMD. "But it's not a great way to lose weight, because you'll gain it all back -- you yo-yo … The weight you lose is water weight."
Knowing the cautions from the medical community, I still decided to dive in. Also, knowing that I am lazy and this would be hard enough for me to follow without having to actually make all the juice myself, I decided to go through a local store to purchase all the juice for my three-day juice cleanse.
Pure Juice Café, which opened in May in Arlington Heights, offers 3-, 5-, and 7-day juice cleanse packages. The daily cost is $49 for six, 16-oz. juices. The cafe recommends drinking one juice every two hours and to supplement with water and caffeine-free herbal teas.
"Our signature 'Stay Pure' Juice Cleanse is a great way to rebuild your immune system, boost your energy levels and allow your body time to renew and repair itself. Our customers use it to begin a healthy routine and improve their long-term diet," says Paulina Kadzielawska, founder and general manager of Pure Juice.
"Juice detoxing is the process of removing foods from your diet that can interfere with the most basic healing processes in our bodies. It gives you a chance to detoxify the body as well as the mind," she added.
"Freshly pressed juices supply your body with an abundance of nutrients, enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants," she said. "Juices are easily absorbed, shifting our body's energy toward detoxing and regenerating. Some of our customers realize they have food sensitivity or intolerance to a certain foods while they eliminate them during the cleanse, suddenly they feel better and they choose to stay gluten-, dairy- or soy-free."
Kadzielawska says they do recommend that everyone should consult their health practitioner before starting any new health regime. Juice cleanses are not appropriate for those who suffer from eating disorders, diabetics with severe conditions, anyone with severe hypoglycemic conditions, and for women who are pregnant and/or lactating, she said.
Also, some people do experience strong detox symptoms such as headache or sometimes even low fever, but that usually goes away within a day, she said.
Customers who drink coffee regularly are encouraged to reduce and eliminate caffeine a few days before a juice fast to reduce the symptoms, she added.
I've got a clean bill of health. I don't drink coffee, so I'm not worried about caffeine withdrawal. I'm a little worried about sugar withdrawal, given the amount of cookies I've been eating, but I'm hoping the fructose in the juice will help with that.
On the advice of friends, I choose three days where I'm at least a little busy (to help keep my mind off food), but not crazy busy (because I may be more tired than usual). I order my juices and begin.
Day 1: I start the day drinking hot water with lemon juice. I confess I forgot to buy lemons, so it is not fresh lemon juice, but from the bottle I had in the fridge. About 45 minutes later, I drink my first juice, a green one. On a friend's advice, I asked them to make this juice more heavy on cucumber than celery. It also has apple in it and is surprisingly sweet. I sip this juice over the next hour or so.
Because it took me so long to drink the first juice, I decide to go ahead and dive into the next one. This one is orange and I expect it to be sweet, but it is rather spicy. I wonder if it has a lot of ginger in it, but when I read through the ingredients, I discover it has cayenne pepper. No wonder, it's spicy.
Onto my third juice and because I am drinking them rather slowly, I'm beginning to wonder if I will get through all six by the end of the day. This third mix has beets in it. And I'm not fond of beets. But, it also has apple and orange in it and I find I like it.
Juice #4 is another green one, heavier on cucumber than celery as I requested. Juice #5 is sort of sweet with turmeric and #6 is creamy, made with almond milk and cinnamon.
Overall, I can say I like all the juices. It has not been a problem to drink any of them. (I had envisioned myself holding my nose as I swigged a juice I couldn't stand).
Day 2: Made sure I got a good night's sleep. Really am feeling pretty good this morning. I step on my scale to weigh myself. Down two pounds. (I know, I know, probably mostly water weight. Still, I'll take it.)
And I know what to expect today. Start out with my hot water and lemon. Move onto my first juice. Because it takes me awhile to drink each juice, I basically end up sipping juice all day. The good thing is I never feel terribly hungry or deprived, because I am constantly drinking juice.
A friend had warned me I would start missing chewing. This is true. And when I spy a bag of pistachios on the counter, I think of how nice it would be to eat some crunchy nuts about now. But, I determinedly turn away and take another sip of juice.
Day 3: For the first time on the cleanse, I wake up hungry. I'm also tired and feel like I'm on the cusp of a headache. But I stayed up late last night and that could be contributing as well. I definitely did not stick to my pledge to get to bed early every night on the cleanse.
The headache never fully materializes, but I am tired. I weigh in and am down another pound. Awesome.
I am definitely missing chewing solid food and am looking forward to eating regular food tomorrow.
Day 4: I hop on the scale and am delighted to find I have lost another pound. I am now down to my preholiday weight. I am also the hungriest I have been.
One friend who did a juice cleanse told me she woke up at 4 a.m. on the fourth day and made herself a large breakfast. I understand how she was feeling.
My first taste of whole food? Some of those pistachios that have been taunting me for the last few days.
I try to ease my way back into eating food. For breakfast, I make myself a fruit and spinach smoothie with flaxseed and protein powder -- just a small step up from juicing. Healthy soups are my go-to meal for the next few days.
The thing about doing a juice cleanse, or something like it, is that it is just a jumping off point. If afterward, I start eating a bunch of junk food, sweets, fast food, etc., I'm just going to be back to where I was before the cleanse very quickly.
So, I focus on eating unprocessed whole foods -- lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and low-fat protein. And I try to keep my portions under control.
OK, here are answers to that question you're too polite to ask (skip this paragraph if you don't want to hear about things like bowel movements): So, did my "bathroom routine" change significantly? I had to pee more often (all that liquid I suppose). I continued to have bowel movements throughout the entire cleanse, although I have friends who told me they did not. I had one time with loose bowels, but otherwise, it was pretty normal, maybe just less of it.
I did not have headaches or other detox withdrawal symptoms I had read about. The skin on my face seemed clear and more vibrant. But, the skin on my body seemed drier than usual and I found myself using more lotion than normal. But I did the cleanse during a really cold spell, so I'm not sure if the dry skin was from the cleanse or the dry heat constantly pumping through my house.
Kiersten Linde of Palatine also recently did a three-day juice cleanse. I asked what she liked about the cleanse.
"I liked how I felt on the fourth day after I completed the cleanse. I felt energized, lighter and a bit empowered. I liked how my body felt 'empty and light,' but not in a bad sense. I just didn't have anything in my stomach that needed to be broken down, and in turn that felt great."
After the cleanse, you become more mindful of your eating habits, Linde added. And it helps a person jump-start themselves into a healthier eating pattern, she said. She added that she plans on doing another cleanse soon.
Kadzielawska says her customers tell her that usually the first and second days are the hardest on the juice cleanse.
"Suddenly on days 3 or 4 it gets easier, they notice how much more energy they have, they can think more clearly, and overall they feel much better," she says.
Kadzielawska says she tries to do a juice cleanse a minimum of four times per year, during season change and every time her immune system feels a little weak.
"I must say that every experience is a little different. My last one turned into a seven-day cleanse, even though the intention was to do a quick three-day reset," she says. "After Day 3, it became very easy and my energy levels were so amazing that I decided to continue. My skin improved as well as sleeping patterns. Overall, it was one of my best experiences … everything fell into the right place."
I would have to count my juice cleanse as a positive experience as well. In fact, I think I could do a slightly longer one and am thinking about maybe doing one again in the spring.
As to long-term effects, it's been a couple weeks since I finished the cleanse. Within a week, I had gained two pounds back (of the four I lost). But, then returning to my healthier eating, I lost one of those pounds. So, I am now within a pound of my preholiday weight.
The cleanse also did its job of getting me to start eating fresh, unprocessed, whole foods as much as possible again.
I've always enjoyed making smoothies for breakfast and I have added fresh celery juice and beet juice (available at some local grocery stores such as Marianos and Jewel) to my smoothies.
Since I have hit the mid-40s and beyond, controlling my weight has become more challenging. When I fall off the bandwagon of healthy eating, I immediately put on weight and it's incredibly frustrating.
So, for me this three-day juice cleanse was a great reboot -- to quickly help me lose a little weight and to cut back on processed food in my daily diet. I generally felt good on it and rarely felt deprived. And I liked that I knew I was still putting a ton of nutrients into my body.