After watching the documentary “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead,” my husband Roger and I decided to embark on a ten-day juice fast. I should mention it was also the day after “Founder’s Fest.” The load you see in my Vibe is about enough for two people for two and a half days. Below, find my ‘down and dirty’ 10 day experience.
Day 1: I hate the world. I’m thinking about eating the dog. I have a headache and there is a seismic murmur in my stomach. Roger suggests a ‘water snack.’
Day 2: I still hate the world. Still headache. Still lots of hunger pangs. Oh, and I hate green juice, too. I learn the word ‘hangry,’ which is a frankenword for hungry and angry.
Day 3: Still headache (was that in the brochure?) I blame Michigan beer and locally roasted coffee—oh, and Himalayan sea salt. When Roger complains about my bad mood, I say, “Am I really that much more bitchy than I am normally?” He concedes that I am not.
Day 4: Roger confesses to having fantasies about English muffins. There are murmurs about not lasting the ten days. I tell him it’s like enlistment. He has no choice but to go the distance. Fortunately, he doesn’t remind me about my near desertion on day one when I begged him to release me from this hell and take me to Bud & Stanley’s. Cabbage juice has been banned from the house. Blissfully, headache goes away.
Day 5: Roger makes it to lunch at which time he agrees not to eat in my presence. I need to stick it out one day longer than him to show our son Walter that ‘Girls win!’ Somewhere in the middle of Day Five (maybe it was discovering the $3.99 skirt at the Salvation Army that was produced by a boutique in Chelsea), I forget that I am on a juice fast. In fact, I realize that I am quite happy. No headache, no pains of any kind.
Day 6: Long rollerblade (my 3rd during the fast). Long dog walk. Wow. I feel great. With lime, horseradish and jalapeno, I think I might even like green juice.
Day 7: Long walk around Pickerel Lake. Inspired morning juice of pineapple, carrot, mint, apple, beet, ginger, raspberry, nectarine and cucumber. The heat is making it easier to do this—who wants to eat, anyway? During these long days of summer, I decide that I miss food more than beer. One of the mysteries of my universe solved.
Day 8: Gained a pound. Excuse me? Put too much jalapeno in my big batch of juice. Drink it anyway. I have double the time that normal humans have between 4 and 8 p.m. Another long roller blade in the intense heat. Not a good idea.
Day 9: I am an astronaut eating pellets. I do not belong to the human race, but hover above it, knowing that someday soon I will rejoin you. All you people do is eat! Do you know that?
Day 10: Happy Fourth of July. I do not want veggie brats, coleslaw, pesto salad, chips, salsa, watermelon, fruit popsicles and killer classic margaritas. I’d rather drink some green juice that looks like it has algae floating on the top. Really!
Want to see a juice being made? My fruit juices might be as simple as carrot, apple and ginger. This much raw material goes into the extractor to make about 20 ounces of juice.
Load it in and let the machine do the chewing for you.
Here you can see the juice separated from the pulp.
We composted our pulp, but if you’re Martha Stewart you might make crackers or dog biscuits out of it.
I encourage you to get creative with your juices–you have to do something to amuse yourself! In the morning, I mixed everything from beets, carrots, apples, ginger, lemongrass, mint, pineapple, raspberries, blackberries, kiwi, mango, peach, nectarine, celery and cucumbers. No bananas. Here’s a pretty morning juice:
Here’s a typical afternoon bowl.
Afternoon juices were possible combinations of lemon, lime, horseradish root, jalapeno, beet, carrot, cucumber, celery, grapefruit, tomatoes, broccoli stalks, fennel bulb, and tons of green leafies, such as kale, spinach, collard, parsley.
If your interest is still piqued and you would like to try this yourself, read on!
I want to give you the benefit of what I’ve learned and what I would do differently. Let’s start with the latter. If I were to do this over again, I would put more time into prep work. Here’s what I would do:
One week before the fast, I would at least give up caffeine. You do not need a caffeine withdrawal headache during the first few days of your juice fast. You have other areas of your body to focus on. Ideally, cut out alcohol and processed foods and reduce sodium, meat and dairy consumption (if you eat those things).
Study up a little about ‘true hunger.’ There is a great chapter in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s “Eat to Live” that discusses the stomach rumblings, mild headache and low blood sugar stuff we’ve all read about for years. He makes a convincing argument that this is what the body will experience when the digestive system is empty and the body is undergoing cellular repair. It really helped me to think of those symptoms not as ones to be avoided at all costs—as I have all my life…I hate being hungry—but as part of a natural cycle. Here’s Dr. Fuhrman explaining true hunger.
Learn a little something about juices. Primarily, how will green juices be palatable for you? Many of the reboot recipes (jointhereboot.com is the companion website to the documentary we watched) pair sweet fruits with leafy greens. Apparently that’s what the documentary subjects liked. I did not. I like savory green juices with tomatoes, beets, horseradish, ginger, cilantro, jalapeno. On your juice fast, you don’t need to be pinching your nose to drink the stuff. To be frank, I never loved the juice, but I got to where it was really palatable.
Get really clear about why you are doing this. If the only reason is to lose weight, there are easier ways, believe me. Since this is SO different from normal eating, you are not likely to maintain whatever loss you experience without changing your eating habits. So why not just address those? There are lots of plans on the reboot website that involve juicing and eating. That might be a better place to start for you. Here was my list: 1) Experience a juice fast firsthand so I can advise others who are interested, 2) break my two beer a day habit (or at least temporarily disconnect it), 3) learn more about juices, 4) okay, okay, lose the 5 pounds I packed on over the winter, 5) experience true hunger.
This is not a strong list, in my opinion, and that’s evidence of my wanting to bale on day one.
What do I consider good reasons for juice fasting? You have a significant amount of weight to lose, and/or you have additional health complications: adult-onset diabetes, autoimmune disorders, severe allergies, asthma, heart disease. Do your own research and consult your doctor. There are lots of websites sponsored by doctors and dieticians to help you research how high-quality nutrition can address your symptoms: jointhereboot.com, diseaseproof.com, drfuhrman.com. You will need to do this under the care of a medical doctor.
Build a support system. If this is really right for you, put a system in place so that you will be supported, especially in the first few days. Plan to begin on a long weekend when you have few demands on your time. Enlist the help of your spouse, kids and friends. Give someone you trust the list of reasons you are doing the fast and promise to call them before you break it. (It is then their job to gently remind you of why you did this in the first place). Go to the reboot website and sign up for the forums. People are on call 24/7 to give you encouraging support. You can even go there to get buddies from around the world to experience it right along with you.
Draw upon an earlier time when you achieved a difficult goal: finishing a term paper, planning a big event, running your first 5K. Reflect on the moments when you thought you would never pull that off, either, and then relive the fact that you did! Most of this juice fast is mental.
Make the juice fast your own. The reboot site suggests a morning fruit juice and then vegetable juices the rest of the day. I broke my morning juice in half and drank half in the morning. I then saved half of what was left in the fridge and froze the other half in ice cubes. My before dinner drink became a fruit slush I whirled up in my blender. Oh, and when the vegetable juices were too pulpy for my taste, I whirled those in the blender, too.
The upside of drinking nothing but high-nutrient juices for ten days? I lost eight pounds (three of which leapt back on the next day). After the first four days, I felt great. I had energy. I bore the heat better and I didn’t feel any hunger pangs at all. I achieved all my goals, but one–I never experienced true hunger. Alas. I can let it go to be back in the land of eaters and drinkers again!