I’m not a believer in fad diets or “quick fixes.” Never have been. I’m all about moderation, working hard and staying consistent. However, after reading quite a bit about juice cleanses, I became curious, especially after recently watching ‘Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead’, a documentary about a 100-pound-overweight man who regained his health by juicing for 60 days. SIXTY. I thought I’d try it for six.
To be clear, my goal was not to lose weight. In fact, I didn’t really have a goal. This was more of an experiment to me to see what effect, if any, the experience would have on me.
For six days, I’d eliminate wheat, added sugar, alcohol, caffeine, dairy, eggs and meat/seafood. For the first three days, I’d eat mostly fruit and vegetables. For the second three days, I’d drink six juices a day (I bought mine fro South Block in Alexandria).
The whole experience was very interesting to me. I noticed that I actually didn’t feel hungry, but in some ways, I felt deprived. The experience made me very aware of how my body and mind were functioning, and it helped me become more in tune with myself. I did not feel cleansed from any toxins. I didn’t feel lighter. I didn’t feel more energized. But I discovered quite a few things that will improve my health in the long run.
I eat way more sugar than I thought I did
This is probably the biggest discovery I made. After just a few days, I noticed that it became very difficult for me to wake up in the mornings, and I felt fatigued throughout the day. I didn’t understand. I eat pretty healthy for the most party, and I couldn’t think of what it could be that was affecting me so much. After a few days, I realized the culprit was sugar.
After taking a closer look at my typical diet, it turns out I was consuming a lot more added sugar than I thought. My morning coffee with milk and creamer, salad dressings, marinades/sauces, certain soups, a piece of chocolate at night — these ingredients together can add up to 50 or more grams of added sugar. According to the American Heart Association, most women should have a MAXIMUM of 25 grams/day, and most men should have a maximum of 37 grams/day. I have no idea how long I’ve been exceeding my recommended daily intake. But starting today, I’m making a conscious effort to eliminate as much added sugar as possible. Consuming excess sugar can raise blood pressure and cause the liver to dump harmful fats into the bloodstream, both of which can increase risk for heart disease.
Quite a few of my daily routines are unhealthy
As a creature of habit, I’ve developed a few daily routines involving food/drink that provide a level of comfort. But some of these routines aren’t very healthy, and they aren’t even about the foods themselves. The first routine is morning coffee. I’ve gotten into the habit of drinking my mug of coffee while browsing through different apps on my phone. I actually didn’t even miss the taste of coffee during the cleanse, but it was weird not having that morning ritual that’s been part of my life for so long. Becoming aware of this made me realize that there is probably a much more productive and healthy way (both physically and mentally) to start my day. Instead of mindlessly rushing into the day, I’m now making an effort to not look at my phone first thing in the morning, but to spend a few minutes stretching, giving thanks for the day’s blessing, and focusing my mind on positive thoughts and affirmations for the day ahead. I’m still going to drink coffee, but I’m going to be eliminating the sugary creamer (goodbye, delicious hazelnut cream).
Another unhealthy routine of mine is having a piece of chocolate and/or a nightcap before bed. Again, I didn’t actually miss the taste of sweets or alcohol last week. I thought this was just a small, harmless treat, but I think it was also an unhealthy way to unwind and relieve a bit of stress after a long day.
The same thing goes for grabbing some chips (my biggest weakness) or other snack during the day. I’m definitely a stress eater/drinker, and I’ve become more aware of how my body is feeling and what my body/mind actually needs in the moment. Instead of the quick fix of sugar or alcohol or other substance, I’m going to try to practice helpful methods of self-care, such as a bath or relaxing with a good book, or listening to new music/podcasts. (PS, I’m new to podcasts, so if you have any recommendations, send them my way!)
I can control my cravings
After the cleanse was over, I thought I’d be so excited to eat real food again. But the funny thing was, it actually wasn’t that big a deal. The cravings I had at the start of the cleanse seemed to have gone away. The thought of chips or a piece of cheese or chocolate didn’t even sound that appealing. That’s not to say that I won’t ever have cravings, but I think this experience goes to show that you begin to crave whatever you’re used to having. The more I eat healthy, the more I actually crave a yummy salad or healthy soup, and the less appealing a cheeseburger or pizza sounds. I mean, let’s be honest, I’m still going to have my moments of weakness, but the point is that a balanced, healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be torturous. The more in tune you are with your body and mind’s needs to feel and perform its best, the more aware you become of ways to nourish yourself respectfully and purposefully.
So all in all, I don’t think this cleanse had any real impact on my health, but I’m definitely glad I went through with it. As far as recommendations go, I don’t think anyone has to go through any extremes, but I do think there are real benefits to closely examining your daily diet/routines and developing methods of improvement for optimal health, whether it’s through a cleanse or not.
If any of you have had similar experiences or have questions, feel free to comment below or shoot me a message!