Sunday, February 1, 2015

Fast and Furious

It would seem that juice fasting is not a resonant topic :-) No mind, I got through it and - for better or worse - I've decided to recap the experience. More, I've decided to expand on it (or to expound).

Here's the thing: the commentary I did receive (mainly from Twitter and people "in my real life", which is a ridiculous term cuz readers are as real as all the others) was largely of the "Are you kidding??" variety. I was told numerous times that "juice cleanses don't work" and that "there's no scientific evidence". From my vantage point, however, I think one has to define what "working" means, before one jumps to the conclusion that effort has been wasted.

Let me clarify: I have no illusions about drinking only mashed-up vegetables, fruits and nuts for a day. I do not believe it cures illness. I do not believe it hastens one's metabolism. I do not think that anyone loses weight.

Furthermore, if one is healthy in such a way as to permit a day (or a few days, heaven forfend) of cleansing of this sort, I do not think it harms one's health in any way.

So, why did I bother?

Well, I wanted to reset my digestive system (which has been struggling over the last couple of years, when I'd never had an issue prior to hitting my 40s). Many a juice-cleanser I know assured me that this would occur. Also, you know about my reasonably recent, but utter commitment to hydration of connective tissue (along with the relevant body work) and to reduce inflammation. This certainly addresses that. And finally, I wanted to know more about my relationship to food - nay, to eating - in way that only the absence of the activity could clarify.  Look, I went on a well-planned adventure with my body, in a completely mindful fashion, and I have no regrets.

On these fronts, my friends, the juice cleanse - if only by my own experience - was utterly effective.

So, here's what happened (sparing the detail of the unpalatable parts):
  • I lived all of the emotions associated with not eating and, even fabricated, this experience was intensely uncomfortable.
  • I found it really difficult to fit 3 litres of juice into my body in just a day, which is hilarious because I'm sure I could have eaten a pound of bacon.
  • It was hideously effective in terms of the digestive reset. Let's just say I didn't leave the house because I couldn't. This was a rather surprising impact (despite what I'd been told) and one I cannot say I enjoyed. However, I can see how it might be very useful for people who have inflammatory digestive conditions.
  • I slept a lot of the day, to pass the time and because I was freezing cold despite drinking tea constantly and wearing 8000 layers.
  • When I awoke, I spent hours feeling feverish and overheated.
  • About midday, my really oily skin became totally tight and dry - in a way I've never experienced in 44 years - to the extent that I started slathering on almond oil hourly.
  • I carefully monitored my intake of juice to protect my blood sugar (note this cleanse is designed, with nut milks having added oils, to provide protein and fat) and, nonetheless, I felt like crap.
  • Today, having begun to reintroduce healthy foods in reasonable quantities into my diet, I still feel like crap.
  • In what ways do I still feel like crap? My body hurts (that thing I often experience), my stomach is unsettled, my internal thermostat is off, I have a headache and I feel demoralized.
  • Could all that be because it's January in Toronto and I'm me? Absolutely. But the symptoms came on quite suddenly after starting the juice cleanse.
  • Are all of these things as a result of "detoxing"? I have no idea. I don't think they're as a result of blood sugar imbalance because I stayed carefully on top of that and I drank hundreds of calories. This wasn't a fast from that perspective.
  • Are these symptoms potentially the result of destabilizing my system? Could be. But really, I know people who eat less food on a regular basis than I drank yesterday, and they seem to be just fine.
  • Are these symptoms potentially the result of having done something out of phase with the seasons? Quite possibly.
  • Were these symptoms exacerbated by my period (sorry for the TMI)? Absolutely. In fact, they may have been caused by it (and then exacerbated by the cleanse).
So, what's the upshot? To digress slightly, after I had a baby, I knew immediately that I would never, under any circumstances, relive the horror of that experience. And, look, my child is an only.

This cleanse, however, is such that I imagine, within a couple of months, the unpleasantness will have faded (much as they tell you happens with childbirth but that's bullshit, IMO). Be sure though, I will not do it again in the winter in Canada. Or when I have my period.

What did I learn?

I learned that, were I to do this again, I would customize the cleanse such that the amount of nut milk would be in the realm of 1.5 litres (to 1.5 litre of juice) rather than 0.5 litres to 2.5 litres. Also, I'd put some additional oil in the nut milks to increase the fat consumed. I need fat, people. More than I ever realized.

I'd increase the volume of green juice without sugar. Interestingly, the juice without sugar was the most palatable and it made me feel the best. (The nut milks were largely unsweetened, so they were particularly stabilizing.) I feel my blood sugar would have preferred less sweetness, in the absence of food bulk, despite the fact that all of the drinks with fruit were very well-balanced. I sense they're at their most well-balanced in a "juice as supplement" way, at least for my biochemistry.

I learned that not eating is very complicated, even for just a day, and that the thought of going without food for any reason is distressing.

I learned that changing a life-sustaining habit, even for a very short period of time, can have massive impacts on one's body. Don't take this sort of experience lightly. Yeah, I'm probably sensitive (I usually am), but I wouldn't recommend going to work under these circumstances.

It remains to be seen if this has any positive impact on my experience of pain. So far I'm in more pain than usual - which isn't the optimal direction, IMO, unless it's a temporary thing to be followed by a trajectory of pain diminishment. I have no idea what's to come.

So, there you go - Kristin's take on the most solopsistic of bourgeois acts.

I really would love to know about your experiences of juice fasting, if ever you've done this sort of thing! Let's talk.


  1. I find this all so fascinating! (And not only because you spent a week's grocery money for two on juice for a day... :P You can, so you should if you want too!) Mostly because I had the exact opposite food experience in the last 36 hours, but with the same effect! It was J's birthday yesterday, so in celebration I cooked him all the fatty fried food we've been avoiding for a month. And oh my gawd, after a carb-heavy fatty dinner on Friday and breakfast on Saturday, I felt so exhausted yesterday! Deliriously tired with heavy limbs and stomach that just would no digest. By time we went out for Japanese for dinner, I was craving edamame and tofu so bad! Today I'm back on beans and veggies, and feeling much better.

  2. OK, you and I obviously see food expenditure differently - we spend 300 bucks a week on average. I'd say I spend more disposable income on food than on anything else. It's ridiculous but I can't stop myself because food holds me in its thrall.

    And I've totally done that debauchery thing. That's my MO. But you do end up feeling so wretched thereafter. Just wait till you're my age :-)

    1. Food seems like a very sensible thing to spend big on - so much pleasure and health comes from eating it! I definitely feel like I spend an indulgent amount of my income on food, it's just that my income is smaller! ;) Mmmm, food!

    2. Yeah, but I take it to a stupid extreme sometimes. I just can't resist. BTW, my income would prefer that I spend less on food, fwiw :-)

  3. "I found it really difficult to fit 3 litres of juice into my body in just a day, which is hilarious because I'm sure I could have eaten a pound of bacon."

    This is the best thing ever said.

    Woman, you have willpower.

  4. I had a bad experience with an extreme eating plan in 2009. A friend was trying the Fat Flush diet, and I decided to do it, too. It was quite extreme, I remember having to drink a lot of unsweetened cranberry juice and some mixtures of juice and flaxseeds and psyllium husks. I don't remember exactly what the rest of the diet was, but it was extreme. I did it for a weekend and felt awful. Worse, I believe that it triggered the onset of Sjogren's Syndrome. It was a while before I realized what I had, but the symptoms (dry eyes and dry mouth) started suddenly that weekend. There are a lot of autoimmune diseases in my family, some very serious, and one sibling died from her disease in early adulthood. I consider myself fortunate in that I only have a very mild form of SS and I can control the symptoms well with one medication, supplements, and tea.

    So for this reason, I will never do an extreme eating plan again. I find that food has a profound effect on me. Eliminating sugar puts me into a wonderful, clear-headed, serene state. Going much below 50% carbs makes me feel sick. And I'm struggling now with feeling awful if I don't have some meat, chicken, or fish every few days. My son is a vegan, so I am constantly cooking vegan food and that's what we eat most of the time.

    I hope that the bad effects of the juice cleanse subside and you start to see some benefits. I'll be watching for new posts with interest!

    1. Oh, I'm confident that the yucky feelings will subside - they're already going away. I spent yesterday eating. Consciously and fairly constantly :-)

      But I totally appreciate what you're saying about autoimmune diseases not appreciating huge fluxes in eating habits. On that basis - and because, frankly, I think one can accomplish more improved health with a healthful weekend of spa eating, including juice (you know, well-balanced, nutritious food in reasonable quantities), than with this more extreme methodology - it's unlikely I'll be trying this again any time soon.

      Thanks for your perspective Marie!

  5. OK, so to start off I'm not a believer in the "cleanse"---For the same reason your "real life" people mention, lack of scientific evidence (I would also like to know what these toxins they're always talking about actually are, but that's a whole digresson... ;) ) That being said, as an experiment with the goals you stated, sounds interesting (if not necessarly healthful.) and it sounds like you learned something, anyway. I would say, listen to your body---it does not sound like it enjoyed the experience. ;) My mom did a few green apple cider cleanses years ago when that was the thing to do, and I can't say that it had any particular effects beyond the obvious short-term ones (her issues are primarily digestive.)

    I'm all for juicing if it helps one take in more vegetables than otherwise, but I confess I can never quite silence the little voice in the back of my head going "you'd probably be better off just eating the whole vegetable..." ;)

    An interesting experience, anyway. :) Also, what Oona said. (I've watched my husband go through medical cleanses a couple of times and downing massive amounts of any liquid in a short period is pretty brutal.)

    1. Yeah, I'd like a better definition of those toxins too - but I can suspend my disbelief for the experience... It was much more than the sum of its parts - and while I still don't think a day of juice cleansing is dangerous (if one is in largely good health), Marie's comment has me thinking, though. I was more affected by it than I thought anyone could be, in truth. It's made me much more mindful of eating as a construct and as a necessity. I think this will contribute to improved eating habits because I've now seen first-hand how impactful (hate that word) food is in the micro-sense.

  6. So interesting. I'm currently working my way up to a juice fast (not brave enough to go cold turkey). Over the last week I've replaced one meal a day with fresh pressed vegetable juice with just a little fruit pressed in with it. I've found that I'm less bloated, less hungry, making better food choices at other meals, and losing weight too. I suspect that when I up this to a full day then things will be significantly different, but I'm actually enjoying this phase very much.

    1. I don't know if the full juice cleanse will be more enjoyable than what you've got going on now. I would wait till the weather changes. There are so many benefits to drinking some delicious veg juice. But only juice is not as fun. Mind you, a day is only a day. I'd just be sure to include fat and protein (in liquid form) as necessary to feel stable.

    2. I think it would have to be a day where small peeps were very much engaged somewhere else...for their sake as much as mine. ;-) You are awfully brave.

  7. PS....for sure I could eat a pound of bacon! Yum!

    1. Oh yeah. Even after drinking 3 litres of juice I could have done that!

  8. You know, I went through a sort of cleanse a year ago, colonoscopy prep! It was a liquid diet for a day and a prescribed liquid to empty the colon. I actually felt fine that day - had a lot of broth, jello (I usually never eat it but it tasted good when it was the only (semi)solid allowed, water, ginger ale.

    And, for anyone who should get one and is procrastinating, the colonoscipy itself was nothing. Out for 15 minutes, it was over. And I felt fine.

    1. My husband, now 50, just had his first in December. It was watching that process that gave me the idea for this. He had no issues at all - and didn't even eat the jello cuz he hates it. He LOVED the drugs they give you :-)

    2. Yes, as drugs go, that one was great. You're completely out, but wake up quickly, with no hangover. You're not allowed to drive the same day, so I didn't, but I felt completely normal - just hungry!

  9. "...the most solopsistic of bourgeois acts."

    HAHA! Kristin, I know if you do something remotely self-indulgent, you'll poke fun at yourself for doing it. You'll serve up the humor beside a meaty, informative narrative, analysis, and conclusion.

    I, for one, am glad to have this write-up to consult any time I think of juice fasting. I was unlikely to try it, but now I KNOW I don't need to.

    1. Well, all I need to do is reread this post to know that it's unlikely I'll ever feel the need to try this again :-) Records can be useful!

  10. I must admit, my silence has mostly been of the 'if you can't say anything nice...' variety on this subject. :)
    If I read one of your points correctly, you thought that the... purgative qualities of the juice fast might have some appeal for those of us with inflammatory digestive conditions. I have Crohn's, and honestly, if a regimen can't bind me up tighter than the lead in the 50 Shades movie, I don't want to let it anywhere near my poor beleaguered colon.
    I'm glad that you were able to try it, and I hope that you can find a way to incorporate juices into a way of eating that makes you feel better. Just remember that the calories (and the fat from that nut milk!) can really add up if your already eating a diet that has enough calories to keep your weight stable. In fact, adding juices (and other beverages) is one way my GI recommends for 'tricking' your body into taking on extra calories when needed.

    1. I'm no expert on inflammatory digestive conditions (nor do I pretend to be one). But I was talking with a friend who has an inflammatory digestive condition and she found the juice fast very helpful (not at the time, but after the fact). Needless to say, I'm not recommending this to ANYONE, much less those with health conditions.

      Gotta say, I'd rather drink a fruit-free, all veg cold-pressed juice any day, rather than eating those vegetables (because I hate the texture of most fibrous veggies but I don't mind the taste). Those are very low on calories, happily.

      When it comes to fruit based juices and the nut milks, I view them as food. When I drink one, I make sure to allocate those calories. But I'd prefer to drink a nut milk after dinner, as dessert, than to eat the equivalent number of calories in some sort of treat (which I'll eat anyway, I like a treat after dinner). It's healthier, lower in sugar and it stabilizes blood sugar while also providing hydration.