I was recently interviewed by a reporter about my personal experiences with juice fasting & detoxification. I have been on several juice fasts and I can tell you that they're intense experiences. Because of our recent series on fad diets, several of which involve not eating, I decided to share my experiences with the good and the bad of liquid cleanses. If you're thinking about a juice fast diet, my experience just might be helpful.
REPORTER: What juicer do you use and what juice recipes do you use?
ANSWER: I bought an expensive Greenstar juicer in January of 2006 (check out our juicer reviews) and the base for my juice is either oranges or tangerines + carrots. To that I add whatever is in season and looks good, especially spinach and celery, but also veggies & fruits such as sweet potatoes, apples, cabbage, lettuce.
I've tried following specific recipes that are supposedly for specific problems, but I haven't seen that this approach is any better than the 'general' kind of juicing I do now.
Some vegetables are just so bitter that I can't tolerate them – kale is an example – and so I also use a green drink powder + alfalfa tablets to supplement my juices. I use these every day, by the way, whether I'm juicing or not. The green drinks don't taste good – not to me, anyway – but I make a small amount of concentrated drink and swallow it, even though I don't like the taste. They're an investment in my health.
REPORTER: Why did you start juice cleansing?
ANSWER: I started juicing because I knew my body was NOT at optimal health. I have nothing serious but at times I've experienced too much fatigue, bloating, constipation, joint pain, a general malaise. Juicing definitely clears up all these symptoms and in a very short time.
It's important for your readers to know that I tried two water-based 'fasts' before and the experiences were AWFUL. Both times I spent a day or two in bed, throwing up, diarrhea, etc. The authors who recommended this regime assured their readers that it was just the toxins leaving their bodies and we shouldn't be concerned. Perhaps that's true but I don't believe it's healthy for the human body to experience such severe symptoms unless there is a serious health crisis to deal with. Juicing alleviates this kind of misery.
REPORTER: What do you do to prepare for your juice fast diet?
ANSWER: I've done nothing in particular to prepare, but I hasten to add that's because I generally eat well anyway. I'm a vegan and I rarely overeat or indulge in junk … except for Starbucks! :-)
For someone who eats a lot of meat or sugar, I would strongly advising cutting down on the amount of food and eliminating as much as possible of 'heavy' foods like meat, butter, cheese, etc. The more toxic the system, the tougher the juice fast will be.
REPORTER: What do you experience during your juice cleanse?
ANSWER: Honestly, the first day is HELL! I feel constantly hungry and there is an inner war with one part of me asking, "Why in the world are you doing this? Stop NOW!". And sometimes I've started and then quit. Just eating a salad will alleviate the hunger pangs. I think it's the act of chewing that makes the difference. I'm not sure that I'm really hungry because I drink as much juice as I want and it does fill up my stomach. Several times I've decided to fast, started on the juice and then eaten salads or fruit later in the day and then gradually tapered off on the solid stuff.
At other times I've persisted and haven't eaten anything solid from the very beginning.
My longest fast was five days.
After that first day it gets easier. Much easier. Usually, sometime during the afternoon of the second day I start to feel incredible: euphoric, light, almost floating but in a good way. There's a real "high" on the other side of the suffering at the beginning. During this time I always regret that we humans have to eat at all. It seems so much easier to just skip the whole eating process – and it would certainly be more pleasurable and save a lot of money and effort.
REPORTER: How do you re-integrate food into your life after your juice fasts?
ANSWER: It's easy to not eat junk after a fast – or at least, it's easy for me. I feel so great that I don't want to disturb this feeling and the thought of something heavy like cheese or a burger or even a dessert is simply repugnant. It's not at all like, "Whew, that's over. Let's chow down". A piece of fruit seems like an effort and almost overwhelming. In fact, for several days after a juice fast I eat very little – out of choice, not discipline. Naturally, the eating routine overtakes me again and I get back to normal. I'm regretful, though. The 'high' is so incredible that I'd really like to live that way.
In my 'normal' life, I still juice almost every day. I usually have 2-4 cups of juice daily and my Greenstar will make "ice cream" out of frozen fruit. It's so luscious and I eat it almost every day, except in the coldest weather. I've invented one out of cherries and chocolate = the greatest combination in the world. Yum.
REPORTER: How often do you do a juice cleanse?
ANSWER: I do a juice fast every quarter – sometimes more often. I'm 66 and in great shape, especially compared to a lot of my contemporaries who moan and whine about how awful they feel. At the same time, most of them won't listen to any advice about ways to change their situation. I don't mean to sound unkind. I'm just impatient with this notion of "It's just old age and there's nothing I can do about it". Nonsense!
REPORTER: What did you like and dislike about the juice cleanse?
What I dislike about juice cleansing:
1. Obviously, I dislike that first day of adjustment. Honestly, I dread it. I'd fast more often if it weren't for that. I read recommendations to do a one-day fast and that's nutty to me. That way you get all of the misery without getting the 'high' that makes it so worthwhile.
2. It's inconvenient. I can't go out to eat with friends and I obviously avoid dinner parties, etc. For this reason it's necessary to plan a juice fast carefully.
What I like about juice cleansing:
1. Obviously, I like the "high". This world is so full of folks who take drugs to get high and those drugs are dangerous and cause physical damage. And they're so unnecessary when we can get this kind of great feeling in a totally positive way.
2. An occasional fast does great things for my health. All the problems I mentioned earlier – like aching joints, bloating, etc. – are symptoms of less-than-perfect health and they all disappear with a juice fast. Clearly I am doing my body a lot of good.
3. Less work: I don't cook, do meal prep or have to plan with a juice fast. It's definitely convenient that way because everything is simplified.
4. I save money. It doesn't seem that way at first because the fruits and vegetables aren't as cheap as buying the junk food that most of us love. And I always think I'm going to be needing tons of produce. But I always drink a lot less than I think I will – especially as the days pass. I usually make two cups at a time and sometimes on the first day I've had as much as 7-8 servings … but by the end I'm down to a couple of servings per day. This isn't discipline – it's just that eating & drinking become totally unimportant. That is extremely satisfying. We humans are way too focused on our stomachs. The only "rule" I have is: "drink when I'm hungry, stop when I'm full". By the end of the fast I just don't need any more than couple of servings.
Clearly, juice fasting and detoxification is an investment in good health – and we can never have too much of that. If you're considering it, perhaps you will be helped by my experience. Is it worthwhile? YES. Am I glad after a few days? YES. Is it awful when you're starting? YES. It's not an easy thing to do so your motivation must be strong. Or perhaps you're a stronger person than I am? :-)