Day 3: The Breaking of the Juice

I wasn’t quite as perky this morning, but I still don’t remember a time I’ve been this energetic on this little caffeine. Anyway, I can tell I’ve dropped some water weight, but I’m not surprised by that either. However, after 3 days of fasting, I think I’m going to break it tonight. The thing is, I miss chewing things. My body is sending up little crazy signals telling me I should be chewing, and I’m totally okay with that.

As a note, before I launch into the list of things I learned from this little experiment, I’m glad I didn’t pay for this cleanse. I thought about it, laughed at the price, and then read the pages of health information. Let’s just say the health field is filled with people who have a loose grasp on anatomy. Your stomach is acidic, but your pancreas pumps out enzymes that lower the pH of your food when it enters your small intestines, and this part, where the digestion takes place, is at pH 8. And your liver, for the last time, does not need detoxifying. If your liver and your kidneys were not working, you would be dead. If you want to lose actual weight, a juice cleanse isn’t for you. I wouldn’t go on this cleanse for more than 3-4 days. These companies suggest you eat vegan before you go on your cleanse, so they’re effectively prepping you for a week long commitment. If you put your body into starvation mode, your standard of health will decrease. A few days at depressed calorie intake on a cleanse should be fine, but don’t go the master cleanse route and fast for two weeks. You will lose muscle weight, and you’ll be less fit and healthy. So let’s stop talking about ‘detoxing’ and try to figure out what this means in terms of improving health.

On the flip side, I didn’t do this cleanse to start eating pizza and nachos again. I’m going vegan for this week and eating the remainder of my veggies and fruits. I read articles about people whining about how hard juice cleanses are and how terrible juices taste and how they weren’t healthy and how only nutty people cleanse and they’re just going to eat a fat steak now. If you’re going to do this, work with an open mind, and for all that is amazing, don’t do the master cleanse. Use a nice grapefruit juice to replace the SPICY LEMONADE.

Here are some takeaways from my DIY juicing experiment.

* I don’t eat enough fruits and veggies on a regular basis. I live in a culture where it’s permissible not to, and it’s easier to get good tasting non-vegetable food.

* I have improved energy, but I didn’t notice anything major with my skin. Some people say their skin gets ‘glowy’, but I didn’t see that result. I did have some digestion issues early on, but those cleared up. I don’t own a scale, but I did drop some water weight. I was able to run errands, work out, and go to work for days 2-3 of the cleanse without problems.

* Green juice is the answer to my fruit juice woes. I went into Whole Foods, and the two green juices I found (one being Naked) listed 5 fruits as their top 5 ingredients. I think the mostly-veggie green juice is what makes all of these juice cleanses work. My green juice included 1 kiwi, 1 apple, and a few handfuls of spinach and kale. I would consider adding parsley or celery in the future, but this recipe is simple, and it’s as many veggies and fruits as I eat during a normal day. I have effectively doubled my veggie/fruit consumption per day with an extra 15 minutes of work.

* You can do juicing with only a blender. I was skeptical I would be able to make this work with a blender because every other person who wrote about their DIY juicing had a juicer or dropped several hundred dollars to buy one. I can confirm that with a blender, pasta strainer, a funnel, and a bottle of some sort to keep the juice in you can make decent juice. Just make sure to add water, a bit of lemon juice (if desired), or coconut water to the veggies in the blender.

* I like to eat some fruits and veggies whole. I’m not going to grind up my other pineapple. I love pineapples! I was so sad when I had to throw away the pulp from the pine apple/cucumber drink. I love eating those two things raw, and my strawberries have been patiently waiting for this fast to be over.

* That said, I can expand the amount of fruits and veggies I eat everyday by blending together fruits and veggies I don’t like to eat whole. The perfect example is grapefruit. I loved the grapefruit/apple drink. I drank it right now, and I want more grapefruit juice. The same goes for kiwis and carrots. I can get cheap veggies and fruits, mix them together, and increase the amount of veggies and fruit I’m eating.

* I’m still skeptical of store bought juices. There are some good brands out there; I’m obsessed with juice now, so I went out and looked last night. I would consider buying some of those brands, but the majority of easily available juices aren’t vegetable based, and even the natural ones are designed to be very sweet by adding concentrated fruit juice. The only juice I found that listed vegetables as the first plant ingredients were tomato/carrot juices. We’ve designed our juices to include no pulp, too. As a rule, when you drink a bottled juice, it shouldn’t be clear. Juice isn’t soda, and the fibrous parts are good.

* I want to try one of the green juices from the cleansing companies. I couldn’t find any, but maybe in the future I’ll be able to try one. I want to know what the physical difference is between the green juice I made and the ones those companies are selling. That said, I wouldn’t pay to do this cleanse. Not $60-$80 a day for a labeled bottled and juice I could make myself. I spend that much money on my entire grocery bill, and I still have food left over I’m not going to juice, and I could, if needed, do two to three more days of just juicing on what fruits and veggies I have. I also don’t feel comfortable supporting the companies selling these cleanses because the websites do promote a lot of pseudo-science and feel-good anecdotes as supported health claims.

* The DIY method is definitely cheaper, and I can fit parts of it into my budget. I can make the green juice for under $20 a week, and with $25, I can make an additional fruit juice. I liked the cashew milk, but I think I’ll just stick to my cartoon of almond milk because it’s less chunky and has less calories. That said, 1/4 cup soaked cashews, 1 banana, cinnamon, and nutmeg with a splash of almond milk would make a great alternative to sweet and salty desert cravings.

Day 2: the Juicening

I had a variety of expectations going into this “drink your veggies” experiment. On waking up after day 1 (really, day .5 because I started this at around 2 pm Saturday), I’m surprised because I slept the same amount/sleep schedule as normal, and I am wide awake. Not ‘toothpicks propping open my eyelids’ or ‘wired on a large coffee’ awake, but ‘I actually got up when my alarm went off instead of sleeping through it for half an hour’ awake. I’m limiting myself to 1 cup of coffee (I measured it!) a day to keep any caffeine withdraw headaches away, but I think I could have done without the coffee this morning. I can’t remember a time in the last several years I could have said that. I thought I would wake up and say, “Screw this. I need to be awake to go to work.” But here I am, and I was in lab at 8 am.

With that said, the one down side I’m having also surprised me. I thought without eating fat or dairy last night, I would feel less bloated, but this isn’t the case. My stomach felt a bit tender this morning, but it’s not abnormal for me to feel nauseous in the morning. I thought I wouldn’t be bloated, but I didn’t find that to be the case, at least when I woke up. With that said, maybe allowing more pulp in the juice is causing the bloating. I plan to remedy this by making a citrus based juice later. I think the high alkali content of the green juice might be bothering my stomach.

Breakfast. Mmmmm.

Anyway, I drank my green juice for breakfast this morning. I wasn’t clear on what I was drinking, so I’m going to break down a little what I’ve done so far. From what I can tell, these juice fasts are built around the green juice. I’m starting to understand why: you’re drinking liquid spinach and kale. I drank 2 very pulpy green juices and 1 coffee mug of cashew/banana juice last night. I blended all my ingredients, so they’re probably WAY more chunky/pulpy than their counterparts you would get from juicing programs. I made 3 bottles of green juice and used 2 recipes of cashew juice to make 3 servings. I left the cashew mix less strained, but I did a fair job straining the green pulp. I put it into a pasta strainer and pressed it down. Then, I added more water to the pulp and let it sit over night, which is how I got 1 grande iced coffee serving for breakfast. (See: the handy plastic cup I didn’t throw away.)

Green juice:
– 1 large handful of kale
– 1 large handful of spinach
– 1 average sized kiwi, peeled
– 1-2 Granny Smith apples, whole
*The recipe I took this from says to add 1 banana. I didn’t do that on the first day, but maybe I’ll try the green juice with a banana.

Banana-Cashew Milk
For 1 bottle:
– 1 cup of raw cashews, soaked in water for 2 hours
– 1 banana
– 1 cup of water
– a pinch each of cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg
(I used WAY more water to dilute 2 recipes of this to 3 servings. I drank one serving last night, but I’m going to try and make the remaining two servings last as lunches today and tomorrow. We’ll see.)

Pineapple-Cucumber Juice:
-1 Pineapple
-1 seedless cucumber
*You could add apples and cut back on the pine apple. This one was hard to strain, and I made only 1.5 bottles from this ‘double’ recipe.

Grapefruit-apple-coconut Mint Juice:
-1 grapefruit
-1 red apple
-1/2 container coconut water (natural, unsweetened)
-Sprigs of mint
(I peeled the grapefruit and chopped up the apple, and blended it all together. This juice was to replace the lemonade, and it strained really well. The mint might make your stomach feel better. I a full bottle plus a bit more out of this recipe.)

Here are pictures of ingredients and how I strained them and filtered them. That said, I would embrace the pulpiness of these drinks. I went to Whole Foods, trying to find a packet of the cleanse drinks sold nationally, but they didn’t have the bottled drink versions. I really want to find a comparison ‘green juice’ to see how my blended version stacks up. From what I can tell, the green juice is what is making the difference for me.

Recipe for the pineapple-cucumber drink. I didn’t end up using the apples.

Cucumber and pineapple straining. It’s actually a very delicious juice, but it was the hardest to strain.

1 plastic cup of cucumber/pineapple for dinner and a bottle for work tomorrow!

The apples and grapefruit in the blender beside the coconut juice.

My final product of grapefruit/apple/mint/coconut juice. It’s very good, and the citrus balances out the more bitter juices.

Life experiments: Juice cleanses

I’m taking an exciting vacation in ten days. I’ve been saving money and doing work, putting the trip as far back in my mind as possible so I don’t get distracted. I’m not the type of person to check out until I’m out the door and hoping a plane. This is why, when I went shopping yesterday, I had one of those moments where, I realized for me, I had let myself go.

It started with my hair. I looked in the mirror and realized my hair was two colors. Two freaking colors. I had the tacky bottle dye job (saving money) and the root re growth to show how little I’ve cared for…oh, the last six months. To top it off, I was bloated and decided to wear skinny jeans out. And I didn’t wear make up because I care a lot less about putting make up on when I spend my entire day alone and working with rodents. This is just how it works, people.

“Letting myself go” is a relative term, and a phrase I kind of hate, even as I realize what it means. Basically, to cut down stress, I take an approach to let the little things (laundry, cleaning, putting on make up) slide unless the occasion is important. Think ‘job interview’ or ‘giving a presentation.’ There should be room in life to not care about trivial things. We should give ourselves the freedom to go after goals without the nagging voice of “Do the laundry! Have the perfect house! Paint your nails!” ringing in our heads. I have things I want to do that are more important than devoting a chunk of time and money to chasing this high-maintenance version of femininity. For example, read 18 things to consider before moving in with your boyfriend, and please, for the love of all the things, let me know if you’ve known ANYONE who hangs up their flip flops. In addition, if you have ever made a cut bow in your toilet paper or decorated your freaking trash can with bows, let me know so I can say there are people in the world who’ve actually done those things. I do not believe these type of people exist, and if they do, I’m certainly not friends with any of them. I hate wasting time, but that said, I have a baseline of femininity, and I express it in some culturally typical ways.

That said, I had the ‘crap, I fell below my own personal level of femininity’ moment standing in a Macy’s dressing room. I called the hair salon on the bus ride home and made an appointment. My hair is a single color. Sometimes, life is that easy. I lucked out and got a woman who had a lisp, so she didn’t try to make idle chatter with me. I went to a very good stylist, but she talked way too much. Idle chatter bores me, and why are you asking me about super personal things? Just because you’re touching my hair doesn’t mean you’ve become my magical confidant.

I come home from the salon, and the second issue smacks me in the face: I’m bloated and feel terrible. This is different from the hair and femininity issue, but they’re all tied up in that knot of self-image problems. I looked up this article about DIY juice cleanses, which I read and made fun of a few months ago. I know what it means to cut water weight. I know how much water weight I can cut in a two day period if I absolutely need to hit a number on a scale. That said, ‘quick’ weight loss is just that: water weight and maybe a pound of real weight. The safest amount of REAL weight you can lose in a week is around 2 pounds while being completely functional. Even then, your body wants to sit at a specific weight, and it’s best not to fight nature. Eat veggies, get protein, drink water, and you land where you land weight wise. That said, when your diet (my diet…) goes to shit, you feel it. And man, I am feeling it. For me, it’s that I’ve started bad snacking habits. They crept in at work, and eating more sugar just causes me to crave more sugar. Couple this with a general increase in my cravings for dairy, and it’s the perfect storm of bad eating.

And this is how I read an article about juicing five times in a row before deciding that I was going to try it. Granted, I’m going to try the juice part for about 2-3 days. I’m going to try a slew of different recipes, but that’s the goal: lots of raw veggies and a bunch of water to reset my palate. Because when I’m too lazy to cook chard, something is wrong. When I let other foods squeeze out veggies in my food budget, I need to reset the baseline because it’s skewed.

The rough idea is to take the do-it-myself approach. (Money. Saving money is awesome.) I spent my week grocery budget on raw product and a box of unsalted cashews. No cheeses, no pasta, nothing else. Just fruit and veggies. I made the ‘green juice’, which seems to be the foundation of every juice cleanse that exists. And…well, kale has a really powerful after taste, even when it’s mixed with kiwis and granny smith apples. I also made the banana-cashew-lots of water-cinnamon drink to take to work for lunch because I’m going to need some substance at work. I played “will it blend?” with a variety of veggies, and I’m going to tackle more recipes tomorrow.

I have vowed to not eat anything more solid than the juice pulp for two days. The only exception is coffee, and even then, I need to drink only a cup to prevent headaches. Also, I will not do the master cleanse. If I want lemon juice, I’m gong to squeeze a lemon, add agave nectar, and dilute it with water. Why, why or freaking why, you would think ‘hey, I know what this lemonade needs! Cayenne pepper!’ I know what the intended affect is, but your liver and kidneys are pros at filtering toxins from your body. Cleansing, in the most literal sense, isn’t eliminating any magical toxins your liver and kidneys didn’t get to first.

My goal is to reset my palate quickly. I don’t own a scale. I don’t care how much weight I gain or lose. I just need to feel better, and a fair amount of that comes from a slippery-slope cravings slide. Once again, cravings are a personal thing. What I consider ‘normal cravings’ isn’t universal, but you can reset your cravings. The sugar in the fruit part of the drinks should work well enough to put a cap on the sugar cravings. After I finish the initial pulp n’ water days, I want to make a real focus on eating raw food. This isn’t because I believe cooking magically makes food unhealthy; it doesn’t, and in many instances, cooking allows you to absorb more nutrients from veggies. Basically, I want to stop being lazy with how I’ve been eating. There’s no magical bullet, I’m well aware, but the goal of feeling ‘less crappy’ is one I’m going to prioritize this week.