Last week, I made an incredibly impulsive, un-researched, un-thought out decision to go on a juice cleanse. This week, I still haven’t re-introduced animal products, and I spent the weekend on a super fun vegan cooking experiment. Here’s some background on why I even did this in the first place, some thoughts on the juice cleanse, and a few ideas about where I am now. The rest of this week will include recipes I’ve tested and loved, as well as some FAQs I got during the cleanse.
In the fall of 2009, my overall fitness level was off the charts. Thanks to a regular routine of running, yoga, and healthy eating, I was fit.
Fast forward to April 2012, when my weight hit an all-time high and my activity level an all-time low. I knew at that moment that something had to change or I’d continue reinforcing habits that wouldn’t get me anywhere near a healthy lifestyle.
Since that moment, I have been dabbling in all sorts of half-assed weight loss and healthy changes. I did a 12-day clean-eating challenge. No caffeine, no alcohol, no dairy, no processed foods. I definitely felt clearer and more energized after doing it. Between then and now, sometimes I avoided dairy. Sometimes gluten, processed foods, refined carbs, or sugar. Sometimes I cut back on meat. Sometimes I see and feel results.
That pretty much sums up my relationship with my diet and nutrition for the past year or so. Sometimes, awesome. Sometimes, lazy as f*ck. I knew I needed a hard reset, a completely “break the cycle” approach that would untangle all of my current habits and routines and introduce new variety and nutrients into my life.
From Know-How to How-To
This year, one of my goals is to watch 52 different documentaries in 2013 over the course of the year. I am especially drawn to any documentaries about food, our food system, health, and habits, and on Sunday night of last week, I watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. If you’ve seen that, you know where this is going. Dude’s health is all out of whack, and under the guidance and at the persuasion of a doctor, he goes on a 21-day juice cleanse, then switches up his diet to one that is based mostly in plants and whole foods.
Sure enough, he loses weight and resets his overall health. Others he recruits into similar journeys find that they have cured and/or reversed a wide number of health issues.
For me, this was the inspiration I needed. Enough was enough, and certainly, I could do this for five days. I decided that if I saw results, then fiiiiiiiine, I’d actually make some bigger changes.
Oh, did I see results all right. Here’s what actually happened.
Chris and I went in on this together, and I think that was a huge part of my success. Built in accountability and support meant that I had someone by my side who was making similar observations about physical health and motivation, and it was just easy to plan for meals when one of us wasn’t planning to cook or go out to dinner.
We DIY’ed the first couple of days. I had all kinds of fruits and veggies on hand because I was planning to juice a meal or two anyway, so I threw some kale in the juicer with apples, grapefruit, carrots, and a cucumber. I’ve found that a piece of fruit like an apple or pear adds the right amount of sweetness, and grapefruit adds a citrusy brightness that is awesome first thing in the morning.
For the last three days, we paid for one of the cleanses offered by Greenleaf Juicing Company ($60 for a three-day cleanse, three juices per day). I tried nearly the entire menu, while Chris stuck to a few tried and true combinations.
The only time I was tempted to cheat at all, during the course of the entire week, was on Monday night. On Monday nights, I go to my friends’ apartment to watch the Bachelor and am always greeted with amazing food and wine. Last week was no exception, and I had to decline the world’s best-looking homemade lasagna while I watched my friends dig in.
Honestly, my last juice of the day had totally quenched my hunger, so that helped. But also, at this point there was no way I wasn’t doing this. And I knew that.
Part DIY, Part Don’t-Get-Lazy
The hybrid plan of part-DIY, part-Greenleaf was a great way to do a first cleanse. I learned a little bit about new combination favorites in the first couple of days, and in the final three, the fact that everything was already made and bottled made it nearly impossible to get lazy and throw in the towel.
If you’re concerned you may give up halfway through because you don’t want to clean your juicer again, this is definitely the way to go!
At this point, I was incredibly curious — would I really feel the impact of eating zero processed foods, zero animal products, and zero carbs from refined flours and grains?
I ended up with a revamped outlook on food and my relationship with it.
When Saturday morning hit, I didn’t run out to brunch and go to town on the first Eggs Benedict I could get my hands on. In fact, the thought of that was overwhelming and sounded like an insane amount of food. We spontaneously drove up to Seattle for the night on Friday night, and on Saturday morning found a juice bar on our way out of town. This was the easiest way to make sure our first post-cleanse meals didn’t de-rail everything or make us feel sick and sluggish.
Once we returned to Portland and started thinking about solid food again, I was so excited to spend the afternoon in the kitchen. A lot of my time last week was spent on Pinterest, pinning recipes for things like zucchini pasta (recipe coming!) and beet burgers, and on Saturday afternoon, I started experimenting.
By the end of the weekend, my kitchen felt like an actual Food Lab, and we tried everything from avocado cream sauce to yam chips to a nutritional yeast-based cheese-like sauce.
I had a few glasses of wine over the weekend (and honestly, noticed a difference in the way I slept and how I felt the mornings after). Understanding friends accommodated my request to find a veggie-friendly restaurant for a dinner date on Saturday night. On Sunday, Chris and I had brunch at a vegan restaurant I’d been scouting out for some time (more on that later).
I didn’t miss wine at all. There were a couple of times I thought about it, but felt perfectly satisfied knowing I’d enjoy a glass again over the weekend. I did make a fun little “mocktail,” but that was more because I wanted something refreshing and not really about replacing alcohol. This is mint, cucumber, and lime, topped with club soda. I enjoyed this around 4:30pm one afternoon, called it at-home happy hour, and loved it.
Where I’m at Now
Now, it’s Monday afternoon and while I’ve slowly started re-introducing whole grains and legumes back into my diet (and carefully considering how energetic I feel when doing so), I’m not quite ready to go back to anything that’s not a plant. I feel too good, my weight is steadily declining (not as rapidly as it started, but that’s to be expected, and my energy level has sky-rocketed.
I know I went into this without a lot of fanfare. A lot of people swear by announcing big goals publicly in order to inspire accountability and guarantee follow-through, but I’m starting to learn that the opposite is true for me. There have been some scientific/psychological studies supporting and suggesting that declaring a goal produces the same chemical reaction in your brain as completing that goal, to the point that it feels as though you’ve already accomplished it. So, I sort of just did this, and didn’t start talking about it publicly (on the Internet) until I was a few days in. This was intentional.
This week’s goal, now that my food habits are falling into place, is to add activity (oh, yoga, how I miss you!) back into my life on a regular basis.
Tomorrow’s post will examine more of the details and specifics of the cleanse (What was actually in the juices? Was I ever hungry?), so if you have any questions about the process and experience (as it went for me), let me know and I’ll try my best to address those! I’ve also had some emotional reactions to this process, and I’ll address those this week as well.
Later this week, I’ll post my recipes for the amazing things I learned to do with homemade cashew milk (including a non-dairy, no-sugar, superfood-boosted Vanilla Latte, Spicy Chai, and Hot Cocoa/Mocha).
The only question I have left is this — why didn’t I do this sooner??