As I mentioned yesterday, I completed a five-day juice cleanse last week. It was my first ever such endeavor, and I had a lot of reactions and feelings throughout the whole process. The end result was amazing, and I’ve stayed committed to “cleansing” my food habits beyond the juice cleanse week and am still focused on eating plant-based and whole foods for the immediate future. Since the cleanse ended, I’ve started re-incorporating grains and legumes into my diet, and am taking notes on how those things make me feel (sluggish? like a superhero?) by keeping a food journal (thanks to Nicole for the tip!).
Yesterday’s post was an overview of the experience I had, and today I’m going to go into a few more specifics that have either come up through questions I was asked last week, as well as some of my own preconceived ideas and fears (and how that actually worked out). And yes, we’re going to talk a little bit about digestion here. Because good digestion is sexy.
The Cleanse Defined
So, how strict was this? Well, here’s what I committed to:
- A minimum of three juices per day, for five days. More if I needed them, but at least three.
- No alcohol.
- No animal products of any kind (meat, dairy).
- No processed foods.
- No sugar (except natural fruit sugars, and a small amount of agave and honey towards the end).
- No legumes or grains.
- Drink ALL the water.
- Drink hot tea.
- Infuse water with tasty things like cucumbers and mint.
Seriously, this was strictly fruits, vegetables, nuts, water, and tea. Oh, and coffee. But a note about that: It was never my intention to completely eliminate coffee, however, I had so much energy from the juices (and from sleeping so well!), that I never once felt as though I needed it to wake up. As I’ll explain below, I had a small cup one morning because it’s a pretty dependable part of consistent digestion (ahem), and I added a little bit to my cashew milk a few times as part of experiments with Vegan Lattes and Mochas. This is also where the small amounts of agave and honey came into play.
So, what did I drink?
Some combination of these vegetables and fruits went into my juices: kale, spinach, apple, orange, grapefruit, lemon, cucumber, pear, tomato, parsley celery, ginger, lime, kiwi, pineapple, avocado, strawberry, carrot, beet, red pepper, jalapeño, and cilantro.
I also learned to make cashew and almond milk (soak nuts* overnight, measure a 2:1 ratio water to nuts, then blend), so I had a few of those in between juices sometimes. Sometimes I added coffee to this, sometimes cinnamon and cacao, sometimes a little bit of vanilla bean. All the times it was awesome and tasted like a treat. I even felt a little guilty the times I experimented with agave and honey (and I’ll delve into those feeeeelings in another post).
*Sure, I giggled every time I typed ‘nuts’. That’s ok. So did you.
Ok, so the fears.
To be totally honest, I so quickly and blindly jumped into this that I wasn’t afraid of things like cheating or giving up. It just wasn’t an option, and I found that (once I got into it), I wasn’t tempted. Granted, I only had one night of social plans all week, so I wasn’t exactly tested either.
Tip: keep your social calendar light during a cleanse, and use that time to reconnect with yourself (and save some going-out money!).
I was a little afraid of the um, digestive effects. I’d heard everything from “Be careful not to sh*t yourself,” to “if you’ve got a lot to get rid of, it might not be the easiest process in the world.” My experience was definitely more like the latter (Scenario A never happened, thank goodness!), and I experienced some pretty gnarly stomach pains the first night. A small cup of coffee the next morning, and a smoothie for lunch (to keep the kale fiber, not just the juices) helped move things along.
Bonus: my digestion post-cleanse is remarkably better and easier than it was pre-cleanse. So, I’ve got that going for me.
I was a little nervous about headaches, feeling tired, feeling hungry, and having some sort of emotional breakdown. Someone mentioned something about day three being emotionally taxing. I never experienced that, though I did have some feelings about some of my choices that I had to sort through, and I’ll go into that later.
Did I Cheat?
I will admit to eating a few cashews here and there as I was making cashew milk, and I indulged in a few bites of the avocado I threw in a smoothie. Other than that, nope. Nothing.
What about cravings? And did I feel hungry?
I never felt deprived. When I felt hungry, it was time to eat (drink) anyway, so I’d reach for my next bottle of juice. As for cravings, while I didn’t dream about pizza or pasta or anything, I spent a pretty large chunk of time thinking about how awesome a fresh tomato and avocado salad would taste when this was over.
I also spent a whole lot of time pinning veggie-heavy recipes on Pinterest. The things I was craving were more fruits and vegetables, and I was excited to see what I could do with those once I was back to chopping and sautéing things. So, while I have been thinking about food a LOT, it’s not with a ferocious intent to eat all the pizza or cheese in the world. Instead, I’m plotting all the ways I can eat avocado at every turn, and how I can discover and bring out flavor that naturally exists in produce, rather than bury fresh foods in sauces and sugars instead. It’s a super fun (and extremely beautiful, if you go check out my recent pins!) process.
As I mentioned, I completely guiltlessly ate a few bites of an avocado before throwing the rest in a smoothie, and I have to tell you — it was the best avocado I have ever tasted. I’ve heard that once you eliminate filler, processed foods and replace them with real, whole foods, your perception of flavor changes. This was absolutely the case and even since then — fruits and vegetables have never tasted so good.
Tip: if you do find yourself hungry between meals and you don’t have access to making a bonus juice, try one of these ideas:
- hot tea
- drink more water
- heat up some cashew milk with a little bit of cinnamon
- go do something, like go for a walk
If you want to stave off hunger after your next drink, blend your juice with half an avocado or a banana. These seem to have a bit more staying power than their crunchy counterparts.
How about energy? Surely, I’d be tired, right?
I had plenty of energy, and I credit that not only with all of the vitamins and nutrients in the fruits and vegetables, but also with how well I slept. I’m assuming that has something to do with the lack of alcohol and significant reduction in coffee, but either way.
On the contrary, I found that drinking juices (especially fruity ones) too quickly made me jittery. I’m going to assume that’s because of the sugar in the fruits, but I was a little bit over-energetic after my first two meals on Monday, so I made sure to drink the rest of my juices much more slowly, and to drink water alongside it. This helped.
Tip: don’t chug your juices.
What about weight loss?
As you might expect from a juice-only diet, I did lose weight. I lost 6 1/2 pounds between Monday morning’s weigh-in and Sunday morning’s weigh-in. On Monday morning, I was back up almost a pound, so I suppose that means that after a five-day juice cleanse and three days of a return to solid food, I’ve lost 5 1/2 pounds. An excellent start, but I know that to keep that momentum I need to stay committed to healthy food choices and start incorporating movement into my life again.
How to Stay Motivated
Here’s what worked for me. We watched a documentary a night during the cleanse, choosing films that were heavy on the “plant-based is so awesome!” messaging spectrum. It reinforced our decision to take this challenge, and inspired us to commit to healthy habits post cleanse. Here’s a list of what we watched:
- Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
- Food Matters
- Forks Over Knives
I also spent a lot of time on Pinterest (Elisa says it looked like I robbed a kale farm) for post-cleanse meals that would keep my body happy. Getting excited about new recipes was really fun, and I started doing all kinds of searches for everything kale, sweet potato, beet, and avocado.
I feel like this isn’t totally necessary, but I’m going to throw this out there: I’m not a doctor or any kind of health/medical/nutrition professional. It’s recommended that you consult with your doctor before starting any sort of cleanse like this. I didn’t, though I have discussed elimination diets and other diet experimentation before. This series of blog posts is meant to chronicle my experience and observations, not serve as a definitive guide on cleansing. Whew, ok. I feel better now.