08 March 2013

my three-day juice cleanse

This January, I did a three-day juice cleanse. It was awesome and before I get into the details, here is my obvious disclaimer that everyone should make their own decisions and do what is right for them. I've spent hours researching both sides of the juice cleanse debate and gave it a good deal of thought before taking the plunge.

I followed the Blueprint Cleanse program and signed up as part of a group through one of my local yoga studios. I expected it to be a grueling three days and prepared myself for that physical and mental battle. In the days and weeks prior, I read a lot. I read about juice cleanses, detoxes and the mind-body connection. Remembering the challenges that I had faced in past food-based cleanses, I expected three days of juice to be a struggle.

I got myself into a focused zen place. That was key.

And? It wasn't bad at all. It was... good, even. Day one was great. I was excited and ready and never hungry. Drinking six 16-oz juices a day, plus water and herbal tea, is a LOT. I drank them slowly as I worked and found that it was tough to squeeze them all in. As soon as I sensed even the tiniest pang of hunger, it was time for another juice. I was constantly drinking something, which kept my mind and stomach distracted and happy. I tried to sip on water and tea in between juices, but most time I couldn't sneak them in.

My typical juice schedule:
7:30am- Hot water with lemon
8:30-9:30am- Juice 1 (Green)
11:30am-12:30pm- Juice 2 (Pineapple Apple Mint- P.A.M.)
2-3pm- Juice 3 (Green)
4-5pm- Juice 4 (Spicy Lemonade)
5:15pm- Yoga
6:30-7:30pm- Juice 5 (Green)
8:30-9:30pm- Juice 6 (Cashew Milk)

I chose Level 2, because I heard that the beet juice in Level 1 isn't all that good and that's the only difference between the two levels. You can read about the juices more here. I remember tasting the green juice a few years ago at the NYC Wine & Food Festival and thinking it was awful. That could have been because I wasn't used to green juices at that point in time, or it could have been that I let it sit a few days too long and it went bad. I don't know. This time around, I really liked the green juice. Surprisingly, I ended up liking it better than the P.A.M. and Spicy Lemonade ones. The P.A.M. was pretty good and the Spicy Lemonade wasn't bad, although it definitely had a cayenne kick. The green ones, though, just tasted right to me. And let's not forget the cashew milk dessert. Pure heaven. After a full day of juices, my body was craving the protein and fat of this one and it always seemed like such a treat.

I was shocked at how smoothly the three days went. I didn't have any withdrawal symptoms, I never got too cranky nor did I feel deprived. I was in the zone, people. The time passed quickly, the fresh juice flowed and I felt great. At first I was bummed by how much of a non-issue the cleanse was, because I has psyched myself up for something big, something transcendental. Then I thought about it more, and felt totally smug about how non-toxic I must be and how little I needed to cleanse. Then I thought about it again, this time with more common sense and humility, and decided that yes, my body was benefiting from the detox and the rest from holiday indulgences, daily desserts, cheesy burritos and flowing booze but also that yes, I generally maintain a healthy lifestyle. I was already used to morning juices and smoothies, I eat a mostly plant-based diet and only drink coffee a few times a week. This juice cleanse was a subtle, anticlimactic indicator that I'm living well and benefiting appropriately from a three-day digestive rest. Not earth-shattering news, but reassuring in its own way.

Tips for success:

Follow the pre-cleanse recommendations. Honestly. You don't have to be perfect with it, but absolutely start cutting back on caffeine, dairy, meat, junk food, alcohol and sweets a few days before your cleanse. It helps both prepare your body for the cleanse, but also really helped me get in the zone. I took this little experiment really seriously and prepared myself physically and mentally for it. I think that made all the difference.

Enlist a buddy. I'm usually a loner when it comes to this stuff. I often prefer to carry out these health experiments alone and, in fact, I told almost no one about the cleanse until it was over. However, I am so grateful that I did this as part of a group at the yoga studio. Knowing that other people were following the same program really helped, because it felt less radical and severe. I knew that there were other people going to work and going about their regular lives while juice cleansing and I didn't feel so self-conscious about it.

Yoga. Part of the appeal of the group cleanse was that it also included daily yoga classes. They were scheduled right after work, which was the perfect time for me to reset before going home. The classes provided a welcome distraction from the typical after-work snacking and dinnermaking, and they kept me focused on my goals and provided great physical detox. Yoga is always a perfect way to draw more attention to your body and that's even truer during a cleanse. My studio and Blueprint also recommend spending time in a sauna or steam room to further facilitate the detox, but the only one I have access to is at my gym and it grosses me out. One of the yoga classes was held in a heated room, so I figured that was good enough.

Pick days that work for you. I had turned down other opportunities in the past for this juice cleanse because of scheduling. These three days worked well for me and were as good as it was going to get schedule-wise. Of course, you can't expect to have three days of no obligations or commitments while you cleanse, but I really wouldn't advise a cleanse if you have a major work event, birthday party or wedding to attend. Make it as easy as possible! I chose my cleanse dates because my work schedule was manageable and I didn't have any food-related events on the calendar. My evenings were free to attend the cleanse yoga classes. I didn't have any social dates set and was able to devote a lot of time to the experience. This group cleanse was offered Tuesday-Thursday, which I originally disliked, but I now think it was great. Staying on track during the weekend would have been much tougher for me. I wouldn't have wanted to stay home from a party or sulked in a corner feeling deprived. So during the work week, I kept my cooler of juices next to my desk and drank them quietly throughout the day.

Two questions I've gotten a lot are "Is the money worth it?" and "Can I hack the Blueprint Cleanse and make the juices at home?" The answers are Yes and Yes. Blueprint is awesome for the ease and convenience. For my first extended juice cleanse, I wanted it to be as straightforward and fail-proof as possible. I didn't want the option to sabotage myself, I didn't want to wonder if I was still getting the right nutrients and I didn't want to spend hours each night prepping the next day's juice. Blueprint gives you all three days worth of juice, which are each number 1-6. So on Day 1 you start with Juice 1, then Juice 2 and so on. You start all over again the next day. So easy. But could I have done it on my own with homemade juice? Absolutely. I'd love to do a cost comparison of this, because I think we'll be surprised at how much it will still cost to buy all of the fruits and veggies yourself. Each juice has a lot of produce in it and you are responsible for making eighteen juices yourself. If you are up for it and have the time to prep, it can absolutely work. It would certainly be manageable for a shorter one-day cleanse. Ordering Blueprint was completely worth it for my first extended cleanse and the fact that it was part of a group cleanse through my yoga studio made it even more worth it.

Bottom line? I loved my juice cleanse. I actually did feel lighter and more focused. For those interested, yes I did shed a few pounds temporarily, and about half of those came back after a few days of regular eating. I wasn't grumpy or hungry. I felt inspired and introspective. I felt empowered. When the three days were up, I know I could have done another day of all juices- though I'm glad I didn't have to! If you are curious about a juice cleanse, read up and learn more and then take the plunge if it is right for you. I'm happy to answer more questions below in the comments or by email :)

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