Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Juice Fast: The Review

Here it is, at long last: I've made it through the juice fast/reboot and the transition back to food, and I'm here to tell you the tale. It's given me a sense of accomplishment I haven't had since I was running on a regular basis, and it's great to have that back!

I've had a lot of people ask me questions and/or express interest in doing something like this themselves--this entry will attempt to answer all those questions, in my charming, rambling way. 

The first big question, is, of course, would I do it again? Absolutely! I probably would do a modified reboot that did involve eating some of my fruits & vegetables as well, or maybe just five days of juicing only, as opposed to ten. I'm really glad that I did this once and got through the full ten days, but, unless I have another health crisis or relation-to-food crisis or something similar, I think I would stick with the reboot plans that still let me eat some solids. 

Let's address the juicer. There are a lot of different juicers out there, and most of them are pretty expensive. Adam and I went with this one:

It's cheap, well-reviewed, and so far, it's been a champ! It is a centrifugal juicer, and, from what I gather, this means it isn't quite as good for juicing leafy greens. I will say that I tended to get more juice out of kale, chard, beet greens, etc. when I chopped them into smaller pieces. However, one big advantage of this juicer is the big mouth - leafy greens notwithstanding, minimal prep was involved to make the veggies small enough to fit in the juicer. 

That's one thing you notice pretty immediately when doing a juice fast, or even subbing juice for a meal or two - you suddenly have much more time on your hands. Prepping produce, making juice, and cleaning the juicer all takes much less time it takes to make your average meal, or even pick up your average take-out meal. For the first few days, you're going to be a little lazier, and therefore probably not doing much that's productive with that extra time, but hey, you can catch up on your television while drinking some juice. It's odd to be drinking your meals. One of the most difficult aspects of the fast, for me, was missing the sensation of eating, especially in the cold. Nothing turns you off chilly juice like a cold, rainy day - you just want some hot food, and maybe some coffee! But, I had to make do with tea. Lots and lots of tea. Also vegetable broth, once. 

What I didn't suffer too much from was hunger. Don't get me wrong, on days 3 & 4, I did get hungry from time to time, and I felt a little weak and crappy--natural when your body is detoxing and switching to alternate sources of fuel. But as soon as I felt hunger, it could easily be resolved by having a little juice and a glass of water. Some people seemed to be under the perception that the juicing-only part of any reboot plan is tantamount to starvation, and that's just not so. This recipe for carrot-apple-ginger juice, one of the lighter recipes I've seen, is still 233 calories. This recipe for Peachy Green juice, on the other hand, contains 384 calories. Most plans I've seen recommend you drink juice 3-5 times per day, which means you're still taking in a good amount of calories. Most likely less than you're used to, but juicing does not equal starving yourself. Take a look at the recipes I linked to, and others with nutrition facts - you're still getting protein and all the nutrients you'd need. You are getting less fiber, obviously, but that is part of the point. You're supposed to be giving your digestive system a break. 

As I mentioned in update #7, I did not have the digestive fireworks most people describe having in the first few days of the fast. Other "cleanse" programs (most of which are essentially starvation, and therefore not cool in my book) talk about cleaning out your colon, getting rid of the sludge, etc., and I've seen a good bit of that when reading about juice fasting/rebooting. Adam and I did not experience this particular side effect. Why that is, I'm not sure. Our normally high-fiber, low fat diet? Lack of processed foods? It's difficult to say without consulting an expert, which I would rather not do, for obvious reasons. 

We did, however, lose some weight. Not a lot of weight - 5-6 pounds each, if you check the weight log. Weight loss is the goal for a lot of people, but it wasn't my primary goal--although I am glad to be back in the normal BMI range, and I'm hoping to stay there as my body rebounds from the fasting period. My primary goal was to redefine my relationship with food, and with my body. You see, I love food, which is more than I've been able to say about my body this year. As all of you probably know (if you've read anything else on this blog, or have talked with me in the past year), my body has failed me in a lot of ways as of late. One of the hardest parts has been the cold/pneumonia/respiratory infection. Not being able to smell or really taste your food combined with constant doses of antibiotics, steroids, and cold medicine will leave you utterly without appetite or enjoyment for food. I've been better for a while now, but the month-long stint of illness messed with my body and how it relates to food. I wasn't eating when I was hungry or even craving food, I was eating when I forced myself to, because I felt like I should be eating. That's not what food should be. Food should be enjoyable, nourishing, or, at the very least, a social binder. 

So far as redefining my relationship with food, this juice fast was a resounding success. As I mentioned yesterday, I was more than eager to be around food, even though I wasn't eating much of it. As I get back into eating, I'm enjoying my food, eating smaller portions, and feeling the nourishment. I am having a little trouble getting back onto an eating schedule, but I'm confident that will come with time - it probably didn't help that I was just starting to eat food again on Halloween. But I've been pretty proud of my eating habits thus far, and feeling much more in tune with my body where food is concerned. 

I was hoping that the juicing would help my skin. After never having a skin problem before in my life, I've been prone to breakouts for the past 15 months or so, which has been a real pain. After trying a million different (eco-friendly, non-toxic) products, I think I've got a routine that keeps most of it under control, but I didn't see much of a difference when juicing. I feel like I look a little healthier now than I have, but I suspect most of that is due to other factors. 

One of the biggest unexpected benefits of doing the juice fast has been the sleep. I imagine part of this is due to the fact that caffeine is a no-no while juicing, but it felt like more than that. I got tired faster, slept better, and woke up filled with much more energy. I would be sleepy when the alarm went off, like we all are, but as soon as I was up & out of bed, I felt fully awake. Normally, I may not feel fully awake until I've already been at work for a few hours - I'll spend that morning time just feeling fuzzy. It's nice to wake up and actually be energized and ready to tackle the day. 

The energy did translate into me wanting to exercise, but Adam wasn't feeling up to keeping up with the Couch to 5K during the fast, so we went on a lot of walks, but we're now back to the plan - you can keep up with that over at the fitness log

In fact, a friend asked me how I did at work during the fast, energy-wise, and if the juicing affected my ability to work. I did great! I shattered a previously held productivity record (previously held by me, so it was my own record) by a good portion. I won't lie and say that it's all great; I scheduled the fast when I did (starting on a Thursday) so that days 3 and 4, which were the roughest, would fall on a weekend. It was also helpful that one of my co-workers agreed to participate in the fast with me, so I had moral support right there at work. Literally right there (she sits next to me). Having a great support system at work, at home, and of course through my online community really helped me get through the temptations and tougher times during the fast. I couldn't have done it without you all! 

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