Meals are navigation points in my day, the way stars were for sailors long ago. When I stopped binge-eating in my early thirties, free-for-all food consumption was replaced with order: breakfast, lunch, dinner. That’s proven a very good thing in my life, and yet from time to time I like to break the pattern and do a juice cleanse.
I seldom look forward to these forays into food-less-ness, but the little cleanse I just completed – five days, with light-and-raw the day before – was different. I was remembering the peacefulness of some past periods when mealtimes were erased and I rested in the assurance that I’d be all right anyway. Most of my recent juice feasts, as some people call them, were just three days, around the change of seasons – and when it was cold, I’d sometimes skip a season. Although three-day stints were fine to give my digestive system a rest and be off caffeine, salt, and all processed foods for seventy-two hours, it’s not until the fourth day, for most people most of the time, that the bliss sets in. I hadn’t experienced that in a few years and I was craving it.
My husband, William, wanted to do this one with me, which made a huge difference. We could commiserate. The timing was perfect: a holiday weekend and the beginning of the corporate quarter for William, a light time workwise. We opted for a packaged cleanse. It wasn’t a full-fledged juice fast because every day the package included a nut milk at bedtime. One of the key ideas of a cleanse is to free the digestive apparatus of having to do anything, and nut milk has to be digested. But I was willing not to be a purist. I figured they put in the nut milk to assure restful sleep, which seemed like a good thing.
So we started. The first day was okay; I slept a lot. The second day I felt tired and weak, but also really calm; I slept more. The third day was better – even more peaceful — but I still wasn’t running any races. I joined a juice-cleanse support group on Facebook. It said “no nut milk.” Oh well….Early in the morning of day 4, awake but still lying in bed, I knew I’d come to the bliss point. The phrase that kept coming up was “peace that passes understanding.” This has to be why “prayer and fasting” go together so often in religious teachings. That lovely sensation persisted through the next two days. Truth be told, I have it now, but the work day will start soon and the stresses will accrue. Maybe I’ll handle them better.
Here’s what we’ve been consuming:
Pre-cleanse day 0:
- Wheatgrass shot (I know I said in The Good Karma Diet that I don’t do those; for a cleanse, I make an exception)
- Matcha-chia pudding
- Pint of blueberries
- Shangri-La Soup from Main Street Vegan (greens and avocado)
- Watermelon juice
- Wheatgrass shot
- 2 green juices
- 1 red juice (carrot, beet)
- 1 cayenne lemonade
- 1 watermelon juice
- Nut milk
Today. . .isn’t over yet, but my plan is 2 juices (one green, one red), Shangri-La Soup, and some whole fruit. Tomorrow I’ll add salad greens and steamed vegetables, and bring back beans and soaked nuts the next day. After that, I’ll be on the road (well, rails) heading for Vegetarian Summerfest. I’ll have a fresh green juice before I leave, take salad with baked falafel, along with fruit, flax crackers, and a couple of raw bars and bags of ginger tea for the long trip. That’s pretty much business as usual.
If you’ve never gone through this process, here are my tips:
(1) Be sure you’re a candidate. Most people are, but if you’re pregnant or nursing, or under a doctor’s care for any reason, consult with him/her before embarking on a juice cleanse of any length.
(2) Get information. Joe Cross’s enchanting documentary Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead chronicles his 60-day fast for healing an autoimmune disorder, and Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2 follows up with his many juice devotees around the world and with Phil Staples, the truck driver we met in the first film. I watched both movies this week, even though I’ve seen them before. I also kept helpful books nearby: The Juiceman’s Power of Juicing (Jay Kordich), The Reboot With Joe Juice Diet (Joe Cross), The Ultimate Book of Modern Juicing (Mimi Kirk), The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Juice Fasting (Steve Prussack and Bo Rinaldi), Soak Your Nuts (Karyn Calabrese), and the classic: Fresh Vegetable and Fruit Juices (Dr. N.W. Walker) There are two great juicing podcasts that I know of, as well: JuicingRadio with Angela Von Buelow and Shane Whaley, and JuiceGuru Radio with Steve Prussack.
(3) Pick the right time. Warm weather is best since fasting lowers body temperature. And this isn’t something to do during final exams or a major push at work. Starting with a three-day weekend is ideal. At least start with a two-day weekend so you can rest those first couple of days. The great thing about juice fasting, as opposed to water fasting which should only be done with 24/7 bed rest and under qualified supervision (check out True North Health in Santa Rosa, California, if this is of interest), is that you can work and go shopping and to the movies. Many people are even able to do rigorous exercise after the first few days.
(4) Ease in, especially if you include caffeine, alcohol, or a lot of processed foods in your regular diet. Caffeine withdrawal is apt to cause headaches and irritability. If you can get through those while you’re still eating, your juice cleanse will be easier. Preceding your juicing adventure with four to seven days without caffeine or alcohol and two or three days on a light, high-raw diet will make the transition a great deal easier.
(5) Help your body’s detox efforts with dry skin brushing, tongue scraping, saunas, self-massage and actual massage, foot reflexology, skin exfoliation – all the tips and tricks and services you’re able to include to support your body’s cleansing efforts and to give you some physical delights. Sleep is most important of all because, fasting or not, this is when most detoxing happens; allow your body all the sleep it asks for.
(6) Bring your soul along. This is a beautiful time to meditate, contemplate, and journal. If you never before understood the mind/body connection, you’ll understand it now.
Victoria Moran is the author of Main Street Vegan and The Good Karma Diet, and the director of Main Street Vegan Academy, training and certifying vegan lifestyle coach/educators. She is happy to be eating.