This is the story of how I undertook a 3 day juice cleanse and why it was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. Let me begin by saying that I don’t diet. Even when, for a foolish few years when I was a struggling actress and I thought modeling would be a good way to earn extra money and exposure, I could never bring myself to limit my food intake. It just never seemed worth it. Food is one of the greatest pleasures life has to offer. How can being in ad for Target possibly compare to Popeye’s fried chicken?
But lately, it seems like everyone I know is on or has gone on a juice cleanse. Don’t judge me as I judge you, but it always struck me as strange that while there are millions of people starving in the world that someone who lives in a developed country and has enough food to eat (and presumably doesn’t suffer from an eating disorder) would starve herself. Not just starve herself, pay a whopping $65 dollars a day for the pleasure of starving herself.
I guess I wasn’t sure if I believed in the contention that your digestive system needs a “break” or that your colon needs to be cleansed. It’s a colon for god’s sake. How clean does it need to be? It’s a bit like asking the garbage man to wear a three-piece suit and aftershave to work– what’s the point? But I suppose I was curious and wanted to see what all the fuss was about and I must say that I love a challenge and a chance to test to my willpower. When I put my mind to something, I do it. It’s how I’ll systematically achieve every single one of my life goals and finish reading all of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time… one of these days… so I tell myself.
But I still couldn’t justify the expense. My brother’s girlfriend Ashley and I decided to try to see if we could replicate the juice cleanse at a fraction of the cost. Why couldn’t we just buy the ingredients and juice/blend them ourselves? We looked up all the ingredients for one of the more popular 3 day cleanses and bought them. The plan was to meet on Sunday morning, make the juices and be on our way to feeling lighter and having cleaner bodies and clearer heads.
We should have known this would be the case, but the juices took a really, really long time to make. We got a late start and because it was technically day 1 of the cleanse, we refrained from eating anything all morning. You’d think this goes without saying, but washing, chopping, juicing and blending enough spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, parsley, cucumber, celery and green apple for two people to drink twice a day for three days is incredibly labor-intensive. By the time we finished making our first juice of the day, it was almost 3 PM.
We took a break to sit down and drink the first juice. It wasn’t easy. It tasted like grass, like we were eating mulch, like someone just emptied a lawn mower into our glasses. Ashley had tried and enjoyed the kind of green juices they sell in stores and claimed they were delicious. I always avoided them because I imagined they tasted like what we had just made. After a few torturous sips, it started to become tolerable. It was fresh, healthful, it was a bit like drinking a salad or cold cucumber soup.
Ashley had a harder time getting it down. “Maybe you should put it in a bowl and eat it with a spoon like it’s soup,” I suggested. That didn’t help. It just made it seem like there was even more of it. “Maybe you should try drinking it with a straw,” I tried. “I don’t have a straw,” she replied despondently. Eventually, she drank some more and we went back to work. By the time we finished making the remaining juices (Pineapple Apple Mint, Spicy Lemonade, Carrot Apple Beet and Cashew Milk), which were all surprisingly delicious (especially compared to the green one) it was almost 7 PM. I was already half an hour late to meet my family friends for Sunday supper and my back was aching from all the standing, chopping and juicing all day. Now I understand (though don’t condone) why Mario Batali wears Crocs.
When I got to their apartment, my willpower was put to the ultimate test. Let me tell you, watching someone eat a steak when all you’ve had to eat all day (or will eat for the next two days) is juice is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I went home thinking sleep was my only escape from my hunger. Boy, was I mistaken.
When I first graduated from college, I was in a long-distance relationship. I had a re-occuring nightmare in which I accidentally cheated on my boyfriend. I dreamt that I kissed someone else and then suddenly realized what I had done and spent the rest of the dream burdened by guilt. My first night on the juice cleanse, I had the same thing with food. I dreamt that I was eating a sandwich and all of sudden, realized that I wasn’t supposed to be eating solid food and felt terrible. But I justified it to myself by saying that it was just alfalfa sprouts and avocado and it wasn’t that big of a deal but then, all of a sudden, without realizing it, I was eating a bowl of ramen noodles. Oh, no!
I woke up the next day feeling a little woozy and weak and seeing the kind of sparkles I usually see after I give blood as I’m about to faint. When is the mental clarity supposed to set in, I wondered? As the day progressed, I came to two realizations: 1) When working from home, I spend a lot of time making and eating food and then washing the dishes, pots and pans I use to make and eat my meals 2) I do a lot of mindless snacking when I procrastinate from writing.
So because I was only drinking juices that had already been made, I had a lot more time to write and because I was so determined to stay on the cleanse, I felt even more focused on getting my writing done. I also felt more aware than ever of what I was putting into my body and self-satisfied knowing that I was consuming only raw, organic fruits and vegetables. But I was still hungry enough to strangle a deer. Mmmm…. venison.
Anyway, by the time the evening rolled around, I did something even stupider than going on a juice cleanse– I went to a yoga class while on a juice cleanse. I chose a slower than usual class to take it easy, but as I was walking up the subway stairs, my legs felt like they each weighed 100 pounds. During the class, I saw more sparkles as I got up from my downward dog poses. I was still determined to get through it but secretly feared I’d pass out like a teenage Tracey Gold in after-school special about eating disorders.
After class, I slumped into a bean bag chair in the lobby and savored my last juice of the day like it was nectar of the gods. I texted Ashley to see if she wanted to see Blue Valentine the next day so we could distract ourselves from our hunger. “I’ll go see the movie with you…” she wrote back, “But I won’t be hungry.” Apparently, my brother brought home chocolate truffles. I couldn’t blame her, but my resolve was weakened. I felt like a soldier during boot camp who sees his friend fall into the mud and give up. I wanted to give up too. On my way home, I went to see the latest Woody Allen movie, trying to ignore the intoxicating smell of popcorn the way I tried to ignore the dozens of pizza parlors, ramen noodle shops and bakeries on my walk home.
The next day, my last day on the cleanse, I could barely get out of bed. I felt ill. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I couldn’t walk. I almost fainted. This is pathetic, I thought. It’s one thing to be determined, it’s another to starve myself to death. Panicked, I envisioned my super finding me sprawled on the floor next to an overturned bottle, green juice slowly pooling around my corpse. Using my last reserves of energy, I opened my refrigerator and found some week-old Spanish rice in my refrigerator. I ate it like I hadn’t eaten in years. Then I had a bowl of shredded wheat. Then another one. Then another one. Then I went out and got two slices of pizza.
After a juice cleanse, you’re supposed to ease your way back onto solid food, but I had to listen to my body. It wanted pizza. Maybe juice cleanses work miracles for some, but it obviously wasn’t for me.
Cost of the fancy name brand juice cleanse: $65/day for three days
Cost of doing it myself: $16/day for three days + $7.50 for two slices of pizza on the third day + my dignity and possibly my health