Try It Tuesday: Juice Cleanse Confessional

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“Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.” This phrase would rattle around in my head every time I had a negative thought about juice cleanses, or cautioned a friend against them. Sure, I could point to a bevy of scientific reasons why cleanses were pointless at best, but I’d never had the personal experience to back up my claims.

…until earlier this week. For my diet challenge, I decided to try a three-day juice cleanse. I picked up my supplies for a three-day juice cleanse/detox/reset that was being sold at a nearby yoga studio and headed into the unknown.

Here is my diary detailing how it all went down. [[tl;dr: Don’t try this at home.]]:

Day 1 – 8:30 AMJuice Cleanse
I begin drinking the first of my six (yes, six) juices for the day. This one consisted of cucumber, lemon, celery, and cayenne. It is both bitter and spicy, which is not the best flavor combo. Despite the foul taste of the juice, I’m feeling pretty good. Not hungry, and relatively energized despite skipping my morning coffee.

Day 1 – 10:00 AM
Still working on the bitter, spicy juice. I regret starting this juice cleanse on a Monday.

Day 1 – 10:30 AM
Finish two-thirds of my bitter, spicy juice before giving up and moving on to juice number two. The second juice is much better. This one is a mix of pear, apple, kale, cucumber, and lettuce. Tastes kind of like sweet salad in a cup.

Day 1 – 11:15 AM
Finish juice two. Slightly hungry. My energy is fading a bit, but feeling generally OK with the thought of subsisting off fruits and veg for 72 hours.

Day 1- 11:30 AM
Just received the worst email. The whole office is going out to lunch to celebrate The Longest Day. An email promising a round of burgers and shakes would be a godsend on any other Monday. But not this Monday. I curse the natural health gods as I crack open my third bottle of juice.

Day 1 – 12:15 PM
I sit quietly sipping my carrot, apple, and ginger juice across a table from my coworkers. They are all expressing their condolences as they eat their burgers around me. The moral superiority I get from sticking to my cleanse powers me through the otherwise unpleasant experience. Now I know how vegans feel.

Day 1 – 12:45 PM
Things begin to unravel. Suddenly, I’m simultaneously very hungry and very grumpy. Or, as I like to call it, “hangry.” I’m walking back to the office with my colleague Kris when I start complaining. Gentle complaints like “It’s hot” and “I’m hungry” give way to a full-on tirade about how juice cleanses are pointless. Kris humors my h-angry rant, but I can’t help but resent how this cleanse has already altered my mood.

Day 1 – 1:15 PM
Having nearly continuous flashbacks to “lunch.” The memory of solid food nearly consumes me.

Day 1 – 2:00 PM
A well-meaning colleague asks me if everything is OK and tells me I look “ashen”. Clearly, my cleanse has not yet resulted in the “healthy glow” promised by many practitioners.

Day 1 – 3:00 PM
I have a headache and it won’t go away. I crack open another juice to wash down three ibuprofen.

Day 1 – 3:15 PM
Seconds feel like hours. All the color has been drained from my world, and I look around my office through the lens of only an old, grainy, black-and-white film. Far away, I hear the sound of a child crying.

Day 1 – 4:30 PM
I give up and go grab a salad. It’s just kale with chicken, goat cheese, almonds, sweet potatoes and dressing. But, to me, this salad is more precious than gold.  

The cleanse was a flop. But despite not making it through my cleanse, I feel like my 18 hours of “cleansing” really gave me a new layer of perspective on this nutrition trend.

People make stuff up. Nutrition is not immune to the problem of people having just a little too much imagination. So many fad diets are the result of people getting carried away. Take cleanses, juice or otherwise. Who decided that our otherwise healthy bodies suffer from an excessive buildup of “toxins”? It’s kind of poetic to think about our insides as if they were just gutters constantly getting clogged with leaves. But this, like so many other diet myths, is just fiction. Our livers and kidneys do a great job of removing toxins from our blood, no juice diets required.

We like easy fixes and simple solutions. A three-day detox plan probably will not boost your energy levels and make your eyeballs whiter.1 The only simple recipe for health requires long-term commitment. Even if a cleanse were the answer to your problems, you would still have to suffer through three days of hunger—not to mention the risk of offending your friends and family, either by being too “hangry” or too self-righteous about your darn cleanse.

One cannot (and should not) live on juice alone. Juice has many healthy components, like essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. But when you’re drinking only juice, you’re getting only carbohydrates and micronutrients. Our bodies need other nutrients like protein and fat. Juice “cleansing” for more than a couple of days could worsen your health and even lead to malnutrition.

Last but not least: Think twice before experimenting with your own health. Hopefully the tale of my juice cleanse dampened your curiosity so that you don’t have to experience this yourself.

If you want to eat and live healthier, try making one healthy change at a time. Base your diet on the principles of variety and moderation, rather than short-term fixes.

1. This is an actual promise made by the proponents of some cleanses