With spring on its way - and with it bathing-suit-season not far behind - you might be thinking of trying one of the new three-day juice cleanses. But are long days of no solid food right for you? Check out one editor's experiment. By Meghann Foye, REDBOOK.
It seems like everyone is "juice intrigued" these days. In fact, search volume for "juice cleanse" is at an all-time high right now. I could tell you that my motivations for trying one out myself are purely scientific - a thought experiment to add my two cents to one of the fastest growing diet trends this year - but I'd be lying. I have a bridesmaid's dress to fit into in less than three weeks.
After researching all the options - and there are many - I opted for BluePrint's "Renovation" package, the original three-day, six-juice-per-day cleanse. The juices are "cold-pressed," which means valuable micro-oxidants are left intact. Each day includes two green juices, a spicy lemonade-style juice, a pineapple mint juice, one beet-based juice and a creamy cashew milk, packing in up to 20 pounds of nutrient-rich and non-GMO produce for a total of around 1,000-1,200 calories.
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BluePrint makes no claims about results, but does cite ample client feedback about weight loss, mental clarity and glowing skin. Most in the medical community, however, are careful not to give any credence to cleanses, explaining that our livers detoxify naturally. To that, BluePrint's nutritionist Julie Ruelle responds that while that's true in theory, the standard American diet is often so overloaded with added sugar, preservatives and other non-foodstuffs that our hard-working livers might benefit from an occasional three-day weekend "reboot," where you omit everything processed and consume nothing but cold-pressed, raw, organic fruits and vegetables.
I was offered the chance to test out the Exhale Spa Package, which paired the cleanse with three of Exhale's Core Fusion barre-style classes as well as an acu-massage acupuncture treatment. Though a little pricey at $295, I chose this program because with all the components, it's actually a pretty good deal - and it promised to be the least painful, tastiest and results-based way to literally get my juices flowing again.
Day 1: The first green juice goes down easy at 7:30 a.m., the kick-ass Core Fusion Cardio class with its never-ending mountain climbers, not so much. But happily, the pineapple mint at 9:30 a.m. seems to prop me up with its fresh tang. Then, a squeaky stomach at 11:30 already has me freaking out. Will my metabolism slow down? What about protein? What if my body starts to eat itself? Then I remember what BluePrint's nutritionist said - that most people have enough stored amino acid chains to last at least three days before the body starts relying on its own reserves. Still, I end up having a salad of greens, chickpeas and vinaigrette to quell my inner anti-diet vigilante. I drink two more juices during the afternoon - another green and the spicy lemonade. By nighttime, the gingery beet drink has lured me over to the dark, sweet side. Then I drink the cashew…yum. If you're a nighttime sweets person like I am, this is the part of the cleanse that will hook you with its calming cinnamon flavors and milkshake-like texture.
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Day 2: In the morning, I tell my inner scaredy cat to just get on with it, attending a Core Fusion Barre ballet-inspired class that is surprisingly painless despite only having a green juice beforehand. Usually if I don't have breakfast prior to a morning workout, my sessions are punctuated by an intense sugar-low feeling and coffee-craving headache. Today, my mind feels clear and calm. I've got none of the dull headache-y feelings I was worried about. By lunch I barely remember that I'm supposed to want to eat. I get some greens and lemon juice and only finish half.
By late afternoon, the bottles start going down smoother and by after-work drinks with friends, I find I'm not thinking about food at all. I wave off mini lobster rolls and Sauvignon Blanc with ease, and only start craving the cashew drink at about 9:30 p.m. I feel great.
During a night of cocktails with friends where I was the only one not drinking, I discover that maybe I don't actually need to stay out so late or drink a glass of wine to decompress.
In fact, drinking "clean" netted me at least three extra hours that day of productive, forward-moving creativity - one hour after each meal that I usually spend in a sort of hazy fog as my stomach breaks down the combination of wheat, sugar, cheese and heavy oils that it's probably not so thrilled about.
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Day 3: I wake up feeling low, down, and woozy. There's an empty feeling of hunger that I can't remember experiencing in a long, long time. It's the total emptiness of a long run during marathon training or an all-day hike in the woods. BluePrint suggests eating a quarter of an avocado or half a cup of coffee at times like these, and I'm happy for the respite.
But when small things are put on autopilot, bigger thoughts start to surface.
During my 2 p.m. Slow Yoga class for example, I realize that cleansing is really about giving yourself a chance to take a hard look at your thoughts when you're not eating all the time to cover them up. For example, what's behind the urge to binge on cookies? What longings are hidden in underneath another night of takeout? What aspect of your life is making you so tired that you need caffeine on constant drip? While not eating your way through the day, life seems to move a lot slower. You've brought yourself back from the future to the present. And it's there that you have to face all of these questions.
I don't know if it's because I'm on a sugar high from the beet-ginger again, but I find that looking under all these unturned stones is not as scary as I expected. I begin to look at my daily choices like a consultant - i.e. without judgment. I remember a study came out last year proving that that we all possess a certain amount of decision-making ability each day, and once we've expended it, chances are slim we'll make good ones. If I put "what to eat" and "how to exercise" on the daily done list, where else can I direct my attention?
The possibilities are as endless as the spectrum contained in my 18 vibrant bottles. I guess we'll see.
Oh, and the dress now zips, too.
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