Salma Hayek, Gwyneth Paltrow and Blake Lively often accessorize with smart-looking bottles of murky liquids. All the pretty girls carry brightly colored juices through the streets of New York and LA, and they’re caught on camera by lurking paparazzi. That’s how juice got famous.
This revolution’s soldiers are starlets and the tabloids are its propaganda machine.
Maybe that’s the bitterness talking. That’s what happens when you haven’t chewed in 72 hours. It’s Day 3 of an all-juice cleanse, and while the slight headache that haunted me for the first two days is gone and I’m no longer thinking insistently about red wine and cheese, I now hate Gwyneth Paltrow. And anything green. And juice.
The concept of fasting has been around for centuries and is an important part of many religions and cultures. Fasting was and still is a way of proving will power, of seeking enlightenment (that’s you, Jesus) and of repenting. Today, it’s similar. We fast to rid ourselves of our addictions, to lose weight and to detoxify. We repent and resolve our caloric indiscretions.
While the Master Cleanse took the spotlight in the 1990s, the juice cleanse is kinder and more gentle than its extremist predecessor, which requires participants to consume nothing but a concoction of water, maple syrup, cayenne and lemon. With juice cleanses, you immerse yourself with nutrients. I liked the idea of juice cleanses not as a form of weight loss, like my celebrity friends, but as a means of bringing goodness into my body.
So, I set out to explore the juice craze and to do a little cleansing of my own. Would a three-day juice cleanse get me bikini ready in time for summer? Definitely not. Would it add years onto my life? I doubted it. Would it rid me of my dependence on caffeine in the morning and red wine at night? I hoped so.
For me, the idea of juice cleanses didn’t come from reading US Weekly. It came from Joe Cross.
I watched Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead on Netflix in mid winter and I found myself fascinated by the film. In the documentary, Cross, who begins as an overweight, food-happy businessman with a debilitating autoimmune disease, transforms his life and the lives of others by juicing. And by juicing, I mean consuming nothing but juice for 60 days straight. Now 100 pounds lighter, Cross no longer needs the steroids and other medication he was taking for his ailment.
When the movie came out in 2010, Cross became a dietary messiah for the super-sized American masses. His website is now filled with testimonials of those saved by juice.
People who juice are happy people. I’ve noticed this. My brother called me last year after purchasing his Health Master juicer from an infomercial. He was walking on a cloud of juice-fueled glee. He was juicing every morning, and he was stoked. And later, for this article, I spoke with Lindsey Mandel, owner of Rollin Greens food truck, about their juices. It was obvious that she too was hooked.
“It just gives you so much energy, and you don’t plateau,” she said. Just by adding juice to her normal diet, Mandel says she’s lost weight and her skin has a glow to it.
I was on board, but I was not ready for 40 days and 40 nights of fasting, like Jesus, or 60 days and 60 nights of juice, like Joe Cross. I had done cleanses in the past but nothing so restrictive as just juice.
So, I needed something short and simple.
That’s what led me to Blue Print Cleanse, a company that ships juice to your home. As juice cleanses have popularized, several home-delivery juicing programs have popped up (including Hayek’s own Cooler Cleanse; Paltrow’s fave is Organic Avenue). While I considered making my own juice at home, I figured that since I really have no experience in juicing, maybe it was best to have someone do it for me.
BPC’s philosophy is “We think. You drink.” They would do all the work, and all I had to do was sit back, relax and enjoy some juice. BPC offers three levels of cleansing: the Renovation, the Foundation and the Excavation. The Renovation, which, according to the website is “designed for the absolute beginner—the ‘I’ll have my martini with a side of steak, please’ type”—and that sounded like my modus operandi. And the website’s witty commentary made me feel cool and content, like I was joining a really hip supper club (except with juice!).
A big box arrived on a Tuesday morning. Because juice is not pasteurized and it’s all natural, fresh-pressed juice, it needs to stay cool. Inside the cardboard box, three days of juices lay nestled with ice packs in a large insulated bag.
As stated before, the Blue Print Cleanse makes it easy. You have six bottles of juice for each day, and a giant number is printed on each label to ensure you drink them in order: green juice, pineapple juice, more green juice, a spicy lemonade, beet-carrot juice and then cashew milk with cinnamon for dessert.
I’d wake up each morning, drink a glass of hot water with lemon to, ahem, get things moving, and then I’d have my first bottle of juice at 9 a.m. I’d drink another juice every other hour on the hour, having the last one at 7 p.m.
In theory, it all works out. But you can’t predict how your body and mind will react to restriction. I had prepared: A week prior to my BPC shipment, I’d started limiting my intake of caffeine, sugar, processed carbs, dairy and booze. But nothing prepares you for the taste of vegetable juice first thing in the morning.
The green juice was nearly my downfall. It’s 6 pounds of romaine, celery, cucumber, apple, spinach, kale, parsley and lemon juiced down into one 16-ounce bottle of horrible. Upon first drink, you think, “Oh, interesting. I get grassy notes on the finish.” By Day 2, I started to plug my noise and pour it down the hatch, only breathing after I had downed half the bottle.
Day 2 was a bad day. While I had a good amount of energy (so much so, that I only slept a few hours during Night 1), I was depressed, apathetic and blurry eyed. By the end of Day 2, I was starving emotionally and physically. I went home—passing by Santiago’s and Efrain’s, I starred enviously at the diners walking to their cars, stuffed and happy—and chomped on a few stalks of celery and drank my creamy cashew milk, which offered much-needed protein and fat. Yes, I cheated. The lamest kind of cheating ever: celery.
But then there was light at the end of the tunnel. Day 3 is merely a vehicle to real life, to food and to chewing (I can almost taste the cheese). I can get through today. I will not die. And tomorrow, there will be food. I don’t feel purer or thinner, but I’m proud. My will power reigned, and I no longer need coffee or sugar to keep me going in the afternoon. My withdrawal symptoms are long gone.
That’s where I find enlightenment. The cleanse surely is about detoxifying (though, I’m guessing three days of juice did little to rid me of my most carnal sins), but it’s the process of withdrawal and extraction that makes you realize your emotional ties to food. Going without food makes you respect food more, it makes you enjoy the process of selecting and preparing food more, and it makes you respect your body more. If it’s this hard to clean up the mess, why make the mess in the first place?
I might do a juice cleanse again. Or maybe I should just focus on balance. But I’ll think about that later. For now, I’ll just dream about chewing.
The Health Advisory
Many dieticians and doctors are highly cautious when it comes to cleansing and detoxing. Mostly because there is just very little conclusive research on the effects—good and bad.
But long-term juice cleanses can come with repercussions, including impacting metabolism, glucose levels and potentially even muscle mass. Those doing cleansing can suffer from headaches, nausea, fatigue, vision problems and more.
Katie Kissane, a registered dietician and the medical integration coordinator at Lakeshore Athletic Club, says those planning a cleanse should consult with a doctor or dietitian to talk about any potential hazards and to go over any herbal supplements that you plan to take with your cleanse.
“Our bodies are good at cleansing themselves already,” she said. “The colon, the kidneys, the skin. If you eat a healthy diet, you don’t need to be cleansing.”
If you do a longer cleanse, she suggests going vegan and all natural, instead of eliminating all solid foods. If you do take herbal supplements with a cleanse, check in with your physician as some supplements have side-effects.