Juice can be surprisingly controversial. On one hand, juicing has been considered “a major lifestyle trend” of “healthy alternatives.” On the other, it’s been described as “drinking everything bad that ever happened to me in high school.”
Cleansing, where one drinks specific juices in a specific order for a specific number of days, is even more polemical. The benefits of cleanses has been both praised (mostly by celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow) and negated (usually by doctors with degrees), but regardless of facts, most people tend to buy into the idea of cleansing based on anecdotal evidence rather than science. Like pictures and stories of people enjoying themselves while drinking green juice!
A major rationale against juicing is that consuming fruits and veggies in liquid form gives you all of the sugar without the fiber, which spikes your blood sugar levels without keeping you full. Additionally, the lack of food can cause your body to go into “starvation mode” and slow down your metabolism.
My personal experience with juicing is in line with those reasons not to go on a cleanse – during my 1-day juice diet of 2014, I alternated between peeing, watching movies on the couch, and moping.
This time around, I decided to try a “solid juice cleanse” (completely made up term, don’t quote me on this). I would eat all the foods that go into making the juice, but in solid form (aka vegetables). My goal for this cleanse was to prove that I could “purge my toxins” and “cleanse my digestive tract” yet remain semi-functional at work.
Prep for this cleanse was minimal at best. Most cleanses recommend switching to a light, plant-based diet and cutting out alcohol and caffeine 1-3 days before cleansing, but sometimes shit happens and you jump into a cleanse fresh off a tequila and truffle fries hangover. After spending two days (and one bar-filled night) in NYC at Spoon’s Brainfood and Member Summit events (s/o to HQ), I had consumed enough donuts, margaritas, and pesto pasta to feed a small nation. If there’s ever a time for a cleanse, this was it.
It was a wild ride; hold on tight. Here’s my solid juice cleanse experience, summarized:
I researched various juice cleanses to find The One. My previous cleanse was Blueprint’s Renovation (read: beginner) cleanse, but this time I wanted something a little less fruity and a little more masochistic. Ultimately, I settled on the Juice Press Original Cleanse and made a list of ingredients found in each juice. Here’s the lowdown on my cleanse plan, taken directly from Juice Press’ liquid version:
At the grocery store, I filled my cart with kale, celery, and other produce in various shades of green. In the checkout aisle, I made friends with a woman who commented on my haul and pretended she thought I was sane after I explained this project. Thanks, friend.
At a grand total of $72, this cleanse cost a fraction of the Juice Press one. But nearly an hour and a half of meal prep later, I was nearly willing to shell out triple the amount of money to have someone cut the f*cking kale for me. By midnight, I had cut, washed, and stored all my greens and produce and put together my 6 meals for the next day. Game face on.
The morning started out rough, as my alarm went off 5 minutes before I needed to leave the house. 6 Tupperware full of greens in tow (warning: this cleanse is super-voluminous and hard to transport), I ran to the bus, ate essentially raw kale from a plastic bag while in line, and avoided eye contact with other bus-goers.
#SpoonTip: Do! Not! Do! This! Cleanse! With! Curly! Kale! It’s super-hard to eat raw; avoid if you want to avoid any gastrointestinal issues.
I was pretty full throughout the morning (eating a gallon-sized bag of greens, way bigger than pictured, does that to you), so I saved my next meal, ginger- and cayenne-spiked grapefruit and orange until 11:30. My face burned from the excess of cayenne I thought that I could handle; my boss pretended not to notice.
I got through the rest of the day spacing my next two fruit-and-leaf piles about two hours apart. Some people think parsley tastes like soap; I think it tastes like shit. After trying to pick out the tiny leaves for the third time (you can’t), I made a conscious decision to remove the herb from the cleanse in favor of my sanity.
A strangely intense craving for eggs hit at 5. I distracted myself by changing my background to some positive inspiration, but contrary to what you might think, I was not feeling just peachy.
At 7, it was time for my “Coconut au Lait”-inspired meal, aka a juice box of coconut water and half a cup of coconut meat. Because I was running late to SoulCycle and apparently coconut meat is not a common commodity, meal 5 ended up just being coconut water. Let’s just say it was a tough class.
I was v hungry after class, but the lack of availability coconut meat and appeal of another bowl of raw greens kept me from doing anything about it. I prepped my meals at 11, ignoring my needy stomach and shoving my salads into Ziplocs. Before bed, I justified a handful of almonds with the fact that some less aggressively green cleanses incorporate almond milk. I felt a little guilty for breaking the integrity of the cleanse for about 0.5 seconds, until the almonds stabilized my blood sugar. #sorrynotsorry
Besides slightly hungrier, I woke up not feeling much different than I did pre-cleanse. I considered tapping out of this plan, but decided to stay strong to prove that I can fad diet with the ranks of Halo Top Girl. Having time to eat my kale in the privacy of my own kitchen was a surprising morale boost, but this time I was hungry again less than an hour after finishing the bag. T-minus one hour until sweating with citrus time.
At around 1:30 I realized that this cleanse meant that I couldn’t go get my usual midday-work-break coffee, so I decided to go get tea instead. Ugh.
The walk to Rebel Coffee, only two blocks from my office, was filled with reminders that I wanted eggs: diners, signs, and my Insta feed were all out to get me.
I enjoyed my two other bags of nutrient-filled goodness at 2 and 4:30. Tbh, I was feeling a little more hangry than healthy, and counting down the hours until I could eat normal food again (40).
An hour after work, I found myself in yoga class, mid-down dog and stomach growling. Apparently, my body did not get the memo that it should chill yet.
After class, I finally fulfilled my coconut dreams at Juice Generation, where you can get coconut water and meat nicely packed into a smoothie cup. My boyfriend got a watermelon smoothie and cookie. I thought about killing him, but couldn’t think clearly enough to plan out the cleanup.
Surprise! I was still not down to swallow some spinach at 11 pm, so I skipped that baggie. Oops.
No kale here, folks.
After doing some soul-searching and choking on Swiss chard, I have decided that the last day of this cleanse is for my mental health rather than my digestive tract. As someone who’s experienced fairly disordered eating behaviors, I saw an unnerving similarity between “cleanse” practices and the obsessive thinking towards food that underlies eating disorders.
And guess what? I felt no better after 48 hours on kale than I did on Monday morning. Besides being significantly hangrier, I noticed no physical or mental differences in. Granted, a longer period would have brought more “results”, but such compulsive diet restriction is known to cause many people to binge eat and thus undo all “progress”.
Cleanses work for some people; they don’t for me. If you can have a healthy relationship with food while subsisting on a juice bottle every two hours, power to you. For me, a cleanse boils down to obsessive thinking about food. Planning my day around what, when, and how much I’m going to eat is not a habit I’d like to resume.
Tl;dr, compared to a juice cleanse, the solid version made me a (somewhat) productive member of society, kept my blood sugar more stable, and was way less expensive than the bottled version. Still, regardless of whether or not you’re writing an article about it, this was a 1-star, 0/10, would not recommend experience. Kale yeah.