I have been thinking about getting in shape for my summer break for a few weeks now. The thing is, my track record with diets of any sort is abysmal.
I managed the Dukkan Diet for all of 3 hours, deciding it wasn’t worth the effort when I realized I couldn’t have a pot of fruit yogurt after lunch.
The Master Cleanse (or the Lemonade Diet as it is sometimes called) faired a bit better. I think I managed that juice fast until around 4pm but then thought the idea of drinking only lemonade, cayenne pepper and maple syrup for 10 days seemed a bit nuts, would be utterly boring and – let’s face it – wouldn’t really be something I could manage in this lifetime. (Aside from the questions about its impact on one’s health, I seriously think you would need a truckload of will power to manage on lemon juice for 10 whole days and it wasn’t the sort of will power I have.)
But… having had a particularly indulgent June (ok, May, June and start of July) I thought it was about time I tried to get my eating habits in check and decided juicing may be a good way to get myself on the road to a healthier diet pre-holiday.
To clarify, juice diets don’t really promise weight loss. They focus more on detoxing your system and preparing your body for a healthier lifestyle (which may or may not include a weight-loss program of diet and exercise in days to come). It sounded like just what I needed.
So what exactly is the concept of juicing based on? While you can find thousands and thousands of words written on it online, I will attempt to summarise it in a nutshell:
1. Your body uses a fair amount of energy digesting the food you eat. Giving your digestive system a break by not consuming solid food and ingesting your calories in liquid form allows your body to conserve its energy and use it to “heal” itself instead.
2. Not all calories are created equal. Ingesting 500 calories from greasy burgers smothered in cheese with chips and mayo on the side won’t have the same effect on your body as eating 500 calories derived purely from fresh fruits and veggies.
Juice diets tout a fair few other benefits – everything from cancer cures to better sleep and clearer complexions to aiding your liver and kidneys in flushing out toxins.
Needless to say, I am no expert so the above in no way constitutes medically proven advice. Juice fasts have as many critics as they do staunch supporters, with the main criticism being the lack of appropriate amounts of protein and fibre (which actually aids digestion) and the possibility of high sugar intake if one decides to primarily drink fruit juice.
Many also feel the side effects of the body detoxing (as a result of all that spare energy and injestion of pure liquid goodness) aren’t really pleasant. I was almost put off the idea after reading about the headaches, hunger pangs, food obsessions, aches, pains, dizziness, acne, et al.
Still, the idea of 3 whole days of consuming nothing but pure wholesome vegetables and fruits and other “good” stuff seemed like it would do me good. Despite a lot of conflicting and inconclusive research on the benefits of juice diets (or their ills), no one can deny that drinking nutrient-rich veggie and fruit juices and healthy smoothies beats eating carby, processed food or sugary, caffeinated drinks.
And, one of the biggest benefits of juice diets has long been attributed to a placebo effect – the belief that you have done something good for your body seems to make you stick more diligently to your longer-term diets and exercise plans..
That seemed good enough for me!
So how did I do? Here are the highlights of the 3 Day Juice Detox I did from Fresh Juice Bar in JLT.
JUICING DAY 1
I received my freshly cold-pressed juice and smoothie pack the evening before so I was all revved up to begin as soon as I woke up! The 500ml juice bottles were numbered 1-6 in the order I had to drink them and had informative labels listing out the ingredients of each mix along with their prescribed benefits.
I started the day with a “Sweet Potato Pancake” smoothie which was filling and tasted very healthy and then progressed through the day with very little trouble in terms of hunger – ‘snacking’ on juices every 2-3 hours. In fact I did not, during the whole three day juice cleanse, feel hungry at all… more on that later.
Day 1 in my opinion had the tastiest mix of juices and smoothies and I enjoyed all of them, ending the day with a cocoa-infused mix of cashew nut milk. The cashew nut milk was a constant every night, with the label informing me that its amino acid content helped regulate one’s sleep and mood. Sounded perfect.
JUICING DAY 2
I woke up very early with a slight headache. But this disappeared instantly after my first juice of the day – the “Creamy Red” smoothie made with banana, beets, apple, avocado and yogurt (so not completely dairy free), which was one of my favourites. While I was never hungry, the food obsession that I’d noticed the day before was off the charts on day 2. I found myself thinking of food. All. The. Time. I even dreamt someone placed a fistful of M&Ms in my hand the night before (Sad but true). This particular side-effect could just be a personal one as I am pretty food-obsessed anyway, but it was not fun watching TV and only noticing the kitchen and dining scenes.
I ended the night with my vanilla and cinnamon cashew nut milk with slightly less enthusiasm than the evening before (despite the fact that I actually thought the mix was tastier). But on the whole the day was a success. I got everything I needed done, I was convinced I was doing my body some good (placebo or positive thinking, you decide).and surprise, surprise - I was a kilo lighter. Yay!
JUICING DAY 3
Day 3 was the hardest. I woke up with the thought "I really cannot be bothered doing this anymore", quickly followed by "There is no way I can drink another bottle of cashew nut milk." I then thought "I just need to power through!"
Thankfully it was a work day and after drinking a thick and very healthy looking "Power Juice" featuring every green thing you can imagine from avocado, marrow, spinach to broccoli, I worked my way through the first day of the week and my last day of my juice diet. I could concentrate perfectly and only briefly felt a tiny episode of dizziness which was the only spell I had in my entire 3 days of not eating a single solid meal.
The drinks on Day 3 I personally found the hardest to get down - not for any particular reason but bad associations. It had one drink featuring lemonade and cayenne pepper (bad memories of that Master Cleanse diet day!) and the Herbal Power Juice that was my dinner tasted rather too herbal for me. (It did taste super healthy though.) I also didn't get through my entire bottle of strawberry flavoured cashew nut milk. I was actually too full from drinking some of the other juices too late in the evening.
Juice diet done, I went to bed happy and slightly smug that I had actually finished the entire 3 days without sneaking in a single cracker.
I lost weight, around 1.5 kilos in 3 days (I'm guessing most of that was water and it will probably creep back as I return to a normal diet, but it still felt good.)
I did feel clearer headed and the fact that I was doing the good deed of feeding my body so many nutrients anyway made me think I should go all the way and exercise as well. So I did my recommended 30 minutes on the treadmill.
Fresh Juice bar's juice detox package uses a mix of 80-20 veggie-to-fruit juice with a total calorie count of around 1900 a day, so it is not exactly a calorie restricted plan although I believe special blends can be made for those wanting to lose weight. As mentioned before, losing weight isn't really the prime aim, it's more about giving your body a boost of healthy and healing goodness and resetting your relationship with food.
On that note I think the package worked 100%. Since coming off it I have been more careful about what I eat. (Although I have to confess I did not break the juice fast in the recommended way of eating fresh and preferably raw fruits and slowly introducing lean protein over the course of a few days. I went full protein with a breakfast of scrambled egg with a hint of chorizo, onions and tomatoes (I did stick in some veggies so I guess that's ok?) I have to confess that I didn't enter the juice diet the recommended way either. I ate a whole Singaporean Chilli Crab complete with soft steamed buns the night before starting the package. I am very glad I did as the crab would have haunted me for the whole of the next three days otherwise :)
The daily pack intersperses juices with thicker smoothies containing bananas and avocados and a nut milk at night which leaves you fuller. Many of the "juicy" juices also had veggie and fruit pulp so your body isn't completely starved of fibre and the nut milks and addition of ingredients like peanut butter in at least one of the smoothies (the Chocolate PB Green Bomb - actually one of my favourites, despite featuring the unlikely combo of spinach and peanut butter) meant you also get some protein.
The juice packs got delivered daily all ready to go which meant I really had no, problem fussing over prepping and juicing my own drinks. And I really liked the funky, colourful labels with encouraging descriptions at the back about how the contents of each bottle would do me good in different ways.
As mentioned before, I thought a lot about food. Not in a "I'm hungry and want to eat some dim sum right now" way but just constant contemplation which was a bit strange, even for me.
If I cared more about calories I would have liked to know exactly how much each bottle contained. Thankfully I don't care too much.
Finally, it was the sheer boredom of drinking just juice that was the ultimate negative. I like cooking and variety in my meals, so while having everything ready to gulp down was a huge time saver, ultimately I missed looking at a plate of different ingredients.
So did I think it was a success and worth the trouble? Definitely yes. It felt good to actually stick to a diet - for once, even if it wasn't aimed at weight loss - and the thought that I'd eaten just vegetarian food and in effect turned almost raw vegan for 3 whole days (bar that one bottle with yogurt) felt like a huge healthy achievement for a true-blue meat, dairy and fish eater like me.
Would I do it again? A one day juice fast - definitely yes. Two days - perhaps. Three days - I would think harder about it. Five days - I would personally not do it as I don't think I could get through five days without looking at a plate of food even if I ultimately eat less each day. As it is, I had to trick myself almost every lunch and dinner time by drinking the juices out of a bowl almost like soup (the Pepper Infusion Juice proved best at fooling my brain - it tasted almost like gazpacho).
My advice - for very green juicers like me, go for anywhere between 1-3 days. Unless you really are a health fiend or don't particularly care about food.
You can always juice your way up to 5 days, a week or even months. For me 3 days proved the magic - and satisfying - number and a great way to kick start my plans to get healthy before my summer break next month :)
A big thank you to Fresh Juice Bar for providing the 3 Day Detox Package which retails on the market at AED595 - (Which incidentally is significantly lower than most other juice detox brands I could find in Dubai). I came across the brand at a yoga workshop and loved their inventive flavours. It was also one of the few juicing companies in Dubai that provided a mix of smoothies and juices, which for me was a crucial consideration. I know my own limits!
Happy Juicing! And do share your juicing experiences, good or bad :) Would love to hear about them.
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