When Dane and I got back from our Honeymoon to Costa Rica, I was feeling very sluggish. Though the trip had been beautiful our diet there was heavy in rice, corn tortillas, fried beans, and meat, none of which I eat on a regular basis. Though I was not sick or anything from it, I just felt like something was off, and I knew that a cleanse would do me good.
I decided that I wanted to do a cleanse, but I wanted to make sure it was the right cleanse, beneficial to my body. I considered cleansing sets from natural food stores, which are basically pills that are high in fibers and such to flush out your system. While this may work for many, I felt very apprehensive towards doing this. It reminded me too much of high school, when I’d take these cleansing sets when I had “failed” by eating. It was a cover for struggles with food issues, which tainted all my simultaneous interests in health. For me, fasting, full of health benefits though it may be, was an excuse to starve myself, and cleansing pills were a cover for taking over the counter laxatives. To go through a pill form cleanse even now felt too much like a step backwards, and a way of succumbing to something that I struggle to put behind me.
For this reason, I was quite thrilled when a great blog that I follow and make recipes from regularly, had a post on a three day juice cleanse, found here. I knew that juicing is incredibly good for you, but it was something I had never tried before due to not ever having had access to a juicer. Juicing takes all the nutrients from fruits or veggies while taking out the fibers and starches. Drinking it enables your body to soak up all the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants directly rather than having to break it down, in a way that is very easy on your digestive system. Cleansing flushes out your body of toxins, while replenishing it with these concentrates of healthy goodness, while giving your entire digestive system a rest. I have heard different opinions of how often you should cleanse. Some have recommended doing a three day cleanse as much as once a month, and a seven day cleanse once a year. Other’s have done a three day cleanse about seven times a year. Some have even done 40 or 60 day cleanses. While I cannot pretend to know too much on the health benefits of every kind of cleanse, or how much is too much, I believe that a lot of it depends on what your body can handle. If you already eat a healthy diet, high in raw foods, fruits, and veggies, a cleanse will feel very good. If you regularly eat oils, starches, carbs, sugars, and so on as your primary staples, it will be easier on your body to ease into healthy living before jumping straight into a cleanse.
As I began to plan my juice cleanse and discussed it in passing with others, I was surprised to find others wanted to join me. One of my close friends had just done a cleanse the week before I began mine, so that gave further opportunity to discuss. It was neat to feel connected, even if in only this minute way, to the desires and passions of others. Generally, I feel like kind of a lone health freak spending absurd amount of time browsing recipes, and then experimenting in the kitchen making insanely healthy brownies, cookies, meals, etc. I must be this way with my dietary needs, but this is not something over which I generally can relate to others.
When I actually began the cleanse, I had four other people along side me who joined, which ended up being quite a communal experience. We had a “prep day” together where we ate primarily raw foods: nuts, fruit, veggies, and no meat, or heavy, carby foods such as bread. Together we went shopping for all our vegetables and fruit that same day, in awe of the amount of veggies and fruit that we were about to consume. That evening, we all came to my place and packed the fridge with enough vegetables for a three day juice cleanse for five people. I had never seen so many vegetables in any ones fridge, let alone mine, in my life. We were all sharing one juicer so the five of us then prepared our juices for the next morning’s breakfast and lunch, planning to join again the following day when it was “dinner” time. Coming together to make our drinks was one of my favorite parts about this cleanse. Strength comes in numbers and this was certainly the case here. We’d groan together about how hungry we were, which juices were delicious, which ones sucked. We’d encouraged each other to keep going, complained together, admired the brilliant color of a beet being juiced together, and so on. We looked forward to the day when we could bite, chew, smell, taste, actual food again.
For me, the first day was tough, the second day was tougher, though in a different way than the first, and the third was actually quite easy. By the third day, I could at last understand how people can make it for seven day cleanses because finally, I actually did not feel hungry and I felt more energized than I had the past two days. We were following recipes for each meal, so often when I thought I could make it no longer, it was time for the next drink, so making and drinking that satiated the hunger enough to keep going. More than anything, this was an exercise on self control and endurance. While difficult, the health benefits of it were great, and I would definitely do it again.
The entire time I was on the cleanse, I never had a stomach ache. The past several years of eating gluten before I knew I had celiac disease, combined with the consequences of my struggles with body image and eating issues have taken a toll on my digestive system. It is not uncommon for me to eat something and have a stomach ache soon after. In fact it is a rare day when this does not happen. Similarly, I have had chronic migraines since childhood. This in part has to do with the fact that I do not have optimal sleeping patterns, and I drink too much coffee. During the cleanse though, I only had light headaches rather than migraines, if any, and since the cleanse, I don’t get headaches if I haven’t had my caffeine fill of the day. Since the cleanse, I have also had a lot more energy. The sluggish feeling and heaviness in my gut that I experienced after the honeymoon has been gone since the cleanse, and its been nearly a month! During the cleanse, though I was tired, I did not feel weak or shaky, as I often do if I have skipped a meal, or am very hungry. I could feel that my body was resting, especially my digestive system, but I was not being starved of nutrients. The insane amount of veggies I was consuming via juice, was so much more than what my diet had ever consisted of before.
Since the cleanse, I have found that I am less hungry and get full quickly. Because of this, I often have four or so small meals, with some snackage in between rather than three full sized meals. Overall, this is a lot easier than the extremes of going from being very hungry to very full and ready for a nap. It is a more consistent form of fuling and energy for me. I also am far more intentional about making sure I eat more vegetables and raw foods. I have always been a lover of breads, and “chewable” foods such as nuts, but now I appreciate salads, and the vast array of colors and tastes to be found in vegetables. Though I ate quite healthy before the cleanse (no gluten, no dairy, no refined sugars, no soy) I find that the addition of vegetables to my diet has made me feel like I have gotten passed a wall I’d hit in the healing process of my digestive system.
Perhaps the greatest thing I learned however was thankfulness for the actual process of eating. The taste, the smell, the touch of food all makes up the experience of food, it is so much more than simply stuffing your body to feel full, or eating only for the sake of its health benefits. The arrangement of food, the combining of colors and textures, can be a beautiful sight, and this is as much a reason as any to enjoy a meal.
As for advice for others, I’d recommend juicing to anyone. Here is an example of a great juicer. This is a pricey investment but well worth it for all its health benefits. If you have never tried cleansing or juicing but are just seeking healthy living, I’d recommend that you begin juicing regularly, perhaps even with every meal, but don’t switch to a cleanse immediately.Also, a warning that I must constantly give myself as well: be careful. If this is an excuse to starve yourself then cleansing is not right for you at this time. The motivation must be right for the juicing to be right. If you struggle with an eating disorder, talk to others about your cleansing intentions, so that you have some accountability and advice about whether this is really right for you.
Overall, juicing and cleansing are exciting steps towards living fully and healthily. The effects of natural foods upon our bodies testify how much God has equipped us with toward fighting illnesses, and beginning to heal. The more I learn this the more amazed I am. For this reason, I am constantly researching what foods will do what, which supplements I might have deficiencies in, and turning to those first, before medication.