Drinking your food

What happened after 1 week of Juicing

15 SEPTEMBER 2016,
A choice of juice
A choice of juice

After refusing for a year I finally relented to my wife’s suggestion that we try a week long juice only detox. It seems that she and countless others have been inspired by people like Joe Cross who made the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead to try and consume nothing but vegetable and fruit juices for a set number of days. Not one for diet fads, I dismissed the idea with countless “yea maybes,” before finally giving in and agreeing to at least watch the documentary one rainy weekend.

The documentary was interesting enough - though sometimes the narrative appeared to lack a little science - Joe appeared to be an everyman that you could easily relate to, (I found out later that he was actually very wealthy, travelling all over the world with various businesses, so not quite an every man.) Joe’s premise was that he had survived on nothing but juice for 8 weeks and not only lived to tell the tale, but he had also lost 30 kg (67lb) and cured a long standing skin condition he had been suffering from. If I wasn’t such a sceptic when it comes to eating fads, you could say that it was pretty inspiring stuff.

I went to a wellness center and had my health checked before I began and my starting point was: Height 180 cm (5’10), Weight 84 kg (185lb) Fat Mass 8 kg (18lb). These stats in themselves are not horrific, but they are not healthy either, in fact they tip me just over the generally accepted healthy averages for my height and age. More telling was my diet though; too much fatty food, too much alcohol and nowhere near enough fruit and veg. It had been that way for years and I had gotten very used to how my body felt, how tired I am in general and just accepted that it was probably the norm for me. I was curious to see how drinking nothing but juice for 7 days would affect my body, my mood and my sleep.

We found a juicer on eBay for around 80 EUR and bought it, we planned to start the detox on the next possible Friday night and go through to the following Friday night, seven whole days consuming nothing but juice! With this “Reboot” (Because you are rebooting your diet apparently) the first 3 days are meant to be pretty tortuous. All the chemicals and drugs your body is normally used to – caffeine, sugar, salt, etc. are gone, so you go into a kind of withdrawal. Joe in the documentary speaks of feeling like death for the first 3 days, irritable, headaches and not wanting to get out of bed at all, but then after those first 3 days, miraculously he begins to feel better – even better than before the diet. Joe explains that this is down to your body switching off hunger signals and switching on your brains other functions in order to make you more capable of figuring out how to get food. (I have paraphrased, but this was some of the more non-science type talk from the documentary anyway).

So fearing the worst was about to befall us on those 3 days we went shopping and started off by buying around 80 EUR worth of fruits and vegetables, which somewhat terrifyingly, lasted us only the first weekend! We planned on having 4 juices a day made from stuff like Apples, Carrots, Spinach, Ginger, Beetroot, Lemons and Swiss Chard (whatever that was) evenly distributed throughout the day - Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch and Dinner juices each measuring around 0.75l (24oz.) They ranged in taste from utterly delicious, to nearly undrinkable.

When the juice was less than delicious, I would generally drink the whole thing in one go – 0.75l of juice, essentially out of necessity, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to drink it at all. I also noticed that employing this method relieved the hunger pangs from my stomach, albeit temporarily. The only other way to try and get my hunger to subside was by drinking large quantities of water in between juices. What I initially noticed when we began our detox/reboot was immediately how hungry I was. From the first juice, I was hungry and by the end of the first day all I could think about was food. On day two the headaches started and remained near constant for the duration of the week, other side effects included my thinking becoming muddled at times and getting little warning for the urgent bowel movements that hit me in the first 2 days, then after the first 3 days my bowel movements stopped entirely. Some positive side effects included having more energy and my sleep was beginning to improve, but the real positives didn’t start until after the juicing.

The Friday night at the end of our detox we decided to reward ourselves by dining out at a Vietnamese restaurant to break the fast. The anticipation was amazing, watching all our fellow diners receive their food whilst scouring the menu - a veritable dictionary of previously forbidden treats. I ordered a soup based noodle dish and salivated for its delivery, when it came rather than chowing down like a starving man, I actually consumed it very differently. I ate slowly, with considered chewing; masticating more thoroughly while enjoying the textures of the meat and noodles. The biggest thing I noticed was the salt which was divine, my tongue reacted to it like it was the first time I had ever tasted it. Not quite so considered was the reaction in my bowels - before the bill even came, they had awoken.

So after just 1 week of juicing, what happened to my body? Well, I lost 3 kg (6.2 LB) in weight and startlingly the results from the follow-up visit to the wellness center showed that the weight loss was nearly 100% fat – attributing to 2.9 kg (6.1lb) of the weight loss in just that one week! But, before I started to feel great about my weight loss, I remembered that at my initial consultation my consultant had warned me that any weight lost would be instantly regained upon assuming my old diet, she warned that juicing was more of a fad “crash diet” than a strategic weight loss tool, while I agree juicing was not a permanent diet solution, it did make a huge difference to me.

That difference (I am writing this 6 months post juicing) is that it changed my diet habits. I eat less meat, I eat more fruit and vegetables - even eating the vegetarian option at restaurants which I never did before. Juicing really reminded me that the taste of vegetables can be great, something I had forgotten. Over the last 6 months my weight has returned to near my pre-juice weight of 84 kg (185lb), but I am carrying less fat and continuing to eat healthier. I also continue to juice, generally one juice a day - this morning was Spinach, Cucumber, Lettuce and Apple, which - if you’re wondering - was semi gross.

Doing this juice didn’t turn me into an ardent supporter, or advocate but when I talk about my experience I am not doing so with the goal of converting people to juicing, but many make a decision to do their own detox and all report back positive results. My father for instance who had a pretty poor diet but has an open mind to these kinds of things, lost 8 kg (18lb) in a week and has kept at least some of that weight off.

If you are thinking of Juicing, I would recommend that you start on a weekend like I did. You are further away from temptation and it makes things more manageable - particularly those first few days with no coffee, no soda, no chocolate, no muesli and no alcohol, nothing but vegetable juice, fruit juice and water. It is also worth considering just how much this may cost you before you start - the amount of fruit and veg you need to go through to create enough juice is enormous and the amount of waste it creates is staggering.

Although my overall experience was positive, it was probably helped by my initial skepticism. When I started my expectations were really low and I wasn’t going into it for weight loss, or to eat healthier, I only really went into it to support my wife. Depending on your goals it could be a positive experience for you, but if you are counting on it solely as a weight loss solution it’s likely to leave you disappointed unless you commit to also making a long term permanent change to your diet.