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juicing it upTo juice or not to juice.  That is the question these days. Everyone seems to be trying one of the many varieties – including the ever lovable Cam and Mitch on Modern Family, which, if you saw the episode, ends with them turning a tad crazy from lack of food.

Which brings up the question: Does it work? And is it worth it?

I can only tell you my side of the story – as well as some anecdotal evidence I’ve collected. Thanks to my sister’s urging (she’s ultra-healthy, I’m so-so), I did the Cooler Cleanse last May. She was committed to doing it with a group of running friends– so I figured I’d join in. After all misery loves company, right?

They picked it because it had a three day option – and could be delivered to your door, though there are certainly a lot of other varieties that do the same. It’s also endorsed by actress Salma Hayek, who is known for her curvaceous, not-too-skinny body. You receive six drinks per day with a combined caloric intake of less than 1,200 daily calories. To make it super-easy, the juices are numbered so there’s no messing up the order (especially for forgetful BA50s like me). You are supposed to have one drink every two hours, though I have to admit, it took me close to an hour to drink some of them (yes, they tasted that bad).

I admit my goal to doing the cleanse was to lose some weight (hello Menopause!) but I was also curious what it would be like – as they say  — detox my body. My other reality – as an increasingly “more mature woman,” thanks in part to the moodiness of the big “M” – was to see if food – or lack thereof  — would make a difference in how I felt. I also wanted to find out how life could be without coffee. The last time I gave it up (temporarily) was when I was last pregnant 16 ½ years ago. And boy do I love me a cup of strong, dark Joe. I drink (or drank, I should say) about three cups of day, which often led to an upset stomach and occasional headaches. I wanted to cut back, but was “addicted,” not only to the taste, but to the warmth and smell that emanated from my coffeemaker each morning.

And so: I cleansed, meaning I consumed no solid foods and stuck to my six drinks per day, plus water (you’re supposed to drink a lot but it’s honestly hard with all that other fluid you have to ingest), and the occasional cup of decaffeinated tea.

Here’s how I felt:

Day One: So much fluid! It was hard to drink everything. Simply not enough time. Plus the taste of some of the drinks – especially the coconut water and essential green – kind of like a bad V8 — were revolting. The flavors in my three day cleanse included essential green (bad, though I grew to like), grapefruit & mint (loved! Could drink all day), essential green again (how I got used to – it was a big part of the rotation process), young coconut water (pure yuck, though loved that it was called “young” – wonder if “old” would taste any better”), essential red (like a sweet V8, didn’t mind) and almond nut milk (which I loved, like a creamy Kahlua drink, minus tha alcohol)

Basically I felt there were not enough hours in the day so I didn’t complete the entire round. Of course that could have had to do with the fact that the green drinks (times two remember!) took me close to an hour to get through. Then there was the coconut water which I hardly touched.  I just couldn’t do it.  The smell alone was a bit overpowering, though I swear I tried. And in true competitive spirit,  I felt better when I talked to my sister because I at least got through five whole sipfuls of the stuff and gulped the almond nut milk down like there was no tomorrow while she admitted she skipped those last two, though she loved the green drink and got it down in less than 15 minutes. I also had a bit of a nagging headache which started in the early afternoon and lingered till later in day. The good news: I was so consumed with all my drinks, I never felt hungry, though I did go to the bathroom a lot.

Day Two: Knowing what to expect, I felt better about the process. I basically kept reminding myself of the reasoning behind why I was doing this which made it easier to fit everything in – and get it down. I also sipped a lot, which made many of the drinks (yes, even the green ones) easier to swallow. I supplemented with a little hot tea in the afternoon and night just to get a break from the monotony.  I noticed that the usual bloating I felt at night was gone. So was the frequent gassiness I felt during the day. I was proud of myself for getting through Day Two so well and found I really enjoyed the process. My sister felt the same, proving we had both made it over the hump.

Day Three: I feel great, though I did miss the sensation of chewing. My stomach felt terrific – no gas. No bloating. No aches and pains. My stomach even looked flatter and I swear I felt like my skin was glowing. No headaches. No missing coffee.  On this last day, I breezed through all my drinks – coconut water and essential green included. In fact, I now really enjoy the green, and felt so terrific I contemplated doing another day, but my sister talked me out of it, saying we both should be proud for what we had accomplished.  In the process, she lost three pounds, while I lost one. And though there was a part of me that wished I had dropped five, the bottom line was: I felt good, and was looking forward to chewing again.

My first day post cleanse felt terrific. Like I had morphed into a new me. I didn’t miss coffee at all – miraculously no “craving” for it – and so spent my morning going direct to decaffeinated green tea. I also went very light on my food consumption sticking to soups, yogurt, nuts, raisins and for dinner my first night: Filet of sole. In fact, I found my stomach could only take so much.  What really felt remarkable: I was much more aware of the taste and texture of items I was putting in my mouth and loved how aware I was of how I felt afterward (in other words – no bathroom runs!).  It was if my digestive system and mouth felt renewed with the brief respite and were ready to give me new signals to alert me to what was good for my system and what wasn’t. After all, as middle age has crept up, I have found some foods that used to agree with me don’t and vice versa.

My takeaway to other BA50s: Cleanses aren’t for everyone, but I found mine to be worthwhile. It was super-easy to follow and in the end, I felt energized and not as hungry as I thought I would. Most of all, it seemed to reset my stomach and make me more cognizant of the kinds of foods that make me feel better – and feel worse. Though it’s been nine months since my cleanse, I still listen to my stomach and do not let cravings get the better of me (though of course I veer off course occasionally – no one’s that perfect!). My most amazing discovery: I could and can and do live without coffee, and still have a personality (though on occasion I’ll treat myself to an afternoon cup). After all, I now know what I can handle.

Want to learn more about what’s right for you? Check out my Q & A with Melanie Angelis, CEO of The Grecian Garden (www.thegreciangarden.com), an advocate of cleansing who changed her eating habits after a life of allergies.

What cleanses are the best?

Juice cleansing can be as short as one day and up to 100, although I do not recommend any one juice for 100 days, but it has been done.  For beginners, three to 10 days is beneficial as you are flooding your body with living enzymes that will help your cells detox old waste matter while simultaneously feeding them exactly what they need – nutrients in their simplest form.

When juicing fresh fruits and vegetables the juicer does all the work for you so your body again, does not use precious energy digesting but rather is focused on repairing and rebuilding areas of concern in the body.  When juicing for more than one day, the person should have at least one enema per day because all the toxins are being sent to the colon and due to digestion slowing down so much you will not be having regular bowel movements (Note to BA50s: I did not do).  Doing the enemas not only gets the toxins out quickly (which has a plus of reducing food cravings) but also puts less stress on the kidneys.  After a juice fast be sure to take it slow when going back to regular solid food, opt for fresh fruit, or broth based soups.

How do you know what’s right for you?

You will know which cleanse is right for you based upon your current diet.  Still on standard American? Go for a whole foods based cleanse.  Already eating healthy? Opt for a juice fast.

What is healthy/not healthy?

What is not healthy with cleansing is any supplement, powder, or special formula designed to help you detox.  These are all created for companies to make money, but actually our bodies know how to cleanse and heal themselves when given the right tools.  I have seen the benefits of true cleansing first hand in my life as I healed my body of digestive problems, heart problems, extreme low energy, and a parasite all with the power of eating a real food diet and cleansing.

What to Expect:

Words of advice from Dr. Vincent M. Pedre III, MD (http://www.pedremd.com), an Integrative Physician and a Board Certified Internist practicing in New York City, before starting your cleansing regiment:

1. Plan to be less active than usual when you start the cleanse

2. Plan to feel tired, foggy-headed and headachy on the first day or two of the cleanse

3. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of filtered water during the cleanse.

4. Be flexible. If the cleanse is too low in protein it may slow you down. Be ready to alter the cleanse if you’re feeling too slow.

5. Plan to do light to moderate exercise that moves all of your joints, like yoga to keep your lymphatic system flowing.

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