A few years ago I was a big fan of juicing. I wrote about my first 7-Day “Juice Feast” in November 2013, wherein I followed Jason Vale’s plan outlined in his book “7lbs in 7 Days” (please forgive the title). I felt so energised on this Juice Feast that I repeated it several times over subsequent years, whenever I felt like I need a reset. The juice feast provided an amazing boost and a break from bad habits. It also created loads of space and time (time saved not cooking and cleaning) to be super focused and productive.
Somehow in recent years my juicing ways escaped me. This likely has something to do with a rejection of the “clean eating” / “detox” mentality that has become so popular. Truth be told, in November 2013 I weighed less than 100lb and should have been seeking to GAIN not lose seven pounds! At that point my self-induced insistence that I eat only perfect foods and exercise at least 2 hours per day led me to become frighteningly underweight. At that time, my motivation to “juice feast” was probably founded on some fundamentally flawed and potentially damaging thinking about food and health.
The Guardian published a very good read last Friday on why we fell for clean eating which sums up my predicament. I can’t believe I was such a sucker! But I should be grateful. Somehow along the way I snapped out of it. My approach to food was ruining my social life and my relationships (can you imagine dating someone who can’t, for example, enjoy going out for a meal or to dinner at a friend’s house because that would mean being “out of control” of the food that was going into her body?). I started to embrace satiety. I still kept to my healthy whole food standards, but rather than maintaining a perpetual underlying level of hunger, I started eating until I was full. I started accepting invitations to go out for pizza. I drank numerous alcoholic beverages at parties. I found new types of exercise that weren’t about burning calories but were more about having fun and creating skills for life – CrossFit, hillwalking, cycling. Eventually I found myself at a fairly healthy weight and seemed to find a workable balance between eating real food, keeping fit, and enjoying some indulgences with friends from time to time.
Then this amazing thing happened. I met Andrew who is awesome! I don’t think I’ve ever met another person who matches my energy for food, cooking, and outdoor adventures. And also for celebrations! We are never short of things to celebrate. I feel like we’ve spent the last year and a half celebrating us, which is pretty cool. But our celebrations have started to become almost habits, offering diminishing returns and, annoyingly, a bit of extra weight on our bodies where we’d prefer not to have it. This has also created a lot of stress. As someone who has struggled with her weight in both directions for many years, it was a blow to discover that I’d pretty much gained back all of the weight I had lost when I started on this healthy living malarkey so long ago. And I’ve felt powerless to change. Andrew, who has also experienced a health journey, had also become frustrated with his own physical well-being. The situation was in danger of leading to a lot of resentment and even more ill health if we didn’t do anything about it – and fast!
During one stressful conversation two weeks ago I mentioned to Andrew that I was thinking about doing a juice feast. I really didn’t expect Andrew – lover of bread and ever concerned that he’s eating enough protein – would be into it for himself. So he surprised me when he suggested we do it together, and even ordered the book (I’d donated my copy to charity long ago). The motivation for us both was less about the weight loss and mostly about the mental reset. We’d often make plans to kick start healthy awesome habits but often they’d get interrupted by anything from sunny weekends to stressful conversations. The juice feast felt like a pretty solid way to really draw a line under the sand (“across this line, you do not!”) and since I’ve done it many times before, I felt prepared and confident I could do it.
We just finished the 7 days and I wanted to feedback on some of my take-aways.
- We both exceeded the seven pound promise, but as I said, this wasn’t really about that.
- This has been totally different from any juice feast I’ve done before. For one, this time my body actually need a dietary change up (namely, a break from gin and tonics and chardonnay!).
- This is also the first time I’ve done it in a couple-y situation (the sexy juice feast!). I was impressed that Andrew managed so easily on it.
- We had a few challenging moments but generally the weekend flew by. It helped that we had loads of work to do. It’s always a good idea to keep super busy on a juice feast!
- We allowed ourselves green tea, matcha, and yerba mate (but no coffee or black tea) which made things infinitely more tolerable and helped stave off hunger and headaches, and also occasionally provided a nice buzz!
- We managed the whole week almost to the letter. We made a couple exceptions, twice switching out some of the less substantial juices for heartier smoothies. We also took a fairly long (7 mile / 3 hour) walk on Saturday during which we allowed ourselves an avocado and oat cake snack to keep us going.
- Energy levels were through the roof on Saturday and Sunday evening. We put it to good use in the garden, mowing, weeding, sowing green leaves for autumn and winter, and making everything pretty and welcoming. We even treated ourselves to a new barbecue!
- We both managed to do CrossFit the Monday through Friday, with little affect on performance (but some affect on recovery).
- Having gone through the trouble of doing the 7-day juice feast, it certainly provides motivation for not squandering the progress. We spend a fair bit of time during the feast planning for the next phase (more on that in a future post). We’ll report back on how that goes in the coming weeks and months.
- The combination of juice, stimulating teas, and occasional hunger often led to us into states of extreme goofiness. We almost felt drunk on juice! It was refreshing to find that we could have silly goofy fun times – no cocktails required!
- During the last days of the juice feast I felt more positive about the future than I had in months. A lot of this is down to clarity. The juice feast allows you to very quickly reset your body and mind and then roll with it for a few days. It allows for space and time to put projects into motion, and to think clearly about the future and how to deal with challenges head on.
- As a bonus I lost 7.5 pounds, a trend I hope to continue. No I don’t aspire to be at the 14% body fat I was in November 2013. But I would like to be comfortably in the healthy range for a fit healthy person (21-24%) – right now at 28.5% I’m riding the upper edge of “Acceptable”. So there’s still a way to go but I’m hoping it’s a start. I will report back in a month as to the long-term success of this juice feast.
- I still recommend the juice feast – I’ve never found a more effective tool for effecting such a strong mental reset. The health benefits are really just a bonus.
Most of you reading this will have never done something like this before. So here’s a few takeaways from Andrew, a fellow newbie to juice feasting. Trust me, if Andrew can do a juice feast with gusto, anyone can!
Andrew’s Take on the Sexy Juice Feast
When Monica talked in the past about this Juice Feast malarkey, I admit to being very deeply and committedly skeptical about it. I mean, I believe in eating food, not drinking it. Food is for pleasure as well as nutrition. Juicing, so I thought, went against everything I believed in.
But then, a week and a half or so ago, it became clear that there was a need for a mental reset, and when Monica proposed doing another of her Juice Feasts, I jumped at the chance to surprise her and agreed to join in. Solidarity and all that, right?
Having just finished, here are my take away points:
- I felt perpetually hungry throughout, and muscularly fatigued most of the time. Were we to do this again, I’d probably want to ramp up the protein and quantities. As an active person, and being male, I probably just needed a bit more. Lesson learned.
- My body fat percentage, according to the Fitbit scales, crept up a little, even though my weight fell. I’m not sure whether to chalk this up to being an anomaly, or if my body fat as a percentage of my overall body weight crept up because I’d lost a bunch of water. Who knows? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because this was really about a mental reset, and getting into a good motivational place for a longer term, more balanced health and fitness approach.
- On that point, I feel like both Monica and I are in a great place to undertake that more balanced, longer term approach to health and fitness. We’re basing it on 75% being really healthy and active, and 25% being a bit more relaxed. More on that in a future post, but we ultimately thought that any sustainable healthy eating and fitness plan for reasonably active people who aren’t too badly out of shape shouldn’t be all or nothing. It should make it easy to incorporate things like a bit of wine, bread and cheese, without that meaning everything has fallen off the wagon and become so irredeemably indulgent that you might as well go and join The Rolling Stones. Neither of us wants to be an elite athlete, and neither of us is a fanatic about this stuff, after all, and we want to blend healthy eating and a bit of indulgence.
- On the final 3 evenings, both of us felt like we had an inexhaustible supply of mental energy and motivation. It really set us up well for Monday, and the beginning of our long term plan.
- Although there were definitely some challenges, it was FUN! Monica and I haven’t laughed and had so much mental energy and creativity in months. And we feel ready for the future.
It was certainly not easy being hungry all the time. And I’m not totally persuaded about this kind of thing nutritionally. But you know what? Next time either of us needs a reset, I’d definitely do it again. We’ve even talked about doing it every six months. I’m even looking forward to it…
I’m sure many of you are curious. Here are our measurements before and after. Needless to say we were both pretty pleased!
The Tools We Used:
- 7 Reasons Why I Juice Feast
- Juice Feast in Review
- Juice Feast Harvest Edition
- Juice Feast Winter Edition
- 7lbs in 7 Days book by Jason Vale
- My essential smoothie and juice resources
- My favourite products for juicing and smoothies