I’m late to the party, but I finally watched “Fat Sick and Nearly Dead,” the immensely popular documentary by filmmaker Joe Cross about his health transformation through a prolonged juice fast. It was both entertaining and inspiring, and I decided to try a short juice fast of my own.
Joe Cross calls this type of fasting, where you consume only water and juiced produce (about 80% vegetables and 20% fruit), a reboot. In contrast to the standard American diet, where 60% of calories come from processed foods, 30% from animal foods, and 10% from plant foods (including vegetables, fruits, and grains), during a reboot a whopping 100% of your calories come from fruits and vegetables!
My hoped-for results were a reduction in sugar cravings and making a dent in my longstanding caffeine habit. Despite the reported benefits of coffee, with its antioxidant properties and possible boon to athletic performance, the idea of getting a headache if I don’t get my morning coffee doesn't sit well with me. I also think I would have more even energy throughout the day if I could reduce added sugars and lighten up on the caffeine.
I am already in the habit of consuming green smoothies on a regular basis, but my husband and I had put our juicer away because it seemed like a hassle to use. It requires a lot of produce, quite a bit more than we usually consume (even though we follow a vegan, mostly whole foods diet), and the clean-up is more cumbersome compared with our blender.
Still, juice has some advantages over smoothies. The vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in fresh juice are assimilated more quickly and easily by the body, and the absence of insoluble fiber gives your digestive system a break and allows for the consumption of larger amounts of produce at once. Also, for someone trying to change their habits, doing something completely different, like consuming only juice for a period of time, can be a great way to interrupt habitual patterns.
I decided to show some self-compassion by not following the recommendation to completely eliminate coffee. Instead, I limited myself to one cup of black coffee each morning, compared to the three cups per day that I normally consume. I had the expected headache on day 2, but I felt fine on day 3 and surprisingly great on the morning of day 4.
As far as the juice itself, for the most part it was pretty tasty. My favorite was one of the "dessert" recipes (no surprise there!), containing apples, pears, blueberries, sweet potato, and a dash of ground cinnamon. The only one that was truly hard to get down was made from turnips, pears, and ginger; the recipe called for parsnips, which I couldn't find, and turnips were listed as an acceptable substitute. The result left a lot to be desired!
Overall, it was an interesting and mostly positive experiment, but I decided to stop after 3 days rather than going to 7 days as planned. It really is a lot of work to wash that much produce and to clean the juicer multiple times a day. I also didn't want to skip my usual Tuesday lunch date with my husband! I feel good about reducing my caffeine consumption, and while it's too early to tell much about sugar cravings, I did forego my usual soy latte (and my more occasional vegan peanut butter chocolate chip cookie from the health food store) after my Vietnamese tofu noodle salad today.
If you are interested in finding out more, check out the Reboot with Joe web site, books by Joe Cross, and/or the “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” documentaries, which are currently on Netflix. If you decide to try a juice fast, be sure to check with your doctor first, especially if you have any medical conditions.
I do realize this kind of thing isn't everyone’s cup of tea. My husband intended to join me, but by dinner time on the first day he said: “I’m not sure why I’m doing this. I already felt great; now I feel bad. I’m hungry—I’m going to eat something.” So he did! I was glad he did what felt right to him, and I certainly couldn't refute the sanity of his reasoning. Also, I want to emphasize that juicing and fasting are not required components of a nutritious plant-based diet, with all its extraordinary benefits for the planet, the animals, and your health.