I am on day 7 of a 7-day juice fast. Twenty-four hours until I can finally, finally sink my teeth into real food. I have to admit, I’d much rather that first bite be pizza, or Taco Bell, or those chocolate covered strawberry pops that have been taunting me from the freezer this past week.
But alas, my first bite of real food will be a pear. I’m not about to undo what has been an admittedly difficult and inspiring week.
This week has taught me a lot of about myself and my relationship with food. Here is a brief list of what I’ve learned:
- I’ve been forced to recognize the moments when I am most likely to reach for food. Stopping yourself from doing something forces you to see what it is you were about to do. I mean really see it. Every time I was tempted, I ping ponged back and forth between justifying that “one bite” and reminding myself I didn’t need it. Through this process I realized that most of the time I make my way into the kitchen out of habit, rather than necessity. This made my fast much easier once I examined the reasons I turn to food, and then realized I do have the capability of controlling myself.
- The juice fast has forced me to pay attention to what nutrition does to my body. Juice is quickly digested and within fifteen minutes I feel the benefits. My energy is higher, my mood is elevated, and I no longer feel hungry, even if my stomach still feels empty. It makes me sick to think that the opposite happens whenever I scarf down a Nacho Bell Grande.
- I’ve learned the difference between hunger and cravings. I’ve had a TON of cravings this week, but I haven’t really been hungry. (And darn it, now I’m craving a Nacho Bell Grande! Ugh…but it’s easier to resist than it was a week ago.)
- There is also a difference between emotional and physical exhaustion. During my fast my body has been tired, but my mind has been energized and so amazingly clear.
- Food is medicine. Drinking a cup of freshly squeezed juice is like putting cortisone on a rash. It’s like spreading a salve onto every cell in my body. I can feel my body thanking me.
I made it through pizza night with my kids. I also managed to avoid stopping off at Taco Bell after a particularly bad day at work (in case you haven’t figured it out yet, Taco Bell is my main vise). I also avoided social situations and focused on work, which was easy because it gave me an excuse to retreat into my shell for a while. I’m an introvert, so I need to do that every once in a while.
But through it all, I have been judged by people who don’t understand. So I have compiled a list of the questions I’ve been asked and comments that have been made to me not only during this past week, but since I became vegan (or vegan-ish) about a year and a half ago, and then re-dedicated myself to being 100% raw vegan a few weeks ago:
First you go raw vegan, and now juicing? Why so extreme?
This is a matter of perspective. I don’t consider it extreme to eat all natural, organically grown, healthy foods that my body was designed to run on the way a car is designed to run on specially crafted fuel. What is extreme is having my chest cut open on an operating table to repair clogged arteries, or having to get poison injected into my blood stream to kill off cancer cells.
You need protein in your diet. How are you going to get that on a juice fast, or even as a vegan?
In the mid-Twentieth Century, when we as a society got serious about examining the content of food, we began to ask about nutritional values. A board of individuals were assembled to determine the amount of each nutrient required for good health. Many of the Daily Recommended Intake (RDI) values got their start with this group of people, and not much has changed in more than half a century. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is charged with making recommendations for how many nutrients should be consumed daily. Because it is comprised of individuals in the agriculture business (i.e. the people that raise and sell animals for meat and milk), they are more inclined to recommend LOTS of protein from animal products. In the business world we call this a “conflict of interest.”
The USDA website even states, in reference to the work of the Dietary Guidance Working Group, a group of “selected” USDA individuals charged with evaluating studies: “This review process is intended as a policy review that allows for creative interpretation of healthy eating and physical activity messages, not as a peer or editorial review.”
Any scientist will tell you that the measure of the validity of scientific research is based on peer reviews. USDA admits that it has a group of people dedicated to evaluating research using their own policies as a guide for determining what dietary recommendations are made.
In contrast, independent and peer reviewed research studies, such as The China Study, have determined that healthy adults need only 5% of their calories from protein, versus the 10% (double!) recommended by the USDA. It is very easy to get 5% from a plant-based diet, which also happens to be a higher quality, better protein. This study determined that animal protein actually causes cancer, whereas plant protein fights cancer. This makes the USDA’s recommendation even more detrimental to the health of Americans.
Click here for more information on The China Study.
Vegans are always scrawny, you never see a vegan bodybuilder. There’s a reason for it!
When did we decide that body builders were the epitome of fitness and health?! Every bodybuilder or gym rat I’ve known has to work incredible hard to get that bulky, chiseled physique. Even when people had to do manual labor from sun up to sun down as a way of life they didn’t build the type of physique that bodybuilders get. It isn’t natural. Bodybuilding is the result of forcing the body’s muscles into overdrive.
Most of the bodybuilders/gym rats I’ve known consume copious amounts of supplements engineered in a lab (read: chemicals) to give them that bulk. And I’m not even talking about steroids. Even supplements meant to mimic hormones or compounds that are naturally produced by the body are chemically engineered and concentrated. Which isn’t good, even if the body does naturally produce some version of it. Besides, science might be able to trick the body into thinking it is a natural compound, but that doesn’t mean it’s the same as the real thing, or that it isn’t harmful to the body, especially in large, unnatural amounts.
Bulky physiques are also fairly new. You didn’t see buffed up bodies before the middle of the Twentieth Century. Some will claim that this is because we have better nutrition than ever before. Wrong. We have worse nutrition than ever before. But we do have better chemists.
Going to extremes by consuming chemicals and loading the body with quantities of “natural” compounds that could never be produced naturally to the same extent with diet alone, in my opinion, is not the definition of good health.
Besides that, it is possible to have a toned, healthy physique with a plant-based diet – a body that is as healthy on the inside as it is on the outside. There are even some vegan bodybuilders out there. Check out this site for some examples.
Starving yourself is unhealthy!
People are so quick to assume that because I don’t eat meat or dairy I am not getting enough calories or nutrients. See my answer to the above question, regarding protein.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is comprised of highly processed foods with very little actual “food” in it. It’s mostly made of chemicals produced in a lab that are purposely designed to cause cravings, so you’ll want more of their high calorie, low nutrition sludge. Even the actual food that makes it in is heavily processed and removed so far from its original form.
By eating only raw, natural, and organic foods, I’m avoiding the chemicals and processing. The food I eat is nutritionally dense. I’m getting more nutrition per calorie.
As for concerns that I am starving myself by juice fasting, that is a misconception. There is a difference between calories and nutrition. Juicing allows you to ingest large quantities of micronutrients, so nutrition is very high. But without the bulk of macronutrients that don’t make it into the juice, the calorie content is very low. Because of these vast quantities of nutrients, my body is not starving. I felt hungry at first because I wasn’t getting the fullness of the food in my belly, but that went away and the juice has been quite satisfying – a signal that my body is accepting the nutrients and using them properly. Hunger is meant to alert you when the body needs nutrition, not when your tummy needs to be filled.
Juice fasting gives the digestive system a break, so the body can work on healing. The body is actually designed to go through periods of fasting. That is why we store fat. In pre-modern times fasting occurred naturally, but in modern and post-modern society we have an abundance of food, so it becomes necessary to fast intentionally.
Fasting would not be beneficial in the long term because you would miss out on some important nutrients; however, short term juice fasting has been proven to rid the body of wastes and toxins by providing a rush of natural, fresh nutrients that are easily and quickly absorbed.
When you start eating normally you are just going to put the weight back on.
First of all, I’m not fasting for weight loss purposes. It is a benefit, not a goal. Yes, I will lose weight from calorie restriction. But another cause of weight loss during fasting is the release of toxins stored in fat cells, due to the detoxification effects of micronutrients. The fat cells shrink and you lose weight. If I were to come off my fast and binge or go back to eating overly processed, chemical laden foods, then yes, I would gain weight. I just spent a week ridding my body of all the toxins, so of course it will freak out if I introduce it to bad food again. It will instantly store away anything it perceives as a threat to the vital organs. And since I’ve just taught it what the good stuff is all about, it will be more aware of the bad stuff, whereas before it just sort of learned to deal with the bad stuff. Read this post about why I’m happy to be fat and depressed, which goes into this in greater detail.
Breaking the fast has to be done carefully and slowly. I plant to continue juicing while slowly introducing fresh fruits and vegetables back into my diet, and then whole grains, nuts and seeds. As much as I’d love to gorge on an entire pizza or fast food, I just need to rely on my willpower. After all, this fast is also about retraining my brain and my attitude toward food. My pizza and fast food days are over, or at least drastically reduced.
Juicing takes out all the fiber, where most of the nutrients are.
This is another misconception. Most of the nutrients end up in the juice, including the soluble fiber. The only fiber that ends up in the pulping chute is the insoluble fiber, which the body uses for digestion. Since I’m not eating solid foods and my digestive tract is on a break, there’s no need for that.
This week has been emotionally, physically and mentally enlightening. Have you tried a juice fast? What were your experiences? What have you learned?