Ah juice detoxing, one of the most hotly debated topics on the interweb and in health circles. It seems that one of the most fashionable health accessories these days is a posh bottle of green juice that you can Instagram yourself with to look like the perfect vision of health.
In London right now juice bars are certainly giving Starbucks a run for it’s money – there’s one popping up on every other street corner. With all the hype, you can’t help but be somewhat intrigued and a bit curious?
But what’s the deal with sugar and fructose concentration when super juicing? Will they mess up your sweet cravings? Are juice detoxes really worth it or just another ploy for your pennies?
You’re confused right? I’m not surprised. I was too.
In this article I will shed some light on the topic with my own experience and help you get a balanced view so you can make your own decision.
This article is long so here’s a quick summary then you can decide if you want to read my more detailed (& somwhat entertaining account!).
To juice or not to juice
- I would be suspect of trying to use a juice cleanse if your primary motivation is trying to quickly lose weight or redeem an unhealthy diet. Being an unsustainable practice you are likely to put the weight back on and the ‘quick fix’ approach detracts from the fact you need to be focusing on healthy long term healthy habit change.
- Juice ‘detoxes’ and ‘cleanse’ programmes can be a bit overpriced and so be mindful that you’re paying for convenience and novelty over proven nutrition science.
- People do juice cleanses or fasts for multiple reasons and some are noteworthy. I did mine for spiritual reasons, to challenge a limiting belief I had and to have some real experience for this post (you can read more below). Others feel they need to give their digestive system a break or just want to take focus off food for a few days to see what happens. Understand your reasons clearly if you are considering.
- Sugar concentration from the fruit and lack of fibre can be a problem in these programmes and they may not align well if you’re trying to recalibrate your tastebuds to sweet. Many programmes I found in reasearching just had too much sweetness going on if you’re trying to get control.
- Remember our bodies are designed to detox themselves.
- A juice cleanse or fast can reveal a lot of learning to you around your emotional eating urges and habits which you can then use to change your habits long term e.g. if you successfully found another way to deal with an emotion.
- In addition to my account below, I recommend you read this on Examine.com and this on Precision Nutrition. Two of the better and more balanced views on juice detoxes I found in my research.
In the name of research: my story
So I decided to do a ‘juice cleanse’ whilst in Bali. However before you pass judgement, let me explain clearly why.
My primary reason in the end was personal challenge, curiosity and let’s call it ‘spiritual exploration’ – the chance to focus on other things (meditation, journaling) away from food.
It was in fact a conversation with someone I met who relayed their experience of a 10 day water cleanse that piqued my curiously. A WHAT? Yes that was my reaction too. However, I have an open mind and was interested in the personal challenge and achievement benefits of it this person described.
I could hear the voice in my head reeling out health reasons and assumptions why I didn’t think a juice cleanse was healthy (no fibre, too much sugar, need protein, your body detoxes itself fine) or that it was just an expensive fad, but really deep down I was a bit scared of the prospect of not eating all day (or for a few days).
I didn’t think I could be strong enough to have the discipline required to complete something like that. Err hello limiting belief.
I think my fear was part rooted in my history of having a strong emotional dependence on food. Whilst I overcame my unhealthy relationship with sugar, I’m still aware that emotional eating comes back to haunt me at times as this played big in my unhealthy sugar ways. Likewise so did mindless eating. For many years, food and decisions around food (mainly sugar) dominated me on a daily basis. What would happen if all food decisions were out of the picture completely?
So this was a challenge for me, quite a big one that made me nervous.
I’ll also add that I was in Bali and it was cheap so it felt like now or never. I don’t think I could ever bring myself to pay the fortunes in London that juicing requires or endure the hassle of making them. I also hate the waste side of things. Anyway, I decided quite spontaneously on a Thursday evening at 9pm that I was going to try this the next day and be done with my curiosity around it.
What about sugar?
I am strong in my opinion that many green juices out there are glorified sugar and fructose bombs with some spinach chucked in. The Green Godesss in the UK Pret as a perfect example (read more about what I’ve got to say about Pret snacks and juices here). The best green juice I’ve found in the UK was one at Crush. Having them to occasionally supplement a diet to get more green in is absolutely a healthy move, especially if you know you’re not getting enough vegetables at any one point.
However, when you juice, you remove the fibre. Fibre in fruit really helps slow down the absorption of the sugar (fructose) and lessens the impact on your liver, hence why whole fruit consumed in moderation is a healthy dose of fructose that our bodies can deal with. Juice detoxes can very quickly overload you with fructose and if you’re in a period of sweetness recalibration trying to get control over your chocolate habits, this is far from ideal. Read about the difference between juices and smoothies here.
All the structured juice cleanses and diets that I found and researched just had too high of a fruit % going on for me. I really can’t hack sugary fruity juices that much these days because my palate has shifted, let alone a whole day of them.
Also, due to my spiritual reasoning, I was really doing a fasting challenge, just with the help of some juices and nut milks. So I made up my own rules:
- Freshly made 80-90% vegetable juices with maybe some apple to sweeten the really green ones (Thank you to Wayan’s Coconut Juice Bar for providing me with these as required)
- Beetroot and carrot juices OK for these three days to give me variety to green (those who are sugar detoxing I don’t recommend these as when juiced and concentrated they are quite sweet)
- The odd cashew milk and coconut water during the day (coconut water is a source of a little fructose but it’s not significant and is extremely hydrating)
- Aim to drink something approximately every two hours to stop getting too hungry
- Stop gym and intensive yoga for three days (stick to yin and restorative only). Ecstatic dance twice during the weekend the exception because I LOVE IT!
- Meditate, take it easy and let myself off from trying to achieve masses with work i.e. be much kinder to myself than I usually am
So what happened?
Day 1 – Woke and noticed the instant urge to eat breakfast. Wasn’t even hungry but had the urge. Interesting. Managed ok on juices. Nice green ginger number first thing. Yum. A purple beetroot fennel one was also really nice. Then I over did it with this hardcore green that I supercharged with every superfood they offered to put in it (spirulina, maca etc.). Went to ecstatic dance and treated myself to a cashew milk beforehand which gave me the energy to dance. I found coconut water really took the edge of any hunger and was nicer than the juice a lot of the time. I was quite busy with friends and tasks this day so I was nicely occupied.
Day 2 – Went to the office to get some work done. Had to force the green juice down a bit. Started to feel a bit agitated. Wanted distraction from work. Could feel myself wanting to turn to food. MEGA interesting. Urges were frequent but I was determined at this point. Slight headache. Felt fed up. Please no more of that green juice. Went to the café and asked if they had no sugar watermelon juice. Nice lady made me one especially. Oh my gosh it was the best thing I’d ever tasted – the delicate sweetness was appreciated. Nice lady thought I was a bit mad how much I enjoyed this juice right in front of her but we bonded. Made me appreciate and feel so much gratitude for a) her b) this moment of being alive and c) this precious glass of pink juice.
Day 2 PM – My friend Lydia convinced me to do a colonic treatment to aid the detox process. Really not sure. Last time (4 years ago) I didn’t feel well afterwards, even if the repercussions saw my life changing awareness of sugar and the start of this blog!
Despite knowing the science isn’t there with colonic hydrotherapy, curiosity got the better of me so I tried one last time. Had coconut oil, a spirulina drink and probiotic afterwards. Juice and nut milk for dinner. Felt emotional in the evening. Felt urge for food to comfort but I was not giving in now. Resisted and felt proud. Savoured every mouthful of the nut milk like it was the last thing on earth (a mindful eating reminder at it’s best).
Day 3 – Woke up super energised and awesome. Not hungry atall. Didn’t fancy any of the juices so just decided to just drink water. Drank some coconut pro-biotic. Feel GREAT! Went to escatic dance. So much energy, such awesome music. Danced around like a nutter. Smiling, happy, proud that I got this far and have quashed my limiting beleifs around this. I can do anything!
1 hour after dance. Don’t feel so great. Went home. Got into bed. Started to shiver. Felt sick, very sick. The next 10-12 hours were a bed-ridden blur. The worst 5 hangovers I’ve had in my life combined into one. Felt like an idiot for doing this to my own body. Never again. The only thing that got me through was the thought that I could share the experience and have an entertaining story to tell. Did I say I felt like an idiot?
Day 4 – Woke up weak. No energy. Went and had some plain black rice pudding with coconut milk. Felt good. Ate another portion (it was small). Felt amazing. Became human again. Promised myself I would be really kind to my body over the next week to apologise for my silly curious experiment.
Afterwards – Generally felt good with energy the following week, alert and happy. Was conscious to eat really clean so mostly vegetarian and vegan salads the next few days.
Benefits and learnings
To be honest, physically, I don’t know what happened to me. I know many will have opinions and theories. Because I did both a juice detox and colonic simultaneously it’s hard to attribute to each one (scientific failing!). My suspicion is that me and colonics do not work. Some people swear by them, others say they’re a load of crap (literally). There is no strong science to support them and so I’ve made up my own mind. I can safely say I will not have one ever again.
Likewise physically on the juice detox. After research I’m not convinced our bodies need this but I do see there could be benefits. If someone’s been neglecting green intake and eating loads of not so healthy food (e.g. sugar, junk), obviously a juice cleanse is going to be an upgrade and they are likely to feel benefit.
What I do want to highlight is the benefit on a mental level which in someway makes those torturous 10 hours on the Sunday worth it.
I became super aware around my urges to eat that were obviously emotional or habitual.
The first one was breakfast on the first day when I wasn’t hungry. It’s like I knew I couldn’t have breakfast so I wanted it. Breakfast is usually where my early morning thoughts go. Was I going to be able to start my day without it? Concentrate? Well, yes I did. Life went on. The urge passed and I got on with going to the office and doing bits.
The second was on the sat night. Again I was seeking comfort and I was on my own with no company. I just had to write in my journal and actually this really helped me deal with my feelings. I now know I can use this as a strategy next time. The juice cleanse kind of forced me into proving it.
Identifying the frequency of these urges and proving to myself that they were just that, was very powerful for my self belief system.
And of course, I smashed a limiting belief about something I wasn’t sure I could ever do. This had a profound impact on my self esteem, confidence and beliefs over the next few weeks. The value in my ‘juice detox’ experiment was psychological much more than it was physical I feel.
So there you have it – my full, honest juice cleanse and detox account. I’m open to your thoughts and opinions. I only share to help if you’ve been wondering about this topic. I think it’s a very personal thing to do and everyone can react differently.
If you’re really in the thick of battling sugar, I suggest staying away from juicing and just focus on getting those cravings down as a priority. Crowding out, changing habits and shifting your sweet lifestyle towards a more savoury based one.
What have your experiences been of juice detoxing or fasting? Any sugar craving changes? I really hope you didn’t end up like I did…