How to Survive a Juice Cleanse

A while ago I did a juice cleanse. This is how it went.

Taking the plunge

I know what you’re thinking, “Cleanses and detoxes don’t work!” Believe me, I am well aware cleanses and detoxes are heavily disputed. For every article I read touting the magic of going liquid-only for a few days I’ve read one detailing how ineffective it is and how dangerous cleanses can be. I really wanted to have all of/most of (because I get lazy) the facts before writing anything about the science behind juice cleanses and detoxes so I Googled, “scientific research AND juice cleanses” and the top few pages were all titled along the lines of, The Juice Cleanse Myth or Detoxing: The Truth Behind the Fad. I know of someone who passed out trying to train for a marathon while on a juice cleanse. I mean, that’s dumb. I’m confident enough to state that I’m not dumb. I may be on a juice cleanse, but…..

I’m also the type of person who likes to believe in unicorns and the magic of Disney despite my rational, scientific mind so I decided to give this whole juice thing a go. You know, just for kicks (and self-induced torture).

Since I live in Cambodia and it would take months to never for a program to send shipments of pre-made juice, my friend, Elena and I signed up to a program run by The Hive, a local coffee house. The Hive’s menu boasts a number of “a la carte” juices for a variety of ailments as well as several different “juicing” programs for the bold at heart, ranging from the “Casual Cleanser” to “Mega Cleanse”.

Lucky for us, all juicing programs were 20% off through the month of July. Being poor and only motivated by sales Elena and I decided now was the time to stop all of our talk and actually do it. We’re both really healthy people. Sure, we eat our fair share of cheese, but as a whole aren’t really big on the whole meat and dairy scene. We exercise, eat tons of vegetables, actively search out ways to replace chemical-filled products with natural things (although my boyfriend, Kyle would probably appreciate it if I gave up the natural deodorant…) and while Elena has been drinking camel-enviable amounts of water for years I am quickly catching up.

Elena signed up for a longer, five-day cleanse in which she replaces two meals a day with juice, eating something light, like a salad for lunch. Since I was going to be out of town for a day or two I signed up for the shorter “Mega Cleanse” and replaced all three of my meals with juice*.

*On The Hive’s program you replace one meal with two juices, one “heavy” and one “light” for a total of 24 ounces of liquid.

Juice Cleanse

Just some background on why this was such an ill-formed plan (besides the general, “juicing is bad”):

I have a REALLY fast metabolism. I eat A LOT of food at a fairly constant rate and I’m not large by any definition. My Mom used to joke that I have a tapeworm. True, most of the food I’m eating copious amounts of are like, veg and hummus or gluten free, vegan oat cookies. Once I was vegetarian for about a year, which wasn’t that big a deal because I eat very little meat anyway, but I was definitely missing out on some types of fats and proteins because my roommate was literally scared to talk to me I was so grouchy.

I also forayed into veganism for six weeks. Elena and I decided to try it out a while ago after watching a documentary on America’s food industry. Honestly, it wasn’t as bad as being vegetarian because I was way more informed about how to eat a balanced diet and had to think about what I was eating a lot more than before. The only problem, Cambodia isn’t very health-issue friendly. Almost everything is cooked in fish or oyster sauce and if you order something without meat, they usually throw in an egg and look at you like you’re crazy.

One last thing, I get hangry. Like, I am probably where that term originated. Whenever I’m home my parents carry “cranky crackers” because they know if I get hungry before the allotted meal time I will become unbearable.

Over the three-day “cleanse” I learned quite a bit about my body, how to take care of myself, how to juice in a manageable way, and what to expect on a liquid-only diet.

Don’t take yourself too seriously.

This is the most important. I am very competitive and have a tendency to over do things just so I can feel like I’ve won. But on a juice cleanse, no one is really winning, except for the person/company taking your money. I started out wanting to go full on, but shortly after my first juice meal my stomach started growling. We began our cleanse over the weekend so we wouldn’t murder our coworkers, but that also meant a lot of free time to think about being hungry and meet-ups with non-juicers who will inevitably want to eat something.

I ended up eating the Detox Salad from Sister Srey, which is basically just a pile of raw vegetables so I decided not to feel bad. My body just needed something to munch. Plus, I drank an espresso and knew that wouldn’t go down so well without a stomach buffer.

Listen to your body.

Having done food/diet experiments in the past I am pretty aware of my body’s needs. I can tell if my hunger pangs will be suppressible or will turn me into a raging rage monster. Juicing was a fun (I use that word lightly) challenge, but at the end of the day you have to listen to your body.

If you feel like you’re going to kill someone, EAT SOMETHING! There were way too many moments when I felt like I was going to burst into tears because I was so hungry and exhausted overall. When Kyle was trying to figure out where to get lunch I snapped, “Well I’m not eating so I can’t make the decision for you!” And then almost cried. And ended up eating his side-salad.

I ended up eating something once a day, whether it was a salad or homemade “cookies” with banana, peanut butter, oats, cranberries, matcha, and black sesame.

You will be tired.

Getting up in the morning was the hardest thing. I don’t eat breakfast as regularly as I should so I’m used to getting up and not “eating”, but getting up having not physically eaten anything the night before was a feat. Usually, when I’m tired I turn to my old friend, coffee but was wary our relationship wouldn’t be as compatible on an empty stomach. Despite usually taking my coffee black I switched it up and added some chia+quinoa milk and a spoonful of cinnamon to make it a bit less harsh, plus cinnamon is supposed to help regulate your sugar absorption.

Not all juices are created equal.

My favorite juice was the Ultimate Veg, which contained pretty much every vegetable you could imagine.

While some juices are downright delightful, one or two taste like, “biting into a compost heap” according to Kyle. Broccoli, kale, and celery tend to have that effect when mixed in liquid form.

Try something new.

I used this as an opportunity to get over my very deep-seated issues with celery. I hate it. Unfortunately, my opposition to the primarily water-filled veg limited my juicing options. So if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. While some juices were a bit celery-heavy and hard to swallow there were one or two that were pretty delightful. Although I don’t see myself munching stalks anytime soon, I’ve definitely opened my horizons to include celery-plus-a-lot-of-other-things juices.

Your body will change.

It’s been a few weeks since I “cleansed” (I’ve been busy, ok…) but my body is still recovering. I have zero tolerance for cheese anymore. I think I’ve always been a bit lactose sensitive, I don’t eat a lot of dairy besides cheese but I just can’t anymore. I still eat it, don’t get me wrong, I just regret it immediately.

Shortly after I finished the juice cleanse Kyle and I went to Laos and my body was definitely in no mood for an 8-hour van ride… I was having trouble keeping anything in my stomach for long (probably due to lack of fiber). Elena was experiencing the same difficulties and talked to a doctor who guessed she had a parasite but had already flushed it out with all of the water + juices, so there wasn’t much she could do about it. So maybe I did have a tapeworm after all?

I’m in the process of finding a diet (not the lose weight kind, the general foods you put in your body kind) that works for me, most likely no dairy, lots of veg, and the occasional meat product until I find an adequate protein substitute.

To cleanse or not to cleanse?

My take-away, juicing is a great way to get a surge of vitamins but as an add-on to a healthy diet full of actual food. I don’t see anything wrong with the occasional meal replacement, but only if you are eating healthfully to begin with, not as a detox after a weekend bender.

Plus, food is just too good to give up.

You Are What You Eat

It’s like a fight to the death among the street restaurants. I came here with Jenna on my first day in Siem Reap but failed completely when I tried to come back on my own. I came so close only to misjudge the distance, ending up at the wrong restaurant. Normally it wouldn’t be a big deal, a meal is a meal, except I am trying to build relationships here, which becomes significantly easier when you patronize the same places.

Tonight I was more determined. Despite the rain (I thought rainy season was over…) I buttoned down the hatches on my coat and braved slick city streets. I cycled up to where I thought the original restaurant was located and immediately women waving menus materialized around me, shouting and pulling me in different directions. I held my ground stating, “I’m looking for Phai San!”

Like magic San (her husband’s name is Phai, hence Phai San) appeared yelling, “Here!” and ushered me to a table. Much to my relief, she remembered me, “Jenna’s friend!”

Yes, we’re getting somewhere.

As I learned Monday, building relationships is important, especially among food establishments. We were all headed towards our usual lunch spot in the market, the place with the pink chairs, but changed our minds after noticing PEPY NGO’s new batch of students tucking into their meal on the other side of the market.

Finishing a round of introductions we found seats at a table and were quickly informed we would eat what had already been prepared. Plate after plate of rice, veggies, and fried eggs were placed alongside bowls of the day’s soup. Digging into our food, distracted by the conversation we almost missed Sreyeang scoop a helping of food off her plate.

“Wait… What did you find in your food?” We all wanted to know.

After some coaxing, we eventually learned the soup du jour included a little something extra: worm.

I told you my days of catered dignitary luncheons were over…

We knew it wasn’t an intentional ingredient, but we carefully inspected our plates nonetheless and haven’t ventured back since.

I should add insects are really a part of life here. Even at the fancy-schmancy gala dinner we all placed napkins over our beverages and avoided the gnat-peppered butter pats. And the mosquitoes must have missed the memo the Minister of Tourism was going to be there.

Not the most delightful dining companions.
Not the most delightful dining companions.

Even as I wrote this post I was flicking an assortment of flying critters out of my curry. They just sort of stumble in, no big deal. I am a bit perplexed as to how the worm managed its way into our soup…

A brief shout-out while I’m on the topic of food. In a few short days, a few of our friends and fellow PEPY staff are opening a restaurant in town called Brown Rice. Yesterday Jenna and I popped by to check it out and can assure you it will be fabulous. Catering towards the nearby university students the prices will be affordable, food delicious, plus free wifi and air conditioning.  So if you happen to pass through Siem Reap, definitely check it out.