This morning started off with a "lean greens" juice, which despite containing spinach and parsley, was actually quite tasty. Good thing, too, considering I'll be drinking two of those a day during the cleanse. I'm happy to report that the caffeine headaches were just a two-day thing for me, and today I'm noticeably better. I breezed through the morning juices, but around 11:30, when my colleagues were deciding on where to go for lunch, I started feeling hungry. Juice #3 (another lean greens) did the trick for a bit, and I managed to get quite a lot accomplished by late afternoon. Usually I feel tired and unmotivated for an hour or so after lunch, but on the cleanse, that feeling has been replaced by a distracted sensation, like that nagging feeling of having forgotten something. (Oh yeah, I did forget something. FOOD.)
By the evening of the first night, I was feeling pretty hangry (hungry + angry). This is a new term I've discovered over the course of reading and writing about juice cleanses, and I love it. Matt knows that I can get pretty cranky when I'm hungry, so I'm guessing he's glad to be out of town at the moment. But I powered through, and did enjoy the last juice of the day, which was actually a cashew nut milk made with honey, vanilla, cinammon and sea salt. No hunger pangs as I cuddled up with Jackelope and fell asleep.
On the morning of Day 2, I woke up feeling surprisingly good. No headache at all, and this might sound crazy but my stomach did actually feel flatter. I was in a good mood and although I can't say I was excited to drink juice again all day, I felt up to the challenge.
By the afternoon, I was singing a different song all together. An ugly song. I had planned some hotel site inspections for later in the day, thinking that getting out of the office was a good idea to keep my mind off the whole no-solid-food thing. Unfortunately, site inspections are exhausting, and waiting around half the afternoon for taxis, salespeople, elevators, and Uber drivers would have been irritating even if I hadn't already been feeling highly irritable. I calmed down by telling myself that if I still hated everything and everyone by dinnertime, I'd go pick up a vegan salad from Juice by Melissa and to heck with the just-juice thing.
Luckily, YY and I exchanged some motivational texts (mainly about what we planned to eat once the cleanse was over--crispy pork skin is high on her list) and I went home sans-salad for my cashew nut milk and cuddles from my dog. But on the way home, while I waited yet again in the unfathomable Beijing traffic, I began seriously thinking about the juice cleanse concept, and discovered the root of the discomfort I've been feeling for the past 48 hours. (Well, one of the roots. The other one, as you might imagine, is hunger.)
I'm about to get real real here, and open myself up to saying some things I wouldn't usually share with anyone who I don't consider a trusted friend. I'm going to talk about my weight. And no, not the number, so just shut that idea out of your head. To do this, we'll have to go back in time about ten years, but I promise I'll tie it in with the juice cleanse of today at the end.
In terms of weight, in high school, I was the girl everybody hates. I never thought about calories, or eating too much, or my size, and why would I have? I was tall, thin, reasonably athletic, and my mom cooked healthy, delicious meals for us almost every night, which, when combined with a bionic metabolism, counteracted any junk food I consumed at school. When I headed off to college, I was sure that the 'freshman fifteen' would never be MY problem.
Until it was.
I'll never forget crying in the dressing room at Macy's one weekend when my mom came to visit and took me shopping--nothing fit me anymore, and I hated the sight of myself in the mirror. This was probably a touch dramatic when considering that I was basically going from a size six to a size eight, but weight gain can be a shocking experience. It creeps up slowly so that you don't even notice it, and then all of a sudden, pop! There goes the button on your jeans.
Over the next five or so years, I struggled with the usual plagues of the modern twenty-something woman: yo-yo dieting, WeightWatchers, bouts of insane exercise regimes (CrossFit, hot yoga, training for a half-marathon, boxing, you name it), veganism, the Paleo diet, and on top of that, all the getting in and out of routines that characterizes someone in college, graduating from college, moving overseas, moving back home from overseas, and then moving overseas again. It was a tough time, and I was constantly thinking about my weight. Every chance I got, I checked my reflection in mirrors, windows, and storefronts. I compared myself to every random Jane Doe walking down the street. When someone posted a picture of me on Facebook, I was filled with dread until I could check out how I looked and de-tag it if necessary. I knew that thinking about these things was taking up tons and tons of my time and energy, but I had no idea how to stop. And I don't think I'm alone in this.
I'm not going to go into a diatribe on the media's portrayal of women and how expectations are unrealistic, blah blah blah. That stuff is all true, and we all know it, but it doesn't change the fact that most of us still want to look like the cover of a magazine tells us to look. What I want to tell you about is my experience, and how I have managed to conquer that constant act of comparison, of body-trashing, of de-tagging photos where my thighs look big or my arms aren't toned enough. For me, no amount of crazy workouts or calorie counting ever resulted in lasting change. I'd lose 15 pounds, and then gain it back as soon as I 'took a break' from whatever I was doing. And I know that for some people, programs like WeightWatchers or CrossFit are meant to be lifelong and sustainable. But they weren't for me. They always felt temporary, and even though the counseling and the coaching tried to hammer home the idea that this was something I'd do forever (or suffer the consequences!), I never internalized it.
So the change happened when I finally just stopped. I don't mean to say that I told myself, "Hey, life's short!" and decided to have a free-for-all eating spree and never work out again. But at some point in the spring of 2012, I set down the thirty pounds of *mental* baggage I'd been carrying around with me since that first weight gain in college, and started being myself again. I began eating when I was hungry, and stopping when I was full. I had tried this before on one diet or another, but it had always been with a fanatical vigilance inspired by the idea that I was dieting. This time, I didn't have a quick fix in mind--in fact, I didn't even have results in mind. I just realized that the food I eat isn't going anywhere, and there is really and truly no reason to overeat. It sounds so simple and unhelpful, but that's basically what it came down to. The weight came off slowly over the course of a year, with no dieting and no workout routine to speak of. I ate healthily, I ate less. I never told myself that something was 'off limits.' I weighed myself rarely and 'just for fun,' and was amazed with the results.
I have a tendency toward extremism when it comes to exercise and diet, so this realization that moderation is actually what my body and my mind are craving was a gigantic step forward for me, and it still is.
Which, of course, brings me back to the Juice Cleanse. By now I've proven to myself that only drinking juice for 72 hours straight is something I can do (whoopie). Maybe I feel 'lighter,' and healthier, or maybe I'm hypoglycemic. I'm not really sure at this point. But the biggest issue I've found with the cleanse is that it has threatened to disrupt my delicate and newly-discovered life of balance and moderation. For the past three days, I have thought about food more than I've thought about it for the past three months. There have been some moments where I've felt great, and there have been a lot of moments where I've been a huge jerk to whoever was in closest proximity to me because I was feeling hungry and deprived and trying not to think about my lack of dinner awaiting me at home. But the point is that I had forgotten what it feels like to be so consumed by thoughts of eating, not eating, and how I look as a result of eating or not eating. I had forgotten how much time I used to spend thinking about what I should or shouldn't have for lunch, or feeling guilty about skipping a WOD to go to the movies with friends.
But maybe, in a roundabout way, it's good to be reminded of that. Maybe it's good for me to remember what those years were like, and be grateful that I've found my way to a healthy relationship with food that is sustainable and enjoyable long-term. So I guess I can say thank you to the Juice Cleanse for showing me how far I've come, and for forcing me to reflect on all of this and share it with the world.
Also, I will be 100% okay if I never have to drink a slim-o-nade or any juice containing beets again for the rest of my life.