What I love about the idea of a cleanse is the promise of rebirth. What I hate about a cleanse is that I seem constitutionally incapable of completing one. After watching Tom go on a food-based cleanse in early January, I felt bitter. Did he think he was better than me? He isn’t better than me, I muttered to myself. But how to know for sure, unless I completed my own cleanse?
I’d done a cleanse twice before, and failed. How to guarantee success this time around? I looked inward, hard. I don’t fail at things often, but that is only because I don’t do things that I think I might fail at. My yoga teachers might tell you that’s why I fail to progress. What was getting in the way of my cleansing success? I could think of two hurdles right off the bat. The first was the sheer duration of a cleanse. I felt that I could not help but succeed, if I could somehow cut down on the length of time to completion. The second hurdle was my utter lack of willpower when it comes to food. Forced to make my own liquid meals in a house full of food, there was no chance I’d make it. I’d need to avoid my kitchen altogether.
So that’s how I chose a three-day juice cleanse. I remembered that long ago, my friend Kim had extolled the virtues of the juices at Portland Juice Press—in particular, a milkshake-like drink that came at the end of each day’s ration of juices. I researched the company online. Six juices a day, for three days? With daily delivery to my house? How hard could that be?
A three day juice cleanse, it turns out, can be very hard. In my baseless optimism and stupidity, I got so excited that I found eight friends to do it with me, including Tom, and scored a group discount. I’m pretty sure it was Gandhi that said, “Why fail alone when you can fail with a bunch of other people?”
The first day’s juices arrived on Tuesday morning at 7:30. I’m a sucker for good packaging and my six bottles of juices were adorable, colorful, and delicious. They felt like collectibles. The first drink of the day, the Shauca, was a grapefruit/ginger/mint combo that woke me up and kept me buzzing until juice number two, the Guru, a magenta beet-based concoction. So far, I wasn’t hungry. In fact, I was very full, from all the liquid. I’m not a good water drinker, and I could see straight off that the biggest issue with the juice cleanse would be the sheer volume of liquid. I peed probably 18 times that first day. I felt light. I felt energetic. I felt purified.
Juice at work was a cinch. When I got home, though, I had to cook for my kids. I heated up a pan to cook their flank steak, and felt an alarming quantity of drool begin to pool in my mouth. I looked around the kitchen in a panic. I spotted a jar of raw almonds and ate eight. I felt like a cheater, but better the eight almonds than a raw flank steak eaten with my hands, I told myself. While my kids ate their dinner, I sipped on hot water, and thought about the Om sitting in my refrigerator.
The Om is Portland Juice Press’s raison d’etre. It’s hazelnut milk with a healthy dose of cinnamon and dates, and on a normal diet you’d probably reject it as hippie food, but what an Om tastes like after a day of fruit juice is a Cheesecake Factory cheesecake. I sipped on it to make it last longer, and then went straight to bed after a hunger-induced argument with Tom that went like this:
Tom: “You ate almonds? Ha, you lose.”
Yoona: “You think you’re better than me? You drank COFFEE.”
The next day, I woke up feeling alert. I ran to the mirror and was bummed to find that I was not visibly thinner after 24 hours of liquid food. I shook off my disappointment and ran downstairs to rip open my next box of juices. I drank three more juices at work and even got through a kid’s birthday party in the afternoon without eating. It helped that two other parents at the party were cleansing. We stared at our kids’ pizzas and bonded over our shared hunger.
On the second day, my friends and I were in various stages of falling apart. I was highly irritable. People kept asking me why I was doing a cleanse, and I couldn’t remember. Anytime anyone talked to me, I wanted to scream, “Get off my back, OK?!?” Whitney reported headaches and fatigue, and that she had to lay down between clients. Tom called me around 2:00 to yell “THIS IS BULLSHIT!!” and then hung up the phone. Ethan texted me angrily at 7:30 PM that Linds had the gall to make popcorn when he couldn’t have any. Too weak for his Insanity workout, Erskine went to bed at 9:00 PM bundled up in a down jacket. Kathryn also reported feeling cold. Now that they mentioned it, I realized that I was freezing too. I googled it while nursing my second Om. Lowered metabolism while cleansing can make you feel cold, and lead to flu-like symptoms. My teeth chattered in excitement. My cleanse was working!!
Day 3 dawned clear. I dutifully sucked down my day of juices until I got to 5:00 PM. On the calendar was a law firm party. As any lawyer knows, it is impossible to get through a law firm party without alcohol or snacks. I’d never done it before. I’d never even heard of it HAPPENING. Could I do it now? As I pulled on my fancy clothes in my office bathroom, I realized my pants fit looser. Hot diggity! I high-fived my reflection and told myself I could finish the cleanse. After all, I only had 12 more hours to go before I could have food.
Tom and I both got through the party without food or drink. We weren’t even hungry. But it was after the party that we realized that life without food just isn’t that much fun. We had a sitter but nowhere to go, since we weren’t eating. So we decided to own our failure and fall off the cleanse together. We went to a Japanese place and went nuts. When I took my first bite of seaweed salad, the right side of my jaw clicked and felt strange from disuse.
Afterward, of course, I felt remorseful. I couldn’t even complete a three-day juice cleanse! What a loser I was. But then I realized that even my partial juice cleanse had been beneficial. It had reminded me that in my everyday life, I am surrounded by bounty, by choice. And not having that for 2.75 days had reminded me how delicious food is, how fortunate I was to have it, and how lucky I was to be able to turn it down for the sake of a body experiment.
I think I’ll try the four-day cleanse next time.