A lot of people are trying juice fasts lately, and proponents of juice fasting report a variety of benefits to their physical, mental and even spiritual health.
I’m a huge fan of making my own, fresh fruit and veggie juices and generally like to juice about once a day, but I had never gone so far as to try an actual juice fast, which would mean not eating solid food and consuming nothing but juice for an entire day or longer.
I wanted to see if I could do it and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and yeah, okay, I also wanted to see if it would help me lose some weight. Spoiler alert: it didn’t.
Unfortunately, my first attempt at juice fasting was a total, flipping disaster. I kept a diary so you could view the results.
Me: I’m going to go on a juice fast! Juice, y’all. I am going to consume nothing but juice for 24 hours, after which I will be skinny and gorgeous and able to do Standing Bow in yoga and I will take over the world because I did nothing but drink juice for an entire day, woooooooo!!!
(I think I was on the verge of some kind of juice-induced mania.)
8:00 am: I spend 45 minutes making several jars of juice to last me for the rest of the day. One of them tastes good and the other looks like I dredged it out of a stagnant irrigation pond. Kale was involved.
9:30 am: My friend arrives with bagels and cream cheese and I eat a half a bagel to be polite, because jeez, of course, and they were cinnamon raisin. But I mean, you have to eat breakfast. You are supposed to eat breakfast.
At this point, early on in the game, I realize that I can justify eating in exactly the same way that an alcoholic can justify drinking.
11:00 am: I finish another cup of the stagnant pond water. My friend looks at me with pity and comments that it smells funny. I remark that it will probably make me poop a lot.
1:00 pm: More juice. I begin to get a splitting headache. I nap until 3 and get up and have more juice and get an even worse headache.
3:00 pm: I decide that coffee is actually a form of juice, technically. Right? It really is. It’s coffee bean juice. So I have coffee and Advil and lie back down and write some more and realize that I have turned into full on Cornholio now because the juice has somehow sensitized me to the caffeine.
7:00 pm: I’m f*****g starving, dammit.
7:30 pm: My husband decides to make the most delicious looking pot of pasta I have ever seen in my entire life. It involves tomato cream sauce. There is butter. Angels are singing over it. I need it.
7:35 pm: I eat a bowl of the pasta and it is better than I imagined. But I drink the rest of the pond water with it, which has to count for something. I swear, it has to.
7:45 pm: I need another bowl of that pasta.
7:55 pm: Screw the juice fast. We have some chocolate in the cabinet.
And so ended my first attempt at juice fasting.
Luckily, my second attempt was much more successful! I did some research, planned ahead and made several little adjustments which added up and contributed to me being able to achieve my juice fasting goal much more comfortably.
Here are my tips to help anyone have a successful juice fast:
1. Plan ahead.
My first juice fast was a mess because I jumped into it impulsively. Research, look up specific recipes to try, ask your doctor or nutritionist if something like this is a good idea. Read up on other people’s experiences and get a good idea of what to expect.
2. Set yourself up for success by starting small and lowering expectations.
Maybe ease into it by replacing one meal at a time with juice, then two and build up to all three meals replaced by juice with juice in between. I’ve found that what works best for me is to only try to fast for one day at a time. I know myself and I know that going any longer than a day without solids will turn me into a hatchet wielding maniac who shoots fire from her eyes and tries to direct traffic in her nightgown. Some days I drink juice all day and have a light salad with some kind of protein in it for dinner.
3. Go into juice fasting with a positive mindset.
Think “I can do this! This is good for me! I feel energized and healthy!” Avoid juice fasting because you hate your body, you feel guilty about having over-indulged somehow or you’re miserable about some other area of your life. That is the absolute wrong reason to do a juice fast. Trust me, I am speaking from experience here and a juice fast is not going to fix the deeper issues causing that kind of negative thinking. Do this only out of self-love. No other reason. Okay?
4. Drink tea!
You can still drink herbal tea and green teas while juice fasting. Drinking tea in between juice meals helps save my sanity. It keeps me fuller, more satisfied and more energized. I like iced green tea with lemon and mint.
5. Eat a banana or half an avocado.
Seriously. Whenever I juice fast or attempt any kind of restrictive diet, I get wicked muscle cramps. This is due to an electrolyte imbalance that I guess I’m particularly prone to and eating some banana or avocado fixes it instantly. It makes me feel better and helps me get through the fast—and yes, I know that it isn’t “pure” fasting, but I’d rather be safe and well than crampy and potentially harming myself.
6. Add cinnamon to juice to help regulate blood sugar.
Avocado helps too and both taste yummy.
7. Plan juice fasts for days when you don’t have important events to attend or a lot of work to do.
Fasting can be stressful on the body, so don’t add to that stress. Go easy on fast days and don’t overburden yourself. Fasting can cause lightheadedness and grouchiness. Be prepared just in case by being able to stay home and rest. Trying to juice fast on busy days or days when you have important social engagements is setting yourself up for failure.
8. Drink lots of water.
I know, I know. Such a cliche, but a great deal of the problem with my first juice fast was that I was dehydrated! Of course I was going to have a headache and feel like crap! So remember to drink your water too.
9. Keep juices more on the savory side and less sweet.
This will prevent the huge spikes and crashes in blood sugar that can make fasting agony and trigger a hypoglycemia induced food binge. In my experience, veggie juice keeps me full longer too, although this might just be in my head.
10. If fasting is difficult, do something you love.
Read, nap, watch a happy movie, call a friend, do a craft, meditate or sit outside in nature for a while. Rewarding myself with calming, peaceful activities that I love gets me through cravings, crabbiness and boredom.
And remember, fasting may not be for you and that’s okay too. Juice fasting can be harmful for people with certain medical and psychological conditions, so always be responsible and check with a doctor first.
If, like me, you fail the first time or even the first few times, reward yourself for even trying and if you want to, try again. You might have better luck next time. I sure did!
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Editor: Emily Bartran