I am a recent transplant to NYC, and there are a few things New Yorkers swear by that I’ve already grown to love. Wearing all black. Cucumber on my morning bagel. Artisanal vagina wipes that smell like grapefruit, because us city girls are apparently too busy to shower in between work and happy hour. And the new holy grail for healthy conscious skinny folks everywhere, green juice.
After a month of unbridled culinary hedonism, slurping down fancy ramen and half pound cheeseburgers and too many bagels and beers to count, I started to feel like my twice weekly green juice was the only thing keeping me from getting scurvy. And a full on juice cleanse seemed like a pretty sexy idea.
A quick note: Juice cleanses are synonymous with juice fasts. The goal is generally to consume nothing but cold pressed fruit and veggie juice and water for a set period of time. If you are still caught in a pattern of restrictive eating, or if living on juice for X number of days sounds like a challenge and you might push yourself to go weeks longer, or drink less, this is probably not the right path for you to regain your health. I am writing only about what’s right and worked for me, and am far, far away from being an expert or a doctor.
As soon as the idea popped into my head, I had to wonder if a girl who is and always will be a recovered anorexic should embark on a juice cleanse. I’m standing a solid ten years out from the worst of my illness (not all anorexics start in high school or college, any more than all anorexics are white and privileged), and it’s only a sensitive topic with a handful of people in my life. Still, I had to think long and hard to decide if a juice cleanse was a smart and safe idea for me.
But a juice cleanse has a hard and fast beginning and end. You do juice for three days, then you eat. Simple. No calorie counting. No portion control. People handle eating disorders very differently, but this avoids my worst triggers. For me personally, no food at all seemed easier to manage than separating out good and bad foods, or counting calories (which invariably becomes a slippery slope for me, in which I push the number lower and lower until I crack and fall into the same puddle of self-hatred I felt at thirteen).
NYC is packed with juicing companies that will deliver your cleanse right to your door. I tried to choose one that offered plenty of real nutrition, and settled on Urban Remedy. Their Signature Cleanse promises to be “as delicious as it is effective,” and I found the varied list of ingredients and rainbow of colors reassuring. There is the requisite cayenne pepper lemonade, but it’s only one of six bottles and bolstered with tasty acai. Urban Remedy also has fantastic customer service folks who answered all my questions.
Urban Remedy delivered the Signature Cleanse in a foil packed cooler on Saturday morning. I excitedly read the ingredients on each bottle while ignoring all cleansing advice and chasing a pot of black coffee with a few Milanos. Tomorrow’s line-up: Braniac (hard core green salad juice), Time Machine (purple acai lemonade), Flush (deliciously refreshing cucumber, mint, ginger, apple, and lemon), After Party (I’ll sincerely miss this one, with beet, carrot, ginger, apple, and lemon), Warrior (raspberry and chia seeds), and Relax (surprisingly decadent cashew milk with vanilla and cinnamon). They looked vibrant and delicious, and I was anxious to get started.
On Day 1, I decided to set myself up for success and not deny myself a single cup of black coffee. I judge romantic partners by how many pre-coffee minutes I can stand them in the morning, so this seemed like a sensible indulgence before a rough day.
I made it through the day surprisingly easily. On the hunger front: not bad at all, but I really missed chewing. The toughest part was what to do with myself on a Sunday when brunch is off limits. Cleansing clues you in on how much of your social life is devoted to talking over drinks.
I woke up on Day 2 feeling clear headed and energized. So I hit the snooze button. When I woke up again fifteen minutes later, I was covered in a surprising flop sweat. Maybe toxin elimination is a real thing.
At work, I finally added up the calories of all six daily juices, clocking in at a respectable 1,070. 1,200 is a widely accepted amount for slow, long term weight loss, so you can feel pretty good about the metabolic health of this cleanse (again, I am a writer, not a nutritionist). You’re not going to shock your metabolism when you eat a piece of toast two days later.
At 7:30 pm, I went to my first yoga class in months. The haze in my currently fat-free brain made meditation easier than ever before, and I left the studio feeling bendy and fabulous.
On Day 3, I woke up feeling so bright and shiny that I willingly skipped coffee and made myself the recommended mug of hot water with fresh lemon. I set off for the subway radiating like Gwyneth Paltrow, light and airy, my skin glowing with the well rested hydration of a million angels.
By 11 am I was ravenous. The Signature Cleanse pushes most of your caloric intake to the afternoon. If you can make it until five, you’re rewarded with dense, sweet, shakes, but its pretty grim for a day at the office. I spent the day hungry. So very, very, hungry.
I introduced food back into my body with the recommended fruit and veggie heavy diet. Feeling a little depleted, it was an easy choice to start out with some bananas, carrots, and avocado. Juice cleanses are supposed to kickstart healthy eating, and I was fairly skeptical about kicking my sugar habit. But I’m happy to say I’m at least mostly converted. After looking forward to an everything bagel for four days, I finally devoured one and was shocked to realize that a giant white carb bomb made me feel tired and fuzzy. My brain was far less cluttered on a nice low glycemic banana the day before. I decide to eat more salad and less cheese.
There will be no before and after weights in this piece. I do not own a scale, and have not since moving out of my parents’ house. No amount of building muscle or respecting my body makes those numbers easier for me to look at, and I choose to avoid the temptation to obsess. If you’re curious, you can safely assume you’ll lose a few pounds if you go from consuming three beers and a burger for dinner to drinking only cold pressed juice. Results will be less dramatic if you’re already eating a reasonably healthy diet. I did, however, measure my waist before and after, and shed 1/2 an inch.
Juicing after ED is absolutely not for everybody. Be gentle and honest with yourself and chat with your therapist or doctor. Developing a healthy relationship with food is a struggle for people at every point on the disordered eating spectrum. For me personally, the only way to fight back sometimes felt like eating everything, all the time. Adopting a healthy diet felt more restrictive than self-caring, and I didn’t trust myself to eliminate fries and cake without cutting out entire food groups, like I did for so long. Three days of juice helped me put the idea of “healthy eating” back in perspective.
Again, I’ve been eating like a self-loving, fairly healthy human being for several years now. But the juice cleanse reassured my once anorexic brain that eating real, nutrient dense food is pretty great. It feels good to feed your body whole foods. Sticking to a liquid diet, even for just a few days, helped me once again appreciate the simple joy of crunching on a carrot. It’s also fun to treat yourself to a cookie and a glass of wine after work, or to tear into a bagel with full fat cream cheese on a lazy Sunday morning.
Knowing that I can finally decide what makes me feel sluggish and what makes me feel fantastic is a huge triumph for me. Recovery is a moving target, and I’m happy that I could make it through what for so many people is just a trendy diet. Sharing a meal with friends is a pleasure I don’t ever want to miss again.