I recently guest blogged for my friends health and food website WhyFoodWorks. Here is her post and my original post below:
Why would you try a fad diet?
I had a New Years resolution to once and for all confront every other resolution I’ve made over the past two years but haven’t accomplished. One of those resolutions, was getting my weight in check. My weight has fluctuated over the years, but going into the end of the 2013, I was around 208lbs at 6’2″ and an age of 36 years old. My goal is 190lbs and the closest I have gotten was 198/199lbs about a year ago. The highest I’ve seen in the last 5 years is probably around 218-219lbs.
Sitting at home over the holidays, flipping through the channels, the movie “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” came on. Then, my lightbulb came on. My brilliant idea…. juice for 7 days into the new year while I was off from work. Detox, cleanse, get down to 199lbs jumpstarting my way to 190lbs. I also convinced a friend to join me on this little experiment.
It is probably important to contextualize my diet and lifestyle leading up this decision. I generally eat pretty healthy. No fast foods, not a lot of processed foods. Lots of fiber and protein. I don’t have a sweet tooth. Maybe for a month leading up I had been eating mainly vegetarian (vegetables) for dinner at a controlled portion size. Carbs are really my problem. My company has an on-site food caterer that usually has ethnic foods high in carbs (rice, naan bread, etc). I do high-intensity exercise 4-5 times a week. But, my job has me mostly sedentary all day sitting at a computer.
Living in Seattle, and only a few blocks from Pike’s Market, I had easy access to fresh juicing ingredients. I stuck closely to recipes from Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. There is also a juice/smoothie stand in the market for times I didn’t want to juice or didn’t have time to juice. I honestly didn’t do any ‘safety’ research’ in advance nor did I seek medical advice/blood testing like they did in the movie. I jumped feet first and only did research after the first couple of days. I’ll summarize the research I read…. a) there are clearly health benefits and that was universally called out b) there are also clearly things to be careful about (metabolism changes and blood sugar) and c) I doubt anyone who wrote the articles I read probably ever tried juicing. So, I felt like there was a fair amount of misinformation and many articles are also just trying to sell something like supplements or juicers.
There are some mail order juicing options and store bought juices – I’m not sure I’d want to do any of those. Fresh fruits and vegetables would personally be my only option.
Juicing is not for the weak of… anything
At my size, I wasn’t getting nearly enough calories to sustain – even when I modified the diet with some protein like nuts, or an occasional raw fruit (I tried to avoid this as much as possible). The first couple of days are excruciating as your body goes through craving cycles for whatever it has dependencies on (sweets, carbs, caffeine, etc). This process I classified the first two day withdrawal period as part emotional, part mental, part physical. By the third day, my body shut down around 6-7p and did that consistently for the remaining days. The feeling was similar to the early stages of blacking out — my vision was blurred, I couldn’t see straight and my ears had a low ringing. Generally, my mental focus wasn’t as strong either regardless of time of day. There were times when I was shut down, and juicing perked me up and gave me a bounce in my step. But, that only happened a couple of times and didn’t last long. I exercised probably 5 of the 7 days. Running seemed to be the most successful – but rigorous weight lifting or high-intensity cardio was next to impossible. The earlier in the day I exercised the stronger I felt.
My biggest concern was that I felt like I was losing muscle mass. I felt like my body looked weaker.
They’ll know you’re a juicer
One of the interesting things was how many people asked if I was juicing. Whether at the market, grocery store, etc – people look at what you’re buying and I was asked several times if I was juicing. The ginger is the give away apparently. The cost effectiveness of juicing is comparable to your normal food costs. About a day’s worth of ingredients, at Seattle’s most expensive market, cost about $30. I generally drank 24-48 ounces per meal, so that is important to note. A good juice at the stand (about 12-16oz) was about $6.
Use the freshest and best ingredients you can find – and nothing from a bag. I used Trader Joe’s shredded Kale in a bag once and it didn’t produce any juice. Normal grocery store vegetable sections are fine. You want the stuff that gets misted while it sits in the refrigerated shelves.
That’s a lot of waste (not a lot of waist)
The thing I struggled with the most was how much food you’re throwing out — literally pounds per juicing of shredded food. I did not research recipes specifically, but on a whim tried mixing the ingredients with corn bread. Seattle has a large homeless population, so I thought baking some healthy breads for them would be a good way to give back to the community. The corn bread wasn’t bad — mixed with Kale and Carrot, but it could have been much better.
Before you start juicing, figure out something positive to do with your waste. Some options are breads, composting or soups.
Mission: Not Accomplished!
I didn’t achieve my goal target in the 7 days as I had wanted. I lost about 4-5 pounds, gained a pound or two back after an NFL-game binge, then lost 3-4 additional pounds over the next week under a modified diet (see below). So, as of two weeks later, I’m around 203 lbs. I had a very noticeable change in my waist size that seemed drastic compared to the relatively small weight loss. My clothes fit different.
I also noticed some other positive benefits. Over the past year I had developed some sort of an un-diagnosed allergic reaction to alcohol that led to abdominal pains for multiple days after drinking. I’ve had several tests including CT scans and various nuclear medicine tests with no diagnosis. It appears that after this little juicing detox that I am able to drink alcohol again — and that is really important with the Seahawks in the thick of the NFL playoffs!
My friend that also tried juicing says her skin is much clearer and she’s now sleeping better than she’s slept for years.
My bottom line
I probably shouldn’t be giving health advice – but here’s my recommendation. I think I would have felt much better if, instead of juicing for 7 days, I did “two-a-day high intensity” work outs. I think I would have experienced the same weight loss, my body would have looked stronger and my suffering would have been less.
I experienced health benefits from juicing, as did my friend, so I’m a “juicing advocate”. I’ve modified my diet to include a normal high-protein/high-fiber breakfast, a balanced lunch light on carbs and a good fresh vegetable juice for dinner supplemented with peanuts or fruit as needed. I do this 4-5 times a week only. I think this modified diet has been a big reason why I’ve had additional weight lost. I’m strong enough to exercise (burn more calories) and I’m reducing my caloric intake. I expect I’ll reach my target within another week or two.
Some other things to consider
- Tastes like dirt water – yes, some times you feel like you’re drinking water with flavored dirt in it. But, some lemons or ginger or both make everything okay. I personally didn’t mind the taste that much.
- Citrus not good – strawberries, bananas, oranges, etc all sound good as a juice (think smoothie). But, for me, the citrus acids were too strong on an empty stomach and the sweetness was overwhelming. Some apples, pears etc in a vegetable filled juice are nice additions, but a “fruit only” juice wasn’t for me. Juicing is not a smoothie. And a juicer is not a blender.
- Find a stand – juicing doesn’t take a lot of time. But, literally you’ll be going to the grocery store every day or two. The clean up is pretty easy and you can make a full 48+ ounces in 15-20 minutes. But, we all live busy lives and it’ll help you stick to your diet if you can find a stand that does juicing — note… I don’t mean a “smoothie stand” – totally different.
Good luck !