As someone who has struggled both with weight loss and chronic pain conditions, the allure of “juicing” for better health, especially with so much celebrity endorsement, tempted me to try a diet cleanse. After all, most of those toned, beautiful stars have elite trainers and the best physicians money can buy; it’s easy to think they’d be well-informed on the best ways to shape-up, drop pounds, and feel better despite ailments and increasing years. After having several friends and family members talk about their success using a juice-based diet cleanse or replacing meals with fruit or smoothies, I wanted to give it a try.
What I didn’t expect was to feel utterly wretched while consuming only juice for breakfast and lunch, even combining liquid meals with a sensible dinner comprised of “real” health food in the evening. Despite being in the spotlight over the last few years, with many famous supporters, “juicing” meal supplement sales and diet cleanse myths are rampant online, and there seems to be more incorrect information available than actual facts backed by research. Here’s what I learned during my admittedly brief attempt at a diet cleanse, in which I substituted “normal” breakfast and lunch meals for fresh fruit and vegetables (in both standard and smoothie form) over the course of two weeks.
Replacing meals with fruits and vegetables isn’t as easy as it sounds – or as cheap.
First of all, you’ve got to ask yourself the “O” question: Are you going to stick to organic product exclusively, or try to mix-and-match, or simply forgo organics entirely to cut-down on cost? While not all fruits and vegetables are as high on the “dirty dozen” list as others, it only makes sense that people using a diet cleanse to improve their overall health might prefer to avoid pesticides and genetically-modified (GMO) foods. Although I cut down on meals overall, buying everything organic — regardless of how important it was for that particular fruit, such as bananas versus peaches — increased my grocery bill significantly.
Sticking to a diet cleanse requires a high amount of self-control.
This is critical if other people in your household aren’t imbibing fruits exclusively, especially if you’re cooking for them as well. I struggled not to begrudge my husband his turkey sandwich after eating nothing but smoothies for brunch for three days straight. Don’t get me wrong – I love fruit and vegetables, certain ones more than others, and I definitely classify them as “healthy” foods; but you can only have a strawberry-blueberry-banana breakfast through a straw so many consecutive days before an omelet smells fantastic.
Several diet cleanse myths involve the actual level of “health” benefits.
One reason I wanted to attempt a cleanse was the rumored “clarity” that juicers have claimed to experience; I hoped that getting up early, and refraining from eating a meal full of wheat-based foods would somehow help prevent writer’s block. I also wanted to drop weight, and one huge lure for dieters considering this path is quick loss of pounds. Unfortunately, it tends to also be short lived and easy to regain; I wasn’t able to lose more than a few pounds a week, and I gained it all back as soon as I stopped my juice diet if not before.
Furthermore, in the years that have passed since I tried “juicing,” more and more articles have been published by professional health providers debunking claims that a diet cleanse does anything more than eliminate non-produce from your diet. There is no significant evidence to support claims of a “toxin purge” during a cleanse – and most regimens you read about online are vague about what is allegedly being purged to begin with. The body already has an extensive system of filtering, detoxifying, and cleansing body parts; unless you have an illness that prohibits these organs from working properly, there’s no reason to supplement it with a diet cleanse.
Eliminating any food group from during your diet cleanse leaves a gaping hole.
I should have learned my lesson when I attempted Atkins back in my early 20s; ditching carbohydrates entirely just made me sluggish and sick-feeling, and it wreaked havoc on my digestive system – fiber is good, folks! Replacing regular food with fruits and vegetables for the over half of my daily food allotment meant I was missing too much protein and dairy to have anything resembling a “balanced” daily diet; although one diet cleanse myth is that no harm can come from doing them, the body still needs a balanced amount of protein and fat along with produce to be healthy. I found myself absolutely craving protein, and although some diet cleanse recipes include peanut butter or almond milk, I struggled to keep enough in my daily food plan. I used soy milk in my smoothies, along with green tea and fruit juice, but in the end my body wasn’t satisfied.
Many diet cleanse guides recommend supplements to help counter-act this natural reduction in other food groups – and any diet, whether gluten-free or vegetarian requires careful oversight to avoid neglect and subsequent deficiencies elsewhere – but I’ve never felt healthy using any diet plan that required me to spend money and time adding pills to my meal plan.
Beware the diet cleanse myths, and do your homework before attempting any fad diet.
I highly recommend consulting your physician, as with any diet or exercise regimen, but at least do some research online before endeavoring to attempt any “juicing” or diet cleanse. While plenty of people continue to swear by the use of these techniques to ensure better health and physical fitness, every person has different physical and nutritional needs, and falling into the fad diet trap based only on myths and hype is risky business indeed.