Tried and tested: The unexpected side effects of my first juice fast
If we're not eating food, we're thinking about it... this is what I've learned.
When I first decided to do a 3-day juice cleanse I thought it would be a walk in the park, boy was I wrong. In terms of context, I must divulge that I've recently been SEVERELY affected by a number of documentaries which I outline here. They focus on animal agriculture, factory farming, global warming and the benefits of juicing among other things.
To say I was hooked is an understatement.
Aside from my new found interest in all things food-related, I did have an ulterior motive: I felt like sh*t. It could be down to the changing Irish weather, but I've been completely run down of late, unable to exercise and constantly waking up with a sore throat. With the fluey symptoms showing no signs of abating but with no real need to go to the doctor, I thought why not cleanse the whole body and ONLY drink juices for 3 days.
Juicing is big business in Ireland these days. Salad and Juice bars are popping up everywhere, which isn't a bad thing! I've certainly heard of juice cleanses before, but I've never embarked upon one. I perhaps went into the experience slightly cocky, I learned soon enough that facing into a full day of no food takes an awful lot of willpower, and when truckloads of chocolate are being delivered to your office (literally) it actually takes superpowers.
I was helped out by the lads of Green Beards, a Dublin-based Juicing company that specialises in cold-pressed juices. Why cold-pressed? Yeah... I asked that too:
I spoke with Raymond O'Hara co-founder of Green Beards and asked him how he got into juicing in the first place:
" It's a funny one because when I was working in a 9 - 5 job, it's the first time I had to make the conscious decision to look at my diet because most of the time I was burning my energy through sport and I never had to worry. All of a sudden a penny dropped and I realised it was a very easy way for me to get veg and nutrients into me".
Ok, down to business... here's how the days went.
DAY 1: The day of headaches
By 9 am I was struggling. The headaches had arrived, while frantically googling and trying not to take painkillers, I learned it was probably a combination of sugar and caffeine withdrawals. In terms of the actual juices, I was pleasantly surprised. They're REALLY tasty, and they do fill you up. I was very thankful that I had left it up the pros to help me with juicing as the thought of doing it myself while battling the adjustment to hunger was too much.
This was the toughest day, I had very little energy and struggled with hunger pangs throughout.
DAY 2: The unexpected visitor (TMI section)
Oh hello there Aunty Flo, I wasn't expecting you for another week. I had no idea that fasting could have an effect on your menstrual cycle, turns out it can. Women who are fasting can expect their period to arrive early, it can also be relatively light. Hallelujah, I hear you holler! Don't celebrate just yet, while once again frantically googling, I discovered that it can come back (with a vengeance) once the fast has stopped, nothing to be concerned about. In terms of how I was feeling on the second day; the hunger pangs and headaches were gone. I literally leapt out of bed and was RARING to go.
Lunchtime in the office was tough I'll admit, but I felt good.
DAY 3: The waiting game
By day 3 I was over it. The juices were still delicious and my fluey symptoms had vanished, but I missed food. I missed thinking about what to make, I missed shopping for food, I even missed chewing. I've been told by more experienced juicers that if you persevere past the 3 days it actually gets much easier, I couldn't bear the thought of another day without food. At this point I was facing another issue, the amount that I had to pee was properly affecting my work. I kept a tally but to be honest I think I've shared enough bodily functions for one day.
In terms of how I felt, there was no hunger, the juices were light and refreshing and I still felt good... if a little bored.
On my final day of juicing, I spoke with Sarah Keogh a registered dietician and founder of Eatwell.ie,
She told me in terms of nutrition there's not a huge amount you're gaining from these fasts or detoxes:
"The body is constantly detoxing itself and if it stops doing this in the beautifully natural way that it does, you would get very sick very fast. To think that you are doing something special is not really accurate. In order to help the body out, a nutritionally balanced diet is best "
Sarah assured me that a 3 day fast is a relatively short period of time and the side effects will be minimal but as a long term solution it's not sustainable:
"I have teenage girls coming in to me with their hair falling out and insisting they're eating fruit and vegatables, but that's all they're eating. You need protein and fibers from all shelves of the food groups in order to maintain a healthy diet".
I was feeling very confused at this point. I did feel lighter, healthier and oddly proud of myself but I also understood that it probably didn't make a huge difference to my body.
I asked Raymond about people who come into Green Beards looking for a quick fix and whether that's an unrealistic expectation:
"I think if someone has taken the choice to engage in something, whether it's losing weight or eating healthy, it's a good thing. Sometimes people need a kick start to give them momentum. I always find that if I eat well I'm more likely to exercise well and sleep better, no matter how someone comes to that decision, whether it's joining a gym or doing a juice cleanse I think... good on you!"
So, the big questions remain... would I do it again? Probably not, but will I incorporate juices into my diet? Definitely. I know that I don't eat enough fruit and veggies and juicing is a great way to get them in. I just don't think I'm a 'fasting' type of girl.
Now... pass the bread.
Find out more about the cleanse packages on offer at Green Beards here. Please be mindful and consult your GP if you have any health concerns before embarking on major dietary changes.