Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Power of Kale Juice, and the Force Field Surrounding Me...Like a Blanket

I did it. I completed a three-day raw juice cleanse and I didn’t cheat. It was like doing burpees (not my favorite) – you just get through it.  And I am so happy to be on the other side of it.  I did it for two reasons. One, I had read/heard that cleansing can result in more energy, and two, clearer during-the-day thinking. In my job I have to think. A lot. I’m part of a research center/think tank. If my thoughts are muddled I’m worthless. I need to be able to write coherently and focus like a stalker. If I had to pick a superhero quality for my job it would be laser-like, 20-fathoms deep with no chance of re-surfacing, focus. Forget a higher IQ or more brain cells. Focus is truly the best ally a researcher and writer can have because it increases the odds of producing a) work, b) quality work, and c) and the ability to keep distractions of all kinds far, far away.

If my during-the-day energy has increased post-cleanse, it's to a degree I cannot determine. Weirdly, I clean more.  Toward the end of the cleanse I became sort of passionate about cleaning my house (mid-week cleaning heretofore has not been my “thing”).  Without food to concentrate on I found that I couldn’t stand any in-your-face disarray or dust, so I grabbed my caddy of cleaning magic and did something about it.

I didn’t necessarily sleep better, which I had had high hopes for, given that my late dinners (and wine) were out. The cleanse directions explained that refraining from eating (or drinking) two hours before bedtime helps the body (and organs) avoid working overtime. After I’d read that bullet point, I stroked my liver (through my clothed skin) and said out loud: “I’ll try not to do that to you again…but no promises on New Year’s Eve or my birthdays.”

There was a third reason for doing the cleanse, but one I wasn't counting on.  It was to lose a couple of the pounds that had crept to my middle, despite my frequent, persistent workouts. Without reservation, the number one change I experienced post-cleanse was weight loss. I had been “good” prior to starting so as not to shock my system during the detoxification process, which meant I had already lost a couple pounds, and the cleanse clearly kicked the metabolic process into overdrive. I’m now back at my fighting weight (mini flyweight) and it didn’t take the normal two months to make that happen. Although, I am never doing a cleanse again in the middle of December; cold, raw juices are not what the body needs during a cold front.

The weight loss was a “win,” but there’s always a price to pay. On Day 2 I did not feel like a ray of sunshine.  By the evening I had chills, appeared and felt (if that’s possible) pale, like a stomped on paper cup left to decompose in the gutter on a cold, wet night. I kept thinking about the last glass of red wine I’d had (randomly) – Sutter Home Cabernet (say what?) every time I felt like lying down. Looking back, at the nights especially, I noticed that the cleanse – and it’s no-wine and pretty much much no-everything policy – loudly brought to my attention the fact that all the frozen meals, late-night dinners, leftover Halloween candy, and red wine I’d fed my body had nearly become unconscious habits.  I'd go through the motions, zombie-like, casting minor thought - if any - on the actions I took. It was there, so I consumed. And then it wasn’t there, yet I still was. Prior to the cleanse, I had worried how that part would go. It turned out I was fine. I was fine, fine, fine (if a little whiny here and there). And I didn’t miss any of it. I was hungry, yes, but not for all that. As an innately nocturnal creature, it felt good to feel all my senses operating at capacity even that late in the day. And I was sharper, not duller, as the night crept on. And I cleaned the kitchen every night.

I had read (and heard) that people missed the juice-only diet after it was over because it had been such a straightforward world to which they’d swiftly (and for some easily) adjusted – and though temptation loomed, it felt mostly empty, just like my stomach. There are six juices to plow through, some (slightly) more exciting than others. I remember the juices somewhat fondly, but I still prefer a world where I can still palm a holiday cookie if I feel so inclined, and savor it in an almost feral way when I think no one is looking. I also never fully felt full. My sister said she could never finish all the juices prescribed for one day. I drank every single one to the last drop and wanted more. But I did get more OK with feeling hungry, and that’s carried over into my non-juice world. Sure, I need to eat, but not to the point of Las Vegas buffet-style explosion. I don’t have to eat everything on my plate (or drink everything in my glass). I know there are hungry (and sober) children in China, but they won’t benefit from my getting stuffed to the point of waddling (or wobbling) afterwards.

In the end, I’m glad I got to round out the year with a cleanse. A week later, I feel like I have a force field around me, ready to deflect holiday temptation at every turn (especially in my clean house). This year was a truly momentous one that I’ll never, ever forget. I changed jobs, I moved to a new city, I got engaged, I started working out with serious intention and commitment, I tried acupuncture for the first time and it changed my life, and I freaking lost weight during the most festive month of the year when sweet treats are everywhere, holiday drinks (the alcoholic and non) sing an especially tempting siren song at parties and cafes, and heartier foods become more the order of the day (and night). And I also learned how to dig myself out of some bad habits, and remain happily above ground (sometimes with a sponge in my hand). I just never thought unpasteurized kale juice would do it. I am sure happy it did.