Image Source: Juice Press
It was 11 a.m. and I was viciously chasing a concoction of kale, spinach, green apple, and lemon with exaggerated amounts of water. While I'm one to normally be chasing a tequila shot with lime, this was my reality, for the moment at least — I had committed to a spartan five-day raw vegan diet and, admittedly, I'm better for it.
The months leading up to my de facto diet overhaul weren't great. After indulging a little too much, I was beginning to feel unlike myself. Though I still regularly worked out, I somehow always felt bloated and overstuffed. After my co-worker and deskmate, Perri Konecky, expressed feeling the same way, we decided to actually do something about it . . . after the holidays, of course.
We ultimately landed on Juice Press's clean-eating plan. Though most customers opt for the three-day plan, we were up for the five-day challenge. The day before the diet began, Perri and I stopped by the nearest Juice Press to list our personal preferences and customize the diet to our liking. Now, this doesn't mean that I was able to add pasta or a juicy burger to the diet plan — hard as I may have tried — but I was able to narrow down the juices, ingredients, and even the salad dressings that I did and did not like.
Details of the Clean-Eating Vegan Cleanse
As an overview, the clean-eating plan consists of entirely raw vegan food. The daily caloric intake ranges from 1,340 to 1,510 calories, with the final day being the lightest. The daily amount of protein varies from 32 to 69 grams. Since it's recommended that women consume 46 grams of protein per day the plan pretty much meets that quota, with just the first two days falling below that recommended number. While artificial trans fats are definitively absent, healthy fats are included in the use of avocados, almonds, oil, and the like. Similarly, carbs are included with the addition of quinoa, which is used in many different menu items. Sugar is scarcely used and is really only present in the fruit-based juices, chia seed pudding, and oatmeal. Vitamin A and vitamin C are the more prominent ones derived from the diet, while the level of iron is relatively low, given the absence of meat.
Every day was pretty much a variation of the menu. Here's a sample menu, below.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Perri Konecky
While the above menu is the one that Juice Press recommends for starters, remember that you can still customize the diet. For me, I quickly learned that I did not appreciate the texture of the raw oatmeal. Instead, I asked for a smoothie for the remaining breakfasts. I also must confess that, generally, I'm not too comfortable with downing earthier juices. In fact, I'm a wimp. While I was drinking two juices a day, I narrowed them down to the lighter, more citric juices that wouldn't make me gag. As someone who loves to snack throughout the day, I also found that the kale chips, raw almonds, and chia seed pudding were pretty essential.
At the start of the diet, I was pretty pleased with the amount of food — and veggies by way of juice — I would be consuming. By eating or drinking something every two hours, I didn't feel like I would go hungry. I did, however, have my reservations about the obvious lack of meat, carbs, sugar, and all those other things I'm used to eating on a regular basis. Following the diet, I found the opposite to be true.
Surviving the Real World on Kale Juice and Chia
There was an initial withdrawal that I felt from sugar in particular; however, that lessened after the second day and I found that Juice Press's chia pudding and sweeter juices ended up satisfying any cravings I had. I know that people may typically experience headaches or other negative reactions when cutting out sugar — something I had certainly expected — but I was relieved to know that it wouldn't be the earth-shattering shock to my system I thought it would be.
Image Source: Juice Press
On the flip side, I did feel hungry often despite the amount of food and liquid I was consuming. Each meal was so light that I frequently felt like I could have gone for seconds . . . or thirds. By the end of the day, the rich soups felt so nourishing and satisfying, however, there were many times where I fell asleep with my stomach growling, still feeling like I was missing something. A slice of bread, perchance?
Then there was the inevitable effect it had on my social life. Now, I know that five days isn't a very long time to simply abstain from dinner dates or nights out with girlfriends. What I didn't take it into account, though, was that the final two days of the diet happened to fall on the weekend. I clearly did not think that one through. So, while my friends drank wine and indulged on Chinese takeout that Friday night, I brought along my Kelp Me! Summer Noodles, took a deep breath, and told myself that everything would be OK. If I had to do it all over again — which, hey, I might — I would definitely consider starting the diet on a Sunday so that my final day would be a Thursday.
Benefits of a Buddy System
I must say, I don't think I would have been able to commit to the entire plan were it not for the fact that Perri was also doing it. (Read about her experience here.) Though we both struggled at varying times — like really, really struggled — we both motivated each other during our respective low moments. When I couldn't stomach another earthy juice, Perri encouraged me to chug it and reminded me that it would all be over soon. When she started to seriously miss her beloved pasta, I would note how delicious the salad dressing was. OK, so maybe that wasn't always so effective, but, regardless, we leaned on each other in the healthy and supportive way that is actually reminiscent of our professional relationship. I recommend trying the plan with a friend or close co-worker — emphasis on "close." In my experience, strict diets like this one tend to elicit grumpiness or the occasional mood swing, both of which might put off an acquaintance.
What I Learned
From a weight-loss perspective, the diet was successful. I lost five pounds in the process and felt significantly less bloated after months of indulging. While my weight has since fluctuated, I have gained a newfound appreciation for meatless meals and I'm even trying to stick to a vegetarian diet on weekdays. I've also tweaked my daily eating schedule to reflect Juice Press's lighter yet more frequent meals and snacks in place of larger meals straddling each day. In the end, I learned to listen to my body more, nourish it when I'm hungry, and not ignore signs that I'm full. It's all about balance, meaning I can now appreciate the right type of green juice with some good tequila, although maybe not at the same time.