February 26, 2015 Leave a comment
In a recent post, I mentioned that I would be traveling to Costa Rica to attend a 7-day juice cleanse. I generally prefer to have less information than more. A good example is that I hate trailers, especially when I know I’m going to see the movie. Call me wonder boy, but I find romance in never having seen any of the scenes that I know I will eventually watch. The same held true for this experiment. Once we pulled the trigger, I specifically asked Bella to not give me any more details than what I already knew. That proved to be not all that much.
As much as we wanted to escape the mid-atlantic tundra to cold-free Costa Rica to sip on juices in the jungle with barking monkeys, prior to booking our tickets we did take notice that the trip is significantly cheaper between the months June to October. However, given that we have most of our travel plans spoken for this summer, we bit the bullet and decided warm weather in the dead of winter very much justified the market premium.
When it came to choosing how we would go about doing the juice cleanse, Bella had reflected on her prior experiences in Costa Rica, San Diego and at home. Having a few gold stars under her belt, she strongly recommended Hacienda Del Sol in Costa Rica as a haven for holistic health and mindfulness. Our next key decision was whether to do a raw food cleanse, which was awfully tempting when deciding on whether you want to eat for 1 week or not, or simply a juice cleanse. Once again, I closed my eyes, pushed in my chips and said “Let’s go all-in.” Reminder to self: Stop thinking of everything in terms of poker analogies.
The full details of the cleanse are best described on the Hacienda Del Sol website, click here. Rather than giving you the full play-by-play of each juice, I’m probably better served in breaking down my major emotions in chronological order:
- Excitement: There were 11 people who attended our juice cleanse. Eight were women and three were men including myself. The range of ages was from 22 – 60. While you were permitted to come and go as you please, there was a lot of cohesion, openness and support within our group. Almost everyone attended all activities including: juices, yoga, meditation and hikes to the beach. At many times it was the group energy that provided an additional injection of excitement, especially when I was deep in the trenches of the battle.
- Headaches: The first strong sensation of emotion came in the form of caffeine withdrawal. Now I’ve fasted for Yom Kippur, worked for several hours without a cup of coffee and pulled late nights writing papers without Red Bulls, but I can’t remember voluntarily going more than a day without a precious caffeinated beverage. There is no need to sugar-coat it either; Day 2 and the beginning of Day 3 were rough. Some of the others in the group began taking shots of coffee to reduce the blow of their withdrawal. Right or wrong, I held out and maintained faith that the epicenter of pain above my right eye would evaporate with each hour passed. And it did. By the middle of Day 3 the headaches were behind me, which was consistent with what many other caffeine enthusiasts experience.
- Hunger: My biggest fear going into the cleanse was that I wasn’t going to have enough juice and I would never experience the sensation of being full. Surprisingly, I never felt starved or an overwhelming desire to start chewing on any malleable tree bark that I could get my hands on. I will admit that by Day 4 I was tired of not eating. It’s one thing to give your organs a rest, but not sending the memo to your teeth that you quit food is just rude.
- Energy Level: My trip report would not be accurate if I didn’t articulate the rollercoaster that was my energy level. Considering the fact that the average temperature was 90 degrees, the monkeys in our backyard consistently ensured we were awake by 5:00 am and we were consuming about half the calories of our daily average, I’m still astonished that we made it to the beach at all. For a majority of days 2-6 I felt like your average character from the hit show Walking Dead; a zombie struggling in his own existence. However, the staff did an amazing job of providing us with juices that contained a perfect balance of nutrients to keep us operational and clear from flat-lining.
- Sludge: If you’re a little bit squeamish, take the option to skip to #7 below. Otherwise, now for the good part! As my body was detoxing and the juice blends were performing their job of bodily “draino”, there was another activity that we had to partake in a few times a day, you know, to get the full effect. I’ll let you do your own independent research, but over the 7 day span in total I had 13 colema(s) which is an advanced form of “exit therapy”. This was the most “proof is in the pudding” activity of a cleanse as you are guaranteed to have some interesting observations and a steady supply of dinner conversation starters. All kidding aside, I was truly amazed at what resides in all of the nooks and crannies of our intestines and other digestive organs. Everybody that goes on a juice cleanse loses weight. The sludge is responsible for a good portion of it.
- Detox: When I was 17 years old I had an emergency surgery to have my gall bladder removed due to gall stones. One of my biggest questions about the cleanse was what my options were for Day 5 – the liver cleanse. Luck would have it that people without a gall bladder have even more reason to flush their liver, given they don’t have digestive assistance from the supporting actor (gall bladder). By far, the liver cleanse was the most challenging stage. In terms of aches and pains, the feeling was closest to a solid dose of the flu. However, the result from the 3.5 colemas I would do on day 6 gave me all the validation I needed. Sands and stones just don’t belong in the body and I was happy to force them out. The liver cleanse regiment went as follows:
- 3:00 pm – Last juice for the day (typically we had 3 juices after 3:00 pm each day)
- 6:00 pm – Drink 1st cup of Epsom salt water
- 8:00 pm – Drink 2nd cup of Epsom salt water
- 10:00 pm – Drink 1 cup of orange juice mixed with 3/4 cup of Olive Oil. Oh yes, Olive Oil.
- 6:00 am – Drink 3rd cup of Epsom salt water
- 8:00 am – Drink 4th cup of Epsom salt water
- 8:00 am – First colema of the day
- Eating Again: To break the juice fast we had a medium-sized plate of papaya, which brought every kind of tear there is to the group. For dinner that night we had a basic salad with avocado. I consciously slowed down the rate of my consumption to savor every bite. By the time I finished, I literally felt my belly hurting from feeling satisfyingly full. For the next few days, my body was on high alert. Raw foods gave me energy and were easy to digest. Whereas the bagel I ate in a pinch at the airport when we arrived back in the U.S. laid it down and let me know who is still boss. Perhaps what I value most from the cleanse is the newfound ability to “feel” foods and zero in on the impact that each has on me in the very moment.
Many people have asked me “So what now? What are you going to do differently?” As you can imagine, I’m going to continue my nutritional journey and try to incrementally improve my habits. However, I now view food as my medicine and will focus on taking preventative actions to improve health. Now if I could just hate coffee.
And Now You’re Moment of Zen… (click on the image below)