Let me paint the picture of myself before the cleanse.
I’m a 36-year-old father of two — a performing musician for around 10 years, with an energy level that tended to naturally (or so I thought) peak around 8 or 9 p.m. I love coffee — no cream or sugar, just coffee (Cuban, Tanzanian, the bolder, oilier and more locally-roasted, the better) — and I would pride myself on making the best pot of it. I drink beer occasionally — usually craft-brewed, hoppy IPA’s. I’m around 5’10” and at the time I began the cleanse, weighed 195 lbs. Not obese, just a little flab around the middle (I hadn’t been on the treadmill in a few months). I quit smoking (again) around five months ago and haven’t looked back. I don’t have a desk job, but I don’t do manual labor, either. I cross the bridge from St. Petersburg to Tampa every morning, and my work at a local media company keeps me on my toes and relatively active (climbing stairs, lifting, working at events, etc.)
But I was tired a lot, and I attributed this to being old. I would make excuses to my friends as to why I couldn’t go out at night (smoky bars, the temptation of just one more beer) but the fact was — I was exhausted. And sitting on the couch with my family in front of the television is all I wanted to do. Sure, there was coffee and sugar (read: donuts) to create huge chemical spikes that would carry me through the day, but they would leave me groggy and sluggish in the morning, forcing the cycle to start all over again. For a time, I thought that nodding off at the wheel (even after getting a full night’s sleep) was normal. I thought I was just “tired.”
Now my wife, Jennifer, on the other hand, has always been more intuitive, more healthy and more courageous than myself. She has a background in retail management and was a massage instructor for a time. She’s currently running a corporate wellness company and is enrolled in a nutritional coaching course. So, we watch a lot of food and health documentaries. And we’ve been talking about this juicing thing for a while.
The idea of juicing itself seemed a bit silly to me at first. A bit extreme. I mean, I was making small adjustments already. A year ago, we stopped drinking bottled water — because of the chemical treatment of the water and its impact on the environment — and started eating primarily non-processed foods. I cut out Pepsi, which I’d been addicted to since adolescence, and replaced it with organic cranberry juice — and I exercised portion control when I could. I thought I was making good choices, even though my energy level hadn’t changed and I hadn’t made any effort to lose the added weight. I’d also planned on cutting back on my dairy intake, as I more and more noticed a slight congestion after having milk or cheese — which is so very bittersweet for someone born and raised in Wisconsin. It cuts me deep, actually.
A few months ago, we purchased a juicer of our own, and I would occasionally taste Jen’s concoctions, nodding or grunting approval and partly hoping this was just another of her passing phases. But when a friend of ours made the leap and started her own juicing company, offering personalized blends and delivery service, Jen wanted to give her service a try. In part, to support our friend in her new endeavor, and partly because it would be easier for us if there were no excuses (“it’s too late to shop for vegetables,” “there’s no time to juice”). We would stock the fridge with 3 days of pre-made juice and if we wanted to extend it to 5 days (or longer), we could pick up and carry on with our own juicer.
With only some reluctance, I said yes.
I’d done a 2-day liquid fast for a colonoscopy a few years back, and it wasn’t that bad. 1) I figured I could save some money by not eating out for lunch every day, and 2) I have a hard time saying “no” to my wife. We chose to begin on a Saturday, so there wouldn’t be any work-related temptations (like that endless line of bagels and cookies on the break room counter), but not a Saturday with a big event to work that would require a lot of energy.
I was given only one warning by people who had already done the juice cleanse. Wean off of caffeine BEFORE you begin. I was told there would be sensations within the body as it adjusts to operating on purely raw food, and it would be advantageous to know the difference between a symptom of withdrawal to certain vitamins or minerals as opposed to the full-on rage of a caffeine detox.
DAY ONE – Thursday before the cleanse
I limited myself to one cup of coffee (with one raw sugar), down from the usual 2.5 cups per day. As the day wore on, I sensed a slight headache in the occipital region of my head and neck. I took 400 mg of ibuprofen and my daily 24-hour antihistamine.
I reduced my morning coffee to half-caffeinated (no sugar), and again had an onset of headache in the late afternoon. I repeated 400 mg ibuprofen and my antihistamine.
No caffeine. No sugar. No wheat. Jennifer made me a green tea in the morning (which had a bit of caffeine, but none of the oil or acid found in coffee).
We decided to go out with a bang (and break a couple rules) by getting down at The Refinery in Tampa for our last solid meal. We enjoyed an appetizer of potato and andouille sausage, roasted chicken, and a “Brimley Burger” complete with sharp cheddar pimento cheese, homemade “spam” gravy and Yukon Gold fries. Yes, indeed. Out with a bang.
DAY FOUR – The juice cleanse begins!
Our refrigerator was full of Mason jars, labeled with a numbering system for each of us (Joran 1/1 = Meal one, Day one; Jen 3/2 = Meal three, Day two) and that morning everything looked to be going according to plan.
And then, it happened. Tropical Storm Debby was brewing outside — a consistent horizontal rain with trees creaking and bending — and out of the dark blue, I snapped. I got angry. I have issues with power and control to work through, and all the caffeine in the world can’t help something like that. I yelled at Jennifer and I made her cry. I hadn’t seen her cry in forever. I felt horrible. Over stupid things like the fact that she was watching a food documentary while my stomach rumbled. Over the fact that I needed some quiet time to do some writing, and her food doc wasn’t helping. Over the fact (I claimed) that I didn’t really need to do this and was just playing along. Me. Me. Me.