One evening several months ago, in a bout of sleeplessness, I happened upon a documentary on the topic of juicing.
There seemed no shortage of infomercials and similar chronicles to choose from, but my tired and foggy brain was inspired, and I watched Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead in its entirety. It occurred to me that perhaps I should attempt this extreme, yet temporary diet trend of turning loads of fruits and vegetables into juice, or, better yet, I should talk someone else into trying it.
'Oh, I forgot to tell you,' Tracie Hicks, in a conversation over lunch nearly a month later. 'I saw that documentary you told me about. The one about juicing.'
Hicks is a friend who, at the time I mentioned my late-night documentary binge session, merely laughed at my odd interest. Months later, however, it seemed Hicks was reconsidering the idea.
'I think I wanna do it,' Hicks confessed. 'For at least five days, Sort of a healthy way to kick-off the new year.'
I began to devise a plan in which I would live vicariously through my friend and write about her experience. I promised I would be her primary resource - I would research the topic and dutifully answer any questions along the way. I would listen to her vent, if needed, and I would cheer her on - it all seemed fair at the time.
According to www.rebootwithjoe. com, consuming vegetables and fruits as liquid is a more efficient way to absorb immune-boosting nutrients, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.
The reboot program, subsequent website and online support group was founded by Australia's Joe Cross after the success of the documentary 'Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead'. The film depicted Cross' experience in turning to juicing for weight loss and other health benefits.
Joe Cross' juicing efforts were documented back in 2010, and Cross has since created a second film, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2, released in 2014. Cross, of course, isn't the only resource for juicing, though he may have had a hand in kicking off the trend.
The perks of juicing are listed on the reboot website and include health rewards such as calorie reduction without nutrient deprivation, the increased consumption of fresh foods instead of those with preservatives, and the escalation of micronutrients in the body. In other words, according to Cross, juicing is a way of putting less of the things nutritionists might label as 'bad' into the body, and filling it with 'good' things instead.
As with any new diet or exercise plan, a doctor should be consulted before beginning.
Though I wasn't planning to attempt juicing myself, and Hicks had already spoken with a physician, I decided that the opinion of a local professional would be beneficial - assuming that is, the practitioner didn't pronounce juicing to be an awful idea.
'I am often asked about juicing and how it fits into a healthful diet,' offered Kealani Davis, a registered dietician with the Newnan Piedmont Cancer Wellness Center, in a prepared statement. 'While I always try to emphasize 'food first,' I know that most Americans are not eating the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, so juicing can sometimes give us a needed boost of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.'
Davis added that fiber-rich vegetables should make up the majority of the prepared juice, a sentiment echoed by Cross in his documentary and subsequent website.
' When we juice our fruits and vegetables, we are extracting nutrients and water from the produce, and then getting rid of most of the fiber,' said Davis. 'Fiber is not only important for weight management and digestive health, it also helps slow down absorption of the natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables. Since fruits and fruit juices are higher in sugar than vegetables, if you choose to juice, make sure at least 50 to 60 percent of the juices are vegetables like dark, leafy greens.'
Hicks was a bit more concerned about what her body would be missing when juicing, rather than the possible benefits, at least initially.
'How bad would it be if I cut everything else out for five days except for coffee?' Hicks asked just days before her juicing experiment would commence. 'I'm afraid the lack of caffeine will make me a not-so-nice-person.'
After a few more questions like, 'is kale really edible? I always thought it was for decoration,' and 'Can whipped cream somehow be considered a fruit?' Hicks began juicing. The first day wasn't so great.
'I made a really great-tasting fruit juice for breakfast,' Hicks reported to me on day one of her five-day juice plan. 'But I have an awful headache, and it is only 10 a.m.'
By 10:35 a.m. Hicks was feeling even worse.
'I suddenly feel sick,' she said. 'My stomach is growling and cramping. I think it is eating itself.'
I frantically searched the Reboot With Joe website and a few other, similar message boards for solutions for Hicks, and briefly wondered if it was possible that she may not want me as a friend by day five of this seemingly awful predicament I had unwittingly talked her into.
To my surprise, however, Hicks was feeling better by the end of the day, and even began to make plans to extend the program.
'I walked at lunch, and drank lots of water,' Hicks told me. 'I was thinking I should do this longer than just five days. Maybe I will eat regularly this weekend then start back up again next week.' I refrained from admonishing my friend to not get too far ahead of herself.
Hicks had more good news the next morning. She had slept more than seven hours the night before. For someone who had struggled with insomnia for several years, this was big news.
'Know what I am craving?' Hicks asked me on day two.
'Food?' I asked in response.
'Pizza.' said Hicks.
According to Hicks, her juicing protocol included three to four juices each day - and as much water as possible in between. For breakfast and morning 'snack' juice, Hicks added more citrus like oranges, lemon or strawberry. She also included a bit of almond milk and occasionally greek yogurt to give those early-morning juices more of a smoothie-like texture.
By the third day, my juicing friend had slept well each night and continued to have more and more energy. According to Hicks, she expected to feel tired after walking or exercising each day, but instead would have a rush of energy following a workout.
'Other people I work with are inspired,' Hicks reported to me on the morning of day four. 'They are telling me that if I do this for the entire week that they will try it too.'
Then, as luck would have it, Hicks experienced a bit of a setback.
'Ugh. I am in pain,' Hicks wrote in a text message. 'I'm starving, but I can't even think of drinking another juice because I am experiencing some pretty severe cramps.'
Hicks explained that she felt extremely bloated, but was also light-headed from what she assumed was low blood-sugar.
'Water,' I replied confidently, though it betrayed what I felt in the moment. 'I read on the juicing blogs that blending juices make them thicker and more difficult to digest… and there are a few side effects.'
Several side effects are mentioned in the FAQ section of the Reboot With Joe website including fatigue, headache, low blood sugar, constipation, diarrhea, increased body odor and bad breath. It was clear Hicks was experiencing at least one of those unfortunate ailments, but she did, eventually, find relief, and continued on to juice another day - or two.
Overall, Hicks noted that she experienced more benefits than negative side effects and would likely recommend juicing to others.
'It was a good experience to try, maybe for a three-day cleanse if nothing else,' Hicks said. 'I don't think I could do it again for six days.'
Aside from sleeping better than she had in years, Hicks also benefitted from weight loss, one of the goals she hoped to achieve while juicing.
'I lost nine pounds in five days. I did get hungry at times, but I had lots of energy,' Hicks said. 'The only really difficult part was my body learning to adapt to this new way of eating - and everything I was adding (and removing) from my diet.
As for me, I admit that after having witnessed Hicks' inspiring juicing attempt, I'm a bit hesitant to take the 'go big or go home' approach. Perhaps I could begin with a once-a-day juice plan… ?
For more information on Joe Cross, the Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead documentaries, or on Reboot with Joe, visit www.rebootwithjoe.com. Several additional websites and resources are available for those interested in juicing including but not limited to: www.mindbodygreen.com, juicing-for-health.com and www.all-about-juicing.com .