Last week I lived on nothing but fresh vegetable and fruit juices, for four weeks prior to that I was eating mainly raw foods and cut out coffee, dairy and gluten and processed foods.
The reception I have got has been mixed, shock and horror from my work colleagues (one of them even suggested I should be careful I was getting all the nutrients I needed, oh the irony), love and support from my more savvy twitterati. Many people have asked why, and also wondered why I went off grid for a while, so here’s a really lengthy blog post about it.
I have always believed in the power of the things that go in your mouth to either help you or harm you. The food you eat is your fuel and the gateway to your health or lack of it, and whilst I have not always lived according to these beliefs, I have tried my best. Ten years ago, I took a good long look at my alcohol fueled self and decided to change my habits. I quit drinking, spent more time at the gym and ensured that a good majority of my food intake was made up of raw or lightly steamed veg. Although I hadn’t particularly felt ill before, I soon felt like a new me.
Unfortunately I then became ill and was diagnosed with ME/CFS. To cut an extremely boring and painful story short, in the face of incredible fatigue my eating habits dwindled to what would take the least amount of energy to cook and give me the quickest energy fix. So basically lots of processed frozen ready meals and chocolate.
During my desperate-to-do-anything-to-get-well time I learned about juicing and the incredible benefits of getting raw, easily digestible, nutrient packed food down your gullet. I tried it out and had about enough energy a day to make one juice, the rest of the time still living on the ready meals and chocolate, but even that made a vast difference to my health and my energy levels improved significantly. I went back to work and soon found that all my expendable energy was taken up by work and the juicing fell by the wayside. Catch 22 situation.
Thankfully, I did find a cure, and with new found health and vitality, extended work hours, and excessive playtime, I continued with my bad eating habits . Until recently. In February I got a flu. Yes an actual real flu, not just a cold, an honest to god, pretty much confined to my bed for a week flu. By April I still hadn’t really fully recovered and I began to fear the worst, that the ME was back. Desperate for that not to happen I made the drastic changes to my diet I mentioned at the beginning of this post.
Before things got better, things got a little worse. Withdrawing from the caffeine, the sugars, the refined carbs and all the other rubbish I had been eating sent me into week of severe headaches and fatigue. I was convinced I was relapsing, spiralled into a depression and withdrew from the world. Fortunately, I had seriously jumped the gun (or possibly saved myself just in time), and after a week I came out the other side feeling 100 times better than I had before the flu, and with a determination to make what had originally been something of a detox into a lifestyle again.
This lead to me wanting to complete a juice only week, to give my body a proper clear out of any remaining gunk cluttering up my insides, and I have to say it left me feeling amazing.
My philosophy is, if it’s not natural, and/or you have to cook it to make it taste good, we probably aren’t meant to eat it. Our bodies are not meant to consume the vast amounts of meat we westerners seem to think it is imperative to shove down our throats every meal – it can take up to 72 hours for red meat to be digested, and even longer if eaten with other hard to digest foods like wheat and other man-made carbs. That’s 72 hours of it sitting rotting in the stomach. Mmm delicious. We are certainly not meant to consume dairy after weaning age, and definitely not that of another species, a species with four stomachs at that!
Vegetables, fruits and nuts contain all the nutrients that our bodies need to survive and thrive in abundance, some, like the Avocado, even contain ALL essential nutrients in one go, and they are easy to digest. It takes just 20 minutes for our bodies to digest and, therefore, get the nutrients from, fruit, and about 30 for vegetables (even quicker when juiced). It seems logical to me that these are things that are meant to be the mainstay of our diet. I am aware that juicing is not exactly the natural way to consume these things, but in our hectic daily lives, it is the easiest and quickest way to get raw foods into your system and it doesn’t kill most of the nutrients like cooking does.
I am not saying that we aren’t meant to eat any meat at all, clearly we have the teeth to chew it, although not the teeth, claws or speed which are typical of a carnivorous species, I am saying it’s not meant to be the main ingredient of every meal, as it is in the west. Check out eastern cultures who eat very differently to us, especially the Japanese, who have much longer lives, lower rates of obesity and heart disease and eat very little meat and no dairy.
There are great benefits to eating fish and lean white meats, but none that you can’t get from other sources. Personally, I don’t eat meat for ethical reasons, which is a whole other blog.
So there is my philosophy, you don’t have to agree with it, I just wanted to get it out there and discussion is always fun. Am I going to live on nothing but raw fruit and veg for the rest of my days? Clearly not. Am I never going to have an alcoholic drink, a piece of chocolate cake, a takeaway? Hey, I’m not a frackin’ saint here! I have finished my juice only week, the health benefits have been great and I intend to repeat this three or four times a year just to ensure my body is always performing at it’s best. I have (slowly) introduced solid foods back into my diet and now enjoy two juices a day and one solid meal, with healthy snacks as I want them. Our bodies are incredibly adaptable and can cope with a lot, as long as they are in good condition in the first place, so I live to what I call an 80% rule. If I stick to my rules for at least 80% of the time (no meat, dairy, man-made carbs, gluten, sugars, processed foods), my body can cope with the occasional glitch (for glitch read drunk). It can be incredibly hard to follow this regime when you eat out, are on holiday or are standing in line for a gig for 10 hours.
Some people may think this is an incredibly boring way to live, but I don’t find avoiding preventable diseases such as heart-disease, diabetes, many cancers, obesity Alzheimer’s, and ensuring as much as I can that I lead a long, healthy, energetic life, boring, but most importantly, this is my life, not yours, I will live it the way I want, you do the same and leave me to it.
See ya all at the barrier!
ETA: One of the amazing benefits I have gained from this way of eating is getting rid of the ridiculously awful wombrage I used to suffer with for 10 days to two weeks every month. Last month my period came as a complete surprise to me, this hasn’t happened for years.
ETA: My inspiration and education came from Jason Vale, self titled Juice Master, he’s the guy that’s actually done the research and all the sciencey stuff. For the seven day juice detox, I followed his 7lbs in 7 days programme, and am now following on with his 14 day Turbo Charge Your Life Programme. If you are considering juicing for the first time it is important that you do some research for a couple of reasons. Firstly, there is an art to juicing and if you do it wrong you’re going to get horrible tasting juices, throw them away and buy a takeaway in disgust. Having said that, it’s not a hard art to grasp, just a few simple rules to follow. Secondly, the 71bs in 7 days programme ensures that you are getting the right mix of fruit and vegetables every day to so that you get all the nutrician your body needs, there’s also lots of hints, tips and encouragement to keep you going.
Here’s some trailers:
Forks over Knives
Hungry For Change