6 things I learned by Juice Fasting

Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead is a documentary that changes people’s lives. I recommend it for a cool story, even if you don’t need to change yours. (It also has good cartoony Flash animation by NYC studio Flickerlab.)

Health is a big issue for self employed and creative people. They may lack steady income or benefits, and spend long times staring at a screen or hunched over a desk. Improving health helps your body and mental well-being, and helps make better art. Here’s how I started paying attention to this.

When I was 18 and starting art school, I liked junk food and being a couch potato. It didn’t feel good. One day in the cafeteria I thought, enough! From that day, I went vegetarian for 10 years. I added exercise, lost 50 pounds and felt much better. Years later, I transitioned to a moderate diet (“freegan”- that’s a whole other topic) and I’m completely omnivore now, but still mind diet. Health means moderation. If you don’t abstain from certain foods, it’s easy to indulge (I sure love beer). Sometimes it calls for a course correction.

This reminds me of New Year’s, 2013. My girlfriend helped put on 3 parties at my place. There was one in the day, where little munchkins made crafts… one at night for grown-ups… and another the next day, because we wanted more time with friends, and still had a mountain of beer and nacho components. I enjoyed 3 parties in a row, but also felt a bit lethargic and overfed, and stressed from a heavy book selling season plus a mad schedule of fun. If you see me start to get sick of nachos and parties, something needs to change.

Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead showed me a good approach. It’s about a successful, yet stressed-out guy, whose body is failing with metabolic disease from bad diet. Pharmaceuticals don’t help. He tries a radical solution: Juice Fasting. It means abstaining from food and substances (caffeine and alcohol etc), except for juice, directly from raw plants, for pure energy and unrefined vitamins. It’s not really a “diet”, more like a cleanse… it’s temporary, to get rid of bad habits and encourage long-term lifestyle change. Quitting processed food gives you huge power to change.

I do this once every three months, for 7-10 days. It helps to have a partner, so I team up with my girlfriend and we raid the farmer’s market. I had no idea what to expect the first time, and was afraid to start, but she helped tackle the challenge. It felt unexpectedly good and energizing. It doesn’t leave you hungry, or cause icky gut pain. (Caffeine withdrawal gets tough on day 3, but it’s the ultimate way to go cold turkey, and immediately replace the need with better energy.) It feels like “paying off” indulgence, instead of abstaining from certain foods all the time. I like that. Here’s 5 things I’ve learned about it so far:

1. Good recipes makes juice satisfying.
The pic is watermelon/cantalope/lemon/mint juice that I’m drinking as I write. (YUM!) It came out tasting like rasberry sherbet (lemon did that.) My other favorite from this fast is carrot/cantalope/orange/strawberry. These have complex flavors, and when they’re fresh, they’re indescribably better than anything you will ever taste from a bottle. They aren’t boring like plain orange or apple juice. Mixing a careful balance of flavors is really important, like any recipe. Certain ingredients can tie everything together like seasoning. Lemon and ginger are a good combination that rescues juices that could be bitter, chalky or earthy from certain vegetables (like beets). Search the web for good recipe sources.

2. Hunger isn’t a problem, but you need to address cravings.
Too much fruit gets cloying. Savory juices (think V8) are necessary, and can use ingredients like jalepeno or garlic. Juice can bring all the calories, but you will crave salt, umami and crunchy mouth-feel. Actually, it’s smart to bend the “juice only” rule to handle this… our single exception during a week of no food is baked Kale chips. It’s raw leaves of Kale, sprinkled with garlic, cayenne, and sea salt, dehydrated in an oven at 275(f) for 20 minutes. Kale Chips hardly add calories, but they answer cravings with that particular crunchy, savory mouth-feel that food scientists perfected for addictive snacks. It’s like really good popcorn.
kale chips

3. Get as many veggies as possible, and experiment with weird stuff.
Beets, celery, cabbage, kale juice- these all have great uses. It can just take care to mix them right. It’s harder to ruin fruit juice, but you can ruin a pile of produce with strong or bitter vegetables. You can also be wowed by surprising recipes that work. I have really enjoyed juicing sweet potatoes- they mix well with peaches.

4. Mix like colors with like.
Not sure what to mix? Pick a central ingredient and add other stuff to support it, and keep recipes simple. Don’t start, “I want beets… and I like Kale juice… I wonder what it’s like to mix them?” Beet plus Kale looks, tastes and has the mouthfeel of mud. (For earthworms only.) All orangey things is a good idea, like sweet potatoes, carrots, oranges, cantalope, or peaches. Try all reds, greens, or yellows. As the documentary says, drink a rainbow every day. (And you will feel fabulousssss!)

5. For serious juicing, get a serious juicer.
The cheap, $35 Black & Decker juicer I started with was good to find out if I wanted to do this more. It took time to chop and stuff pieces in, the leftover pulp wasn’t dry, and it wasn’t durable long-term. But this $150 Breville Juice Fountain was a great, solid, cost-effective investment.

6. Palates are trainable.
Preacher Pat’s final message: some people don’t like fresh fruits and vegetables, because they destroyed their palates with processed sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup and soda. Drinking soda every day will kill your taste for what sweet is supposed to taste like. You can tell by seeing how soda drinkers react to the taste of coconut water. A soda drinker will call it gross and bitter. A non-soda drinker usually finds it sweet and delicious. I like soda sometimes, but it’s liquid candy. Cutting it out of your daily diet is probably the #1 best start for better health. It will un-train your palate from refined sugar, and re-train it to prefer this:


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