I piled what seemed like endless green, yellow, red, and orange into my cart. My stomach rumbled.
“Yeah, I better get a second five-pound bag of carrots,” I thought.
For a second, it felt like I was a kid in a candy store. Except my store was the produce section of King Soopers. I could grab anything in site, but could not expand my search beyond vegetables or fruits.
“Kale…got it. Cucumbers, ginger, squash, tomatoes, got that too. Lemons, limes, apples, oranges…yep, got those too. Chard, spinach, broccoli, and peppers…all in. Time to get this show on the road.”
Here I was, trumpeting towards the checkout as if I had just conquered an untamed wildebeest. I put my goods on the conveyor. One item at a time. A big smile ear to ear, wondering, “I bet the person in front of me is getting crushed by vegetable envy right now.”
Before long, the entire motorized black mat was covered in slim green bags filled with goods grown by the grace of the sun, dirt, and water of the earth. Nothing processed. Nothing packaged. Nothing fake.
All grown goodness.
The cashier looked up at me, “Did you find everything you needed?”
And then I waited for her recognition. Any minute now she was going to tell me how splendid my selection of produce was. She was going to at least comment about how she doesn’t see that everyday. Dammit, why isn’t she recognizing my commitment to this endeavor!
“Paper or plastic?”
“Thanks, that’ll be $84.19.”
I handed her a brand new hundred dollar bill.
“Oh, these are the new fancy bills. Just one minute.”
Still no word about my amazing grab bag of delicious health. Who cares about some silly hologram.
I thought, “How can this be? Why is she not paying attention to how awesome I am for committing to micro-nutrients as my dedicated source of nutrition for the next ten days?!”
I couldn’t stand it anymore. She reached across to hand me my change. I blurted:
“I’m on a ten-day juice fast!”
“Oh, that’s nice. Have a great day.”
“Maybe next time,” I thought.
So why was I doing this? I’ll tell you. I innocently came home from work one night to find my wife, Emily, and brother-in-law, Zak, watching Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. I really wasn’t in the mood for a documentary and voiced my discomfort.
I ended up sitting down thinking about abandoning the room for another in the house and digging into a book. Instead, I got sucked in.
Before I knew it, I was in the kitchen cheers’ing to a glass of green with Zak. Emily exclaimed, “You guys should commit to a ten day fast like in the movie…and the first person to withdraw owes the other $100.”
There you have it. No grand weight loss strategy. No commitment to getting healthier. Just a silly bet made in the high of a moving documentary.
That was ten days ago. I sit and write this memo on the eve of my first solid meal in over a week. I have never done a diet in my life. Well…how was it you might ask? It was pretty good.
Here’s what I learned.
Food is Emotional
You probably say it without thinking, “I feel hungry,” “I feel like eating ______,” or “I don’t feel like eating ______.” Much of our language around food is based on feeling.
Humans are essentially biological machines. When we are at the gas station, we don’t turn to our car and say, “Are you feeling standard or premium?” Nope, you’ll get the cheap stuff and like it.
But we’re different than machines. We don’t go out to dinner and choose our selection based on the specific chemical makeup of each dish. It’s not like we get a reading that tells us we are low on calcium, vitamins, or other essential nutrients. The only time that happens is when you’ve keeled over with some kind of disease and the doctor is now telling you that you will die unless you kip up.
Otherwise, we go with our feelings. I feel like lasagna. Always.
On this diet, the first thing I learned is that people are insanely emotional about what they eat. We think, “will this satisfy me?”
What does that even mean? Most humans can survive on an extremely cheap and nutrition-rich diet of beans, rice, some basic proteins and fruits and vegetables. But instead, we love to dine at tables adorned with elegant dishes or in a drive-thru filled with processed patties of who knows what.
After I gave up solids for about three days, I realized that I had complete control over my diet. Sure, I was not eating anything, but by not eating I had power over my emotional state. My meal plan no longer had anything to do with my feelings. I would blindly grab fruits and veggies out of the fridge to juice. It didn’t really matter to me.
It was juice, juice, juice.
I got very little satisfaction out of each juice. It was sustenance, not happiness. I quickly lost the emotional satisfaction coming from food. And just like when I stopped drinking alcohol two and a half years ago, when I stopped eating normal meals, I looked for happiness elsewhere in my life.
What did I find?
I found that I wanted to do stuff. I wanted to do anything that took my mind off of hunger. Play games, read, work out, think of new product ideas, write, go the museum, or even just relax on the couch.
I understand why people that aren’t happy eat so much.
It is a way to feel happy and satisfied with life without actually doing anything. I’ve done it. I started this year off in a funk and I was eating like crap. I was busy and used quick, carby, fatty foods as a substitute for taking breaks and working in positive forms of satisfaction throughout my day.
Self Control Begets Self Control
Will power is a muscle. When it doesn’t get flexed very often, it gets weak and flabby. If it gets flexed too much it gets tired. But when you commit to something and stay true to it for even just a few days, the muscle gets stronger.
After just a couple of days I started plowing through tasks. Some stuff that I had been dragging my feet on for weeks all of a sudden got done. Not only that, but I got back into a light exercise routine which I had lost over the holidays.
I didn’t start juicing so I would exercise, but that’s what happened.
Not only that, but having the self control to drink juice instead of solid foods also got me thinking about my usual diet. I figured I would imagine a big calorie rich feast for my solid food homecoming. The reality has been that I imagined a very healthy first meal.
I started day dreaming about fresh eggs from my backyard chickens on a bed of spinach with a side of strawberries.
On a normal week I would have been fantasizing about a ham and cheese omelette with biscuit from Lucille’s.
After five days I felt a wave of self control come over me. In bed by nine. I would turn down meetings that I didn’t think fit into the projects I was working on. I would come home and hit my speed bag in the garage before doing anything else. Or on the weekends I would take an extended bath to relax and then work on shaving with my straight razor (which I hadn’t picked up in months due to the long time it takes and scratches I get).
I even ordered a standing desk conversion kit for my office. I’ve had some back issues for the last year and all of a sudden I wanted to solve that by breaking my extended sit sessions.
I’m sure others that have done fasts can attest to this: once you start controlling one part of your life really well, the rest of your life kind of falls in order.
Nutrition Births Clarity
I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life when I blasted my body with more dense micro-nutrients over a period of time. Sure I was forgoing fats and proteins, but the pounds and pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables I was stuffing into the machine each day was adding up to the biggest nutritional hit my system ever had of that kind.
After a few days my thoughts cleared up. The nagging gopher in my head that likes to say things like, “you’re not good enough,” “why didn’t you do that,” or “that’s not right” went away.
Who knows the science behind it, but it happened.
I felt alive in my skin. And my skin felt great.
I even stopped snoring according to Emily. Apparently I sleep so quiet that a couple of times she thought I might not even be breathing. This is actually a really common symptom of juicing and eating healthier: no more log sawing.
I got Emily two Bengal kittens for Christmas. That might not seem to fit in this story, but the kicker is that I’m allergic to cats. Not deathly or anything, just my face explodes with puffiness, sneezing, and snot if I touch a cat and then touch my face.
The crazy thing is that the last few days the cats haven’t bothered me at all. I’ve experimented a few times where I’ve petted the cats and then didn’t immediately go wash my hands. I would experience a bit tiny bit of itching, but no sneezing, runny nose, or swelling.
I’ve felt more engaged in conversations with people. More present.
After I had been juicing for about three days I went to bed one night only to wake up with a fantastic new product idea. I added about a dozen notes to my Trello board and eventually fell asleep.
I bounced the idea the next day off my business partner and it seemed like it wasn’t totally out there, but doable. Over the last week I’ve plotted a course to make this product a reality.
I Have Arrived
This might seem like a farce, but it’s not. Maybe it’s placebo, maybe it’s just my usual JFDI attitude. I’m not sure, but I think it was a great experience.
There’s plenty of good and bad press around juicing. Believe what you want.
My plan is to keep gulping a fresh squeezed juice of 80% vegetables and 20% fruits at least once per day. More than that, my plan is to ease back into eating with a much higher focus on eating veggies and fruits than ever before.
I feel like I’ve gotten to know vegetables over the last ten days. Before I would look at sweet potato and think, “what would I do with that?” Now I think, I want to chop that thing up and put it in the oven and then eat it. Or maybe just throw some eggs on a bed of greens instead of toast.
I even subscribed our office to Door to Door Organics to get a fresh delivery of goodness each week. Maybe my healthy food craze will only last a short while. Or maybe this was the kick in the ass I needed and it will rub off on those around me.
I’m hoping for the later.
Would I do it again? Absolutely.
I’m already thinking that I might do a three day fast each month or a ten day a couple times a year. If not, I at least know what to do if I ever get in a food or productivity rut in the future.
The twelve pounds I shed was an added bonus.
Time to get to bed so I can wake up and get back to solids. Juice, it’s been fun, but I’m ready to feel those eggs in the morning.