OF COURSE, I'D HEARD of this mythical torture device, the juice fast. I'd heard all the miraculous tales of rescue and rejuvenation, of detoxification and delight. And while I more than understood the positive health implications, I far from grasped the motivation. More importantly, I didn't believe any of it. I like juice just as much as the next person; I simply didn't think that subsisting on it would change my life for the better.
Then again, there comes a time in a woman's life when scoffing chocolates is just not the answer to all her problems. And after a two-week food-centric trip to the American East, I was everything a girl doesn't want to be: bloated, heavy, lethargic, prone to breakouts…
I had another five-day eating extravaganza in Sapporo planned, so it seemed not only prudent, but sadly necessary to schedule a fast for the day after my return. There were a few options, but I went with Bejuiced, for the simple and shallow reason that the juices had cool names (Oh My Gazpacho, Beet It, Dr Bunny) and the packaging looked cute and colourful – hey, if you aren't getting the satisfaction of chewing, then you might as well look at something uplifting.
Bejuiced offers one-, three- or six-day cleanses, as well as three levels of difficulty: Reboot, Grounding or Vegecation. As a novice, I opted for Reboot, which contains only one juice of six that's green (Grounding has two, and Vegecation a scary four).
The premise of a juice cleanse is to give your digestive system a rest, allowing it to naturally renew itself because it isn't wasting time and energy breaking down solid food. And by reducing healthy fruits and veggies to a pulp, the body still gets the nutrients it needs.
And so I begin. The six juices are meant to be consumed in two-hour intervals, and in a specific order. The late starter that I am, I dig into “breakfast” at 10am: the Morning Squeeze, a souped-up version of the Master Cleanse recipe, comprising lemon and cayenne pepper, as well as ginger, orange and grapefruit. It's sour and tangy with just a hint of spice from the cayenne – all in all, not bad. The dominating taste is still of orange, which makes it more than bearable. The Bejuiced website suggests that my most indispensible tool in completing the challenge is positivity, so happy I shall be!
I'm a little less thrilled when I'm invited to attend a lunch meeting at dragon-i, home of the infamous all-you-can-eat dim-sum affair. While my colleagues nosh on deep-fried dumplings and steamy siu mai, I chug my Veggie Bomb, a medley of apple, kale, romaine lettuce, spinach, cucumber, celery, parsley, lemon, ginger and spirulina. It's not foul, but neither is it a hefty har gao. I think I'm coping admirably with the food envy – I mean, it's only been two hours – when my colleague Rajé apologises, “I'm so sorry. I can see your eyes boring into every dumpling I pick up…” I feel like the husband that's just been busted staring at another woman's chest.
It seems particularly cruel that at 2pm, when my stomach has just realised, “Wait, that green gunk was lunch?” I am allotted Beet It, a pretty unappetising concoction of beet, carrot, watermelon, ginger and flaxseed oil. Um…no. Halfway through, I pretend to forget about it. I just…I can't.
In fact, given the quantity of juice I'm consuming, and the number of times I've gone to the bathroom, it's actually getting difficult to stay on schedule unless I give up doing any actual work. By the end of the workday I've only just had time to break open the Aloha Chiller, the sweetest solution of the bunch, made from coconut water, pineapple and acai berry. It's the least dense and filling, but at least there's no beet.
Oh My Gazpacho is aptly positioned as “dinner”, a somewhat savoury recipe of cantaloupe, tomato, extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt and apple-cider vinegar. Surprisingly, my body hasn't reacted too badly to the fact that it's only consumed liquids today, but it is protesting the lack of hot options. The juice is meant to be had at room temperature, but I cheat a little bit by submerging the entire bottle in a bath of lukewarm water so it tastes a little more like real soup.
I'm meant to sleep as much as possible during the fast period, which means there's not much time to down the Milkilicious, a grainy, milky brew of cashew and almond milk with cinnamon, sea salt, filtered water and agave nectar. It's not a bad mix either, but not shaking it adequately means there's a lot of nutty sediment that sinks to the bottom.
By day two, juicing has led to the discovery that most of my life and activities revolve around eating – so what's a girl to do with all that extra free time, and nary a sample sale to visit? To spur on the detox process, there are a few spa procedures that are appropriate – colonics are recommended (eek), as well as anything that promotes lymphatic drainage. Morning showers and exfoliation are preceded by body brushing, and followed by the use of slimming products such as Valmont's D Solution and C Curve creams. During my lunch hour, I've been invited to test-drive Grand Hyatt Hong Kong Plateau Spa's lymphatic-drainage massage, a style of treatment I've always avoided for fear of the notorious associated pain.
“Will it hurt?” I query the therapist. She laughs.
It's not too bad, actually. It's actually fairly pleasant, which I gather isn't the case at most acupressure centres.
Anyone who tells you a detox will cure you of cravings is lying. Throughout the rest of my three-day, personally inflicted pain programme, I think of nothing but fried rice and foie gras, chilli crab and cheese fries, cupcakes and Coca Cola and coffee. I continue to consume my Morning Squeeze with zest, flagging throughout Veggie Bomb and Beet It (the latter of which I fail to finish, on all three days), perking up with Aloha Chiller and then chugging Oh My Gazpacho and Milkilicious so that I can go to bed and be one day closer to food freedom.
On Day Four, I wake early. A side effect of juicing? Perhaps. Yes, my skin is glowing. Yes, my stomach is flat. And yes, I'm wearing my ittiest bittiest outfit because it now actually fits. But boy, am I excited for food!
I make my favourite breakfast, two eggs scrambled over a doubler-boiler, on toast and drizzled with truffle oil. And…I can't finish it. My legendary appetite, that which inspired wonder and astonishment for its voracious capacity, has been compromised. And the oil, it's so very oily.
Clearly, there's a reason post-juicers are advised to ease back into old food habits. Psychologically, the cravings are still there – at lunch, I order pasta and a coffee – but my body rejects the taste and smell. And why is everything just so damn oily? By dinnertime I've realised that Sichuan noodles will do me no favours. Over the next few days, my weight continues to drop incrementally, and I feel tight and taut and like a next-generation Cindy Crawford (whether external perception is consistent with my self-image is debatable though). But most importantly, I feel victorious, like I've just completed the Long March of food regimes. Shortly after, I embark on a Paleo diet plan, which seems like peanuts in comparison. Whether three days of juicing has actually changed my life is debatable, but it has changed my attitude. I know that I can take on the world, instead of just eating it.