The Weekly Challenge is a column that tackles self-improvement seven days at a time.
I returned home from a 10-day trip to Florida last week feeling like a deep-fried salt lick. A steady diet of blender drinks, conch fritters and key lime pie had been sensational at the time, but I hardly wanted to launch my body, mind and liver into the New Year as a Jimmy Buffett song stereotype.
Flying into Pearson airport, I tried to recall my last exchange with a vegetable that didn't come out of a salsa jar. Obviously, it was time for a nutritional about-face, but the whole idea of a cleanse has always struck me as a little hippie-dippie, never mind hypocritical.
In my experience, these "detox" programs (the juice ones, the food ones, the ones that involve supplement pills) are almost always practised by women who claim to be interested in getting healthy when all they really want to do is get skinny. Not that there's anything wrong with trying to drop a few pounds (I had definitely put on a few over my holiday), but spare me the whole my-body-is-a-temple 'tude.
Maybe it's just my social circle, but I've observed more than one acquaintance smoking while supposedly detoxing. All of that said, I wondered whether I could even stick to one of these juice cleanses, which have become a booming business. My willpower surrounding food has always been pretty pathetic, and just the smell of V8 nauseates me. Getting my green on was not going to be easy.
A surprising passion for chickpeas
My three-day juice diet from Toronto delivery service Total Cleanse was dropped off on my doorstep in the middle of the night. The following morning I eyed the day's first "meal" – a 500-ml blend of kale, celery, cucumber, lettuce, apple, parsley and lemon – with suspicion. Then I glanced longingly at the coffee machine. Going without a java jolt on weekends or holidays is no problem, but on a workday that first cup of joe is my on switch.
The green drink tasted like a juice bar smells, and while by no means undrinkable, it failed to offer the same kick-start to my day.
Later I met my friend Bridgitte for "lunch." Normally I would have put this off until post-cleanse, but she was leaving Toronto the next day, which is why I ended up sitting in a restaurant, taking in the hypnotic eau de hamburger. Asking the waiter if I could have a glass for my green drink was awkward – in that moment, I was the kind of woman I can't stand.
While I downed my liquid lunch, Bridgitte's appetizer arrived at the table. It was hummus and pita, something I would never order myself, but with a half-empty glass of juice before me, it looked like the most delicious thing I'd ever seen. I tried to ignore the smooth-talking devil on my shoulder telling me, "Go ahead – hummus is just blended chickpeas … which is basically juice … pretty sure it's a super food."
And then I cheated. Not a lot, but enough to make me feel significant legume-induced guilt, which I later medicated with a glass of red wine. Strike two.
For the love of food
The medical community is not entirely on board with the cleanse mania, mostly because our bodies are built to self-cleanse – that's what our livers and kidneys are for. Like the Atkins or Dukan diet, juicing is a trend that, from what I can deduce, has become popular for a few reasons: 1) Unlike many diets and nutrition plans, it involves zero prep time and/or culinary ability. You don't have to seek out strange ingredients at the health-food store, nor labour over a pot of stinky cabbage soup; 2) There is a sense of accomplishment from sticking to the plan, which I did manage to do for the next two days of my cleanse.
Well, fine, I almost stuck to it. On the last night I ate two bites of my boyfriend's chicken curry. I wasn't hungry so much as desperately missing the fun of food.
I am one of those people who spends much of the day fantasizing about dinner. I waste hours looking at food porn online, my favourite social event is a meal with friends and I love a grocery store the way Lindsay Lohan loves a tanning salon. Without meal planning or prep, my evening ritual was totally out of whack – I was in bed every night by 10, because what else was there to do?
On the other hand, I think I managed to counterbalance some of my holiday sins and lose a few of those pina colada pounds. I'm in no rush to go back to a juice-only existence, but I did find a recipe for a homemade green drink and plan to start my day with one as often as I can. That and a good, strong coffee.
The next challenge
Research on creative breakthroughs shows we're most likely to be inspired by people in different fields from our own. Book a lunch with someone who does something totally different. What did you learn?
Let us know at fb.me/globelifestream.