Juice Cleansing; A Skeptic’s Tale (April 21, 2014)

I’ve written about my friendship with Jessica over the years. She one of my true life partners, a short list of special individuals that includes my younger sister Jennifer and a few others. Jessica and I were hardly immediate friends, but for the last 17 years, the distance of continents, obligations and even a pre-Facebook culture haven’t been enough to disrupt what has turned out to be one of the most important bonds of my life.

Jessica and I are alike in a lot of ways. We learn by trial and error and for most part, refuse to apologize for it. We’re passionate. We work, play and love hard. But we also have our differences and quirks that lead us to roll our eyes at one another.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jessica happier in her entire life than she was when I had an unprecedented emotional meltdown at Westminster Abbey in the summer of 2009. The breadth of literary history overwhelmed this lover of words and my best friend first ditched me out of sheer shame and humiliation, then redeemed herself by purchasing a history of English monarchs in the Abbey gift shop as a present. She expediently surrendered the newfound goodwill by snapping rapid-fire photos of my still-considerable state of euphoric distress as we exited the landmark.

Likewise I have often admired and questioned her laserlike devotion to holistic living. I thought it possible to be too healthy (i.e. rigid, high maintenance, not fun). Although Jessica has never been anything but a non-judgmental barrel of laughs, I secretly wondered what she thought of my wake up in the morning like P. Diddyness. Sure I exercise. I eat sushi. But I am a lazy grocery shopper and an even more indolent chef. I’ve never met a prepackaged meal, preservative or “cheese food” product I didn’t love deeply and repeatedly. When she’d tell me about a yoga retreat or a cleanse she had tried, I’d think to myself, “Good for her. Not sure I’d have the discipline. Don’t even want it.”

Until I had to have it. Earlier this year, Jessica and her business partner started Alchemix, a company which is, according to its website, “committed to providing 100% organic cold pressed juice, juice delivery, holistic nutritional education and yoga to those interested in achieving optimal health.”

A couple weeks ago, while returning from one gluttonous wedding in Iowa and preparing at fly away to another gluttonous celebration in a tropical paradise, Jessica called me to ask if I’d try her product. I hemmed. She said she’d give me a discounted 5-day cleanse in exchange for an honest blog post about the experience. I hawed. I really didn’t think I had the willpower and didn’t want to waste her efforts. She knew I had my suspicions that the whole concept of juicing was Millennial voodoo.

Did I mention that Jessica is adorable and loving? There’s a little devil living inside, the very best variety, but the face and the voice are petite and angelic. There’s also that she believes with all her soul in this stuff, and dammit I believe in her. So I said yes. How could I not? I love this woman and want her to succeed at everything that matters to her.

She arrived at my apartment with two heavy boxes in tow the morning after my return from Puerto Rico. They were filled with three days worth of product – six jars of juice per day of varying kinds (check the website for a full list). I was feeling dehydrated and after weeks of partying and overeating, shall we say, not fit? She was encouraging, assuring me I could do this (half suspecting I’d be shoving Twinkies in my mouth before she got her two year-old daughter back in the car seat) and that I’d feel better afterward. She didn’t sugar coat what the next five days would be like. She said I’d feel sick as I detoxified. She warned I might lack energy, that people grow tempted to quit. She’d love me either way but hoped I’d give the program a shot. That sort of acceptance is infuriating. It sucks the rebellion right out of you.

It was hard. On day two, I had a headache and a difficult time forming sentences. It is impossible to discount the fact that I’d also turned my exercise efforts up to 11 as a contributor, but in the moment, I was more than happy to blame the juice – and Jessica. Damn her for making me support this venture with my own suffering. She wanted a blog post did she? Well I’d give her a post. It would be titled: “Why I Hate Juicing and My Ex-Friend Jessica” (I mentioned that my creative resources were depleted). I made it through the rest of the day determined to throw in the towel. I’d done my best but I was a busy woman and couldn’t afford to feel crappy.

But the next morning, I looked at my hands. I looked at them closely. And I recalled that after applying twice a day for the better part of 11 months, I hadn’t used a topical steroid since Sunday evening, the night before I started the cleanse. There was no need. The hands that had been progressively turning into a giant cluster of pus-filled, burning pompholyx eczema blisters, were clearing up. How could this be?

I certainly wasn’t sorry to be on the receiving end of a small reprieve but I remained skeptical and vigilant. After all, I’d spent dozens of hours and thousands of dollars trying every doctor recommended therapy and manufactured pharmaceutical in a quest for relief. Not six weeks ago, I arrived at an Al-Anon meeting in tears, having just signed away the rest of my reproductive years in order to begin a risky, expensive drug regiment that might or might not yield any results. I was set to start the treatment this week.

On Thursday morning, my hands were a little less red. Dead skin was flaking off but the layer underneath looked…dare I say the word even to myself? Normalish. On Friday, I finished the cleanse, my 5th day of juice, water, raw vegetables, no caffeine or alcohol. The raw veggies were technically verboten but yes, I defied authority and ate a portion daily. I always confessed afterward, not that there was any need. Jessica already knew and was surprised by the relative restraint.

Co-workers complimented my clear eyes and skin. I felt less bloated. I could see it reflected in the mirror. But when I woke up on Saturday morning, it was my hands, the improved state of my poor, long-battered hands that completed the conversion from skeptic to true believer. I’ve run out of juice but the determination to make healthier choices, to distance myself from Starbucks, beloved red wine and Lean Cuisine in favor of raw kale and a bottle of beet liquid I couldn’t stand to look at a week ago, has taken me by a force I never anticipated.

It’s Monday, three days after the end of the cleanse. I have left the coffee, wine and preservatives alone and am consistently trying to eat the freshest food I can find. My left hand appears almost normal while the right is a few days behind it. Will the magic last? Because my resolve to change life permanently is unshakeable if indeed my best friend and her suddenly not so quirky holistic prescriptions are the solution for which I’d nearly stopped looking.

I’ve known for 17 years that Jessica was a late blooming genius who would find her niche. I just didn’t expect that when she founded Alchemix, she’d be offering me a lifeline in the bargain.

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