Chipping away: True confessions of a juicer

Remember the chipper scene from Fargo? Frances McDormand is a cop investigating a homicide when she comes upon a man who is feeding, we are to believe, Steve Buscemi’s leg into a wood chipper.

In recent days, this scene came to mind over and over again. Every time I picked up a long, thick stalk of celery or a beefy carrot and fed it into my juice-making machine, the ear-splitting whine of the Juiceman– and my hand on the stalk, pushing insistently downward– called forth the chipper and Buscemi’s sock-footed leg.

This is what happens when a happy carnivore goes cold turkey vegan. Now, I have absolutely no moral or philosophical reason for becoming a vegan. I just want to be skinny. And so, I went on a juice fast.

Nothing but homemade fruit and vegetable juices: nothing to chew, no animal products whatsoever. I wanted to see how long I could stand it, and how many of those extra pounds I could lose.

If you’re wondering how anyone could be persuaded to do this, then you have not seen the documentary that I saw: Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead.

It was made by an Australian, Joe Cross. He started out as one of those guys who look like they’re in their third trimester– with a burdensome, protuberant belly. He was, in his estimation, fat, sick, and nearly dead, with all signs pointing toward a shortened life due to type 2 diabetes, heart attack, or stroke. Others in the documentary are also dealing with recurrent migraines and autoimmune disease.

The point of the movie is to illustrate that many of our modern medical problems, such as obesity and the resulting heart disease and type 2 diabetes, are caused by what we consume, especially the sodas, refined carbohydrates, dairy, and meat. Even worse, we are not consuming the plants that could invigorate and lengthen our lives.

Juice fasting is a way to maximize nutrition and minimize calories in order to “reboot” our bodies by shedding pounds and getting problems such as elevated cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure under control. And that’s just what happens to Joe Cross in the movie.

We watch as he goes through a 60-day juice fast, under medical supervision (which is strongly recommended for anyone engaging in a fast that lasts longer than a few days), and his body returns to a healthy state as the fat melts away.

Judging by the comments found in reviews for juicing machines on, people watch this documentary and race to their computers to order a juicer and get going on their own juice fasts. Instead of buying a juicer, I remembered a long-neglected Father’s Day gift, a 1993 Juiceman, that had been gathering dust in our attic.

After a trip to Whole Foods (with no need to wander farther than the produce department), I was ready to begin. I had no idea how long I’d be able to stay on a juice fast. Maybe three days? A week? I figured it would do me good, even if it was brief.

Here’s what I discovered: These juices are actually quite tasty, even when they look like something siphoned directly from a swamp. When you make juice from dark green veggies like kale and chard, if you add a few sweet apples, a whole lemon, and a little fresh ginger, you end up with a terrific drink.

Using recipes I found online, I made things like butternut squash and apple juice, tomato and basil juice (which would have been perfect with a shot of vodka), and pear and fennel juice. Who’d a thunk it?

I was eager to turn in every evening, because I couldn’t wait to get up and weigh myself in the morning. Diets, for me, have been futile for years, with the scale so stubborn that I kept buying new ones because surely there was some mistake. Ah, but now that I was juicing, the numbers went down, down, down.

The days passed, and I was a happy juicer during breakfast and lunch. But, oh, the protein fantasies would overtake me at sunset! Visions of roast chicken, fork-tender filet mignon, and broiled salmon haunted me as I fed the celery, carrots, kale, etc., into the juicer. Every night I’d think: If only this damned thing was a meat grinder, we’d be having hamburgers for supper.

I worried about what would happen once the fast was done. Would I eat with all the restraint of a shark and gain back what I’d lost? As it turned out, this culinary adventure provided me with a few surprises.

First of all, I astonished myself by staying on this juice fast for a full thirty days. A month of nothing but juice! (When a friend reported that she’d given up chocolate for Lent, I trumped her by saying I had given up chewing.)

I ended the fast recently and have been following a low-calorie, plant-based transition plan ever since. I lost ten pounds during the fast, and the scale is still headed downward.

What’s weird and unexpected is that, for all my fantasizing about juicy, aromatic animal flesh during the fast, the moment I came off it, what I’ve been jonesing for is vegetables. I can’t seem to get enough salad, and chewing has never been so satisfying.

What has happened to me? It’s as though I’ve been reprogrammed. I could incorporate some beef, dairy, or fish into my post-fast diet, but so far, I have no desire to do that. (As I’m typing this, I keep thinking I’d like to get up and sauté a few chopped veggies in a spritz of olive oil. What the hell?)

When you leave your comfort zone, you never know what will happen. Could be good health and weight loss. Could be your colleague in the wood chipper. You don’t try, you’ll never know.
The author once penned an essay admitting to "drinking the Kool-Aid" of Whole Foods Market.

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Please, leave me to my Angus sirloin. Its oh so juicy, especially when its done really rare. Yum.

After watching 30 Day's with Morgan Spurlock episode on factory farming / veganism I went vegan for 30 days - "I can do anything for 30 days, I was in the Army" - after two weeks I never looked back. Now it's been almost 4 years. I haven't lost any weight, but my food just tastes better, and I feel better. More energy, no ups & downs, etc. We've got a great group of people who hold pretty regular potlucks and restaraunt meetups here:

@ PYSFO, An Alex Jones affiliated Multi-Level Marketing scheme promoted by a follower (cultist?) who hasn't even tried it himself? Hilarious coming from someone who likes to refer to others as "sheeple." Even some former true believers were turned off by that move on Jones's part.

As far as the main thrust of the article goes, how is it a "fast" if you're eating all the time and why on earth would you do that instead of simply eating a balanced diet accompanied by exercise? If soda is the problem, just don't drink it. I haven't in years. If the goal is to be skinny, keep in mind that skinny and healthy are not necessarily the same thing. There is no need to rush the fat off if you do happen to be overweight. Be patient and change your lifestyle for the better and the results will come and are far more likely to stay.

Man... Fargo woodchippers in this a juicer article... and comparing traffic to a tapeworm in an article by Hawes. You guys are making me not want to eat ANYTHING you write about. GWAR would love this, however.

I have been juicing in the mornings, but I worry about creating blood sugar spikes. Of course, I would rather start my day with carrot/apple/pear/fennel than something green and spicy - who wouldn't? But then I feel hypoglycemic in about an hour. Is there a nutritionist out there who can address this and how to avoid it? I loved Joe Cross' movie but I don't think he does a very good job of addressing the nutritional aspect except in a very broad way.

Stop all the sniping and just say "Up with people!!" How can you not feel Sandy Duncan chipper reading perkiness like this?

"The days passed, and I was a happy juicer during breakfast and lunch. But, oh, the protein fantasies would overtake me at sunset! Visions of roast chicken, fork-tender filet mignon, and broiled salmon haunted me as I fed the celery, carrots, kale, etc., into the juicer. Every night I’d think: If only this damned thing was a meat grinder, we’d be having hamburgers for supper."

Juice fasting means only consuming juices freshly made from a juice machine. The reason to only drink fresh juice instead of eating is to give your digestive system a break so your body uses its energy healing instead of digesting heavy foods. It removes the fibers but leaves you with all the nutrients to heal and feel vibrant. To detoxify our bodies from all the toxins we are surrounded with and ingest. I'm on day 10 of my third juicefast and while losing weight was a main factor for adopting this plant based diet I also wanted to see if some of my medical issues would be healed or at least improve with this plan. Yes! Yes it has and ive been able to stop taking 4 prescription medications and reduced the amount of two others. I also had other motivations. As a long time vegetarian I had never wanted to give up dairy. Once I did my IBS id had forever went away. No more sinus infections and extra mucous. Just wanted to let the commentors know of different reasons someone would want to do this instead of what we were traditionally taught to be a healthy diet based on the current food pyramid.

I forgot to include that since November of last year I have lost 40lbs. When I stop juicing and go back to eating a plant based diet of fruits vegetables nuts seeds and grains I did not gain the weight back as so many do with traditional dieting. Its not a diet. Its a way of life for me. It may not be for everyone but for many It has made many positive changes.

Yeah, Those Cows Are Far Way, I've taken just about all of Jaquith's perkiness that I can handle. As we all know, the world is a dark and meaningless place and nihilism is the only reasonable response. I'm taken the liberty of correcting the essay.

"After 10 days, I was losing it. My brain was shutting down. Protein. I needed protein. I hate these life-sucking vegetables. I went to my juicer, switched it on and heard that mocking whine from its high-pitched electric motor. But, this time, there would be no celery. No carrots. No beets. It felt strangely comforting to be inserting my own left hand into the hopper. No pain. Just numbness, as I watched my own blood trickle out into my pitcher. And, finally, satiety, as I drank my own blood."

"The reason to only drink fresh juice instead of eating is to give your digestive system a break so your body uses its energy healing instead of digesting heavy foods. It removes the fibers but leaves you with all the nutrients to heal and feel vibrant. To detoxify our bodies from all the toxins we are surrounded with and ingest."

That is complete BS. "Detoxification" is a myth and besides, the products that are typically sold to do just that, ie. "cleanse" are basically nothing more than fiber or fiber combined with a laxative so that it looks like something has happened and your colon has shot out a wad of some bad stuff. That bad stuff is nothing more than that psylium husk in the "cleansing" product after it has absorbed water. Eat a balanced diet, stay active, and you won't need to look for miracle cures for the results of having poor habits.

saywha? - From what I have read, the detox and cleansing programs are totally nuts, with no scientific basis.

All I know about the juicing is that it maximizes nutrition while minimizing calories. As mentioned in the column, I have tried all the standard dieting advice. It used to work for me, but for the past several years, eating a lot less and working out like crazy got me nowhere. Continuing to do what didn't work seemed like a foolish path to remain on, so I was ready for something new, something fun. I continue to be amazed that I no longer crave sweets, bread, and animal fat.

I've only been off the fast for a couple of weeks, but I had expected to wake up the morning after and head straight for Pizza Hut. Didn't happen. Lately, my idea of a wicked pig-out is to sit down to an enormous bowl of salad, washed down with tomato juice. I look better, I feel great, and I'm eating healthy. If there's a downside to all this, I don't see it.

I'll be running in the Charlottesville Ten-Miler next weekend. The weight I lost is equivalent to a bowling ball. It's much easier to run without carrying around that bowling ball, I'll tell you that!

Gee whillikers Harry! I don't know about nihilism and all that Eastern religion stuff but it sounds like you need hug, gosh. But on a more profound note, does all that juicing make your stools runny, I mean do you have to wear Depends and take lotsa showers?

I don't know of any reputable, health practitioner who would recommend losing so much weight in one month. It is unfortunate that this glib essay focuses on the immediacy of weight gain, and fails to extol the overall benefits of mostly, plant-based diet sans the juicer. Juice fasting is an expensive and impractical option for most Americans. The author is clearly drinking someone else's Kool Aid.

T Hill: Ten pounds in one month is not a dramatic weight loss. The transition to a plant-based diet, sans the juicer, is what I have experienced after the fast, as outlined in the essay.

I think this article sets an irresponsible example for girls and young women out there. 1) 10 lbs in a month from extreme fad dieting is not safe weight loss 2) Extreme fad dieting is not sustainable, leads to yo-yoing and is much worse from a health perspective than not dieting 3) The need to detoxify through fasting is a myth 4) Equating weight with health is a gross overstatement. But let's be real, this isn't about health. You said in your article it was about being skinny, as if this is some noble goal. I think it's much more noble to learn to accept ourselves and our bodies and devote our energies to things that really matter. I think it's sad that you were eager to go to bed so that you could wake up and weigh yourself, and sad to send the message to anyone reading this column that that is a normal way to approach ourselves and our lives.

Janis: A very inspiring confession! Would you be able to share your recipes or where you got them from?

JJ: My experience is that I felt great on the juice fast (which, to be accurate, should be called a "juice feast"), lost the spare tire I had been working on, and am currently astonished by my food preferences now that I'm no longer on the juice-only regimen. I have no desire for bread or pasta or meat or sweets. That's a revolution for me! I crave salads and nuts and roasted vegetables and fresh juices. I am not alone in this. If you check out the Facebook page for "Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead" you'll see postings from countless people who are having similar experiences. For me, being "skinny" was about losing that spare tire around my middle. Noble goal? You bet! If you think this is a sad situation, there's not a thing I can do to change your mind. All I can do is report that getting down to a healthy weight (current BMI is 22.3) and discovering a preference for fresh, healthy, plant-based food has, for me, been purely joyful.

Klystron: I got my juice recipes from the site. Here's a link right to the recipes: It's important to emphasize the juices with dark green vegetables in them, such as kale and chard. That's where the best nutrition is. Did you know that kale and chard have protein in them? Neither did I! But they do.