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 Amazon.com, 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.