Heater, Mother of Lance

dooce juice

(Forgive any typos, I’ve been awake all night with Leta who has yet another high fever. Damn these winter bugs.)

On Tuesday night Leta had a double piano lesson, an unusual event for that night of the week. Last week she missed her lesson due to illness and this week her teacher is out of town for the normal Thursday night event. I usually look forward to these nights that I get to spend out alone with Marlo, the two of us eating dinner at Whole Fruits where, as I’m paying for dinner, she will tell the cashier, “My mom is going to buy me three cookiesth from over there,” having not discussed this with me beforehand.

I did not buy her those cookiesth. At least, not right then.

Tuesday night I felt trepidation, however, being on day two of a five-day juice cleanse. Yes. A juice cleanse. One of those things. Those fads. Those ridiculous things that people do to their bodies that some would argue have no nutritional benefit whatsoever. Juice and only juice for five straight days. You’ve already skipped to the bottom of this post to leave a comment calling me an idiot. Listen. My being an idiot has nothing to do with deciding to do a juice cleanse and everything to do with my I.Q. So try to be accurate in your comment.


I feared that walking into a Whole Fruits, especially one with a wide and varied food court, would be somewhat uncomfortable. Not unlike arm wrestling a toaster in my bathtub. All those amazing smells and more amazing smells and even more amazing smells? There would be amazing smells and I would be smelling them. Juice cleanses should come with a complimentary clothespin for your nose.

Our Whole Fruits makes a killer chicken tikka masala that I always put on the same plate as a mound of rice for Marlo. She calls it “the sthpicy sthtuff” and mixes it with a few bites of her rice, and when she noticed that I wasn’t filling the plate with it she tapped me on the leg several times.

“What? I’m getting you rice,” I explained. “You were really excited about the rice.”

“Meow,” she said in return.

“Oh god, with this again.”


Marlo does this thing that is a lot more adorable than I am giving her credit for where she will say “meow” in a very clipped voice, very soft and low, her lips barely moving. And she knows it’s frustrating to everyone but her and yet simultaneously hysterical.

“Meow is not helping me.”


“You tapped my leg for a reason.”


She finally took mercy on me and repeatedly used her index finger to point to the chicken tikka masala. “The sthpicy sthtuff.”

“Oh, you want some. That’s awesome. Meow. NOW I HAVE TO SMELL IT.”

I added a few spoonfuls to the plate thinking that the aroma would knock me over with a hunger pang, but this has been the most surprising thing about this cleanse AND THERE HAVE BEEN MANY SURPRISING THINGS AT LEAST TWO ALREADY.

I don’t feel hunger like I thought I would. Here I am on the morning of the fourth day of this cleanse and the only time I felt actual hunger was when I forgot to drink the lunch portion Tuesday afternoon. Okay. That’s not true. Twice. I experienced hunger twice. Once Tuesday afternoon. The first time was the first night when Leta was eating a bean and cheese burrito and I sized that thing up and realized I could fit the whole thing down my throat without chewing it. TECHNICALLY NOT A SOLID FOOD SINCE I WOULDN’T BE USING MY TEETH. I also contemplated eating the granite countertop.

I had this idea that since I’ve already eliminated most of the bad stuff from my diet that this cleanse would be a lot easier than it has been: I don’t eat any grains. I rarely consume any dairy. I eat no processed sugar. But day one hit me like a hammer to the head and the fatigue has been grueling. I battled several hours with my brain on the first night over whether or not to give up, ultimately calling on the same quadrant in my skull that kept my feet moving during the marathon. And so here I am on the morning of day four still going, still thinking that people who enjoy these cleanses are certifiably insane.

WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE? Take out your batteries and show them to us.

Mornings are fantastic (minus this morning, this morning was not fantastic). I feel rested when I get out of bed, and I haven’t been able to say that in a very long time (minus this morning, I was not rested this morning). However, there is a debilitating afternoon slump that verges on paralyzing. I eat a lot of animal protein, so I’m guessing my body is missing this component of my usual diet. I get so tired that I feel like I could sleep through a Republican winning the presidential election.

Why did I do this? I’ve talked with several friends who’ve done something similar, all for different reasons. I got a little off track with my diet in Haiti and continued down several winding paths throughout the holidays (good lord, the bowls and bowls of roasted pistachios). I wanted a hard reboot. A fresh start. I wanted to look at my cravings (HELLO, SALT), examine them from a distance and see what I could do better. I also wanted this exercise in self-discipline that many religious people including Mormons go through as a means of self improvement. This isn’t technically a fast, but there is a similar goal: the delay of gratification. If you listen to your brain during the more painful moments, you learn quite a bit about yourself and how your body copes. You realize how strong you can be. It’s interesting to grapple with your weaknesses in such a visceral and raw way.

I’d never do this for longer than five days. It’s just not compatible with my exercise regimen. This isn’t for everyone, no. It doesn’t cure diseases. It will not solve your credit problems or improve your relationship with your father. It will not organize your closet or clean out your garage. You might lose weight but I’m willing to bet you’d put most of it right back on once you went back to your normal way of eating. I’m sharing this here only because it’s an honest account of what this feels like in case you were ever considering the same endeavor. These are all my initial thoughts on this process. It’s not fun, and when it’s over I will most likely examine the pros and cons in a more thorough way and share that with you. (Earlier I saw a box of raisins—RAISINS—and I thought, “What a glorious food!” Glorious. If I saw a the sun setting over the ocean right now I think my brain would explode.)

But here, just on the other side of halfway through, I’ve learned so much about myself. It’s already been worth it.

  • Lisa

    2014/01/17 at 11:23 am

    A friend suggested that combo, the lemon/ginger masks the bitterness of the kale. I’m actually drinking it right now! I think I might start juicing for breakfast too, I don’t like breakfast foods so I end up just eating a banana most days.

  • Heather

    2014/01/17 at 12:01 pm

    I find it intriguing that the people who have never done a juice fast/cleanse are the ones who are the most vehement that it is the MOST HORRIBLE THING EVER.

    That said, I’ve done it before. I watched the documentary Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, and witnessing the astounding health benefits those in the documentary had convinced me to try it. I wasn’t too fat – maybe 20 lbs over ideal – and I was fit (running, lifting), but ugh, was I sick. Fatigue. Mind fog. Seasonal Affective Disorder. Every day was a struggle, and it felt like my health issues were just slowly building on top of one another, to the point where I thought feeling that horrible was a new normal.

    I wanted to do five days. I lasted two. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I’d rather give birth again than repeat that first day.

    The reason people feel so sick is from the detox, from not eating all that shit your body doesn’t want you to eat (For every person it’s different. For me, it was gluten, corn, and sugar.) The juice cleanses all that crap out of your body much quicker than a regular fast does. And yes, your liver can cleanse the crap out on its own, BUT ONLY IF YOU STOP EATING IT. How can your body cleanse if you’re constantly pouring crap it doesn’t want down your gullet? It can’t. And that’s why a fast is needed.

    I only lasted two days, but in those two days I learned a LOT about myself. I completely changed the way I was eating. I too didn’t think it would be hard because I ate virtually zero processed foods and everything was organic. WRONG. The result: it changed my life.

    Later, when I got off track again, I followed the Clean Program, which is similar, but easier to stick to and a more gentle detox. A shake in the morning, an elimination-diet-based meal for lunch, and a juice in the evening. I skipped all the supplement and program add-ons and resulting bankruptcy.

    Anyway, kudos to you. I know how hard those things are, and your “Why did I do this?” paragraph explains everything regarding the benefits of such fasts/cleanses beautifully.

    Also, in the future, I don’t think anyone should bash it until they’ve gone through it.

  • DMM

    2014/01/17 at 12:12 pm

    It’s hardly ire. And I never suggested that this fast is less healthy than what many Americans consume, if that’s what you’re insinuating. Just pointing out that your response to chuck that you’re getting sufficient protein by consuming 10-15 grams is a little odd. Regardless, best of luck with your fast.

  • Heather

    2014/01/17 at 12:13 pm

    The thing is, a lot of people develop health issues as a result of the food they’re eating. Sometimes it’s food they’ve been eating their whole lives. Sometimes those health issues don’t culminate until later in their lives, and it’s not clear that it’s gluten or corn or dairy or whatever that’s causing their eczema or mental health issues or gut issues or cancer.

    The only way to find this out is by doing a cleanse or a fast or following an elimination diet for at least two-three weeks. If you feel better at the end, guess what? Your health issues are related to the food you’re stuffing in your face-hole.

    My daughter has Celiac’s, but she never once exhibited it in the typical colon-explosive way. She exhibited the disease neurologically, and this was not discovered until we cut gluten out of the whole house after *I* discovered I had a problem with it after doing such a cleanse.

    My poor little girl had been miserable from the time she turned one (when she started eating wheat) until the house-wide gluten cleanse at age ten. She was in therapy. She had breakdowns every single day. And now? She’s happy. She’s well-adjusted. And she’s so grateful that the source to her problem was discovered.

    What my girls learned from watching me go through a cleanse is that the food you put in your body has a real connection to your overall health, and I don’t think that’s a horrible lesson to every teach to your children. It’s not food-obsessive. It’s food-awareness. If anything, a cleanse takes the obsessiveness OUT of food. You eat for survival and health, and there’s little thinking that goes into it beyond that.

    (I also had bulimia and over-exercised in my late-teens and young-20s. If anything, a cleanse has been my final step in healing from those issues.)

  • Heidi

    2014/01/17 at 12:26 pm

    I just finished a 60 hour cleanse in which all I consumed is water and supplements. HOLY CRAP. It was difficult. I had never even thought of attempting something like that before, but like you, I wanted a fresh start. Wow. It was eye-opening and I felt so, so great afterwards. I also learned a lot about myself and how damn tough I can be if I want to be. Thanks for sharing your account – it’s good to learn from each other.

  • Lisa

    2014/01/17 at 1:13 pm

    I am starting my first ever juice cleanse on Monday. There is a wonderful little juice bar here in my small town, and a good number of my friends have done it and proclaimed it life-changing, so after sausaging my thighs into pants that fit me a mere two weeks ago, I took a good hard look at *my* cravings (HELLO SUGAR, SALT, PASTA) and decided that something had to give. I am ramping up to it by drinking my coffee without sugar and devouring all of the cookies in the house so they won’t be here on Monday. I’m not sure if that’s how you’re supposed to do it, but I’m going out with a bang. It’s great to read that you’re doing a cleanse — I look forward to following your posts (I realize I’m slightly behind the curve here) and seeing how things are going when you’re finished. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Sarah

    2014/01/17 at 1:18 pm

    how do you know? 🙂

  • Heather

    2014/01/17 at 3:56 pm

    Actually, to build muscle, humans need the enzyme they produce when they metabolize protein. Oddly, we produce that same enzyme when we consume fruits/veggies. You can Google raw food or vegan body builders for more information.

  • Lauren

    2014/01/18 at 10:20 am

    There is definitely merit in what you’re talking about re: an elimination diet to single out certain type of food that is causing a health problem, such as a flare-up from a food allergy. For example, similar to what you describe with your daughter, my sister (under the guidance of her son’s pediatrician) followed an elimination diet plan that let her deduce that a certain type of food dye was giving her son a rash.

    But that is not the situation at hand here.

    The reasons stipulated for *this* type of fast — guilt about (arguably very normal) indulgence over the holidays and feeling that you need to forgo food altogether in order to stop yourself from craving a certain type of food — seem to me to not be in line with a healthy relationship with food.

    Sure, discipline is necessary when it comes to your regular diet. But like everything when it comes to diet, only in moderation. To me, this reads as a “punishment” type of exercise. A good friend of mine is a nutritionist, and of course we’ve talked about her job and have even discussed my past illness. One thing she aims to help her clients discover is that you know you have found a healthy relationship with food when eating does not feel like work.

    And now I have left far too long a comment on Heather’s website for a stranger who ultimately is not a professional and probably should do a better job of keeping her comments to herself 🙂

  • Heather

    2014/01/18 at 10:56 am


    How do you know I’m not a nutritionist? How do you know I didn’t major in nutritional science? How do you know I wasn’t a practicing dietician?

    I could get all passive-aggressive here, but I won’t. Because actually, until the last paragraph, your comment makes sense for a person who doesn’t have control or addiction issues with food.

    Speaking from the viewpoint as someone who DOES, as someone who, despite my educational and professional background, still has certain food addiction and control issues, I’ll just say this: you can be aware of an issue. You can work an issue. But sometimes, the most effective way to deal with a food addiction is to start with a clean slate, which is basically what Heather is doing.

    I have struggled with trying to control my binging behavior, but the most effective way I’ve found is by doing a cleanse every one-two years if things seem to be spiraling out of control. I could get into the science behind this. I delve into what happens in the human brain chemically. But since you’re not a professional…

  • Courtney_Pool

    2014/01/18 at 10:56 am

    Many people can do juice cleanses while exercising, if they’re willing to make and drink enough juice. Many of my clients (I’m a juice cleansing coach), drink at least 4 liters of juice every day, if not more, and exercise fine!

  • Amanda

    2014/01/18 at 8:10 pm

    Heather, sometimes going without food makes people cranky. Just what I’ve heard… 😉

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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