Mother’s Little Helper: A Hardcore Juice Cleanse

Nine years of motherhood has turned me into a hardcore nosher. After a long day at the office – and evening spent with the kids – the last thing I want to do is plan and cook a healthy meal for myself. This means that dinner often consists of cheese, olives, salami, cereal and other quick fixes that scream PROCESSED. It is quite terrifying for someone who used to consider herself health-conscious.

In fact, one of my beloved pre-kids rituals is my annual fall detox. I first got turned onto the idea of cleansing after reading an article that stressed the importance of giving our over-taxed digestive system a rest to combat things like inflammation, which is linked to diseases like cancer and diabetes. The theory is that our bodies are laden with excess toxins that we can’t filter out since our digestive system is already working overtime dealing with all the processed food we eat. For women, the toxic waste gets stored in fatty cells far away from our reproductive organs (it’s nature’s way of taking care of the next generation); the bad news is that it’s often seen as cellulite or flabby arms that persist no matter how much we exercise or diet.

As a slim girl with flabby arms and thighs, this theory resonated with me big time, and I immediately set about doing my first detox at the tender age of 24. At the time, everyone thought I was crazy when I told them I was elimating all processed foods for a full two weeks, and that I could only eat fruit or vegetables during that time (keep in mind that this was before Madonna brought cleanses into the mainstream). That first cleanse was difficult but super rewarding – I was hooked.

Then I became a mom and my annual cleansing ritual stopped. Before I had kids, I could devote the time and energy necessary to make it a success (like planning for and preparing every single meal and snack). I’d retreat from my social life and focus solely on getting through the cleanse without temptation. It involved quite introspection and some major “me” time. Who has time for that as a busy mother?

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Actually, I did try one or two detoxes since my older son was born nine years ago. But the amount of energy it took to juggle my kids, work and the actual detox proved to be more stressful than beneficial (which is the whole point of a cleanse). Until recently, when I felt the time had come to take action. I was motivated to cleanse after putting my older son on the gluten- and casein-free diet earlier this year as behavior intervention for his ADHD. He was very good about his food restrictions but every once in a while he would have a little meltdown about all the things he couldn’t eat. I felt like I needed to do something in solidarity to show him that everyone can benefit from doing without.

Even though I had decided to finally detox again, I didn’t know how I was going to find the time to revamp my kitchen and cook the pounds of brown rice most cleanses require.  Then, while reading Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP blog, I came across her piece on juice cleanses and suddenly had the realization that a juice cleanse could be the ultimate mommy detox that I needed.

Although a juice cleanse appears way more intense (all juice and no food), it is actually a lot easier as it requires no thinking and no preparing. I searched the internet for a local juice-delivery cleanse – Gwyn had really sold me on the luxury of the delivery model –and lo and behold I found one in my city called Total Cleanse that seemed affordable, credible and well designed (always a sell factor for me). And so I had no excuse but to jump into my very first juice cleanse.

I went with the mildest option, the Energizer Cleanse, since I would need my energy with the kids and work. Total Cleanse recommends two to three days of pre-cleanse, which involves eliminating coffee, alcohol, meat and processed foods (the company offers sample menus). I cheated and did one day only.

The juices arrived on my front porch in the middle of the night with a total of six juices to drink each day. And that was it. Nothing but juice to cross my lips for four days straight. The juices were labeled 1 to 6 (I meant it when I said it was a no-brainer) and they consisted of two green juices, two lemon juices with cayenne (the key ingredient to the popular Master Cleanse), one berry juice and a calorie- and fat-laden Cashew Milk (my godsend in the evening).

Shockingly I wasn’t at all hungry while on the cleanse, though I did miss chewing. It was weird not to eat anything at all for four days and I was definitely emotional. I had made sure to clear my evening schedule so I could go to bed early. This ritual had the added benefit of quality time with my kids and more sleep than usual. After three days my skin was glowing and I felt lighter and more clear-headed than I had in ages. Day four was more challenging as it was a Saturday, which meant that I was cooking and feeding my kids (as opposed to being at work during the day). But I made it through with only one major fight with my entire extended family. Then, I had anticipated I would break my fast with tons of rich junky food, but I wound up not wanting to eat very much and, strangely, only craving healthy foods.

Most of my habits I’m not interested in passing on to my kids but the detox is one example I was happy to set. Both kids thought the juices were gross and hopefully that taught them that sometimes it’s challenging yet rewarding to do things for our health. Not everything is sugarcoated. This is a lesson that my eldest is learning every day with his own diet restrictions.

Fast forward four weeks and I am still pretty mindful of what I’m eating and have actually been buying fresh vegetable juice at my local health-food restaurant for lunch on most days. The delivery service and ease of use of this cleanse really has me sold. Not only am I thrilled that my detox ritual is back but I am thinking I can make this more than an annual occurrence. It’s the perfect three- or four-day antidote to our all too often neglected health. Mommy style.

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