juicesIt all started when my friend Christine showed up glowing and visibly slimmer. She’d just done a seven day juice cleanse and was raving about how great she felt. She even hauled some of her own juice concoctions up to Sonoma. I guess she was using them to pre-detox because she chased them with the great lashings of wine which seem to be a feature of any event up here. Still, she had me intrigued. I’ve researched juice cleanses before but the instructions had my head spinning. Seems you can’t just chug down juice for a few days. You have to have specific mixes that alternate fruits and vegetables and such which are to be drunk in a particular order. Too much for me to deal with, especially as I haven’t yet figured out how to work my juicer without spraying a fine mist of juice all over the kitchen. But Christine told me about the various services that are available in the Bay Area where they will send you a crate of juices, pre-mixed, pre-sorted and pre-portioned. If you can count, you can do a juice cleanse. Exactly what I needed: Juice Cleanse for Dummies.

On Christine’s recommendation, I chose Urban Remedy. I liked the fact that it was a local company, as well as the founder’s background in Chinese medicine and her commitment to organic produce for her juices. Yeah, it’s hugely expensive. But I have to face facts, I’d probably never attempt this — at least not the first time — without the feeling that the price impelled me to go through with it. And did I mention that it’s idiot-proof?

Maybe not exactly idiot-proof. Seems you are supposed to prep for this cleanse for three days before-hand by eliminating meat, fried food, dairy, sugar and ALCOHOL and CAFFEINE. I tried. I really did. But my start date was on a Tuesday. So I’m not going to have wine on a weekend when I’m going out with friends? I did cut out the wine a day before. Caffeine was tougher. I stopped three days before and went screaming back to my mocha within six hours. I finally managed to avoid caffeine for a full 24 hours before my start date. I woke up the day of the cleanse with that pounding headache that can only be stopped by a jolt of Java.

Did I mention that you are also not supposed to do anything strenuous during your cleanse? Light yoga and contemplative walking are recommended. Well, I didn’t time that right either because I had a training session bright and early at 8 o’clock Tuesday morning. Foolishly, I thought that could be my farewell sweat session before my cleanse — as my juices weren’t due to be delivered until about 9 or 10. Big miscalculation. Usually after one of these Crossfit sessions, I’m screaming for a dozen egg omelet and a loaf of bread to try to refuel my depleted body. Instead, I came home to a box of juices. And I still had that pounding, brain destroying headache that is caffeine withdrawal. I chugged down my first juice in the series: celery, cucumber, spinach, parsley and lemon.

This one is called Brainiac and BAM! Headache gone and energy restored.

This one is called Brainiac and BAM! Headache gone and energy restored.

Now I was convinced I could actually do this. Then I found out why the cleanse involves drinking a juice every two hours. Because an hour and a half after you drink one, your body, mind and soul are screaming out for more, anything, something. Let me suck on a stone. Anything to simulate eating. I’m not sure if this is the effect of the cleanse or if this was an after-effect of an hour and half Crossfit session with no serious refueling after it. (And full disclosure: I did have a bowl of oatmeal and a pint of blueberries before the session. I knew I couldn’t make it through without fuel and I rationalized that my cleanse started when my juice was delivered.)

By the third juice, I stopped being hungry. In fact, I can say that my stomach never growled — although I found myself checking that clock very closely so I didn’t go a minute past my next juice fix. But the caffeine withdrawal, that was another story. I noticed each juice would temporarily put the pain at bay. For about 20 minutes. Then the blinding headache returned. Worse than that, I had to make the interminable 2-1/2 hour drive up the 680 from San Jose to Sonoma. Let’s put it this way, there was a lot of singing and listening to music really really loudly to keep myself awake. By the time I reached Sonoma, the caffeine withdrawal was excruciating. Remember that harrowing detox scene in the movie Trainspotting? Nothing compared to what I was going through. Pulling into the ranch, I quickly warned the guys working there that I was off solid food and caffeine and was about to bite someone’s head off. They scattered. By 5 PM, I broke down and got myself a small cup of coffee. With cream. My rationale was that a cleanse worth its juice had better be able to flush those toxins out or it isn’t very good. And besides, didn’t my Facebook news feed serve up some ad about a “coffee cleanse”? Maybe that’s what I should try next time.

So far, this was the best juice. It's beet root, carrot, ginger, apple and lemon. They call it After Party because it's a liver detoxifier. I like it because it's thick enough that you have a sense of eating -- as opposed to just drinking.

So far, this was the best juice. It’s beet root, carrot, ginger, apple and lemon. They call it After Party because it’s a liver detoxifier. I like it because it’s thick enough that you have a sense of eating and chewing.

So here I am having just finished my last juice of the day. I have to say, other than the caffeine withdrawal, it went better than expected. The juices are great tasting — although Number Two which is Acai berry, lemon juice and Cayenne pepper (!) is quite acidic on an empty stomach. And surprisingly, I have had no hunger pains. At all. Most of the juices are thick enough that they are very filling. So here’s my take on Day One:

1. If you are addicted to Joe, you better wean yourself off it slowly weeks ahead of this cleanse. Believe me, you do not want to go cold turkey.

2. I’ve spent most of the day with a pounding headache which seems to go away for 20 to 45 minutes after I drink a juice. Right now, I’m attributing that to the caffeine withdrawal. Or maybe starting the cleanse a bit dehydrated. I’ll try to remedy it with a gallon of water. If that doesn’t work, I’m back at the coffee house.

3. Make the day before your cleanse the last time you do any vigorous exercise. A juice cleanse will not refuel you after an hour and a half Crossfit session. I don’t think you’ll be doing much “contemplative walking” either. I did harvest nine pounds of tomatoes and make homemade ketchup. I had a brief walk around the lower part of the ranch reviewing ongoing projects. My FitBit tells me I logged 11,000 steps today and walked 4.62 miles. I’m now trying to figure out how I can skip out on all the ranch chores I have lined up for the next two days.

4. Do NOT do a long drive on a cleanse day. I alternated between nearly falling asleep and feeling light-headed. However that could again be a function of no caffeine or the fact that I was driving right by a the massive Mount Diablo fire and there wasn’t much oxygen in the air. In any case, I think a better cleanse plan would be waiting until you could do nothing more strenuous than puttering around.

5. There are a lot of companies offering pre-packaged, idiot-proof Juice Cleanses. If you are a first-timer or have poor willpower, I think they are worth it, even with the hefty price tag. Each of my Urban Remedy juices features all the ingredients on the bottle and a handy list of what that particular juice addresses. I think once I’m not in caffeine withdrawal or otherwise impaired, it will be easy to replicate my favorites. But going into a juice cleanse as a newbie, I know I never would have had the strength or motivation to follow a bunch of juice recipes and whip up a concoction every two hours. Although I suppose you could pre-make the juices the day before you start a cleanse.

6. Be aware that you will be running to the bathroom every half hour. Maybe it’s all the liquids or maybe that’s why they call it a cleanse. You will never wee so much and so often in your life. So take it seriously when it is recommended that you drink a lot of water during your cleanse. Very little will stay in you.

The terriers, on the other hand, want no part of this juicing thing. Unless it involves meat smoothies.

The terriers, on the other hand, want no part of this juicing thing. Unless it involves meat smoothies.