Thursday, January 9, 2020

Thoughts on a Juice Fast and a Recipe for Homemade Almond Milk (Raw, Delicious)



If you just want that almond milk recipe, skip to the end. If you're interested in my experiment with a juice fast, keep reading.

Back in October, I did something slightly insane. I tried a juice fast. Interestingly, I almost did the same thing at about this time last year. Apparently, Mark and Kip's birthdays (nine days apart) kind of do me in and make me feel gross.

My main goal was to re-set my body. I wanted good things in it. I wanted my bowels to have a bit of a break. And I wanted to re-set my appetite away from junk and towards better things. I even kind of wanted to see if my stomach would feel smaller and I would eat less afterwards. (And was curious if the deprival would actually make me eat more afterwards, thereby backfiring.)

Juice fasts are NOT cheapskate things to do. In fact, in my first search while doing research I was admonished to be sure I planned a day at the spa because this was tough stuff (insert eye roll). And another said they couldn't possibly have done the juice fast without going to a retreat. Seriously, America. But now I'm one of them (minus the spa or retreat, but still the crazy). I will say that I did it in a fairly cheap way. For a juice fast. Which, as I said, still isn't cheap (at least $10/person/day and that's with homemade juices, which is tough because you're kind of tired anyway).

Last year, I did some research on a juice fast, bought ingredients, and then...I had a juice instead of a meal or two and felt better and called it good. Part of me firmly believes that that, in fact, was the right choice and all any of us needs to or should ever do.

But this year, I decided to go for the whole three-day fast. I wanted to do it as an experiment if nothing else. Would it really make my body feel better? Would I be toxin-free, less bloated, and basically glowing when I was done? Uh...

It has, indeed, been interesting.

Below you'll find my experience and thoughts. You'll also find a perfectly perfect almond milk recipe because, well, some might say, I cheated (depends on who you talk to in the juice fasting community).

Also, I didn't always follow all the rules (didn't drink juice every two hours and stuff like that; I had a life to live, but I see how that would have helped keep sugars steady and I did my best).

Day 1:

Expectations:

I did not expect this day to be particularly hard. I regularly fast two meals once a month for religious purposes (no food and NO water--ouch it's hard). So I thought this juice thing would be a breeze.

Actual experience:

-It was not hard until dinner.
-My teeth felt dirty and I determined to brush them more often the following day.
-I took a HUGE, deep nap in the afternoon. To be fair, I'm not sure if juicing is to blame. We'd hosted Kip's parents over the weekend, and I could have been just tired. Also, everyone warns you that you'll be tired, so I kind of expected that a little, but not 1 1/2 hour nap level.
-I felt weirdly dehydrated. I suppose this is because I was drinking so much juice with all those natural sugars, and drinking more seemed like so much fluid.

-In the morning I had a beet juice combo and it honestly seemed like a perfectly reasonable breakfast, especially since the last week and a half had been so full of food. It felt good to enjoy that simple breakfast. I worked out as usual (core class followed by reading while walking on the treadmill--about 50-60 minutes total). Life proceeded as usual. By 11, I was hungry, but that's not way out of the usual.
-For lunch I had a carrot orange juice. It was perfectly delicious, but also intensely sweet. Then I did some work and took my huge nap.
-At dinner, I truly missed food. I was somewhat prepared for this, but what I wasn't prepared for was to have trouble drinking my juice (a green kale/spinach/apple combo). I was just juiced out. I almost felt like I'd rather eat nothing than drink another juice. I got about 2/3 through the juice and just couldn't drink the rest. It was a strange feeling--I was hungry, and I enjoy that juice (I've had it before and consider it a "treat" not an obligation to my health), but thinking of drinking the rest made me want to hurl. In fact, I had a slight dull headache also.
-This is when I decided to kind of sort of cheat. I googled whether nut milks were allowed on juice fasts. Depends on who you talk to. Nut milks are, after all, basically, nut juices. But sometimes people are doing a juice fast as a type of elimination diet (see what is irritating your gut or whatever) and nuts are a common thing to eliminate. But I really really felt like I needed something besides that dang juice. So I made my first ever almond milk and if nothing else good comes from this experiment, it was worth it just for that. That almond milk was just what I wanted and it seems it was just what my body needed. When it was done later that night, I slammed two glassfuls down. Just chugged them. Now, I'd been warned not to do this with the juices, but the truth is that I'd never been tempted to. I just sipped along on them for, like, an hour. I don't know if I could have chugged them if I'd tried. As I said, sometimes even consuming the whole thing was a challenge. But I chugged those almond milks. And it felt amazing. Until about 45 minutes later when it didn't. But it was fine.
-I was way tired, a bit foggy headed, and a bit head-achy. Went to bed and slept a fantastic sleep.

Day 2:

Expectations:

-Not to be too miserable. Dinner would be hard. Looked forward to trying a cashew milk.

Actual things that happened:

-I woke up feeling great. In fact, every morning, I felt pretty great and I slept extremely well throughout this experiment (except the last night). Beet orange juice for breakfast (I actually preferred these beet combo juices in general--they felt a bit more substantial than the others)
-Did a 30 minute weight workout with Kip. Felt a bit sluggish, but okay. Consumed nut milk post workout. Loved it.
-Lunch was a green juice. Was bored out of my mind of juice. Wanted more variety, but couldn't find it in the raw juices Evansville has to offer for purchase. Bought some stuff to make my own juice, plus a Naked (not raw and not unpasteurized) juice for dinner (which also had pulp in it making it not a true juice either. Didn't care; I felt desperate for some variety and it promised coconut!)
-Did a butt ton of work in the afternoon and did not take a huge, ridiculous nap.
-Felt blerg.
-Brushed my teeth three times instead of two.
-Really sluggish in the evening. Very low level headache. Also very low level ache in mouth teeth. No idea why. From not chewing. From so much acid from the vegetables/fruit.
-Was NOT glowing. In fact, I felt kind of low-level sick. It seemed that this whole trend was just a way for healthy, wealthy people to force their bodies to feel less optimal. That seemed pretty stupid to me. Also, when I confessed my juice fast to my sister on the phone, she told me they'd just had a specialist on eating disorders talk to their youth group and cleanses and juice fasts of all types were on her naughty list. At this point, they were kind of on my naughty list too, and I wondered if I should finish it up or not. I wondered if it was setting a poor example for my children and even talked to my girls about how this was an experiment and how I might even end up feeling it was bad for me in the long run.
-Naked juice for dinner. It was a cheat (pulp of some of the fruits/veggies included) and it was repulsive (sorry, spirulina; you just don't belong in juice...). I literally had to try to let the juice flow past most of my tongue. And, again, I struggled to drink the whole thing because I was so juiced out.
-Warm cashew milk for an evening snack. Yeah, it sounds gross, but when you've been drinking juice all day, it's pretty delicious.
-Very tired in the evening. Very FOGGY brained. Felt a little low level sick--like when you're not really sick, but somewhat under the weather.
-I did not experience crippling hunger (I credit this to the nut milks, though that is not logical since they only have, like, 35 calories and are mostly water. But somehow they felt much more filling than the juices.)

Day Three:

Expectations:

-Hard. Hungry. Might break and have normal dinner. Wasn't sure.
-I considered eating dinner this night. I felt I had sufficient "data" for my experiment. And I was just so juiced out. What about a nice salad. I kept it on the table (hehe puns) as an option, but kind of wanted to try the whole three days to see if any miracles happened. If I ate, I would lose the last twelve hours of my experiment. But if I was too miserable to care, then I was going for dinner.

Actual Results:

-Again in the morning, I felt just fine. In fact, I felt good. Energetic, not starving, and extremely well rested. Beet combo juice for breakfast.
-Did a yoga workout and my stomach started growling in the middle. This is 9:30 or so. This was the first morning, I'd felt that hungry.
-Cashew milk post workout snack. Prepared more almond milk because I'm an addict now.
-Cucumber grapefruit juice for lunch (my own creation and perfectly amazing, though not filling at all).
-Afternoon hunger. This truly was the first day where I felt significantly hungry. The other days I experienced hunger, but nothing too significant. The third day my stomach growled much of the day.
-Kept with the juice that night. Didn't want it, but drank it. Just wanted to see what happened.
-Did NOT sleep well. The other night's I'd slept so much better than usual, but this night, I slept worse. Don't know why.


Overall:

-Some people report an, um, cleansing of the bowels. This, I believe, is a sometimes effect of any type of fasting and I'm not sure why. But I didn't experience that (nor do I during my monthly religious fasts). In fact, after day one, my bowels just kind of hung out and chilled. This was interesting and, honestly, kind of nice. I had almost (TMI warning) no gas whereas in usual food-eating life, I have plenty (though it smells perfectly neutral unless I'm sick) as do most food-eating humans.
-I also slept like a log (except for the last night). I can't help but think that part of the reason for that is that my body wasn't trying to digest a huge dinner and/or dessert still.

Pros:

-I slept like a freaking angel (most of the time). My takeaway is that it might be beneficial for me to eat earlier in the evening and then to not eat anything else until bed. I wonder if my digestive track is just working overtime while I sleep. Or it could have been cause by low blood-sugar levels. Not sure.
-Because of my great sleep, I enjoyed fairly energized mornings.
-I did feel mostly completely unbloated (except when I chugged the almond milk that one night). That said, I don't often feel bloated, but I definitely noticed less gas. That said, gas is just an indication that our bowels are moving so... is having non-moving bowels a good thing. Jury's out on this one, especially since I don't have offensive stinky gas anyway (usually).
-I suppose I consumed many vitamins and minerals.
-I learned to make delicious nut milks and became an addict.
-Do I feel like I re-set my body? This was my main goal. I wanted to wash out the crap (maybe literally though that didn't happen) and re-adjust my appetite and junk eating expectations. On some level, this definitely happened. When I craved food, it was nuts and real, delicious wholesome foods. I did NOT want sweets of any kind. The thought made me sick (perhaps because of all the sugar in the juices already?) [Several months later update: This craving healthy food effect lasted for over a month and may have lasted longer if the holidays hadn't hit. I didn't crave sugar, almost at all. When I did, a bite or two of something would fully satiate me, and more than that felt a little icky. I had some pie at Thanksgiving and then slid into Christmas and began eating more sweets again, but the long-term effects of reduced unhealthy cravings makes me feel like the fast may have been worthwhile after all.]


Cons:

-I felt kind of sick at several stages of this. I'm not sure how wealthy you have to be as a culture to invoke sick-feeling-ness in the name of healthy.
-I felt foggy as heck at night. Like, wondered if I should drive a vehicle foggy. I just wasn't as sharp feeling as usual and had very low energy. I went to bed early (maybe this is a very good thing), but didn't have my usual evening energy.
-No bowel cleanse, though I'm not sure I'm sad about that.
-Sure, I lost weight, but come on, it's not going to stay that way [Several months later update: Half of it did stay away until the holidays due to my healthier eating and cravings, so about 2-3 pounds].
-This would seriously wreck your teeth if you did it often enough. I brushed extra, but chewing really does a lot to cleanse the teeth (I mean, maybe not if you're chewing cookies, but fruits or veggies or other foods get a lot of junk off your teeth; I hadn't realized how much. And the sugar/acid bath that is juice (yes, even veggie juice on some level) would be hard on teeth over time.

TAKEAWAYS:

-Eat less several hours before bed.
-Juice for breakfast as an occasional mini-fast is very cleansing and nutritious. I fully support it. If you're really desperate, do breakfast and lunch, or breakfast and dinner. Juice all day every day for three days is blerg, but did have some long-term effects that I considered fully helpful. I think a juice fast (I would say no longer than 3 days) would be helpful once, maybe twice a year (but definitely not more than that, or your just disordering your eating).

Almond Milk
Make: 3-4 C
Cost: $4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Wait time: 1-5 hours (the almost must sit in water)
adapted from Detoxinista

Ingredients:

1 C almonds
8 C water (4 four soaking and 4 fresh for blending)

Optional ingredients:

-2-4 dates
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 Tbsp cocoa
-warm spices

Put one cup almonds with 4 cups water. Soak for 4 hours. Want to speed this up? Use very hot water, and you'll only need an hour or so. This is what I did.

Drain water.

Add 4 more cups water to almonds. Blend away in a good blender (though you DON'T need a super fancy one like BlendTec)

Strain through cheesecloth, nut cloth, or just a plain old tea towel (that's what I used; purchased from Walmart and very cheap). I set my cloth over a wire mesh strainer. It strains quickly (as opposed to something like cheese) so this should only take a few minutes. Then squeeze the rest out, which takes another minute or two.





Drink. But don't chug. Seriously, I never chug store bought almond milk, but this stuff is so creamy and good, I have to stop myself. I thought that had just been an effect of the fast, but today when I made it, I had to put on the breaks again. It's so good.

If using optional ingredient, include them when blending. Or you can add the vanilla and cocoa after straining. Up to you.



What to do with that pulp? My true advice? Nothing. Throw it out. If you've got chickens, feed it to them. I know that is so un-cheapskate of me, but truly, it's not very good. It has, supposedly, very few nutrients/flavor left (though I'm sure it's got fiber). And the truth is that I tried two recipes using it--one from the same blogger who gave us this delicious recipe and one of my own nut balls--and they were both flavorless, requiring so much more sugar and huzzah to make them taste good. You got your nutrition in the nut milk. The pulp doesn't have much left. If you find an amazing way to use it, however,  I'd love to hear about it in the comments, though.


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