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Oct. 26, 2016
beet juice

Mother Tongue | Beet It

On the joys and horrors of the juice cleanse

August 17, 2015, 9:40 am
By Lauren Whitehurst
Day 1 of my first and only juice cleanse did not go well. Maybe because it intersected with a mountain run?

Juice cleanses are all the rage in Santa Fe, although a July New Yorker spoof suggests the trend is elsewhere, too. Here, locavore foodie-ness, a fondness for health in all its manifestations and a certain tendency toward self-obsession make Santa Fe a good high-end juice market. Our juice love is fueled in part by a northside business, Verde, selling ber-fresh, cold-pressed juices—15.5 ounces of wellness in a bottle.

I had never done a juice cleanse, or any sort of cleanse for that matter. So many of them seem like exercises in starvation—and while I am genuinely interested in the hallucinatory experiences of fasters and other ascetics, I am not a good minimalist. I am a happy omnivore and a prodigious eater of my own meals plus everything my children leave on their plates. Also, it turns out I may have food-security issues.

I was curious about Verde’s pre-planned, six-juice-a-day cleanse program, but I did not seriously consider it until I realized that sufficient calories and morning caffeine were involved. Set at ease, I ordered the three-day cleanse and, when I picked it up, grilled the salesguy on hunger pains, contingency foods (brown rice and dates) and whether I could call the shop if I needed to be talked down from a bagel and cream cheese. I bought two extra juices just in case.

I didn’t intend to time Juice Cleanse Day 1 with heavy exercise, but it turns out that even not eating anything poses scheduling challenges. Fortunately, I have real-athlete friends who do this sort of cleanse while training far more rigorously than I ever have. Their example assured me I had nothing to worry about.

Of course, these people exercise regularly, and I’ve heard there’s something to that. My long run was inspired by the sudden realization that I’d signed up for a high-altitude run, and this was my last chance to train for it.

My husband, Adam, and I optimistically drove to the trailhead while I drank Juice #1 plus my extra, food-security juice. It was a beautiful morning, and it felt fantastic to be running in the mountains with Adam. Water and juice were all I needed; I wasn’t even tempted by my pocketsful of dates! A bracing breeze swept Deception Peak and allayed some heat on the way down.

I’d long depleted my energy and water reserves by the time we got back to our car, so I was thrilled to open Juice #2—a pretty purple concoction of beets, cucumbers, apples, celery, wheatgrass, lemon and water. I gulped it enthusiastically as I drove the windy road to town.

We were meeting family and friends on Canyon Road for lunch. As we closed in, I mentioned to Adam that I didn’t feel so well. Nothing seemed urgent until I turned into the parking lot across from El Farol restaurant and its pleasantly lunching patio customers.

At this point, I projectile vomited beet juice all over the dashboard and steering wheel of Adam’s car. It was a Juice #2 Exorcist replay—and it shorted out the car horn, which began honking relentlessly.

“Outside! Open the door! Throw up outside!” pleaded Adam, as the adjacent tourist family sped up buckling their toddler into his backpack and hurried away. I opened the door and just sat there, all vomited out, suspended in the deafening blare of the horn. Nothing would make it stop: I pressed the alarm button 20 times, turned the car off and on, pressed the horn, and we opened and shut the doors repeatedly.

Two El Farol waiters, the manager and a parking-lot attendant arrived on the scene, which was still rendering Adam and me shocked and helpless. Fortunately, one of the waiters either moonlights as a Volvo mechanic or had experienced something like this before. Not only did he know what was happening, he knew how to open the hood and pull the horn fuse. Silence. The entire El Farol lunch crowd erupted in applause across the street.

Later, after I regained some composure, if not presentability, I sat down to lunch with my family. We rested under an umbrella at the Tea House, whose charming atmosphere has long been inversely matched by service so slow that salads and sandwiches entail a three-hour meal.

I had not known a restaurant lunch was our plan, so I had not brought with me Juice #3. All I had was what remained of Juice #2, in which I was now partially bathed. I poured it over a glass of ice and sipped, slowly.

This was not an auspicious beginning to my first juice cleanse. I stuck with it, though. After Day 1, the hardest part was making my kids a mac-and-cheese lunch and resisting my taste-and-serve practice: a spoonful for you, a spoonful for me…

Aside from improving my food-service hygiene, the cleanse revealed how unconsciously I consume food and how often I unconsciously consume food. I never felt the evanescent high the salesguy attributed to juice cleanses, although the beet spew was a solid low. Because I ingested sufficient calories and protein, I never felt completely deprived; I just became more aware of my eating habits. This awareness has not led to revamping these habits—I actually broke the cleanse two juices early with red meat and red wine. But the experience was healthy and interesting, and I’ve since added dates to our pantry.

All said and done, I’d do it again, just with a more regular training schedule, slower sipping on windy roads and better-timed beets. I am drinking a Verde juice now, but I doubt I’ll do cleanses too often.

It is a priority for me to feed my family healthy, whole foods, and doing this makes me feel good. But I don’t want to put my eating too much under a microscope—or, especially, to model for my kids a detail-focused preoccupation with diet. For me, a wide variety of food offers nourishment, joy, exploration, conversation, conviviality. Sitting down with family and friends to a shared meal is a gift, whether it’s perfectly grilled local beef, kartoffelpuffers in Austria, barbecue in Oklahoma, green chile in New Mexico, KFC in the park or a homegrown salad in the backyard.

As a parent, I enjoy sharing gustatory appreciation and flexibility with my children—and it feels as holistically healthy as the occasional juice cleanse.


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