Fuck Your Juice Cleanse

With New Year Resolutions fresh in our minds and beach body time just around the corner, it's easy to think of all the tortures we've put our bodies through. It could be that month-long bender. The sweets table at every holiday party. Your prodigious collection of second - and third - helpings. Let's be honest, it wasn't just one month of Bacchanalian indulgence.

Whatever the indiscretions were, it's time to wash our sins clean in the cathartic quest for the 'New You'. For some, it's a back-to-basics attempt at a normal lifestyle. For others, it's hardcore gym time. And for a select, special few, it's silver bullet time. It's time for a juice cleanse.

The most drastic juices cleanses are regimens of 'cold-pressed' fruit and vegetable concoctions that replace all real food in the diet for one to two weeks. It's all in the name of flushing deadly toxin build-up from the body, giving vital organs a 'reset', and melting stubborn belly fat away. To the uninitiated, it sounds great on paper. Fruits and vegetables are healthy; what was previously eaten was most certainly not healthy. For just a couple weeks or time and money invested, you, too, can be slim and beautiful. After all, you are what you eat.

We understand your pain - why must all of the bad things taste so good? We, too, have struggled to maintain a healthy physique. Some of us have dedicated themselves to discovering the perfect diet and lifestyle. But there's one thing we cannot understand.

Fuck your juice cleanse.

"I think people in this country have had enough of experts"

Between environmental pollution, pesticide-laden produce, and manufactured food, it's easy to imagine a world where all of those residual ills eventually make it - and stay - in our systems. The info from one of the top juice cleanse sites in Canada helpfully lets us know that their juices are designed to give our bodies a break from the "plethora of pasteurized and processed food" in our diets (bonus points awarded for the use of consonance). Sounds scary.

What is pasteurization, anyways? It sounds like the doings of someone in a lab coat - certainly not anyone concerned about culinary wellbeing. For those whose fourth-grade science class is a distant memory, pasteurization is the process of heating a food product to kill bacterial pathogens. Sounds suspiciously like science - and canning, and cooking.

As a matter of fact, what are toxins? It's a broad category for all things that are harmful to the body: poison. We've got some obviously dangerous chemicals to stay away from; cyanide, mercury, and lead, for example, shouldn't be making their way into our systems. But the real truth is that the dose makes the poison.

Chocolate, for instance, contains theobromine, a bitter alkaloid; in high enough doses, it can cause nausea, vomiting, and death. Thankfully, the average human would have to force back nearly six kilograms of dark chocolate, or about 40 kilograms of milk chocolate, in one sitting to truly experience death by chocolate. Dogs, who metabolize theobromine nearly three times as slowly, should stay away. Many vitamins, too, can be toxic in high enough doses. It's one of the reasons why, if you're trapped in the far North while on expedition, you should stay away from the liver of the bearded sea lion for emergency rations; it has a concentration of vitamin D so high it will cause your liver and kidneys to shut down.

Thankfully, our bodies have specialized organs designed to filter and purge unwanted things from us. In this case our liver plays the lead man, supported by kidneys and lungs. We metabolize, respirate, and otherwise excrete things that aren't supposed to be in our bodies. Sure, it's entirely possible to overwhelm your system, but only in extreme circumstances (may we suggest abstaining from bearded sea lion liver until you get back to civilized country?). Certain heavy metals are extremely difficult for the body to remove by themselves. There's also conditions that can interfere with organ function. But in those cases you need to see a doctor for immediate treatment, not a week of juice.

In fact, any claim by juice cleanse companies about the - ahem - cleansing effects of their product on the bowels is false. Juice practitioners often experience constipation or diarrhea - often interpreted as the effects of 'poisons' leaving the system. Instead, it's probably being perpetrated by the low amount of dietary fibre in a standard juice cleanse: far less than the average recommended intake of 28 grams of fibre daily. Juices don't rest the digestive system - they break them.

But what about fat loss? Certainly a diet of clean, organic juices is better than fast-food fuel. We certainly can't refute that you should skip the trip to the food court if you're trying to stay healthy; but there are plenty of better, more sustainable ways to shed the pounds. Most juice cleanses contain between 960 to 1,520 daily calories: a severe deficit from the recommended 2,000 to 2,600 calories recommended for a healthy woman or man, respectively.

Do some inexact caloric math and you'll find that someone eating 500 less calories than needed will shed about a pound of body fat in a week of juice. It might even look like more, but that's because the body needs roughly three grams of water to hold a gram of glycogen (fat) in your muscles. Weight loss doesn't equate to fat loss - that's an imperfect metric. For those looking to change and measure their true body composition, our advice is to get a good body calliper or - better yet - go for a full body scan. And not to juice.

"I just need this to reset my body into eating healthier"

Drastic times call for drastic measures; even for those who don't buy into the inexplicable pseudoscience marketing of most juice cleanse regimes may reach for the bottle as wake-up moment for the body. Just a week of vitamin-rich juice to start the new diet off on the right foot. Those exact same people are also three times more likely to hip check you on their way to the chips aisle after the cleanse is done.

Cutting the junk food cold turkey, especially when coupled with an extreme caloric deficit, won't do you any favours. In fact, you have a greater chance of intensifying your cravings to the point of breaking. Most modern research points to mental imagery as a core component of food cravings. Six days into an all-liquid, cold-pressed diet, all bets are there is only one thing on the mind: bacon cheeseburgers.

Rather than opting for two weeks of pain, it's time to focus on lifestyle choices for the other 50 weeks of the year. No amount of concoctions can remedy a full-time diet of poor choices. It's analogous to regularly running a blender - albeit, in this analogy, the blender is a highly sophisticated, self-healing blender - with rocks and ball bearings. Rinsing the machine with water then continuing with the status quo isn't a productive exercise in blender/body longevity.

There's a few ways to avoid our judgement

By all means, reach for that bottle of juice. But to save yourself from our foodie judgement, you've got to be drinking it because it tastes good. Or, as a supplement to a balanced diet of whole foods, you've decided that you'd rather get some essential vitamins from liquid sources. In essence, remove the word 'cleanse' from the equation and we're all for your expensive organic juice habit; there are worse habits to have.

It's also hard to be mad at juicing businesses. Let's be frank, it's a fantastic business model: take an incredibly cheap raw ingredient, mark it up 8x, and sell it in bulk to customers desperate to fit last season's clothes. It's brilliant. Especially knowing that with the right marketing and guidance, those same customers will come back each year, ready for the same silver bullet service.

But that's all a juice cleanse is: a business built upon insecurities, ignorance, and hardly a shred of science.

Words by Nicholas Wong.  Photos by Abhishek Dekate.