Every time I walk past the office kitchen I want a Pepsi Max. Each day, around 10.30am I allow myself to think about lunch. When I think about watching sport on my lunch break I instantly want chicken. When I watch a movie I wonder where the chocolate is. If I've learned anything in doing my juice fast it's this: we all have strange habits when it comes to food and, most of the time, we aren't even fully aware of them.
Chocolate picture from Shutterstock
In my case I often mistook my habits for genuine hunger.
On a juice fast the realisation comes after you're able to separate genuine hunger from a simple 'want'. Most of the time we don't question our impulses, we simply act and in doing so build up a matrix of expectations and ideas about food we're rarely aware of.
I don't know why I crave chocolate when I'm watching a movie. I just do. 'I must be hungry', 'I must be low on energy'. I need this chocolate. I need it. It's so easy to find ways to justify indulging in the food that will make you feel good in an instant.
I think, in the long term, these are the lessons I'll take away from this experiment. These are the lessons that will help me change those habits.
Stripping actual food from your diet forces you to re-examine every attachment you have — emotional, functional, practical — it forces you to question the impulse because you can't follow it, you can't simply silence it with a Mars Bar. It lingers. It's an impulse that sits in your gut and in the recesses of your brain. In those minutes you rationalise it. You learn to separate the need from the want and you move on. Otherwise you would just have to give up. What other choice do you have?
But it's a risky business, because it can be difficult to separate weird habitual cravings from genuine messages of distress from your body.
During my prep week I ate mostly vegetables and minimal carbs — basically a bunch of soups and salads. Back then I craved chocolate. So, so much. Maybe I wasn't getting enough sugar? It's possible. This week I've been craving chicken — is this solely from habit or because my body is suffering from a lack of protein?
Sometimes I think I know but I don't know. Now, at least, I know it's worth thinking about.
What's really happened is this: to an extent I've managed to reset my relationship to food. I've allowed myself to ruminate instead of simply reacting. That's a positive that I know will result in better food choices when I leave this diet behind. I'm fully aware that a juice diet isn't really sustainable in the long term, I'm aware that it has flaws, but it's been a worthy challenge and one that's provided me with valuable lessons — and that's what I'm hoping will help keep the weight off.
I'm allowing myself to think of the end goal now. It's Friday and I just have the weekend to go. I honestly expect both days to come and go quickly. The nature of a work day is that it is structured and relatively rigid. That's fine and necessary but with that structure comes reinforcement, with reinforcement comes habit. That's part of the reason I've always found it extremely difficult to avoid making bad food choices during work hours.
But I'm hoping that, maybe, by taking part in this crazy experiment, I've somehow found a way to break the habit.