Sunday morning, September 29. I step on the scales. 65.5kg. It's been four weeks since the end of my juice fast. For an entire week I consumed nothing but juice and water. A hellacious, strange task. I lost 5kgs in the process.
Yo-yo picture from Shutterstock
But that wasn't the end. Too many dieting 'success' stories don't include the depressing epilogue: a sharpish return to the start weight, pounds piled on, bad habits resumed. In my last Juicehacker post I promised to update a month after, to check in and answer one simple question: was it worth it? Was my juice fast worthwhile in the long term? That's a complicated question, but I'll attempt to give an honest answer.
In the four weeks since my fast ended I've transitioned back onto solid foods. It was a slow process. I began with raw vegetables on day 1. Moved onto soup on day 2. On day 3 I tried eggs. On day 4 I gave salmon a bash. I remained disciplined. I ate no junk food, ate zero chocolate. I exercised frequently. By the end of the week, I was back onto solids 100 per cent.
Then came the next three weeks. I ate clean, I exercised. It was a strange journey -- perhaps even stranger than the fast itself -- with some unexpected, confusing twists.
One week after the fast. Despair. I stand on the scales. 67.5kg. It doesn't make any fucking sense. In one single week I had put on half the weight I had lost during the fast. All that effort, all that discipline, all that work for nothing. Despite the exercise, despite sticking rigidly to healthy foods -- salads, fish, minimal carbs -- I had been slamming the weight on.
During the first seven days of solid food I exercised religiously. My main motivation for losing weight was to improve strength-weight ratio for climbing, but I focused my effort on cardio. I was terrified of losing the strength gains I had made with the lost weight so I wanted to maintain that. I didn't climb at all -- I walked. That's it. Makes sense, or zero sense at all depending on your perspective. Stop doing the thing you love to maintain the weight you lost to help do the thing you love -- great thinking Einstein.
So the weight piled on and I had no idea why.
With hindsight, I have a couple of explanations. The first is obvious: before I had no food in my stomach to digest, now I was eating solids and there was additional food (and weight) in my system waiting to be pooped out. And here's the thing: there wasn't much pooping going on. About halfway through my fast I squeezed out a few number 2s here and there. But there was a point, during my first week on solids where I hadn't passed a stool for seven days.
And when it did come out? Well, let's just say it was a strenuous effort on my part and leave it at that.
So I was heavily constipated, but there was another issue: my metabolism had slowed to a crawl. It made sense when I thought about it. I actually lost all of my weight during the first four days of the juice fast. In the final three days it was almost as if my body had gotten used to the amount of fuel I was putting in my body and slowed the machine down a little.
When I started putting all this solid food into my body, it had no idea how to deal with it.
I felt as though there was practically nothing I could do to solve that issue but I did get proactive. To get my metabolism back up to scratch I tried a few different things: I started climbing again, but continued with cardio on my rest days. I started eating way more for breakfast, but a little bit less for dinner. I drank more water. I drank peppermint tea. And I continued to avoid chocolate and soft drinks.
Over the next two weeks, the weight fell off again. In one week I was back at a steady 66kgs, now I usually sit at around 65.5kg.
Little known fact: I wasn't alone in my juice fast. When I told my brother in-law I was attempting it, he immediately wanted to get on board. He wanted to lose weight and the idea of enduring this difficult task with someone he knew felt like a great idea, for the both of us. He committed to five days on the juice fast and also lost 5 kgs.
Two weeks later: he had put all the weight back on.
I'm sure if you asked him the reason why he would answer honestly: he immediately went back to same eating habits he had before the fast. He was less careful transitioning back onto solids, he didn't exercise regularly.
I went to the opposite extreme. I had felt the difference in my climbing with the lost weight, and I didn't want to go back. I had a real motivation. I saw the juice fast not as an end goal, but as a start point, and I ran with it.
I ate relatively healthy before the juice fast, but I had a few bad habits: I tended to snack on chocolate throughout the day. I drank a lot of Coke Zero -- five cans a day was a regular occurrence. In preparation for the fast I gave up chocolate, quit caffeinated drinks and stopped eating meat. It was a living hell. The cravings were intense. In many ways the preparation week was more difficult than the juice fast itself.
But after the prep week -- and the subsequent juice week -- I found that I no longer wanted chocolate or caffeine at all. Almost as if the fast had completely reset my taste buds and cravings, giving me a new understanding of what actual hunger was. Those two weeks had given me a different perspective on the foods I was eating and reasons I had for eating them. More than the raw kilograms lost, that might have been the most valuable part of taking part in the juice fast.
I haven't eaten chocolate or any kind of refined sugar in over six weeks now. I haven't consumed a single caffeinated drink. That's been a conscious choice on my part, but remaining disciplined in those choices has been directly impacted by my decision to go on the juice fast. It made sticking to those choices infinitely easier. My current lifestyle is a healthier one because I did the juice fast; I have absolutely no doubt of that.
But finally, the big question: was it all worth it? Was it worth the pain, stress and difficulty of only consuming juice for an entire week? It's a difficult one to parse. I lost a lot of weight during the fast, but would I have lost the same amount of weight by just eating healthily the way I am now? Possibly.
But would I have been able to maintain my current disciplined habits without the diet reset that a juice fast provides? That's the question that muddies the waters.
I am tempted to claim that the end justifies the means. I am at my target weight, I am eating healthier than before. I'm climbing stronger than ever. All my goals have been met. Mission accomplished I guess.
There's a but.
If I had any advice for people considering a juice diet it would be this: make your fast the start, not the end point. Be careful how you transition. Commit yourself to applying the hard lessons learned in the longer term -- don't squander that opportunity. It's shockingly easy to return to old habits but a juice fast provides a golden opportunity: it allows you to break habits you previously thought were unbreakable. That's a powerful thing.