Mastering the art of the juice cleanse

So I just finished a 3-day juice cleanse. Yup, that's right. Me. No food. Seventy-two hours. I can read your mind as you're looking at the screen, thinking to yourself, "There's no way I could ever do that. I need to eat." Guys, I work as a food and travel writer. I am not one to skip meals. I eat. A lot. And I've never felt as energized as I did during those 3 days. Ever.

Sure, I'd done cleanses before. There were those terrible Colon Cleanse pills from Trader Joe's that made my gut feel like I'd been sucker punched by Rocky Balboa. Or the liquid Master Cleanse, whose astringent citric acid and cayenne pepper made me feel like I had an ulcer the size of a lemon. I quit both a few days in. But with this juicing business, there wasn't a single moment where quitting seemed remotely appealing. I could have gone for longer, in fact. That clean, green juice was like rocket fuel!

Just look at what I accomplished in three days: cleaned my entire house (I mean really cleaned, which is a rarity); filed my taxes; responded to all of my emails that stacked up from two weeks of travel, completely emptying my inbox (!!!); went through all of my paper mail; finally organized getting my car fixed; completed an entire to-do list; pitched publications I'd been meaning to for months, but put off; exercised; cleared out my closet; and most importantly, made myself feel healthy again.  Pretty amazing considering I could barely get out of bed 6 days ago.

Which brings me to the rewind. I've been traveling a lot lately. A lot being twelve flights in the past 4 months, 6 of which were international. I know, boo hoo, but it takes a toll on your body. After retuning home from Baja California del Sur last week, I got sick. Really sick. It wasn't by any means the food in Baja (which was AMAZING!) -- it couldn't have been because too much time elapsed for food poisoning to be an option. Besides, I can eat in at any street food cart around the globe and be hunky dory. It was my body's way of telling me to make a change. So as soon as I could walk again, I started juicing. And juicing. And juicing.

There wasn't much method to my madness. I tried to base my concoctions off of what's inside the Blue Print Cleanse, which I was turned on to at the new LA-based yoga/supper club Downward Dining. My meager freelancer budget didn't allow for the BPC's $65/day price tag, so I stocked up on heaps of organic kale (calcium, iron, vitamin A), spinach (calcium, iron, vitamin B, good for liver/kidney functioning), lemons (vitamin C), ginger (vitamin C), cucumbers (magnesese, potassium, helps lower blood pressure), parsley (vitamin C), beets (vitamin A, good for circulation), carrot juice (vitamin C), coconut water, and raw apple juice.  Since I have yet to steal my parents' juicer, I just used a blender to mix all of the items together. Yes, that meant that my drinks were a bit chunky, but like I said, I have a stomach of steel. But if you'd like to donate a turbo-charged Vitamix blender to my cause, by all means... (Can't blame a girl for trying, right? You can make almond milk in those things!)

For my three main "meals" I'd throw a few cups of the greens in the blender along with some liquid and a healthy portion of grated ginger. Blending it means that you don't lose any of the enzymes in the plant matter. I'd add some cayenne (good for circulation and digestion) to my  mid-day drinks, and if I craved a little sweetness I'd put in a dabble of organic agave syrup (it's low glycemic index makes it easy to process). If I needed a snack, I made a smaller juice or some green tea. And I hydrated -- a lot. There were a few moments where I simply needed something solid, so I had a couple slices of cucumber or 1/4 of an avocado, per the Blue Print model.

On day two of the cleanse, I decided to pop over to one of my favorite spots, Silverlake Juice and Tea for a break in my juicing routine. They've got all the nifty juicing gadgetry (see: Vitamix) and organic goodies to make even better tipples, and I needed a break. Low and behold, a lovely fella behind the bar invited me to a juicing class hosted by the shop's owner, Baba Ji, that happened to be going on this weekend.

The class was a mixed bag of folks, but everyone shared a common interest in heightening their health. Baba Ji was just the guy to share the knowledge. Several years back, he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Instead of tossing back a cocktail of pills, he decided to juice. And it worked. Fifty pounds lighter with a radiant energy, he's the poster boy for the lifestyle.

"It's not brain surgery. What you put in your body, that's what you are," he says, taking a Brillat-Savarin approach to the whole thing.

But there are a few rules that Baba abides by without fail. The first is to drink your juice within 5-7 minutes of producing it so that the enzymes don't break down, oxidize, or separate. Second is to buy organic, especially if you're doing a cleanse. Do you really want to be mainlining pesticides into your liver? Didn't think so. Most importantly, he advises avoidance of anything with sugar before noon. For breakfast, he recommends going straight for his signature juice: a refreshing mix of dandelion (good for liver functioning), cucumber, lemon and ginger. After noon is time for sweeter juices, like a mix of orange, ginger, and lemon, or a beet-based juice. Like most things in life, it's all about the timing. And of course having fun! Don't worry about being rigid with proportions of apples to oranges, just tweak things as you go. You'll figure it out. As for materials, Baba's favorite juicer is the Omega 330. And if you're want to stimulate your mind while you work on that bod, take a peek at Deepak Chopra's "Ageless Body, Timeless Mind."

Now, Baba is not a big fan of this whole "cleansing" business per se. He believes that your body does that on the daily, so if you're treating it right -- especially in the morning -- your liver, kidneys, and other organs should be functioning just fine. But if you did want to do a fast for a few days, be sure to ease your way out of it. Don't shock your body immediately with chicken fried steak. Ween yourself back onto the solids with things like greens, steamed veggies, whole grains, and small doses of lean protein.

It shouldn't have to be a big production though. I was amazed at how people consoled me when I'd explain why I was turning down 'ritas at El Chavo or lattes at Intelli. "You don't need to lose weight! Why are you juicing?" It's so not about that. It's about feeling better. Living better. Being better. Try it. You'll see.