Seeking forgiveness for my nutritional sins
Integrative health counselor Kathy Helms oversees the hugely popular juice-cleanse program at The Well.
Photos by Peggy Garbus
Ever overindulge? Guilty! I try to have self-control—really I do—but I’m an enthusiast. I love the social aspect of enjoying great food and wine with friends and family.
However, after a period of serial gluttony one has to “pay the piper,” as my Scottish grandfather used to say. And this past winter, the piper was not only standing directly in front of me with his hand extended, but he was also tapping his foot. With a tropical vacation looming, I discovered, much to my dismay, that zippers wouldn’t zip and buttons wouldn’t button. Was I doomed to wear a floral muumuu versus a flirty bathing suit?
Desperate and yearning for immediate weight-loss gratification I popped into The Well, an organic health food store (with gourmet takeout and a juice bar), to consult with owner Kathy Helms, an integrative health coach. Would a three-day juice cleanse make me feel better and get me into a bathing suit? “Absolutely,” said Helms. “But instead of three days, how about ten?” Gulp.
Helms explained that the first five days would consist of healthy organic juices and teas designed to kickstart my metabolism. I would never be hungry, she promised. “Never?” I asked, feeling my stomach clench in fear. “Never.” she confirmed. “But I’ll detox and feel lousy, right?” I asked.
“Our program is not a detox,” said Helms. “It’s a cleanse and an opportunity to eliminate processed foods—especially sugar and dairy—from your diet. By also eliminating meats, you’ll cleanse your palate and become more alkaline. You’ll rest your digestive system and allow your lymphatic system to work.”
This sounded both sensible and scientific. Helms is leery of programs touting detox benefits with the use of processed powders and meal replacements. “That way of eating is not sustainable. Real, healthy food not only fills us up but, most important, it nourishes us and gives our internal organs a break.”
I perked up. So there would be actual food on the program? Yes, but only after the first five days. During the second phase, I would consume hearty soups, salads, and smoothies. “Ten days?” I said breezily, belying my doubts. “No problem.”
I filled out health forms and was instructed to begin limiting my intake of caffeine, dairy, sugar, processed foods, red meat, and alcohol. I nodded obligingly, and perversely spent the next several days eating and drinking all the forbidden foods. I was also encouraged to take a holistic approach by going to bed earlier and planning on a lighter exercise regime during the cleanse process.
On the first morning, I was handed a small royal-blue cooler bag that held six reusable Mason jars filled with various juices; a container with two fiber pills and one probiotic; a bag of sweet-smelling Epsom salts for baths, and numerous tea bags with names that scared me. (“Roasted Dandelion Root” and “Smooth Move” have never been on my gustatory bucket list.) The juices ranged from absolutely delicious to please-mommy-don’t-make-me. But I drank them all even if it meant sometimes pinching my nose. The highlight of my day was Marley’s Milk, (a sweet blend of almond milk, hemp, banana and cinnamon) and I eyeballed that jar the way my Labrador salivates over leftover sirloin.
There was also a small container of solidified coconut oil for oil pulling. What? I consulted my notes, which instructed me to put a chunk into my mouth, allow it to melt, and then gently swish it around for twenty minutes and spit it out. The benefits purportedly included whiter teeth and healthier gums. It was a bizarre, though not unpleasant, daily ritual.
What I found surprising was that I was never hungry. I did miss chewing, but the addition of one tablespoon of roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds on Day Two left me giddy with joy. By Day Five, I woke up doing a mental jig because I’d made it to the halfway point. But wait! It was only Day Four. Sigh.
The second half of my cleanse adventure included a combination of soups, salads, nuts and juices. I inhaled the Good Green Morning smoothie (greens, celery, apple, lemon coconut water, avocado) and the Peter Rabbit Salad (green cabbage, cauliflower, fennel, toasted-sesame oil). Every day held a nutritional surprise with a new taste or texture. Who knew that I liked mung bean soup?
According to Helms, “If you eat the right sugar in the morning you won’t crave it at three in the afternoon. Your body needs sugar for fuel but it doesn’t need it from an Oreo. Better to get it from a bell pepper, sweet potato, or dates.”
At the end of ten days I had lost ten pounds and acquired tons of energy. And yes, zippers zipped, buttons buttoned, and when I hit the beach it was in a new bathing suit and thankfully, not a muumuu.