Like some seasonal rhythm such as that which dictates the hibernation of bears and bats in the wintertime, the onset of junk party invitations and beachside soirees in the summer also sends humans to the gym in frenzied droves. In between the calorie-controlled meal planning and cardio sessions, there’s always the temptation to juice cleanse away the previous months’ worth of excess. Documentaries such as “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” chronicling Joe Cross’ incredible 100lbs weight loss journey by drinking green smoothies certainly give us hope.
But the idea that sipping cocktails of fresh fruit juices all day can give you the svelte physique of your dreams is a sore misconception — it simply doesn’t work that way. Instead of going on a juice detox with the goal of losing weight, it should be treated as an opportunity to soak up much-needed nutrients as you move out of a bad-eating spell. It’s a break for your body to quietly recalibrate itself to function at an optimum level.
Melanie Barnish, founder of Genie Juicery, tells us, “It’s true that your body is designed to naturally detox via the liver and kidneys, but it is rarely given the chance due to our tendencies to regularly consume potent ingredients, like alcohol and caffeine, and our exposure to environmental factors such as pollution. Embarking on a juice cleanse gives the body a break, maximising potential for nutrient absorption.”
I’ve had my own brush with juice detoxing a few years ago, albeit it being a one-day cleanse, which didn’t amount to much besides hangriness. They say you only get the health benefits of a juice cleanse (lowered inflammation, a more effective gut reset, de-bloating and more) once your body acclimatises after 72 hours. So this time, I opted for a three-day cleanse with Genie Juicery, hoping to feel better rather than vying for a change on the scale.
The juice cleanse
I went for the Intermediate Cleanse, which delivered eight bottles a day at a total of 1,160 calories (HK$1,700 for three days), which sounded like a manageable number so that I wouldn’t be under-feeding my body too drastically (my basal metabolic rate is roughly 1,500 calories a day).
Rather than a pure liquid diet like many juice cleanse companies out there offer, the Genie Juicery cleanse also included a sachet of milled psyllium husks, to be mixed and taken with water each morning before starting the juices, and a bag of chia seeds to be added to your afternoon juice. Both help to add fibre to your diet, which is essential to help you move toxins out of the body. There’s no use “detoxing” if you can’t actually get rid of the stuff from your system, and there’s a danger that you end up re-intoxicating yourself if you don’t. Chia seeds also contain a good amount of protein, which helps keep you full, as well as heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.
On day one when I was new to psyllium husks, I found it strange how it instantly gums up when it touches water — like a slurry that tasted like wheatgerm, which was not half bad. I later came to appreciate this morning step, simply because all the other juices had to be drunk icy cold so it’s as fresh as possible, and here I could stir the psyllium husks into a large glass of comforting warm water.
After the husks, my day of juicing started with The Master — a take on the classic Master Cleanse that Beyonce famously did to lose weight for Dreamgirls back in 2006. A mix of lemon, lime, acai berry, raw maple syrup, cayenne and chia seeds made for a tart and acidic juice to wake up the system in the morning. It was not as spicy as other cayenne-based tonics I’ve tried in the past.
At 11:30am when I typically start thinking of lunch plans, it was a rude awakening to remember the Smooth Operator juice I had in the fridge. A thick smoothie made with banana, avocado, spinach, more chia seeds and vanilla, I had to sip this slowly because I felt so cold, but I was full quite easily from this.
My next juice was the Green Dream — coconut water, cucumber, celery, spinach and aloe vera. This was my favourite: ever so slightly sweeter than your typical green juice that you can get from any sidewalk juice stand but with just 7g of sugar, and with an obvious coconutty tang. I enjoyed the astringency from the celery — the bitterness made me feel like I was actually detoxing my body.
Next, the Orang Utan was a bright orange-coloured juice thanks to the mix of carrot and orange, with a touch of ginger and turmeric — it tasted a tad too sweet for my liking and this one had 27g of sugar!
In the afternoon, I felt a low-key brain freeze — an ache at the back of my head. I started to burp a lot. I chugged the Sawadekah, because it gave off a jackfruit-y aroma of exotic fruit that I didn’t like — perhaps thanks to the blend of coriander with pineapple. I gave my desk neighbour a taste since she loves coriander, and she actually really enjoyed it.
Thankfully, my next drink Hawaii H2O was a lighter juice — basically coconut water with spinach and enriched with chlorophyll. The coconut hid this pungent grassy note well. At around 6pm I had the Life Blood — a vibrant beetroot, carrot, apple and lemon drink that was still rather sweet but quenched my thirst.
My final juice was the Sweet Dreams, which reminded me of a luxurious horchata with almond ‘mylk,’ Medjool dates, vanilla bean and pink Himalayan salt. The slight touch of salt gave me the savoury flavour I was craving all day — if only this was warm, it would be a delicious and truly comforting way to end the evening, but instead I was left feeling cold and sleepy, hours before my usual bedtime.
At eight bottles a day taken between roughly 10am to 8pm, it meant I was cracking open a new bottle practically every hour. It felt like I was drinking nonstop — sure, I was never hungry, but the constant drinking left me feeling chilly and restless. I alternated bottles of juice with mugs of hot water because my stomach felt so cold. As a result, I was running to the bathroom more than usual too. This was beneficial to my detox, but I could barely think about anything else besides sipping cold juices and letting it all back out for three days. Perhaps because of that, I woke up each day with a persistent sore throat.
My mouth also began to feel a bit sickly sweet, because the juices were quite high in sugar — I felt the same kind of gross furriness on the teeth that you get after drinking too much soda or sweet orange juice. Was my teeth enamel slowly getting dissolved? The first two bottles of juice already contained 14g of sugar each. While these amounts should be natural sugars from the fruits and vegetables packed into each bottle and can’t be compared to, say, the 35g of added sugar in a can of coke, it is a worrying number not to mention an uncomfortable feeling that I was drinking so many sweet beverages in a day. For reference, the American Heart Association recommends women to have no more than 100 calories a day coming from added sugars (that’s 25g, or 6 teaspoons).
On the first day, I soon found social media to be rather unbearable, given the number of food blogs I follow. I resented the friend who tagged me in a “25 Macaroni and Cheese Recipes” video on Facebook, which made me want to rage-quit the juice cleanse, retreat home and make a big cheesy bowl of pasta, or even a buttery portion of potato mash. I was also constantly yawning and irritable, and was functioning at work on lower, crankier bouts of energy. My skin got greasier than usual and I broke out slightly along the jawline.
However, already by the middle of day two I felt much lighter, as if my innards had received a thorough spring cleaning; and my clothes a tiny bit looser around my stomach and arms. My skin was calming down. I liked not having to spend time on planning what to eat, and consider whether it would be healthy (or think about the guilt if it wasn’t). By the morning of Day 3 I had lost 3lbs so far, and if my smart electronic scale is to be believed, my water and muscle level remained the same, so it might actually mean I burned some fat during the process. Even if I hadn’t, I measured how much I was detoxing in the number of bathroom trips, seeing my dark under-eye circles gradually lightening up, and noticing bloated areas around my neck and torso feeling more taut.
Through the cleanse I was also introduced to the greatness of psyllium husk powder, and after the detox I went out and bought more of the stuff to keep my fibre levels high all the time.
I didn’t enjoy how the juice cleanse was rather high in sugar and that it was all cold. I would hesitate to do more than 3 days if I did another juice detox in the future, but these days I’ll happily replace a meal with a less sweet, vegetable-based juice just to get a large dose of nutrients once in a while.
The juices were delivered in the morning in a cooler bag of glass bottles, each listing nutritional value and ingredients — including some asterisked as organic produce, such as chia seeds and vanilla beans. However, common ingredients such as spinach, celery and apples that are not listed as organic also belong to the 2019 “Dirty Dozen” list — the top 12 produce you should buy organic as they have been found to have the most pesticide residue. Spinach in particular is placed at number two on the dirty list, and apples at number five. Seeing as how we are drinking raw, cold-pressed juices, hopefully this is something Genie Juicery can address in their sourcing cycle in the near future.
It’s worth noting that all the sticker labels can be easily removed so that the bottles can be reused — whether you want to reuse them for a DIY project or you want to recycle them at Genie Juicery in exchange for a stamp on their loyalty card programme (20 stamps get you a free juice).
After returning to solid food, my weight has cropped back up to its original number on the scale before starting the cleanse. But that is irrelevant to how much brighter I felt after completing the detox. In a mission to recalibrate my body after a period of over-eating, relearning what wellness feels like is imperative. I now welcome eating raw vegetables and fruit over cooked recipes when I feel that I’ve overindulged. It was as if the cleaner fuel gave me higher energy levels: I sat straighter, I felt more motivated to cross more off of my to-do list, and now having felt a new benchmark of wellness, I find it a lot more intuitive to balance healthy eating and drinking as a long-term lifestyle change.
Whether you’re wondering how to cope with those summer junk invites or simply feeling burnt out by the previous season of overindulgence, a juice cleanse can help you get back on track — just make sure you do it right, with plenty of water and fibre.
Juice cleanses start from HK$600 at Genie Juicery, Shop 2096B, 2/F, IFC Mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2644 5875