Juice cleanses are quickly gaining popularity in India so when a new cold-press juice shop in Bombay was making introductory offers, I had to try. You can do a 1-day, 3-day, or 6-day cleanse. Lifestyles websites, health magazines, celebrities— they all make it seem so easy. And appealing. The benefits of juice cleanses are written about everywhere and, women in particular, are given a license to feel proud and self-sacrificial for doing them on occasion. Juice cleanses will clean out your system, help you think more clearly, sleep more deeply. Your skin will glow, your hair will thicken, and your metabolism will increase.
Despite these promises, I had the sense not to sign on for a three-day experience. I like a few cups of coffee every day and I come from the school of thought that believes a meal with no meat is no meal at all. I decided to start with just the one-day cleanse. That felt reasonable. Lots of people, my grandmother included, fast on a regular basis; one day would be simple.
A handy leaflet showed up in my inbox a few days prior to my cleanse. Six bottles of juice, all with active, energizing verbs for names— Run!, Glow!, Build!, Shine!— would be delivered to me at 6AM on the morning of my cleanse. The juices, I was assured, would be cold-pressed. I still don’t understand what cold-pressed means or why it’s so relevant but I know to obsessively look for it on juice labels and even oils. I would drink one juice every two and a half hours from 9AM to 9:30PM. The juices had all the nutrients and calories that I would need for the day. I would eat no solid food and consume no caffeine. If it got too difficult, I could sip some tea or nibble on some cucumber sticks.
The days leading up to the cleanse, I was supposed to start eliminating meat and caffeine from my diet. I failed on both accounts. The night before the cleanse, I ate a bowl of steamed vegetables and felt very virtuous. I tweeted a picture.
At 6AM the next morning, my doorbell rang and a burly man who looked like he was on the way to his day job as a personal trainer at Gold’s Gym handed me a bag filled with bottles. I went back to bed for three more hours because the leaflet had told me that I was to take it easy and be kind to myself that day. I was not supposed to exercise, I was supposed to relax and be gentle with myself. I was supposed to spend my day swaddled like an overgrown baby. So I woke up at 9AM to drink my first juice that was dark green and included spinach, doodhi, amla and other such vegetables that I had spent much of my childhood avoiding. As promised, it was quite filling and I managed to watch the person I was having breakfast with enjoy his bowl of cereal and cup of coffee without much envy.
Two and a half hours later, I drank the second juice which was sweeter and more fruit based. By this point, I could feel the start of a caffeine-withdrawal headache but I did not want to give up and drink tea so early into the cleanse. In any case, tea is useless and coffee is liquid gold. A few hours later, my headache was out of control and by 2PM, I had hungrily consumed two full cucumbers. When others around me were eating lunch, I locked myself in my room and watched movies on my computer while wallowing in dangerous levels of self-pity. The leaflet was correct in that I was not necessarily starving— the juices were indeed filling— but I missed the process of eating. I wanted to chew and crunch and bite.
By 6PM, there was rage quietly building inside me. I went to sleep early, exhausted. I was certain that I had somehow done this juice cleanse wrong because there was no way I could possibly feel so bad. Perhaps, I thought, I had timed it wrong and done it on the same day I was coming down with a bad flu. I tossed and turned all night and woke early the next morning.
The day after the cleanse, I was supposed to eat only fruit for breakfast, a smoothie for lunch, and steamed vegetables for dinner. At 7AM the day after my cleanse, I walked down to Shiv Sagar and ordered an aloo parantha. I then went to Costa Coffee and drank two cups of black coffee in quick succession.
The next day and for a few days after, I think my skin was glowing and I looked rather energized but it wasn’t worth it. A good workout has a similar effect on the skin and looks and a juice cleanse did not feel like a healthy or pleasurable alternative. The best part of the cleanse was the delirious pleasure I got from the aloo parantha and coffee the next morning but I don’t think that pleasure was enough for me to try a cleanse again. What I did get out of it, however, was a new sense of admiration for my grandmother. On days that she fasts, she does it under the radar. I doubt she has read Gwyneth Paltrow going on and on about the benefits of cleanses. Men on motorbikes don’t show up at my grandmother’s doorstep at 6AM to hand her six bottles of carefully labelled juices. And she sits with us at lunchtime and sips her tea without the dramatics of eating raw cucumber. And her skin does indeed look terrific. If I’m ever tempted to try a cleanse again (I don’t think I will be), I’ll do it the old-fashioned way. I won’t read brightly coloured leaflets and feel smug and tweet about it. I’ll spend a day with my grandmother and catch up on what that little child bride is up to on that television show she’s obsessed with.