Commitment To Self-Care - Why We're Taking Part in Jason Vale's Big Juice Challenge This October

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Monday 10 October 2016

Commitment To Self-Care - Why We're Taking Part in Jason Vale's Big Juice Challenge This October

A few days ago I wrote about how beneficial we had found it to recognise the change of season and respect the corresponding changes in our bodies by making small changes to our activity levels. In a similar vein, as the nights draw in and the temperature drops (we saw our first snowflakes here in the village of Grimentz yesterday), we have also resolved this week to undertake a 5 day juice fast as part of Jason Vale's Big Juice Challenge, so I wanted to say a few words about what that means and most importantly why.

To be blunt, if I heard words like 'fast', 'detox' or 'cleanse' 6 or 7 years or so ago I would have met then with a causal dismissal. In my head they were immediately dumped into the 'fad', 'loony' or 'scam' box. In my worldview, at the school of 'I know best and my way is just fine thank you' (a school I was a professor at), I saw no benefit in any such things whatsoever. The fact I hadn't ever tried one so had no personal experience to base my dismissal on didn't seem important.

Then something changed. It was around 2010 when we had undergone a very unhappy and stressful period in our lives and we had set about making some major life changes. We moved house, changed jobs and alongside also resolved to overhaul our diets. We'd typically always been sporty people, exercising hard every day and eating what we wanted but gradually food had become a comfort activity. Numbing out in front of a RomCom eating pizza and cheesecake was often the highlight of the week. This had been ok every now and then. But over time the frequency (and the volume of junk) increased. Eventually binge eating had become one of the few activities we actually shared. (I don't want to spend too much time on it but I literally once ate an entire tin of Celebrations followed immediately by a huge Lemon drizzle cake, all after a 'meal')

But in 2010 we made a gear change, catalysed by some frightening health markers that woke us up to how much our lifestyle and diet was taking its toll. I'll write in more detail about this in future, but in short we began turning our academic backgrounds towards research into optimal nutrition. Slowly but surely we began moving our diet to one containing far more live food such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds while minimising (and eventually cutting out most) processed, sugary, flour based and animal products.

We started tentatively, especially me as I was so emotionally attached to things like sugary, milky tea and meat at every meal. But frankly it was so amazing how quickly our bodies responded, shedding pounds and becoming full and energy and vitality like never before, that the changes quickened. Within a few months we felt like new people, eating a plant strong (or nutritarian as one of our favourite authors called it) diet.

Over the years eating this way has become one of the most important pillars of our self care and one we have become more and more passionate about. Along the way we also started to incorporate juicing into that lifestyle, preferably with one glass of freshly extracted vegetable juice (with a little fruit) each day alongside our other plant based meals.

Now there is a lot of science, pseudoscience, misinformation and controversy surrounding juicing. Sometimes it seems everyone has an opinion on it. 'Too much sugar, not enough fibre, too little protein...." are some of the things I've often heard or read. Plus, like most things, whatever somebody's opinions you can find an article in seconds on the internet backing it up. That is why I don't want to spend time here discussing the nutritional and microcellular arguments for juicing. It would take too long and that's why people write books on the subject.

What I will say is that being able to turn a big pile of organic vegetables, leafy greens and a little fruit into a glass of tasty pure juice (which is most of the bit your body extracts by chewing and digesting anyway) as a means of easily increasing vegetable intake just makes sense to me. It is a glass full of things that are good for your body and in a form that can be easily delivered to your cells. Plus, with my bowel incontinence a reduction in the volume 'passing through' is also welcome. As I said, typically we try to have at least one vegetable juice day and that included when we moved into our motorhome! It was a bit of a faff at times but it was worth it, with juices powering us up many of our hikes and cycles.

Yet for all of the healthy changes to our 'target' or 'ideal' diet there have still been times over the years that we felt we needed a boost or a reset.

For example, after prolonged periods of stress at work or deeply unhappy moments in our personal lives we could both (or jointly) still find ourselves eating crap just to numb out. Our definition of 'crap' had thankfully evolved a little over time, involving a little less chocolate, cheesecake and pastries and tending more towards copious volumes of things like bread products, sweetened nuts and dried fruit. But the effect was the same. Feelings of lethargy and growing love handles.

It even happened as recently as last month on our tour of Egypt where sleep deprivation, after already feeling tired and depleted from a month of the thru-hiking in the Alps, had us guzzling things like deep fried falafels and flat bread smothered in oily hummus to excess most days. Basically foods we normally wouldn't eat in quantities far beyond what our bodies needed to get enough energy. The end result, we put on weight and felt grotty to the extent that we even bought another juicer that we've been carrying around for the past 5 weeks of our travels.

So, at times like these when we just feel the need to reset, wean ourselves back off any dependence we've developed for sugary or floury foods, and focus on getting the best nutrition we can, the best way we have found for doing so is with a short juice fast. Nothing but water, herbal teas and freshly extracted vegetable and fruit juices for several days (sometimes a little longer) and that is what we will be doing for the next 5 days.

As I said above, there are plenty of both sceptics and advocates for juicing like this and seemingly endless debate over the short and long term benefits. For us, the only evidence that matters is that it works. Every time we have done this in the past we have felt better, lost weight and come out feeling more energised for whatever lies ahead.

For anyone reading this who wants to try juicing, either alongside other meals or as a short term fast, I would say go for it. You can read and listen to as many opinions as you like but like any lifestyle change the best way to know what works for you is to try it.

Some of the best books and resources available are, in our opinion, those from Jason Vale (the 'Juice Master'). Now, please don't be put off by the 'brand' and some of the marketing surrounding his books with titles like 'Slim For Life' and '5 lbs in 5 days'. His material is not all about weight loss or providing another diet to try and then give up on. In fact he himself acknowledges and in some places apologises for the necessary choice of marketing driven by publishers etc. Look beyond that. In our experience his books provide real, sustainable and positive lifestyle changes with plenty of motivation to stick with the plan until the obvious success becomes its own motivation. His feature length documentary 'Super Juice Me' is fantastic and uplifting.  I'd also suggest looking him up online and on Facebook because he often gives away plans and recipes for free, including during his quarterly Big Juice Challenges, the autumn one of which is going in right now with tens of thousands of people taking part all around the world.

Personally we feel very grateful for his passion and motivation. Although we have used our new juicer each day since Egypt, it was finding out about his current big juice challenge that gave us the push to get involved and do this much needed juice fast.

Over the next few months we will write more about our healthy journey and also mention other books by authors such as Dr Joel Fuhrman, John Robbins, Dr Colin Campbell and Harvey & Marilyn Diamond that we have found instrumental.

In the meantime Esther has also set up an Instagram feed to focus on our meals and food @crazyhealthadventures.

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