The Lure of Juice Fasting

Hey all,

I loved your responses to the difficulties of living cruelty free. I was especially impressed with Sayward’s response:

The issue is not ‘the impossibility of being vegan’ – the issue is a clear misunderstanding of what veganism actually is. The first article (well, graphic) especially, seems to think that veganism is the exclusion of all animal products – period – and that if you fail at this even unknowingly, then you are not vegan. But of course, that’s an ignorant notion.

The word vegan was coined by the founder of the vegan society, so I look to them for the definition:

“. . . “veganism” denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose . . .”

Possible and practical is the key component there. It is absolutely possible and practical to make daily decisions to eschew animal products in all manner of food and materials, and someone who chooses not to do so would not be vegan. However, it is not *practical* to never ever ride in a car, so the fact that tires have byproducts is just a necessary evil (for now) and does NOT mean people who use cars are not vegan. The same goes for life saving medication. Though they may have been tested on animals, if it is not *possible* for one to survive without them, taking them does not magically un-veganify someone.

I think it’s important to emphasize this, because angry omnis often try to play ‘caught cha’ with vegans in order to justify their own ethical discomfort. But veganism is the only diet that *doesn’t* require cognitive dissonance or suffer from moral schizophrenia, and we need to make that very clear.

*get’s off soap box*

You go ahead and stay on that soapbox, Sayward. I loved this comment, and agree entirely. I don’t appreciate a slippery slope attitude when it comes to things than can practically and reliably be avoided—such as animal foods. But of course there have to be real, working definitions of what is and is not feasible, and the Vegan Society’s definition is as good as any I’ve read.

I, too, have heard the “why bother” argument, and think it’s nonsense; to me, it’s intellectually akin to a disaffected teenager who declares that the world is so screwed up that there’s no point in going into politics or health or the arts and making it better. Yes, things are terrible and messed up, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to sit around and play X-Box all day. And yes, the use and abuse of animals is crushing to consider, but that won’t stop me from doing anything that’s squarely within my power to stop it.

Let’s switch topics for a moment, and talk about fasting. You’ve probably noticed that I never talk about juice fasting on this blog, and there’s a good reason for that: I’m not a fan, either personally or from the perspective of a health counselor. Yes, there is some amount of literature to prove that juice fasting can work miraculous effects on illness or disease, and yes, fasting and abstinence are time honored practices in many cultures. But I’ve ultimately seen no substantive amount of medical literature to persuade me that fasting is healthy; in fact, there’s good evidence to suggest that it can be hazardous. At the least, it’s tremendously disruptive to digestion, and it slows metabolism down, which means a high risk of weight gain or metabolic disruption when you break fast.

More fundamentally, I take issue with fasting because it’s at odds with nearly all of my goals as a counselor. I teach people to make small, manageable changes over realistic periods of time, and to transition slowly into better lifestyle habits that will last. I never offer my clients or readers a panacea, and I never encourage them to make changes overnight: if anything, I urge them to take their time when it comes to dietary improvement, because any radical shifts are likely to provoke equally radical backlash. I’d rather see a client eat a somewhat healthier diet every single day, than have him or her eat immaculately for a month, and then return to old habits.

Having seen many men and women go through fasts short and long, I can tell you that nearly all of them were hoping for quick results, or for the sort of magic that I recently talked about in my post on the raw foods panacea. Ask someone why they do a “cleanse” and he or she will always say the same thing: brighter skin, more energy, feelings of lightness. What he or she will seldom tell you about is the real motive, which is nearly always weight loss, or some sort of desperate desire for a “fresh start.” And seldom do the many people who do BluePrint or other cleanses consider the simple fact that it’s not very hard to simply avoid food for a few days. What’s hard is learning how to eat well consistently—every single day and for life. And the binging that so often follows a cleanse is anything but evidence of learned habits that will be consistent and beneficial.

Am I speaking in generalizations? Yes. I have plenty of friends who had great fasting experiences, and that’s fine. But I’ve observed enough fasting to have seen that there are certain behaviors that form a majority, and the fasting/overeating pattern is in there, along with the tendency to assume that food mistakes can be remedied with a fast.

Am I also speaking with a heavy personal bias? Sure am. Fasting has never interested me, or appealed to me. I love green juice, but lord knows it’s no substitute for food in my world. The idea of drinking meals depresses me—it’s one of the reasons I’m not a green smoothie person. I’m also on the slender side, and tend to lose weight without too much difficulty if I don’t eat plentifully enough. I don’t think my system would stand up well to nearly nonexistent levels of fat and protein for days at a time. And, given my psychological history, skipping meals is a minefield I’d rather not tread upon anyway. A raw foodist friend once tried to explain how fasting helps you move “beyond food,” and to detach yourself from eating. As an ED-veteran, the last thing I need is to prove that I don’t need food, emotionally or psychologically. I do need food, but not in a way that’s bad. This realization is one of the major accomplishments of my adult years.

I bring this up because of today’s Times article on the BluePrint Cleanse. Did you all see it? Judith Newman tried the popular program and offers up her mostly critical, yet still captivated, thoughts. I appreciated Newman’s humor and candor, although I think she has a lot to learn about the deliciousness of green juice! What made me a bit exasperated was the fact that she—by her own admission—bought into so many of the same dreams of magic and overnight change that most women do when they purchase these (overpriced) juice deliveries.

I also found her inconsistent: on the one hand, she says that fasting is a test of the will to live, and notes that it isn’t considered healthy by most doctors (the doctor she quoted is my dermatologist, by the way, and although he and I have never talked about food while he’s checking my moles, I couldn’t agree more with his sentiments about ketosis). On the other, she’s obviously still lured in by the idea of a quick fix. This vexes me, and I see lots of it: people want to believe in the magic of juice fasting (or raw foods, in other scenarios) so long as it ultimately works out for them; if it doesn’t, or if they fail to stick with it, they justify what happened with medical authority.

At the end of the article, Newman notes that she did enjoy the feeling of detachment from physicality, sensuality, which is truly the emotional promise of a fast. This hit home with me, because I believe it’s what so many anorexics seek out, and find, with starvation. Let’s file this under “reasons I don’t think former anorexics ought ever to get too involved with fasting.” But let me also say that, as alluring as that feeling of ethereality might be, I’d like to remind all of my readers that the feeling of solid, grounded, nourishment is sweeter in so many ways. Newman writes, “I wasn’t thinking about food. I wasn’t thinking about drink. I wasn’t even thinking about sex. The appetites that rule me every single day were my slaves, for once. By that third day I wasn’t craving anything. I was free.”

As a rejoinder to this, I’d say only that freedom that comes from a denial of physical need is a deeply compromised kind of freedom. In fact, I might respond by quoting one of my own posts, if you guys will allow me to be that obnoxious. In my “Embracing Our Appetites” post—which to this day may be my fave CR post ever—I wrote,

“…eating disorders have a great deal to do with the willed suppression of desire. They involve the negation, the defiance of appetites: appetites for food, for sex, for physicality.  Women are particularly susceptible to this tendency, because we’ve been socialized to keep our desires within tight bounds.

I’m often asked if what I wanted from [my] disorder was to be thin. The answer, naturally, is yes: of course thinness is what I wanted. But it was, in retrospect, only a surprisingly small part of what I wanted. When I look back on those years, I see that a lot of what I wanted was to quash my own needs. Overcoming this–connecting with my hunger for food, for sex, for vitality, for physicality–took a long time. Being able to declare to myself and to others that I not only needed to eat, but wanted to eat–and all that eating implied–demanded that I overcome a great deal of unconscious shame…Of course, we should always guard ourselves against excess. Appetites have limits, and food is just food. But let’s also try to embrace the very real hunger that nature has given us, even if it’s sometimes a little unruly. Desire is a part of life–and a pretty great part of it, if you ask me.”

You won’t hear me deny that weightlessness, lightness, emptiness, and cleanliness are all appealing physical sensations. They are, and I wonder if I’ll ever have a day when I don’t sometimes cast an eye backward and yearn for those feelings again. But they’re risky yearnings, and they strike me as un-human in the deepest of ways.

For the sake of due diligence I’ll say that fasting is a personal endeavor, and that all bodies are different. I’m simply offering up these thoughts because I’m a figure within a community of people who fast frequently—perhaps even abusively. And I want my readers to know that I don’t fall into the line of thinking—so popular with raw eaters—that insists that abstinence is healthier than eating, or that abstinence and healthy eating are one in the same.

What are your thoughts on fasting, and who read the NYT article? I’m really curious to hear my readers’ reactions!


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  1. Just reading this now. Always wondered what you thought about this..Thanks for your sound advice. I know someone with a history of eating disorders who is currently on a 5-day juice fast. She is complaining of headaches and generalized weakness. I’m hoping to steer this person toward your website, and maybe show them that restrictive eating and ED’s have a way of disguising themselves as “diets.” Also, there is a good article that was written last year by a Doctor on this subject: Heaner, Martica. 2013. “Detox Diets: Myths vs. Reality.” IDEA Fitness Journal 10, no. 2: 58-61.

  2. I am not even vegan, but probably 90 percent of my diet is vegetarian and I don’t do dairy. I’m interested in the fasting issue though, as I read a recent article emanating from South California University declaring they have discovered a 3 day fast kills off unhealthy white blood cells and produces new stem cells. Then, when you begin eating again, new white blood cells are produced. The article doesn’t explain whether this is a complete ‘water only’ fast. But food (or no food) for thought! At the same time, I appreciate that the temptation to push the boundaries adds an element of risk, depending on your temperament and environmental circumstances.
    Personally, I don’t tend to hold extreme or fundamentalist views about anything. But if I was going to stand for anything, it would be the right to personal choice, preferrably prefaced with the tenet of ‘do no harm’.

  3. Today, while I was at work, my cousin stole my apple ipad and tested
    to see if it can survive a forty foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation.
    My iPad is now broken and she has 83 views. I know this
    is entirely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

  4. Having read this I thought it was really enlightening.
    I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this short article together.
    I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both
    reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

  5. Reading it put like this makes me realise… I don’t want to be human.

    I still have so much further to go.

    I wish I could fast, because that would prove to me that the new form my ED has taken is an addiction I can break. I don’t think I’m strong enough to do it otherwise. Well, I don’t think I’m strong enough to fast, either, but that won’t stop me wishing.

  6. I usually hold off reading your most inspiring posts until I have the time to contemplate (aka no work to do afterwards!!). So I am reading this somewhat late, but I just wanted to note that it’s interesting that the article’s author refers to the cleanse as a “purge” within the first few sentences. It might just be me, but isn’t that sort of a red-flag word? I certainly thought so.

  7. aa, i came across ur blog tonight -my 2 cents in… Fasting… i find it so western minded to think that it can slow your metabolism. so far i havent found anything that enhances my digestion and metabolism better than periodic fasting. so for anyone that want to go deeper spiritually and improve health fasting is the ultimate tool. i ve noticed that after a fast i can get away with eating a lot more without gaining or feeling heavy for quite a while. i personally think its because ur digestion its at its ultimate best πŸ˜›

  8. New reader here….I think juice fasting has its pros and cons. Some people swear by it and others it’s just not their cup of tea. Anyhow, why is the title of your blog called choosing raw if you are not a raw foodist you eat a semi-raw diet. right?

    • Because my blog is about making choices that help us to eat more raw foods, and more foods that are close to nature. It’s about not seeing raw as an all nothing lifestyle–or worse, dogma–but rather as a series of choices within every day meals.

  9. It all boils down to the individual. I have heard a lot of great testimonials, and the share of bad. Not every solution will work for everyone.


  10. First, here’s a little of my background. I work with professional athletes to develop specific diets for training to give them the best performance. I’m not Vegan, though I consider myself extremely health-conscious. I try to avoid processed food an have had many Vegan days. I guess I am Epicurean when it comes to food. I love tasting new foods, and especially experiencing what different cultures in new countries have to offer, so I could not see myself becoming 100% Vegan. (40% Vegan works for me).

    I am an advocate of fasting, and have produced many favorable results from effective fasting- keyword “effective.”

    It was interesting to read your opinion on fasting. However, I couldn’t find anything factual to support your negative claims. Your claim that fasting is “tremendously disruptive to digestion” is somewhat inaccurate. Maybe if you re-worded it to say “improper fasting,” then yes, that could work. Insufficient nutrient intake, breaking a fast with foods difficult for the body to digest (meats and dairy), and resuming consumption of processed/unhealthy foods are all ways that fasting can disrupt digestion. On the other side of that, fasting

    I do agree that fasting as a “quick fix” for weight loss can be detrimental to your health. Fasting is not meant to be a quick fix, but a complement to a healthy lifestyle. The best example is by looking at Ancient China. In 680 BC, the average life expectancy in China was 22-35. In Ancient Rome, it was 22-25. In 1900, the world’s average life expectancy was 30, meaning China’s life expectancy was greater 2600 years before that. The Ancient Chinese were known for their disciplined lives, which included frequent fasting, healthy dietary balance, and also healthy sexual behavior.

    The point I’m trying to make is that fasting should go along with a healthy lifestyle, not be a substitute for one. It’s

    A great book to check out is “The Tao of Health, Sex, and Longevity: A Modern Practical Guide to the Ancient Way” by Daniel Reid. It gives good scientific benefits of effective fasting, as well as how types of food you eat together affect your digestion. It promotes the idea that layout of the human digestive system is best suited for a herbivorous dietary lifestyle and the obvious fact that processed foods are horrible and have been directly linked to the increasing percentages of heart diseases, cancers, etc. faced by modern society.

    If you get a juicer, fasting is not difficult at all. You can combine several of your favorite fruits and veggies to make quite a tasty meal replacement. If you can change your whole diet to eliminate all dairy and meat and animal products, it should be cake to have liquid food for a few days to let your body remove some of the stored toxins.

  11. Thank you for writing this post. Juice feasting has become so popular and I do not understand why. Raw foodists pride themselves on eating “whole foods” and while juice can be a great part of a good diet, living off it for weeks or months at a time seems anything but.

  12. Hey! Long time reader here but never have commented! I’m suffering with eczema on my scalp for the past 4 months after recovering from anorexia. I’m was looking for a way to heal my eczema without the doctors meds..something more natural. Recently I found “Detox 4 Women” book that encourages a mini juice fast ever morning along with a strict diet plan to starve the yeast causing my skin issue. I’m looking for advice being an 20 year old women, vegetarian with blood sugar problems – always needs protein. Do you think an raw diet would help me? Or should I continue with this detox?

    Please help!

  13. I’m really struggling with water fasting! I’m finding juice fasting much much easier.. My goals is to complete a 40 day juice fast. I just seem to get stuck at 10 days.

  14. You are so articulate and express thoughts I didn’t know I had. It’s so nice to hear you admit you miss that sense of being empty and weightless. I can relate to this completely and glad to know it’s not just me. Thank you.

  15. I honestly have never thought much about fasting, other than once when I lived in Ireland, I remembered housemates and friends talking about the ‘master cleanse’ of water, maple syrup, lemon and cayenne.

    There was an interesting article in SELF magazine about juice fasts this month, but they were more all about why people do them and why they think people shouldn’t do them. Still, it was enlightening to read about.

  16. Thank you for another great post, they are always so thought provoking!

    I wonder if its not just the feeling of lightness that people are after but also it made me think about whole idea of control over our bodies and hunger that fasting for example brings up as a way to gain some control over our lives and the measure of relief that it gives to have control of hunger. And through controlling ones food intake, comes the reaffirmation that one has control. I think that could be another factor of why fasting can be so alluring and dangerous, specially those with eating disordered tendencies.

    I am sorry if my comment its not really relevant and very convoluted, not sure how to fully formulate what I had in mind, but thank you for this post! πŸ™‚


  17. Wonderful post, Gena. You articulate the issues so well and so clearly. I’d say that for me, if fasting served a purpose toward better health (as in a detox), I’d go for it. I don’t know that I could endure a long fast, anyway–I’m just not psychologically cut out for it–but I’d be curious to see the effects of a fast on my various ailments. And I actually think one *can* enjoy feelings of cleanliness, lightness, emptiness and even weightlessness without having to literally achieve weightlessness. Sensations begin in the mind, after all, and a clear, light mind does wonders for one’s sense of well-being!

    • Ah, dear Ricki, this (awesome) comment is played out in the post I just wrote πŸ™‚ Thanks for your thoughts!

  18. If you read, “I’m with Fatty,” he describes the BluePrint juice cleanse (and colonics) in vivid detail. It’s hysterical. He also notes that the green juices taste disgusting and I’ve heard even for people who love green juice, the ones from that particular place are gag-worthy, so I don’t fault the NYTimes author for hating them.

    You might want to borrow that book just to read the section on fasting. It’s really interesting – coming from the perspective of an overweight food-addict. His trainer goes on the cleanse too and loses 17 pounds and basically wastes away – what I imagine would happen to you if you did something like that πŸ™

  19. What I never understood is that perhaps while one is fasting, one ‘feels’ the sensation of being lighter, however, if one is doing a juice ‘fast’ or sometimes called, ‘feast’ what is the difference between chewing your food and swallowing it with water and the juice? Specifically what I mean is, juice has ground up vegetable, fruit, etc. chunks within it..and when you chew and swallow with some sort of liquid behind it not essentially the same idea? I like the idea of raw juices/soups but not because I feel ‘lighter’; what it comes down to for me is the fact that I am putting ingredients in the juice/or soup that I think taste delicious, healthy, and work well in those forms. I find no need to get intracally invested in every micronutrient that saturates my very being; however I do make a mental note of what I have put in my body that day and what I still need to put in. If anything, I believe in natural things that taste good. I hope others have some of that very same idea in their everyday as well.

  20. Wow! What a great two days of posting. Sorry I’m a bit behind but I wanted to say that my husband showed me the cow diagram last week and we were both so turned off by the title. I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with using the term “vegan” despite my animal-free diet and lifestyle and my commitment to animal rights. However, I think it’s a shame that when faced with information like this some people choose to throw in the towel altogether versus using the information as motivation to keep doing what we CAN do to support our animal friends. Change happens very slowly, but it happens because we collectively demand for it. We see countless examples of this by looking into both the recent and far past – a woman’s right to vote, a woman’s right to choose, the growing opportunities to purchase organic vegetables. None of these things could have happened if we gave up when faced with a little harsh reality. While we will never live in a 100% cruelty-free world, the more cruelty-free products we ask for, the more we will ultimately make possible.

    As for the juice fasting…I am definitely not a fan. I *attempted* a short fast last year in a desperate attempt to help me with a chronic condition that was causing me tremendous pain. Not only did it not help, but it brought up old food issues that I thought had been buried years prior. It look me months to recover from missing that empty feeling that I only experienced for a short number of days. I was so focused on trying to get well, that I never anticipated the possibility of falling back into habits that I thought had been put to rest long ago. A slippery slope indeed!

    Apologies for the long comment πŸ™‚

  21. I always have and always will question the motives of someone doing a fast (unless religiously motivated – none of my business). I bought my juicer because I fell in love with juice – it was an addition, not a substitution, to my diet. And a good one! There’s nothing like green juice first thing in the morning – the taste AND the feeling. For me, anyway…

    But I’m not going to pretend that the idea of a juice cleanse hasn’t crossed my mind in the past. And it was for the wrong reason (weight loss), even if I didn’t think so at the time. During my own exploration of raw foods (and -ism) over the past 1-2 years, I have caught myself at the top of the slippery slope of embracing it for the wrong reasons, and while I’m far from a perfect specimen of dietary virtue, I feel proud to say that I’ve examined my own choices and am making the right ones for me now. And despite the fact that for me to become a “raw foodist” would be questionable on many fronts, I feel that my raw-curiosity was successful because I’ve embraced and incorporated raw foods as a cuisine, and if that’s not healthy AND good fun, I don’t know what is.

    [pats self on back]

    But I guess the answer to your question is that fasting is not for me, and I would hope that whoever chooses to participate is very honest with his/herself before doing so. Easier said than done.

  22. I read the article this morning and my thoughts were similar to yours, namely:

    – How can you hate juice that much? (And I wondered about my own taste buds, since I love green juice…am I just used to ‘healthy’ tasting food???)

    – Funny article, and I am sure she’s exaggerating for effect. It was a good way, in my opinion, to show the ridiculousness of it all.

    – A bit of sadness that she was chasing after the panacea. And some surprise that people still buy into it.

    I realise that a lot of people do feel that fasting is effective and amazing, but I don’t buy it after what I’ve read in the research literature and elsewhere. From a scientific perspective, it doesn’t make sense. But I do agree that the placebo effect can be great, as the author pointed out…however, I don’t think you can GET the placebo effect without believing that the thing you are doing will work, at least to a certain extent.

    And as far as your thoughts as a former anorectic? I concur completely. Skipping meals, and particularly consciously participating in a cleanse with rules and limited caloric intake, is a slippery slope. And of course, I really appreciated your moderate approach when I sought your counseling services. I visited an RD who – even after hearing about my past – gave me lots and lots of rules that, though not as extreme as fasting, I knew would have led me down the wrong path. I will take the moderate path to health, thanks!

    And the fact that your dermatologist was quoted? Hilarious.

      • Great minds think alike? Oh, but wait…the second part of that expression is “and fools seldom differ”…so maybe not πŸ˜‰

  23. Oh Gina, thank you! Your post could not have come at a better time for me. Literally today I am heading off on a four-day holiday and had planned on taking this time to juice fast. A romantic getaway with my juicer if you like! However, I have totally re-evaluated after reading your post. I know deep down I am looking for that ‘quick fix’ cleansing (and, I hate to admit it, weightloss) solution. I too have a past history of restriction and disordered eating. So, now that I’ve weighed up these factors in my mind, I’ve decided this might not be the best course for me at all. If the idea of fasting is so difficult for me to get on board with that I have to actually pack up and get away from the world to do so (to stop myself from eating), then perhaps it’s something I’m just not ready for, nor will ever be (nor will ever need to be!). Thanks for reminding me of this!
    xx kate

    • Kate,

      I woke up to your comment and was flooded with gratitude to you for being so honest with me (and my readers); flattery that any words of mine might have such an impact; and, finally, relief that you have reevaluated your reasons for fasting. Congratulations on having the courage to examine your motives. I wish you much luck with finding the health you want through real food πŸ™‚


  24. I enjoyed so much reading this post Gena… You’re absolutely right! Fasting is not the way to go for a real change, a long lasting change!!!

  25. Gena, this is a wonderful post! I agree with you about not fasting. I love food!

  26. In my anorectic days I was always fasting, not even ‘ allowing’ juice, and yeah I (vagely) remember the feeling. What comes to mind is: it was good, real good, but of course that is bullshit. The longer it’s been, the more I think back of that time and wonder: was it really that bad? And if it was, at least I was thin (read: emaciated)! It’s sick, those thoughts, but on the other hand I understand why I can’t make the connection of how utterly awful I felt back then. If you have an eating disorder, it’s your life, and good or bad, you stick with it. To this day I still can’t believe how well I am doing, and tjat, even when I think back to those days with a twisted sort of melancholy or I look in the mirror and I feel very uncomfortable, I still go on with my life. I can appreciate, and satisfy, my cravings and my hunger, and have those thoughts and feelings floating around somewhere, knowing they will pass.

    Thanks for writing this πŸ™‚

  27. Heh, sometimes I do enjoy a green smoothie…but I’d much rather eat a big-ass massaged kale salad than drink it. With liquid meals, I’d lose total satisfaction in eating.

    For some people, intermittant fasting works very well for them…but these fasts are never for very long, and always broken by a very large meal (or meals).

    I also know that chemically your body starts changing when you fast, which gives many people a sense of euphoria. But while they see themselves as being “freed” of foodly chains, in reality it’s just their body freaking out.

  28. Gena,
    Thank you. You said it all so well. As a recovering anorexic, you pinpointed all the feelings I’ve felt, and all the reasons to avoid fasting.

    Personally, I’ve never been tempted to try it. As a friend once said, “I prefer to chew my calories.”

  29. I agree completely with your opinion of the NYT article. I too found it inconsistent and disappointing. Clearly the author is conflicted between the seductive feelings of lightness and detachment and her realization of the magical thinking and physical danger that often go hand in hand with fasting. I have never been a fan of fasting. Even when I was anorexic I ate three times a day- it was just that two of the “meals” had about 100 calories each. Fasting makes me obsess about food. The only time I fast is on Yom Kippur, and this year I can honestly say it was for religious reasons. I somehow gained weight that weekend, but I don’t regret the fast.
    The whole idea of feeling light and energized is fascinating. I felt wonderful when anorexic, and I’m sure it was the ketosis. I also felt great for two years having only juice or juice and fruit for breakfast. Now that my ND has convinced me to eat protein at breakfast, I have a different pattern throughout the day. No longer the light energy, but a more stable mind and mood (also in part from the supplements I’ve added). I think there is a place for enjoying that feeling of lightness- for a person who is overweight and feels cruelly dragged around by their overzealous appetite, as I have many times in the past, that feeling of lightness and a degree of detachment could be priceless in beginning to establish a more balanced relationship with food. The trick is in figuring out when the lightness is a healthy contrast to an overloaded system, and when it is a symptom of undernourishment and imbalance. I am also more of a believer in “overhaul” diets than you are- but only for someone beginning at a overweight or unhealthy place. Sometimes you need that feeling of magic and promise of certain progress that comes with making big changes to your diet. But no reason to make it drastic or temporary- why not a plan that takes a couple steps each week, or one significant permanent change that is bound to make progress but keep the body healthy, like one raw meal a day, or cutting out processed carbs? I love smoothie meals because I find that they do impart a relative feeling of lightness, and I pack plenty of calories and nutrient groups into them. For me that has largely replaced the role that juicing formerly played. I’m currently working to stabilize my eating habits and weight after the dietary changes I’ve recently made, but when I’m in a place of stability I find that I can have that sensation of lightness between meals when I rightly experience true hunger just before a meal, when I exercise, and when my meals are nutrient dense but friendly on digestion.

  30. wonderful post, as always, my dear. i love reader saywards take on veganism too…to strive for perfection is an impossible feat, and to claim that anything short of it is a failure is inaccurate. if we simply do what we can, and act in the best way and make decisions that reflect our beliefs, then thats about as good as it gets. i dont think that my life could ever be considered entirely vegan, but its as vegan as i want it to be in any given moment. and i think thats as good as it gets for me. i certainly dont think its a failure on my part.
    as for the juicing fasting thing, i agree 100%. the blueprint things were all the rage for a while there (maybe they still are?), but physiologically speaking i can tell you they MESS UP your metabolism. really and truly, they cause your hormones to get all out of whack. evolutionarily, we are still programmed to store store store, so if our bodies are saying im hungry wheres the food, and the food never arrives, our bodies respond by shutting down a bit and going into a maintenance mode…re-programming in the worst way.
    ok, enough biology for tonight. peace!

  31. Wow Gena, you couldn’t have said it better πŸ™‚ I totally am against the whole juicing/ fasting/ cleanse regime. It’s a complete backlash, just another “diet”, that causes the diet- overeat cycle. No bueno. Glad you shared your thoughts on this, as I agree completely!

  32. Wow, lots to think about here, both with your article and the NYTimes one. Thanks for your bravery writing about it, lots of folks will certainly disagree!

    I have to say I have juice “feasted” which I do think differs from “fasting” due to the amount of calories. It’s actually hard to drink it all, one gallon a day. People who have done well on fasts have to ensure they are drinking enough.

    My personal reasons were more for experimentation and health than weight loss. Although I did love the feeling of feeling very light and empty, it was not worth the intense hunger I felt. The times I’ve done colonics and/or enemas have been much more successful.

    From what I’ve read from Kris Carr, who has done a lot of research on the subject, and from what I’ve experienced myself, one day is about enough to get some cleansing. And your body recovers quickly.

    The reason why this is not great for weight loss is that you get so hungry that you tend to want the greasiest and most dense food after-which is harsh on the digestive system. And the weight comes back.

    I think “cleanses” or “detoxes” that are a type of whole foods or vegan diet or raw food are probably a better option for the average Joe who is still eating sugar and meat. The need to go to the extreme is not really necessary.

    And of course this makes no sense at all for someone with an eating disorder in their past. You are wise to stay away.

    • Bitt,

      I think that, if you do fast, colonics are crucial! (For some, they’re crucial even if you don’t fast.)

      I’ve spoken with Kris about this very topic, and she agrees. I still don’t feel that there’s any evidence to suggest that abstaining for a day is better than eating very clean for a day, but in either case I think we all agree that it doesn’t take 90 days of juice to help one’s system heal πŸ™‚


  33. Fantastic post. I always come away from your blog feeling more educated than when I arrived. I also tend to think about your posts several times after reading. Thanks for an eloquent and intelligent blog.

  34. Hey Gena! What a joy to check in for my Choosing Raw fix, only to find my comment featured. Made me do a double take!

    Just last night I finished reading the whole blog (reverse chronological, every damn entry). I think you’re doing friggin’ fabulous work here. Keep on rocking!

  35. I get the lure of the “empty” feeling, as many people say they enjoy eating raw because it provides many quick-exit but satisfying foods. But a raw diet at its best is a manifestation of a will to thrive, and – as my HS philosophy teacher said – “Anorexia is the death wish slowly overcoming the will to live.” So I’m with you in your unwillingness to support juice fasting. On the other hand, Mormons fast once a month for 24 hours, and it’s one of the reasons we’re supposed to have such good vitals. It does great things for your cholesterol and triglycerides, apparently. Anyway, I like to chew things. I need food. (I SAID IT.) And I think (ever-elusive) balance is the strongest wish to live.

    • Love this comment, A πŸ™‚ Especially the assertion that the will to eat is the will to live.

      I think there are healthy ways to manage that feeling of lightness, or the wish for it — something for me to mention in a follow up post today, perhaps. And raw foods certainly can work in that direction. But it’s a balance that must be calibrated very carefully, as I’ve seen many raw foodists move from plentiful raw diets to fruit+green diets that are too low cal, all in that pursuit of the lightness, and it’s frightening. If you are going to eat in such a way as to maintain feelings of lightness while also being healthy, the onus is certainly upon you to know what you’re doing.

      Like it when your name pops up in the comments.


  36. Hello

    Thanks for another well written post. You’re really good at this!

    I have to admit joining the world of “health food” again due to my job and the vast amounts of information and “inspiring” teachers that are accessible through the online world, I have also been disturbed at some of the ways people will try to join in without regard to their own personal needs… both physically and emotionally.

    My concern is the signs of mental instability and even bi-polar disorder (I have personal experience of both through family members and friends) I feel can be exacerbated by a low fat, ungrounded diet. Lack of omega 3’s and too much high sugar (fruit etc) can be a dangerous thing for well being. Some of these people are the biggest advocates for a raw diet. I follow a mostly raw-based diet myself and it has changed my life for the better after years of over eating and an unhealthy addiction to high starch foods (seriously I was a cheese on toast/pasta/grains overload girl). I worry about that affects fasting can have on people that tend to overeat too.

    Thanks for reading this and letting me share my thoughts and all the best for your journeys everyone.

    • hi colleen,
      funny how i happened to read your comment… i was recently diagnosed of bipolar disorder (by a family doctor, not yet a psychiatrist). i didn’t eat much for the summer (4ish months) prior to this diagnosis, and before that, i was high raw vegan with the excuse of healing my IBS (which really did help me). thinking back, i did show symptoms of some kind of mood disorder starting 6-7 years back, but reading your comment, now i’m frightened that my post-ED eating habits (vegan and raw), along with being afraid of food because of the physical symptoms of IBS, has exacerbated whatever instability i had already to the nth degree. i’m SO confused about what i’m to eat now, it drives me up the wall. am i supposed to eat what i “want” to eat, or am i supposed to eat what i’m “supposed” to eat, or am i supposed to forget about what i’m eating period and just eat whatever’s around, to survive? sigh.

      • Hi Jenny,
        I’m not a doctor or nutritionist or anything else, BUT… I am an at-risk person for mood disorders which have manifested more at some points in my life and less at others. Recently I started seeing an ND and began supplements including B12/B complex shots, pharmaceutical grade multivitamin, iron, vitamin D3, omega 3s, and nuvoxil (a natural serotonin support). These supplements are all vegetarian and could be all vegan. The difference in my mood fluctuations? Enormous. I am much more happy and my mood much less labile. I’ve been tweaking my diet a little too, adding protein with breakfast, but I’m pretty certain that the supplements have made a big difference. I would recommend avoiding foods that give you IBS symptoms but otherwise focusing on the best balance between healthy (by which I mean, as one example, foods featured on this blog) and what you want to eat– and then adding a multivitamin and omega 3s. You could get a blood test to see if you are anemic, low on D3, or deficient in B12 or anything else your doctor suspects as well. NDs have different criteria for deficiencies and may be able to tell you that you are in a range that is not severe for some vitamin but that is not optimal either. Even eating the “ideal” diet many of us find we have deficiencies, and for me adding supplements in my areas of deficiency as well as boosting my B vitamins has made such a difference, and I wonder if it would help you too. Vitamins don’t replace food, but if it’s hard for you to get the right nutrition- or even if it isn’t, but the mood symptoms are still there- they could be key– my 2 cents.

        • Thanks, Laura, and Jenny, I hope this is helpful. One thing to think about is working with a dietician right now — it seems as though you’ve been through far too much to go it alone and try to eat intuitively.

          And definitely consider checking your vitamin levels. Be well!

          • Hi Jenny!

            Thanks so much for replying and to Gena and Laura C. I agree with them. And would like to say listen to your intuition when you can and see what foods etc you are really drawn to. I am at high risk and have displayed some symptoms of BP too over the years but have never been diagnosed (I don’t go to doctors etc much…I would like to rectify this and trust professionals more instead of self- doagnosing all the time which, like you, confuses me and makes me lost when i try to put together all the information I have read). I feel great (eg, balanced and like a “normal” person when i eat some good fats everyday like avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, nut cheese and nut milk etc) and when i don’t stuff myself in one sitting (of course!)…and stay hydrated. Oh and coffee and cacao tip me over the anxiety edge…but that’s just me. Some people seem to do well on stimulants.

            Best of luck with your journey!


          • Oh and I have been eating lots of chia seeds and ground flax seed. Not sure if this is helping but they are a good vegan source of omega 3’s. Omega 3’s are rad and I believe they help keep me balanced while eating mostly raw.

            There is a great documentary on Bi-polar called Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive


            It helped me understand and respect those I know who suffer from BP and a medical doctor who is interviewed mentioned how omega 3’s helped her keep her balance. Hope this is some help to anyone with BP or know people who do. xx

  37. Speechless! Wow!
    For sometime now I’ve been following the “juice feasting/fasting/detoxing” crowd with full belief that’s that way to go; despite part of me (most of me) not looking forward to it each time, and like you, much preferring to EAT my calories, not DRINK them. Having read ur article I resonate 100% with your words. A former-anorexic myself, I now follow a high raw vegan diet (gone from a full raw vegan diet for similar reasons that could get me into trouble).

    I believe as others have metioned also, that if we’re eating whole unprocessed foods, lots of fresh organic fruits and vegies, pure water, and as much living foods as possible, the need for juice feasting (as advocates would outline) isn’t there – in my opinion. Sure a juice is beneficial at the best of times for a multitude of reasons, but for myself and my own reasons, I feel it’s safer for me not to walk down the path of fasting.

    LOVED your article. And I would LOVE to put a link to this post on my blog πŸ™‚

  38. I somehow missed this article so thanks for blogging about it! I agree with what you have said. I would like to point out two other issues which I also thought really stood out.
    1. “And the diet has a glorious circular logic to it. As Mr. Glickman explains on his Web site, if you experience symptoms like cravings, fatigue, irritability, headaches, pains, nausea, vomiting, hot bowel movements (!) … congratulations! That means you were supertoxic, and the cleanse is working.” I worry about this quite often when reading other raw foods sites and forums. What topics can not be categorized as ‘detoxing’ and if written off as such these might go untreated if underlying factors of a larger medical issue.
    2. β€œPeople who have trouble managing their weight tend to be all or nothing about things. Cleansing doesn’t allow you to make peace with real food.” This issue of control is so important.

  39. I really appreciate your response to the NYT article. I also never suggest extreme steps when making dietary adjustments, and so I really appreciate your recognition of the value of small, lasting changes. Bravo, Gena!

  40. I havent read the article but will as soon as have a spare minute to do so!

    As for fasting, as you said, it can be a slippery slope.

    Many people I do think fast for the wrong reasons and I really hate it when the raw/vegan community discusses fasting as a pancea. Fast and you’ll feel wonderful. Fast and you’ll be cured of your digestion issues/insomnia/acne/moodiness/you name an ailment..just fast, that’s what you need to do, just drink juice and fast. And everything will be perfect.


    I am sure there are some people who have excellent results fasting and for them it’s a tool to set them on a health path or a path they need/want to be on…great! And it’s not a slippery slope.

    For others, it IS a slippery slope.

    And for many people, other options would indeed work better, I’d surmise. You don’t need to go on a juice fast for 2 weeks. Instead, perhaps just eliminating coffee and overly processed carbs is enough.

    Swinging the pendulum in such extreme manners is probably not necessary and in fact can be dangerous I’d imagine.

    But we have to remember that everyone is on their own path, journey and quest…and it’s not my place to tell someone not to juice fast or judge them. For me personally though, I could never do it. I have no interest, desire, and frankly, I’d be too damn hungry! πŸ™‚

  41. I try to fast for spiritual reasons, more than health. I too love
    my food, and can’t say I’m good at fasting. On a spiritual fast
    I feel hunger. I have fasted water only for 3 days, my appetite
    for food wasn’t there, it was more the emotional desire to eat.

    I have in the past fasted juice only for 3 days. I have auto-immune issues, and foods are big triggers.

    I don’t know if you have read any of Joel Fuhrman M.D.’s books.
    His book “Eat to Live” is a must read. He also has a book “Fasting- and Eating- for Health” It is powerfully persuasive.
    After reading this book, I have often wished I had the willpower
    to go on an extended fast. (21 days) Others have had their auto-immune diseases vanish on these extended fasts.
    I work hard through diet, rest, and exercise to control my disease.
    It is a constant battle. I often wonder if I too could be healed through fasting.

    However, for now the only fasting I do is for spiritual growth.

  42. Thanks for writing this post, Gena. I am a big fan of raw food but juice feasting or fasting and colonics have never appealed to me. My gut instinct is that it doesn’t feel natural to me β€” maybe it works for others β€” so I just don’t go there.

    Well, I tried to do a juice “feast” for one day and I couldn’t make it past the 14-hour mark. I felt so weak and hungry. I, too, was looking for renewal and weight-loss. I always attributed this to a lack of will power and loving food too much.

    So I’m glad you came out with such a solid response to fasting. It made me realize why the heck would I want to move beyond eating? Eating is necessary for me to live and be well. I also have binge-eating tendencies so I think cultivating a healthy daily diet is a much gentler approach, along with dealing with why I binge eat in the first place. Facing your fears or demons directly is my preferred choice of action rather than “alleviating” oneself above food as a solution.

    This is totally why I follow your blog β€” you have very thought-provoking posts.

  43. I am a fellow nutritionist and I 100% agree with you! Not a fan of cleansing. It just results in muscle wasting and for those of you who are trying to lose weight….you will lose it but end up gaining it back and then some but it disrupts metabolism.
    I have found no evidence that fasting is a good thing to do.
    If you want to cleasne EAT FIBER RICH FRUITS AND VEGGIES!
    Thanks for your post! Well said :O)

  44. I have never tried fasting or cleansing, but I can’t help but feel that it doesn’t sound very healthy. I haven’t read the literature on it though, so I’ll try not to pass judgement. I loved Sayward’s response though, he makes it clear that each choice you make to reduce suffering, even if all of your choices are not perfect, does make a difference. I like that message. There’s no reason to beat yourself up every time you make a less than perfect choice or throw all your values out the window when you mess up once.

  45. Thank-you for addressing this issue. Your insights are so interesting and valuable to me, as you are so well-balanced in your approach to diet.
    My first fast was following the ‘Mars and Venus Exercise Solution’ which advises one to two day nutrient-enriched water fasts in between weeks of two meals and one juice ‘meal’ a day. I felt great and lost 3 kilos slowly over several weeks, which was my aim. Now I am about to begin a four week cleanse following the ‘Cleanse and Purify Thyself’ cleanse which advises fasting during the last week, yet my focus has totally changed from the desire to lose weight to the desire to clean out my colon, as before I read this book I had no idea that my previous years of bad eating led to “mucoid plaque” and parasites, and believe me when you learn about those things you forget about your weight!
    I read the article and agree with you–it seems she looked at a cleanse as a quick fix “pill”, and I find it sad she did not discover how delicious green smoothies can be! I have learned not to look at a “meal” of juice or a whole day of nutrient-rich water or just juice as a “cleanse” at all; some days I just feel like giving my body only the best, just like other days in which I indulge all day. I do think that the writer having had a go at it was important, though, as she didn’t know before how good juice can make you feel. If she’s like most people, like me, you learn things from experimenting with what at first seems like an extreme to you, then take from it what you liked at your own pace, and keep getting into better habits gradually that way.

    On more thing on green smoothies–ironically, they are now my “lazy” choice of what to have as a “meal” when I just don’t feel like cooking or making something solid! I have learned to balance enough greens with tasty fruits and proteins so that I never feel hungry. Two smoothie “meals” in a row, however, and I do feel hunger, and that’s when my enjoyment stops and I gotta have solid food, so I only have one juice “meal” between normal meals now.

  46. I have never researched fasting because I am not interested in it either – I LOVE a spinach smoothie and I LOVE fresh juice… AND I generally eat something with them! I like to EAT too much to drink my meals and / or deprive or fast.

    I LOVE Saywards comment and the definition. πŸ™‚

  47. i read this article today too! i am not a juice faster but i do love green juice. i do fast from time to time but it’s more like intermittent fasting. i.e. 12-18hrs after my last meal. some days i’m hungry right away and others it takes me until the afternoon to feel it. i’m not going to “get my metabolism going” by forcing down breakfast if i don’t want it. let’s be real here, your metabolism doesn’t suddenly “shut off” from this happening a couple times a week. and in my world starvation mode doesn’t happen either unless you are consistent in restricting your diet over a good bit of time. the body is pretty freaking resilient. i think her article is a bit of a fluff piece but a decent read nonetheless.

  48. Wanting to be “weightless” or “light” implies a way of wanting to be “not human”. Have you ever read Dr. Stephen Bratman’s book “Health Food Junkies”. He brings up tremendously thoughtful thoughts on several different “lifestyles” and the dangerous relation to orthorexia. Interesting for certain!

  49. I’m on day 13 of a 14 day “cleanse.” Days 7, 8, and 9 I “fasted” via Master Cleanse. The other days I ate fruits, vegetables, beans, grain, tofu, nuts and seeds. During the cleanse I do not consume alcohol, caffeine, wheat, sugar (or dairy, but as a vegan I don’t consume it anyway). During the cleanse I do use natural colon cleanse supplements.

    This is my third cleanse this year (I used Master Cleanse in two, and I had three days of juice fasting in another). I do not cleanse to lose weight (though I do lose a few pounds….and gain them back) I cleanse because I have significant candida symptoms which have increased as I entered peri-menopause — and thus far I refuse to follow an anti-candida diet. By cleansing every four months or so my candida symptoms have eased. And I do feel better after. My skin does look better. I sleep better.

    Having said that, I don’t disagree with much of what you said. I think it comes down to intention.

  50. I am SO looking forward to reading all of the comments on this post! People’s opinions & experiences with fasting are so varied. I am really glad that you finally wrote about this topic, and I value your opinion greatly.

    My mom actually recently had a book lying around that was written by the BluePrint Cleanse creators. I read it, and it was basically a how-to guide on doing their home delivery cleanse on your own, without the need for ordering their expensive juices. I’ll admit that I was intrigued by their claims about all the health benefits of occasional fasting (for me, it truly wasn’t about weight loss, as I’m not looking to lose weight) – and you may remember that I wrote to you asking for your opinion! I’m really happy that you discouraged me from doing a juice fast, as upon further reflection, I realized that all the things they promised (glowing skin, clear eyes, elevated mood, better digestion, etc.) can be achieved simply through clean, plant-based eating – which, of course, I already do! I don’t have my mind made up as to whether or not cleansing/fasting is healthy/beneficial for SOME people – but for me, no thanks. I’ll keep drinking my green juice, but I’ll also keep my solid meals, thankyouverymuch! πŸ™‚

    Going to read that NYT piece now…

    P.S. I missed the “Difficulties of Living Cruelty-Free” post (going to read it now), but I LOVE Sayward’s comment! Bravo!

  51. Thank you for this very insightful response Gina. I found the article in the NYtimes today very interesting. As someone who has never fasted post-ED, it is something that I have always been interested in. But the last few sentences were very triggering to the feelings I used to have when restricting. I quickly tried to push these unhealthy thoughts away. She makes that freedom from starvation sounds so great, but as an anorexic the reality can be far from that. Thank you for addressing this.

    • E,

      It’s pretty awesome to get a comment from a former ED-woman who feels similarly. Thanks for chiming in.


  52. I’ve heard of people having great experiences fasting, and horrible experiences. I think the quality of the experience lies in the mentality, body type and goals of the faster. It’s important to take into account each individual. However, I also believe that if we eat cleanly most of the time, our bodies don’t have much to detox from in the first place- our bodies are meant to process food and everything that comes along with it!

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