Listen: I am not a juice cleanse kind of person.

In fact, if you asked my friends, they'd tell you that I'm more of a "Why not have a second glass of wine after dinner?" kind of person.

But after a particularly indulgent trip to New Orleans full of beignets and Hurricanes that left me with both sugar hangovers and actual hangovers, shedding some toxins and packing my body with vitamins didn't feel like such a bad idea. 

Enter Viva Raw, the creators of my favorite juices in Charlotte. I frequently swing by their spot at the 7th Street Public Market, so I knew I loved how their organic, cold-pressed juices tasted. But could I actually stick to three days of nothing but those juices, as well as five days of a plant-based "pre-cleanse" and five days of "post-cleanse," for real? 

We were about to find out.

The Drink(s): Viva Raw Cleanse

The Viva Raw Cleanse is the most popular cleanse offered by Viva Raw, featuring seven juices per day: four Green Harvest, one Beet Boost, one Carrot Patch, and one Almond Bliss. The recommended duration for this cleanse is between three and seven days — making it a great way to transition from a poor diet (maybe an overly indulgent vacation, the holiday season, etc.) or to simply reset your food cravings. And if you think you'd struggle to go that long without solid food, I'm here to tell you from my own personal experience: it's so much easier than you think. 

My Viva Raw Cleanse Experience

Before you decide to read any further, just know that there will be some very candid descriptions of bodily functions ranging from digestive to menstrual in the coming paragraphs. You've been warned! 

Part 1: Pre-Cleanse

Jordan at Viva Raw sent me their Cleanse Guide, which started with a thoughtful and sincere note from the company: 

Congratulations! You have made an important decision that will re-energize your body and help it to thrive... You are giving your body a short break from the work of digesting solid foods and flooding it with nutrients. This enables the body to heal itself naturally. Please feel free to call or email us during your cleanse. Questions will come up. You might feel under the weather or think you can't get through it, or you might just need a little encouragement... We will be happy to answer questions and provide support.

I hadn't even gotten through the first page of the Cleanse Guide and I was already feeling better. Just knowing that someone would be available if I didn't know what I was doing or if I ran into any issues made the whole cleanse seem so much less daunting to me. 

Then came the preparation instructions for the five-day pre-cleanse. Let's just say I was less excited about those.

Viva Raw suggested moving toward a plant-based diet at least five days before embarking on the cleanse, with an emphasis on raw foods on the fourth and fifth days. They said this helps the body transition to metabolizing fat as an energy source, so it won't be such a shock to the system when your body realizes you won't be feeding it all the solid (and, uh, maybe not-so-great) foods it's accustomed to.

For me, the plant-based part wasn't so bad — I'm not a big meat eater to begin with — though I wasn't looking forward to avoiding gluten, alcohol, and added sugars. But I was most nervous about cutting out caffeine. According to the folks at Viva Raw, caffeine tends to overwork the adrenal glands and keep stress hormones elevated, in addition to preventing some nutrients from being absorbed (like plant-based iron and calcium). So, my morning coffee routine would have to be put on hold for a while.

Here's what I did eat during this plant-based pre-cleanse timeframe:

Breakfast:

Lunch:

Dinner:

Snacks:

  • Apples with almond butter 
  • Carrots with hummus 

I honestly didn't mind the foods I was eating. In fact, everything I outlined above tasted fresh and delicious! I didn't even find myself craving any non-compliant foods or anything like that, which I was surprised by. But I didn't love the amount of prep time that went into making grocery lists of the items I'd need for each dish, preparing of those ingredients to make each meal, cleaning the dishes I used to cook and eat in the first place, and then doing it all over again a few hours later. This is how I end up eating unhealthily a lot of the time, I think — I'm usually so busy that I just choose whatever option will take the least amount of time and effort.

As expected, I had terrible headaches for the first three days. That could've been from sugar withdrawal, caffeine withdrawal, my period (which I not-so-serendipitously got on Day 2 of this journey) — but whatever the cause, thankfully it dissipated by Day 4. For the first three days, I was notably more tired and able to fall asleep more quickly... but had a harder time waking up in the mornings. By Day 4, that fog started to lift a bit as my body got more used to functioning without the ebbs and flows of caffeine and sugar intake throughout the day.

No weird stomach issues had started to crop up by the last day of the cleanse or anything. In terms of bowel movements (I warned you guys!), I was still on my usual once-a-day schedule. 

The only thing that was maybe slightly awkward was figuring out what to do about being in breweries all the time — obviously, I couldn't have my usual beer or two after a yoga class, or when I caught up with friends. Instead, I just went to breweries I knew had UpDog Kombucha since I knew it was vegan, raw, and gluten-free with no added sugars. It was not just compliant, but delicious and effervescent. I asked bartenders to pour it into a normal glass most of the time so it was less obvious that I wasn't drinking, but otherwise, it didn't feel that different from getting beer with a friend. I just felt less crappy the next day from it.

From the time I weighed myself the morning of Day 1 of the pre-cleanse to the time I weighed myself on Day 1 of the cleanse itself (more on that in a second!), I had lost six pounds so far. I felt notably less sleepy than I had on Day 1 of the pre-cleanse, and I was ready to drink some juices. 

Part 2: The Cleanse

I don't feel the need to go day-by-day with my recap of the cleanse because really, it all felt the same: easy. 

I know, it sounded like bullshit to me when I read other people write things like that too, but bear with me. 

For me, the part of the plant-based pre-cleanse that was tough was just grocery shopping, meal preparation, and clean-up. It was all the work that went into eating the foods that were good for me that kept me from doing so regularly.

So, being able to wake up and just reach for a pre-made, organic, cold-pressed juice that I knew was good for me and was the only thing I was supposed to be eating felt like a gift by the time I got to that point. And then when I was finished, I got to just toss the empty bottle into the recycling bin! It was so easy to make that healthy choice when it was sitting right in front of me. And my phone would ding two hours later, letting me know that it was time for my next juice. So easy! Especially as someone who's constantly running from one meeting to the next, it was so nice to be able to toss the next juice in my line-up into my bag to drink when my two hours was up. 

Two things I was afraid of when I started the juice cleanse were 1) that the juices would taste like chewing on raw kale, and 2) that I'd be starving the whole time.

Neither of those were true with this cleanse, and I wish someone had spelled that out explicitly before I'd done it myself, because it would've alleviated a lot of the doubt that kept me from doing it sooner. Viva Raw's juices are light and citrus-y rather than gritty and earthy like some juices, and drinking things that tasted great made such a huge difference. Especially the Almond Bliss — that one was basically just a sweet and creamy dessert-like reward for making it through each day of the cleanse. Beyond that, you're drinking a juice every two hours, so your stomach feels pretty full the entire time, especially if you're drinking the suggested amount of water each day in addition to that.

Other concerns to address: yes, I peed a LOT. Usually at least once per juice, if not more. That was my body flushing out toxins! Ditto the now two to three bowel movements I was having per day. Thankfully, working from home made this a lot less awkward. I'm not totally sure what you'd do if you worked in an office setting for this experience; maybe plan to do your cleanse during some time off or a long weekend? 

But I had no headaches, no fatigue, no cravings. I've described it to my friends as feeling like a robot who just reached for my new, recharged battery every two hours for fuel. Beep boop bop. I am now a fully functional human with all required nutrients. Bop boop beep. 

Part 3: Post-cleanse. 

I think the weirdest part about this whole experience was that the first post-cleanse day when I was supposed to return to solid foods, I felt sort of bummed. I didn't feel like cooking; I just wanted to reach for my nutrient juice battery and be a functional robot human again. Instead, I made myself some steel cut oats with cinnamon to see how that sat in my stomach before having a salad, then a homemade Yafo bowl (quinoa, greens, hummus, vegetables). Everything sat well. 

The five-day post-cleanse was intended to be a slow reintroduction of everything you'd cut out of your diet for the pre-cleanse. My first choice was coffee. I didn't even miss the caffeine, just the taste and smell of it. I had a cup of regular coffee and felt very jittery, like my mind was moving a mile a minute. I decided that maybe decaf coffee would be better for me for a while.

After that came wine. I missed being able to drink with my friends, as that's a big part of my lifestyle. I reintroduced a glass of wine while catching up with a friend and noticed that my "buzzed" feeling arrived a bit sooner. I decided to continue to take it slowly as I reintroduced beer over the coming days.

That came just after I reintroduced gluten, actually. I had some Dave's Killer Bread with almond butter and raspberries for breakfast, and I didn't notice any discomfort throughout the day. I figured that meant gluten sat well with me, and the next day decided I'd be fine to have a pint of beer with a friend before we went out for the evening.

Next, dairy. I added some half and half to my decaf coffee, testing the waters, and that went well. Next, I put goat cheese on my salad for lunch, and that sat well too. 

Next, I added in eggs. I missed my normal morning two-eggs-on-toast-with-avocado, so I wanted to see if that protein sat well with me. I had an omelette with goat cheese, spinach, and mushrooms, and all of the above tasted delicious and didn't upset my stomach, so I checked them all off on my mental "okay to eat" list.

For me, the last step was trying some fish. I have never been a big meat-eater, and I'd always thought I could do well with just fish and eggs for protein. I gave some salmon a try on my salad, and waited 24 hours before deciding if it sat well or if it didn't. Luckily for me, my body showed no signs of distress; I just craved some sushi.

And I think that's where I'll stay. I don't feel like I have any particular issue with gluten or dairy, though I don't seek them out. I think caffeine tends to amplify my anxiety, so I'm fine with opting out of that for the time being to see how that goes. I love living a healthy, balanced lifestyle that incorporates both beer and wine, which I don't feel upset my body too much (in moderation, of course, and in conjunction with regular workouts). Eggs and fish don't bother me, so they're back in my routine. But meat overall... I'm good.

I learned that I don't eat nearly as many fruits and vegetables as my body craves, and that I feel so much healthier when I add more of those to my regimine rather than taking away other items specifically. 

And most importantly: I learned that I can do a juice cleanse, and even enjoy a juice cleanse, as needed to reset my body and my cravings. 

So if you're thinking, "I'm not exactly a juice cleanse kind of person," take it from me — you can be. You just have to try.