When I heard we were doing an issue about getting one’s shit together, I knew I was candidate number one.
I’m 33, a food critic who eats more fried chicken than any human should, and if I’m not careful, there’s a touch of the gout in my future. As I pondered my path to redemption I thought: If one health activity is good—WHAT ABOUT THREE? And what if I do all of them in THREE DAYS? Fixed!
So I crafted plans to ruin my long MLK weekend by attending BurnCycle, enduring a three-day juice cleanse with Portland Juice Company, AND doing a 90-minute sensory deprivation float at the Float Shoppe. When I announced I’d do it on social media, the superstar chef of Mae and the upcoming Yonder, Maya Lovelace, popped into the comments to say she was in for the fast.
I opted for a cleanse with four juices and one cup of bone broth from Salt, Fire & Time for three days ($117 delivered), while Maya went full juice, getting a total of six bottles a day ($141). If I couldn’t eat pork, I was sure gonna go HAM on health.
Thursday: After work, I drive to the Pearl for BurnCycle, a spin class in the vein of SoulCycle, where acolytes climb aboard stationary bikes packed some 18 inches apart, pedaling to high-volume club beats while the teacher shouts motivational words and your quads catch fire.
Most of the class is spent riding standing up, while “the pack” is meant to keep pace to the beat. Kira, the teacher, turns the lights on and off at seemingly random intervals and shouts things like “Get out of your head and into your body!” and “Only you know your story!”
The all-women class pedals like frantic, sexy hamsters, and I secretly sit down every time Kira turns off the lights. Throughout, we are expected to do push-ups on the handlebars and also make figure eights with our hips, which the pack does in unison to the music. I flail and fall out of my clips twice. Still, I didn’t hate it, and I can see how others could get into it.
At a farewell-to-food dinner, Maya brings me my juice. We text each other inspirational messages like, “GOD FUCKING HELP ME shit fuck my stupid life.” We are READY.
Friday: I crack my first juice at 9 am: “Jiva,” a raw almond, date, and vanilla blend with cold brew coffee mercifully included. There are small almond chunks and they are sustenance.
My coworkers watch warily as I head to the fridge and unearth my next bottled “meal.” “Mantra” is a cayenne, carrot, ginger, turmeric, and orange mix that provides a good pick-me-up, but the blended romaine in the “Prana” is watery and gross. I am hungry, but able to get work done and not murder any innocent bystanders.
I read on Portland Juice Company’s website that one raw meal a day is important to keep up your energy, so I head to Whole Foods to buy zucchini to spiralize for dinner. I buy $47 worth of groceries that I can’t eat. I end with an eight-ounce cup of turkey bone broth (which needs serious seasoning, but is a welcome warmness) and tea. Day one is not so bad.
Saturday: I read somewhere that Penélope Cruz sleeps a lot to avoid eating, so I sleep ’til 10:30. I juice up with another cold brew-based bottle and head out to meet Maya at Pixie Retreat in inner Southeast. The weather is gorgeous. I am drained.
Pixie Retreat specializes in raw foods, so we share a collard green wrap with raw eggplant bacon and a mock BLT with an onion and flaxseed “bread.” We don’t even finish the BLT, whose “bread” forms a gummy paste in our mouths. The dessert, a raw salted caramel and cocoa pudding cup, however, is a dream.
Toward late afternoon, my energy dips noticeably for the first time. I go see The Post (TRIGGER WARNING: POPCORN SMELLS) and drink the “Karma” with kale, spinach, and pineapple, while my friend eats a burrito because she’s a bitch who clearly hates me.
Maya has been listing off foods she wants to eat: steak tartare, poke, protein of any sort. She reports a headache and we ponder if ibuprofen is okay on a cleanse. My husband makes a spicy noodle soup, and I give him a few choice words for even thinking of eating it in my sight. Emotions are as raw as our food.
Sunday: I crawl out of bed, my legs super sore from BurnCycle, and grab a juice. I am lightheaded and dazed, nearly forgetting my noon appointment at the Float Shoppe in Nob Hill.
A float involves 90 minutes of total darkness and silence inside a pod filled with eight inches of water and a gazillion pounds of Epsom salts. The room is humid, and the temperature is neither too cold nor too hot.
I edge in, close the pod door and turn off the glowing blue light. I thrash around for what feels like an eternity before settling into a trance-like state. The water feels firm as a bed and I am totally still, left with my inner monologue and the sounds of my growling tummy. All I can think about is what I will eat first.
I meet Maya for what I’ve now come to think of as “chewables” at Blossoming Lotus. She, just like me, is sporting a thousand-yard stare. We order live nachos, with dense flaxseed “chips,” raw cashew cheese and the MOST BEAUTIFUL HALF AVOCADO I HAVE EVER SEEN. In our respective jobs as chef and food writer, Maya and I have laid waste to giant feasts, but we both don’t come close to finishing.
I get home, snap at hubby, burst into tears and eat the rest of my nachos. Instead of feeling better, I feel super full and gross, like the monster of PMS past and future. Maya also finished her raw nachos and got the flaxseed bloats. Though we’re both closer to returning to food, neither of us is excited. OH THE ENNUI.
I heat up my last cup of bone broth, which has become the highlight of my day, while watching My 600-Lb Life. Before bed, I floss, wondering what’s the point if there’s no food stuck in my teeth.
After: At noon Monday, I make veggie soup and eat a small bowl—my appetite’s been diminished. Maya dives into miso soup and poke over greens at Poke Mon. She lost six pounds, and may be even more of a convert than I am, because she says she’s planning to replace one meal a day with raw food or juice.
Maya says: “As a woman working in food, eating and food are very charged and complicated issues for me. This fast definitely made me pay attention to my hunger and cravings in a different way—it felt like a reset button. I’m feeling pretty positive about making some changes to my diet, after realizing that a lot of what I eat just flat-out makes me feel BAD. I definitely felt healthier; until I ate too many flaxseeds and thought I was going to die.”
I only lost three pounds and I have very dubious feelings about any “toxins” being purged since that’s what the liver is for. But I do agree on the digestive do-over, my thighs are still sore, and my skin is dewier than Beyoncé in a rainforest. I’m almost sure it was worth the effort.