Most people seek juice cleansing for the alleviation of physical health problems and weight loss, which it can help greatly with and is one of the healthiest physical methods for those ends. Today though, I’m excited to discuss how juice cleansing can support us in healing overeating and food addiction. I’ve personally done juice cleanses of many lengths, including my longest of 60-something days, and they have greatly assisted me in my journey of healing overeating and permanent, healthy weight loss.
Food is perhaps the only compulsion we can have which we aren’t able to stop completely for the rest of our lives. If we’re compulsive with gambling, pornography, alcohol, marijuana, sex, or any number of other things, they’re all ones we can cease altogether. Food is not like that, which doesn’t mean that we can’t heal our addictive behavior with it, but it makes it somewhat different to address partly because of this factor.
I found that because I was dipping back into my favorite compulsion, my “substance” (food) multiple times every day, it was hard for me to really get an objective handle on the whole thing. I overate so often, and was so addicted to junky foods that it constantly felt like I was on a roller coaster I couldn’t get off of and which never stopped. I’d try to step back to see why I was compulsive with food, but before I knew it, I was eating again and all consumed by it. I was so obsessed with food and weight all the time, always worried about what I might eat and beating myself up for what I’d already eaten, terrified I’d gain more weight or never lose it, that with all the drama and addiction all the time, I found it hard to see what was happening or make any progress with changing it.
Compulsive eating, binge eating, overeating, and junk food addiction are all forms of food addiction. Food addiction is similar to any other kind of addiction: it is there to help us avoid feeling our emotions. Anytime we behave with food in a way that hurts our bodies, in a way that is not logical nor loving towards ourselves, which sabotages our health or our being at a healthy weight, it is always because we are attempting to suppress ourselves emotionally. Food can help guard us against anxiety, fear, loneliness, discomfort, anger, pain, grief, shame and much more. Food can be an attempt to suppress any feeling about any topic. If we’ve been using food excessively much of or all of our lives, it is an indicator that there has been lifelong avoidance of feeling certain emotions and a strong desire to continue to avoid feeling them at all costs.
“We eat the way we eat because we are afraid to feel what we feel.”
When I discovered juice cleansing, the idea of it both excited and terrified me. I hoped this would be the answer to getting out of the prison of being overweight and obsessed with eating, and at the same time, the idea of going without food and certain drinks made me feel panicked.
I had been reading books about healing compulsive eating, and none of them had ever suggested juice cleansing. In fact, most of them discouraged anything which the author viewed as another form of restriction and as another diet; a different form in the same unhealthy cycle a person has been stuck in. Many overeating “experts” strongly discourage juice cleansing and suggest doing so would only exacerbate the problems the person needs to address. I completely understand where this concern comes from, because I see people frequently–even some of my own clients–seek juice cleansing for reasons that really just distill down to another crash diet (albeit the healthiest one you could do), and only seek a physical change without a desire to address the root cause of why they have problematic habits with eating. Juice cleansing indeed be more of the same yo-yo cycle if that’s how a person approaches it. Though we are likely to get the physical changes–particularly weight loss–that we are seeking from cleansing, juice cleansing remains in the framework of the dieting mentality.
The thing that no one talks about is the fact that juice cleansing is not inherently that way and that actually, that doesn’t have to be the only potential intention for why a person would do a juice cleanse. We can approach it in a much different way; in fact a way so opposite that it can be the difference between a juice cleanse being a temporary fix which perpetuates our dieting cycles, or, it can be a powerful tool for very deep emotional healing which will actually change our relationship with food altogether and help us get to the place many people dare to even dream of being: where they don’t struggle with food or weight at all anymore, don’t diet anymore because there is no need to, and have great health.
We can juice cleanse with the desire to feel the emotions that we have been avoiding with the compulsive use of food. Going on a juice cleanse can be like going to food addiction rehab: we can remove the thing we are addicted to, which creates a space to deal with why we are addicted to it. Removal of an addiction often triggers the emotions which we are constantly using the addiction to cover over, in this case food and drinks (ie. caffeine etc), giving us an opportunity to feel those feelings instead of burying them all the time.
The way that healing overeating and permanent weight loss happens is by choosing not engage the suppressive behavior anymore, and then feeling what is there when we don’t do it. It happens by changing our beliefs about emotions and about feeling them, and being willing to feel everything in our soul, no matter what it is. The feelings we are suppressing will only leave us by us feeling them fully and actually going through them, which is the very thing we are desperately trying to avoid with our emotional eating.
“The best way out is always through. ”
For a juice cleanse or juice feast to be an environment for this kind of shift to happen, we have to desire to feel. We have to want to be thrown into the fire emotionally, and be willing to allow ourselves to feel emotionally overwhelmed and to look at what we believe about emotions that makes us so scared and resistant to them. A juice cleanse will not magically heal compulsive eating. While a juice cleanse done correctly will foster wonderful changes in the physical body and everyone who does one correctly has great results, a juice cleanse has no power in itself emotionally. In other words, juice cleansing is not inherently a restriction which will perpetuate diet cycles, and it is not inherently a magical cure for food addiction. It’s just drinking lots and lots of veggies and fruits in a way that enables our bodies to be fully supported without eating solid food.
If we do desire to take the leap and let ourselves get really emotionally triggered, then juice cleansing can provide a great context for some soul-based work, but this will only happen if we want it to be that. It is possible to juice cleanse and replace the addictions of coffee and food etc. with being really busy, spending hours online or watching TV, fill all our free time with talking to friends and family, and therefore just swap methods of burying how we feel. We can still distance ourselves from feelings with other things and if we do this, we won’t get to the deeper layers of the large iceberg of this issue of emotional eating and why we do it.
Additionally, there people who approach juice cleanses for what the detox world calls the “fasting high”, or in general with the desire to feel good all the time. It’s a feeling of “This is the best thing ever and I’m so clean! I’m amped up on life! Positive thinking! Clear body, clear mind, clear soul!” I jest, but in all seriousness, there those who feel the need for cleansing to give them an artificial amp-up and would be very concerned if they were to go on a fast and feel darker emotions. They’re after a sort of an addictive high which also serves to suppress our real feelings. This is not to say you may not have days, or quite a lot of days, on a juice cleanse where you feel very good and quite happy, but it will be an authentic, sincere kind of happiness which will usually come after allowing ourselves to feel some harder emotions, and not a manufactured, amped-up one that we expect to have the entire time.
While not all of my juice cleanses over the years have been done with the intention of feeling, when I have done juice cleanses where I have wanted that, I’ve been very upheaved emotionally. During my 60-ish day Juice Feast in particular, as well as other shorter ones, I raged, panicked, and ultimately sobbed my heart out many times. Removing food felt like removing my best friend, my primary source of joy, pleasure and comfort in my life. Without it I felt deprived, panicked, bored, angry, lonely and sad, and when I allowed myself to go into those feelings, I discovered that the feelings I was protecting myself from with food were often not about food at all. I would come home from work convinced that the source of my distress was my green juice tasting like the lawn and my not being able to have a cookie, only to find when I let myself go into how I really felt, that I was actually terrified I’d never be happy with my body, completely distressed about the food addiction, trapped and confused. I was afraid I would never be happy and heartbroken that I never really had been that happy for very long. I was angry at life and angry at God, and most of all, my despair felt like it went down to my marrow, like it huge and swallowing and made up the substance of who I was. Cookies and pizza had always helped drown all that out.
Food was my defense against my terror of being alone with myself and being alone with my real feelings about things. It allowed me to believe false stories about myself, how I felt, about my life and about my upbringing. It constantly numbed me into to a bleak but somewhat consistent state: I was never in the depths of my deepest pain, but at the same time, suppression meant I also was never really happy either. When I went on some of these juice cleanses, I began to allow myself to get triggered by the absence of my favorite compulsion, and to feel through some of the real core issues and root causes of my lifelong solace-seeking with food. After these more sincere juice cleanses were over, and I had lots of rages and sobs, I never went back to overeating to the same extent. And I kept the weight off.
This isn’t to say one juice cleanse solved all my food addiction or it was just one where I lost all the weight and kept it off. But rather, when I used juice cleanses with the intention of putting myself in “food addiction rehab” and softened to some of the feelings I was so terrified to feel, when I went back to the world of eating, my behavior with food was better. What it felt like was that when I addressed some of the root issues directly while on a juice cleanse, I would go back to food and I would naturally be inclined to use food less heavily than before, and I didn’t even have to try to. Over time, as I felt through more of the real issues, my eating changed for good, and over time, I lost the weight for good. I think of it on a percentage scale compared to the worst of my binge eating behavior: I would feel through some big stuff and then all of a sudden my eating behavior was 10% better than that worst expression of the food addiction. Feel through more and then it was 30% better. Feel through more and it was half as bad. Feel through more and then 75% better. Now, compared to the severity of compulsive eating I used to engage, I’d rate it at 95% better. It’s not perfect, but eating and extra weight do not consume my life like they did before.
As a person who has healed the vast majority of a lifelong, very severe addiction to food, I can absolutely say that juice cleansing was a huge part in helping me to do that. It was a tool that was really, really beneficial for me. I know from my own experience and from watching thousands of people do juice cleanses since 2006 that juice cleansing could be a really awesome part of healing compulsive eating and assisting in permanent weight loss and permanent alleviation of health problems. I totally don’t believe a person needs to juice cleanse in order to heal overeating. But there is an opportunity to use it in this way, where it is not only helping your body to heal, but is providing a space for you to heal your soul, too. And indeed, the truth is in order to not go back to the same familiar habits with food and drink we had before we started a juice cleanse, this is how we need to approach cleansing. Many people are concerned they will go back to the same bad habits as they had before cleanses and gain all the weight back, and if they don’t address the underlying emotional issues, they are indeed likely to do that, either right away or eventually. So approaching juice cleansing in the way I’ve discussed in this email is actually the only method which will allow us not to go back to the situation afterwards. This goes for things like being able to go and stay vegan as well.
“What the eyes are for the outer world, fasts are for the inner.”
So with that, I’d like to leave you with some resources to begin to learn more about some of these concepts about food addiction and emotions, and some suggestions for books you could read while on one of these cleanses. And as always, feel free to email me at the contact form on this site if you’re interested in my assisting you with doing a juice cleanse or addressing overeating even if you don’t want to cleanse!
Divine Truth videos:
Healing Through the Dark Emotions by Miriam Greenspan
The Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller
Healing The Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw