Besides a pretty strong sweet tooth, I consider myself to be a relatively healthy person. I walk my dog a lot, I run, I skim Shape magazine, I drink soy milk, I live in New York City so I naturally just walk more than the average person, and this year I started doing yoga, which I consider to be a huge health achievement. Like, Gwyneth Paltrow-level healthy. And sometimes I eat carrots. Like, just ’cause I feel like it.
But where I draw the line is at juice cleanses. Starving yourself for three or more days and drinking nothing but what looks up what that girl threw up in The Exorcist? No thank you. If I don’t eat about every four hours, it is not a pretty picture. Remember that video of the very devoted Britney Spears fan who told everyone to leave her alone (here it is, in case you forgot)? Well, imagine that, but ten times worse. That is what happens if I don’t eat.
So you can imagine how scared I was when a former co-worker said she was going to do one of these juice cleanses. I thought, “Oh great. This girl is going to turn into a raving word-that-rhymes-with-witch who will be so weak she won’t even be able to read.” But to my surprise she actually managed to come into work every day and not stab people. She even claimed she felt great and lost weight. So then of course everyone else in the office also wanted to carry around bottles of this congealed green slime.
And apparently I did not work in the only office that wanted to participate in this madness. An article from The New York Times last summer claimed that office cleanses were the latest move in employee bonding. Forget trust falls—everyone can bond over their digestive systems.
So maybe it was just me. Maybe I was odd in that if I was going to torture myself with a juice cleanse, I wanted to do it while lying on a couch all day or on a beach in Malibu. But maybe if you are going to challenge your body, it is better to do it in the company of others. Or is it?
According to Maria Guadagno, a nutrition counselor who has led group cleanses at offices, juice fasts are totally safe, even if you work a lot, and doing a group cleanse is an excellent way to band together and build team spirit. She told Levo:
“I would recommend doing a one- to three-day cleanse, as everyone is at different places in regards to their health and eating habits. People should be drinking at minimum six pints of fresh pressed green and vegetable juices per day, as well as two quarts of water.
“Most people are surprised to find they have MORE energy when they undergo a juice fast. The reason for that is that once you give your body a break from solid food, you free up a ton of energy that usually goes to near constant digestion.
“Many people find they think clearer, are more productive, and feel more refreshed on less sleep when they are cleansing. Also, skin and eyes become noticeably clearer and brighter, thanks to the large amounts of phytonutrients in the juice.
“So, ultimately you will think better, look better, and feel better.
“That being said, if the goal of the group cleanse is to kickstart healthy eating habit, and improve work performance long term, I would suggest doing more of a healthy eating cleanse, where all the junk food is out of the office for a week, and healthy meals prepared with naturally detoxifying foods are provided. Doing a food cleanse like this makes people less apprehensive, and it promotes a more sustainable way of getting healthy.”
Jovanka Ciares is a former entertainment-executive-turned-holistic-wellness-coach and nutrition consultant. She told Levo:
“Yes, I think doing a three- or five-day juice cleanse with your co-workers is a great idea. In fact, I used to do these cleanses with my colleagues when I worked in the corporate world, and now as a wellness expert and nutrition consultant I offer juice-based cleanses for corporate groups.
“A group setting is a great way to stay motivated and accountable as you and your colleagues push each other to meet your health/weight-loss goals. You will also learn from each other’s unique perspectives and experience.
“I do recommend that people in office settings work with a corporate wellness coach. Juice cleanses can be life-altering experiences, if accompanied by the right information and support. For example, preparing for a cleanse is almost as important as doing the cleanse. While the benefits of a cleanse include better sleep, a brighter complexion, a flatter tummy, and energy, to boot, the side effect (especially when not done correctly) can include things like bad breath, bloating, constipation, PMS, skin rashes, aches and pains, and more.
“If they are not done correctly, juice cleanses can be really uncomfortable and even make you feel worse than you felt before it. A certified coach will help bring you resources, sort through the clutter and help you prepare, stick to, and successfully complete a cleanse. They can teach you valuable lessons that will make your juice cleansing experience much more pleasant and will stay with you well beyond the end of your cleanse.
“A lot of companies today have wellness programs that can help cover the cost of a coach or you can get together with your colleagues and help pay the coaching fees.”
But then again, some experts say the opposite. Natalie Uhling, kickboxing instructor, personal trainer, and the face of and one of the creative forces behind athleticwear line Under Armour and overall super healthy person, is firmly against cleanses:
“I actually despise them. I think they are terrible for the body, I am all about healthy eating as a lifestyle not something you do for three days then gain your water weight back … because in the end that’s all you lost anyway. It will not help productivity it will create an atmosphere of starving girls so tired they are actually sleeping at their desks! :) I suggest something like simply making healthier lunch choices and then slowly add in going to exercise classes together either before work, at lunch or after work. Rule of thumb, losing weight takes time and doing it the right way is also very empowering. Quick fixes are the easy way out.”
Marissa Vicario is a certified health coach. She wrote an entire article on why she is against the cleanse. She made a lot of good points, but I think her strongest one was this:
“Juice cleanses are like crash diets. If you ate too many holiday cookies or partied too hard on vacation, a juice cleanse has become the go-to quick fix to rectify poor choices. I advocate changing your overall eating habits. This way, even if you go off the rails for a day or two, your body will self-correct by craving whole foods.”
This means you and your co-workers are all crash dieting together. To me that just doesn’t seem like a good way to build work ethic. Instead of thinking about the presentation someone is making, you are just thinking about the cheeseburger you are not allowed to eat for four days.
“It’s become a quick fix for people to take off a few pounds, and that’s sort of an omen of danger,” Tricia Williams, a Fitist holistic nutrition expert and the founder of Food Matters NYC, told Harper’s Bazaar. ”You’re creating stress, putting your body in starvation mode, and still going at life full speed ahead.” This does not make for the best formula for a professional work environment. This sounds like a precursor to a real live Hunger Games.
I am not saying I will ever do one, but it will be when I am alone and am not expected to work hard all day.
Would you ever do a juice cleanse with your office? Tell us in the comments!
Ask Caroline Ghosn, Founder and CEO of Levo League, about the benefits of a juice cleanse!