10 tips for doing a juice cleanse healthily

Avoid these common cleanse mistakes.
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At their worst, cleanses can be a miserable week of hungry, sweaty, deprivation. At their best, cleanses can be a detoxifying break from your regular routine filled with refreshing recipes and a burst of energy.

No matter your attitude or methods, you will have some negative detox symptoms along with the positive. Your body is always flushing out toxins, no matter what your diet is, but when you abstain from meat, dairy, refined sugar, processed foods, gluten, caffeine, alcohol, and other common allergens and intolerances, you are simply supporting that natural system. Consequently, your body will probably unload a lot more toxins during a cleanse. Detox symptoms usually only last for a few days to a week, so if you are experiencing detox symptoms for longer than that, you should talk with your doctor and make adjustments to your diet. Typical detox symptoms include but are not limited to: sweating, bad breath, headaches/body aches, gas/bloating, constipation/diarrhea, fatigue, brain fog, intense craving, breakouts. If you feel excessively dizzy, weak, or nauseous, that’s a sign that a) You aren’t doing your cleanse right, b) You need to make adjustments or adaptations to your cleanse, or c) You just need to stop cleansing.

Cleanses can be extremely beneficial for your body, especially if you suffer from digestive troubles or poor health, but you should always consult your doctor before undergoing a cleanse just to make sure that it’s safe for you.

More:9 things you need to know before doing a juice cleanse

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Set realistic goals

Cleanses are intense, and for some reason, they tend to bring up feelings. You’re purging all the things and food is very symbolic, with many psychological associations, and if you’re prone to it, a cleanse can easily slip from self-care to self-abuse. It’s important to set an intention for this cleanse that is meaningful enough to keep you on-track and loving enough to keep you happy and healthy. If you’re starting out with “I want to lose 20 pounds because I look gross in my bikini,” that’s a self-punishing goal with not a lot of substance that will give way to misery, particularly if you’ve already been dealing with your misery with comfort food or self-denial. Instead, set intentions of self-love, acceptance, and care. If you tend to eat badly to deal with stress, anger, or sadness, your goal might look something like, “I nourish my body and deal with my emotions with more supportive tools like journaling, counseling, talking with friends, working on my art, etc. I treat my body holistically.” Your mind is part of your body, too. You can talk with a friend, a counselor, and/or journal to keep you on-track. In your journal, make a note at the start of each day about what your intention is. It can be the same goal/intention all week, or you might see it change or adapt. At each meal or snack, write down what you consumed and how you feel. This is a good way to keep you accountable, make sure that you’ve consumed enough, record your recipes and preferences, and notice if you feel better or worse after certain foods. At the end of the day, take a minute to answer these questions: What did I struggle with?How have I progressed? What can I let go of? If you like, you can spend more time journaling, or you can try using mantras if you like them. A favorite from yoga class is “I am not my mind,” which basically means, “All my crazy, self-destructive thoughts don’t reflect my true nature.”

More:9 things you need to know before doing a juice cleanse

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Plan ahead carefully

If you’ve never done a cleanse before, or if you struggle with them, have a game plan and start out easy. One way to ease your way into a cleanse is to go mostly raw vegan but allow yourself some rice and cooked vegetables for the first week. Then you can transition to all raw the next week, and if you want, try a juice fast the third week. Some people prefer to do a raw day, or a juice day, once a week, and then slowly build up to a whole week. Whatever you do, make sure it’s something achievable and challenging, but not intimidating. When you plan out your cleanse, make sure your grocery list reflects your plans. Pick out meals ahead of time, with lots of variation, and shop for what you’ll need. This saves money, time, and frustration. If you’re going to be out all day, make sure you bring juices in a big thermos or food in a little cooler in your car. I keep snacks in my purse, like nuts, fruit slices, and seaweed, and I always bring water, herbal tea, or juice with me. Don’t leave yourself hanging. You’re most likely to crack when you’re in the car, lightheaded and starving, and driving past a Starbucks.

More: Tips for a Successful and Healthy Juice Cleanse

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Listen to your body

Your body is unique. We’re all special snowflakes. So what works for me may not necessarily work for you. If you need to lightly steam your veggies before you eat them, you don’t fail at cleansing. That’s fine. If you find yourself feeling too faint no matter how much juice you drink, then go have a salad. Take care of yourself. This whole venture is about feeling better, right? And ideally, it should be fun. If you love experimenting in the kitchen, then take that creative energy to your cleanse. There are plenty of recipes to work from that are complex, diverse, and nutritious. Make them pretty, share your favorite recipes with loved ones, blow up Instagram with your deep purple berry smoothies.

More: Juice cleanse 101

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Drink enough fluids

Even though many foods are water-rich, you still need to drink a lot of fluids. I tend to become dehydrated when I do a juice fast because I forget that I need to drink a lot of juice and some water. I forget about that water, and when your body is releasing toxins like mad, you have to flush them out. Also, fluids soothe detox symptoms like headaches, cramps, and breakouts. If your detox symptoms include diarrhea, or your cleanse involves colonics or enemas, you have to be extra diligent with your water and juice intake. My favorite way to do this is every night before bed I fill a two-liter glass bottle with filtered water, some fresh fruit, and fresh herbs, and then pop it in the fridge. When I wake up, I have lovely infused water to drink throughout the day. It’s low-calorie, delicious, and healthy. Experiment with cucumber, lemon, and mint; orange, strawberry, and basil; watermelon, mint, and lime; blackberry, rosemary, and peach.

More: Understanding juice cleanses

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Don’t starve yourself

The point of a cleanse isn’t starving, unless you’re doing a water fast, but I’m not your girl for that biz. If you’re doing a raw food cleanse, make those breakfast smoothies substantial and those salads full of veggies and garnished with seeds, olives, or healthy dressing. If you’re doing a juice fast, you need to drink a lot of juice. Think four or five juices a day plus water as needed. That’s three juice-meals and two juice-snacks. Even if one of your cleanse-goals is to lose weight, you still need to consume enough calories to function. You need energy to weather the detox symptoms and to keep your metabolism ticking over. If your body thinks you’re starving, it will hold onto those calories, and you will cling to those monster peanut-butter-pancake-banana-split-sundae cravings. Ideally, you should feel light but satiated. Give yourself indulgences, like organic lychee fruits, durian fruit, or sweet dark cherries. Make sure every day that you eat something you love. Make it a priority to come up with juices or meals that you enjoy making and eating.

More: The juice on juice cleansing

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Don’t overdo it on the exercise

New cleansers tend to either exercise too much or too little. Ideally, every day you should do twenty minutes to one hour of light exercise daily. You should break a sweat, not drown in sweat. Think brisk walks, yoga (probably not hot yoga), bouncing on a trampoline or rebounder, light weights, nothing too extreme. If you’re a serious runner and your body is used to logging long miles every day, you don’t have to abstain. Just run half what you would normally run, and if you’re not feeling right, take it down to a walk. Light exercise will help your energy, digestion, mood, and detox process, and it will clear your head.

More: Why a juice cleanse might be a waste of time (and money)

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Don’t rely on supplements

While many raw foodists insist that you can get everything you need from a raw vegan diet, that’s just not true for all people, and in any case, soil quality has changed over the years and much of our produce isn’t all it should be as far as vitamins and minerals go. Some people benefit a lot from taking a multivitamin with a good amount of vitamin B. Also, there are supplements that can aid your detox process, particularly liver and colon function. My favorites come highly recommended by Ndoema, a juice-cleanse superstar: bentonite, psyllium husks, and cascara sagrada. Ask your doctor if these are safe for you, and if there are any supplements you may need specifically.

More: 7 supplements to give your body a boost

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Scrap the all-or-nothing attitude

Ok, so you cracked and ate a grape, a potato, a granola bar, a doughnut, a cheeseburger… who cares? Seriously. Who gives a flying chickadee spit? Many people tend to see their slip-ups as absolute failures and throw in the towel then and there with varying degrees of excess. When my husband slips up during a cleanse, he tends to just say, “Ah, well, feck it. I’m going to eat German chocolate all day, or all weekend, or all week….” This attitude is both unnecessary and extremely contagious. I’ve joined him in this excessive self-punishing/self-indulgent outburst many times. If you found that you’ve eaten something not on your cleanse-agenda, just forgive yourself, and make a healthier choice for your next meal. Forget about it.

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Avoid isolating yourself

If you’re on a cleanse, your impulse might be to isolate yourself in order to keep yourself from temptation. While the impulse is totally understandable, this is not healthy and it makes the cleanse a lot harder to manage emotionally. But I get it. I don’t care what anyone says, it is not as fun going to a restaurant and ordering a plain garden salad, dealing the server’s judgey-face situation, and pretending that you really don’t want to slap your friends’ fancy cheese plate into your mouth. Instead, look to your friends for support — tell them what you’re up to and why, and invite them to do non-maddening activities with you if you can’t deal with lunch and dinner dates. Or if your friends are adventurous foodies, you can always try out a raw vegan restaurant with them if your town or city has one, or you can invite them over for a juice-fest or raw vegan soiree. If you have a partner who isn’t cleansing with you and you really can’t watch him or her eat German chocolate in front of you, nicely ask them to keep their chocolate exploits a secret. I really like the camaraderie of doing cleanses with friends, roommates, and/or my partner, but even if you’re going solo on your cleanse, it’s always nice to ask a supportive friend if you can talk juice with them from time to time. Cleanses are much easier to do with a community.

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