One year, I abandoned a New Year's resolution in 13 minutes. True story. So my track record with resolutions, glass being half-full, was suspect entering 2012. But this time, this year, needed to be different.
And it was.
As a writer, I ask and expect full disclosure from my interview subjects. In that vein, here is why I started a 10-day Juice Reboot based off the movie “Fat Sick & Nearly Dead” on Jan. 3: I loathed everything about how I looked, how I felt, who I became. At 228 pounds, I neared my all-time high in weight (topped only by a 2007 beer/fried food/pizza binge after my dad died of diabetic complications that ballooned me to 233 pounds) and needed to rescue myself from myself.
With a mix of surprising support and expected skepticism, I went 10 days while only drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juice; I said I would do 15 days, but I would have needed an entire new wardrobe.
Most importantly, I found a version of myself I really like again: I am down 29 pounds, down to 199 pounds – my first time below 200 pounds in at least a decade!
I decided to blog about this for myself, but several friends and colleagues who helped inspire me encouraged my to share my 10-day journey. So here is the timeline of how I discovered – and surprised – myself through drinking five 20-ounce glasses of juice daily.
Day 1: It Begins
Before today, every morning when I checked myself in the mirror after showering I felt ashamed. The double chin, the turkey neck, the gut that meant never tucking in a shirt – for someone who meticulously thinks out what I say, how each sentence I write flows into the next … how the hell did I let this happen?!? Especially when I watched how my father suffered over his final days?
Today, I avoided wallowing. I got out of the shower, got dressed (shirt untucked) and bounded down my stairs at 8:30 a.m. I pulled out the juicer my friend Sue lent me, grabbed one of containers of the apple/beet/carrot/kale combination I prepared the night before, dropped them in the juicer and waited for the first of five 20-ounce glasses I would drink each day during my rediscovery to blend from chunks and leaves into something substantive.
Honestly, the first batch … well, you shouldn't chew your juice! It was thick and pulpy, but I powered through the first two glasses on sheer will before driving to Target to buy the Juiceman juicer that got me through the next nine-plus days.
By day's end, I started feeling a foreign surge of energy. Perhaps I was onto something.
Day 2: The Dull Headache
This past summer when I interviewed Joe Cross – the subject of “Fat Sick & Nearly Dead” who lost more than 90 pounds and inspired my mission – he told me that usually on the second or third day, people who juice start feeling sick. That is just the toxins leaving the body. When I awoke, I did so with a dull, hangover-ish headache that stuck with me as I wrote throughout the late morning and early afternoon.
After a trip to my local farmer's market, an every-other-day ritual I began to enjoy, I covered Marine Sgt. Joe Longo III's welcome-home event at Belleville's Knights of Columbus. In typical Italian fashion, everyone kept offering food. Belleville Councilmen Vincent Cozzarelli and Steve Rovell offered me beer – my eternal weakness – but I declined and mentioned my diet. Cozzarelli read it on the Belleville Patch, scoffed a little, then asked me how it was going.
Even two days earlier, I would have grabbed the pitcher. But I felt emboldened by this challenge of sorts – someone questioning my will – and instead of succumbing, I became headstrong. I left minutes later, drove home and poured myself a tall glass of apple/beet/carrot/kale and wrote one of my best Patch stories ever about Longo's return.
Day 3 and 4: Finding My Rhythm
I woke up feeling rested and energized and headache free. My belly shrunk ever so slightly. I traded off glasses of apple/beet/carrot/kale with a new concoction of green apples, kale, spinach, pears, lemons and ginger. I especially enjoyed the last two.
Most importantly, I felt none of the pangs of hunger I felt on my previous diet of Buffalo wings, sandwiches, fast-food drive-thrus and pizza. Best of all, at the end of Day 4, I had lost 10 pounds!
Day 5: The Aliens Have Landed
After catching up on errands and reading, I left the farmer's market $44 lighter – which proved enough for the next five days of juicing. Problem was, my stomach started rumbling. Quietly at first, then unbearably loud. A prolonged visit with the Ty-D-Bowl Man later, I am pretty sure I flushed away every toxin that I ever ingested in 37-plus years.
Best of all, I enjoyed my best night of sleep in months – nine hours straight, rising out of bed instead of laying there and cursing my clock. Which leads me to ...
Day 6: Weighing In and Walking
I grabbed my scale from my hallway closet, took it into the bathroom and hopped aboard. I nearly did a dance after climbing off: Down 16 pounds! I almost felt too energized afterward, so I did some deep breaths before deciding that, after a few glasses of a new juice creation (blood oranges, oranges, pink grapefruits, carrots and strawberries) I would layer up and go for a nice, long walk.
My house sits a top a hill, which then descends into a really steep hill before sloping toward the park in my town where there is a track. The walk there is about three-quarters of a mile. I did six laps around the track, even running two of them, before walking back up the slope and hills home. I wish I could always feel as good as I did that day.
Day 7: Pleasantly Surprised
When most people look at, or think of, me, I am reasonably sure these are their quick-and-dirty assessments: talented writer, nice enough guy, doesn't smile much. And before today, the stares toward my midsection added an unspoken fourth: Dude, you're fat.
My regional editor Liz Moore hosted a video-training session for us this morning. I walked in with my giant jug of juice while everyone else ate bagels and turkey bacon. Strangely, I did not feel even a pang of temptation to join my colleagues and friends.
Over the next hour-plus, I noticed two things. I got the up-down without anyone's eyes settling on my stomach. And people told me I looked good; Liz even said “svelte,” which I am pretty sure no one ever called me even in jest.
Day 8: The Picture
Someone told me I looked really angry in my previous headshot, the one of me in a black t-shirt looking like I was a death-metal band's lead singer. I used it here, on Facebook and elsewhere for this reason: After my father passed, I lost a bunch of weight and actually felt some pride in my appearance, having lost 33 pounds to get down to 200 before letting myself go.
At a staff meeting at Montclair editor Shelley Emling's house, people kept asking me about the diet and almost marveling at my transformation. Emboldened, I asked Bloomfield editor and talented photographer Linda Federico-O'Murchu to take my picture – the first I let someone take since Jan. 2011.
When Linda e-mailed me the pics, I froze at first. Then it hit me: I was really accomplishing something. I was smiling a bit, but best of all, I looked trim.
For the first time in months, I changed my Facebook photo.
Day 9: No More Pants Problems
After a few years of holding my breath while buttoning my pants, for the first time I slid them on, zippered and buttoned without having to suck in my stomach. I started getting more compliments than I ever would have expected from close friends and those I became reacquainted with through social media, telling me I looked great. I felt great!
Day 10: The End
Down 24 pounds at the day's outset, I decided to stop my proposed 15-day Juice Reboot five days early for this simple reason: I cannot afford an entirely new wardrobe. So I went through one final day of five, 20-ounce glasses of my favorite concoction – apples, carrots, celery, ginger, pears and Swiss chard – before covering an evening meeting and waiting to weigh myself for a final tally.
I officially lost 29 pounds, getting myself down to 199 – my first time below 200 pounds in a long, long time. I stopped to reflect on the past 10 days before looking in the mirror. I really did like what I saw, but not just in terms of weight loss. Instead of making excuses or waiting for change, I made this happen.
Since then, I admit that I have eaten pizza and drank a glass of beer – life is still for living, after all. However, I am still drinking two glasses of juice per day and eating brown rice with grilled or steam veggies because this is my new life.
Meanwhile, a dozen friends and acquaintances have asked me about this. And a few have even started their own reboots because they see how it transformed me. Although not as noble as community service, I am proud to help pay it forward in my own small way.
I will never let myself revert to the me I loathed. No chance. Not after finally finding the me I have been missing.