By Mary Shea Rogers
“There are gimmicks and then there’s grit. There are gimmicks and then there’s grit.”
It is the last afternoon of my seven-day juicing fast and this torturous-but-familiar motto has found home in my head again. When this motto was a fresh phrase of mine, it was an effective motivator. But now it’s exhausted and seems only to mock me.
I am drinking my final green juice, one of five juices that my father and I have been consuming all week. It consists of about 1,000 kale leaves, two cucumbers, eight celery sticks, one lemon, four apples, and ginger for flavor. I am so sick of ginger. With my back to the counter’s edge, I peer inside my glass, grimace, and sip.
If you’ve seen “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead,” you probably understand what charged me to drink this stuff. The documentary was created by Joe Cross and depicts his 60-day journey to get healthy by maintaining an all-juice diet. He lost about 100 lbs. and all but eradicated his disease. His story evoked from me an immediate surge of inspiration; I knew I wanted to try it. But after each watch the same excuses bubbled: It’s the wrong time, it’s only a fad, it’s too expensive. Some of these excuses were reasonable, but overall I felt self-deceiving and cowardly.
So how did I get here—chugging green and orange and purple juices during a bitter February week?
The trigger was all-consuming. My first post-grad job came to a devastating collapse after only two months. As things were crumbling (it was a mental sort of crumbling), I sought reprieves from my despair. Home with my parents, wound still scorching, I was manic. I needed distraction. I needed to rebuild. Juicing, I declared, would be my mechanism for change.
Although I have my body gripes, juicing was not about weight loss. Rather, I believed in Cross’s “reboot” philosophy: Juicing would restore my energy, kickstart lifelong, healthy habits, and perhaps even quiet the racket in my brain. After the intensive week, I planned to incorporate juice into my daily life. Determination to make a permanent shift churned inside me. I reiterated my vision to my dad and we churned together.
Surprisingly, it was easy to forget about food. The task was an inconvenience more than a challenge, as the preparation took an hour each day. Juicing was messy, and the juicer was hollering and tasmanian. And although advertisements for food suddenly seemed targeted specifically at us (whose vendetta was this?), we didn’t have cravings.The food looked good, but we never became fixated on it. We were totally satiated by the juice.
So what is this tugging? Day seven, almost done, and my guts are a receding tide, the yanks subtle but undeniable. I look down at the final third of my concoction, the green now separating from the yellows, and clench my jaw: It tastes worse.
The thoughts roll in, now in throbbing waves, and I realize what I’ve been dodging. If I can’t enjoy this now, how will it become an eternal habit? If this thing’s a bust, how can I justify the $150 juicer? If this thing’s a bust, it will prove that once again your “goal” is just another stupid, worthless gimmick.
Does this summarize my life? Have I lived nothing but a series of attempts at “grit” which inevitably, again and again, disintegrate into “gimmicks?” I recall my semester of yoga, my no-makeup phase, and my short-lived enthusiasm to try every food cart in Richmond. Were you disciplined? Saved? Restored? More cultured? Are you any happier or healthier now? Gimmick, gimmick, gimmick.
Is this the truth?
Well, sort of. Why did I want to juice? Because I was convinced that it would improve my lifestyle. I fantasized about having a flat belly, surplus energy, clean skin, and a rosy attitude. By juicing I would “retrain my taste buds” to enjoy more greens and cringe at the thought of ice-cream. I envisioned myself a better, stronger person. Valid, at last.
Haven’t we all been attached to heightened ideals? We imagine the 2.0 versions of ourselves—fit and intelligent, beautiful and charismatic. We crave and strive for a stable perfection. But what happens when we elect one goal to alter core of who we are? We not only set ourselves up for failure, but, if you’re like me, for an onslaught shame.
We must not house this shame.
I refuse to dismiss my week of juicing as a gimmick because it is akin to calling myself a fraud. In the shaming game our instinct is to beat others to the punch. But I will no longer punch myself. I will not double injury or weave negative narratives about my ambitions. From juicing I learned: there is no singularity to selfhood. There is nothing concretely perfect nor definitively flawed within. Gimmick does not live in our goals; it lives only in the belief in one ending.
So, here is my ending:
I failed. Juicing did not prompt any Great Lifestyle Shift. It took me four days to eat a veggie again and after one month the juicer remains untouched.
But here is my other ending:
In one week I accomplished feats both small and large. Little moments are special; tasting and preparing juices, looking like a vegetable-crazed idiot in Wegmans, and giggling while attempting to cut a pineapple are all memories I now hold. And they are all the sweeter because they are shared with my Dad.
The self-knowledge gained and reiterated from juicing is likewise invaluable. I chipped away at my anxiety surrounding new goals; the hesitation lessens with each project tackled. Social obstacles contributed to my anxiety and became a monumental feat. I feared missing events and having to justify myself, yet in reality I faced few confrontations. For the first time I did not belittle my purpose; I communicated it with confidence. About health, too, I learned and relearned: With an influx of nutrients, my body felt lighter and exercise became appealing again. This has encouraged me to continue striving for health.
Most of all, however, I must emphasize this: Examine your mantras. The mantras which capture and echo through us are seductively simple. In them, I discovered, truth is bound. But in me and in all of us there is grit, boundless complexity, and a very OK amount of imperfection.
Mary Shea is a recent graduate from a Virginia university with a B.A. in English. She currently works as a nanny in northern VA and spends her time telling herself she’ll go hiking and making creative attempts to expedite the hair-drying process. In her bedroom you can find her mattress on the floor (minimalism?), a pristine Oscar Wilde action figure displayed on her shelf, and an overflowing mug of sharpies on her desk. Mary Shea can’t wait to feel like a real grown-up and is looking for a way to expedite that process, too–free of the body aging, taxes, and having to act responsibly all the time, of course (she knows the prospects are slim, but remains hopeful nonetheless).
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