How my life changed in seven days

Here's to a happier, more productive 2017

(Image credit: Hannah Young/REX/Shutterstock)

Here's to a happier, more productive 2017

Roxie Nafousi is a contributing writer for Marie Claire, blogger and mental health ambassador. Follow her on Instagram.

Last week, I went to Jason Vale’s Juice Oasis Health Retreat & Spa with a group of close girlfriends and it was a truly life-changing experience. When I told people I was going on a seven-day juice cleanse, I was meant with mixed reactions: ‘but WHY would you deprive yourself like that?’ ‘NO food for a week? I couldn’t think of anything worse’ ‘I heard juicing is really bad for you, what about all the sugar from fruit?’

Well, despite the wary response, I didn’t at any point feel deprived, hungry or irritable and I don’t think the sugar in the fruit was a problem as I lost 3kg (which was amazing for me as I’ve been really struggling to shift even a pound for the last six months).

I can hand-on-heart say that this was one of the most inspiring and eye-opening weeks of my life. This isn’t because of the change in my body, but for the mental clarity I have come back with.

When I arrived, I was honestly feeling so unbelievably low. February was a hard month for me, it was a ‘one step forward, ten steps back’ kind of month and I self-medicated my stress/anxiety/tiredness with pizza, chocolate and cocktails.

Hardly surprising I turned up to the retreat looking ill, pale and bloated and feeling lethargic and just quite sad. I cannot believe that in just seven days I literally transformed. I am so humbled and grateful to have had this experience and I wanted to share with you some of the incredible things I learnt over the week that I will be taking into my everyday life with me to have a happier, more productive 2017.

We’re actually all starving

On the retreat, we were consuming just three juices during the day and one bowl of soup in the evening (as we were still on the winter programme).

It doesn’t sound like a lot does it? Yet I did not once feel genuine hunger and by day four, I had more energy then I’d had in months. In fact, I never heard anyone complain of feeling hungry even though we were also hiking, exercising, doing yoga and playing volleyball throughout the day. I needed to understand why as this made no sense to me: if I miss just ONE meal at home, I complain I feel a bit faint and tired and if I’ve planned to go to the gym at midday I’ll make sure I have a big meal for breakfast to ‘stock up on energy’. So, what’s going on here?

Basically, the answer is this: our bodies and cells need nutrients and vitamins and when we are deficient, our cells are starving and we feel hungry. So, when we eat a pizza, we are feeding our tummies (and yes it tastes divine) but we aren’t feeding our cells, so after the bloat subsides – we feel hungry again! On the other hand, when our bodies have got what we really need, we don’t feel as hungry and we feel satisfied, vitalised and energised.

I think another reason we weren’t feeling hungry on the retreat was because we were constantly doing something so there simply wasn’t much time to think about food! I know that I definitely emotionally eat: if I’m bored, restless, tired. Now, before I go to eat something, I ask myself ‘am I actually hungry?’ If I’m not and it’s just boredom, I try to distract myself with an activity such as exercise or reading.

Eat dinner like a pauper

Do you remember when you were a kid and you would jump out of bed in the morning, excited to start the day? I had totally forgotten what that was like and I remember thinking one morning (pre-cleanse) after snoozing my alarm for the fifth time 'what would it be like to actually get out of bed without one eye closed, and a foggy, tired feeling in my head?'

Well, now I know.

It makes sense really that eating earlier would have a positive effect on your energy levels; just think about how much energy your digestive system is using to break down your latest meal. That’s why we all feel like a nap after a delicious Sunday roast! That age-old saying of eating dinner like a pauper has started to make a lot more sense now. Also, many studies have proven that people who don’t eat after 7pm (times vary depending on study) lost more weight then the other subjects.

On the retreat, our evening soup was served at 6.30pm and waking up in the morning was not just easy, it was a joy. I’ve kept this as my dinner time since returning home and I have been waking up at 5.30am on the dot bursting with happiness at all this new found energy. It’s amazing how much you can get done before mid day when you wake up so early (although I feel quite sorry for my boyfriend who definitely did not sign up for these early starts!)

Has Caffeine become your frenemy?

Before heading to the Juicy Oasis we were advised to cut out alcohol, sugar and caffeine for three days to reduce the detox effects (headaches etc) while we were there. I’d considered myself a moderate coffee drinker; one in the morning and one around 3pm before my usual mid-afternoon dip. I was worried about giving it up though, there is such a strong ‘coffee culture’ and a nice cup of coffee makes me think of morning rituals, cute cafés and catching up with friends. I fully intended on going back to coffee after the retreat.

And, I’ve got to tell you, caffeine withdrawal is no joke. The headache on the first day was excruciating and I almost fell asleep upright during a meeting on the second day (it was mortifying).

I read up on it and found out caffeine withdrawal is actually classified as a mental disorder! Can you believe that?! I had to wonder, if people can suffer so much ‘coming off’ coffee, can it really be that good for you?

When I returned, I decided I wanted to try staying off it a bit longer. I am certainly sleeping a lot better and it feels really good to rely on nothing but your own natural rhythm rather than a substance to give you a boost. I do still miss it, I’ll admit, so I don’t think I’ll keep this up forever but I’d like to hold out a little longer as it is so nice not to have a 4pm energy crash! Why not try a couple of weeks and see how it changes the way you feel during the day? You might never look back!

How you feel vs how you look

If I am completely honest with myself, my main goal for the week at Juicy Oasis was to lose weight. I was totally sold by the ‘7lbs in 7 days’ promise by Jason Vale and I was just desperate to shift some stubborn weight.

While I was there, we had a lot of time to reflect. We were watching fascinating documentaries each night on the effects of food on health and given talks by the lovely Jason himself about the benefits of juicing, not on your waistline, but on your actual wellbeing.

I found my perceptions starting to change – I wasn’t going to just lose weight there, I was going to feel completely different; healthy, energised and happy. I was going to create new life changing decisions when I returned to London to better my life and myself! Isn’t that more important and more fulfilling than being a tiny bit lighter?

I’ve wasted SO much time criticising myself, having negative thoughts about my body, desperately trying to think of ways to look better – and where has it got me? It’s a total waste of time and has nothing but seriously detrimental effects on your confidence and self-esteem. I know this a problem I share with so many others too.

What I’ve learnt is that rather than looking at a healthy lifestyle as a way to improve the way you look, look at it as a way to make yourself healthy from the inside – feeding your body with nutrients and freeing it from toxins. In doing this, not only are you going to improve every area of your life, it will shine through to the outside effortlessly.

There’s nothing more beautiful than a glowing smile, and you’ll be giving the world plenty of those when you feed your body with goodness and free it from the nasties. You will feel so empowered!

Allow Yourself to Be Human

Jason made an important note to us all at the end of the trip and that was to allow ourselves to be human. Leave room to have the things you enjoy because no one has to be perfect all the time. I have come back very over-excited about all the changes I want to make but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to enjoy my life or put too much pressure on myself. In fact, I’m extremely excited for mac’n’cheese, truffle fries and a yummy cocktail this weekend – and I won’t regret it one bit!

I truly hope I might have inspired some of you to make some positive changes in your life. For any of you that are feeling in a bit of a rut or feeling a bit low today – there is a way out to the light, and it starts with YOU!

Delphine Chui