Too many cocktails, too little sleep… lungfuls of pollution-laced air and platefuls of MSG loaded meals… late nights in the office and even later nights in Lan Kwai Fong… Life in Hong Kong can be more toxic than Britney Spears in that turquoise air hostess outfit!
Add into the mix a flat move (widely recognised as one of life’s most stressful events!) and you have one frazzled girl in desperate need of some serious TLC. When a couple of foot massages and a few days off the mojitos weren’t cutting it, I knew that it was cause to pull out the big guns. It was time for a Punch Detox juice cleanse.
The idea behind a juice cleanse is simple – by ingesting only clean, easy-to-digest juices for a few days, not only are you eliminating all the junk, but you’re also giving your body a bit of a break. Not having to expend energy on digesting allows the body to focus on expelling toxins and repairing all the damage you do with processed foods, alcohol and all the other bad stuff.
But in a city where people who work sixty hour weeks are slackers, and organic produce is more elusive than a sleuth of Giant Pandas, how’s a girl supposed to source 8kg of organic fruit and vegetables, let alone peel, chop, blend and bottle it?! There’s no doubt about it – if you want to juice cleanse in Hong Kong, you need to call in the pros!
Punch Detox specialises in 3-day organic, vegan juice cleanses. Set up by two Hong Kong mamas with a passion for nutrition, it’s clear from the second you click onto the website that this is a company designed by real people for real people. Meticulous thought has been invested into every element of the juicing experience, from the crammed-full-of-info, easy-to-use website, to the daily emails of encouragement and the beautifully designed packaging.
So far, so great. But what you really want to know is what was it like? Did I stick to it? Was I ravenously hungry all the time? And is swapping food for juice for three days really worth it?
A few days before I’m due to start, an email pings into my inbox – “Ready for the Punch Juice Cleanse? Be excited! Don’t be nervous! Remember – you LOVE juice. You will feel great. You will look great”.
I hadn’t really thought too hard about the fact that I was giving up eating for three days until this point; I’m suddenly VERY nervous. The email goes on to list things that Punch recommends you eliminate pre-cleanse, including caffeine, meat, fast food and alcohol. The promise that the cleanse will be less painful the more strict I am leading up to it, helps me spend the weekend eating cleanly and feeling virtuous. My nerves begin to fade and I start to genuinely look forward to the challenge!
At 5pm on Monday evening, three cool bags arrive at my office. My colleagues are less than amused when I take over three shelves of the office fridge with a rainbow of juice bottles each carefully labelled with my name. I pop juice number one back into my cool bag and scoot home for an early night in preparation for the big detox…
I begin the day with a mug of hot water and a slice of lemon before getting stuck into bottle number one in the taxi to work. The first juice of the day is the Citrus Punch, a lemony drink with a cayenne pepper kick to get your metabolism going. I channel Beyoncé whilst drinking it – this juice is based on the Master Cleanse recipe that she used to get in shape for Dream Girls.
I sip the scarily healthy-looking juice number two – Green Punch – while I clear my inbox, following that up with a couple of mugs of green tea… and before I know it, it’s lunchtime! As my colleagues tuck into their sandwiches, I grab my juice fix – the Red Punch, a surprisingly delicious mix of beetroot, carrot, apple and ginger. So far, this juicing lark is an absolute breeze… then midway through a 3.30pm meeting, my stomach emits a highly embarrassing grumble. As soon as I’m back at my desk, I grab juice four, the pineappley watermelony Fruit Punch – not only is my sanity restored, but this is also out-and-out yum in a bottle!
Come home time, I pack up my cool bag with the last juices for the day and grab a cab back to my flat. My boyfriend is under strict instructions not to eat in front of me, so eats on the terrace while I sit inside sipping my evening juice – the GazPUNCHo. As the name suggests, this dinner juice is modelled on the Spanish chilled soup. Much chunkier that the other juices, this bad boy is not only delicious but a real saving grace if you’re missing chewing; you can even convince yourself that you’re eating a proper meal by pouring it into a bowl and eating it with a spoon! After a relaxing evening and a hot bubbly bath, I crack open my sixth and final juice of the day – the Nut Punch (cashew milk, almonds and agave nectar). This bedtime juice is a real treat – sweet, filling and very soothing. Last drop downed, I decide it’s time to call time on my first foodless day and settle into a deep, peaceful sleep.
I wake up feeling energized and ready to go. I haven’t experienced any of the side effects that Punch had warned about – no headaches, no cold and flu symptoms, no cravings or irritability. I’m feeling pretty smug!
Then, just as I’m leaving my flat, I walk past my neighbour’s front door and a waft of sizzling bacon drifts out. My stomach rumbles noisily and all I can think about is a salty, crispy, ketchup-drenched bacon sandwich – cravings, tick! I remind myself that I wouldn’t normally be eating bacon on a Wednesday morning anyway, and repeat my ‘You LOVE juice’ mantra until the cravings subside…
The day continues in a pretty easy cycle of juices, herbal teas and lots of water. I find that I’m much more conscious than usual of making sure that I’m keeping hydrated. I regularly go a whole day only drinking the odd coffee and a glass of water, but I’m suddenly speeding through whole bottles of water without much thought.
One downside, though, is that I’m constantly freezing! After a spot of Googling, I discover this is a usual side effect and vow to bring a cosy cardigan tomorrow.
I consider heading out in the evening, but end up working late and decide that the temptation to indulge may be too much if I’m surrounded by ladies’ night Prosecco. Instead I head home, download Grazia onto my iPad and snuggle into bed for an early night dreaming of shoes, handbags and giant burgers…
I wake up to see my chin is proudly sporting the most impressive breakout I’ve seen since Michael Schofield escaped from Fox River in Prison Break! It’s a shame as the rest of my skin is glowy, clear and in much better nick than it usually is on a Thursday morning. Nevertheless, the Punch ladies warned that this was a potential side effect and is a good sign that the toxins are leaving my body!
By now, I’m used to the juices and into a pretty good routine when it comes to spacing each juice fix across my day. I’m drinking so much fluid that I really don’t feel hungry at all. I actually find that the worst thing about the cleanse is boredom – I hadn’t really realised before how much food breaks up my day or the amount of time I devote to planning, preparing and enjoying my meals.
As I finish my final Nut Punch, I think that I could happily stick to the juice cleanse for a few more days. It’s all been much easier than I’d imagined and rather than feeling tired and lethargic, I’m actually feeling springy and energised. My stomach is also much flatter than usual and a quick pre-bedtime hop onto the scales reveals that I’m seven pounds lighter than usual.
Punch advise that you should break the cleanse even more slowly than you ease into it. While the urge is to celebrate the end of your liquid diet with an enormous slab of cake washed down with a magnum of champagne, the girls advocate sticking to small simple meals of salads, steamed vegetables and fruit for the first few days, gradually adding in other foods and leaving meat and dairy until the end of the first week post-cleanse.
Having imagined I’d be craving a huge breakfast, I actually opt for a fruit smoothie to start the day, have a small green salad for lunch and steamed fish and vegetables for dinner. Eating anything at all is pretty exciting and I’m much more conscious of what I’m putting into my body and the effect that it has on me.
My final verdict? Post-cleanse I’ve definitely got my bounce back. I’m feeling lighter and more focused. Breakout aside, my skin and eyes look clear and bright, and although I know the majority of my weight loss is water weight, I definitely feel like my clothes are looser and I look better, even a few weeks after the detox.
Punch Detox is not a miracle cure-all and it’s probably not for everyone – you definitely need willpower and not too much other than yourself to focus on while you’re cleansing. But for a short, sharp shock to help you step away from the vodka jellies and back towards a healthier, more conscious way of eating, this may just be the kick start you need to get you back on track.
And if nothing else, it at least gives you one thing in common with Beyonce…!
Punch Detox’s 3-Day Juice Cleanse costs $1680, including delivery; for more info, see their website here
Check out Natalie’s blog for all things food, fashion and fun, 3 Bad Mice.