Frankly, the idea of not eating anything for three days terrified me. And yet that’s exactly what Melissa McKenna was proposing. McKenna, you see, is probably Beijing’s biggest ‘juice cleanse’ advocate – a short-term detox diet where, other than drinking fruit and vegetable juices, you fast for a set number of days. ‘I started juicing five years ago,’ she tells me. ‘It became my cure-all for ever y ailment I had. I felt first-hand how juicing can help you lose weight, boost energy, prevent sickness and promote overall health and wellness.’ Such was McKenna’s enthusiasm for juicing that when she moved to Beijing in 2012, and was unable to find any cold-pressed juices, she set up her own enterprise. In August 2013, Juice by Melissa was born. McKenna started by providing juice cleanses to her yoga students. And now, thanks to the positive reception, this month sees the launch of her first retail location in Sanlitun.
In McKenna’s view, juicing is the perfect way to cleanse toxins and restore your system to a harmonious state. ‘Cleansing resets the stomach, liver and intestines,’ she says, ‘giving your body a fresh star t after overindulgence.’ She goes on to list other benefits such as weight loss, as well as reduced cravings for things like coffee. According to McKenna, there are three main steps to the science. The first step is: ‘The fruit acids dig up all the harmful materials that have been stuck in the intestines for years, while the vegetable juices remove them from the area.’ The second is restoring the body: ‘It cuts out the dietary fibre that’s difficult for your body to process. This allows your whole system to restore.’ The third is body transformation: ‘Weight loss, clearer and glowing skin, regenerated organs and a well-functioning digestive system. ’Now I'm not a scientist, but I am certainly a cynic. And while the juice cleanse craze – for that’s what it has been of late in the likes of New York and London – has a legion of fans, it also has its fair share of detractors. Take, for example, the view of Michelle Hanchard, a registered dietician quoted in The Guardian: ‘Like most restricted diets which cut out a lot of food groups, they can have adverse implications to overall health. There is no good scientific evidence that shows a detox juice diet is helpful.’ Yet McKenna clearly believes in juicing’s benefits, as do her many customers. There’s no point sniping from the sidelines, it was time for me to pack away the cutlery and let loose with the juice. I opted for the three-day cleanse: no food; no coffee; no alcohol. Just six bottles of organic cold-pressed juices delivered to my door each morning – one ever y couple of hours – and lots of water throughout. Then repeat. As it turns out, juicing is actually fairly easy. Partly thanks to the convenience of having the juices delivered fresh each morning, and partly because the juices are undeniably delicious.
Take, for example, the bottle of ‘Lean Greens’ – a liquid serving of spinach, apple, cucumber, lemon and parsley. Plus, at no point was I incapacitated by hunger. The juices keep you topped up, and there was no danger of feeling faint or distracted while at work. The most notable side effects I experienced were some intense headaches on the first evening – which I put down to not drinking enough water and the shock of caffeine withdrawal – and some stomach pangs on day two, which were swiftly resolved by – surprise! – a bottle of juice. The biggest challenge was boredom. While the juices are extremely tasty, drinking nothing but juice becomes a bit dull after a while, and meeting friends for lunch or dinner is pretty much impossible.In the end, I'm glad I did it. Not because my body magically transformed itself, but because the process really does force you to re-evaluate your eating habits. I thought I would want to gorge myself on junk food when done, but I woke up craving salads. A few friends commented that I looked refreshed. I was, indeed, somewhat lighter – although I assume much of that was from shedding water weight, which will soon return. My coffee cravings had drastically reduced and I found myself determined to eat more healthily. That’s perhaps the ultimate gain to be made here. As McKenna puts it: ‘The goal should be to restore your body, kind of like a restart button, and use this opportunity to begin a healthy lifestyle.’ When all is said and done, health-conscious living is what Juice by Melissa looks to offer, and that can only be a good thing.
Even if you don’t buy into the juice cleanse craze – although it is definitely worth trying if you’re looking to kick-star t your commitment to clean living – her new store is shaping up to be a real hub for Beijing’s health scene. Not only will you be able to stop by and pick up her excellent cold-pressed juices, whether it’s for a cleanse or as a supplement, but it will also be home to juicing and cleansing workshops, raw-food meals, power salads, and even yoga. ‘Our goal is to help people be at their healthiest and provide them with the tools to do so,’ she says. ‘I believe that the key to a healthy lifestyle is a combination of juicing, eating healthily and working out daily. The Juice by Melissa store will provide all three.’
Juice by Melissa’s three-day juice cleanse costs 1,080RMB. Individual juices and other packages are also available (see www.juicebymelissa.com for more). The Juice by Melissa store is slated to open soon on Xinzhong Dongjie.