Heath & Wellness- Team Building Through Office Juice Cleanses Is The New Happy Hour

We have all heard of cleanses and “only” diets. Only cabbage soup for a week, only bananas for three days, or the ever popular albeit unappetizing juice cleanse. Do they contribute to your health? How long does it last? and perhaps one of the most ubiquitous reasons many people do them, how much weight will you lose?

Until recently most people who would do a cleanse were usually flying solo or with one or two girlfriends at most, but according to the New York Times, group cleanses (generally one-to-five-day, all-liquid diets with anywhere from a half-dozen to as many as 150 employees taking part) are emerging as one of the latest ways to solidify corporate bonds, on both Seventh Avenue and Wall Street. Say hello to the Hunger Games of office torture, the Cooler Cleanse.

The founders of Cooler Cleanse are Ed Helms and actress Salma Hayek, who claim that office cleanses are about 30% of their business. “I’ll send 25 cleanses down to the same brokerage firm on Wall Street," said Mr. Helms, who also founded Juice Generation in 1999.  “And anywhere the financial industry is big we get group orders: Chicago, Dallas, Houston.”

Last year Oprah Winfrey’s entire production staff in Chicago completed a three-day cleanse, adds Helms, and the crew from “Here Comes the Boom,” a film Salma recently shot in Boston, partook in the juice diet after being inspired by the actress. Nice to know she is such a positive influence of her crew, seeing as it is her company and all. Another major company to partake in the liquid fasting ritual is Merrill Lych, which recently offered a six-juice-a-day-diet to employees. In May, Citigroup also began offering BluePrintCleanse in some of its Manhattan cafeterias, a spokeswoman said.

Another major cheerleader for juice cleanses is actress Gwyneth Paltrow. She also has taken things further into her own hands and pockets, marketing a GOOP brand cleanse. GOOP is her personal website that doles out fun how-to’s of cooking, lifestyle advice and fashion. All very ironic indeed.

But exactly what are the actual health benefits of juicing? Well that one is still up for debate. “Your liver and kidneys can handle toxins just fine,” says Joan Salge Blake, a Boston University associate professor of nutrition, who has studied fad diets. “There’s no science to back up cleansing.” Denise Mari, founder of Organic Avenue, explains that her juices are based on the elements of LOVE: live, organic, vegan experience. Sounds more like a slick marketing strategy for new-age folks that are clinging to the prospect that gallons of green juice will revive their previously hard partying bodies and propel them into a bionic, completely healthful hemisphere.

In a May 2010 article for the New York Times, Judith Newman followed a liquid diet which she wrote about in detail for the news magazine. She prefaced the piece by summarizing her cleanse experience, “You know what it cleans out of you best? The will to live.”

The taste of celery, kale and lemon juice among other ingredients is arguably nasty when pulverized, which is why some offices are apparently turning the torturous new trend into a challenge. Perhaps they were inspired by the Hunger Games movies, but apparently at the New York City offices of fashion website Moda Operandi, every empty bottle is slammed triumphantly on the Ping-Pong table. At the Brooklyn outpost of a Big Four accounting firm, there was a first tentative sip in unison of that hour’s concoction, followed by tasting notes — while cleanse dropouts were referred to as “doing the walk of shame” to the refrigerator. Employees on the business side of Shape magazine devised a relay-style warning system when there was free food around.

Juice cleanses are also expensive. Costing around $60-$250 a day, the promises of health and shedding pounds is not for the faint of wallet. In her month long quest, Judith Newman chose to enlist the help of the popular BluePrintCleanse. “In the way I believed my Vitamin Water instills in me a pure shot of nutrients and hydration (rather than, say, the trace amounts of vitamin and nine teaspoons of sugar a bottle that the F.D.A. recently noted), I believed that for $65 a day, BluePrintCleanse would set me right.” According to Newman, the ingredients of one particularly green bottle read: romaine, celery, cucumber, green apple, spinach, kale, parsley, lemon. The taste however left something to be desired, to say the least. “It was like drinking everything bad that ever happened to me in high school.”

Other accoutrements recommended for a successful cleanse are generally getting a colonic, which is a process that pumps water into your rectum and washes out all the build up in the nether regions and abstinence from caffeine, alcohol as well as tobacco. 

The benefits of juicing are however more psychological than physical according to New York internist Dr. David Colbert.“You have to ask yourself this question: With a juice cleanse, what are you really cleaning? Really, nothing. The bowel self-cleans. It’s evolved over millions of years to do this.” If you’re going to have liquids, says Dr. Colbert, a staunch believer in unprocessed foods, there is certainly good to be had from eating fresh vegetables and fruits and nuts pulverized into liquid. “But most people aren’t Einsteins,” he adds. “Often their idea of a juice fast is having nothing but orange juice or apple juice for a week. In which case, you might as well call it the Toblerone diet, because that’s how much sugar you’re pouring into your system.”

Nancy Kalish, a certified health coach in Brooklyn, advises clients against juice cleanses. “Even if you have nothing wrong with you, this kind of cleansing puts a lot of stress on your body. Your body wants and expects food. And as with most crash diets, which is really what this is, your body thinks it’s starving. It doesn’t know it’s going to get more food. So it lowers your metabolism, and if you do this enough, it can lower your metabolism permanently.”

Just remember, you can buy organic fruits and vegetables from Whole Foods or Trader Joes for a fraction of the cost and consume them whole, whether steamed or raw and exercise your sanity in the process. As for office team building, all in favor of good old-fashioned happy hour, can meet us downtown anytime.

Image VIA KitchenTalks

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