Dear Drewbie: Why juicing is more than a health fad | VailDaily.com

Dear Drewbie: Why juicing is more than a health fad

Want more from mental health expert Dear Drewbie? Read on for the lessons he learned while chasing Phish and running a Mount Everest marathon this summer.

OK, so I am making changes in my life, honestly. My motive? The goal-setting activity we did in my health psychology class at CMC. I can't let my class down! We all identified ways to improve personally: quitting smoking, exercising more, being friendlier. Mine was a rather simple goal, with multiple steps to reach: I want to be happier. It's completely qualitative, difficult to measure and vague.

Happiness in a blender

The goal seems simple, but it's multi-faceted. I want to improve (among other things) my writing, have more bonfires with friends, spend more time in nature and adjust the food I put into my body.

The change in diet has had a marked impact on both physical and mental health. I've lost seven pounds, have more energy, feel better about myself, and feel more productive and positive.

A major catalyst for my dietary change has been Lorrie and Max, the owners of LoLo Juice (also our roomies). We met in the way many of us do: via Craigslist. Now, we have become family. Max, a former golf pro, is willing to go healthy if the taste is there. Lorrie, an uber-exercise nut, has a penchant for making the healthy incredibly delicious.

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Juicing and mental health

Lorrie and Max left cushy jobs in Philadelphia to pursue their dream of opening a healthy, organic, tasty juice bar in downtown Breckenridge. With my mental health issues, nutrition is extremely important but often disregarded. I neglect nutrition when really stressed and in need of good calories.

We all know that healthy-food intake is great for physical health, yet we forget about the impact on mental health. I can testify: LoLo juice can drastically improve mood, energy levels, ability to think, self-confidence, and, for me, happiness. Nutrition through juice has been an important part of my self-improvement plan, and I'm grateful to Lorrie and Max for introducing me.

Debunking the juice bar

The term "juice bar" can be intimidating for people. Max made it a mission to help people like he and I — the casual healthy folks — feel at home in LoLo. They are happy to answer questions about the products, health benefits, or flavors.

Since deciding to be happier, I have been going daily and making a smoothie or juice for my breakfast. I add maca powder, a super-food that contains adaptogen, which our body uses to help combat stress, illness and fatigue. (A more common adaptogen: ginsing.) The benefits include: improved memory, mood stability, hormone balance, energy, memory, focus, stamina, sexual vigor and performance (yahtzee!), and overall mental health. All of these things are helping me to reach my goal: to be happier. Something that tastes good and comes with those benefits? Yes please!

Many of the options at Lolo Juice have similar benefits to maca, and much more. The crew at Lolo can make a juice for whatever's ailing you. Just ask. The juices and everything else are made with whole foods that are non-processed, non-refined ingredients to promote good mental and physical health. A blender or juicer is all the processing that food really needs, and even those are optional.

Is it a diet?

People talk about going on a diet. But "diet" is simply a term for what we eat — all of us are always on a diet — so eating real foods that are not overly processed is the easiest way to "diet." Don't go to some fad like Atkins or South Beach with crazy and bizarre restrictions; start by eating more whole foods. The results will be marked and noticeable. For me, they were nearly immediate.

One of the best ways to enhance your diet is to make your own. For example, don't go buy a bottle of marinara; instead, smash some tomatoes, garlic and basil. Now, you have tasty, fresh, whole-food pasta sauce that is minimal in calories and fat, overflowing with flavor, and has none of the unnecessary additives and preservatives.

Coffee is a staple to many. So are cream and sugar. To cut back on empty calories and fat, add cacao nibs while brewing for extra flavor, or blend in some coconut oil in place of cream. These little modifications can make a huge difference and don't compromise on flavor.

On Days when I skip my daily LoLo juice and go for donuts and burgers, I notice a bit of a decline in energy and overall functioning. I feel less energetic, positive, and healthy, the opposite of how I feel when juicing.

Tips for new juicers

Don't be intimidated: The staff at a juice bar is there to help you find exactly what you want. Ask questions, and tell them what you like and don't like.

Take a risk: If you haven't tried something (or don't love certain ingredients), take a risk. You will be shocked at how tasty a combination like cucumber, apple, celery, kale and mint can be.

Start simple: If you are a picky eater, start with something simple, like a classic strawberry-banana smoothie, and work your way up to more adventurous drinks, like something with beets or horseradish.

Don't be scared to go green: My mom has a "fear" (which she overcame at LoLo this summer) of drinks that are green, or some other off-putting color. We put some spinach in her smoothie to make it green, had her close her eyes — and she loved it! We eat with our eyes first, but healthy-green-organic can be good (it works on Airport Road)!

Boost up: Like maca, juicing is made for supplements and boosters, including a variety of different proteins (whey, hemp seed, organic plant based), bee-pollen (great for local allergies), chia and flax (nature's multi-vitamins), cayenne (metabolism), matcha green-tea powder (natural caffeine) and more.

Shots? Yes please: No, juice bars don't usually have a liquor license, but they have nutritional booster shots like ginger (immune booster, heart health, indigestion issues, cancer prevention), turmeric (anti-inflammatory, immune health, brain functioning) and the infamous wheatgrass. That one has dozens of minerals and vitamins, 17 amino acids, chlorophyll (a blood builder), and purifying qualities for our liver. A one-ounce shot equals two pounds of vegetables.

Meal in a drink: I was concerned that juice wouldn't be enough as a meal replacement. This is not a problem, as it is basically a fruit bowl and a salad in one cup. When the ingredients are "whole," you need a lot less of it as well. I fuel up before backcountry skiing or long hikes.

Drew Mikita is an associate professor of psychology at Colorado Mountain College. Since 2007, he has practiced mental health in Summit County as a licensed professional counselor. He is also a sports psychology consultant currently pursuing a doctorate in sport psychology. Originally from Summit County, Ohio, Drew is living out his dream as a mountain person.

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