'For seven days I consumed nothing but juice and I found the blind faith unsettling'- How I survived my first juicing retreat
Three years ago, I went on a juice retreat. Not just any old retreat, mind you. This was run by a Juicing Evangelist called Jason Vale - a man pumped full of liquidised curly kale and motivational sound-bites.
"The road to 'one day' leads to a town called Never," he would tell us knowingly before adding, "May the juice be with you!"
Like most zealots, Jason hadn't always lived such a puritanical life. There was a time when he smoked 60 cigarettes day, downed pints of ale and stuffed his face with chocolate. He was a lost sinner until he found salvation in the form of a high-powered juicing machine.
Then, hark! He ditched the Benson & Hedges for beetroot smoothies. Jason began to extol the virtues of juice in self-help books, and quickly amassed a devout celebrity following - Alesha Dixon and Katie Price were both big fans.
In 2013, when I made my way to his Juicy Oasis retreat in Portugal, juicing was at its pinnacle. That was before spiralizing and bone broth outflanked it. Don't ask.
The guests were a rag-tag bunch. Former Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding was staying in one of the deluxe suites; there were yoga teachers; a champion dog breeder; a fake-tan specialist; women trying to get pregnant; women reeling after divorces and women embarking on career changes.
Oh, and there were also three men. One of them was Harding's tour manager. The other two had been brought along by their wives.
Over seven days, we consumed nothing but juice. At first, I was fully on board. I felt great, my skin was glowing and the sun was shining - but slowly my enthusiasm started to wane.
According to Jason and the rest of his team, juicing was the answer to just about everything. Overweight? Juice. Suffering from depression? Juice. Worried that your spouse is cheating on you? Juice, of course!
On day three, I awoke to discover deep mouth ulcers underneath my tongue.
"It's your body getting rid of toxins," I was told. "Have another juice!"
"I'd prefer Bonjela," I replied.
According to Jason, pints of carrot juice were allowing our bodies to bypass the "energy-zapping digestive process".
The lack of fibre also drastically reduced everyone's need to use the toilet. Instead, we were encouraged to sign up for several bracing wheatgrass infused colonics.
I decided to give the them a miss because a) I was on holiday and b) I don't hate myself. But it seemed strange to me that thrice weekly colonics were being considered a benchmark of normality.
As the week continued, I found the blind faith in juicing regime more and more unsettling. On a hike, a woman told us about her son. He was in his twenties and serving a life sentence in prison for some unspecified crime.
"Sometimes, I think if he'd discovered juicing perhaps his life would have turned out differently," she told me forlornly. "Perhaps he wouldn't have done what he did."
The desperation in her voice was heartbreaking. Her need for some sort of answer was sobering, amid all the chat about yoga and juice.
The holiday ended two days later, but the sadness in her voice stayed with me longer than any of the punchy sound-bites or juicing platitudes of the previous week.