Monday, January 30, 2012

Cleanse, Day 15

Images of trees make me happiest
Image via Flikr user Oddsock
We're 15 days into the cleanse! Overall, I feel good. I've lost weight, my skin is clearing (albiet slowly..), and my body feels lighter, somehow. There are random moments when I feel simply on-top-of-the-world euphoric - which I've heard can happen during this cleanse. My mind feels more alert, I get less tired and hungry during the day, and I have more energy. The downsides: I miss wheat, cheese, and eggs. My cravings for meat have been less, as we've experimented with some really delicious vegetarian recipes, but I haven't found a wheat bread substitute which I like very much and veggie burgers just aren't as good without cheese! We did try brown rice tortillas and they were good - I'd eat them again. Eric has been so supportive that he's trying all of these new things with me, even when we're in completely unknown territory (we tried a brand of fake cheese that this guy raved about in the store. The result: it was gross). Other new finds have been a success though: we both really like tempeh, and I can easily see continuing to cook it after the cleanse is over; I have a newfound appreciation for pinto beans; this weekend we made stuffed cabbage wraps with his mom (a mixture of quinoa and sauteed veggies wrapped in cabbage leaves, then baked in a tomato sauce) and they were delicious. So, there's hope for me yet!

Many will tell you it's ideal to eat as many raw, whole foods as possible. Cooking vegetables strips a lot of the nutrients, so large portions of salad are ideal for lunch and dinner (with a smaller portion of cooked foods). Especially during the winter, this is HARD: who wants to pass up a warm meal for a salad? Moderation, moderation, moderation: while I understand that a vegan, gluten-free diet is the ultimate present to your body, I already know that it's not easy to maintain: other people don't know how to cook for you; the ingredients can be harder to find; it takes a lot of work to learn a new lifestyle from scratch. Perhaps it would be easier if I was avoiding just dairy or just gluten - the combination of the two makes for interesting shopping trips! For those friends who maintain this kind of lifestyle happily: bravo to you!

For those reasons, I'm looking at doing a scaled back version of the cleanse once it's over next week. I will absolutely keep juicing in lieu of a more traditional breakfast and will keep eating greens at every meal. I will also try slowly reintroducing gluten / dairy and will monitor what happens - if either makes me feel gross, that's a pretty clear signal. I will cut way back on meat and dairy regardless, will aim for local products when I do have meat/dairy, and will avoid processed foods as much as possible. I'm starting to feel too awesome to go back to my pre-cleanse diet, and it's only been 2 weeks! Of course, I have been using one other secret weapon...

Bragg's organic apple cider vinegar, friends. YES!

Some of you may use this already when you feel a cold or sore throat coming on. I discovered more long-term methods:
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar in warm water (with lemon and honey if you wish) each morning and another serving before dinner
    • Use a straw so as to avoid your teeth as much as possible; don't brush for 1/2 an hour just in case
  • Dilute the vinegar with water 50/50 and use as a toner for your skin
I've been using both of these methods for almost 2 weeks now and am so far pleased - the vinegar has been improving the texture and health of my skin at a far faster rate than anything else I've tried. In addition, drinking the mixture before a meal helps me to eat a more normal-sized portion, as the vinegar acts as an appetite suppresant. I looked up lots of reviews on both methods and people RAVE about ACV as a home remedy. It's available at many supermarkets, as well as GNC (they were having a buy 1, get 1 half off sale). Woo for cheap! Just make sure it's organic, if you try some, and know that it's going to smell.. like vinegar. My skin doesn't smell all day, but I try to put it on about half an hour before leaving the house. :)

That's it for now! On to week 3...

Monday, January 23, 2012

Cleanse, Day 8

The first week is complete! How do I feel currently? Stuffy and sick, if you must know. I took the day off to rest after I woke up randomly sick on Saturday morning with a cold that has persisted - detox symptoms, perhaps? Day 8 in the book says "Week 1 is under your belt and no matter how it went, the hardest part is behind you. There will be more icy patches ahead (detox symptoms can pop up at any time), but you've taken some heroic steps." While no one may see this cleanse as heroic, I am nevertheless proud of myself for sticking with it thus far through a week of work and a family party (which offered steak, cheesy mashed potatoes, my FAVORITE pumpkin pie, and lots of wine). My indulgence? A 1 inch square of dark chocolate. To make sure I had something to eat, Eric and I made a big pot of vegan chili and were surprised with how deliciously it turned out (neither of us had made chili before). Then we poured the leftovers over some quinoa yesterday and had another delicious meal! I'm (sadly) going to finish it this afternoon. I've also been pouring in some ground flaxseed, which has a very mild taste and provides some awesome added nutrition.

The juicer!

My veggies!

The juicing is quickly becoming an important part of my diet, though figuring out the logistics have been interesting. There is not much room in the fridge for days of vegetables as it is, so I had little luck stuffing in multiple bags of lettuce and cucumbers. Our first solution, being that it's freezing cold outside, was to try putting some things outside in a cooler. This worked for a few days until temps rose above 50 and then my cucumbers looked very sad. Back to square 1. Just as I was beginning to get really stressed about how to continue this lifestyle and not take over the fridge, we remembered my little fridge from college, which has been gathering dust in the basement. Perfect! Onto the porch it went, where I currently have set up shop.

There's our juicer! It takes me about half an hour in the morning to juice, drink, and clean up, provided that the vegetables have been cut up and prepared the night before. I make about 24oz a day and take a small mason jar to work for the afternoons. 24oz worth has included:
  • 1 cucumber, 1 small piece of ginger, 1 wedge of lemon, 1 pear, 2 sticks of celery, 1 large broccoli stem (save the florets to eat later!), 3 leaves of romaine lettuce, 2 leaves of rainbow chard, 1-2 leaves of kale (I've had trouble getting it lately.. they are always sold out!), 2 carrots. 
I've been composting the pulp, but I've heard that you can use it in many recipes as well. Even this morning when I clearly felt sick, drinking the juice perked me up almost immediately - also, I've really been enjoying the taste of this recipe. The juice is really sweet, though perhaps this is just my taste buds changing? Either way, I love it.

Thanks to everyone who gave me soup recipes last week, as well. I'm frankly not used to cooking balanced meals every night and having enough for lunch the next day (what do you mean pb&j is not allowed during this cleanse??) - I've had to become a better planner and I've had to experiment with new recipes with limited time. The success of the chili was a confidence boost though - making a few bigger meals over the weekend to freeze and have later is one option for a busy week, especially when I'm trying to keep up with my PT routines. Oof! I'll have to get the recipe to post.

And as might be expected, as soon as I decided to not eat animal products, that was literally all I wanted. I thought about cheese and chicken and pizza 24/7 for the first few days and I'm still not out of the woods. It's also been hard to find restaurants to go to with friends, as even all the salads have cheese and meat included half the time. I have found though that I'm less congested this week in the mornings and I've been sleeping a little bit better.. hoping this trend continues. I've also discovered Braggs organic apple cider vinegar, which is quickly becoming my favorite homemade remedy. Before I give too much away though, I want to make sure it's really working.. if I'm still as happy with it in a week, I'll post about it. :)

Until then, let's hope the next week provides more delish food and less detoxing, please.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cleanse, Day 1

Image via Flikr user HaPe_Gera
The past few days have been a whirlwind of activity. Beyond the scheduled time (Adrienne going back to school, Felix's birthday), I've spent a lot of time thinking about juicing, the food I can eat for the next 3 weeks, and how to do things that I don't know how to do, such as cook beans (not from a can). This cleanse allows a variety of grains, legumes, fruits, tons of veggies, etc. It does not allow gluten, dairy, meat, alcohol, or caffeine. Being that I've relied on meat to be a staple in my diet up until this point, as well as eggs and a certain number of processed foods, this is completely new territory for me! Quinoa pasta? Lentils? Cayenne powder in lemon water? I'm walking into this cleanse with an open mind and lots of determination. How will I feel at the end of 3 weeks? Will I feel healthier and more centered? How can I maintain balance during the work week? Here are some of the things I'm going to try: 
  1. Meditation: OHH my goodness. I've always had an interest in meditating, but hadn't yet tried it until this morning. I found this Tibetan meditation CD on iTunes by Nawang Khechog, called Five-Peak Wisdom Mountain. It's beautiful and he speaks in parts - I've always loved listening to different languages. Also, there are repetitive chimes throughout each song, which centered me and brought me back to focus. I had a surprisingly easy time focusing (it must have been the CD), and my mind felt SO CLEAR after. I plan on making sure that I meditate for 15 minutes each morning as my start to the day. 
  2. Juicing: Eric surprised me this weekend by saying he wanted to get us a juicer. I was VERY excited to hear this, being that I was wondering how to complete this cleanse with no more than an old blender. Daily green juices/smoothies are at the forefront of the cleanse, afterall! We've been experimenting, but my favorite green drink thus far is from Kris Carr's book: a combination of cucumber, kale, romaine lettuce, ginger root, pear, celery, and broccoli stems. The drink is sweet and energizing and each batch provides enough juice for my breakfast and a mid-afternoon snack. I'm going to experiment tomorrow by adding carrot as well. The challenges of course include how to 1) keep the juice fresh until later in the day,  2) create enough time to juice in the mornings before work, and 3) get enough vegetables without spending $$$$.
    • I took a look at both Whole Foods and Giant to see what their organic produce was like. Both stores had surprisingly similar prices, but Whole Foods definitely had better quality and the lettuces were bigger and fresher for sure. I also decided to get things at Produce Junction which don't need to be organic, such as bananas, onions, and garlic. I'm going to keep a tally during the cleanse to see how much is spent on veggies - I'm currently trying to assess the right number to buy each week so I don't overdo it. As much as possible, I will also buy what's in season. I haven't checked out Trader Joes yet, but Sarah said there were some good food deals there as well.
    • Eric read that juicing a lemon in with the greens will help keep the nutrients from degrading while the juice is in the fridge. I also read that it depends on what kind of juicer you have. Either way, I don't plan to leave juice in the fridge for any longer than a few hours. I believe it's different for smoothies and they can last longer after being made.
    • Today I made quinoa and brown rice veggie combos to keep around for lunches, and made my lunch for tomorrow ahead of time. I also separated my juicing veggies/fruits into individual ziploc bags, and cut up the serving for tomorrow morning so all I have to do tomorrow is juice and clean up. I know that you don't want to cut up veggies too soon, or they lose additional nutrients - I figured one night would be okay, if it gives me enough time to make the juicing happen!
  3.  Gluten-free, vegetarian meals: I have beans, lentils, chickpeas, and quinoa. I have tempeh, yams, and red onions. The list goes on. I discovered Braggs Liquid Aminos, which is a much healthier cousin to soy sauce. Also, I have been introduced to an invigorating morning drink: warm water with lemon and a pinch of cayenne powder. My meals might be quite simple until I get the hang of this, but Eric and I had a great dinner tonight of brown rice with onions, garlic, grated carrots, olive oil and ground flaxseed, a pinch of cayenne and celtic sea salt, and broccoli. Simple, yet super filling. 
  4. Affirmations: as part of the cleanse guidelines, Kris Carr provides an affirmation each day which you can focus on if you hit any roadblocks. Part of today's: "Health and happiness are my birthrights and I accept with gratitude." I like this, and will keep repeating it to myself.. we deserve health! While my habits might be more strict over the next few weeks, I do plan on juicing from here on - the benefits are too amazing to give up on after 3 weeks! Now I need to streamline the process so I don't spend all of my time cutting veggies. :)
Now on to day 2. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Prepping for the CLEANSE!

It's almost time, friends! Sarah, Jana and I are planning on beginning the cleanse next week and so are meeting up tomorrow night to figure out details and try a smoothie recipe. I have some work to do this weekend: plan out my meals for the week based on the cleanse requirements, go shopping, dig out the blender. I figure I'll go shopping once a week so I can track how much it will cost to consume more fruits and veggies than I'm used to: that kind of cost is one I'm willing to budget for, but I want to have 3 weeks of data at the end. I'm excited and apprehensive about how to follow the cleanse and still go out with friends, participate in family events, etc.  I've already requested that my plans with friends in the next few weeks be at salad friendly restaurants. :) The nice thing about this cleanse is that it's really about learning to eat better - if you don't follow it exactly every day, your body will still be happier than it was in the beginning.

I'm continuing to take the wheat grass, and am still happy with how it's making me feel. The taste continues to improve and my energy levels remain higher (I have not missed caffeine at all, and just drink herbal tea in the morning now). I reassessed my 3 servings a day and decided that I wanted to mix it up: now I take one serving of Amazing Grass Superfood first thing in the morning and then a serving of wheat grass before dinner. The superfood provides a more complete nutritional profile than the wheatgrass (digestive enzymes, probiotics, antioxidant blend, fiber blend, etc), but both are good for you in different ways and I wanted the combined effect. So far so good! Also, based on my blood test results from my recent physical, I'm deficient in Vitamin D. Hello, D3 supplement.

One of my goals for the next few months is to go back to my doctor (or visit a naturopath) to figure out exactly what supplements I need to be at optimum health. I take a multivitamin and now Vitamin D, the aforementioned green powders, and have been eating a tablespoon of flaxseed per day. I know there are many other supplements though which are important for women and I want to make sure I'm getting enough: zinc, iron, calcium, etc. If anyone has visited a homeopathic doctor, I'd love to hear about your experience.

Other thoughts.  I discovered, which is fabulous. I was able to make a few additional product switches easily with free shipping and pretty fast delivery: I switched my mouth wash to Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil mouthwash (also using Desert Essence floss), am looking into Green Beaver as an alternative toothpaste brand w/o flouride, am experimenting with Dr. Bronner's 18-in-1 Hemp Tea Tree castille soap as a facial cleanser, and Thayer's witch hazel toner as a moisturizer. To be honest, the hardest transition thus far has been my face - every product I've tried has resulted in really unhappy skin (is it the detox? is it just clogged pores? hard to say). My skin is very sensitive and a lot of the oils and creams have been too heavy, regardless of the fact that the ingredients are simple. I'm feeling optimistic about the witch hazel though - it doesn't appear to be drying my skin out or sitting too heavily. I'll update later once I've been using it longer. The nice thing: with both Dr. Bronner's liquid soap and the witch hazel, a little goes a long way! these will definitely last. Also, still using coconut oil as my moisturizer and I love love love it. Feels amazing. 

Shelli and I had our last physical therapy session tonight before she leaves town for a few months. I now have 3 different routines to alternate between, all of which will continue to kick my butt daily while she's gone: side planks, forearm planks, cardio boxing, lunges. The list goes on. My MMA gloves came in the mail today and I'm just waiting for the mitts before I can start the boxing routines. Strength is an intoxicating feeling - I can practically feel my muscles humming and can't wait for yoga class tomorrow. :) 2012 is the year I plan to be stronger than I've ever been before. Who wants to join me?!