Thursday, February 26, 2009

Willpower Breakdowns and Start of the Kidney Cleanse

I had about a week between the end of the critter cleanse and the beginning of the kidney cleanse. As I mentioned in previous posts, the critter cleanse was pretty rough on the the last few days, so I decided to give my body a few days to regain equilibrium before putting it through any further detox.

During my week "off" I kept up with a few supplements - a probiotic and buffered vitamin C - as they should help with absorption and digestion.


I had a potluck in the midst of this week, where I let myself have a glass of wine and a few bites of food that I wasn't supposed to have. Ian was great enough to make a vegan lasagna, but of course the refined noodles aren't on the good list. Neither were Ben's fabulous snickerdoodle cupcakes. Or Dwight's banana muffins. Or Scot's mini brownies.

Unfortunately, as will often happen with sugar and carbs due to their addictive nature, a few bites turned into a whole cupcake. And a muffin. And 4-5 mini brownies. And a second serving of the lasagna. Did I mention someone brought home made bread?

Yeah, I felt gross the rest of the night and the next day. Mostly, I was just bloated, and a little lethargic. But it was amazing to notice how some not-so-good for you food (I mean, it's not like I downed a bag of chips or a pint of Ben and Jerry's) can make you feel. Part of the point of the whole cleansing diet is to get back to the basics, so that as you introduce new foods, you can recognize what they do to your body. I took note.

I was good about everything until Friday, when Ian's work had a party with free drinks. I wasn't going to, but my will power gave out when they handed me the drink ticket. So I got a glass of wine. What was good was that it took me nearly 2 hours to drink it. I have NEVER nursed a drink that long in my life. And I didn't indulge in the bad food; I only grabbed a few veggies, no dip. I drank 2 glasses of water to my one glass of wine. So I thought I was all good.

I hadn't felt the other two glasses of wine I'd consumed during this process. I don't know what was different this time around, but Saturday morning at work, I could tell I'd had some alcohol. I wasn't hungover by any means, but my head was a little foggy. And I just... felt it. It felt like the very tail end of a hangover, I guess. It was subtle, but I noticed.

It was a little horrifying, knowing that for most of the last few years, I've had a couple of drinks a couple of nights a week. And I rarely noticed the effect. I guess when you get used to it, you start thinking feeling that way is normal. So long as you're not full out hungover, it's okay. It made me really rethink how frequently I'm going to drink when I'm done with all of this.

Sunday was yet another pitfall, this time it was a key lime tart. I wasn't going to have any, but someone cut me a piece. Then I was just going to have one bite, but the Oscars are long. As the tart sat there, I slowly chipped away at it. After three hours, it was gone.

I felt gross on Monday. You know, the way you do if you drink way too much soda. It was a sugar hangover. Eew. At least it went away pretty quickly.

I'm not proud that I went off the good diet so many times. It sounds like a lot more when I write it down - I guess that's why food journals/blogs are good for dieters. It's easy to justify a small "cheat" when you've "been so good for so long." But it's harder when you look at your journal and realized you just "cheated" two days ago.

Kidney Cleanse

Tuesday I started the kidney cleanse. It's short, but intense. It involves staying on the clean diet, though skipping out on salt (even sea salt) for a few days. We made a tea with some herbs and parsley broth and black cherry extract, that we are supposed to sip over the course of two days. It's rather potent, so you really are only supposed to have a sip or two an hour. It doesn't taste very good, but I've gotten used to it. And there are a few herbal supplements as well.

I've definitely been rather tired and had a lot of detox soreness the last two days, but it could be worse. I even decided to do the third optional day of the tea today, for good measure. Tomorrow, day 4, we just take the herbs. And then on to the liver!

The kidney and liver cleanses were really the reason I took the course. I drank a lot last fall (Ultimate Frisbee league sponsored by the Great Dane - brilliant and dangerous at the same time.) and was genuinely getting worried about what I was doing to my system. I wanted to do what I could to heal and support it.

There's really no way to measure the effects of this cleanse. With the first one, I could see weight loss and my skin clearing up. I've noticed since I've been on the better diet I don't get the mid-day energy slump, I don't crave sweets or cheese anymore, I sleep better. But I don't know what to say about my kidneys. I hope they're happier!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Cheating" on Valentine's Day

The second of my four cleanses, the digestive cleanse, ended on Valentine's Day. Not a day too soon.

I really struggled with it in the end; I think it's like those last 5 minutes on the treadmill, where you're so close to finishing that they drag out forever. That and as I mentioned before, the herbs were not sitting so well by the end. I'm still not sure whether the G.I. distress I had those last few days was a sign that my body was ready to be done, or that it was clearing some major stuff. Either way, I'm glad that's over. Now I'm just on a maintenance diet until I do the kidney cleanse in a few days. I've been pretty tired the last two days, and my digestive system still hasn't seemed to get to a place of normalcy. So I'm going to wait a little and make sure my body is ready to handle the next cleanse.

Valentine's night Ian and I went out for a dinner at Chautara. Aside from it being my favorite restaurant in the city (which is significant considering the many excellent restaurants in Madison) it also is one of the most vegetarian/vegan friendly places around. They had a $25/plate V-day special that included soup or salad, appetizers, an entree, and dessert.

I was able to eat most everything without straying too far from my good food combining and clean diet, although Katy strongly recommends against tofu (too processed and a lot of estrogen) and eating that was unavoidable if I wanted to have a full meal. The Paneer served with my meal was tempting, but I only had one bite, and then ate all the sauce and veggies around it. Oh, and the appetizers were all wrapped in doughs, so I just cut them open and ate out the veggie fillings. That felt kind of lame. Happiest for me was that the dessert was brown rice balls soaked in rose water. Probably more sugar than is ideal, but not technically off the diet. :)

I did "cheat" by having a glass of wine, and since I knew I would only be having one, I ordered one of the more expensive ones. Sipping it throughout the meal was successful, and it made me stop to think I should always try to do it that way, rather than having the 2-3 glasses I normally would over the course of a meal out.

Overall, I felt pretty good. I'd been a bit concerned by the many warnings from both Katy and Lyrea to reintroduce foods slowly, one at a time, since I had several things that night - including alcohol - that I haven't in awhile. But it was fine.

It was another good experience with regard to breaking old habits. I didn't eat everything I was served. I didn't drink too much. I really enjoyed the meal, and because there was less alcohol, none of the flavors of the food (or the conversation!) were masked. And it was cheaper than usual eating out, just because there was no bottle of wine on the tab.

I'm not trying to make it sound like I'm a recovering alcoholic, nor that I'm not going to go back to drinking with some frequency once this is all done. But having new awareness about potentially self-destructive habits can be very informative. It can help you be more objective about the habit, and see the way it influences various aspects of your life more clearly. When you step out of a habit for awhile, it also becomes easier to imagine breaking it permanently; it loses its power, and shedding it becomes more fathomable. You become empowered by your own choices.

I encourage everyone to make tough decisions for themselves, or experiment with breaking a routine for a period of time. You can always go back to it if you decide it is what you really want. But stepping outside of the norm for a little while can really help you to gain perspective, make more informed choices, and really take control of your life. This is what creating your own reality is all about.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

On Healthy Vegetarianism

My latest article, "Healthy Vegetarianism: Don't Forget the Veggies!" is out in the March issue of Wisconsin Woman Magazine!

For this issue, I interviewed some local nutrition experts on how to be a healthy vegetarian, and what to think about if you're considering changing to a vegetarian diet.

One of the people I interviewed was Katy Wallace, ND, CNHP. Katy is the naturopath who teaches the body cleansing workshops I'm doing right now. She's amazingly knowledgeable about nutrition and natural health, and I think I got about 1/32 of all the great information sh shared with me into the article.

Critter Cleanse, days 7-11

The last few days of the cleanse have been a little rougher. Stomachaches here and there, and herbs messing with my birth control a bit. I won't go into the details on that one, but for anyone considering herbal treatments or major dietary changes (this cleansing process, for example) be aware that it can reduce the efficacy of hormonal birth controls. (Not to fear, we use backup.)

I'm ready to be done with this cleanse, though I'm finding myself quite pleasantly surprised that I'm already on day 11 of 14. It's gone by fast, despite some of the issues I've been dealing with the last few days.

With regard to good effects, I'm still feeling great overall. An unexpected benefit has been that my chiropractic adjustments are holding better, and I've been cut down to two appointments a week instead of three. And I've lost 7 pounds! I'm still trying to mentally prepare myself for gaining some of that back as soon as I'm eating some of my old foods again, but I'm trying to get more exercise in, too, to negate that factor.

All in all, I'm still really glad I've decided to do this. It's amazing how quickly you can adjust to a new pattern - I'm not missing drinking or a lot of the other foods I'm not eating anymore. Except pizza. I'm looking forward to pizza. :)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cleanse #2: the Critter Cleanse (Days 1-6)

Saturday the 31st ended the digestive cleanse. By the end of it, I was feeling fine and had adjusted to the cooking and food preparation. Sunday the 1st I started the second cleanse of the program, the "Critter Cleanse." This two-week cleanse is designed to help get rid of bad parasites we pick up from food (particularly meat) as well as things like yeast that are in the system.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm still primarily eating just fruits and veggies, though now I can add in 1-2 servings a day of whole grains (primarily long-grain brown rice, quinoa, and millet)and avocados. Hurrah! The night of the super bowl, dinner was a bowl of guacamole eaten on carrots. Yum.

This cleanse hasn't seemed much different from the prior one so far. I'm taking more herbs with my meal, ones designed to help get rid of the "critters." For the first few days I had more energy; I think that was due to the addition of the grains. Yesterday and today I've been pretty tired, and had a headache most of the day. I'm taking that as a good sign that I'm detoxing and clearing out some stuff. I've also been taking it a little easier; I was relieved when two of the three commitments I had after work last night were canceled. Sometimes I think life gives you exactly what you need most.

I have been meditating more, which has really been wonderful. For the most part, my sittings have been the "henhouse" with stuff just constantly clearing and very little quiet. Though yesterday during the intense detoxing I had a very deep and restful meditation. I've been very drawn to wanting to spend lots of time meditating - it really feels like my system is wanting to rest and get on track. I'm really impressed with how just adjusting my diet has gotten other systems to want to "get in gear" too.

On a social level, it is getting easier for me to be at events with food and drink I'm not currently eating. I just have to remember to eat before I go. That being said, there's definitely part of me that's ready to be done. There's a little internal dialogue that says "oh come on. Can't we have a slice of pizza already? I mean, is this really necessary?" But I'm hanging in and staying strong, and I really appreciate my roommate and my boyfriend for encouraging me to stick with it when I near moments of weakness.

I am finally starting to see some results, and that has been very motivating. I've lost about 5 lbs, which was definitely a goal. I am aware that the weight could easily come back when I go back to a more "normal" diet, so I'm trying to get to the gym a few times a week in an attempt to thwart that. And, because you know, working out is good for you. Best of all, my skin is clearing up wonderfully. I've been fighting acne for years, and right now my skin looks great. As soon as a few of the red scars left from the last round of blemishes heal, it'll be all clear for the first time since I hit puberty. This is a big triumph for me.

Most interestingly, I've suddenly had a lot of people asking me for nutrition advice. I'm happy to share what I know, with the disclaimer that I'm not trained in nutrition beyond what I've learned through this class and from a few other sources. But I'll gladly share recipes and what I do know, and I highly recommend seeing Katy for a consultation, or attending one of her many workshops at the Willy St. Co-op.

This is causing me to consider whether I perhaps ultimately want to get some training in the field. I've really been enjoying talking with people and helping others to make healthier choices in their lives, too. I've been wanting to go back to school for a Master's in Public Health, and there's an option to focus on nutrition while doing so. It's something to ponder.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Cleanse: days 7-10

As you can tell by my less regular posts, the last three days of the digestive cleanse were really easy. While I've gotten used to all of the cooking, I'll look forward to not having so many dishes to do. When you prepare all of your own meals, they pile up fast.

I've been feeling pretty good all week, and am happy with how this has all gone.

Even Friday and Saturday were easier than last week. There were a few temptations for a glass of wine while watching movies with my mom (we do a chick flick, red wine, and chocolate night once or twice a month. This time she had the wine and chocolate while I had cherries and cocoa tea. Not a bad compromise though.)

On Thursday I played bridge with my mom's group, and that was a little challenging. They always have lots of snacks around - nuts, cheese, crackers, candies - and wine. But I held strong sipping tea and eating carrots with salt on them as a substitute for cashews.

Last night (saturday) we went out to a big event at a local bar. I had been thinking it would be really tough not to drink and that I ::might:: even let myself have one beer. But we got there and I really wasn't tempted at all. I actually quite enjoyed being sober all night - I had more energy (and balance!) for dancing and didn't feel so tired when we got home. And it was nice to wake up after a late night out feeling clear-headed with my feet being the only thing that hurt. (dancing in heels.)

Overall what I'm seeing in myself is that I am breaking some old patterns and habits, which of course is what we are always trying to do with Ascension. Not drinking and eating the limited diet has really made me notice how many of my activities are food-centric, and particularly so around less healthy foods or drinks. Over these first ten days, it has become noticeably easier to not be tempted to fall into the old pattern. I'm looking forward to having an awareness about how I manage it when I am no longer on the special diet. I am hoping it will be easier for me to make better choices - such as not feeling like I "have" to drink when I go out to a bar or similar social event, and still being comfortable and fully enjoying the evening without feeling like I am missing out.

As I mentioned in earlier posts, I'm sure this will do wonders for my self-discipline, and I imagine this should all help to break down the physiological desires for things like sweets, carbs, and other less healthy foods.

Today I begin the second of the four cleanses we are going through in the class: the "critter cleanse." This cleanse works on getting rid of the bad parasites in your body. We all get them from meat, dairy, and other foods. I'll be taking some special herbs for the purpose, and I'm still on a limited diet. Though I now get to add in some whole grains, and I can eat avocadoes again. Guacamole for the super bowl, here I come!