My First Juice Cleanse

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I wish I were more original, but despite all good intentions about moderation going into the holidays, it ended up being a good old fashioned season of excess.  Low point:  December 25, eating (not even favourite foods!) until so full that I had to lie down on the couch.  Why?  Why do I do this?

It’s January now, and like everyone else, I am getting back on track and trying to cut out the bigger chunks of this nonsense out of my life.  I’m doing more yoga and eating more lightly (in between a snuck Turtle or four) and gearing up for a detox (eliminating certain foods) in February.

But if you must know, I was more in need of a detox in November than now, and I had a lot less time.  I was barely keeping my head above water:  no exercise, not enough sleep, watching the balls drop, and not managing to eat even my regular diet, let alone make modifications for an elimination diet.

When Cedar Juice contacted 4Mothers about a juice cleanse, I jumped in.  It was perfect for me at the time:  three days, organic cold-pressed unpasteurized juices, and all the work done for me.  I desperately needed to knock off some bad habits (existing in carb-ville, eating 5 or 6 Hallowe’en Snickers bars most nights, anyone?) but was too overwhelmed to add anything to the list.  Cedar Juice took me away from all that.

Working with Cedar was easy.  I chose dates for my cleanse, and got emailed tips and encouragement along the way.  The juices arrived right on time:  kale, pineapple, lemon, beet and cashew blends.  I was set, and here’s what I learned.

1.  It’s a lot of juice!  There are 6 bottles a day (and you drink them in a particular order), and each bottle is about 2 cups of fresh juice.  You’re supposed to space out the juices 2 to 3 hours apart, and drink lots of water in between.  I actually found this challenging.  I tried to drink some water but couldn’t get much down because I was too full of liquids, and I had to sip the juices over the day to get them down.  In fact, by the close of the first day, I didn’t even get to my last juice.  I did better the next two days and drank everything.

2.  The juices are delicious and varied.  Any of these alone would be a treat.  Also, the last juice blend of cashew, hemp, and vanilla bean is so yummy!  It’s also the most substantial and satisfying of the juices, probably because of the nuts.  The folks at Cedar know what they’re doing when they save the best for last (and it probably helps keep hunger at bay through the night).

3.  I wasn’t very hungry.  I mean, I craved solid food, but I was drinking juice and taking in calories the whole day.  i can easily imagine someone else getting hungry (maybe someone more active? remember I was in a busy survival mode) but as it was during the three day cleanse I was quite comfortable.

4.  Except for two occasions.  The first is when I had to cook solid hot foods for my family.  Then I was very aware of what I couldn’t eat and needed to exercise discipline to stay on the cleanse.  The other occasion is when my husband ordered in a pizza during the cleanse.  I had fallen asleep while putting the kids to sleep and got up later to watch a movie with him.  I stared at him and the pizza and he looked guiltily back at me.  “I thought you had fallen asleep for the night,” he said haplessly.  That man ate the entire pizza while I sipped my second night of liquids.  Yeah.

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5.  It gave me time.  An unexpected consequence:  I saved time eating and preparing food for myself because I just had to carry around my juices.  I’m not an advocate of not taking time to eat – I consider the slow food movement and sharing meals with others a beautiful thing.  But I was extremely busy at the time of the cleanse, and in the short-term I made use of the extra hours.

6.  My knees didn’t hurt.  I am sure this is the result of eliminating foods that cause inflammation of my knee joints.  Up next:  elimination diet to identify which foods do this.

7. My head was clear.  The most obvious change I felt during the cleanse, and it started quite early, was a mental alertness that, sadly, was a marked contrast to my usual state.  I could think clearly and was not tired or lethargic as usual.  I really had picked up some bad habits before the juice cleanse and I think dropping these and substituting them with some really healthful alternatives really had an impact.

8. Um… I think I got high off the juice.   Talking to my husband one night I suddenly realized I felt very different than usual.  Amazing actually, a sparkling clarity and flush of pleasure, like I couldn’t open my eyes wide enough.  It seemed so unreal that I almost wouldn’t have mentioned it here, until Nathalie said this had happened to a friend of hers too, and I didn’t feel quite so odd.  Cleanest high ever.  And no hangover, obviously.

9.  It did the trick.  Cleanses are reputed to have a wide range of health benefits, and I did enjoy more energy, clearer mind, and sounder sleep during the cleanse.  But true health comes from the choices we make everyday over the long run, and for me the real advantage of the cleanse is to knock off bad habits and kick start some better ones, to help me eat and live the way I really want to, instead of the way I end up doing when I’m run off my feet.  A detox is an opportunity to put some primary intention to my health and both times I’ve done it, I have improved my eating and self-care habits afterwards.  It’s so worth it.

And now it’s early January, and we’ve all done what we’ve done over the holidays, and the party is over.  For anyone feeling sluggish and wanting to shake off the holiday excess with some tasty  goodness, Cedar Juice is generously offering 4 Mothers readers a discount code for their amazing juice cleanses – just type “4mothers1blog” for $30 off!  Plus shipping is free in Ontario!

It would be a great way to bring in 2015.  Happy new year!

Be Green and Detox Your Home

images-1Carol is my go-to green expert.  She’s most likely cringing right now because she considers herself anything but an expert on the topic.  She is, however, the most environmentally conscious person whom I know and instead of wanting to stick my fingers in my ears and ride out the guilt wave whenever she talks about her latest greening project, I am inspired!  That’s right folks, inspired!

This woman makes her own soap, grows her own mushrooms and boarded the eco-train long before it became mainstream yet she is anything but a green snob.  Her quiet enthusiasm spurs me to try new things and step way out of my comfort zone.

A few weeks ago, Seventh Generation sent over a home detox kit and I figured why not give it a try?  I have made strides to introduce more organic, whole foods in to our every day diet but I have been neglectful on the home front.

I am not easily impressed when it comes to “green” cleaners.  The few that I have tried have delivered lacklustre results that left me wondering how clean the toilet/counter/floor really is?

I was pleasantly surprised with Seventh Generation’s granite counter cleaner and dishwashing detergent but the laundry detergent made me a convert!  images

I do laundry like it’s my job.  Well, it kinda is my job.  I easily push through 10 loads a week of grimy, sweaty, stained clothes running the gamut from sporting uniforms to my beloved skinnies and EVERYTHING CAME OUT SPOTLESS with no soapy residue.

Thinking of “leaning-in” to become more green conscious when it comes to your home?  Here are some easy-to-do tips from Seventh Generation:

  1. Open The Windows – avoid synthetic air fresheners and sprays.
  2. Leave Shoes At The Door – and wash those welcome mats!
  3. Plant More Indoor Plants – they help purify the air.
  4. Clean With Plant-Based or DIY Cleaners – or choose a brand that lists all of their ingredients so you can make an informed choice.
  5. Sleep On Organic And/Or Natural Fibres
  6. Detox Your Home From The Outside In – spray your lawn with white vinegar to combat those pesky weeds!
  7. Choose Toys Made From Natural Materials – and wash them with natural detergents.

Done with the Detox

detox-684107__180So I’ve finished my detox (mentioned here and here, and had to tell you about it. I don’t have wise or witty words, but I can say this: it was really good!

I mean, it wasn’t always fun during the process, and I did get tired of smoothies (and when I did, I ate some other detoxed thing without guilt – the detox is my tool, and I’ll employ it as I will!). But overall, it did pretty much what I hoped it would do. It helped dislodge some annoying habits of over-eating and eating for pacification. It gave me a health boost – and although I sometimes felt unsatisfied after eating, I absolutely felt better while I was doing it. I was less tired and sleepy, my belly felt like it was resting, and I felt physically lighter (and yes, I lost a couple of pounds – I don’t own a scale but my pants told me so).

What the detox didn’t do: give me perfect clarity about how each “toxic” food affects me. This is not the detox’s fault, but the result of me not following it to the letter – my re-introduction of toxic foods in the last week was supposed to be gradual to see how each toxin interacts with the body, but I sometimes combined foods when re-introducing (like eating pizza, which combines gluten and cheese).  See note above on it’s my tool.

But I think, having been off it for a couple of weeks, that most problematic for me is gluten.  As I expected, I’m not intolerant to (or any other foods, for that matter), but I do feel kind of sluggish when I have wheat. Probably this is just because I eat more wheat than dairy or sugar, but whatever the reason, it doesn’t feel great. I can honestly say that I would not have thought seriously of restricting gluten before the detox.  But now it seems naturally to look upon gluten like a treat, and save it for the times that it’s really worth eating, as opposed to the morning, noon and night staple it can easily be.

What else the detox didn’t do: it hasn’t prevented me from reverting to some old habits, as of course no temporary diet ever does.  Accordingly, I don’t feel quite as good as I did during the detox. But I was encouraged the other night talking to my husband who detoxed along with me.  He said that if, during the detox, he moved ahead eight steps with improved eating habits, then now he’s stepped back maybe six steps.  He said this with some satisfaction.  I love this glass half full approach.  I thought, hey, I’ve gained at least two steps too, maybe even three!

And then I remembered that during my detox, I started walking 7 kilometres with a friend every Tuesday morning. Maybe that ought to count as a step. And I’m trying to springboard from there to make my Friday morning yoga intentions real:  indubitably, another step.

Some people leap. As it turns out, I step. So be it.

Would I ever do another detox? Sure. Maybe it will be another step in the right direction.

Beyond the Detox: the Bigger Picture of Diet

vegetable-755723__180There’s a difference between diet (the food that one eats) and dieting (restricted intake of food).  I haven’t tried the latter since I was 16 years old (lasting about 2 weeks), and I don’t pay much attention to other societal dictates around female beauty (fashion, cosmetics, hair, pedicures, the spa). But I am very interested in diet in terms of what I’m consuming, and how it affects me and my environment.  I am not at all casual about food.

So it bothers me when I do not follow my better intentions around eating.  I eat quite healthfully, but often to the point of being stuffed, and I’ve often wondered if I’m just plain addicted to sugar.   I sometimes don’t even enjoy or really taste the big bowl of chocolate almonds or ice cream that I’ve been reaching for on a regular basis:  I’m just downing them.  I know why I do it:  misplaced gratification, pacification, fatigue.  And habit, especially habit.  I’ve been on a bit of a downward spiral that’s been hard to stop.

I decided to do something about it.  Take ownership, if you will.  There are many roads to Rome, but for me, a general desire to eat sensibly most of the time, and consciously enjoy occasional treats, just wasn’t taking hold.  I needed a jumpstart, more structure, something with a little flair.  I needed a tool. So I’m doing (currently on!) my very first detox.

I’m in the first week (of four), and have been eliminating alcohol, caffeine, gluten, dairy and sugar.  I was most worried about giving up my sugar, but actually it’s the gluten I’m missing the most – I really love a good bread and it’s wonderful filling feeling.  But when I feel limited, I think about what I can eat:  rice, corn, potatoes, eggs, seafood, meat (although I don’t), nuts, legumes, quinoa, soy, all fruits and vegetables (and I am eating plenty of all of this – no calorie reduction here), and at this point the concept of deprivation becomes a bit absurd.  (I just read The Little House Cookbook after Nathalie recently mentioned it on our blog, and the book is an eye-opener on what a restricted diet actually means.)

In addition to creating a sharp break in the habit of crappy eating, I wanted to see if the detox could reveal anything about how my body responds to certain foods, so I really like the idea of eliminating certain foods for a short period (2-3 weeks) and re-introducing them one by one.

I am in good health overall, but I no longer have the bravado of my 20s (when I was really quite fit and eating well) nor the nonchalance of my 30s (when I was riding the coattails of my 20s).  Why is it that my knees hurt as much as they do?  Is mental alertness a thing of the past?  More basically:  why don’t I feel that good most of the time?

I actually suspect that sleep and lack of exercise have more to do with the way I feel than the five foods I’m eliminating for three weeks.  In a nasty flashback to baby/toddler days, my 7 year old woke up every hour or so last night for no better reason than a common cold.  But this I don’t have much control over, unlike the foods I put in my mouth, many of which haven’t been helping matters.

I used to feel really good.  I remember the vitality of that.  I’m not a believer in turning back time, but I want some of that energy again and know with some work that I can have it.  I also really, really want to avoid finding myself in a medical office of the future, beseeching some doctor to take care of my body when I haven’t done so myself.

Focusing energy into one’s diet and well-being can be a liberating thing.  Liberating from old habits, a slump, and if you really do have an intolerance, from a lifetime of discomfort or worse.  I see the detox as an invitation to help me live closer to my intentions – there’s a bigger picture to the smoothies.  I’m not talking about manipulating myself toward some skinny idyll in the media (which I hardly tune into).  I’m talking about feeling great in my own body.  Diet is a necessary part of this goal, and I’m in.

Starting My First Detox

I think summer is officially over for me now.  Our family just got back from our first trip to three days at Great Wolf Lodge (which was a lot of fun and which offered a lot of junk food), and now there are no more distractions from school and our new routines.  There is also no more distraction from something that I’ve wanted (and needed?) to do for a long time, which is to put some concentrated energies into taking care of my health and body.  How I’m starting? A detox.

A detox!  I’ve never done anything like this before, but it’s time.  Sure, I’m happy to lose a couple of pounds, but my main goal is simply this:  I want to feel better in my body.  There are obvious reasons why I’m often tired and foggy in my mind, including that I’ve pushed past 40, don’t get enough sleep, and don’t exercise regularly.  Seeing that in plain text makes me look a bit dumb, so I should say that I’m working on sleep and fitness too.  But I could use a jump-start and a concrete plan to feeling good, and I’ve decided a detox will be it.

A friend told me her husband did Alexandra Jamieson‘s 4 week detox with success, and I like it because it doesn’t seem too extreme (you still get to eat) and because it should provide some information at the end about how our bodies react to certain problematic-for-some foods, by introducing them one at a time after a period of avoidance.

The basic structure of the detox:

Week 1:  slowly eliminate five toxic foods:  caffeine, alcohol, sugar, gluten and dairy

Weeks 2 and 3:  eat none of the toxic foods, and have smoothies for breakfast and lunch (berries, greens, protein powder, fibre powder) and a normal (detoxed) dinner.  (I’m suspicious of powders generally, so I am going to allow myself a handful of nuts in my smoothie and find other sources of fibre (prunes, anyone?))

Week 4:  having smoothies just for breakfast, normal lunch and dinner, and reintroduce the toxic foods one at a time

Healthy snacks are allowed, like fruits and vegetables.  And no sugar means no honey, maple syrup or other sweeteners.  Stevia is okay.

How hard could it be?  Ha!  I know how hard, which is why I’ve imposed upon myself a social fine for cheating.  Every infraction means I have to take out for dinner my fellow detox companions.  I need some bite to make this happen.

imgres-2I also need ideas for what to eat, and to that end, I’ve got two books that will be my steady companions during all this.  First is Simple Food for Busy Families:  The Whole Life Nutrition Approach by Jeannette Bessinger and Tracee Yablon-Brenner.  I received this book a few months ago, and really like it.  Well-researched and written, it’s really a reference guide to the benefits of eating whole foods, which is the single premise of all food discussion that I espouse without reservation.

The authors dissect the problems of Standard American Diet (SAD) eaters versus “natural eaters”.  The latter eat according to healthy cues from the body, including hunger and cravings to attend to its needs.  This person might enjoy a rich chocolate dessert one night without much thought or gain weight, because she “intuitively eats in a way that balances the extra sugar, fat, and calories in the dessert, allowing her body to assimilate it organically without taking a harsh toll on her system.”  By contrast, the SAD eater’s internal cues no longer give accurate body feedback, due to over-consumption of sugar, salt, unhealthy fats and processed foods.

There are simple recipes in the book plus a “mix and match” section outlining various groups of ingredients needed to make smoothies, hot cereals, soups, etc.  I’ll be looking at the smoothie mix and match section, I can tell you that.  I also like the macro approach to healthy eating in Simple Food for Busy Families, where the authors address the importance of routines, sleep, and other factors in maintaining health. Personally I think adequate sleep is a remedy for many things, including eating crap.  I am never more prone to scarfing down junk than when exhausted.

SimplyRawKitchen-cover-266x300 Also on my kitchen counter is The Simply Raw Kitchen by Natasha Kyssa.  In my humble view, raw diets cannot make claims of non-extremism, but I like this recipe book.  Firstly, it makes its case about the benefits of a raw plant-based diet without being preachy (I think I need to read The China Study now), and the author works off the premise that readers want to include more raw foods into their lives but aren’t necessarily looking to convert entirely.  In fact, she identifies the dangers of quick or complete conversion, that is, that it’s fraught with failure.  She even includes a few lightly cooked meals together with her mother in the book to make her point.

I will also be consulting the smoothie section here, plus interesting takes on old favourites, like “Real Tomato Soup” including a tablespoon of miso.  I love miso, and I’ll need a worthy destination for the tomatoes still ripening in the garden.  There’s also a recipe for “Spicy Thai Salad”, made with lots of raw cabbage, which sounds delicious.  Plus, who wouldn’t want to eat salad in a mason jar?  In other words, this raw cookbook offers some really attractive recipes that happen to be powerhouses of good, healthy eating.  It’ll take more work and intention to make these than a grilled cheese sandwich, but I’ll be putting food and health on the map for the next month, and I’m up for it.

My hope, ultimately, is to do some body recon during the detox, and to acquire some good habits post-detox.  These good-looking books will make this easier.  They’re not going to help much with what I’m pretty sure is a sugar addiction, but no book can be everything to every woman.

I’ve also been warned that I’m going to be crabby for the next four weeks, because I’m going to be hungry.  But a secret:  I’m actually looking forward to this detox.  Not enough to extend it or anything, but I know it’s going to be good for my body (and I really do respect this body of mine) and I’m excited at the prospect of feeling great.  Feeling great!  The detox is kind of a kick in the pants to do what I want to do.  I’m in.  And I’ll report back when I’m done.

If you’ve ever done a detox or related food activity, please tell and give me your tips!