Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Raw, vegan AND happy? All at once?!

Welcome back!

That's what my blog said when I logged on today. This five month blog sabbatical has certainly been restful, but I was encouraged to restart the ol' engine today as I'm kind of overflowing with information.

 {Image from The Chalkboard Mag. Recognize that handwriting? That's right.}

At the end of 2011 I decided to kick off the new year with a month of intentional eating, or whatever the socially correct term for diet/ detox/ cleanse may be. I like the word reset, which I stole from Sarah Fae over at the incredible Addicted to Veggies website.

After just one too many peppermint crinkle cookies over the holidays I was ready to reset my health.

I read a lot of health and nutrition books but there was one that captivated my attention last year called The Beauty Detox Solution. I didn't become obsessed with it because of a desire to become even more beautiful, but more for the detox solution part. The author, Kimberly Snyder, packed that book with all sorts of good practice for healthy digestion and eating for cleansing, and she presented it all in a way that resonated with me.

Talking about digestion makes for fascinating conversation, but not the type you engage in as ice breaker material at a party. But this year one of my goals was to focus on gut health. Not only the literal gut and caring for my colon and surrounding digestive organs, but also my intuitive gut, and learning how to listen to it better.

I think this focus on gut health may have been a great example of me listening to my gut to be honest. For some reason I just became fascinated with digestion, and as I began the "reset" my grandmother was  diagnosed with abdominal cancer -- a complete shock to everyone. By the time they found the cancer it was spread all throughout her GI and abdominal organs, she was give ten days to live and she passed away on January 18 during one of the biggest snowstorms we've seen in a awhile. Cancer has taken another wonderful woman (who lived a long and rich life though -- my grandma was almost 90 years old). While I mourn and celebrate a life, I can also say my digestive vigilance has been strengthened.

This month, even with clearly a lot going on, I dug right in. Consider me reset. I feel healthy and empowered to make good, veggie-centric choices. I'm not going to become a hard-core vegan but I am definitely going to lay off the dairy from now on.

Last week, when a friend said they were about to start a Beauty Detox Solution-inspired plan I wrote down some of the key things I've learned along the way. I thought I'd capture them and share with anyone else as interested as I am in this plant-based, whole food, raw, vegan diet.

Here's what I did and what I learned:
  •  Week 1: Elimination Giving up my favorite toxins (coffee, chocolate and alcohol) nearly killed me, but it felt great to remind my body who was in control. Because herbal tea is no substitute for coffee, I was ecstatic to discover a formidable substitute called Teeccino. You can get it in tea bag or ground-up format, it's caffeine free and, with a bit of cinnamon and almond milk, is as good a replacement for coffee that you'll find.  
  • Throughout the month I focused on these basic tenets: 
    • Attempt to eat raw until dinner 
    • Vegan throughout (since I'm veggie anyway the main sacrifice was the dairy, though I'm surprised how quickly I got used to it. It helps when you start thinking about milk and cheese as "cow mucus", a term vegans seems to love. )
    • Start each day with a glowing green smoothie. Yes, it's green and an unorthodox breakfast choice, but I have converted a fair few omnivores to this amazing drink (see below). 

    • Weeks 2 & 3:Sustain  My original plan was to do some juice fasting in this second week, but life got a bit hectic and, listening to my body, I realized this wasn't the best time for it. As someone prone to extremism, though I loved the challenge of a mostly raw, vegan month, I knew that my long-term health was more important than winning a short-term health challenge. I wanted to try some new recipes, supplements and methods to build my heath portfolio and see what things worked for me. Also important to me, in addition to a squeaky clean colon, is quality of life. Stressing about food and deprivation isn't worth it, so giving myself grace through scheduled in splurge meals helped get me through. In week 2 I reintroduced coffee and dark chocolate (70%), but only every other day to give my body a break. (Baby steps.)
    • My average day looked like this:
      • Wake up to hot water with sliced ginger, a load of lemon and a dash of cayenne pepper
      • Probiotics: I used New Chapter and was happy with them. Want to check out Dr. Ohhira's (apparently the best, not cheap though). Heard that Garden of Life and Mega Foods are also good brands. Probiotics are good for grooming your helpful intestinal flora.
      • Glowing Green Smoothie! (love adding herbs such as basil, cilantro or mint. Ginger is also great; I use two apples instead of a pear, sprouts are good in it too. Love kale in the winter as a spinach sub.)
      • Some quiet time to set my intentions and remind myself what I'm doing. It's kind of a prayer/ meditation/ quiet time. At the beginning of the week I did some meal planning as well to make sure I had a general plan. Having a plan is essential.
      • Lunch: tried lots of Kimberly Snyder's recipes from the BDS. Lots of big, veggie-laden salads with yummy homemade dressings, some raw soups and, when really hungry, some avocado toast with Ezekial 29 sprouted bread. (Using coconut oil instead of butter is amazing. The toast isn't raw but we can only do so much.)
      • Snack: some fruit, kombucha (Love the GT brand gingerade flavor -- this stuff is amazing and full of probiotics, you can load up at Whole Foods or PCC; the cherry chia was also fun); raw almonds; a frozen banana smoothie with cinnamon/ almond milk/ splash of vanilla extract may rock your world. A good snack for when you need an energy boost is chia seeds soaked in almond milk with a bit of cinnamon/ sliced banana. I really like the taste!
      • Dinner: tried lots of new recipes, roasted or steamed veg with dressing, quinoa, salad. Basically just loaded as many vegetables into my body as possible with homemade dressings. Added 1-2 TBSP ground flaxseed. Great nutty taste and Spectrum is a good brand. Tried making the Probiotic & Enzyme salad but the Firefly Kitchen brand is much tastier. I love their kimchi and their Ruby Red Saurkraut is good too. This stuff is not cheap though ($6-10, depending on the type you get).
      • Before bed: detox tea (Traditional Medicinals or Yogi tea, or just plain Mint tea); magnesium supplements. Just started taking the Mag07 supplements that Kimberly recommends (supposed to filled your gut with oxygen and clear you right out!) but the jury is still out on these.  
    {Photo by SimplyRecipes.com}
      • Other tips:
        • Raw apple cider vinegar is supposed to be good for digestion. Braggs is a good brand. I've been putting a splash into hot water and sipping on that and it's surprisingly good.
        • Nutritional yeast is great for flavoring. You can use in dressings or sprinkle on food like parmasan. I bought some in the bulk section of my local supermarket, but again Braggs is a good brand to buy in a container.
        • I've been drinking tons of almond milk and am planning to try making some in the coming weeks. Raw almonds are always great to have on hand for when you hit an energy slump. 
        • I've found that the whole principle of light to heavy eating really works for me. Also, I try and eat my carbs for lunch and proteins for dinner and try my hand at food combining where possible. This can be a pain so I just keep it in the back of my mind. In BDS Kimberly goes into more detail about why it's good to think about food combining, and though I'd always been opposed (so much hassle) she makes some good points and I find it really works.
        • I highly recommend scheduled-in splurges so all this change doesn't seem oppressive. I think quality of life and not stressing about food is really important for digestion (and general happiness) so I'm not out to kill myself. 
        • www.iherb.com is a great place to buy natural food items. Cheap and no shipping costs, plus you can choose some free samples with each order. First time buyers can use my voucher code (VUF744) for $5 off.
        • Favorite recipes:
          • Carrot-ginger dressing a la Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop (I LOVE this!)
          • Liquid Gold Elixir dressing from Natalia Rose. (Note: I use 1/2 cup lemon juice, olive oil, skipped the bee pollen and chili powder and cut the garlic in half. You can totally make it to taste. This is amazing over steamed veg and quinoa.) 
          • I'm always experimenting with a new combo of tahini, miso paste, sesame oil, ginger, garlic and tamari (just because nama shoyu/ raw soy sauce is like $10 a bottle) for dressings. Just a few tablespoons of tahini &/ or miso with the juice of a lemon and some water is always a treat. I am, in fairness, naturally inclined toward Asian-flavored foods.
          • Beauty Detox Solution recipes: love the oil-free basil lover's dressing (tastes like pesto), the raw teriyaki sauce is good and the red pepper soup I made several times.
        • Other resources: I find that reading about healthy eating during a reset is helpful. So much of our food choices are down to planning and motivation, so keeping the motivation levels high is important. 
          • Books: Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder; Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr; Clean by Alejandro Junger; Raw Food Detox Diet by Natalia Rose
          • Blogs: Linda Wagner; Kimberly Snyder (worth signing up to her newsletter); Addicted to Veggies (tons of raw, vegan recipes); Spinach & Yoga; The Chalkboard Mag (overall wellness features)
          • Videos: Forks Over Knives (what my husband calls vegan propoganda); Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead (haven't seen but comes highly recommended), Crazy Sexy Cancer (haven't seen, just heard about).

            Hope there are a few morsels of wellness you can pick out and use for yourself!


        Jenny said...

        Love this post Alisha! So thorough and thoughtful...I haven't been motivated enough to sit down and type up my raw & running challenge details...but now I can just point to yours when I do!

        Still looking forward to a raw celebratory dinner together!

        alisha said...

        I'm looking forward to your reflections on a month of raw. Maybe we can just talk about over the raw dinner!

        Elise said...

        Hi there,

        I noticed that you are using my photo of beet hummus. I'm delighted that you like it enough to post it here on your site. I ask that if you would like to continue to use it that you provide attribution (Photo by SimplyRecipes.com) next to the photo with a working link to the source recipe on my site, which is:


        Thank you so much for your consideration!



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