Sunday, September 16, 2012

Chronicles #5: Boxing with Detoxing

Here is the unadulterated truth about fasting: I don't really want to do it.
Yes, there, I said it. I am probably in alignment with many of us who just have a resistance to giving up anything that has been an important survival tool in our lives to this point, and many of us really believe it. Meanwhile, I'm one of those types that, even after studying EVERYTHING, have come to the conclusion that fasting isn't for me, and that I'll rule it out.
Well, I've been wrong all of these years. The fact harder to face was that it was simply hard for me to fast. Now, I'm not talking about anything too extreme, but I am talking about something that makes me mildly uncomfortable. In the past anyway, I had to worry about my blood sugar taking a serious nose dive. I don't worry about this anymore because I've cleaned up my diet so diligently.

If I didn't have a middle name, it would be "sugar addict." Yes, it's true, I've been addicted to as many sweet things as possible, and thank goodness it has completely improved. Now having realized that sugar is the key to illness (I've known this for some time, try since I was 9), I set myself on a course to look sugar in the face and send it packing. I think I'll save this next chronicle for a more detailed look at sugar.

Anyway, I'm finally ready to make the change, but gradually. In fact, for all those who have done a cold-turkey fast, I have something to say to you: this is not a good idea. The system and all of its toxins are not ready for if you're ready to feel like real hell and risk other forms of internal damage, then go ahead and do things aggressively. It would be like working out for 3 hours your first time out. Not a long-term solution by any means.

There are some things I've learned this past few weeks on detoxing. This is a baseline. detoxing is a science.

1) Prepare your mind, body and spirit for a detox.
2) Detoxing is a mind-body-spirit activity, not just a cleansing of your internal organs.
 3)EVERYTHING will release. Eventually.
4) Journal your thoughts and feelings. Remember them. Remember how the toxic food made you feel.
5) Surround yourself with people who are aligned with your goal. Either that, or suffer every other person offering you a latte and candy bar.
6) Failure is not an option.
7) Going gradually will allow your mind to accept the plethora of steps and changes you will really be going through. It's an internal transformation.
8) Know the goal. Truely.
9) Be public about it, for accountability purposes.

I'll go into detail about the steps I've talked about in my next one...Namaste.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Chronicles #4: Planning My Food

I shopped at Whole Foods today. By the way, this is not a requirement for planning a proper healthy meal. I need a third job in order to afford Whole Foods, but there are foods I find here, that I don't find anywhere else. It also adds a ton of diversity to an otherwise fairly basic, plain food existence.

I digress.

A lady approaches me in line and, after noticing my meal planning list, asks, "do you regularly plan your meals?" I blushed a bit and told her that I was doing the best I could to plan weekly, and she replied, "wow, that is so good. I'd like to be able to do this too." I am always encouraged to press on when someone else recognizes my healthy efforts, just as I encourage and inspire people to adopt a healthy habit or two.

I have a printable page I used called The Eat Sheet, and it organizes your food choices into a box for each day, and a space to make a grocery list right next to it. I like the convenience and organization it offers. If you wanna do this too, go to for this and other organizers. This is what I need the most, is practice putting it all together and carrying out the plan.

Eating well is mostly about having an excellent plan that you don't let fail you. You use it with discipline and diligence, and you save about fifteen or so minutes to put it together before heading to the store, since it also keeps you focused. For that matter, you took a look at your finances and set aside a certain amount for shopping against what you knew you'd want to eat, so throughout the week, you looked here and there for recipes or ideas so that you knew what money you'd spend. I know for myself it is a stellar method of placing me on the correct aisles. Otherwise I have a cut-off point. When I get to this point I shut down and can no longer continue on. I need to stop shopping because I will grab a bunch of food I didn't plan on consuming. So it goes, if you didn't plan on consuming it, chances are there will be a wasted meal somewhere in there, and you will begin counting your dwindling money with a bit of frustration for what this cost you. Food is not terribly cheap when you've wasted it.

This week I planned my meals around salads. I wanted healthy salad vegetables since I've been craving this, so I began there. Then I looked to see what ingredients I'd need to complete my salads. Finally, I'd add in the protein and side grain or legume of my choice into this week. I'm looking at eating daily salads and getting legumes in at least twice, calcium and green sources daily, and high protein daily. My fiber comes from a high fruit intake as well as a quality grain, in addition to the salads. Either way, a balanced profile of colorful foods are on the agenda this week. I'm also trying to make the fruit and vegetable the highlight of every meal. The other foods I get are only to ground and round out my macronutrient needs, until it's time for my detox. Then the rules will slightly change...this is the ramp-up for success.

Here's my menu.
Monday: Raw Kale Salad with cranberries and pine nuts, hickory smoked tofu, smoked soybeans and "ham"
Tuesday: Apple lemon honeydew grape salad, veggie chipotle sausage
Wednesday: Lemon Napa cabbage, red quinoa, fried tofu
Thursday: broccoli salad with veggie bacon, maybe another veggie sausage or leftover tofu
Friday: Gluten free brown rice pasta with Quorn brand naked breasts cooked in coconut oil, veggie cobb salad
Saturday: Protein pancakes with Chia seed, watermelon mint smoothie
Sunday: Veggie turkey alfredo, mango avocado smoothie

I am keeping saturday open for shopping, sunday for prep cooking, and a few minutes during the evening to cook the protein source. Otherwise from the salad to the grains, most can be made in advance. Okay, I gotta start prepping! Lots to do! More to come.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chronicles #3: Having a Moment

So, I think I'm having a moment.

It's one of those moments where I feel awesome and confident, workouts are super consistent, I'm feeling strong, then fat, weak and insecure. Then I feel I'm on a losing streak, then I feel I sabotage it with eating. Then I feel I'm laughing all the way to fat loss, then I'm cycling up on hormones, nearing my menstrual cycle. Blessed and distressed, all at once!

...And so far, I see that this is completely, wonderfully normal, amongst us all.

It's not just reserved for the women, either. Have you ever dated a bodybuilder? If you thought you worried about your body, imagine someone who criticizes themselves way more deeply than you can even imagine yourself critiquing. For that matter, let's throw other athletes into that same mix, and you have a mix of people, that's everybody, who has a moment or two, or fifteen.

What I have found in my years as a dancer is...
1) No one critiques you as hard as you do. No one.
2) It never looks as bad as you think it does.
3) If people love you, they love all of you.
4) Only hang around people you love.
5) Your body only swells if you're eating something toxic.

....wait a minute. And here I thought it was hormones.
You see, it is hormones. And it isn't. Here's the deal. Sometimes we eat and set off certain hormones and chemicals, igniting a sound symphony of chemical responses in the brain. Brain says, "okay. Let's have more of that." You have more of that, then, on top of all the hydration needs you have which goes up in extreme temperatures, and you have one dehydrated, dirty cell girl (or dude) that needs a bit of flushing, instead of more toxic food (take flour, for instance). Any food that causes you an allergic reaction, desire to consume caffeine, fatigue, or bloating/swelling or aching of the joints, is a TOXIN. The toxins build and try desperately to protect the organs from stressing, thereby resulting in weight gain.

Want to have more moments? Just keep eating these things.

I proved it to myself recently that I was doing the right thing by keeping my diet free of anything involving much baked goods, even by way of whole grain bread. So once I decided the coast was clear, three or so weeks later, coupled with the feeling of being sometimes sleepy, and I realize I may be eating too much flour and in my case, dairy, a sign of a toxic overload.
So sure, you're gonna feel a bit underwhelmed by letting go of this food...but what if letting go was the best thing you had ever done? Once you're over  your anger and resistance to this "fun" you think you were having in your life, you'll realize how much healthier and leaner you look and feel. The body is just like a balloon. Put more air in it and it'll just explode, at some point.

The good news about your body is, you can usually return from the overage.

Discipline is such an excellent concept to deeply grasp. Once you fully understand all the mechanics of discipline, you will begin to benefit from it...the diligence is so rewarding.

Work in Progress,

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Special Edition Feature: Childhood Diet Fad Debacle

At a very early age, my image of myself was completely shot.

I had a huge belly, I walked like a duck, and had problems with my feet and back because I didn't get to walk until after 3 years old. I had scoliosis and braces for shoes. The docs said I would never walk, but look at me now, with a degree in dance and theatre. Wow, had I listened to the doctors, I may have just crawled into bed and not chosen the morning to rise...
Spending years suffering, in pain, hypoglycemic and sick quite often, led me to understand just exactly what it was I was dealing with. I was dealing with people who meant well, but did not have all the answers, at least to my feeling better. Who knew that the answer was truly in my food?

My mom spent my young life teaching me about the evils of sugar and the joys of a super high protein and fat intake. Beef this. Beef that. Ribs for lunch. Roast for dinner. Ah ah, just two cups of vegetables. We don't want to encourage a blood sugar surge! Wow. It came to the point where, every chance I got, my body rejected the Atkins low carb lifestyle. Little by little, the voices and choices got louder and louder. Flour-free bread made with sorghum and those sugar-free candies from Estees began to get the best of me after 12 years. The years passed, my disdain for my body grew, and the binge-purge cycle had begun.

By 15 I was dieting on tuna and the equivalent of one salad and one slice of bread a day. Mom encouraged it. My mom was convinced that carbs was what made her and I fat. I lost about 35 pounds, going from 125 to 92 pounds in about 8 weeks, which I was so proud of. But every few weeks, I felt like eating an entire cake and began sneaking out any sweet treats or carbs I could make available to me. Of course my Dad would purposely buy chips and donuts to taunt us, because as he would say, He wasn't on a diet, but we could help ourselves to it. That was like a diabetic child in a candy store. Of course I wanted it! But if I did, the consequence would be great.

Dancing and competing kept me so obsessive about my weight that I started to stick my finger down my throat as an experiment and way to offset my cravings. I figured, there's gotta be a better way to feed my cravings and stay thin! It only resulted in my crying in the mirror while drinking down a glass of water, only to vomit minutes later. Yeah, ten Reeses peanut butter cups had even to me, become obsessive. All I could think of, was how I did not even give the candy a chance to digest, before I decided to relieve myself of my guilt. All Mom could say was, "why are you crying? My child has gone crazy." I never shared my brief bout with bulimia, ever. I didn't think anyone would understand at the time.

By 17, the moment of truth had come. Starting a college dance program had brought some serious changes, among them, the desire to lose the weight I had gained by resting completely between summer and the new fall. I completely rested every summer I can remember. No activities except dancing would occur in summer. So here it was, me and my scale. I nearly jumped out of my skin. A staggering 151??? How was this possible? I think I cried for 14 days.

Even though I'm exaggerating a bit, I'd have to say this is when the exercise mania began....even the exercise bulimia....but I didn't want to change my eating habits...though I did abandon the low carb concept, once and for all. Now it was the all carb concept. All and any food, the "see food" diet we would always joke about in the days at school. Donuts, ramen noodles, wonder bread, pastrami and Hillshire Farms sausages were my mainstays. Pizza, burgers and catfish made the second string. Vegetables and fruit were nearly nonexistent. Although I brought it down to 135, my weight hovered around 144 with lots of muscle and about 6 hours of daily exercise, whether dance or capoeira. After college, I turned down the opportunity to apply for Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, and decided to become a homemaker, albeit a weak one. After crying for another two weeks straight, I spent the next five years making sure I would never complain about my weight again. I remember struggling with some very light weight on the gym floor with a friend who was running marathons, named Jeanine. I finally found some healthy, low fat eating habits, and began to fall into place until...

The question of huge change loomed over me. It was time to make a decision about the fate of my marriage, so I decided to run until I came to an answer. I think that was when I really went into a minor bout of exercise bulimia. More excessive than the first, I'd lift for an hour, run 30 miles a week, teach 8 hours of cardio and 12 hours of dance. Um, yeah, and I did that for years. Too much.
Part of it was a deep dissatisfaction I had with my inability to control my calories and food but also a disdain for how I looked. Image had been so much a part of my life growing up on stage that it hurt to be me. I was no MJ, but one can only imagine what he must have suffered through.

Some would still consider this extreme, but I found my road again when I did yet another thing I never said I would do, next to running a marathon, and that was to become a vegetarian. Even though the last 12 years of vegetarianism are a story in themselves, it brought me more balance cumulatively than the alternatives. My mom muttered, " wow, next you'll be a hippy liberal teaching yoga." Is she psychic? ;)

Chronicle #2: Drinking my veggies

From green tea to smoothies to coconut water, I have found more ways to pour nutrients down my throat in one sitting. I know this is not some revelation or any kind of surprise. Smoothies are not a new thing. But when Cooking Light asks me to blend spinach with honeydew, I do it, knowing that the combination is sure to be a nutritional win.

Smoothie Celebration
I saw several recipes that I am inspired to try, all in the latest issue of Cooking Light. I tried the honeydew and spinach smoothie, (1 c. spinach, 1.5 c honeydew, 1/3 c. vanilla yogurt) and was in Heaven! It is such an easy way to drink a salad and have your fruit without blinking. I could see myself drinking this as a breakfast delight or late night snack. Yes, I in fact did not resist the urge to sound like a commercial. It was that good.
I have a recipe for a pina colada smoothie and watermelon mint smoothie, a peanut butter berry smoothie...and I'm pretty much going to try them all. I feel a certain triumph in pulling out my hand blender and making produce happen again. It's been too long since I've entertained cooking and combining interesting ingredients. It really never gets old, and certain recipes never lose their appeal. It takes me minutes to prepare, and my son can enjoy them as well. At a moment in my life where I want my body in peak condition, these smoothie combinations couldn't come at a better time.

Green Tea
I'm thoughtful while sipping on steamed green Japanese tea. I can't wait to have enough to support my gyokuro green tea habit. I'm all set to buy a 16 oz. bag of the stuff for about 94 dollars from Adagio teas (they are online and make the best flavor blends). Yeah, that's not just cash laying around. That's someone who's truly in the game because health is at stake. I decided not to purchase another small bag to save money in the long run. I'd better hurry though, since it's time for second flush, and then that'll be the next drinkable green du jour. There's also a delicious 8 percent oolong called pouchong. I love the taste and figure it'll be available when my gyokuro no longer is...gyokuro is the best part about spring. Sigh.

Coconut Water: Gatorade in the Wild
 Really, the nectar of the gods begins and ends with coconut water, for its rich electrolyte content, especially potassium. I don't think that most people realize just how important potassium is to energy and a healthy heart. It's the perfect scientific workout ratio for a sports drink, and it's low in calories. My energy was ebbing just earlier, and 16 oz. of coconut water picked me up pretty nicely. I have now tried about four different companies and each have a different flavor. I've yet to decide my favorite. So far I think Zico ranks at the top, and Zola is the sweetest. I'm hearing that if the coconut comes from Brazil, you get more coconut taste. Companies are innovating coconut waters by infusing them with coffee and chocolate and cream. It's an interesting way to keep it different, so that  we don't get tired of the water's taste, since to me, it's a pretty unique flavor.

Naked Juice: Nature's other fast food
So obviously apples, bananas and grapes are among the fastest foods one can eat while driving, but when in a pinch, I'll reach for a Naked Juice, if I want a quick dose of guaranteed nutrients in a juice that I can trust will be fresh.
My favorite drinks of substance are protein zone (mango), and berry veggies, because of its strong cherry flavor, and its fiber. My favorite juices are the pomegranate blueberry and the orange juice, though I try not to rely on pure juice to satisfy my hydration or nutrient needs unless mixed with something more substantial (like fiber or protein).

Conversation with Food Prices
A friend and I were having lunch today, and she once dated a chef, and is a foodie herself. She made a great point about how the majority of our money does, and should essentially go to food, because good food is important and vital. It made me think about the money I set aside weekly to eat healthfully. I do feel it pays off, sometimes immediately, sometimes in the long run. Either way, I make sure to spend on my food, whether I plan it or not. (I think I should begin planning it.) I have several books that I have yet to read, and I feel these books contribute to our sense of knowing what is our food, what is the industry teaching us, and what we can expect if we continue to ignore the crisis in our society regarding the food industry, flours and sugars, sustainable farming, fast food, etc. I think it's time to make a book list in a future post. Look for it.

The Chronicles of Food #1

Plan, plan, plan. Prep, prep, prep. Eat. Eat. Eat. Time it. I ate too little! I ate too much! Weekends are for pizza! Do I have the money to support my current eating habit? Do it again.

I look over at the kitchen, which sits in the bagua feng shui map in sector 4: knowledge, wisdom, self-improvement, Saturn (representing discipline). Last night, I cooked firm, salted tofu with olive oil, quinoa with tumeric, hard boiled eggs, and mixed dried cranberries into a cup of cottage cheese. I cut into a cucumber that somehow got frozen, in my fridge! Not sure how it happened but a beautiful piece of produce was completely ruined! No, I did not decide to give it a proper burial, unless the trash is sufficient.

I am beginning my brave journey of actually logging my process publicly. I've always admired people who chose to take basically near naked photos of themselves as they whittle their bodies down into sexy healthy goodness. Even though I have always been in the fitness industry, fitness for me was never about how cut I could get, but instead, how functionally strong I could be. It's not that I'm becoming shallow in the shadow of my 40s, but that I see a different purpose and method to my madness, now that my body has proper healing time. I was teaching too many classes, doing too much cardio, and basically burning my body out. Looking back at my life, my body was not behaving well. It was not properly assimilating macro or micronutrients. I was not eating enough proteins, and sometimes simply overeating.

Just recently I decided that enough was enough, and that it was no longer enough to just keep saying to myself that it was just be vegetarian and lifting weights. No. I needed a nutrition plan that worked for me without making me feel like I needed to deprive myself of anything. But it stands to reason, that certain foods, certain timing, and certain amount of load, make my body feel optimal. It's not that I can't eat anything I want. The timing though, it has just everything to do with how well I end up feeling at the end of a day. And quite frankly, I want to feel good enough to get that workout in everyday, knowing this will improve my goals.
 Sometimes it seems as if there's really not much to this. Then I get a reality check about mine own nutritional complication I bring into the picture, such as this evening, when Valrhona chocolate and raw almonds seemed to call me at the same time, and I begin to see the patterns and traps that most come to me for, in order to help them see a path through.
This summer was about going deeply within, but it was also about seeing how others share the light of similar struggles all around. I have finally decided to pick up my staff and lead people the way they were meant to be lead, through the nutrition walk with more intensity than before.

I joined a community called Integrative Nutrition. I am now on the road to becoming certified as a health and life coach. It gives me the chance to dig through a number of questionable systems and get the low down of the nutritional book writing industry. I really want to know why authors and doctors have come to their conclusions, and how I can make the whole process a little less confusing and a little more compromising, more loving and more interactive, a customized experience...just from the changes in timing I have noticed muscularity and build. There is so much more to say, but I'll stop here by saying that, from wherever you are, are, adding this nutrition piece to exercise is the perfect marriage. I took my first set of pictures and I am so excited to see the changes.