Diet Roulette

Ayurveda

I’m doing it again. The food thing. Changing it up. If you’ve lost track, as I have, let me recount the past few food philosophies I have adopted and what I’ve learned and why I’m switching again.

There was the juice cleanse. The intention was to drink nothing but freshly pressed green juices, mostly my own, for 3-5 days. Eat a little whole fruit in there, perhaps some all-vegetable salads with only cold pressed olive oil drizzled. It went pretty well, but really 3 days of that is not enough to reveal any great insights, and I got so bored. So, I moved on.

I was feeling an unreasonable amount of stuffiness and congestion so I investigated the low-histamine trend. It’s the newest shiny thing in the food world. It’s difficult, but I did it religiously for about three weeks then slowly incorporated higher histamine foods back in. I mean, no avocado? Come on! Plus, I was reading conflicting articles, apparently it’s a very personal thing, this histamine. I did however find relief from the congestion and I stopped my morning ritual of three sneezes upon rising, so a win, I would say. But not sustainable and not intended to be.

That brings us to Whole30. That blog was a few days ago. The Cliff Notes version: It was good and pretty easy for me.

But still, there was this nagging in my mind or gut or somewhere demanding attention that told me I had not quite figured it out.

Circumstances being what they were I was heading to Flagler Beach to take my love to an Ayurvedic Physician. There was a consultation, then the recommendation that he return for four days to do a cleanse for four hours each day. This involved a specific kind of lymphatic massage, a sweat box, a forehead oil drip and something I promised not to mention. Let’s just say, it was a big part of the ‘cleanse’. Back and forth each day. That’s about an hour and a half each way. But it’s the beach, so. Plus, I personally know and love the doctor here. He spent his first lifetime as a general surgeon, then shifted a little more than 10 years ago to Ayurveda.

A quick primer: Ayurveda literally translates to Science of Life, it is the sister science to yoga. Where yoga is mostly a spiritual path, Ayurveda deals with the physical health of the body as it relates to diet, the seasons and the rhythms of the earth. Together they are a comprehensive approach to health. Everything prescribed in Ayurveda is dependent upon your dosha – your body’s constitution. This can be determined by a quick pulse diagnosis by someone who knows what they’re looking for. Often our constitutions are out of balance and some tweaking with food, exercise, lifestyle choices, treatments like massage, activities like yoga and herbs, will help straighten everything out. Other times call for a detox to remove stubborn waste called ama.

As I mentioned in the Whole 30 blog, body intuition goes a long way to recognizing an imbalance, but it is often useful to get another opinion. I also mentioned how it would be so great to be a vegetarian. (That right there is a little thing we call foreshadowing.)

Well, while I was waiting in this spectacular giant home on the water with a pool at my disposal, I decided to schedule a consultation for myself. Turns out, according to Ayurveda, a vegan diet is what is best for me right now. Vegan. No eggs, no dairy, no meat. Kind of the opposite of Whole 30, but I’m game. My first question was, “Forever?”

One year, with check-ins every three months. I’m down. And kind of excited. From past experimental experiences, I can tell you that a vegetarian diet for a month or more always left me feeling clearer and lighter, but I was invariably pulled back to the other side by my habits. The every-three-month thing will probably hold me accountable. Plus, I can have dark chocolate, coffee and wine on occasion. Win.

There is still “no list” food in my home and I am awaiting some herbs, so I plan to use the next couple days to transition and start with full attention on Sunday. In the margins of my life I am also completing a Life Plan as directed by the motivational book Living Forward, which happens to have as one of its “life accounts” Health. This will be completed on Saturday so the stars seem to be aligning.

I’m such an over-achiever wannabe.

Food Intuition

curious me

Why is food such a challenge? I’m not sure when marketers started getting involved but I suspect that’s when we all became confused. We believed what we heard because [mostly] men in white coats were telling us what to do. Celebrities who looked amazing drank diet soda and ate lettuce for dessert, so we did that. No fat, all fat, no carbs, only carbs, no meat, lots of meat. It’s much more conflicted now. Information is moving quickly and the desperate need to get it in front of the right people has created a whole new business culture involving metrics and algorithms. Plus, those with the most money win. The meat and dairy industries throw an enormous amount of capital at advertising – and often misdirecting and making false claims – while the little organic kale farmer can barely pay crop insurance, let alone extol the virtues of cruciferous vegetables.

But then again, maybe it’s all genetics.

But beyond blaming the big guys (or maybe because of them, but let’s take responsibility back now, people) we have lost touch with our body intuition. I know I have. Mostly. As a teenager, Weight Watchers and Seventeen magazine directed my dietary needs. Then came Dr. Atkins and Scarsdale. Then joining a sorority at a southern university and eating the cooking of an amazingly talented southern black woman who cooked with passion, love and lard. Then all the alcohol that comes with college. Then vegetarianism, veganism, paleo, Mediterranean… I’m getting exhausted just typing this.

I needed someone else to tell me what was good for me. I lost trust in my gut.

So, it will probably come as no surprise that I just completed the Whole 30 plan (I just can’t use the word diet anymore). It was good. It is how I normally eat when I am behaving and when I am capable of listening to my body. It follows my particular blood type. (Yes, I did that one too, maybe the only one that really made sense and felt good. So why did I give it up?)

In the end I lost maybe 6 pounds. A small win, but a win nonetheless. I attribute that entirely to no sugar and no alcohol. Mostly no sugar, I had all but given up my red wine habit months ago, opting only for special occasions. Like a normal person.

I didn’t move enough. I have a million valid reasons but really that’s just a pretty way of saying excuses. If I had moved more that weight loss number would likely be higher. But moving is coming.

I have learned throughout this year so many valuable things about my tendencies and my experience of life in general. One of those is: Life will always get in the way. In other words I will always have a valid reason NOT to do something. No sleep, disrupted schedule, travel, sick pet or person, but so what, that is life.

Life cannot interrupt life.

It takes commitment and self-prioritization. And I know that once I get just a few days into a healthy routine of the gym or yoga or walking, my body will beg me to keep going.

Back to intuition. I like the premise of the Whole 30 diet as I do almost any elimination plan. If it’s taken seriously and done correctly it can offer a lot of information about your body’s capabilities to digest and assimilate certain types of foods. It creates and environment of forced intuition that can help rebuild that innate muscle.

It’s as simple as this: Pay Attention.

How do you feel when you eat certain foods? Energized, sluggish, asthmatic, itchy, bloated, nauseous, calm, jittery? These are solid clues.

I know my body is not fond of grains – in particular wheat. It does not take kindly to legumes and it gets very congested on dairy. It LOVES sugar, or maybe that’s all in my head. To be honest, even juice can make my heart race, so sugar isn’t so much my friend as my energy dealer.

But I have discovered that I can tolerate a small amount of any of those things once in a while. I can have a fully loaded cappuccino on a rainy afternoon every so often. A piece of birthday cake does not affect me if I’m not eating wheat and dairy on the daily. Black beans in my burrito bowl are quite tasty, but less is better. Cheese is seductive, but being able to breathe and, well, perform other natural functions, now wins. No cheese. I have also learned that there is such a thing as too much meat for me. I would love to be able to be a vegetarian but without legumes or soy it’s very difficult to find a worthy protein source. Instead I limit my animal protein to eggs from a friend’s happy chickens and some responsibly, humanely, organically raised beef and chicken from a local farm. If I had to catch and kill my own dinner I would live off eggs or learn to like fish. Perhaps a plan for the near future.

Oh, wait, Ayurveda…

 

 

About 90% Committed

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I decided to do the Whole 30 “Abridged” version.

Which is to say, I’m cheating already.

In my defense, I have a nearly full carton of organic half and half just sitting in my fridge and since I no longer waste things, I have to use it. There may have also been a couple pieces of chocolate left too.

I’m also not completely prepared. I need to purchase a few provisions to make this as easy as possible.

What’s interesting to me, is that the Monday after Thanksgiving I quit it all: dairy, alcohol, grains of any kind, sugar. And it was easy. A switch had been thrown that would not allow me to stuff garbage into my pie hole.

That lasted nearly a month. Then someone found the switch and threw it in the other direction.

How does this happen?

I jumped off the junk train then because I felt disgusting and lethargic.

I no longer gauge if something is working by the scale but how I feel. What my energy level is. If I’m sleepy mid-day I know there’s way too much sludge in my veins and they need a nice clean-out with some juicing and/or water. NOT coffee or chocolate, as much as it pains me to write that out loud. And longer term, just better, cleaner eating habits.

I tripped back onto the sugar bus because I clearly wasn’t paying attention. I forgot that I was feeling great. Or, more likely, I succumbed to the ideal that a little won’t hurt.

But I’m back. And committed. 90%.

I have been reading the front of the Whole30 Cookbook and I’m becoming inspired. Enough to order the original Whole30 book with all the secrets for moral support. Thus far, it sounds suspiciously identical to the 21 Day Sugar Detox + 7 days. Either way, just reading about it will help me stay on task.

And either one of them will get me back to that energy sweet spot.

Next Monday 100%.

I’m gonna need all that sustained energy to finish counting all the things in my house.

 

Witches Brew

Heathrow IMG_1589

Daily Prompt: Captain Picard was into Earl Grey tea; mention the Dude and we think: White Russians. What’s your signature beverage – and how did it achieve that status?

I wish I could tell you I’m never seen without my trusty water bottle or a bucket of green juice, but I can’t in good conscience.

Instead I can be caught with any number of liquids.

In the morning, it’s my own personal brew. A blend of dark and  lighter roast coffees from exotic origins.  The hot magma sends tendrils of steam upward, tickling my olfactory senses  and I begin to swoon. A dash of cinnamon, a teaspoon “or so” of organic raw sugar and a plop of organic half and half complete the alchemy.

I breathe deeply once  with the cup cradled in both hands, its precious contents at the ready. On that first intake I can feel the blood in my veins beginning to warm, animating the cells in my body, sparking the flint in my brain, cranking the gears to life. It’s necessary, medicine really. And there might be more than one cup.

Around lunch time I usually reach for that quintessential southern delicacy known as ‘Sweetea.’ On occasion water. On rare occasions. Not really very often at all.

In the evening, f I am going to imbibe, and often I am, it’s going to be a Pinot Noir. Deciding to have a glass of wine sends a message to the brain creating an internal environment to relax. A Mona Lisa smile begins to tug at the corners of my mouth as I twist the cork out of the bottle. That ‘pop’ signals my salivary glands to prepare for that first hint of bitterness. Yet I wait, I give the bottle a few minutes to acclimate, then I pour. This too requires a few moments.

It’s foreplay.

At that first sip my taste buds spring to life. I can feel the dark liquid slide down my throat and spread like warm fingers throughout my torso, hugging me. I sigh, lean back, take another sip then set the glass down as the day’s edges begin to soften.

When I’m in India I can’t get enough Chai. Jamaica, Sorrell tea and ok, Red Stripe. Whole Foods, Green Dream. Hindu temple, mango lassi. I don’t drink soda or nearly enough water. I get far too many calories from my liquids and entirely too much pleasure.

If I had to let go of any of these, for just a little while I hope, I could. Everything but the coffee, just one cup. Like I said, it’s medicine.

21 Day Challenge – Day 12 – Gratitude

birdy IMG_1892As I selected my cart at Whole Foods today I did not expect to find a passenger. I was making my way up and down the aisles when I noticed a little movement on the outside of the top basket. A lizard. He was moving a little slower in the cooler temperatures of the store but was able to make his way to the handlebar where he looked at me perplexed and asked to be taken outside. I obliged. As I exited with unpaid merchandise I walked about six feet toward a grassy area. Before I got there he jumped off. Warmed by the 90 degree November sunshine he was once again feeling frisky. I watched to be sure he made it to safety lest some unsuspecting human find him beneath their shoe. He made to the grass, he’ll have to take it from there.

It is in these moments that I find complete gratitude. The dragonfly landing on my dress. A squirrel frozen not 3 feet in front of me because we surprised each other. Deer wandering in my suburban neighborhood. A bird peeking down at me from the porch roof. The wind.

It is the first of November, the official month of gratitude.

I am grateful for all the people in my life. The fun ones, the encouraging ones, the humorous ones, the spiritual ones, the loving ones, the kind ones. And the mean ones, the rude ones, the whiny ones and the sarcastic ones.  The button pushers and naysayers. Oh I think I am most grateful for those last two.

The button pushers allow me to learn more about myself. Because it’s not them, it’s me. It’s my button. If I were to pay very close attention I could probably find the thread that connected the various pushers to the specific button. Once I identify the button I can work to eliminate it.  Another person cannot make me feel or act a certain way without my permission. If a person drives me crazy, I am the one behind the wheel. They are my teacher. And I have much to learn. And for that I am grateful.

The naysayers show me the holes in my theories, they show me their vulnerabilities which are merely mirrors of my own. If they believe I can’t do something it is most likely because they don’t believe they could. They need me to succeed so they can see the possibilities for themselves. I owe them my successes. And my gratitude.

Each person we encounter that we have any kind of reaction to, good or bad, is a mirror. The perceived negative reaction lets us know exactly what we need to work on. The perceived positive reaction shows us our magnificence in another. We cannot see in others that which we do not possess. If I walk by 100 people and don’t react to them, they have nothing to share with  me. But that one person that cuts me off in traffic when I am in a hurry has the lesson.

Once I was aware of this, life became considerably more interesting. It became impossible for me to blame others for anything, instead I had to own my reactions and what I believed to be my shortcomings . A confrontation or a reaction was now the gift. Or rather the gift was somewhere in it. If I missed it, it would be back.

Gratitude is a portal. Once stepped through the magic in the mundane is revealed. Colors become more vibrant.  The sound of people laughing overcomes the noise of those complaining. The one beautiful flower among the weeds comes into focus.

So on this first official day of Gratitude Season I say Thank You. To everyone. For everything.

[Photo: My bird friend that was perched on the roof line of my patio.]