Monday, July 30, 2012

Life is over at 41. Or is it just beginning?

Yesterday I was reading some comments in a facebook thread and saw someone ask if, at age 41, they could still make a change in their lifestyle/body/health.  I sat there staring at that question for a moment, somewhat in disbelief.

You see, I have worked with clients much older than 41 who not only turned their life around by beginning a healthy eating journey, but they lost weight, were able to get off medications they had been on for years, and some even completed marathons for the first time ever. I also have an amazing dad who, at age 86, still drives to town to play cards with his friends, mows the yard, cooks, does laundry, gardens, and kicks butt at crossword puzzles.  It will always be ingrained into my way of thinking that we have the power to change, to be the best version of ourselves, at any given moment in our lives. I don’t care if you’re 41, 61, or 81!  One thing is for sure, you’ll never find out if you don’t try! 

So, when I saw that question and it dawned on me that not everyone thinks like I do, I thought I would give you a little confidence to try, no matter what age you are.  I’m going to be 41 in a little over a month, and I have the utmost confidence that I am going to be a bad ass 41 year old, and I will still be pushing myself and reaching for new goals at 91.  What about you?  Have you started your journey to your healthiest body yet?

I say, eat clean, exercise and be as open minded, positive and loving as you can possibly be! Never stop improving yourself.  Take baby steps at first if you feel overwhelmed. You have plenty of time to get there.  <3

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Raw diet experiment: first half.

In case you missed the beginning of the diet study, I began with 30 days of Paleo.  You can check those blogs out HERE and HERE. Now, I am half way into the Raw vegan portion. I'm practicing an 80% or higher level of Raw foods, with no animal products. Here is my experience so far...

The Raw part of this diet study has gone extremely quickly for some reason. When I first thought of the idea of doing these studies I sort of freaked out at the thought of having my foods so strictly controlled (and monitored!) for 60 whole days!  But the time has really been a non-issue.  I get bored easily, so this is a huge plus.

As I stated earlier on in my diet study, I am a blood type A+ and really wanted to see if the Blood Type Diet held any truth for me.  According to that book, I should do really well on a vegan/vegetarian diet.  But, I actually did well on Paleo, technically, if you only look at weight lost.  Losing ten pounds in one month is a pretty good chunk. Typically it is recommended you lose only 1-2 pounds per week, and I lost more than that.  But as I said in my Paleo review, I was tired a lot and didn't feel like exercising, and my pH was not improving. I guess that makes it a toss up.

I actually did a Raw diet detox for 7 days back in March for school. I was unbelievably grumpy the entire time.  Completely irrational and miserable.  This didn't exactly make me overly anxious to follow the Raw diet for 30 whole days, but I was still curious to see how my body would react.  The first few days I did experience some withdrawal symptoms, which surprised me. I had gone through several days of withdrawal on Paleo and didn't think I'd have anything else to withdrawal from!  But, apparently I did. Headaches, fatigue and bloating happened almost immediately.  By day 2, I was starting to see some new energy though and even went for a run, which is unheard of for me.  It's been years since I have been able to run, let alone wanted to.  Not only did I run that day, but I also swam and went for a bike ride.

Sadly, the next few days brought more fatigue.  I was starting to think something must be seriously wrong with me if nothing I was doing made me feel more energetic.  But, I kept following the diet and hoping for the best.

My weight was still coming down steadily (four more pounds lost in the first week) and my body fat (according to my bathroom scale) was also coming down, both good signs, I thought.

Then on day 9, I headed to Michigan to visit a friend. I knew I would have a little cooked food while I was there, but planned to stay vegan and mostly Raw.  I did pretty well most of the day but our evening meal consisted of some sushi and half of a cookie.  I paid the price for that meal. Oy.  I found this interesting, since as I stated in my final Paleo blog that I had no stomach issues on day 30 of Paleo after eating some pizza and breadsticks.  It could have just been bad food, or maybe Raw is changing my digestion even further. Time will tell!

I got right back on the Raw train the next day and by day 12 my pH was up to 6.5. This was still on the acidic side, but was a welcome improvement. My weight has gone up a bit from what I lost in the beginning of Raw, but, more importantly, my energy was really picking up.  Since day 12 my energy has been through the roof!  I wake up looking forward to working out, and excited to see how I can push myself. Before and during Paleo I never looked forward to working out. Sure, I went ahead and MADE myself work out, but excited for it?  No way.

So, if you only look at weight loss as a way to determine a diet's success, then the Raw diet is a big ol' failure for me so far!  However, if your energy level, pH level, fitness level and mood factor into your successful diet, then this is by far the best one I've ever been on. Funny how that works.

Here are some additional thoughts and notes:
I was off all junk, plus dairy, sugar and grains for 30 days on Paleo, so this energy could technically be residual effects from that. However, it does seem strange that those effects happened to take place two days into Raw, and not in the last days of Paleo.

I have added grains back in pretty regularly with the Raw diet. Either through soaking or cooking them, or simply in my protein shakes, and I have had zero issues. I never felt like I had issues with grains before, but it is nice to know that they aren't a problem now.  I do believe some people truly cannot digest grains, maybe short term, maybe for the rest of their lives, but it's worth going grain free just to see where you stand on that issue.

My pH is better, but still not great.  It could take a while for it to get up in the 7.2-8 range, but it's definitely headed in the right direction, and I'm very happy about that.

I had really weird cravings for thousand island dressing and fried green tomatoes. I can't even tell you the last time I had either of those things, let alone craved them.  Thankfully I found raw and/or vegan options for both of those!

Cashews are my boyfriend.

Meat does not repulse me the way it did on the first 7 day detox, in fact occasionally I have found myself staring at it longingly once or twice.  I'm not a natural born vegan and I just came off a 3x/day meat diet, so cut me some slack.  ;)

Overall, I am super happy with the way this is going.  I can't wait to see how the next two weeks unfold!

Here are some of my very favorite recipes for the Raw diet so far:
Sour cream
Macaroni and cheese
Avocado Fries
Kelp noodle pad thai
Thousand Island
Walnut taco meat
Raw caramels
Raw cacao puffs
Mimi Kirk's Caesar salad (parmesan recipe too)
Raw vegan macaroons

And my favorite Green Lemonade juice:
4-5 stalks of kale
1 head of romaine
1-2 lemons
2 apples (I like using one gala and one fuji)
1 small slice fresh ginger

*For those of you wondering how my O+ friend Addie is doing on her side of this study, she struggled during Paleo a bit, lost 5 pounds, and was hungry quite often. There are other factors that could be triggering that hunger, and, unfortunately, she had a personal tragedy that will delay her start of Raw until August. I will continue to update you on how she's doing, as I do believe that her experience will show an interesting part of the study. If nothing else, it shows that each individual is unique in their nutritional needs and should not get caught up in dietary games of what exactly we need to consume to be healthy. It also shows that life carries on, and we deal with circumstances as best we can and hope we turn back around and are stronger for our experiences.  <3

Monday, July 16, 2012

The end of the Paleo-rific era

If you missed the first half of my Paleo diet study experiment, check this out first! 

The last two days of my Paleo experiment certainly didn't go as planned.  On Friday, the 29th day, a huge, crazy storm swept through my area and blew out power in over 80,000 homes, ours included.  So, appropriately, my caveman study ended without electricity.  In fact, we didn't get our electricity back until 3 days later.  We are fortunate enough to have a gas stove, so we were able to cook some things, but we were very limited with our options.  I made the best choices I could those final days, but ultimately on the last day, I ate whatever was easiest.  This included a few "off-paleo" healthy things, like quinoa pasta, and a few not healthy under most circumstances things like pizza and bread sticks.  Sure, I could have picked the meat off, or just made a salad, but there were other more important things to focus on, and frankly I didn't think one day would make a major difference in the grand scheme of the entire study.

But, here's the interesting part.  Prior to doing the Paleo study, I ate a pretty clean diet. Sure, I ate a lot of baked goods and super heavy, creamy, cheesy things, but I made them all from scratch. I used organic unbleached flours, organic cane sugar, organic creams, I avoided gluten where possible, never drank sodas, rarely ate fast food, etc, etc, so while the calorie load wasn't ideal, I certainly could have eaten way worse than I did.  Ironically though, on weekends when we would have our one meal out at a restaurant (or carry out pizza, as usually was the case), I *always* got an upset stomach. Every. Single. Time.  It was like clockwork. I just assumed this was because of my clean eating during the week.  Maybe the grease overload, or the preservatives in the foods didn't agree with my normal way of eating.

Here's where it gets weird.  On Paleo, I ate even cleaner!  And I ate this way for 29 whole days!  You'd think that eating that pizza would have made me completely keel over in pain. But I felt nothing!  For the first time in forever I had no tummy issues after eating out.  I honestly have no idea what that means. My only thought is that perhaps my gut healed and now I can tolerate other things better?  Your guess is as good as mine, but it is definitely fascinating to me.

As for the basics, I lost 10 pounds during the 30 days. I attribute this to a few things.  First, I was carrying enough extra weight that any dramatic change in eating would have triggered this weight loss, and by cutting out the grains/dairy/sugar, I cut out a huge chunk of what I used to eat.  So, I don't necessarily give credit to the Paleo diet specifically, but the Paleo diet is a very clean way of eating. And, I didn't cheat, which of course would help make any diet a success.

Keeping in mind that weight loss should not be the only factor to determine a successful diet plan, I kept track of other factors as well. I knew I wanted to monitor pH levels, as mine have been in the basement for quite a long time, and I want to see it up in the lovely green shades of alkalinity.   My urine pH level did not really budge at all while on Paleo. It would go from 5.0 to 5.5 mostly, which is very acidic. Maybe it got to 6.0 two or three times, but would be back down to 5.5 the next morning. (for reference, early morning urine pH should be 7.2 or higher) By day 28 I had lost hope of any lasting alkalinity occurring, however, it may just take longer than 30 days to reflect that kind of change. I also know that for some people, a paleo diet has actually improved their pH levels, so this is just my experience only, and may not be true for all.

According to my home scale, my body fat percentage went up quite a bit in the initial days of the diet. I am not even remotely going to consider listing my actual numbers, but it went up a whole percentage in the first 4 days, then very slowly went back down to where it started by day 30. In other words, I never lost any body fat on this diet, if my scale is accurate.

My energy level was ok.  I cannot say that I ever felt unbelievably good. Most of my notes have "super tired today" on them. There were two times during the entire 30 days where I actually wanted to exercise.  And, most notably, when I did a lower body workout using weights, I was very sore for two days, and so tired that I had to go to bed at 8:00 one night.  It was like my body shut down to recover.  I have never had that happen before. And yes, I was getting plenty of protein.

This is where the TMI comes in, so skip this paragraph if you don't want to know about my bodily functions, mmmmkay?  I will spare you all the gory details, but during these 30 days I have had more "number 2" issues than any other time in my life.  From too often/runny and burning to not enough/hard and painful.  Most days were somewhat normal, but the abnormal days made this experiment less than fun. I tried to adjust my fiber intake to fix things, but other than that I couldn't see why I was having so many difficulties.

Other things that I noticed while on the Paleo diet:
After about day 4, I never had much of an appetite. Some days I had to force myself to eat.

My hair seemed to be falling out much more than normal.

I really didn't crave anything. I never missed grains even once, which was interesting to me.  I did miss dairy on occasion, but dealt with that by making alternatives like cashew sour cream or banana "ice cream". On the 25th day of the study, I did have some unbelievable cravings and fatigue.  I went to bed early and woke up the next day feeling refreshed. I had gotten up to pee 4 times during the night, and was down 1.5 pounds that morning. It may have been some kind of detox, but the energy I felt that day was short lived. I was back to feeling pretty tired the rest of the study.

Overall, I am not against recommending the Paleo diet to a client, necessarily.  While I certainly don't feel it is for me, and that it's probably too strict and difficult to sustain for most people, it could be beneficial for certain people who are very intolerant to grains.  The best part of Paleo, versus the old-school high protein diets, is the emphasis on veggies and extremely high quality meat choices. If you're thinking about going Paleo, do your research and save your pennies. It could very well be worth it to you!

I am in the middle of the Raw diet portion of the study, and I can say's quite a different experience!  I can't wait to share that part of it soon!   Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Raw Vegan 4th of July!

I've been on one hundred diets in my life, give or take, and many of them have crossed paths with a holiday. I almost never, ever deny myself a chance to be gluttenous at holiday parties, however. I am a baker at heart and that's when my best stuff gets created, after all.  But, this time was different. I am doing a "legit" diet study and wanted to show that I could in fact get through a holiday without going off my rocker. (or needing to wear the fat pants!)

So, off to a 4th of July party I went with my watermelon cake and caesar salad.  Wait.  Did I just say cake and casesar salad?  Those aren't raw or vegan, are they?  Well, my versions were!  Let's start with the cake.

I got the inspiration for this cake from Raw Food Rehab on Facebook. They had posted a similar watermelon cake and it was the perfect idea for me.  Like I said, I love LOVE to bake, and am usually the person who brings the dessert, so this could not have been a better choice.

Before making it, I googled "how to make a watermelon cake." Big mistake.  All the links lead to real cakes made to look like a watermelon. So, I got more detailed: "How to make a cake out of watermelon."  That did the trick.  I found a youtube video demonstrating how to assemble one.  She busted out a ruler, and a sharpie, and some special saw and I just laughed to myself,  "That's taking it a bit far, don't ya think?"  

So, I headed to my kitchen, got out my normal chef's knife, started slicing the watermelon and promptly realized why she went all Type A on that melon.  Watermelon is tricky to cut in perfect circles, yo.  My slices were all kinds of wonky.  And then trying to get flat slices was like when you cut your bangs yourself, and you're all "I'm just going to even this side up a bit.  Now this other side needs tweaked just a bit." And next thing you know you're bald.  Yeah. Like that.  I started with a ten inch thick slice and next thing I know it's too small and I had to cut another one.  

I was also planning on covering up any rough edges with a whipped coconut cream, but that was a big FAIL too. It never got firm enough to whip. I don't know if it was the brand, or if I didn't leave it in the refrigerator long enough, but I was bummed.  It's pretty typical for something to go wrong every time I make a cake.  The cake is too crumbly, or part of it breaks off when it to a plate...but at least with "real" cakes I know that I can use my trusty buttercream to cover up any errors.  So when the coconut cream failed too, I started to get nervous.  But, toothpicks saved the day.  There were a gazillion toothpicks holding all that fruit on, but at least it looked good!  I saved the coconut cream and we just spooned it over the melon slices.  A perfect combo and no one knew the difference. 

I do not, however, recommend travelling long distances while transporting this cake. Not that I was crazy enough to do that or anything.

Yummy Veggies! Not pictured: 3 huge slices of
tomato and a gigantic dollop of fresh guacamole!
And then I made Mimi Kirk's Raw Vegan Caesar Salad. I was super skeptical at first. I'm not sure why. Maybe, I don't know....the lack of cheese and anchovies?  Just a guess.  Sorry for doubting you, Mimi!  This was a huge hit! And it was a very simple recipe. I had almost all of the ingredients on hand, except capers, but luckily my husband doesn't mind running all over town for me and my random, last minute recipes.

Her recipe can be found here. I can't wait to make this again!  The cashew parmesan cheese was the best part, and it makes plenty so you have left overs for things like raw spaghetti, or just to sprinkle on a salad.

At the party, my friend, the hostess, had prepared a few special raw foods for me, so I had plenty to eat!  My plate, pictured right, was full of lovely veggies and I didn't feel overly full for the first time at a holiday party.  I also was not jealous or resentful of not being able to eat the rest of the foods.  All of mine were so tasty that it really didn't even cross my mind.

So many options exist for vegetable preparation. I hope my Raw journey, at the very least, inspires you all to try eating more veggies!