Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Cleansing, part three: the thrilling conclusion!

Here, I pick up where I left off last time. Read parts one and two if you need to catch up!

Day 11: Friday
Meat today! Yayyyy!!! Cooked up some chicken and had it with wild & brown rice.
Claire and I went to the mall together; she had Panda for lunch and I just watched and talked to her. No cravings, I wasn’t hungry, and had no desire to eat for entertainment. It’s amazing. Okay, there was one exception: walking past the smell wafting out of Wetzel’s Pretzels almost made me lose my mind. So that, and cream cheese bagels, have been my cravings. Bready stuff. Coffee, occasionally, when I go past Starbucks, but I’m pretty sure that’s a Pavlovian response.
I picked up my Trazodone refill. But at bedtime I told Dan, “I would rather have insomnia and wake up feeling good, like I did before, than take meds to sleep and wake up feeling like crap.” So I didn’t take any.

Day 12: Saturday
As expected, a choppy night. I got about 5 ½ hours of sleep. Nevertheless, it’s 6 p.m. as I write this and my energy level has been good all day. If anything, sitting and typing right now is making me a little drowsy.
Charlie and I went shopping for the things he needs for camp. He wanted to go Cheesecake Factory for lunch. I ordered the vegetable medley salad (no cheese) with oil & vinegar. All cleanse-approved. And you know what? I really liked it. And, couldn’t finish it all. Half went into the fridge.

Day 13: Sunday
So, last night I gave in and went back on the regular dose of Trazodone. And it was okay. Slept better and still felt awake. “Don’t you like having a cheerful wife in the morning?” I asked Dan. Which is sort of a rhetorical question, of course.
Charlie and Emma headed off to Camp Fox today; they’ll be gone all week.

Day 14: Monday
(Apparently, I was so busy that I didn’t take any notes. Which is a good sign.)

Day 15: Tuesday
I woke up feeling so fresh and present, as I checked emails and Facebook in the morning it occurred to me that I wanted to meditate. I’ve started and stopped this practice many times. Today I sat for 20 minutes, able to stay clear more easily than ever before. It was pretty cool.
Then I rode the high right to a yoga class at the Y, the first I’ve gone to in about two years. When it was over, I felt like I could slay dragons.
For dinner I made a homemade lasagna for Dan and Claire, something I’d always thought was too hard and time-consuming for me. Organic grass-fed beef, organic sauce – yes it took longer than my old crutch, frozen MichaelAngelo’s, but it was SO worth it! Claire, who never liked the frozen stuff, just loved it. Dan too.
It feels so good to make healthier versions for my family. And you know, since I’m not napping in the middle of the day, I have plenty of time for it. Me, cooking. Who’da thunk it.

Day 16: Wednesday
That is what my scale said this morning. I have lost seven pounds. Without feeling hungry, without deprivation. I just eat different stuff. And I don’t know how it could be water weight, since I’m drinking water ALL THE TIME.
Today I got myself an infuser water bottle. It has a little insert that you fill with fresh fruit, and it suspends inside the bottle when you fill it with water so the fruitiness infuses the water. That orange tree out front is going to come in real handy!
I also discovered La Croix fizzy grapefruit water. Mmmm, reminds me of Fresca!

Day 17: Thursday
My grocery trips are getting a lot shorter now that I avoid processed foods. Not cheaper, necessarily, but definitely shorter.
Worked all day in Charlie’s room, moving his old desk into the back room and the nicer one from out there into his room. This involved disassembling and reassembling them both. Not all Ikea furniture is easy to do alone. My purification support e-mails say sweating is good for removing the toxins. I sure removed some today.
Larry Mantle on KPCC had a segment on his show about the Master Cleanse, which involves nothing but lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper in water for ten days. Plus a laxative at night. Sounds dreadful. I am positive that I’m getting all the health benefits that the Master Cleanse claims, without suffering (well, those first couple of days WERE kinda tough… but I AM eating) or depending on a fad.
Oh yeah, and last night I slept in my own bed. All night.

Day 18: Friday
MAJOR light bulb moment.
I cheated last night. In the middle of the night – around 3, I think – I fell back on my old midnight habit and had a chewy granola bar. Actually, I had two. Long ago I convinced myself that I needed this to fall back to sleep.
Remember how I was saying that, since starting this, I woke up so alert even after a restless night? This morning, after my binge, oh my God I felt terrible. An old, familiar terrible. I couldn’t wake up. I couldn’t open my eyes. I wanted sleep -  lots, lots more sleep. Because the house was empty (Claire at her dad’s, the others at Camp Fox, Dan gone for work) I lingered in bed until 9, even though I had gone to bed at 11. I could barely drag myself out of bed, just like the old days, when I could only do it knowing a good strong cup of coffee awaited me.
I rolled out of bed after a good face-licking from Bowie, and when I looked at the sheet it was spotted with chocolate-chip stains from the granola bars. Holy smokes. I don’t even remember eating in bed.
You don’t have to do this, I told myself. You control yourself in the daytime without any problems. It can be done, even if you have to hide the granola bars, because that works and you are worth it.
45 minutes and a cup of blueberry tea later, I started to feel human again. And I don’t ever want to feel as bad as I did this morning. So, no more nighttime eating. The end.
I headed back out to Ikea to get the things I needed to finish Charlie’s room. They get back tomorrow evening.

Day 19: Saturday
It occurred to me that I no longer have food cravings, I no longer think about food all day, I don’t miss caffeine or sugar, and I feel fan-fucking-tastic. I eat when I’m hungry. But I’m eating good stuff.
I bought the good beef and the good sauce to make crock-pot meatballs for the family. Making fresh meals has become a source of pride and pleasure for me. Which is probably the MOST unbelievable thing to happen on this cleanse. Unfortunately, as I followed the recipe, I realized while mixing the ingredients together that my kids would NEVER eat anything with this much onion in it. So I spent almost an hour picking tiny onion bits out of each meatball as I rolled them. It’s a steep learning curve, folks.
Dan took Claire to see “Despicable Me 2” so I could finish up Charlie’s room. He got a new mattress pad, clean sheets, and a nice new quilt to replace his old brown blanket. There’s still a lot to do, and he’ll have to help me do it, but I think it’s a remarkable improvement.
Unfortunately, when I got him home from the Y, Charlie did not share my enthusiasm. In fact he sorta freaked out. Another benefit of this detox is that I don’t have toxins in my brain anymore – that is to say, I feel steady and more in control. I let him rant, looked at him calmly and said, “I hear you. You are not happy I did this. Now I want you to go take a shower.” (He was filthy from camp.) And you know what? He did. Later, once he had eaten something, he apologized. He still wishes I hadn’t done it while he was gone.
Also, Claire still thought there were too many onions in the meatballs.

Day 20: Sunday
Tomorrow is the last day. My emails from Support are advising me to plan how to re-introduce foods. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Dairy will be my first test; I plan to just have a glass of milk and see what happens. Maybe some cheese. I need to know if it’s okay to put some half-and-half in my decaf. I splurged on some Illy espresso blend, which has “caffeine content no more than %.05” on the can. I'm okay with that.
My beloved flavored syrups will also be an issue. When I have some sugar, even just a little in my coffee, will it set off the cravings? I’m never going to have the Splenda-sweetened syrup again. Although most people think it’s harmless, and I’m sure in moderation it probably is, the stuff is basically chlorinated sugar with traces of heavy metals and I’d just rather not have it.
I’m doing a lot of reading about stevia. It’s interesting to note that the giant agribusiness Cargill applied for patents on rebiana, the stevia extract they use in Truvia. A patent on a plant! Also interesting that the FDA finally approved stevia’s safety based on research by – you guessed it – Cargill and Coca-Cola. Their Truvia product, now on grocery shelves, contains other ingredients including erythritol (a sugar alcohol) and uses an elaborate chemical process to extract the sweet stuff from the stevia leaf. Cargill has done a great job of minimizing these facts and keeping them from the public. But here is a recent article (one of many I found) that summarizes the benefits and dangers of stevia. Buyer beware and all that.
Some nutritionists recommend different sweeteners to avoid sugar and chemicals. Agave is supposed to be low-glycemic – depending on who you ask. I’m really not concerned with the calories, just the cravings. Other suggestions are raw honey or maple syrup. I’m not sure how those would go over in coffee. Although maple syrup might be interesting.

Day 21: Monday. The last day.
I’m starting to feel nervous about eating other things again. Today I enjoyed the foods I’ve become comfortable with, and tried to remember the last time I took an afternoon nap. Charlie and Emma were at home all day while Claire went to summer school. Emma and I ran errands together at the mall. Claire had gymnastics. I made them chicken in a sesame-ginger simmer sauce (okay, that was from a jar, but the ingredients were fine) with rice, which they loved. It was a good day and I want to feel like this forever.

Day one post-cleanse: Tuesday
Ending weight: 166. I can’t believe I lost ten pounds in three weeks.
My biggest challenge is definitely going to be facing my fear of adding foods back in. Today I got so busy that I forgot to even eat until almost 1 p.m. Went grocery shopping and bought chips for Claire’s lunch; I wanted to have some but I’m so afraid I won’t be able to control myself that I just put the bag away.

Epilogue: five days later.
Some of my fears have been realized. I had some (organic, non-GMO, whole grain) crackers with Laughing Cow cheese for lunch one day, and then allowed myself some potato chips. In short order I was prowling the kitchen looking for more food. I was not hungry; I just wanted to eat more. But what was the culprit? Starches? Dairy? Both? I need to be more careful adding foods back in.
Creamer and a little flavored syrup in my decaf are fine. Dan’s birthday cake in my fridge is not. I feel like I want to eat it all. Drinking milk is also a verified no-no: cravings were triggered almost instantly. I did the midnight prowl one night and had the same response as before. So I’ve put the red-light foods in a very inconvenient location to reduce temptation.
Dan made pizza last night in his new pizza cooker, a birthday gift from me. It was delicious, made with quality ingredients, and I handled it pretty well. No tummy aches from the crust or the cheese, and I didn’t overeat.
And so, dear readers, the challenge will continue, and I intend to take it slow. I love having a smoothie in the morning, and as I learn the foods that work best for me it will get easier to plan meals around them. My weight loss will probably taper off, but I plan to hack away at those last ten pounds. I checked in with Dr. Yoshi, and he is very happy that I stuck with it and had such positive results.
What can I give you as a final thought? This experience has convinced me that the processed foods we are being sold by big food conglomerates are, indeed, making us sick. I believe that refined sugar is as addictive as nicotine. Soft drinks are a pack-a-day habit. Breakfast cereals are basically candy. As much as the liver is designed to remove toxins for us – the chemicals in our food, added hormones in meats and dairy, alcohol and caffeine – it’s also very busy doing its regular job of sending the good nutrients where they need to go. So giving it a rest through this cleanse is, in my opinion, a very good idea.
I also believe that a poor diet, as cheap and easy as it is to acquire in America, is the cause of so many of our ailments. The big pharmaceutical companies want you to take a pill. I don’t think that’s the answer.
You only get one body on this journey. It deserves your conscious, loving care. I feel better than ever, no kidding. Just think about it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Cleansing, part two: Kale Chips

Day 1 – Tuesday. Starting weight: 176.
Okay, I am ready to do this. Where’s my coffee… oh yeah, no coffee. Water. In great quantities. I make my first fruit smoothie with protein powder and flaxseed oil and set off to face the day.
I’ve given myself some projects to keep my mind off whatever cravings and difficulties I might have. The kids are spending the week with their Dad, so I can be a total bitch if necessary and only Dan will have to deal with me. First thing to do, though, is shop for food. I need fruit that will blend, and veggies… yikes, I’ve never been good at veggies. I’m the mom who steams broccoli past the point of recognition. Maybe a broccoli smoothie?
I’ve been on a sea-salt-and-vinegar chip binge for a couple of weeks, so I decide to make a coleslaw dressing with apple cider vinegar and olive oil. It doesn’t take long for me to appreciate the bite. I try a brown rice and lentil mix, too, but… lentils. Yuck. However, a little olive oil and sea salt perks up pretty much anything. We got some rosemary salt in San Francisco. Super yummy. But I better put Mrs. Dash on the grocery list or I’m gonna swell up like a puffer fish.
Charlie needs new bookshelves so I head off to Ikea. Putting cheap Swedish furniture together helps a lot in keeping my mind off the loss of my beloved coffee.
Around 3:00 I feel tired and a little airheaded (more than usual, ha ha) so I take a short nap, then get back to work on Charlie’s room. And so I make it through Day One - but my email from “Purification Support” warns me of the coming discomfort.

Day 2 - Wednesday
Morning starts out fine – smoothie, water, supplements - and I delve back into my cleaning frenzy. As garbage bags fill with junk he will never miss, and boxes fill with outgrown clothes I am taking down to Once Upon A Child to make a buck or two, the headache starts.
Where is my COFFEE??? The blood vessels in my brain scream at me. We can’t CONSTRICT up here!
Okay, I was expecting this. Ride it out. I call Dan and whine, and he listens patiently. He’s always said I drink too much coffee. Of course, he is one of those vexing people who has never had a food issue: doesn’t crave sweets, never binges, drinks one glass of wine and then stops, insists the Diet Coke he splurged on at lunch is keeping him awake 10 hours later. These people really exist. I married one.
Another 3:00 nap, after which I finally give in and take some ibuprofen. The emails promise the headache will subside, and I am 100% dedicated to this cleanse, so I roast some Brussels sprouts and hang in there. Brussels sprouts! They’re actually tasty! (Again with the olive oil and sea salt thing, though.) The smoothies really help with the cravings. Watching TV, however, does not: that Golden Corral commercial with the Buffalo Wings is killing me.

Day 3 – Thursday
The email from Purification Support says this:
“Don't be surprised if old symptoms you haven't experienced in years begin to return during the program.  They should be of short duration and are considered a beneficial sign that your body is purging toxins and repairing underlying issues with your health.  Old injuries or conditions may resurface for anywhere from an hour to a day or more.  This theory is known as Homotoxicology and was developed by a German medical doctor named Dr. Hans-Heinrich Reckeweg. 
In fact, one patient had an old wrist injury swell up during day two.  The interesting point is that she broke it almost 30 years ago.  There had been no swelling or problem of any kind noted in the 30 years since the original injury, however her body felt it necessary to bring heat, macrophages and other white blood cells in to perform long overdue repairs.  The swelling went back down to normal after a couple days.
If you do experience any reoccurrence of past injuries or symptoms we'd love to hear about it!”
I don’t think too much about this. Maybe the creaky knees are a result of this. The withdrawal headache is pretty much gone, to my surprise. But today’s highlight is that I discover kale chips. Incredibly labor intensive, but so rewarding. I bake a cookie-sheet-ful and eat them standing at the stove. And then another. Yum.

Day 4: Friday
Today I begin to notice an ache in my pelvic floor that radiates down the back of my legs and up into my lower back. It’s vaguely familiar, but I ignore it while organizing my daughter’s hair accessories and jewelry. By bedtime, though, it’s clear this is going to be a problem.
My lower abdomen is tender and bloaty, but I chalk that up to all the cruciferous veggies. I mean, really. Cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts! It’s a wonder I’m not farting myself across the room. I will spare you the details of the bowel movements.
Otherwise, though, I feel good: no cravings, and my energy level is way up. I mean, not like bouncing-off-the-walls, but like hey-I’m-not-tired. Dan is so great. He makes me a salad every night, chock full of veggies of every color. And I make more kale chips.
I’ve been taking a medication called Trazodone for about ten years, at bedtime to help me sleep. I take too many damn meds. So in a fit of over-confidence in the program, I decide to stop. Tonight.
Lying down, the ache in my lower body is just awful. I pop half a Vicodin from my emergency stash and try to sleep.

Day 5: Saturday
Oh, my God. I did not sleep last night. I tossed so much that, at about 4 a.m. after maybe 3 hours of sleep, I crawled into Claire’s bed, where I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to bring on dreams from sheer will. No luck. At 6 I finally gave up, but the thing is: I’m wide awake. I don’t feel tired at all. I’m up with my early-bird husband and I tell him about my night and the pelvic pain.  He says for the twenty-seventh time “I can’t believe you gave up coffee.” That’s when I realize I don’t really miss it that much.
The pelvic pain, however, is getting worse. As the day goes on I find it hard to bend at the hips. I try lying down on a heating pad but that makes it worse. What could this be? “Old injuries or conditions may resurface…” Pelvic pain… pregnancy? A-ha! That’s exactly what it feels like: those endless last few weeks of pregnancy, when the baby is crushing your pelvis and you feel like there’s a bowling ball inside you. Am I healing those places? Charlie was a huge baby who tried so hard to come out the front door that my right hip joint suffered an injury, one I’ve been dealing with since he was born. (SI Joint Dysfunction is the formal diagnosis. That’s why I have Vicodin. And he came out through the window, as my OB put it.)
The kids are coming back today at 10. At 9, I lie down for a bit and nab maybe 45 minutes of sleep. But when I’m up, I’m all the way up. Not groggy. It feels so different.
Once the kids are home it’s back to the mom business. We talk about all the work I’ve done in their rooms and how we are going to keep it nice from now on. I know, I’m a dreamer. Charlie likes his new bookshelves. The girls and I go grocery shopping together. The pain in my lower body makes me wince. 

(Now that the kids are home, my ability to write is dramatically affected…)
Day 6: Sunday
Another sleepless night. I was determined to get off the Trazodone so I didn’t take it again last night. But I wake up cheerful – why is it I can sleep from 6 to 9 a.m? There’s my early bird hubby again! Lovely to see him in the morning! He once again expresses his support. As for the pain, I can bend at the hips today, but there is still a dull ache down there.
We are having a heat wave and the house’s temperature seems to fluctuate between too hot and too cold; can’t get the AC just right. I notice again how easily I sweat. This is supposed to be a good thing: sweating out those toxins! Half a yam for breakfast. Actually yummy.

Day 7: Monday
Sleepless, and yet I wake up energetic and bright. So strange! Pain is going away. Very busy day with kids; Charlie started as CIT at day camp, took Emma to orthodontist, then shopping to get ready for Camp Fox.

Day 8: Tuesday
I saw my shrink today. He says take the freakin’ Trazodone and get some sleep.

Day 9: Wednesday
Remembered to weigh in this morning. Down 2 pounds to 174.
Last night I took extra meds – 150 mg. vs. my usual 100 – and woke up horribly groggy, craving coffee. Also not a very restful night. Sleep is a real issue; the eating part is not. I feel really good. Two more batches of kale chips. All mine.

Day 10: Thursday, July 4th
Tried 50 mg. last night. Still didn’t sleep. Felt logy upon waking. Everything else is going well, though. Overall I feel an enormous improvement in fatigue, focus, and mood. I feel better than I have in a long time.
It’s the Fourth of July, so Dan and I go to the hometown fireworks event. I’ve never wanted to go before because I kind of hate crowds, but there were food trucks and I knew Dan would like that. I ate before we went.
I should elaborate on that statement, I think. I am not depriving myself on this cleanse. In fact, I feel like I’m eating all the time. There are no limits as to when or how much. It’s what I’m eating that is making the difference.
A couple of years ago I became obsessed with finding real honest-to-god soft-serve ice cream in this town. Not frozen yogurt. That’s how I found out about the King Kone truck and for a while I stalked them on Twitter, trying to figure out how I could get to where they were. They were always on the West Side or in Santa Monica, way too far away. So imagine the emotions I felt when I saw the King Kone truck at the fireworks – in the middle of my no-sugar, no-dairy cleanse.
(heart sinking)
I asked Dan to get a swirl cone and cheated a little to have a taste. Couldn’t resist. If I ever find their truck again, I’m definitely gonna get me some.

Next up: MEAT!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Cleansing, part one (not a horror story... yet)

That’s how I felt most of the time. Occasionally ugh - meh on good days - but mostly bleah. Tired, even though I was in my bed at night for eight hours, sometimes more, and always bleary in the morning. Waking at 2 a.m. to pee and have a snack was a regular thing for me. Only the promise of a strong cup of coffee got me out of bed. Most afternoons, the kids were used to me saying “I’m going to go put my feet up for a while.” They knew that meant a nap. Then I’d wake up, and have more coffee, or an iced tea, or a diet soda, hoping the caffeine would keep me going.
After meals, my stomach would ache, or I’d be super gassy and bloated, or I’d become exhausted – sometimes all three. Food cravings were a vicious circle: I’d eat something, feel like crap, then eat something else to try and soothe myself. Usually sweets. I’ve always said that I thought Chips Ahoy cookies were baked with heroin, because I always wanted more, more, gimme the bag already.
Then there are the numbers. My cholesterol had been an issue for about fifteen years, and I also had about 20 extra pounds to deal with. I was cranky, fat and sick. One day, not too long after my 51st birthday, I woke up and said to myself, I don’t want to feel like this for the rest of my life. It was that simple. So I made an appointment for a physical.
Dr. Yoshi Rahm is what you call an “integrative physician”. He’s the best of both worlds: board certified in traditional “western” medicine, but also a holistic practitioner. He looks at the whole picture. Where a regular MD might look at your cholesterol numbers and scribble out a scrip for Lipitor, Dr. Yoshi looks at everything – especially diet and physical activity level – and will have you try Red Yeast Rice, Omega-3s and Chia Seeds before talking about statins. (Plus, his name is Yoshi. For real.)
When my blood tests are back, we sit down and look at the results. This time total cholesterol comes in at 223. Worse, my LDL (bad cholesterol) is 151; it should be around 100. Other numbers show an increased risk of coronary disease, "adverse cardiovascular events," metabolic syndrome, and pre-diabetes.  
He asks me how I feel. I tell him about feeling crappy all the time.
“So the question is,” he says, “what do you want to do about it?”
I’m two inches from the end of my rope. "I need you to kick my ass," I say. "I’m not good at moderation. I need a plan, I need structure. I can’t just do it on my own – I’ve tried."
“Okay.” He gets up and grabs a brochure. “I really think you would benefit a lot from a cleanse.” The brochure is for a 21-day program, which he would supervise, and which comes with online support. He goes over the details.
No dairy.
No grains or starches.
No sugar or alcohol.
Nothing but fruits and veggies and brown rice and lentils for the first 7 days. Then add lean protein. Take supplements to aid the detoxification, and protein powder to add to fruit smoothies. A plan. Structure. Twenty-one days.

Now, let me digress here for a moment. You may have picked up on the fact that I see a holistic doctor and thought, hmm, okay. Well, she lives in California after all. Let’s just look at the facts, and you tell me if Leanne will decide to go on a totally awesome holistic detoxifying cleanse.
Are YOU a New-Age California Hippie? Take this test to find out! Do you:
  • Practice yoga? Check.
  • Practice meditation (bonus points if it was on a red rock in Sedona)? Check (several bonus points).
  • Study Eastern Philosophy? Check.
  • Wear Birkenstocks (and call them "Birkies")? Check.
  • Own any clothing made from hemp? Ooh, no… does a purse count?
  • Ever visit psychics (bonus points if it was in Sedona)? Check (two bonus points).
  • Drive a Prius (bonus for hippie stickers)? Check (plus 3 bonus points).
  • Buy organic food and fair-trade coffee, use cloth shopping bags, contribute to an environmental charity, own a pair of Toms shoes, etc. Okay, okay, we get the point already. 
(note: if you now hate me because I am apparently a total stereotype, you can head on back to Facebook. Thanks for hanging in there this long.)

So, of course, because this is who I am, I tell Dr. Yoshi I’m in. We arrange for me to start the day after Dan & I return from our long weekend in San Francisco, a trip that turns out to be a real bacchanal, punctuated by In & Out as my last pre-cleanse meal. At home we haul the 15 bottles of wine we bought in Sonoma into the house, and I am a little sad, because I will miss them.
Coming soon: will she survive Week One? Or are Chips Ahoys the most powerful force in the Universe? Read Part Two here!)
(p.s. I don't own any Toms. I need more arch support.)