Friday, July 31, 2009

Day 13 of QW Cleanse: Veggie Kids

As much as my own diet has been very different over the past couple of weeks, my family's diet has been very much the same. I make them dinner and if I can use any "pieces and parts" for my separate vegan, gluten-free meal, that's a plus.

The ironic thing is that my kids would rather eat vegetables than meat. I can't tell you how many battles we've had in the past which revolved around the theme, "Eat your meat. You need meat for protein to get big and strong."

At age four, Spiderman engages in mealtime battle because, well, he's four and he's trying to figure out where he has control and where he doesn't. We do the whole "here are your choices" thing, but he's so onto us.

Miss M. would genuinely prefer not to eat meat most of the time. To say she is an "animal lover" is an understatement. This is a child who saves part of her allowance and her yard sale earnings to make donations to the World Wildlife Fund. As I type this, I'm feeling guilty for not being more respectful of her wishes. And yet, prior to this cleanse, I really thought I was doing the right thing.

Tonight started out with our usual pre-dinner "veggie plate" ritual. In this case, cucumber spears and sliced red bell peppers. Usually it's just whatever I happen to have on hand (carrots, snap peas, etc). It keeps the kids from getting too hungry while I get my act together and they love it.

For their dinner I planned chicken breast tenders, broccoli and "smiley" potatoes. Miss M. asked (as she almost always does), "Do I have to eat chicken?"

I replied, "Nope. If you want, you can eat some extra broccoli and some edamame." You should have seen the look on her face.

"Really??" she asked suspiciously.

I explained that I still wanted her to get protein but I am learning we can get protein from non-animal sources. And that veggies with protein have lots of other good stuff too.

Knowing Miss M. as I do, I was excited to discuss this with her in great scientific detail, bond over her excitement about not being forced to eat meat, maybe even Google something together. Instead, all I got was, "Okay - cool." She left the room with a "beats me" shrug.

Either her pre-teen is already showing or she just wanted to quit while she was ahead. I'm not sure.

Of course I'll do more research but I'm starting to think that this plan may have a positive effect on more than just my own wellness.
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Day 12 of QW Cleanse: Fantasies

When I was in high school, I had a HUGE crush on a boy we'll call Randy. He was a transfer student from Canada so maybe that was part of the charm.

My dreams came true when Randy finally told me he "like liked" me too and we started a long-term romance. This was at a time when long-term was two months at best and romance meant we lingered at each others' lockers before class. You would have thought one of us was going off to war instead of math class. And yes, we even kissed on the lips. I paired my first name with his last name over and over. My brown paper textbook covers were filled with such eloquent sentiments as "I *heart* Randy!" and "CD + RS = 4EVA."

Abruptly, Randy dumped me for a prettier, smarter, cooler girl. Given where my self-esteem was at the time, that could have been any other girl in the school.

Not too long after the split, I had a party at my house. Can you believe Randy and his new gal showed up? The nerve! Unfortunately for Randy, my low self-esteem also came with a gift: The ability to cut someone down to nothing with one biting, sarcastic remark.

As a side note, the "gift" is an old character trait I reflect on with regret, worried I may have hurt some dear friends, either trying to be witty or protect my many insecurities. (John - that shirt really did clash with itself in 7th grade, but I'm still sorry.)

Anyway, I managed to completely offend Randy and his "date" in no time and they decided to take off. Of course, they had to call Randy's mom for a ride. In my crazy house we only had a pay phone. So he had to go around asking for change first. I was triumphant.

Actually I was heart-broken. As a consolation prize, I painted a fantastic picture in my mind of what Randy was, what we could have been. He was the one that got away. Something which was meant to be. In my mind, he became the best-looking, smartest, funniest guy with a Canadian accent who ever "like liked" me.

The truth is I didn't get over him. UNTIL....we actually met up again years later. As we ate dinner in the Suburbia USA Chinese restaurant, I was stunned by the vast delta between "reality Randy" and "fantasy Randy." None of the superlatives I remembered and obviously, very much not meant to be.

Not his fault of course. Poor guy. I had built up the fantasy into something which he couldn't possible have lived up to. Thinking back on it now I also realise that by the time of our reunion I was not the person I had been in high school. I grew up. I became more secure in myself and was looking at him through a completely different lens.

What does this have to do with my Quantum Wellness Cleanse?

Coffee. (Huh?)

I've been fantasizing about coffee. Although I thought it would be easy to give up, the experience of it has persisted in my daydreams. The aroma, the taste, the warm, soothing feeling as it comforts my throat and helps me face the day. I gave it up, but I just couldn't get over it.

UNTIL... I actually tried drinking it again.

Kathy Freston sent me the great suggestion to use vanilla almond milk as a milk substitute since that's been the obstacle between me and my ideal morning beverage. I tried the almond milk alone first and it's really good!

And yet, there was something about the coffee itself that just didn't do it for me. It has nothing to do with the caffeine factor since I often drank decaf pre-cleanse.

After a healthy break, the fantasy of coffee was just better than the reality. Poor coffee. The smell which I thought I loved so much, and which got even better in my mind, suddenly doesn't appeal to me. I find I no longer enjoy the experience of drinking it. It actually makes me nauseous. Even "reality Randy" didn't make me want to throw up.

Though it's been less than two weeks, I feel like my perception of food and flavors has changed. Although I'm shrinking physically (down 5 lbs!), I'm also growing.

Maybe not "quantum" just yet. But I can see the potential and again, it motivates me to continue.
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Day 11 of QW Cleanse: Normal Life

Today is the first day I almost forgot I was doing this program. Not forgot as in "aw screw it" but forgot as in "citrus quinoa salad - of course!"

There really wasn't a moment today where I agonized over a food choice or wanted something "non-approved." Just a normal ol' day. Well, normal sans alcohol, caffeine, gluten, sugar or food that might have had children.

Boring, I know.

Still, I'm always trying to add value... so here's a FABULOUS recipe a friend sent to me. I know this isn't standard recipe format, but I think my way is easier.

Cook 1 cup of quinoa (the white kind, not the red).

While that's simmering, dice up 2 tomatos and maybe 5 scallions (optional) and throw them into a big bowl with one can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas).

Side note: As a kid, I thought that "Garbanzo the Great!" would be a great name for a magician.

Once cooked, dump the quinoa into the bowl with the other stuff.

Next, add the zest and juice of two limes. (Or if you have pure lime juice with nothing added, you can use 3 tablespoons of that.)

Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 cloves garlic, minced (I use the stuff in the tiny jar).

Add seasoning to your taste: cumin, cilantro, parsley, salt and pepper.

Stir. It's good while it's still warm, but just as good cold. I'm going to make it for my next party; it's that good.


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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Day 10 of QW Cleanse: Epiphany

The "Quantum Wellness Cleanse" book is structured so that there is a chapter for each of the 21-days. On day one I flipped through the book pretty quickly, reviewing lots of points but not necessarily studying each and every word. Since then, I've been read each chapter on its assigned day, sometimes more than once.

Today I had a major "light bulb" moment reading the Day 10 Chapter, "Cooling Digestive Fires: Gluten and Your Gut."

Kathy Freston writes (p. 72), "Some studies suggest that gluten damages the small intestine and allows food proteins to be released into the body, and the immune system then interprets these proteins as invasive and goes into high gear to protect itself. In other words, you get an overblown immune response. This kind of immune response can possibly contribute to or mimic diseases like lupus, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis."

Holy inflammation Batman -- this may actually solve a health mystery I've been dealing with for years!

At the risk of going into a whole Lifetime Original Story... several years ago I lost a baby early in my second trimester. They tested the baby (boy) and confirmed that there were no chromosomal abnormalities or such. The problem was clearly with me. From the many tests ordered, they confirmed an elevated ANA titer, often associated with things like lupus. However, none of the other labs or symptoms suggested any rheumatological diseases. My mother has lupus so they chalked it up to a genetic fluke. Just another little turd in my already less than sparkling clean gene pool.

A few more miscarriages later I was diagnosed with a semi-rare uterine disorder called Asherman's Syndrome as well as endometriosis. Surgery to correct the latter two findings is what eventually made it possible for me to conceive Spiderman and deliver him to term.

When Spidey was just over a year old, I went to a new doctor for my annual checkup complaining of extreme fatigue and joint pain. This was in June. I had been having severe symptoms since the previous November. Like so many people, I just suffered through. I blamed it on the stress of the holidays, "normal" exhaustion from balancing two young kids and a stressful full-time career, too much travel, then spring allergies, etc.

The doc listened carefully and had me tested me for a whole bunch of stuff. They found: elevated ANA (still), positive rheumatoid factor (RF), positive Epstein Barr (EBV) and mononucleosis. When the results came back I had this bizarre sense of relief that there actually was something wrong with me. Not that I wanted to be sick of course. But I'd rather be told I was sick than crazy.

The EBV really struck a nerve with me. I remembered also being told I had EBV when I was a teenager. Back then Epstein Barr was a "fake disease." Having EBV written on your chart was just code for "hypochondriac."

Anyway, this time I was given supplements and other instructions which I followed...mostly. I also met with the rheumatologist again a couple more times (and more tests) which confirmed that despite the indicators, I still didn't actually have lupus or rheumatoid arthritis or any other serious immune disorder.

A year later, I was feeling better (meh) and they ran the same tests. Same results. What the heck man? Still, since I was feeling "okay" (denial?) I just decided to leave well enough alone. I'd had enough of being poked at and doctors who didn't really know anything.

Another year later (July 2008) same thing, although my RF was suddenly improved. This was encouraging since I had been working hard to be in "super fit and healthy mode" prior to that appointment. So although I don't know exactly what I was doing differently, I had been making a conscious effort to eat healthy and exercise more regularly. This is also when I ramped up the daily meditation and I swear by the fact that this made/makes a huge difference.

Initially mono seemed to be the simplest explanation, until they realised that my body thinks it has mono all the time (for the past four years that we know of anyway.)

Yet, being sick and tired of being sick and tired is what really motivated to think more strategically about my own life balance needs and ultimately to want to help as many other people as possible. Even if the stupid lab tests tell me I should feel sick, I'm determined (maybe more determined) to live my life in a state of wellness.

Reading today's chapter, my eyes just about bugged out of my head as I wondered aloud, "Could any of these recurring abnormal results be connected to a gluten issue??"

As it happens I have my annual physical exam just after this cleanse. Now I'm dying to get all my usual tests done and see if I get any different results.

The plot thickens!
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Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 9 of QW Cleanse: Thank You

Today I've been feeling less focused on the food and more focused on this incredible sense of gratitude.

I'll get to the gratitude in a moment...

There was just one episode today when we went for a group outing to get ice cream. I thought about not going but decided that the time with my family wasn't something I wanted to add to the list of things I was "giving up."

A myriad of emotions passed through me as everyone (including the other customers in line) looked at me for my order. "I don't suppose you have anything here which is dairy-free and sugar-free?" I grasped. "Uhhh.... I don't think so," the cute blonde at the window responded. An "oh-yeah" look flashed across my husband's face.

For half a moment I fantasized about eating Purple Cow frozen yogurt to the serenade of a choir of angels. The moment passed. Nothing for me. No biggie.

That's the thing I've come to realise about any "craving" I may have which involves the Big 5 (caffeine, alcohol, gluten, sugar, animal products): It's momentary. You know my mantra is "this too shall pass," right? This cleanse is proving that it's also true for Veuve Clicquot, mocha lattes, pizza and Purple Cow. As the days go by, I'm becoming more and more confident that while temptations may come, they will also go.

So that was that.

Beyond that, I've just been so struck by the unbelievable support, sharing and generosity of spirit y'all have been sending my way. And, thank you again to Kathy Freston as I know the slight spike in visitors to my blog is because people are interested in her Quantum Wellness vs. me in particular.
Still, I'm so impressed by the comments here, all the reader emails and Facebook messages from friends. Truly, you are a gift to me!

I wanted to comment on a couple of popular points:
1. Kombucha: Thanks for mentioning this! Kombucha tastes great (to me; I realise this opinion may not be universally shared). Some say it has positive health effects; others say it's dangerous. Based on everything I've read, I'm in the moderation camp with a "don't try this at home" disclaimer (i.e. buy it reputably made vs. making own.) I did some research on the site for this organic raw (bottled) Kombucha which is available at my Shaw's grocery store. Not finding anything which addressed gluten, sugar, etc... I emailed the company, Millennium Products. Here is the kind response I received:

Thanks for the email. We're happy to say that all of our GT's Kombucha Synergy are 100% vegan and gluten free. Our products contains a residual amount of caffeine that is left over after the culturing of the Kombucha. It varies from batch to batch anywhere from 8-14 mg per 8 ounces. To give you a comparison, coffee contains 100mg and decaf 5 mg. In addition, it is believed that the caffeine that is present is in a converted state, therefore even that the most sensitive individuals report that they not react to Kombucha as they would to regular caffeine. Our products also contain a trace of alcohol that is 0.5% (0.3%) per volume. The amount of alcohol found in our products is equivalent to the amount that is found in a cup of apple or orange juice. Kombucha has 2mg of sugar per 8 ounces, depending on the flavor. I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any more questions. Thank you for your support! Peace and Blessing! - Stephanie

2. Tofu: Okay, I still haven't tried cooking with it. But I really do appreciate the dozens of links and recipes I've received. Thank you! I promise I will try it before the week is out. One question: a couple of people explained the "trick" for getting a spongy texture. Um...silly question maybe, but why is spongy preferable? *shrug*

3. Poem: Two people sent this to me in response to my Support post. Hopefully I'm not infringing on any copyright laws here but it so perfect, I just have to share it with all of you:

Mother Teresa's Anyway Poem

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

The next time you find yourself saying, "I can't do it" or "I don't have time" -- Do it anyway.
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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Day 8 of QW Cleanse: Reaction?

This morning I started the day with a banana and Yoga Booty Ballet . (Side note: I LOVE these workouts and highly recommend! Gillian & Teigh are groovy, fun, inspirational women who lead the workouts. Not at all your typical "and make it burn" aerobics of days gone by. As I looked up the link for you I noticed they have a new program called "Ab & Butt Makeover." I may need to make that my next venture!)

Afterwards, I made breakfast for the kids and spotted the veggie breakfast sausage in the freezer. I gave the label a cursory scan and heated up two links. Yummy.

Within maybe 20 minutes my stomach bloated up and I started getting abdominal pains. Back to the label. Wheat. Crap!

In my handy dandy Google search window, I typed "gluten reaction." Yup. Sounds about right.

The thing is, I didn't think I was allergic or sensitive to gluten. Yet, as I whined to -- I mean, discussed with -- my husband about it, it seems I'd had these symptoms quite often pre-cleanse. I've always connected it to my changing hormones. (Poor hormones, they get blamed for everything.)

It could be a coincidence; the jury is still out. However, I'm interested in exploring this further. After the cleanse, I may do a few days of keeping my diet the same except gluten and see if I notice any symptoms. Another experiment!

For now, it's just a reminder to read my labels much more carefully.

Week two continues....
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Day 6 & 7 of QW Cleanse: What's for dinner?

The most common question I've been getting, except why I am doing this, is about the food. What do I actually eat now that I'm not eating animal products, gluten or sugar?
I'll start by debunking the myth which I've heard a lot since I started the Cleanse. That is, people seem to think that the only protein available to vegans is tofu. Oh, I bought tofu at the grocery store on day 1. But the truth is I'm utterly intimidated, make that irrationally terrified of the idea of cooking (and eating) it. So it's still sitting in my fridge. Maybe tomorrow... Read: cry for help.

One of my fave finds is this Smooth Operator peanut butter. Yum! I'm usually a Skippy gal but even the "Natural Skippy" has sugar in it. This one by Peanut Butter & Co. is smooth and creamy. It tastes so good even my kids can't tell the difference.
I've also been enjoying a lot of quinoa ( pronounced "keen-wah"). Quinoa is supposed to be a perfect protein whatever that means. I just know it's super easy to make and tastes good. Good "mouth feel" (texture) as well. I've been mixing it with beans, lots of different veggies and varied seasonings.
In general, I can eat any fruit or vegetable so lots of options there. It's actually been fun trying different combinations of things in different preparations. I'm like a mad veggie scientist -- bawahaha!
Did you know that artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, peas and many other vegetables have a decent amount of protein? I seriously had no idea so this has been a huge revelation for me!
The other night I tried gluten free pasta which was a nice treat. Pre-cleanse, I only ate Barilla Plus pasta, and not very often. The gluten-free version tastes just like regular pasta to me. Unfortunately I didn't have the cooking time exactly right so it was slightly overdone texturally. For the sauce, I made my own using canned tomato sauce (naural, nothing added) and a bunch of spices.
I mentioned the hummus and organic, gluten-free crackers in a previous post - double YUM.
For butter, I'm just using the vegan version of my usual SmartBalance. It tastes like butter to me!
Since I'm accustomed to having a meal bar in the morning, I've been trying different flavors of the Larabar. They are all pretty good but the texture takes some getting used to. Slightly mushy. Good news is they are gluten-free, vegan and have no added sweeteners. My kids' babysitter also recommended some of the Kind Fruit & Nut bars; label reading required.
I've also been eating rice, rice noodles and brown rice bread. Rice noodles ROCK and have always been a favorite food of mine. The rice bread is "meh." With peanut butter or hummus on it, it's fine. But definitely not the same as wheat-based bread.
I could drink decaf coffee but I simply can't tolerate my coffee black. Since I haven't found an acceptable substitute for milk, I've just been drinking herbal tea. It's honestly not as satisfying, but it's okay. Also, some teas seem to make me nauseous so I have to be a bit careful.
Although the Quantum Wellness Cleanse is billed as a "weight loss program" by some, I've been slightly worried about all the carbs I've been eating and if I might actually gain weight. I also haven't really been thinking about portion control. So much to keep track of already! I started out being okay with whatever the scale says and I have a different set of goals in general. So, I just put those concerns in the "it is what it is" pile.
Yet here I am at the end of week one and I've actually (drum roll please) lost three pounds (1.36 kg)! Pretty cool, right? I've tried a lot harder to lose a lot less before.
Can I keep this up for two more weeks? I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.....
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Friday, July 24, 2009

Day 5 of QW Cleanse: Support (or lack thereof)

The concept of Quantum Wellness overall (not just the Cleanse) resonates with me in a number of ways. One of the key points is that lots of small actions can result in a big... make that quantum, change.

When I talk about my process for achieving life balance, I'm really talking about the same strategy. Lots of "doable" little things which lead you to that initially overwhelming goal.

In the same theme, this Super Detox I'm doing is really just a whole bunch of little changes each day. A set of choices, commitments and realizations which (I hope) will ultimately result in a quantum shift.

As I further map the QW Cleanse to my methodology, I think about the three step plan I've described to you before:

1. Internal --> Transform thoughts, feelings, words to the positive.
2. External --> Take healthy actions.
3. Support --> Ask for help, feedback, accountability.

Kathy Freston nicely covers meditation and visualization in her books and you know I'm a fan of this stuff. Step 1 -- check!

Step 2 -- check! (The "DO" is definitely covered!)

Step 3 -- hmmm. Let's discuss...

Knowing that I am writing about this journey everyday provides a definite sense of accountability. "Sorry Bogle Merlot... if I drink you, I have to admit it to the 4,000 visitors on my blog. Really - it's not you, it's me."

How about feedback? Oh - I get plenty of feedback. The most supportive usually in the form of, "Yeah, luck with that." There are varying degrees of enthusiasm and sincerity, but the theme is the same.

My (loving) husband and my (loving and vegan) sister have been uniquely supportive. Not surprised at all about my sister since we've shared several decades of non-judgmental, unconditional support for each other's "stuff" -- from the very serious to the seriously insane. I could tell her I was becoming a nudist for 21-days and she'd send me links to reviews on sunblock.

Now that I think of it, my husband would probably be supportive of a nudist trial as well. (*giggle*) I actually thought he was going to give me grief about the QW Cleanse. He's a "meat and potatos" guy and not big on experiments. To my delight, he's been very respectful and helpful.

Other reactions range from "deer in the headlights" silence to defensive verbal attacks. Certain comments don't bother me -- like someone at work calling my mediteranean quinoa, black beans & veggies a "bowl of crap." Obviously he just thinks he has a sense of humor.

Yet, I've found that any dietary restriction has the potential to hit a nerve with people. I get the same reaction when I talk about my fitness plans. It's different depending on the person, but with a similar dynamic in effect.

I have to remind myself that they are not actually attacking or judging me. Well, they are -- but mainly because they think I am judging them. Meanwhile, I know that they are actually judging themselves.

Stick with me here.

When I say, "I am trying this detox because I want to feel healthier....etc... etc..." what they hear is, "YOU should be healthier. YOU should give up caffeine. YOU should be vegan. etc etc"

I feel like I should get a t-shirt that reads, "No, my diet does not make your butt look big!"

In my mind, this has nothing to do with them. In their mind, it does. By talking about what I am doing to invest in my health, I am somehow forcing their own exploration about how they treat and view themselves.

It's sad but true -- most people would rather be in denial.

One of the reasons I find this all so fascinating is because it highlights yet another reason why change is so flippin' hard. Sometimes the only person who wants you to change is you.

As a general message, I hope people read this and think about their reaction the next time someone shares that they are trying to accomplish something. In an ideal world you could ask, "What can I do to help?" If you can't muster that, at least find a way to separate whatever the other person's change is making you feel about yourself and your ability to be a supportive friend (co-worker, partner, family member, bus companion, etc).

As I think about the next couple of weeks, I know that some people may continue to make fun of me (and my food), roll their eyes, criticize, wish I wouldn't talk about it or even better, give it up already.

Knowing that I want to continue, my urge is to suffer in silence and just ratchet up the gusto to keep pushing forward. Screw 'em -- I got inner strength! Yet, in the spirit of practicing what I preach, Step #3 isn't "Go it alone and wish for the best."

What I'm learning is that most of the time we have to ASK for what we need. I know some of you are saying, "I shouldn't need to ask." Get over it. You do.

Sometimes this includes actually telling people how their reaction affects us -- both the positive and the negative. Not to get all 1990's therapist on ya, but we are more likely to get support when we express how we feel. Telling someone they are mean, insecure and the worst bus companion ever only procreates the negativity. Keeping it all inside doesn't help either.

When we do get the support we need, a "Thank you - this is what I love about you" is always a good thing.

Here on Day 5, I realise that this is all stuff I need to work on.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Day 4 of QW Cleanse: Mindfulness

Today I woke up without the caffeine withdrawal headache so that was a great start to the day. Whew!

In addition to noticing that I actually don't have a hot poker driving into the base of my skull, I had another realization today:
I really enjoy the food I've been eating over the past few days, despite the perceived "restrictions."

(As a recap for new readers, the Quantum Wellness Cleanse is a 21-day plan without caffeine, alcohol, gluten, sugar or animal products.)

I'm enjoying shopping, planning, cooking and eating the food. This is big for me since I usually only enjoy one of those four things -- you know, stuffing my face.

I may have mentioned that I recently lost some weight ("Look Ma, no Spanx!"). In the process, I became much more focused on calories and breakdown of protein, carbs and fat. Calories in compared to calories burned. Food as fuel.

Right now, the food is just...well, food. Eating whole, healthy foods sans "toxins" is somehow freeing me from the calorie counting. At the same time, I'm gaining a new definition of "eating with mindfulness."

Of course, mindfulness before pretty much just meant not eating dinner whilst watching "Two and a Half Men" on TV.

Although I'm usually a big supporter of the food chain, I have to admit that there's something cool about knowing nothing was tortured and/or killed before it got on my plate. Furthermore, it's really motivating to feel completely confident and happy in how I am treating my body right now. (I've also been meditating and walking a few miles daily.)

Kathy Freston says this, "Something inside you knows this is right and you will feel directed by an internal compass which urges you forward."

She also describes ridding the body of the "toxic load" as a "high." I think that's accurate.

I'm still feeling like that "high" would go nicely with a generous pour of Rodney Strong Cabernet. Progress, not perfection... right?
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Day 3 of QW Cleanse: Pit Stop

This will be quick, but I did promise daily updates. Day 3 didn't suck as much as day 2. I call that progress!

It was a crazy, busy work day which kept me in front of my computer and on the phone pretty straight from 8am to 6pm. The good thing about working hard is that I didn't have time to obsess about the food during the day.

The bad thing about such a day is that I really, really, really wanted a glass of wine when I finally came up for air.

I realise it's just a ritual. Come home (or in this case upstairs, since I worked in my basement home office today), pour a glass, chat with hubby about the day, decompress. Before too long it's time to get busy again with all the tasks and responsibilities of home.

Yet, that little "drink break" is like the pit stop that stock cars make during long races. Even though it's a quick break, the glass of wine makes me feel like I've got me some shiny new tires and a full tank o' gasoline.

@#&$! attachments!

I settled for my seltzer with pure, unsweetened pomegranate juice. The juice is expensive (though not compared to wine) so it feels like a treat.

No, it's not the same. Yes, I'll survive.

Next stop.... Day 4!
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Day 2 of QW Cleanse: Attachments

People make fun of me for being Miss Polly Positive but I'm not going to sugar-coat this one for you (pun intended.) Day 2 of my Quantum Wellness Cleanse sucked.

Kathy Freston actually warned me in her book that kicking caffeine could cause fatigue, irritibility and headaches at first. Check, check and double check. The headache was the worst. How could I have forgotten this from the last time I gave up caffeine? I guess if a woman can "forget" the pain of pushing something the size of watermelon out of a part of her body which is normally the size of a small pea, anything is possible.

To add to today's fun I had some dental work, a few stressful meetings and a deadline on a big project.

After work, I had a birthday party to attend. I went prepared with my little bag o' goodies, i.e. vegan butter for corn-on-the-cob, hummus, some awesome gluten-free crackers and my seltzer water. They had a fruit and olive tray which was great.

Still, no cake for me. And no wine.
This will shock everyone who knows me -- actually, it surprised me -- but the cake was harder to resist than the wine. (And don't let me kid you, I desperately wanted a glass of wine after the day I had!) I literally had to leave the room at one point.

The great thing about having a four-year old boy is that they don't sit in one place for very long. Chasing Spiderman around was a welcome distraction.

As I meditate on my struggles of the day, I'm gaining deeper understanding of what this "cleanse" is meant to do. There's a twinkle of awareness appearing far beyond the idea of simply cleansing the body or anything to do with "dieting" at all.

Here's the thing: A central theme to this blog and my "Personal Strategic Management" methodology is that we can find a sense of inner peace and security of self which allows us to be truly happy and healthy no matter what is happening externally.

I'm starting to see that despite my passionate belief in this philosophy, I actually have some major external dependencies. As my sucky day clearly illustrated, I'm attached to my coffee in the morning, glass of wine in the evening and cake... well, anytime!

This awareness makes me more excited to continue this journey. It gives me the energy that I may well need to get through a few more days of "detox" symptoms.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Day 1: Leaning Into Quantum Wellness

Usually I put off starting any kind of diet until a Monday or the 1st of the month. Or after the next big event. Or the New Year. (You get the idea.)

But somehow after I wrote my first post I just wanted to dive right in. Carpe diem and all that.

Day 1 of my very own 21-day Quantum Wellness Cleanse started with reading through the book again and grocery shopping. Technically the plan starts with three days of food journaling but I was already ahead of the game on that front.
Food shopping was interesting. FUN even. I went without kids which was a plus. They are usually pretty well-behaved thanks to my practice of threatening to sing if they get out of line. Still, it was nice to walk the aisles without "Yankee Doodle Dandy" on the tip of my tongue.

We don't have a Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe's nearby, but I have to say the local Shaw's Supermarket really had everything I was looking for (and more.) I was in there for about an hour and spent $90. Mind you I just went food shopping for the family yesterday, so we were already well stocked in fresh veggies and such.

I successfully resisted the lure of a $2 off coupon hanging on the neck of my (I mean the) KJ Chardonnay, without heart palpitations or anything.
Aside from the "health food" aisle where I found lots of stuff, I was pretty stoked to see so many doable options in the "ethnic foods" aisle. I love Indian food for example, so I'm excited for an excuse to eat more of it.
Some items had clear check boxes which helped but mostly I had to read and decipher labels. Some of it is still pretty confusing, especially the whole gluten thing. I know I've already made a couple of mistakes despite my best efforts. It will get easier. No worries.

Another good surprise was to see how many things (without a face) have protein. I was worried about not getting enough protein over the next three weeks so it feels good to be free of that myth.

It's only the first day I know, but eating was no problem today. I won't bore you with a play by play of everything I ate except to say it was pretty much what I usually eat with some substitutions... brown rice bread instead of wheat bread; vegan butter; a gluten free, sugar free meal bar instead of my usual Clif bar; decaf tea instead of coffee, etc.

I even went to a family BBQ and was able to eat plenty with a little planning. I often choose veggie burgers over cow burgers so that wasn't a big shift. Sadly, I discovered that my usual brand is not gluten-free. Bummer!

Not drinking socially today didn't bother me at all. I have another occasion tomorrow night so I'll let you know if my "ease" was just a fluke.

The other highlight today was taking the kids blueberry picking for the first time ever. I have to admit that I might not have gone if I wasn't so eager to stock up on "approved" food. I definitely gained something with the field trip today. And I'm not just talking about the 3 lbs of yummy blueberries. We had a really nice time and will definitely be doing more "picking" in the future.

Knowing that change is hard and people usually perceive change as loss, I'm making a special effort to note what I am gaining vs. giving up with this experience.

Carpe diem & stay tuned!

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Introducing Quantum Wellness

The other day I listened to an interview on OprahXM between Mehmet Oz and Kathy Freston, author of "Quantum Wellness: A Practical and Spritual Guide to Health and Happiness".

The idea of "quantum wellness" seriously caught my interest so I went out and got the book. Talk about validation! It summarizes so much of what I believe, even when admittedly I don't practice it 100% of the time. (Progress, not perfection right?)

It would be easy for me to write an entire (long) blog entry enthusiastically describing and supporting the philosophy and exercises. Suffice it to say I highly recommend Kathy Freston's book!

For now, I'm focusing in on the "jump start cleanse" which is covered in chapter five and then much more detail in Kathy's follow-up book, "Quantum Wellness Cleanse: The 21-Day Essential Guide to Healing Your Mind, Body and Spirit".

When I hear "cleanse" in this context I instantly think of diets involving concoctions I might have drank on a dare (or for $10) in the fourth grade.

Luckily, that's not what this is about.

The major "DO" part of the exercise is to give up these five things for 21 days, or as long as you can make it:

1. alcohol
2. caffeine
3. sugar
4. gluten
5. animal products

When I mentioned this list in the lunchroom at work the other day, someone said the exact same thing Oprah Winfrey wrote on her blog which was,"What's left?"

As I contemplate embarking on this exercise myself, it's interesting how I struggle to prioritize my potential ability to give up these five things for any length of time. Here are my first impressions:

1. Alcohol: I hate to admit it publically, but this is the one which stands out to me as the most difficult. Three weeks without my boyfriends, Kendall Jackson and Robert Mondavi?? I'm not sure I can do it. In the past ten years, the longest I've gone (consecutively) without a glass of wine is about five days. The exceptions being during pregnancies, which if you know my story, actually was a fair amount of the time. Sadly, getting knocked up is no longer an option. I suppose my thought process alone should be a sign that I need to lay off the sauce. It doesn't help that my husband is already conspiring to keep me drinking -- for his wellness.

2. Caffeine: This one should be easy. I gave up caffeine for three weeks last year because it was causing this ridiculous breast pain. Eventually I went back to one cup of coffee a day, a drastic reduction in my previous consumption. I *think* I can give up the one cup. We'll see I guess!

3. Sugar: I don't think I'll have a problem with this on a day-to-day basis since I'm already pretty careful about my sugar consumption. It will be more difficult if there are a couple of good parties during the 21 days. I likes me some birthday cake and all. Then again, I won't be drinking so maybe that will make it easier to control my urge to go bobbing for frosted flowers.

4. Gluten: My kids' babysitter recently gave up gluten and I see "gluten free" all the time on food labels. I've heard people say they solved multiple health problems by giving up gluten. But really, I have no idea yet how this will go. Isn't gluten in like, everything? I think I saw a commercial for gluten free air recently. (Kidding.) This will be an area of education for me which I'm strangely excited about.

5. Animal Products: Lots of friends and family members eat from the "no animal zone" so this shouldn't be intimidating at all. I even hosted my sister's vegan wedding reception at my house last summer. During the planning for this event I learned a lot. For example, did you know that there are various "animal stuffs" stashed in all kinds of unexpected foods and ingredients? (Ew!) My little bit of extra insight actually makes this seem more daunting somehow. That said, of the "foul five" this is the one I'd actually most like to keep as a permanent change.

My friends want to know why oh why I would want to do this "Quantum Wellness Cleanse." Aside from being truly interested in the concept overall, I'm curious to see if I can do it.

If I can do it, will it make a noticable difference in my overall well-being, inside and out? How will the "doing" affect my "being"? It is already providing insight into my "attachments," as Kathy says. I'm curious to see further how these specific attachments affect my ability to maximize both my physical and spiritual health.

In addition, I'm hoping it may inform and help you. Or at least entertain you with the high jinks which is sure to ensue. STAY TUNED!
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Salt in the Wound: A Three Step Formula for Prevention and Healing

My son (aka "Spiderman") has asthma, primarily induced by a host of environmental allergies. It's one of the few things I can blame on my husband Rob's otherwise perfect genetics. We work hard to help keep the allergies, and therefore the asthma, under control. The worst "offenders" are household pets and dust mites. The latter is kept at bay with special covers for Spidey's mattress and pillow, chemical treatments to rugs and curtains and lots of cleaning in general.

The pet exposure can be trickier to control. Although we don't have animals around, it's amazing how many people do and how quickly a reaction can occur before we even realise exposure has happened.

Still, with the "episodes" fewer and farther between, we decided that less daily medication was preferable at one point and took Spiderman off the allergy meds. Luckily one of the first signs before the wheezing, is a traveling rash of itchy hives. It may seem strange to call hives "lucky" but fair warning before someone has an asthma attack is a good thing indeed.

Once when I was away on business Rob noticed a rash brewing. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that there had been cats at a horse barn my son had visited with friends earlier in the day. (He's actually not allergic to horses or hay so the field trip would have been otherwise risk-free.)

My husband quickly gave Spiderman the appropriate dose of medication via nebulizer which keeps the wheezies away. However, with the allergy itself left untreated, the itchy rash persisted. Poor Spidey scratched and scratched.

Knowing that we sometimes give Benadryl for allergic reactions, Rob found some of the medicine in liquid spray form.

Unfortunately, as soon as the first couple of squirts hit Spiderman's skin, he started screaming in pain. Where he had been scratching, the broken skin was left vulnerable to the harsh sting of the Benadryl spray.

Ultimately a cool wet cloth, some time and a dose of the correct (oral) medication, plus some hugs and kisses of course, made everything right again.

I was walking through a DC airport when I got this "play-by-play" on my cell phone. Even though it was a relatively minor mishap, I felt helpless and anxious to get home. Maybe guilty for leaving in the first place. My mind formulated an unhealthy list of "shoulda, woulda, coulda's." My heart became heavier as I remembered other times when I'd not been home to provide the care needed.

Not to discount the capability and the feelings of dads out there, but there is a unique myriad of emotions which working moms experience, especially those of us who must travel for business.

As I reached my gate and tried to find a seat that didn't look sticky, I was keenly aware of my physical fatigue. The effects of my hectic travel schedule, too much work and way too much food and drink in the days prior further added to a growing cloud of regret.

My flight was delayed. Of course. As I sat, I felt anxiety and annoyance rising to the surface like little hives. Despite my awareness of this growing negativity, I couldn't stop it. Or more honestly, I chose not to. My drained mental, physical and emotional state left fertile ground for acrimony to spread.

Arms crossed, I observed (among other irritations) the hostile, rude behavior of other passengers who more outwardly expressed their frustrations. Someone rushed past me in a huff and accidentally whacked me with their carry bag. I fumed. I judged.

I scratched.

On the plane with a little space and time, I kinda knew I needed to get a grip. The negative energy was clawing at me. "Just gotta get home," I thought desperately.

Each minor occurrence sent bolts of anguish.... from the plane, to baggage claim, to trying to find my damn car (I could have sworn I parked in "Constitution" but after 40 minutes realised it was actually "Minuteman"), to the two hour drive in rush hour traffic to home. I felt that at any moment I might just burst into tears. I was raw.

Eventually I got home. Home sweet home. The one place I most wanted to be in the world. The thing to make everything else better. The Benadryl spray to finally free me of the persistent, irritating rash. (You see where this is going, right?)

Instead, little things kept happening which made it sting. As I should have expected, my young son tested the boundaries to see if the usual rules would be enforced "after-mommy-travel" as they had "before-mommy-travel." My daugher literally attached herself to me from the moment I got in the door, not even wanting me to go the bathroom alone. Most of the time I don't mind, but I swear that child is part Velcro.

"What is UP with everyone??" I seethed to myself. Even my husband's breathing was like nails on a chalk board. I found myself painfully impatient and intolerant. I burned.

Suddenly I remembered that quote which basically says if everyone around you is annoying the crap out of you... it's you, (i.e. if you meet more than two jerks in a day, chances are pretty good you're one of them.)

Clearly I needed a "time out" and some serious internal medicine.

"I know I just got home," I pleaded with Rob. "But if I don't take 45 minutes to myself right now, things are going to get really ugly around here."

(How I could have used my "Wanna Get Away?" strategies!)

I locked myself in the bathroom, filled my jacuzzi tub and breathed slowly.....deeply. The knots started to untangle. Even the loud whir of the tub jets provided immediate solace. I ran through several simple mediations to ground myself and visually sweep my racing thoughts out the door.

There's a meditation which I learned from an amazing acting teacher (and one of my first mentors), Richard Toma. I'll post it more detail another time, including my initial experience in 1987. It involves finding one's "inner sanctuary" and "spirit guide." If you're not into this sort of thing, don't be freaked out. It's actually a great tool for finding peace and the answers we need which are often within us if we take the time to listen.

I went to that (finally) calm place inside and waited.

Believe it or not, it was only at this moment that I made the whole Benadryl spray connection. Instead of a usually peaceful dawning from my spirit guide, I heard a Homer Simpson "DOH!"

With this correlation now in mind, I realised that there was a point earlier in the day, maybe earlier in the week, when I could have taken preventative action. This wasn't another "shoulda, woulda, coulda" moment. Yet, I thought of the steps I so often teach others:

1. Internal --> transform thoughts, feelings, words, feeding only positive energy

2. External --> engage in healthy, healing actions

3. Support --> ask for help, whether it's feedback, physical assistance, accountability or just the time and space for #1 & 2 to be possible

It's a formula which I know works no matter where one is mentally, physically or emotionally.

Reclining in the tub, I made a promise to myself that I would keep this formula front of mind for my own life. Gosh, practicing what I preach can be a real biotch sometimes. But like anyone I guess, simple steps make it easier. Internal. External. Support. This, I can remember.

At some point before I do the "book version" of this blog, I'd love to come up with a cool acronym to make my formula even easier for people to remember, especially at those crucial, stressful moments. Like the "ABC" procedure for CPR: Airway. Breathing. Circulation. Comparitively, "IES" isn't nearly sexy enough. Luckily this stage of my journey is about progress, not perfection. But I'll be thinking about it....

In the meantime, the next time you start to feel the emotional hives popping up, you find yourself scratching, or even if you're starting to wheeze... think about your plan:

1. Internal --> Transform thoughts, feelings, words to the positive.

2. External --> Take healthy actions.

3. Support --> Ask for help.

PS: #3 is really good for hugs and kisses too.
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