Archive for May, 2011

Green Tea – My New Best Friend

The Community Cleanse is a great way to give our bodies the break it needs for us to become aware of everyday foods that might be affecting us negatively. I know I have said it before, but I don’t think I’m going back to coffee. If you have read through my blog, you know that I switched to decaf between the first and second cleanses (See Another Cleanse Down). Well that didn’t work out so well. After the January cleanse, I found myself slowly slipping back into the caffeinated world of happy baristas and perfectly foamed organic lattes. “One shot or two?” she asked. Once hooked, I wondered how the nice barista could ask such a question. I replied, “Most certainly two shots … of course.” 

My mission is to find what feels healthy and moderate for me, long-term. In seeking moderation, I’m learning that feeling healthy trumps what I think should be moderate. I have the idea that one coffee per day is reasonable. I mean it’s not like I’m gulping down cup after cup like some people I know. But every time I start another cleanse, the withdrawals from coffee are brutal. Should I be experiencing these grave, negative effects from caffeine if I’m ingesting it moderately? I feel irritated and tired (so tired) and miss coffee more than anything.

The point is; I feel better without it. Many of you have told me you’ve noticed positive changes in your moods, weight, energy levels and illness related symptoms while on The Community Cleanse. Have you determined what is contributing to these improvements? Can you continue to limit the substance, or omit it from your diet after the cleanse is over?

This is my third, four-week cleanse, in eight months. I know for sure—without a doubt—I feel less anxious, moody, agitated, and I have less stomach irritation without my daily caffeine fix. Sure, I also feel less awake and less fun (coffee makes me hyper and much more entertaining), but I’m learning to have a good time with green tea. My relationship with green tea is new, but it’s growing on me. This time, (and I might eat my words later) I am going to stick to green tea and give up coffee (for now). Green tea and me get along better and we don’t have the same dependency issues. But coffee and me have a history—a past—and lots of memories. Okay, maybe I’ll have one latte per week, on the weekend, as a special treat. Yes, yes, yes, I’ll have one per week, but I am not going to let this creep up and grow into the same full-blown every day ritual. I used to think a life without coffee was perhaps not worth living—so one step at a time. Green tea, my new friend, I hope you’re ready because you have big shoes to fill.

Nuts for Cookies

Almond-Carob Cookies

These cookies are delicious! They make me feel like I’m cheating, even though they’re gluten free and incorporate very little agave nectar as sweetener. But beware these cookies are addictive, and not inexpensive. Almond flour is used as the base and can be found at health food stores. Last time I made these cookies I ran out of almond flour and used a ½ cup of spelt flour instead. They were just as good. So if you want to keep costs down, substitute a ½ cup of almond flour with a ½ cup of spelt flour.

You weight watchers say, “Oh no, these cookies are pure nuts—pure fat.” Yes it’s true, almonds and pecans are high in fat, but good fat and studies have shown that those of us who eat nuts are thinner. Nuts are filling and satisfying, they have ample vitamins and minerals to keep our bodies from wanting to consume empty calories. According to the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, “After six months, those on the almond added diet had greater reductions in weight, body fat, total body water, and systolic blood pressure. Those eating almonds had a 62 percent greater reduction in body mass index score, 50 percent greater reduction in waist circumference, and 56 percent greater reduction in body fat compared to those on the low calorie complex carbohydrate diet.” So enjoy and if you’re trying to lose weight (fat), eat a few of them, not the whole batch in one sitting.

Ashley says, "I'm watching you. Don't eat too many yummy cookies."

This is my friend Ashley’s recipe. You’re going to want to thank her.

Almond-Carob Cookies

Makes between 12 – 18

  • 1 ¼ cups blanched almond flour
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ cup grapeseed oil
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup carob chips (I like more)
  • ½ cup pecans, finely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine almond flour, sea salt, and baking soda. In a small bowl, whisk grapeseed oil, agave nectar and vanilla together. Mix wet ingredients into dry. Mix in pecans and carob chips.

2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Form dough into ½ to 1-inch balls onto prepared baking sheet and press gently down with a fork. They can be high cookies – you do not have to press them flat because they fall apart. (Wet your hands with water if batter is too sticky when forming cookies.) Bake for about 6-10 minutes, depending on size, until golden brown. Cool.

Sources: http://www.naturalnews.com/025427_almonds_nuts_health.html

Stressful Fat

Stressed out? Even when everything is moving right along just fine, I find a way to embody pressure, urgency and worry. Some days, I power on like a freight train about to blow its engine, and forget to slow down enough to release the percolating tension. I forget to stretch and breathe.

When we’re stressed, we create a surge of adrenaline that forces our bodies to revert back to our primate instincts of fight or flight, like flee from a tiger kind of fright. Regardless of whether the stress is actually physical or psychological, our bodies expect us to literally get up and fight the stressor head on or run quickly the other way. Stress signals the body that we’re going to need more energy to survive. As the adrenaline surges through our blood, cortisol—the stress hormone—is also release by the adrenal glands. Cortisol signals the body that it’s time to replenish the utilized energy. But unless we actually did something physical to avoid the stressor, we didn’t burn any extra calories. Regardless, cortisol tells us we’re hungry—really, really hungry. So we eat more. As long as we remain stressed, the cortisol swims around in the body, continues to make us think we need to replenish this energy we never used. Cortisol also makes us retain body fat. According to Fat Flush for Life, by Ann Louise Gittleman, “Deep abdominal fat contains four times more cortisol receptors than do other fat sites, cortisol is drawn to it.”

Psychological stress is important and is often our indicator that we’re either on the right or wrong path. Sometimes stress takes a strong hold when we’re too excited about something—we’re working too hard, too fast, juggling too many demands, and trying to accomplish too much at one time. Sometimes stress is present to alert us of how unhappy we are given our current circumstances—maybe we really do need to flee. We’re all going to experience stress. There’s no avoiding it. The solution is to figure out ways to keep stress to a minimum and when stress rears its tense head, incorporate ways to decrease its negative effects. By middle-age our cortisol levels naturally increase and make it more difficult for us to keep off the belly fat. Even more reason to incorporate the following stress reducers.  

Exercise is necessary because if our bodies are expecting to fight or run, exercising regularly burns off the calories created from cortisol. Feeling stressed out at work? Hit the floor and do ten push-ups, fifteen squats, or twenty lunges. Walk at lunch, swinging your arms side-to-side. To ward off fat and remain healthy, stress needs to be burned out of the body.      

Sleep is underrated. Studies show that we need an average of 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep every night to keep stress levels down. Cortisol levels increase, as the number of hours of sleep decrease. “According to a landmark sleep study in the Journal of American Medical Association, if you sleep between 7.5 and 8.5 hours per night, you will secrete half the cortisol than those who get 6.5 hours or less.” Also, with too little sleep, the body is also unable to metabolize carbohydrates effectively.

Eat healthy foods and limit foods that spike cortisol levels, like caffeine. The Community Cleanse eliminates all cortisol forming foods to help our bodies better relax. See post – Coffee Break. Research also shows that dieting can raise cortisol by about 18%. If we’re interested in losing weight (fat) than it’s best to stick with the solid three-meals-a-day-plan and incorporate healthy snacks when needed. Our bodies are stressed if we’re not getting what we need in the way of nutrients. Take a multi-vitamin with at least 50mg of the B-vitamins.

Meditation helps us slow down and has been proven to decrease stress. I know, who has time to meditate? Before an appointment, with five to ten minutes to spare, try sitting in your car or somewhere else, without distractions–like music. Close your eyes and think of nothing. Given this task, most of us will think about everything. Breathe and relax—relax for five minutes. It’s pretty amazing what five minutes of deep breathing and simply sitting can do for stress levels. Once you get the hang of this, feel the tension melting away from the fat cells in your stomach. Of course longer meditations on a more regular basis will carry even stronger benefits.  

Yoga states its goal as wanting to “attain a state of perfect tranquility and spiritual insight”. Now I’m sure I’ll never use the word perfect and me together in a sentence, but yoga certainly has a way of releasing stress and helping us feel more peaceful. Breathing, stretching, meditation and mindfulness make up a yoga practice. Mindfulness helps us to breathe and stretch (figuratively) through stressful situations. It lends us perspective, keeps our blood pressure from rising and signaling it’s time to fight or flee.

 Journaling is a great way to get the psychological stress out of the mind and onto paper. Write it down. Let any feelings of anger, hurt, and frustration become your journal’s problem. Our journals can handle it better than our bodies.

 Happy Cleansing everyone!

Sources:

Fat Flush for Life, The Year-Round Super Detox Plan to Boost your Metabolism and Keep the Weight Off Permanently, by Ann Louise Gittleman, Da Capo Press, 2010.

http://www.prevention.com/7waystobeatstressfat/list/8.shtml

The Diet Conundrum

There are countless diets that claim to be the quick and easy weight loss solution. We have the lose fourteen pounds in two weeks diet, the 2-step plan diet, the high-protein diet, the low-calorie diet, the fasting (no-eating) diet, the rub this cream on your belly diet and so on. These diets all claim to work long-term. They claim to be easy and effective, requiring almost no work or lifestyle change. Follow the diet for the specified amount of time and poof—almost like magic—you’re thin (again, or for the first time in your life).

If this is true and it’s really that easy, how is it possible that 34% of Americans are obese and almost 33% (one-third) are overweight? Today, obesity affects more than 72 million Americans. That leaves only one-third of the population in a healthy weight range. If these lose weight quick diets work, why are we getting fatter? Rates of obesity have increased by 11% over the past twenty years. But since 1990, a third of us have been as overweight as we are today. We have all these wonderful easy diets that work, yet the statistics continue to increase? I’m not a trained mathematician or statistician, but this doesn’t make sense to me.

Most would agree it takes time to gain weight. It doesn’t typically happen overnight. It might feel like it does. It might feel like yesterday we were twenty-three—stuffing our faces with chicken wings, cheesy garlic bread and beer—only to wake up at thirty-five and discover our bellies are soft and our rears don’t fit into anything we own anymore. Or maybe we’re closer to sixty and look back at pictures of ourselves, unable to recognize who that person is. The overindulging has typically been going on for years, and years, and at some point our bodies finally give way to the laziness of our choices. Our bodies give way to the toxicity of our choices. So why once we realize we have gained weight are we in such a hurry to lose weight? Why the rush?

I too would love to believe in the quick-fix, take-a-pill, don’t-change-a-thing-except-maybe-don’t-eat-carbs or maybe-just-don’t-eat-at-all, diets? I would also love to believe in fairy tales and Santa Claus, but the truth is I have to work at my relationship with Price Charming and I have to buy the Christmas presents and even wrap them every year. It’s work.

I know … I know … it sucks to be told the truth—that losing weight comes down to eating healthy and exercising. I know … finding time to exercise is hard and vegetables don’t seem to taste as good as other foods. But it’s pretty amazing how our taste buds change and how we find the extra time once we’re on the realistic road to healthy weight loss. Healthy meals need not be boring and believe it or not, walking is considered exercise. The sooner we understand our happiness is about health—a healthy body mass index (BMI) and a healthy weight—we’re on the right path to looking and feeling great, no matter our age or number of pounds to lose. First step—The Community Cleanse.

Happy cleansing cleansers!

Today’s Really the Day

Last night, when I was lying in bed, I was so excited about today … the first day of The Community Cleanse. I was excited because I’ve completed two of these cleanses in the past eight months and know how amazing I end up feeling. I’ve figured out that about every three months, my body starts to feel a little more sluggish, my mind is a little less sharp, and my middle area is a little looser than I would like it to be. I think one of the goals in life is to live free from addictions. I feel it’s necessary to break our perpetual habits—even if only briefly—of consuming sugar, dairy, white flour, processed / refined foods, caffeine and alcohol. The only addiction I like to brag about having is my romance with vegetables.     

So last night, I was dreaming about how ready I am to give my body another cleansing break, and then I woke up and realized I can’t have my daily latte. I made it all the way to Oxbow, the indoor market where I normally get my coffee, thinking maybe I should just have one anyway. I said to Jay, “I need a latte to make it through today. Maybe I should start the cleanse tomorrow. Plus, I have book club tonight and always have a glass of wine with the ladies, and then tomorrow is Cinco de Mayo and we’re going out with our softball team. Maybe it’s actually more realistic to start the cleanse on Friday.”

The truth is the perfect time to start The Community Cleanse does not exist. Even though others are doing it at the same time as us, it doesn’t make up for the fact that we have to actually follow the guidelines and do the work. There are always going to be get-togethers, wine events, parties, and work-socials. Oh no, that reminds me … I have a wine and cheese writers event on Friday night. Maybe I should start the cleanse on Saturday? See what I mean? I could go on and on, I’m sure.

But since I chose to start The Community Cleanse today and even told everyone I was starting today, I suppose I really am starting today … even if kicking and screaming. I’m still going to my book club tonight, I’m still going out for Cinco de Mayo tomorrow, I’m still going to the wine and cheese event on Friday, and damn it, I’m still going to have fun. I might be a little tired for the first few days without my coffee. But I know what to expect over the next month if I just stick to it; increased energy, more positive moods, happier thoughts, a clearer and more peaceful mind, a cleaner feeling body, I’ll lose weight and look thinner, feel less bloated and in the end I’ll be pretty darn proud of myself.

So if today didn’t work out for you, no problem, choose again. Maybe Monday works as a better start date. Regardless, just pick a day and stick to it. It’s not easy but I can assure you, it’s well worth it.

Happy cleansing Healthy Junkies!

Five-Day Meal Plan

Get Ready Community Cleansers

Tomorrow, May 4th, is the first day of yet another Community Cleanse. If tomorrow doesn’t work for you, pick another day and stick to it! Regardless of your start date, when carrying out my goals on The Community Cleanse, I find it easier to make decisions on what my husband and I are going to eat ahead of time. Below I have made my shopping list for the first five days. Since we will be avoiding all sugar, white flour, dairy, caffeine, alcohol and processed / hydrogenated foods, I feel the need to be a little more prepared to ensure we succeed. If the following meal suggestions don’t send you drooling, try variations on your own. Don’t be afraid to just throw healthy ingredients together. There are so many delicious and nutritious cleanse friendly meals to discover.

Healthy Junkies who have completed other Community Cleanses often say, “The cleanse was actually much easier than I expected it to be. I didn’t really miss the omitted foods that much, okay, well maybe just the coffee (or __________ fill in the blank for your main weakness). But it wasn’t too bad. I just needed to plan ahead more often.”

Hopefully my five-day meal list will inspire some new ideas. Regardless, be prepared to read labels and start cooking a little more frequently over the next weeks. Let me repeat that one; be prepared to read all labels. Most of the recipes have links to the blog posts with recipe instructions. Also, I try to buy organic and local as much as possible, but I don’t write organic in front of all ingredients listed.

Breakfast

I’m going to stick to green breakfast smoothies over the next five days and then switch to steel-cut oats, later next week. I intend to mix up the ingredients and make the smoothies a little different every day.

List of ingredients for green breakfast smoothies: Bananas (one for two people), frozen broccoli, frozen peas, frozen blueberries, spinach, kale, apples, oranges, red peppers, wheat grass powder, raw almonds or pecans or walnuts, flaxseed powder. I use water as the liquid.

Lunch and Dinner

Lunch and dinner recipes are lumped together in the following section and feed two people, for two meals each. Since I’m going to prepare for the first five days of The Community Cleanse, we need a total of ten meals each. But we’re eating every meal twice, so I only need five different recipes. I have no problem with leftovers. I like to eat my previous dinners, for lunch or dinner the next day. This limits my time in the kitchen, allowing me the time to do other things—like write, exercise, or read.

Giant Salad

See post https://thehealthyjunkie.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/a-day-of-eating-on-the-community-cleanse/

I’m going to process enough veggies and toast enough pumpkin seeds for two salads each–two meals each. I’m adding carrots, instead of tomato, to the veggie mix and incorporating hard-boiled eggs instead of fresh turkey as protein. I’m also going to add brown rice and black beans for an extra giant, mammoth style salad. Since I already know we’re going to be having brown rice at dinner as well, I’m going to make lots of brown rice ahead of time.

List of ingredients for giant salad: Baby greens (spinach or lettuce), beets, carrots, zucchini, red pepper, chicken, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, Annie’s Goddess dressing (another cleanse friendly salad dressing or make your own with apple cider vinegar, olive oil, and lemon). I use my food processor.

Chicken Tonight (two meals)

We buy organic whole chicken already cooked—I find it faster and easier. I’ll use the extra brown rice I cooked at lunch, or last night in preparation for tonight’s meal. Stir-fry broccoli and asparagus in a little olive oil and garlic. Add Bragg Liquid Aminos (tastes like soy sauce) to brown rice and veggies. 

List of ingredients for Chicken Tonight: Whole organic cooked or raw chicken, brown rice, broccoli, asparagus, olive oil, garlic, Bragg Liquid Aminos.

Butternut Squash Soup and Veggie Brown Rice Couscous Salad

See posts: https://thehealthyjunkie.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/butternut-squash-apple-soup/ and https://thehealthyjunkie.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/vegetable-brown-rice-couscous-salad/

I’m going to prepare both of these and eat them together as a meal. I expect I might end up with more than enough food for two meals each. I sure hope so because I find a small bowl of soup or couscous salad to be a perfect snack.

Ingredients for Butternut Squash Soup: Yellow onion, 1 rib celery, carrot, olive oil, butternut squash, 1 tart green apple, chicken broth, cinnamon, all spice, sea salt, pepper. I use my food processor.

Ingredients for Brown Rice Couscous Salad: Red pepper, orange pepper, zucchini, asparagus, sweet potato, Swiss chard, garlic, 1 box of brown rice couscous, 1 can of adzuki beans or chickpeas, sesame oil, olive oil, sea salt, pepper.

Salmon (or other Fish), fried onions, veggie stir-fry and millet

I love fish. It’s healthy and salmon is high in EFAs. It’s also very satisfying—filling. I don’t like to feel hungry when cleansing. Bake salmon or other fish in the oven. Try grating organic lemon rind onto the fish (Meyer lemon is sweet and delicious). Stir-fry onions (caramelized) in a little olive oil and eat on top of fish. I add Bragg’s to my millet and veggie stir-fry. I mix dill (spice) into a tablespoon of Grape Seed Oil Vegenaise and eat this on top of my fish. Delicious!

Ingredient for Salmon Meal: Salmon or another type of fish, organic lemon, onions, red pepper, yellow zucchini squash, chopped kale, millet, Bragg’s Amino Acid, dill spice, Grape Seed Oil Vegenaise “mayonnaise”. I use my iron skillet to sauté the veggies—it gives them a nice charred flavor.

Pesto Pasta

This is by far the healthiest pesto around. I make a pesto pizza as well. But this week I’m in the mood for pasta. I’m going to put scoops of the pesto over my kamut pasta and then top with chopped tomatoes and either toasted pine nuts or toasted pumpkin seeds. You can try soy parmesan cheese on top too!

Feeling adventurous? Try dandelion greens instead of arugula (warning—this makes it bitterer). The beauty is this pesto is ridiculously jam-packed with greens. You’ll feel your energy rising! 

https://thehealthyjunkie.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/calling-all-healthy-junkies-recipes/

Ingredients for Pesto Pasta: Arugula, kale, frozen peas, basil, olive oil, walnuts, lemons, garlic, kamut pasta, tomatoes, pine nuts or pumpkin seeds, sea salt, pepper. I use my food processor for the pesto.

Snacks

My main-stay snacks are brown rice crackers with hummus, and almond butter smothered onto Gala apples. Sometimes I need to carry easy cleanse friendly calories with me so I always have granola bars at arm’s reach like Larabars—Ginger Snap and Cashew Cookie. I’ll also have extra leftovers from the meals listed above that I can use as snacks. I have pure pomegranate juice and sparkling water if I need a “drink”.

Ingredients for snacks: Brown rice crackers, Mary’s Gone Crackers, hummus, almond butter, Gala apples, Larabars, pomegranate juice, sparkling water.

Deserts

I’ve found it better to have something sweet in the house that is cleanse-worthy, instead of nothing. At times, my sweet tooth shows its fangs and I’m afraid of what I would eat if I didn’t have an alternative on hand. Most of the time, all I need is a taste to pull me through like a heaping tablespoon of Luna and Larry’s “Ice Cream”. Larabar granola bars can also taste like desert.

Ingredients for deserts: Luna and Larry’s Vanilla Island Coconut Bliss “Ice Cream”.

Supplements and Teas

I have 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water every morning (very cleansing). Let’s stick to the essential supplements I’m going to take; a good multi-vitamin and mineral complex, vitamin C with bioflavanoids (needed to absorb the vitamin C), fish oil (EFAs), extra calcium/magnesium/vitamin D. I need to buy green tea and other herbal teas (like dandelion root, nettle, horsetail) to replace my coffee.