Detox: Day 20

The way you think, the way you behave, the way you eat, can influence your life by 30 to 50 years. (Deepak Chopra).

Well folks, I’m on day 20 of the detox. The time has flown by! I can’t believe that it’s been nearly 3 weeks already. I’d like to fill you in on how I’ve been feeling, what I’ve been up to, some of the challenges I’ve faced so far and what’s next.

Why would I do this?

When I first began the detox/cleanse, I was groggy, tired ALL the time, no “get-up and go”. It sucked. Even the thought of walking to the bus stop in the mornings seemed daunting (moreso than usual). I knew that I needed to do something. Fast. So I decided to do a 28 day detox cleanse eliminating wheat, dairy, refined sugars, caffeine, alcohol/drugs and processed foods from my diet. In exchange, I’d eat more veggies, fruits, brown rice, lean meats and lots of water and green and herbal teas.

The first few days, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts were a bit tough but once I got passed the first few initial adjustment days, I noticed that I had more energy, felt more focused and began to feel more motivated. Now that I’m on day 20, I feel even better! More invigorated, sleeping better (going to bed earlier and waking up earlier – even before my alarm!) and more active. I’m in a better mood (more often than not, unless I’m overtired or starving). I’m more focused at work; I find that I’m not as easily distracted by others around me or tempted to take breaks to read the news, check Facebook etc. (as often – I am human, after all!). What else? Oh, because I’m more active (running in the mornings and recently doing hot yoga), I’ve noticed my muffin tops are decreasing. Always exciting! Especially since I’ll be in a bathing suit in a few short weeks on the beaches of Fort Meyers. And, the other thing that I’m loving is the more FREE TIME! Because I’m not going out all the time anymore, I’m not hung over the next day. My weekends are free to spend time with friends, catch up on errands, housework, blogging, running, hot yoga, travelling, shopping, researching, you name it. It’s been great – very rejuvinating.

Having all of this free time meant that I could really indulge in things that I’ve been putting off, mainly, waking up earlier to go for a run in the mornings before work. Sounds horrible? Actually, at first, to be honest – yes…it was the worst. My body didn’t even know what the heck was going on but by the time I dragged myself out the door and onto that treadmill and finished my 20 minutes, I was just starting to wake up. The next time, it got easier. And easier. Before I knew it I was waking up before my alarm to go for a run! I had more energy throughout the day and slept like a log. I’ve now developed a love for running first thing in the morning! For anyone who knows me they know that the snooze button and I are joined at the hip, so this is huge! The other thing that I got back into, was hot yoga. I used to do it quite a bit about a year or so ago, but stopped going after my trip to India and when I got sick. BUT Goodlife Fitness had an incredible deal on Living Social: 5 classes for $15. YES PLEASE! I’ve been to two classes and I’m hooked! I’m considering buying a class pass when I get back from Florida. For me, it’s great – I sweat out all the toxins and stretch out muscles that are either cramped from sitting at a desk all day or tight calves/hamstrings/hip flexor/glute (I’m a mess) from running. I’ve also purchased a deal for spinning classes that I’ll be using post-Florida. PUMPED!

Other than exercising and sleeping better, I’ve been saving a lot of money. Not going out and eating out all the time have saved me a pretty penny. Instead, I go out during the day on the weekend. During the week, I’ve been going to concerts, meeting friends for tea, checking out comedy at the club around the corner from me, going to the movies, catching up on reading, catching up on tv and planning trips. Just because I’m not going out on Friday or Saturday night does not mean that my social life is on hold. If anything, I’ve been busier than ever! It’s all how you spend your time.

It really has made me think: How will this activity impact me?

This all sounds lovely, right? But let me tell you…these past 20 days have not been without their challenges. For instance, it was my mom’s birthday last weekend. You should have seen the look of shock, confusion, disapointment and more shock when I declined an alcoholic beverage at dinner and then declined a piece of cake for dessert. My parents reacted as though they were suddenly transported in some parallel universe. I wish we had more kids in our family to take the heat off of me not drinking and eating sugar. Yes, these are the main struggles in my life right now. First world problems, anyone?

Another challenge was passing up a $10 all-the-beer-you-can-drink-before-you-pass-out-or-vomit kegger tonight. Enough said.

But in all seriousness, initially it was tough to say “no” but once you make the decision to not partake, it’s all good. You feel at peace. It’s done and I’m not turning back. Nope? Nope.

And the thing is, I don’t want to undo 3 weeks of sacrifice and hard work just for what, a few minutes of a cheap thrill only to feel terrible shortly after.

The other challenges were planning. I am NOT a planner! I’m more of a procrastinator and spur of the moment type of gal. I had to be sure that I had food on hand at all times so that I wouldn’t be tempted to order pizza. I had to make sure that I had lunch ready for the next day, which  meant cooking enough at dinner for left overs the next day. Otherwise, I’d be at the mercy of the salad bar at work.

The last challenge I’ve faced was to stay motivated. Yes, I feel great but every so often, I’d get a whiff of someone’s delicious, juicy, mouthwatering burger at lunch and I’d think, “Screw it!” But then I’d talk myself back down off the ledge and remind myself that I’d feel foggy/tired from the wheat bun and feel sick from the saturated fat in the burger. Not worth it. But those days have been fewer and fewer as the detox has gone on.

So, what’s next? Well, 7 more days! My last official day is on St. Paddy’s day. I’ll be celebrating my proud Irish heritage with a few friends. I will probably definitely be tipsy after one sip of beer since by then it would have been a month without a drop of alcohol.

I’ve made the decision to only indulge in these kinds of things on special occasions: holidays, birthdays and special events (weddings, funerals – hey, I’m part Irish!). I’ve realized that I don’t miss going out all the time and that there are better ways that I can spend my time. A personal choice.

Also, I’ve been working hard at getting back into fitness and I don’t want to get off track with that. My new goal is to exercise at least 3 days a week and anything extra will be a bonus. I also have my new spinning classes to look forward to.

By now, I’m so used to eating healthy that I can’t see myself going back to bad habits that have somehow crept their way back in to my life. BUT the good news is that it’s always reversable. You can always regain control of your health and get back on track. Nobody’s perfect but I’m realizing that, like most things, it’s much easier to just keep doing the right things rather than trying to re-train yourself to get back into good habits.

Question for all of you: Have any of you considered making a change to better your health? If so, what is it and what steps could you take to do it?

Challenge: if you are craving one thing in particular (chocolate, bread, booze, dairy) go without it for 3 days.

Notice the following: How do you feel without it? How much  of it do you consume on a daily basis? What alternatives are there? What are some emotions that you feel when you crave it but can’t have it?

Yachting It Up

The other night, one of my favourite bands, Yacht, was playing at Wrong Bar, here in Toronto.  Since not many of friends have heard of them and/or like them and I only decided to go to the concert the day before, I went by myself. I’ve travelled alone and have gone to movies alone , but I’ve never gone to concerts alone before. I figured, why the eff not? Life is short. I like this band. Who knows when I’ll get the chance to see them again. GO! And I went. And I had a blast. Since I’m on the detox, it was a bit strange at first that I wasn’t partaking in any adult beverages, but believe me, waking up the next day after only 5.5 hours of sleep and not being hung over to boot was a Godsend!

Here are a couple of short videos for your viewing pleasure. I was in the heart of the dance floor and was tempted to take a video of this extremely drunken couple who were a messily (is that a word?) making out and groping and ramming into whomever crossed their path, which was everyone because we were all packed together in front of the stage. They reminded me of a human tornado/blob that tore through that crowd, without any regard for who or what got in their way.  It was annoying and fabulous all at the same time.

The quality of my blackberry videos aren’t the best, but mind you, I was dancing my heart out and getting knocked over by the human torpedo/blob.

Here’s Yacht performing Psychic City.

And here they are performing The After Life. (Woops – this should be “Walk Alone”, my bad!)

This post doesn’t really have anything to do with healthy eating but I wanted to share with you that I stayed strong in my detox and had a lot of fun just drinking water.

I hope this has inspired you!

The Best Things In Life Are Free

This week, I tried something new; something that I haven’t done in a long time: Exercise. Up until my sickness reared it’s ugly head in March 2011 and  nearly immobilized me, I was jat least going to yoga 2 to 3 times a week to destress. But since then, I haven’t been doing much. Honestly, for the first few months, I really didn’t miss it and I couldn’t imagine having to exercise ever again. The thought of taking the stairs to my 3rd floor apartment made me sweaty and achey.

As time marched on, I began to feel better and  I began to take on more; and the more I was able to take on, the more stressed I was getting. It’s funny how that works, isn’t it? My temporary solution was beer, and the summer weather made that temptation greater.  But I started to find that my symptoms were slowly creeping back in. And it wasn’t just beer that was the culprit, but the snacky foods that went along with it. And then I found that I was cheating more and more – a piece of chocolate here, some chips there…before you know it, I’m feeling lethargic, sinusy, stressed and just not my energetic self.

Then – the wake-up call happened: I weighed myself. To my disbelief, I had gained 5 pounds. I honestly thought that the scale was broken, so I shook it, played with the settings and then stepped back on. Nope. Not broken. I did a mental playback of the past summer and realized how my diet has slowly deteriorated. It’s no wonder I’ve gained some weight!

Being the calm, cool and collect person that I am, I ran to Shoppers Drugmart at 9pm and scoured the shelves for some sort of detox formula. $25.00 later, I bought this liver flush from BodyLogix. It’s an all herbal formula and really, I only needed 3 tablets for one night. Not bad!

The next thing I did was cut out all sugar, alcohol, soy and wheat since I had been overdoing it with thesee items. I also increased my water intake to flush out all the toxins that had built up in my body. Over the next couple of days, I felt like I was coming down with something; I had a sore throat, my sinuses were sensitive and I felt feverish. I realized that I wasn’t catching something, but it was my body’s reaction to the detox. Crazy! Mind you, it was NOTHING like the initial detox I went through in the spring, but still…after only 2 months of not eating so well, I couldn’t believe that I had that kind of reaction. Scary!

So that was a nice wake-up call to not take my health for granted. But don’t worry, I’m back on track!

The other thing that I started doing, was running. I went for my first jog last Monday. The last time I had gone was probably in November of 2010 in a meagre attempt to lose some weight for my trip to India – not very successful. I tried not to overdo it, but once I got going, I really enjoyed it and actually missed it. I ran for about 30 minutes and made sure I stretched as much as possible afterwards. It all seemed for naught because the next day, I could barely move! Every movement was  a production and I couldn’t imagine ever running again!

My snazzy runners

Wednesday, was much of the same. When I came into work, I saw a sign on our elevator saying “Donate to the Shelter Foundation to Ride the Elevator!”. Being the decent person that I am, I thought: “Are you kidding me?! I can barely walk, let alone walk up 50 stairs to my desk!” Plus, Ididn’t have any spare change, otherwise I totally would have donated. It turned out that walking up stairs was the best and the worst thing that I decided to do that day.

Eventually, after the burning in my thighs subsided and my lungs no longer felt like they might burst, I realized just how out shape I am and that spurred me to challenge myself to take the stairs for 30 days, correction: 30 work days. Ya. Well, to clarify, I mean the stairs at work – I can’t always take the stairs at home because sometimes I have way too many groceries and I would likely injure myself. I have a nightmare of falling backwards on the stairs carrying toilet paper and bottles of water. I don’t think that would look very good when and if someone were to find me.

I’m on day 5 of the stair challenge and I’m happy to say, that my lungs don’t feel like they are going to explode! I’m still really out of breath by the time I get to my desk, but I just try to go to my happy place – the kitchen, to fill up on tea and water and hope that no one comes in to hear me panting like a furry dog on a hot July day.

The point of this story – there’s a point? Is that I’m realizing how beneficial exercise is. You won’t lose weight just by exercise, diet is key, however, with my recent exercising adventures, I find that it has really helped me manage my stress, given me more energy throughout the day and improved my quality of sleep. Not too bad! And the best part? It’s free!

My advice is to find an activity you enjoy or even love. Gyms are overrated so if you hate the gym, don’t go! Join a team, go for walks, start jogging, go swimming, try yoga, learn to dance, climb stairs in your building, dance in your bedroom for half an hour…the possibilities are endless.

Enjoy!

That’s a Tough Nut to Crack!

On my quest to make Coconut Date Balls, I bought my first ever coconut! I brought it home and then realized that I have never cracked a coconut before but thought, how hard could it be? It turns out, it’s pretty hard – literally. I found this great demo on youtube showing how to effectively crack this nut.  After following the instructions, it ended up not being as difficult as I thought.

Tools Needed:

  • Diamond head shaped screw driver
  • Flat head screw driver
  • Hammer
  • Towel or oven mitts
  • Cup or container
  • Veggie peeler

Here’s what I did:

As per the video, I pierced one of the three holes on the top. One of the three is soft – who knew? Why aren’t they all soft? Then I let the coconut water drain into a container which can be used later for drinking or added to a smoothy, which I will get to later.

Once all the juice is drained, I put the coconut in the oven at 375F for about 30 minutes – the video said 15 minutes but I guess it depends on how hot your oven is. Apparently, when it’s ready to be broken, it splits. Mine didn’t. Maybe I just got impatient and didn’t leave it in long enough? But I thought that 30 minutes in the oven was pretty generous.

Then, it’s time to crack the nut. That’s when the hammer comes in handy. This was my favourite part! Take some oven mitts or a towel and remove the coconut from the oven. Place on the counter or another hard surface and hammer the shell. Luckily, I have a concrete balcony, so I brought my coconut out there wrapped in my oven mitts and beat the hell out of it without scaring my neighbours TOO much. I don’t think anyone noticed me hammering, though. At least I don’t think so.

A Tough Nut To Crack!

Anyways, eventually, it will crack.  This is when you bust out the flat head screw driver.

As he shows in the video, the flat head screwdriver pries the coconut meat away from the shell. This wasn’t so bad. The worst part, for me anyways, was peeling the skin from the meat. I had a bit of an accident when the peeler slipped and nearly took off my thumb nail. I’m okay! But my nail is chipped and nearly torn off. All worth it though.

Once the skin is peeled off, I rinsed the coconut in cold water to get all the debris off. I stored it in tupperware container and put it in my fridge for when I’m able to make the coconut date balls. But the meat can be chopped into flakes or used for a variety of other recipes. It’s pretty fantastic!

How It All Began…

Up until recently, I never really took my health seriously. One of my weaknesses was that I wasn’t any good at coping with stress. I would be fine and dandy until something stressful would happen, and then my life would lose momentum and all hell would break lose; I would eat junk food, go out drinking all the time, not get enough sleep and then get too much sleep; my relationships would suffer and I was always too busy trying to get through a day rather than living it. I always knew, that one day, my excessive drinking and partying would catch up to me, and you know what? It did.

I went to India in December 2010. This proved to not only be the worst experience but the best thing that has ever happened to me. From that trip, I realized my life was going in the wrong direction, but more importantly, I realized that I wanted to change it.

What brought it on? Sharp. Stabbing. Severe pains in my lower left abdomen that steadily got worse and worse. It started towards the end of  my trip, but when I got back, it began to get progressively worse.  I went to the doctor who tested me for parasites and liver function. Both came out fine. Still, pain, pain and more pain. Whyyyyy? I went back to the doctor who admitted to me that he had no idea why I was in pain, which is exactly what you want to hear from a trained professional when you are frightened and vulnerable.

He ordered me an ultra-sound of my entire torso. The results came back showing that I was fine. Huh.

Still stumped, my doctor ordered me a CT Scan but the only availability was 3 months later. He sent me on my way and told me that if they pain was unbearable, then I should go the ER. Well guess what, the pain started becoming unbearable. It got to a point where I couldn’t sleep a whole night without the pain waking me up. It got to a point where I couldn’t get through a work day without having to leave early because the pain was unbearable. Eventually, I stopped being able to work full time hours. I would either have to call in sick, or leave early. Thankfully, my boss was very supportive and was behind me 100% to find out what was causing me so much grief.

One day, I was at work and I really wasn’t feeling well; I freezing cold, but I was sweating. I was very lightheaded and I just felt yucky. By 11am, I decided that I had enough and that I should go to the ER. I walked into my boss’ office and before I could ask if I could go home, she told me that I didn’t look good and that she would drive me to the ER. She later told me that my face was a light shade of grey. Not good.  It was then that I realized how sick I was but I didn’t know why. When I finally got to see a doctor in the ER he thought that I might have diverticulosis since I had pain all the time – even when I drank water. He loaded me up on antibiotics and sent me on my way. Out of desperation, I filled the prescription and began taking it. Nothing was working. Little did I know that these antibiotics were actually making me worse!

A few days later, I had an appointment with another family doctor for a second opinion. She wasn’t convinced that I had diverticulosis and asked me to stop taking the antibiotics, agreeing that it could be making me worse. Instead, she asked me to puchase a probiotic and begin taking that. She also asked me to stop consuming caffeine, alcohol, wheat, dairy and sugar for the next few weeks. I was heavily addicted to all of these substances and wasn’t sure if I could do it. She also sent me to get a colonoscopy and a gastroscopy. Both showed that I was “perfectly fine”. I remember the technician telling me that I probably just needed to eat more fibre. Oh….kay…..If only it were that simple!

I really tried to cut it out all out, but it was tough, and honestly, I wasn’t taking it that seriously mainly because I didn’t understand why I was doing this. I cheated every so often, and a few weeks later, during Easter, I completely fell off the band wagon and had some chocolate. I began to feel depressed because my efforts were not helping and I still felt the same – in pain and yucky. I went out drinking a few nights later with my friends and the next morning when I woke up, I felt like death.

That day at work, I could barely focus on what I was doing. I decided to at least make myself useful so I did some research. I had been reading a book called “The Body Knows” by Caroline Sutherland. In it, she describes a condition called Candiasis or Candida Albicans Overgrowth. The symptoms she described in her book sounded like what I was going through, so I decided to research it. What I found, changed my life. I took a quiz to determine whether or not I did indeed have Candidas.

The quiz said that if you scored over 180, then you definitely had it and to get help. My score? It was 285! I couldn’t believe it. I freaked out. Luckily,  my friend was able to refer me to her Naturopath. I was able to get an appointment to see the doctor within a few days.

In the meantime, I was still freaking out. A few days felt like like a lifetime, to me. I consulted a few websites to see what I needed to do to remedy this awful sickness. One the best websites I found was this one. The general advice was to avoid wheat, dairy, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and anything processed. Very similar advice to what the other doctor had given me. Hugh. The good news? I could eat as many veggies as I wanted and as much protein as I wanted. Everything I was told to avoid, I was highly addicted to. But this time,  I was determined to give it all up if it meant that I would feel better.

It was also advised to take some natural antifungals to kill the yeast.

Some of the main suggestions were:

  • Pau d’Arco tea
  • ginger
  • garlic
  • onions
  • coconut oil
  • olive oil
  • cayenne pepper
  • cinnamon
  • cloves…

More are listed here.

Basically, you name it, I took it.

Within a few hours of cutting out the no-no foods and taking the anti-fungals, I began to feel some effects. And then, without warning, I began to feel like a crackhead coming down from a meth addiction. I had the shakes, I was sweating, running to the bathroom every 10 minutes, dizzy, foggy, bloated and achey. I felt like I had the flu! 

Because of the strong side-effects, I knew that I definitely had Candida. When I went to the ND and told her what I had been up to, she laughed but in a horrified kind of way. You know, with the gaping mouth and wide eyes but trying to smile at the same time? Yeah.

After spending more than hour with her, she assessed me and put me on a brand new plan, something a little less hard core and a little more simple and manageable to relieve me of feeling like a washed up celebrity passing out on Hollywood Blvd after yet another failed audition. She gave me these tablets called Candida SAP  and they were used to kill the yeast. I had to take 2 of those 3 times a day. Then, an hour after taking that, I had to take a strong probiotic to rebuild the good bacteria in my gut. I had to take 3 of those a day. Then she put me on  a more manageable eating plan. She gave me recommendations of what to eat so that I wouldn’t be eating stews and carrot sticks for the rest of my life.

This meant that I had to start cooking. No more pizza, or McDonald’s or sushi or subs. Cooking. This meant that I had to plan my meals, buy groceries and re-arrange my schedule so that I would have time to shop, cook, eat and clean. Honestly, it was a huge adjustment for me! I felt very stressed by that whole thing. For a while, I felt like I was constantly shopping and cooking and doing dishes. I was always researching recipes and it would take me forever to make anything because I had never made it before and I didn’t have a clue what to do!

It also meant that I needed to stock up on basics, like spices and dishes and appliances. The best decsion I ever made was buying my blender. It’s kind of like a Magic Bullet but it has lots of different sized cups and is BPA free. Because of this purchase, I discovered my love for soups and dips and smoothies. Oh my!  

I also invested in a spice rack, but that came much later after months of living out of spice bags which was SO ghetto!

The other thing that I invested in, and that totally saved my life was a steamer. I could steam veggies to go with my dinner or steam veggies to make a soup. These things just made life so much simpler for me.

After a while, a funny thing happened – I began to enjoy cooking. After trying something new that I cooked I would say to myself, “Holy, that’s delicious! Who knew that such simple ingredients could be so satisfying??

I began to look forward to trying new recipes.

I also began to get more organized and strategic. When I would cook, I would make triple the amount: one serving for lunch the next day and then the other two, I would freeze. If I had time on the weekend, I would cook a couple of dishes and freeze them. Not only did this save me time, but it saved my sanity!

Whenever I run low on lunches, I pick a night in the week to cook something. At any given moment, I have tomorrow’s lunch ready to be thawed. It’s genius!

After 3 months of careful eating and lifestyle changes, I can say that I feel better than I ever have in my whole entire life. Maybe even better than when I was a kid. I have more energy, my moods are better, my pain is gone, my complexion is better, I’m no longer losing my hair, I’m sleeping better, my allergies are nearly gone and  I lost about 15lbs! I will never, ever go back to that lifestyle.

Remembering how sick I was and how unhappy I was is motivation enough to keep me on the right track and that is why I started this blog. Not only will this blog serve to motivate and inspire me to keep learning about health and nutrition so that I stay on the right track for the rest of my life, but I hope that whatever informaiton I learn, I will be able to share with you, to help you, so that you don’t have to go through the same suffering that I went through.

I look forward to sharing my journey with you as I live and learn!

Bon appetit!