Sunday, January 30, 2011

My Latest Pipe Dream

View Image

'Tis the season to put in now for any time off I want. Guess where I want to go? Guess how much flights costs to get there? If you guessed un bras et une jambe, you would be correct.

I WILL get to the City of Lights. Comme Dieu est mon témoin, je mangerai le brie dans le pays dont il est venu!

(Gotta love online translators, don't you?)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A little perspective.

In 2009, I was working in a career I no longer enjoyed. I was miserable, cranky, confused, and unfocused. I sabotaged myself and relationships with the fetidness for which I had no outlet. I made approximately $35,900 that year. Which may not sound like a lot, but for a single, childless gal in Vermont who doesn't live extravagantly, can make for a very comfortable life.

In 2010, I spent the first half of the year at a minimum wage job, putting myself through school. I technically qualified for all kinds of aid, including food stamps and housing assistance. While I was too proud to take the help, I was not making enough to cover all of my (basic) expenses. I got through it by dipping into my saving account and putting things like doctor's visits on my credit card. The second half of the year, I started work in my new profession. Between the school job and the new job, I made just over $16,000.

I can't remember the last time I was this happy.

What they say is true, folks. Money really can't buy happiness. So don't sell your soul for a job you despise when your happiness lies elsewhere. No, I don't live lavishly. Yes, I have made sacrifices.

Yes, every last one of them was worth it.

So, I just wanted to say, whatever your dream is, whatever secret you have in your heart that you wish you could do if only....

Do it. You are so worth it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mmmmmm... Foooooooood

I like food. I like food a lot. I like that I'm eating it again.

Okay, I need to quit saying this in all my post-cleanse posts.

I decided this week that since I am still post-cleanse and have at least temporarily eliminated everything stuff from my diet, now is a good time to experiment. I think I've mentioned that I'm going off breads, crackers, cookies, and pasta for a little while to see how that helps with my binges. So far that is going quite well. I've been placed in several situations where such yummies were up for grabs and I didn't want any. Yay, me!

Another thing I've decided to do (and this will be TMI) is to finally track down what is causing my seemingly unending supply of gas. Sometimes I feel like if someone tied a hot air balloon to my butt I could power all on my lonesome.


I mean, I've been a veg for years, so my GI tract should have adjusted by now to the beans, lentils and cruciferous veggies. Sure these things happens to everyone now and again, but let's just say I'm contributing more than my fair share to the greenhouse gas issue. So, I think I am eating something (or several somethings) that I simply do not digest very well.

So, for the next few days my protein sources will consist basically of tofu, seitan and to a much lesser extent some dairy. These things I know do not bother me. At least, I'm pretty sure the tofu doesn't bother me. Rice doesn't bother me but I'm still sick of it so I'm not eating it just yet. After several days of this, I'm going to start testing out the various legumes and see which ones bother me and which ones pass the "wind" test, so to speak. Personally, I think the worst culprits are the regular (green) lentils, the chickpeas, and kidney beans. I'm also thinking I may have to dial back the broccoli consumption, which I'm a little bummed about because I love steamed broccoli.

But, this really needs to be done. It's bad enough when someone farts during a massage, but when it's the therapist tooting away it's just wrong!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

You Mean the World Didn't End?

I had coffee today and yesterday and the world didn't collapse in on itself?


I am two days post-cleanse, and I feel my body is still letting things go. I am returning to regular food, although I am trying to keep it as healthy as possible. My menu for yesterday (the first day post-cleanse) looked thusly:

7:00am: 1 cup coffee with a splash of soymilk and some agave nectar, banana
11:00am: bowl of greek yogurt and the worst frozen blueberries I've ever had
2:00pm: bowl of leftover curried potato, cauliflower and lentil soup from before the cleanse, date
4:30pm: 2 cups of decaf english breakfast tea
5:30pm: tri-doshic "energy ball" snack at the workshop
7:30pm: Chili with a bit of cheddar cheese shaved over the top, date, a couple slices of the cheese

I actually couldn't finish the chili; it was too spicy and my tummy went "what?!?". The thin slices of cheese actually came a couple hours later because my stomach settled down and wanted something a little more. I also did a dumb thing and added lentils to the chili, along with the beans and seitan. What the hell was I thinking? Oh, that I have too many lentils in the house.

Oh, you should know I'm a bit of a cheese snob and when I say "cheddar" I don't mean that horrid orangey yellow stuff that Kraft and who-all else claims is cheese but is dyed cheese crap stuff. Oh no. I live in the state that invented Cabot Seriously Sharp. I don't have to pay through the nose for it like many out-of-staters do.

I'll be making another soup probably today, but it will be strictly a vegetable soup with a Field Roast italian faux sausage worked in for a flavor kick. NO. LENTILS. ALLOWED. My menu for the next few days will most likely follow along those basic lines with a few tweaks here and there.

But, you may be asking me, what is your take-away from this whole process? What did you learn? Did you have any revelations? Are you a new person? Have you become an Enlightened Being beyond the cares and worries of this crude, mortal body?


But seriously.... here are a few things I am taking away from this:

1. Don't knock the doshas.
Darned if there isn't something to this whole process. Western medicine definitely does a lot of things right, but when it comes to preventative health through nutrition and healthy foods, we frankly suck. We get so bogged down in the bits that make up the whole (vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, electrolytes, carbohydrates, sugars, phytochemicals, etc etc), and which little bits affect this bit or that bit that we fail to see the body - and the person - as a whole.

One of the reasons why eastern medicines work (and why western researchers often can't explain why) is because they work on the philosophy that every one thing affects everything else. The mind affects the body and the spirit affects the mind. It is all tied together and you cannot treat one without treating the others. The goal is to bring everything into balance. When the body is in balance, everything works. When you are in tune with your mind/body/spirit, when something goes out of whack you can catch it before it becomes a serious issue.

So when I'm saying my "Vata" is elevated, it can mean that I'm having a spacey day where I'm not connected to anything and I need to ground myself (which may be where the bags of chips are coming in. Salt = fire/pitta = grounding to Vata).

2. I don't need as much food as I would have myself believe.
I've spent the vast majority of my adult life in a diet mentality. Just a cup of this, a half cup of that, if I use applesauce instead of oil I can cut the Weight Watcher Points in half. Don't eat too much, careful careful!

Coming from this and a mostly sedentary career to a career where I am moving about and burning calories has thrown me for a loop. On the one hand, the old habits have served me well, but on the other hand, they are currently leaving me hungry and open to binges where I tell myself I need the calories.

Well, yes and no.

I think the reality is that yes, I need to eat more. But not that much more. My portion sizes need not be diet-sized anymore, but neither do they need to be Paul Bunion sized. And they certainly do not need to be six Paul Bunion-sized servings. Of potato chips. No matter how elevated my Vata may be.

3. Damned if Mindful Eating doesn't actually work.
I have a habit of eating in front of the computer or while reading. While I was doing the cleanse, I made it a point to not do that. I would sit down in my comfy chair with my bowl of whatever, and focus solely on that as I ate. 

And it worked. I was more conscious of my responses to the food, and when I was finished I was content. If I needed something a little sweet, I had a date. And I paid attention to it and enjoyed its texture and sweetness, and was satisfied when I was done. 

It was a very different experience than sitting in front of the computer engaged in something else, then suddenly finding yourself at the bottom of the bowl with no idea how you got there and a vague feeling of dissatisfaction.

4. Carbs are not the friend I would like them to be. 
I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this in an earlier post, but I'm coming to the heart-wrenching decision that carbs in the forms of breads, pastas and crackers are doing me more harm than good. So, I am trying to go this week post-cleanse with none of the above and see how it goes. I do not think I am gluten-intolerant; I can handle seitan just fine, thank you very much. It really seems to be the breads I have the problem with... they are like a trigger for me. The more I have, the more I need to have.

I think I see a future wherein these become occasional treats and not diet staples. Le sigh.

5. You do not need to apologize for doing what you need to do to be healthy. 
This is big for me. Guilt. Guilt around food. Guilt around not being able to hack it as a vegan. Guilt for always saying in the back of my mind "life would be so much easier if I just started eating meat again." 

Fuck it.

If I am happiest with a diet where I sometimes indulge in a bit of dairy and maybe twice a year have an egg, then that is OK. If you are happiest with a diet that incorporates lean cuts of meat and fish, then by jove have at it. The key is moderation in all things and doing what is healthiest for YOU in that moment.

And the point there my friend is HEALTHY. Health is a spectrum and means different things for different people. But if you have it right for you, you know it. You feel good, hell you feel great. Don't compare your journey to someone else's and think to yourself "they are better than me" or worse "I am better than them." No. You are you and you should strive to be the best you, in whatever way works best.

So there you have it. My take-aways for this cleanse. This same facilitator will be offering more Ayurveda-based workshops over the course of the year and I will definitely pop in to as many as I can. Although I will not be doing another cleanse for quite a while, I think.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ayurveda Cleanse: Day 7 (!)

I made it!! The last day of the cleanse. Sweet Mother of Mercy, I made it.

Honestly, I don't know how people do these month-long lemon water and cayenne cleanses. I just had seven days and I got to eat and I wasn't entirely sure I was going to make it.

It's a good thing I'm stubborn.

So even though it's not "kosher," I ended up having a spoonful of olive oil last night and this morning. Frankly, I kinda felt like I needed some oil. This cleanse is extremely low-fat and frankly, seven days is a long time to go with almost nothing. I know there are people out in the world who like to "eat" butter or oil or fats straight. I don't know how they do it. I can't stomach straight fats. Tough to get down and my tummy  says "what the hell are you trying to do here?"

I am eating rice this morning as I ate the last of the oatmeal yesterday. I put a little agave nectar in it and it doesn't taste half bad. Still rather boring but all in all okay. I was a bad cleanser last night and did not do the oil massage/bath thing or go to bed before 10. I was hanging out with a friend and didn't get to bed until 11 (oh, the shock and horror!).  I am okay with that. Sometimes you have to interrupt the regularly scheduled program to have some fun! :-)

Today, I will really have to get over the temptation to end things a little early. That's always the temptation on the last day of anything (except vacation, of course!). But I will do my best to follow it through. I have been trying to figure out what I want to break my cleanse with tomorrow morning. Aside from a big-ass cup of coffee, I'm coming up blank. I want to keep it healthy, but I DO NOT want any kind of grain whatsoever. Yeah, need a little break from that! I'm thinking some fruit and maybe some soy/yogurt. Nice and light and healthy. Where I go shopping depends on which version I get. It all depends on whether the car starts this morning (it is currently -14F here at 8:30 am).

It has officially warmed up to +4F!!! Yay for positive numbers! As you may have guessed, I'm typing throughout the day again.

I just got back from shopping and I bought: greek yogurt from a VT creamery (Cabot), canned organic black beans, canned organic diced tomatoes, organic frozen blueberries, organic soy milk, tofu, organic potatoes and bananas. Notice the lack of lentils and rice on the menu! I wanted to buy some more dates but I couldn't find any at the conventional store. Maybe tomorrow I'll swing by one of the hippy healthy stores and pick some up.

My plan for tomorrow is to cook up a lovely chili. I'm going to put seitan in it, so I will be making that today. I do this by using Isa's recipe from Veganomicon and then switch over to the directions from Fresh from a Vegetarian Slow Cooker. Isa's recipe takes way less time to make, but cooking it in the slow cooker ensures a nice even, temperature and no boil-overs. Best of both worlds!

Some good news - I weighed myself this morning and I lost 3.5 pounds! I'm very happy with that, even though I've said multiple times that losing weight wasn't the goal of this cleanse. What the cleanse did do was get my eating back under control, hence the weight loss. Hopefully I can continue this, as I'd like to lose at least four more pounds. 

Coffee will definitely be on the list of things consumed tomorrow morning as I have an appointment to get an oil change at 8:00 am. Yeouch. Especially after having to work until 8:30 tonight. Ah well. I guess I'll have to really follow the "bed by 10pm" thing tonight.

But the question is... will I preface bed with a hot chocolate and Bailey's? Bad, Bad me!

Okay, so it's 9:40pm now. I'm not going to have the cocoa (even though I really want it), and I am resisting the temptation to tuck into the seitan. 

I've been pretty lax today, I admit. My morning yoga was half-assed, I completely forgot to say my morning "prayer." I haven't meditated in two days and I know there is something else I am forgetting to do. When I had steamed green beans for lunch, I put a 1/4 tsp of Earth Balance on them instead of eating them plain. 

I, apparently, am done with this cleanse. 

I MADE IT!!!!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ayurveda Cleanse: Day 6

Once again I am posting throughout the day.

I am cranky this morning. Apparently I woke up this way. I am sick to death of oatmeal and I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I am that I ate the last of it this morning. But since I have one day left on the cleanse, I'll be eating rice in the morning. At least it isn't oatmeal!

I don't want to go to work today, hence the reason I am sitting her typing this instead of getting ready. I'm still tired, despite have slept a great deal. I really just want to be lazy and do nothing. Or even take a walk as it looks to be a nice day. But by the time I'll be finished, it will be too late for one.

Whine whine whine, bitch bitch bitch.

Tomorrow starts a re-introduction of "soft foods", ie steamed vegs and soups, and I am SO happy for that. I know I said a day or two ago that I eat the same thing several days running, but I have definitely reached my limit!

I am so tempted to cheat right now. It's coming toward the end of day 6. Day 6!!! And now I want to give in. But no no no. I can make it. Tomorrow starts the reintroduction of soft foods and it will be a good thing. 

Work was good but tough today. Better with the energy work, although I had a client who was a tough nut to crack and it pretty much did me in. I will be spending time later with a friend watching movies and not the Superbowl. Is it the Superbowl? Whatever football game is on tonight. Obviously I really care about such things.

I swear I am making a chili as soon as this is done. Mmmmm, tomatoes! 

The ghee is all gone - I drank the last of it last night with some warm almond milk in place of the triphala. I'm supposed to have two more doses of it - one tonight again with the almond milk and tomorrow straight in the morning. Oh well. You can use flax oil as a replacement but I don't have any and am loathe to go out and purchase either at this point. So far as I can tell olive oil is not an appropriate replacement for this cleanse, and it is all I have. Guess I'm going without. 

I really wanted a cup of coffee this morning.

And right now, a hot cocoa with some Bailey's would taste mighty fine.

One day left... just one day left!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ayurveda Cleanse: Day 5

Today I really wanted pizza.

But that's okay. The kitchari hit the spot. Sorta. Maybe. If I tell myself this enough times, it'll be true, right?

This time around I added some sweet potato to the recipe (we're allowed to add a very limited list of veggies to the lentils and rice). I think I have to admit to myself that I will probably never like sweet potato and stop trying to convince myself otherwise. Yeah yeah, it's good for you and all that jazz. But I'm just not feelin' it.


Slept like the dead last night and spent a half hour this morning laying in the sun before getting out of bed, soaking up its energy. Because there was sun!!! First time in days. Of course, it was gone by the time I got out of work. But it was nice to know that it was there at some point today. I actually considered this my "meditation" for the morning, even though I was probably a little more dozy than you are supposed to be. As I was laying there, I was consciously "storing" the sun's positive energy so that I would have it as the day progressed.

Work went better today, I think in large part because I has "stored up" before going to work. Hey, whatever gets you through the day! I ended up having a "no-show" so while I got paid for the person who didn't come, I didn't have to do anything. Which was nice because I think a full schedule would have done me in. I have one tomorrow and I will most likely be wiped by the end of the day. I am still finding it difficult to "give my all" but today was better.

I have noticed for the past couple weeks - even before the cleanse - that I am not feeling people's energy quite as strongly as I had been previously. I have noticed this mostly at the end of the massage, but also during as well. I am not sure why this is, but I wonder if it has something to do with the cleanse. I've been mentally preparing myself for it for a while, and maybe I threw up a block so I wouldn't take anyone else's stuff on to me. So, yeah on the one hand not the best thing for a massage therapist to do, but on the other hand this cleanse will get rid of mine and everyone else's garbage I've already taken on, there's no need to add more to it as I'm going!

The triphala is not working for me. I couldn't even get half of it down last night. Luckily, today the facilitator emailed a couple other options if that wasn't working for people and I will try one of those. I want to remain as faithful as I can to the integrity of the cleanse, but man that stuff is nasty. I was on the verge of gagging, so I just stopped. I figure if I am having that much of a reaction to it, it isn't worth trying to force it down.

I have been thinking about what I want to start eating again after the cleanse is over. I want to try and carry over the healthy habits that I am learning, but I do not wish to deprive myself. And also, I don't want to eat lentils for a while. Although I have enough in the kitchen to last me until the next ice age, so I might as well resign myself to them. And as much as I'm jonzing for a bagel, I think I'm better off keeping my carb intake to a minimum for a little while and see where that takes me. I'm also debating whether or not I want to add coffee back into my morning routine, or switch to a decaffeinated black tea. I like the ritual of sitting with something warm to drink in the morning, especially when it's cold like this.

I think I will continue my usage of the agave nectar. I am really loving it. I don't know why I didn't try this sooner. It is perfect for beverages and oatmeal, and for those who care, low with the glycemic index. It's pretty basic too - just agave juice. That's it. Sticky though. And by the way, I tried to keep things real simple (we're supposed to do so on days 4, 5 and 6) yesterday and not put any in my oatmeal. Blech. I put some in this morning. Sometimes I really do think healthy food would be a lot more popular if it were a tad more palatable.

Tonight will be another low-key evening. We're supposed to keep our television viewing to a minimum, but I think I will put in a movie tonight. While I have a ton of books I need to get through, they all are of the "some thought required" variety and I just don't feel up to it this evening. Besides, it's not like I spend all day, every day in front of the Boob Tube anymore. Since I stopped with the cable, I can often go days without turning it on.

Now, if she said to minimize our computer time I'd be going through some major withdrawal symptoms right about now...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Ayurveda Cleanse: Day Four

Excerpt from an email sent by the facilitator:

... Days 3, 4 & 5 is when aversion (i.e. towards Kitchari) and attachment (i.e. what foods you are missing) really begins to arise. This is normal and part of the experience. Emotions may be beginning to surface. You might feel more tired, irritated, drained, or overall emotional. This is all normal. New sensations, both physically and emotionally, often come about while doing a cleanse and this can be a way your body is releasing toxins.

Boy, she ain't kiddin'! I'm actually doing okay with the kitchari. I usually eat the same thing running for several days straight so this is nothing new to me. However, in addition to the kitchari, I also want potato chips, a bagel with cream (or faux cream) cheese, and red wine. I've been thinking about yogurt - which I seldom ever eat - and even got a whiff of a co-worker's Quizno's toasted sub and just about died. Yeah, it was full of meat and cheese and I didn't care it smelled so good.

But I have been good! Smelling isn't cheating. Thank god.

I have also definitely been feeling more tired and drained as well. I actually feel kind of sorry for my clients this week as they aren't getting some of my best work. Confession time: I'm having a hard time caring. Which is normally not the case and completely wrapped up in the cleanse, but I kind of feel that I'm not able to dedicate the time to "be" with this cleanse because I have to help them through their own issues. Which is not fair to them at all and I will be working on this for the rest of the week. It really brings to the foreground of how difficult it can be to help others when you are also trying to help yourself.

I did get my own massage after work today and it felt amazing. She was really able to work out a lot of issues I'd been having with my neck, and also confirm that I really need to be stretching more than I am both before and after working. Herm, I really need to get back to yoga!

TMI time: now is the part of the cleanse where people jokingly ask: "hee hee... how's everything... going?" As with all things, your mileage may vary, but for me I think I'm purging my toxins via urine, snot and sweat. Not a lot of #2 going on. I'm either running hot or cold lately (hot at work, cold when I stop), and my nose starts running at the oddest times. Plus, I'm peeing a LOT.

Speaking of going, the triphala that I was so worried about didn't have any, um, explosive results so I will be taking it again this evening. Of course, I couldn't finish it last night so that might have something to do with it. It tastes pretty nasty. Very sour. I will try to get the full dose in before I go to bed this evening.

Went to bed early last night and slept... oddly. Not badly, but I had an interesting experience at some point in the night where I woke up just a little bit and felt myself... well I thought to myself "I'm being reiki'd!", but that thought came because I was reading a book on the subject earlier. I don't know if it was reiki, but I felt bathed in energy, in life. I was laying there, mostly asleep, all relaxed and comfortable and content, and I felt bathed in Life. It was a very nice feeling. I also got another spurt of energy during my massage. Very powerful, very exhilarating.

It took me five tries to spell that. Sheesh.

I will probably call it an early evening tonight as well. My energy is low enough so that really all I want to do is lay in bed and read. Speaking of, I broke out my old, worn-out childhood edition of Heidi and am reading that. It was never one of my favorites (that would be Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland), but it has been a very long time since I read it, and am finding a new appreciation for it.

Oh yeah... I want a big huge tub of movie theater popcorn too. And a diet pepsi.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Ayurveda Cleanse: Day 3

Hullo, all! Day three has come and gone...

First, though, a little housecleaning. One of my commenters was generous enough to tell me that the link I provided for the Ayurvedic Cookbook at the bottom of this post wasn't working. Well, that has been fixed. Thanks very much for bringing this to my attention! It is a very good informational book and I enjoy it. The author has another cookbook entitled something along the lines of "Ayurveda for Westerners". I need to shop the local bookstores to see if they have it. I am interested in that one as well.

In another comment, someone asked if I was seeing any results yet and if it was worth it. The answer to both of these questions is "yes". I've done other cleanses before (never more than three days), and I've always felt lighter by the end. Now mind you, I didn't necessarily lose any weight, but I felt like I wasn't carrying anything "extra" around. Which is, at day three, how I'm feeling.

I am also re-educating myself as to how much food in a day I actually need, which I am sure you have all heard me lament about here. As I thought, I do not need as much as I think I do, especially if I am eating whole, healthy foods. As much as I enjoy breads and other complex carbs, I am beginning to think they are the culprit for my over eating. The more I eat of them, the more I seem to need to eat. On this cleanse, which is basically just rice, lentils and veggies, they are a non-issue. I am discovering that when I do eat healthy, I am doing it right. Which is a nice little pat on the back for me.

There are others doing this cleanse who are going from an omnivorous diet to what is essentially a low-fat, no-carb vegan diet. So, my compatriots may find that they have some very different experiences than I. They, frankly, probably have more to get out of their system. While I am actually hoping to lessen my reliance on both salt and sugar through this cleanse, my goals are a little more esoteric. Although, if I lose a couple pounds my heart won't break. ;-)

I have noticed that - today especially - I seem much more calm and even-tempered. Usually my commute to and from work would make a salty sailor blush, but I only had a couple outbursts the entire round trip. So, yay me! I would also put forth that I'm feeling a tad more grounded and centered.

Today was my first day working a full schedule on the cleanse and I was quite honestly nervous about it. I had my kitchari to eat at lunch time, and a banana and a couple of dates just in case. I felt drained by the time I finished my final client, but all in all it could have been much worse. I will probably be going to bed early tonight, before the 10pm "bedtime". Heck, I could probably crash now, but as it isn't even 7pm yet I'll refrain.

Tonight is the first night I'll be taking the herb triphala, which among other things aids in digestion and relief of gas and constipation, and aids in the cleansing of the gastrointestinal tract. You take it before bed and apparently in the morning, things start to, ahem, move. This was the herb I asked about before I decided I would take it. As I am fully booked tomorrow, rushing to the bathroom mid-massage is not only awkward and bad form, it's bad for building the ol' client base as well. So, we'll see how I fare with it tonight. If my system reacts poorly to it, I will not be taking it again.

I also have a massage booked for tomorrow afternoon after my shift is over. I am so looking forward to it. I know I just had one two days ago, but really, you can never have too many massages! Well, okay sometimes you can but this week ain't it.

My headache is still there a little bit, so it's definitely because of the cleanse. Although it's really not an ache so much as a "hey you! I'm still here!". I'll be getting some good neck work in my massage tomorrow so hopefully that will help alleviate that. There's a slight ache in the kidney area, but mostly if I bend over or have bad posture. It isn't nearly as bad as the cleanse I did... six months ago was it? That was very uncomfortable and I had issues sleeping. None of that so far here. Just another "hey! remember me?" kind of thing. Neither of these are bad enough to keep me from functioning fully or even commenting on it anywhere other than here (for posterity, of course).

Let's see... oh. I've been cold. Like especially when I go to bed. I mean, it's not exactly warm in Vermont at the moment, but I've had to put a fourth blanket on the bed, which is really an unzipped sleeping bag. So, could be the cleanse, could be me. 50/50 shot with this one.

And... I think that's more than enough for now. See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Ayurveda Cleanse: Day 2

Please forgive the possible disjointedness of this post; I am typing it at intervals over the course of the day.

The ghee did not sit well this morning. If I had to do it again tomorrow, I don't know if I could. I got it down and managed to eat most of my oatmeal, but I couldn't finish it. Actually went back to bed and just laid there for a little while until my tummy settled. I finally got up and had a little bit of almond milk, and that seemed to help a bit more. Also have a very low-grade headache today. Whether this can be attributed to caffeine withdrawal, my uber-tight suboccipitals or the cleanse remains to be seen. Probably a combination of all three.

Apparently honey is a no-no on this cleanse, which I didn't find out until last night. I bought a small jar of local, raw honey to use in my oatmeal, but apparently that's not going to happen. Agave nectar is okay though, so I bought some last night and used it in my oatmeal this morning. Quite good, actually. You don't need a lot of it, either. I put a little in my rosehip tulsi tea (that I'm drinking now) and it's good. I'll use the honey after the cleanse is over.

We are supposed to drink hot water with our meals as well, and I'm having a hard time with this. Cold and lukewarm water are fine, and I can drink hot water if it's in the form of tea, but straight-up hot water... not so much. I end up getting really thirsty, believe it or not. Usually can't finish the mug, either. Doing my best to get it in, though.

Very low energy again today, although that may have as much to do with the weather (gray, snowy, cold and blustery) as anything. I was going to go to a yoga class at noon today, but I did a half hour of a belly dance DVD and that seems to be enough. My body just doesn't want to move. At some point though, I'm going to have to dig my car out because I am planning on attending a viewing of a belly dance documentary at a local library. I am looking forward to this.

1. I think I'm falling in love with dates. Soooooo good!
2. I want bread.
This evening I went to a screening of Belly: Sensual, Scarred, Sacred at the local library. It was a good documentary about belly dancing in America. Also nice to see some of my "belly sisters." For a moment I was afraid I wouldn't be able to go as I couldn't get my car out of my parking spot. Not too happy about that. But I figured, I was going to have to get it out either tonight or tomorrow morning, so I went for it. Took me 15 minutes to get out. I have a sneaking suspicion the same thing is going to happen tomorrow morning. So I should get up a little early.

With this cleanse, we are supposed to be finished eating by 7pm and in bed by 10pm. I will be ready for bed by the time 10pm rolls around... which will be about half an hour from now. Before I go to bed, I'm going to get everything ready for the kitchari, which I will be eating starting tomorrow and continuing for the next three days. Hopefully it will finish cooking before I leave for work at 9am. Well, before I leave the house and battle with my parking spot for 15 minutes before it will relinquish my vehicle.


I can't say I'm really feeling too particularly different with this cleanse as yet. Thirsty, definitely. But emotionally.... nothing really going on yet. Maybe nothing will. Not everything brings up long-buried baggage. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ayurveda Cleanse: Day 1

Well, Day One is just about over. So far, it's been an easy start to the cleanse. The food for the first two days is simple, warming foods: oatmeal, soup, and steamed greens. The facilitator gave us two recipes to choose from for the soups - a miso veg and a red lentil and root veg. I chose the latter, and was glad to know that it was very similar to my go-to soup. Which has no recipe but is more me throwing a bunch of random vegetables in the slower cooker then dumping a cup or so of red lentils in. The nice thing about red lentils is that they almost completely disintegrate so you are left with a lovely broth.

While massage is not technically on the "menu" until tomorrow, a friend needed someone to practice on and I happily accepted the offer. In class tonight we also received a list of acceptable snack foods, which eased my mind a lot. Because, that's a LONG time to go between light meals with nothing. So, after class I stocked up on some almond milk (unsweetened), dates and bananas. There was also a couple of approved teas, and I purchased one. Sipping on it now, as a matter of fact.

The drinking of the ghee this morning was... eh. I am not much of a butter person to begin with, and even though ghee has a lot of positive health benefits, drinking it straight is not for the faint of heart. Or those with a trigger gag reflex. I ended up treating it like a shot and gulping it down in one swallow. But I got it down. Only need to do it tomorrow and then I'm done until Monday. Phew!

I have felt rather tired all day today, but I cannot attribute that to the cleanse, necessarily. It was my first week working full time and I was pooped by last night. I also woke up earlier than planned this morning. On the plus side, no major caffeine headaches! Yesterday was supposed to be my first day without it, but I could feel it wrapping around my head while I was at work and so I had a diet soda. Today, I've had absolutely no caffeine and only the mildest of head discomforts. Mostly like it wants me to know that it's there, but it's too lazy to do anything about it. Although I realize that if I let myself get too tired it'll probably attack me.

Our facilitator handed out a questionnaire for us to fill out, mainly for our own edification. Since I'm chronicling this journey here, I thought I'd post my responses.

1. What are your intentions during the next seven days?
My intentions are two-fold: to welcome healthy, positive relationships into my life and to let go of that which is no longer serving me. This goes along with my continuing work on my second chakra, but is certainly appropriate intentions for a cleanse.

2. What changes do you want to make during the next seven days?
I would like to re-set my obsession with food (because that is what it is) to something healthier. I hope to prove to myself that I don't need to approach each meal like I won't eat again for a week. And that I can effectively function on simple, whole, healthy foods and my body does not need an entire bag of Baked Doritos.

3. What do you think will be the hardest part of the next week?
I think the hardest part will be the simplicity of the meals - there will be very little in the way of seasonings, and I will be using a scant teaspoon (if that) of agave nectar in my oatmeal. I will be eating the same thing for five days straight, and even I get sick of something after a while. I am also a little worried about working a full week and being able to maintain my energy level.

4. How do you hope to feel after the cleanse?
Well, I hope to feel clean! But more so, I hope to maybe feel more confident about my food choices and more aware of what my body needs as opposed to what the inner seven year old wants when her emotions come to the surface.

Well, that's it for now! I'll post back tomorrow evening. Maybe I'll have something deep and insightful.

Or not.

Monday, January 17, 2011


My cleanse officially starts tomorrow. And that is most definitely a good thing. I weighed myself this morning and I'm about 8 pounds over where I prefer to be. Now, I know 8 pounds sounds like nothing and most of you are all 8 pounds? Whatevs. But these 8 pounds represent the beginning of a long, slippery slide down a slope I don't want to go.

I am feeling frustrated and desperate that I cannot seem to lose the weight on my own. That whenever I try to lose the weight, I get hungry and end up eating more than I require. I am still trying to examine what I am feeling when I do this, but it's odd. When I try to reduce the amount I consume down to reasonable levels, I panic. Or my body panics. Not sure which. It's like this switch flips and I have to eat. Sometimes I am hungry, and sometimes I think I'm hungry. But regardless, I have to eat now.

I do not want to re-join Weight Watchers. Frankly I just don't want to spend the money on it and I've found when you have a little to lose it isn't always as effective as when you have a lot to lose (and I lost 30 pounds on it). As much as I like MyPlate, I get tired of it after a week and drop it.

So, among the many other things I'm hoping this cleanse will accomplish, I'm hoping it teaches me what exactly my body requires. I'd be lying if I said losing a couple pounds wouldn't be nice. But frankly, I'm not expecting to lose any weight with this. I'll be eating. Just the same thing over and over again. But maybe that's what I need right now.

I think I need to sit down with my bod and have a nice long conversation about what it does and does not need, and why it needs to stop panicking if I ask it to reduce in size a little. I also think I need to have a nice long conversation with myself to ensure that losing the weight is the right thing to do, that I'm doing it for the right reasons and not because of vanity.

Oy vey. Too many deep conversations need to take place and it isn't even 8:00am yet. Too early! Too early!!!

Friday, January 14, 2011


Today was a good day at work. There is nothing tangible to prove that, but it is more a feeling. When I left after my shift today, I felt so light and airy. I felt like I made a difference to the people I saw today. There were shifts in their own perceptions and mine as well. In-roads were made, minds were opened and energy was moved.

Moreover, with my last massage I could literally feel my own style growing and maturing. I tried things I never normally do because - and get this - her body was asking for these techniques. Practically begging for them. And it made a huge difference. To her own self-awareness, and to me as a therapist. It was a very powerful session; there was a lot of positive energy moving around moving with it made the whole session much... deeper.

So yeah. I just wanted to share that today was a very good day at work. :-)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Science of Life

A couple weeks ago, I signed up for a 3-week series on Ayurveda. The series includes an introductory class (which happened last night), a seven-day cleanse (which happens next week), and information on why this ancient Indian form of medicine works and how we can integrate it into our every day life.

This is exciting and kinda scary all at the same time. Well, the information isn't scary - the cleanse is, a little. Although, the leader of the class said straight out that while she felt obligated to present the materials in their original form, this cleanse was a "choose your own adventure" kind of deal. Follow as much as you can to the best of your abilities. There are some things I'm definitely on board with (yoga? massage? hot baths? Yes please!). There are other things I'm game to try (two tablespoons of warm ghee drunk down before breakfast? Um... sure, why not?), and a couple places I am just not willing to go (ahem, enema. You can call it by the Sanskrit term basti if you like, but it's still not going to happen).

The basic plan is this: for the first two days of the cleanse, you eat simple foods - oatmeal, vegetable based soups and steamed vegetables. For the next four days you go on a monodiet: just oatmeal and kitchari. On the last day, you go back to simple foods. The ghee drinking is just on the first two days, and is meant to "lubricate" the insides so ama has a hard time sticking around. The 20 minute self massage (which is to be done with oil and before a hot bath or shower), starts on day three and is meant to move the ama out of the muscles. The basti or herbal detox tea (going with the latter here) is meant to, well, get rid of the ama for once and all.

Ama is defined as "internal toxins, usually resulting from incomplete digestion or elimination or improper metabolic functioning."* So, basically, this cleanse is to get all the gunk unstuck and out of the body.

So, next week, be prepared for a bunch of posts about god knows what will this cleanse will bring up. I am sure by Day Seven I will be well and sick of rice and lentils, but I am hoping the process will allow me to hit "restart", in relation to my food issues and habits.

One interesting thing to come out of this was that my dosha is actually not what I thought it was. Originally I was convinced that I was a Pitta (fire) with Kasha (earth) leanings. Turns out I have Vata (ether/air) and Pitta in near equal amounts, with very little Kasha at all. Which totally changes the way I am looking at things. It will be interesting to try and bring these two into balance. After all, air feeds fire, and that's not always a good thing!

* from The Ayurvedic Cookbook, (1990). Amadea Morningstar with Urmila Desai. Lotus Press. Follow the link to Amazon if you are interested in the book. It's got some good info and recipes in it. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It's Time to Get Your Chakra On

I have been very drawn to the chakras of late. Actually, I seem to be drawn to a number of Indian spiritual ways of thought, the chakras just being the latest. As I've been massaging, I've noticed that most people complain of discomfort in two areas: their lower back and their upper back and shoulders. These pretty much align with the Sacral Chakra and Heart Chakra.

On a personal note, I've been called lately to work on my own Sacral Chakra issues. Earlier this year, I did a lot of work around my Solar Plexus Chakra and I have felt the difference in everything I do and how I relate to life in general. But it is become increasingly clear to me lately that my second chakra has given up the goat and gone of vacation. Which will simply just not do.

For all of you completely unfamiliar with Chakras, here is the quickie version: while chakras exist in some form or another in many cultures, according to Indian philosophy there are seven main energy chakras (meaning "wheel of light") and 21 minor chakras. The seven main ones run up the center of the body, and coincide with the endocrine glands:
View Image

Each chakra "governs" a particular bodily and spiritual need. The lower three chakras focus primarily of base survival needs, the upper three focus on spiritual needs. The middle one - the heart chakra - balances the lower and upper chakras. Each chakra resonates with a different color and tonal vibration. Chakras can be too open or closed off; what you want is for the chakras to be in balance. Unfortunately, because we're human and fallible, they are seldom perfectly balanced. But, as with all things, you can work to bring them into balance.

Which really can be work, let me tell you. Working on your chakras means you may well be delving into things you've quite contentedly kept buried for a very long time.

The Sacral Chakra - second from the bottom if you're looking at the picture - is also called Svadisthana. It is associated with water, and its color is orange/gold, although some traditions have it as a reddish orange. Its key issues are relationships, violence, and addictions. It transmutes sexual energy and is the base for creativity. The life lesson for this chakra is to seek meaningful relationships, in any and all forms. The gemstone to activate this chakra is the fire opal or carnelian, to calm is the emerald and to balance is the moonstone or aquamarine. Chakras often work in conjunction with each other, and this particular chakra works with the throat chakra.
View Image

An under-active sacral chakra can manifest as an overindulgence in food and/or sex, which can lead to obesity, food intolerance, chronic skin conditions, impotence and disease. Ahem. An overactive second chakra can manifest as confused sexuality. All relationships and family interactions are functions of the sacral chakra.*

I think I can safely say - and the abundance of chips and dip in my belly fat would concur - that my sacral chakra is currently under-active. So, I'm doing the work, doing the digging, clearing out the cobwebs and lighting the agni (fire). I've got my carnelian gemstone and my orange candle, and even a few mantras to get things going again.

When I first started my goal of having a better relationship with food, chakral work didn't even occur to me. But if focusing here will help me make sense of why I do the things I do and can help me change things, then I'm all for it.

* The information on chakras was taken from the following book: Chakras: Balance Your Body's Energy for Health and Harmony. Patricia Mercier. 2000: Godsfield Press. Click on the link to go to Amazon. Although you may want to look around, as the price I paid in the bookstore was $14.95 and Amazon currently has it listed at $40. It is a good book, though, and I would recommend it if you can get it for $20 or less.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hard Thoughts on Being Vegetarian

So, in my last post I mentioned that I want to have a better relationship with food. For me, that really means examining the reasons why I eat the way I do. There's a lot that I really need to examine here (like why I cannot stop myself from bingeing on chips or pizza), but I chose first to examine the one thing that I've been using to define myself for the last several years: vegetarianism.

It took me several years to go fully ovo-lacto vegetarian, and my initial reason for doing so was purely health-related. I didn't know much about healthy eating back then, but I knew a lot of meat was bad for your heart, and my heart has issues. So I gave it up. It wasn't because I didn't like the taste or for the animals. It was purely because I didn't want to die before the age of 65. But I didn't quit cold-tofurkey. I ate vegetarian at home, but would order whatever I wanted when I was traveling for conferences or out to dinner with friends. It only gradually migrated into my social life. I started this process in... 2003, I think? 2004? I forget.

Now, I eat predominately vegan at home and vegetarian out in public. I finally quit the fish in 2007, for two reasons. One was for the animals - the overfishing and mercury issue became too big to ignore for me. The second was... well... I had the best fish of my life in Sorrento, Italy. Nothing that came after compared and I figured I'd end things on a high note. I seldom buy or eat eggs anymore; I saw too many pictures of big poultry business in my last marketing job to ever go back to eating conventional chicken or eggs.

But... after all this "being vegetarian", am I still doing it for the right reasons? Am I still doing this to be healthy, or am I defining myself as vegetarian so I can feel smug when others order slabs of beast? So that I can set myself apart as different, special? So I can feel as sense of control over a situation: "I can't eat there, there's nothing on the menu for me"?

So... I've been thinking about it. What if I returned to meat? Would I be able to do it in a healthy fashion? What would be my first order of business in my return to meat? Is eating the organic real thing healthier than eating the processed fake stuff? Is there truly anything I can't substitute that I feel I'm losing out on? Is returning to meat just another form of control, one where I say FUCK YOU to the "rules" of vegetarianism and do whatever the hell I want?

I don't believe I could return to meat in a healthy fashion. I couldn't do it as they do in Asia - use it as a condiment as opposed to the main dish. My first order of business would likely be to order a pepperoni pizza. Yep, that's healthy. Sure, eating the processed stuff isn't the best for you, but it still has virtually none of the cholesterol, less of the calories, and none of the various pharmaceutical additives that come in meat. By this point, anything I truly want, I know how to substitute. I can make eggless egg salad and I have a mean seitan and broccoli recipe that tastes better than anything I could ever order from a Chinese food place.

Then there is this: one thing I learned in massage therapy is that the muscles will hold on to emotions and feelings long after the mind has forgotten them. I have touched spots when massaging and gotten waves of emotion that were not mine. There is a school of thought that as an animal is going to slaughter, the terror and pain it feels are the last things passed into that tissue. Which is then passed on to the person consuming it. This, of course, cannot be tested for or measured, and is "hokey" enough to be easily discounted. But knowing what I know, I cannot willingly consume a being's terror and pain. Moreover, I do not want to be the cause of such pain.

And finally, after all my hemming and hawing, what if's and maybes, it boiled down to one simple fact: I enjoy being a vegetarian. Eating this way makes me feel good about myself. I enjoy vegetables (well, not artichokes), I enjoy cooking this way and creating simple, healthy meals. I enjoy exploring new cultures through vegetarianism, and the challenge taking something like beef and broccoli and turning it into seitan and broccoli.

I know there are many out there who are lifetime vegetarians or vegans who would never in a million years consider eating meat, and there are many more out there who found it later in life, as I did, who would consider me blasphemous for even considering a return to an omnivorous diet. I can certainly see their point of view, but for me the examination was necessary. It all comes back around to Ahimsa - doing no harm. This includes myself, first and foremost. If I am doing all the right things for the wrong reasons, is it not then doing the wrong thing for me? I needed to be sure that I was choosing this lifestyle for the right reasons.

For me, in this moment, I feel vegetarianism is the right thing for me. I needed to challenge my reasoning, and prove it sound. In doing so, I have reinforced my beliefs that it is, for me, the right way to eat. And this is a good thing.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

Well, another year has ended and a new one has begun.

Firstly, an update. I passed the National Examination! I am now a Nationally Certified Massage Therapist. Huzzah! Now, to find time in my schedule for the required continuing education courses to keep it.

Secondly, I promised to share with you the present my brother made me for Christmas. Here it is:

Inscribed around the top is the Surya Namaskara, twice. He is the one who inscribed it, and it is done in Sanskrit. Well, English letters, sanskrit words. The plaque at the top says "Reflect and Shine." Here is the Surya Namaskara in Sanskrit:

Om Dheyah sada savitru mandala madhyawarti
Narayanah sarasijasana sannivistaha
Keyurawan makara kundalawan kiriti
Hari hiranya-maya-vapur-dhruta shankha chakrah.

Translated, it reads:
Oh! Surya Narayana
YOU are the crown glory, carrying shankha chakra in your hands. 
YOU are the creator of joy and destroyer of sorrows. 
YOU cover the entire universe with the golden twilight. 
YOU are the Master, the Provider of the entire universe.
Oh! Sun God make all my efforts as bright and brilliant as the sun in the solar system.

I cherish this gift. The time, the thought and the effort that he put into it means so much to me. It is a powerful creation, and I wear it with honor and pride.

And finally, it's New Year's. Every year I make a list of goals. I reflect back on the previous year's, see what I accomplished and what I'd like to accomplish for the next twelve months. It was interesting writing my goals for 2011, as they were much less tangible than in recent years. A lot of times, I'll have things like "pay off a loan" or "make more of my own food." This year, there are a lot of self-improvement goals. Or rather, self-acceptance goals. Granted there are still a few tangible items, but I think it says a lot that what I want most for this coming year is to be okay with who I am, right now.

To that end, I have an interesting goal regarding my diet. For the last several years, I've made goals to be 80% vegan, or go completely vegan, or this or that. This year, my goal is very different. My goal is simply to have a good relationship with food.

I've never had a positive relationship with food. All my life, food has been an both an arch-nemesis and a comforting blanket. I've always struggled with my weight, and yet food was used as a comfort mechanism in my home growing up. Today, I struggle continually with control when it comes to food. My vegetarianism is part of that control, and my continued attempts at going vegan are also part of that. Granted, vegetarianism and veganism are two of the healthiest options you can make in regards to diet, but if it becomes an overwhelming obsession and an avenue for self-flagellation, is it still healthy? I can have this, I can't have that. If I eat that and it is on the "can't" list I am a Bad Person and I have Failed.

I want to spend 2011 learning how to have a healthy relationship with the fuel I put into my body. I want to not have a "can't" list. I want to not beat myself up anymore if I binge and eat an entire bag of potato chips and dip. I want to look into the reasons why I feel the need to binge like that, and to address those needs in a healthier way. I want to cease seeing hunger as an indication of failure: I just ate two hours ago, yet I am hungry. I am a Failure because what I ate did not keep me satiated for four or more hours. Eating again will make me Fat and Unattractive and a Sad Excuse for a Person.

I mean, come on. How can you win with thinking like that?!?

I have let go of several areas of perfectionism, but food is one of the areas to which I am clinging. I want to let go of this control and simply be and explore and enjoy food without the labels that go with it. So, to that end... I have no idea if I will remain vegetarian. I have no current plans to return to eating meat (the idea frankly makes me uneasy), but I want to remove the restraints that I have put on myself. I am letting go of the idea of being vegan. I still cook that way at home most days, but I have found that I am not emotionally capable of being there and being able to say "I am vegan." The pressure I put on myself to maintain what should be a joyful and healthful way of life negates the positives for me. 

So, I guess you should probably expect to see a lot of introspective navel-gazing posts in 2011, as well as me hashing out my various and sundry food issues. On the one hand I feel I should apologize in advance, but well. Another of my goals was to learn to accept myself for who I am, now. So, I won't apologize. I'll just say that I'm looking forward to sharing this journey with you!

Last Chance.

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