Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Nice Surprise

As my longer term readers know, last year about this time I purchased a book entitled The Conscious Cleanse in an effort to find out if the chronic heartburn I'd suddenly developed shortly after I turned 43 might be the result of food allergies.  As it turned out, I ended up having my gallbladder out last summer (which had been the problem all along!), but not before I learned some really interesting things about foods and my body's reaction to them.  At the time, I hadn't yet been diagnosed, and the  solution that was offered me by the specialist I saw was to add another chronic medication to my regimen. That wasn't an option.  It bothered me that I was on a number of meds to keep me functional and able to work two jobs, and adding yet another pill bottle to my nightstand wasn't an acceptable solution!

The premise of the cleanse as outlined in the book is to follow an eating plan consisting of fruits, vegetables, nuts, non-gluten grains, and small amounts of lean meats for 2 weeks, and then slowly add in different foods such as dairy and gluten to see how your body responds.  What initially interested me was that the author of the book had suffered a pretty life altering accident very similar to my own, and had found that by changing how she ate, she was able to basically heal herself and no longer required chronic medications.  THAT totally appealed to me, and though at the time I wasn't sure I could duplicate her results, I wanted to explore foods to see if maybe something I was eating might be causing inflammatory processes in my own body that increased my pain, and if simply by changing my diet I could cut down on the significant amount of daily pain that I have.  At the time, I had no idea that it would really change my life and how I relate to food. 

After 1 week on the plan I had lost about 8 pounds.  I hadn't been exercising, but had followed the plan religiously.  I was surprised to find that, since the book said that I could eat however much I wanted of the foods within the above groups, I wasn't ever the least bit hungry and never felt like I was dieting.  I learned to eat when I was hungry and stop when I was full.  And because in my head I never felt like I was restricting myself, I never felt like I was missing anything at all!  I felt clearer headed, my stomach upset seemed to be less, and I was ecstatic with the weight that seemed to have just fallen off in my sleep!  No amount of dieting or combination of diet and exercise had produced any results after I turned 40, and the fact that I wasn't hungry but was losing weight like crazy was a freaking happy shock.

When the 2 weeks of the cleanse were up, I felt so good eating the way I had been that I just sort of kept it up.  I just wasn't so strict about it.  We'd do happy hour on Friday nights or meet friends for a meal out, and I'd totally chow down on ribs and potato salad, or have the occasional ice cream cone for dinner on a Tuesday.  The difference was, I was no longer addicted to sweets (craving sugar is also a side effect of narcotics) and a single cookie that once may have ended up in me scarfing half the box and then rolling around on the floor in the crumbs was just a single cookie or two and nothing more.  And I also found it shocking that, as I was tracking my intake just out of curiosity, I found that I was eating what seemed like huge quantities of foods, yet my caloric intake was amazingly low!  I was giving my body whole, living foods, and it was processing them quickly and efficiently, and somehow I was still losing weight! :D  I found the whole process fascinating.

Rik hadn't bitten off on the whole clean eating idea yet, but one of the things I love about him is his willingness to try just about anything once, so as I experimented in the kitchen I used him as a sounding board for the recipes that truly tasted good.  If his reaction was "Wow!  That's not bad for something healthy!" I didn't make it again!  I wanted the recipes and foods that I created to taste good all on their own, "good-for-you" notwithstanding.  Cooking is something I love to do.  To me, cooking is a form of alchemy: taking disparate ingredients and putting them together in a unique way to create something entirely new.  It's magic.  And I learned that I truly can eat well, even on a gourmet level, without feeling like I'm eating "healthy", and I'm hoping to convince you of the same :)  

If you have some time and want some examples of what I'm talking about, click on the "Pretty On The Inside" tab at the top of the page (or here) and scroll through.  That is the home for some of the recipes from last year's experimentation that range from Chocolate Almond Breakfast Ice Cream (7 ingredients and seriously okay to eat for breakfast!) to Chocolate Brownie Batter Bites that taste like raw brownie batter but are pure protein goodness that you can eat without the least bit of guilt.

So I think I may have messed up in choosing this week to start this blog experiment as Rik is out of town which means that I won't be cooking much which is why I changed the format a bit today compared to how the rest of the week has been.  But in a way, this might be good as you'll see how he's able to eat out when he's away from home and still make good choices.

Here's today's intake:  

Breakfast:  1 c. of Oatmeal with 2 tsp. of brown sugar  
Snack:  Vanilla protein shake
Snack:  2 Oatmeal Cupcakes to Go
Lunch:  A 6-inch Subway Club Sandwich on Flat bread with lettuce, tomato, green pepper, onion, and cucumber, 2 small (2 oz) cookies 
Snack:  Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Bar
Snack:  Vanilla protein shake
Dinner:  Olive Garden Seafood Alfredo 

My Lunch

Breakfast:  1 Oatmeal Cupcake to Go and 3 cups of coffee with homemade creamer
Snack:  A handful of Cinnamon Spice Chickpea Poppers
Lunch:  Leftover Chicken Barley Vegetable Soup and open-faced toasted cheese made from Oroweat Sandwich Thins & Sprouts bulk cheddar (the one Rocket Dog bit) o_O
Snack:  Sandwich thins (not sure what's going on with my bread craving today) toasted 
with almond butter and honey, and a cup of Tazo decaf chai
Dinner:  Rik's favorite super salad  
After Dinner Snack:  Sliced apple with 1/2 cup of Healthy Nutella from my favorite dessert blog

NOTE:  I want to point something out here: I ate quite a lot today.  Now that I'm feeling better, this is about what my usual day is.  For most of us trying to watch what we eat, it's recommended that we stay under 1200 calories (for women) if we lead a rather sedentary lifestyle.  I've tracked intake today to show you that all of this food, every bite, is a total of 1,300 calories.  That's it.  I ate when I was hungry, stopped eating when I was full (i.e, the 2-cup bowl of soup picture above only got about half eaten as I couldn't finish it), ate within my food groups (with the exception of the bread), and am very close to the allotted calories for the day if I were counting calories alone! :D
Here's tonight's dinner.  We like salads, but they get realllllyyyy boring if you eat a lot of them.  And let's face it: eating the required amount of vegetables is a lot of work, and sometimes your mouth gets tired of chewing before your stomach gets full!  My way around that was to cut back on the amount of greens and double the amount of vegetables.  And then throw in things that you might not think to add otherwise.  Like gourmet olives, pepperoncini, sliced strawberries, or apples. 

 I.    Toss in a handful of greens.  I'm using a baby spinach and kale mix.    

II.   Chop about 5 baby carrots and 3 green onions.  

III.  Add in a handful (these were pre-sliced in a bag) of radishes.  
IV.  Half a cucumber, chopped coarsely.
V.   A hunk of pepper (any color) chopped.
VI.  A small handful of asparagus (raw is good!).
VII. A chunk of jicama peeled and sliced.
VIII. A handful of sliced cabbage mix.
IX.  Some pepperoncini and a few sliced olives from the gourmet olive bar at the grocery store, and a good crumble of feta cheese.  
X.  Toss it all in your bowl and add a drizzle of dressing.  
I only use about 1-2 Tbsp. on a salad big enough for 2 of us to each have seconds, which means 2 Tbsp total on around 5-6 cups of salad.  
XI.  Top the completed salad with half a sliced avocado and a chopped hard boiled egg.  

This takes about 15 minutes to prepare.  And if you think you've made too much, take a handful or so out and put it in a ziploc bag before you add dressing, and it will be great for your lunchbox the next day.  I'm not big on the average salad, but this one (and variations on the theme) are good enough for seconds.  And if you can get away from the mindset that dinner needs to always consist of THREE (1 meat, 1 vege, and a bread) like most of us believe, a salad like this can totally work as a meal on its own.