Docu Review: “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”

I decided to take a break from my normal sort of post. I’ve been trying to take in as much information as I can about clean living and getting healthy. At the recommendation of several people I have watched a couple of documentaries this week. First, I watched Food, Inc. which I thought was very informative (and DISTURBING) but the one that really spoke to me was Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. I related so well to this movie. I actually watched it twice. It was much more relevant to me than I’d like. So here are my thoughts on it.

The film follows Joe, who also co-wrote/co-directed the film (and I think probably financed it). Joe was 310 lb. and had a terrible auto-immune skin disease that required he take a heavy dose of Prednisone, a really nasty steroid. It doesn’t really get into where he got the idea (or maybe I’ve forgotten), but he decides to go on a 60 day juice fast, in an effort to see if he can clean his body of not only fat but also disease. The movie chronicles those 60 days, (which he spends making juice from a juicer run by a generator in the trunk of his SUV) and interviewing strangers on the streets of New York City and then around the US. While on the road he interviews a lot of really fantastic, mostly unhealthy people, and convinces two people to join him in the fasting and document their progress.

One is a woman who does not appear to even be overweight let alone obese, but has health problems like migraines and sleeping issues, both with which I am all too familiar. She does not enjoy the fast but at the end of her 10 days, she is overjoyed with how great she feels. For her, the biggest challenge is balancing her lifestyle with a social life. Another thing I can relate to very well.

The other person who joins Joe is a man named Phil. Phil weighs about 430 pounds and is heartbreaking. He can’t walk for more than five or ten minutes at a time. He is obviously severely depressed. He is embarrassed to let anyone see him, including his kids. He is a 42 year old truck driver, which is not a very healthy lifestyle in the first place. Joe meets him on the road, and later on Phil calls him to say he needs a change and is ready to fast.

His transformation is incredible. I’m sorry to ruin the movie for everybody, but the end is really the point! Joe loses over 200 pounds, and starts a community-wide fast to get his whole Iowa town into shape. He honestly is a new person both in appearance and personality. I was so inspired.

The movie really made me think about the place I’m at right now, as opposed to who I’ve been in the past and who I want to be. It’s not always obvious in my day to day routine how much my physical state affects my mental one. I’ve always been friendly, out-going and up for a challenge, but looking at the past year or so, I probably haven’t been as lively as I imagine. My mind still feels pretty peppy, but in reality there are a lot of days where I don’t leave my house. (I work from home.) I feel better now than I did a month ago, but still. Looking at this movie showed me a lot about my own personal fears. I definitely don’t want to let things ever get any worse.

Unfortunately, my cleanse is on pause. Or maybe it’s over and I will start fresh in a couple of weeks. I think I mentioned in my last post that I sprained my wrist. Annoyingly, though, it is my right wrist, and of course I’m right-handed, so frankly it’s really a pain (literally!) to try to chop all my veggies. (I do it by hand.) So I’ve been eating a lot more convenience food than I like. Nothing too insane for the most part, but like, sushi or a prepared salad from the Fresh Market instead roasted salmon and veggies I cut up myself.

The film, however, really made me miss my standard breakfast juice, which I’d grown so fond of and accustomed to over the past couple of weeks. I was surprised, both of these men had physician approval to do the 60-day juice fast, where they lost an insane amount of weight. Far more than the standard 2 lb per week normally recommended. That is encouraging also. I’m not sure I want to do a pure juice fast, but maybe I will make sure to include as much as possible.

I did make a really good soup recently, which is the same as juice except warmer, really.

Here are the ingredients:

  • 3/4 Butternut Squash (4 cups chopped)
  • 1 Apple
  • 2 Carrots
  • 2 Garlic Cloves and a teaspoon minced Ginger
  • Cinnamon, Cloves and Nutmeg to Taste
  • And some water.
  • That’s it!! **

Then you just roast everything until it’s all pretty soft–maybe 25 mins– and then mix it together in a blender with some water. I used about 1 Cup I think. I just sort of added it in til I liked the consistency.

**I just checked the recipe which I got from the Whole Living Action Plan I’ve been following, and apparently you’re also supposed to add a whole onion, but I totally forgot it. It tasted fine without it. Made it sweeter.

I added some cinnamon mixed with a packet of Truvía on top. (This was kind of a cheat but def worth it!)

Here was the result:

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

It was great! It took a lot of time to prepare, I’m not gonna lie to you, but if you have a food processor or are better at chopping things than I am, it should go pretty fast.

And I definitely recommend watching “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead.” It’s on Netflix Instant. Also from the website it looks like they have a lot of associated materials, which I’m going to check out. Hopefully they have some juice and smoothie recipes I can add to my collection!

It’s a great movie to watch if you are just on the edge of thinking it’s time to really start making some changes, but since if you’re reading this you’re probably past that point, it’s also great for people like me. People who have been doing well with clean living and detoxing, but sometimes just need a motivational nudge when things get hard.

Wow this one was long. Hope you have a great weekend!

-lj

The Glory of a Well-Balanced Meal

So, it’s still Week 2 of my cleanse. On Week 2, I’ve been allowed to add in seafood and legumes. Honestly, that’s a diet that could be sustainable long term. It has opened up a lot more possibilities, but to be honest I’ve been using a lot of Week 1 recipes still. I wish there was more information on the reasoning behind each step of the process, because I’m not sure if eating fish or legumes every day or at every meal is vital to success or if it’s just a way of easing back in to normal life.

Either way I am glad this one uses fish as the protein. I don’t eat a lot of meat. I can’t help but think of what I’m actually eating and it grosses me out. I don’t like it. For some reason fish, and to an extent chicken, don’t bother me as much–I think because they are less “meaty”–so I really only eat those, and stay away from other meats. Thus, I got lucky that this one uses fish.

I’ve been reading up on other cleanse programs some more and I found one that seemed so strange to me. It lasts one week. The first day you eat only fruits. Second day, only vegetables. Third day, BEEF AND TOMATOES. Can you imagine? How can that possibly be cleansing? Tomatoes are incredibly acidic, first of all. And beef is so high in cholesterol and saturated fats, I don’t understand how it can be useful for detoxing at all.

But I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist or a naturopath. And, I’ve digressed. I can’t say I notice a huge amount of difference in energy between Week 1 and Week 2. It could be that the thrill is sort of gone, and now it’s purely my body’s energy and not my added emotional excitement. Either way, I still feel great. And, since I’ve been visiting my parents–who eat healthy but not cleanse-healthy/crazy–it’s nice to be able to join them for dinner a little more easily. Last night, I had roasted salmon, with an avocado-orange salsa, brussel sprouts cooked in olive oil, vegetable broth and garlic, and as a “treat” a 1/4 of a cup of steamed brown rice.

Salmon with Avocado Salsa

Here is the Avocado-Orange Salsa Recipe if you are interested:

Avocado-Orange Salsa

  • 1 Avocado
  • 2 Small Navel Oranges
  • 1/4 cup diced onion (or a little less depending on taste)
  • Juice from 1 Lime
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Cumin

(This recipe makes a lot of salsa, but it’s hard to cut down without wasting precious avocado!)

The whole thing was so good. I think it might be psychological, but having different elements to the meal (instead of one giant salad) made it seem so much bigger and I was really full at the end of it. (Not too full, though! Just the good kind of satisfied fullness.)

The only problem is, I am not super great at cooking. I’m good at making things like salads and smoothies, but I have no idea how to grill a piece of fish. It’s easy to be so excited while I’m visiting my mom, who has been cooking meals from scratch 5 nights a week for like 30 years. I am really determined to make these efforts last long-term, so I guess I better get some cookbooks! Or at least watch Youtube instructional videos…

I’ll figure something out!

-lj

Accidental Liquid Diet

So I made it through Week 1 of my cleansing process! I feel great! Not only because I accomplished a goal that was a seriously lofty challenge but also physically, I can’t remember the last time I felt this good. The headaches went away all together a couple of days ago.

I did a pretty good job of sticking to the plan of following some of the Whole Living recipes and making up my own recipes with the list of Cleanse-Friendly foods. My favorite new thing is to make smoothies. I don’t have a blender at my house, but I’ve been visiting my parents and I could make a smoothie everyday.

Some Favorite Smoothie Concoctions:

Orange-Berry Smoothie
  • 1/2 Banana
  • 2 Oranges
  • 2 cups frozen berries (Whole Foods & the local chain both had an organic blend)

Berry-Citrus

  • 2 cups frozen berries
  • 1 Orange
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1/2 Mango
  • 1/2 Banana

Tropical Fruit & Strawberry

  • Half a pineapple (& the juice)
  • Juice from 2 Clementines
  • 1 Mango
  • 1 1/2 Bananas
  • 1 package frozen strawberries (approx 2-2 1/2 cups)

Yellow Smoothie

  • 2 Bananas
  • 1/2 a pineapple (& the juice)
  • 1 Mango
  • Juice from 2-3 Clementines

Green Smoothie

  • 1 cup Pineapple (chopped)
  • 1 1/2 cups Mango (chopped)
  • 1 cup Kale
  • 1 cup Spinach
  • 1 inch Ginger (chopped)
  • 1 Stalk Celery
  • 1/2 cup Pineapple juice (or however much is available)
  • Water as needed (maybe 1 cup?)

I was telling a friend about these smoothies and she asked how I got them to the consistency I wanted without adding juice, yogurt, ice or water (usually). Really, it’s trial and error. And, really I do add some fresh squeezed OJ to it, and in the veggie one there is some water. But seriously it’s just a matter of knowing what fruit serves what purpose. Bananas will help give it a creamier effect. Pineapple adds juice (and some sweetness). Mango adds sweetness (and some juice). The berries thicken it, I think, and since they’re cold they add to that sort of frozen treat experience people are looking for in a smoothie. So yep. I guess maybe I am a scientist after all because that’s chemistry folks!

All of these recipes make more than 1 serving, but for instance I was being in decisive about dinner one night and so I just made a big batch of smoothie and had probably 3 servings as my evening meal. I realize this is not an ideal technique for all dieters, but on a cleanse, where you want to get a lot of fruit, especially berries and citrus, I thought it would be okay. I haven’t noticed any adverse effects, anyway. And it was definitely filling.

I also am still into making regular juice. I’ve been making a lot of grapefruit juice, which should be considered its own superfood since it is delicious and has a variety of health benefits. I mean, just look how enticing:

Grapefruit Juice

I generally use a manual juicer to squeeze 3 grapefruits. The sweeter ones taste better but so far I can’t figure out how to tell which ones will be sweeter. Maybe the softer ones? I don’t know. I’m not a scientist, ok? Anyway, here’s a fun tip! I like to save the leftover pulp to eat as a snack later on. It looks kind of weird but tastes good and is pretty filling.

So at this point I was going to also write about all the awesome soups I have made as a part of this cleanse but I think I’ll save that. I’m really happy with the way it’s going though. Week 2 incorporates legumes and fish back into the diet. I wasn’t sure I wanted to jump right into eating fish again, so for today I mostly stuck with a Week 1 diet, but incorporated some lentils. I’ve said this before, and it’s probably obvious based on the subject of this post, but I definitely want to continue incorporating juice, smoothies and other liquids into the diet because it is easy and healthy.

Week 1 was such a success, I’m excited to see what Week 2 has in store!

Cleansing with (Mostly) Raw Food

Well, I’m almost through the first week of my cleanse! As a reminder for you, it is based on the Whole Living 2012 Action Plan, but I’m not using all of those recipes (though some I am) and I am eating only foods known for their detoxification benefits. I’ve cut out sugar, gluten, animal products, excessive salt, caffeine and alcohol. I’m only eating vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds and a whole lot of Smartwater. Full disclosure: I did cheat twice. On Day 2 I was so hungry I went to the Fresh Market on my block and bought some brown rice cakes (unsalted). They taste kind of like card stock but they served their purpose. The fact that those are considered cheating makes me a little sad about life! On Day 3 it was my friend’s birthday part, where we had dinner at a bar, and I at the filling of some fish tacos with steamed vegetables. There was still no gluten or dairy, so I don’t think it was too bad.

For the most part, I am loving the cleanse. It is definitely working, and I can tell in two ways: I feel lighter. Not necessarily by pounds, but I feel less bogged down. The other way is less fortunate. I’ve had a terrible headache. The Day 3 headache got so bad that I had to leave that party early. Later in the evening it basically turned into a migraine. After doing a little research, it seems I have been having serious sugar withdrawals. I lamely expected not to have a lot of detox symptoms because I don’t drink much caffeine. I did not expect this sugar detox to have such serious side effects. I guess I eat a lot of things that have sugar even though they don’t seem particularly unhealthy like yogurt, granola bars and stir-fry with sauce. Today hasn’t been so bad, though which is why I’m writing a blog post finally! Even though the headaches have been painful, and really inhibited my ability to work this week, it is nice to know my efforts to rid my body of toxins has been working. Headaches aren’t my ideal signal of success, but I suppose it is better than no success at all!

The actual food has been pretty good. I’ve been having fun trying to create ways to eat these detox foods that are still tasty. I love the liquid breakfast rule , and I think I might try to stick with it long term. I’ve also created a couple different salads that I really enjoy and would be happy to eat even after the cleanse is through, so I thought I’d include those recipes:

1. Avocado & Pepitas Salad

Ingredients: (All Organic)

  • Handful Spring Mix/Mixed Greens
  • 1/2 a handful of Spinach
  • 1 Small Avocado
  • 10 Cherry Tomatoes
  • 2 Tablespoons Diced Onions
  • 1/2 cup Green Pepper Strips
  • 1/4 cup Pepitas
  • Dressing (Below)

Dressing:

  • 1 Tablespoon EVOO (olive oil)
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • 2 dashes cayenne pepper

2. Sweet Potato Slaw

Ingredients: (All Organic)

  • 1 Small Sweet Potato*
  • 1 Gala Apple
  • 1 Cup Chopped Red Cabbage
  • 1 Celery Stalk
  • 1 Large Carrot
  • Diced Onion (to taste)
  • 2 Tablespoons Toasted Almond Slices (not pictured)
  • Dressing

Dressing:

  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons EVOO
  • Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
  • 1 Inch Ginger, grated
  • Salt/Pepper (to taste)

*For the sweet potato, I cooked it 15-20 minutes until it was soft enough to chop. All the ingredients were supposed to be julienned but I am not that fancy so I just cut them into strips or slices.

So there we go. So far, I’ve been enjoying the cleanse (even with the headaches) and I think I am making good progress! I like the feeling of accomplishment, and even with the headaches I definitely recommend it for everyone.

-lj

Cleanse Day 1

The first day of the cleanse was a success!

I feel pretty good. I have a little bit of a headache and, I won’t lie to you, I’m kind of hungry. But overall, I think it was pretty successful.

I am using a modified version of the Whole Living 2012 Action Plan Challenge. I am modifying it to fit a) my tastes and b) my commitment levels (both financially and in time). For instance, I will not be making the beet soup that takes four hours, even if it is super healthy looking. I’d rather just eat some beets and go on my way.

Here are the fundamentals of the cleanse: eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. Eat some oils with omega 3, including nuts and seeds. DO NOT eat/consume sugar, gluten, caffeine, alcohol or animal products.

There are a lot of foods that are particularly good for cleansing and detoxing. I’m trying to eat those foods almost without exception. Here is a list of the cleansing foods:

This list isn't completely exhaustive. I also will eat mostly any fruit or vegetables, even if they aren't on the list.

So the Whole Living Challenge suggests starting the day with a cup of hot water with lemon, so I did that. It was nice and refreshing. I don’t have a caffeine addiction, nor do I drink coffee, so I liked the hot water in the morning. I wonder if for coffee drinkers it would have been a rude awakening (or NOT-awakening hehe). Then I set out to make breakfast.

The thing I am noticing already about this program is that I am spending insane amounts of my day in the kitchen. Normally, when I “cook” I don’t do things that require a lot of prep work. I throw some tofu in the over and let it roast for 20 minutes. I throw some salad on a plate and pour on some bottled dressing and go on my way. All this chopping and mixing for this in depth recipes I can already predict will get old. But, the results (today at least) were pretty cool.

The cleanse recommends having juice or a smoothie for breakfast, because liquids are easier to digest (obviously) and it’s a nice way to ease your system into the day. It offers a few recipe suggestions and I chose the one that looked the most appetizing: Grapefruit-Carrot Juice. It is really simple, which I also liked about the recipe going into it. It is simple: 2 grapefruits, 5 whole carrots and an inch of ginger. You just chop them all up and put them through a juicer, which out of kismet and because we are kindred spirits, my roommate had on hand. Although I think if you added a little bit of water (maybe 1/4 cup), it would work in a blender too. (Provided the blender is strong enough to puree carrots.) In the future I think I might put the glass in the refrigerator for a little while before serving the juice because it was a little warm. But it turned out pretty tasty and it looked very good, in my biased opinion:

The rest of the day went well, too, but I think breakfast was my greatest achievement. Lunch was a really good salad/slaw thing that I will probably post some other time. Dinner was not so great. I roasted some cauliflower with garlic and red peppers and it was intensely bland. Blandness is something that is going to be a problem for me over the next two weeks, that’s pretty clear already.

Throughout the day, I didn’t get as much work done as I wanted to. Mostly I think I was distracted thinking about food and cooking. I was surprised though, because I thought I would be exhausted and I wasn’t. I’m supposed to get 7.5 hours of sleep per night minimum, and that might be a challenge. Overall though, I think I will be really happy with this cleanse idea.

Finding a Plan: The Cleanse

I hate the word “diet.” To me, the connotation is a quick fix, where the only goal is to get skinny. Skinny is the least of my concerns at this point. I am more focused on healthy. So, my goal right now (and always) is to change my general way of living. I don’t want a temporary fix.

I started this lifestyle change about three months ago: cutting out fried foods, cheese and saturated fats in general, plus sweets, limiting starches and trying to make sure vegetables and fruits were my major food groups. It was going pretty well. I wasn’t even monitoring weight loss, I just wanted to get into a groove where eating really healthy seemed normal.

Last year I was really dependent on take out food for most of my meals. Turns out, when you let restaurants make your food for you, there is no way to regulate what’s in it. So even if I was eating tofu with vegetables (which I was…some of the time), there’s still the (strong) possibility that it’s tofu, vegetables and like 2 cups of vegetable oil and a pound of salt. And let’s not kid ourselves, for every night 0f tofu and vegetables there was a night of half a cheese pizza and a small pile of breadsticks.

So somewhere in December I finally decided to get my act together. I am not adverse to cooking and eating vegetables, I just needed to start getting used to it again. I started using an online/phone app program for calorie counting (myfitnesspal.com), because I did it once before and was very successful. I like calorie counting because it helps me set limits for myself. I like the simple arithmetic of it: figure out how many calories your body needs to stay nourished but lose its excess, then only eat things up to that particular stopping point. I like how cut and dry that system is–it is easy to understand and thus easy to follow. So things were going great for a while. But then, in February I took the bar exam.

If you’ve never taken a bar exam, be happy about that. It is a terrible, long and grueling process: study for twelve-fifteen hours a day for six weeks, and then take a two day intensive standardized exam, on which your entire future relies. It’s a little bit stressful. Thus, calorie counting was not nearly as a high a priority as avoiding a mental breakdown, so I replaced salads and roasted vegetables with whatever the hell I wanted. After the exam was over I told myself I could have a week where I could indulge in doing eating as I pleased: cupcakes, pizza, noodles in cream sauce, breaded chicken, cookies, nachos and more than a couple 7 & 7’s.

When this whirlwind of gluttony settled down, I felt gross. Instead of feeling like I had finally gotten over the post-bar exhaustion, I felt worse. So, I decided I needed to rejuvenate. That brings us almost to present day.

I’ve done cleanses before, but mass-marketed ones that didn’t really work. This time, I wantit to be different, because again, I’m concerned with healthiness more than getting skinny. I can only assume weight loss is a natural side effect of treating my body better. Since I’m just looking for a quick fix, I did some research.

I’ve wavered a lot over whether my cleanse should incorporate detox supplements or should be just based on foods and liquids. Ultimately I have decided on cleansing through diet, and if it doesn’t seem to be working, maybe I will reevaluate.

A cleanse means exactly what it implies. It cleans out disgusting things that have built up inside our bodies due to things like junk food, alcohol or smoke. It mostly focuses on the colon and the liver, which are the major organs for filtering things, and so that’s where a lot of build up occurs. But, I don’t want to get too gross about stuff.

So I’ve spent a lot of time searching around the Internet for a good cleanse that would make me feel refreshed and less run down, and to rid my body of the bad mojo left behind by the bar exam.

I found one online that I really like: The Whole Living 2012 Action Plan. Whole Living is a site apparently owned by Martha Stewart’s media regime, which kind of explains why the site’s recipes involve a lot of time and money. Sadly, I do not own a media conglomerate and do not really want to buy an entire bunch of fennel so I can use a half cup. But still, I really like the holistic approach of this cleanse. It incorporates simple exercises and meditation into the cleansing process. Plus, the fact that it starts out super intense and then gradually gets easier, will hopefully make it easier to be able to keep up the lifestyle when the actual cleansing is over.

But, like I said a lot of the recipes sound either expensive or inedible, so I have been looking for other options too. There is a lot of information available about what foods are good for cleansing/detoxing. I’ve decided I am going to use the basic setup of the Whole Living program, but incorporate different recipes using only detoxing/cleansing foods.

The gist of everything I read is that this is basically a raw foods diet. A cleanse diet should be almost entirely made up of fresh produce, maybe some oils and a legume here and there, but no sugar, starch or animal products. This is like choosing the hardest level on a video game. Exciting, challenging but there’s a good chance I will die*! (*not resulting in actual death.)

I am really excited to get started on this. I think it will be a great experience and a really good way to get both my body and brain accustomed to healthy living.

ps here are some resources for cleansing foods:

-lj