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Coming Clean: The Cleanse

I want to be around for a long time.  You know, to watch my children grow up, get married and raise children of their own.  I want my children and grandchildren to be able to do the same.  I’m guessing that you would echo these statements.  Or, if you’re not into kids, perhaps your independence and mobility as you age is of importance to you.  Either way, it seems like far too often, it takes cancer, diabetes or some other kind of illness or diagnosis to wake us up when it comes to our health.  But what if we were to make positive changes before those bad things happen?  How many of us could prevent them in the first place?

I have always eaten animal products (and happily enjoyed them) and have even been a bow hunter for close to eight years now.  In a million years, I would have never expected to give up animals and be writing this post.  For those of you not interested in my cleanse, this post may not be for you as it will probably be way more than you ever wanted to know about the last 21 days of my life.  However, even if you think you’re not interested and would never give up animal products, coffee, booze, etc, I still challenge you to read this post in its entirety, as not too long ago I was definitely one of those people too!  And yes, this post is ridiculously way, way too long and might make you feel a tiny bit guilty and at times uncomfortable for not making your health and wellness a bigger priority in your life, but you, readers, are my friends and family, and I value you and want you around for the long haul too!  It is never too late to start taking care of ourselves!  So I’m going to try really hard to convince you to consider initiating some new healthy lifestyle changes, even if you decide this cleanse just isn’t for you.  This is undeniably a lot of work even if it is completely worth it.  However, maybe you just take one small thing from this and incorporate it into your life.  And for those of you admittedly seeking to improve your quality of life, well, read on with an open mind as well!

Regardless, we are almost half-way through 2013, and most of us probably had self-improvement New Year’s resolutions that we have long since forgotten about.  I sincerely hope that my experiences journaled below inspire at least one of you to embrace the long overdue wellness make-over that you deserve!  We control our own destinies!  Challenge yourself and commit to bettering your health now.  You will not regret it and will wish you had done it YEARS ago.  I know I’m sounding like an infomercial or some gimmicky pyramid scheme and it’s probably about to get lot worse as you read on, but I don’t mean to and that’s absolutely not what this is.  I’m not asking you to take or purchase any supplements, powders, or concoctions.  We are just altering our food choices in a positive way.  This plant-based diet truly was a life changing experience for me that I wish for everyone and believe that everyone can achieve.  I don’t claim to be an expert or know it all.  I recognize that I’ve only just begun to unlock this door, but I do know that for me personally, it’s a path worth traveling down.  If you wish you had more energy and felt less sluggish, were more alert, less stressed and happier overall, this just might be a path worth traveling down for you as well.  “OMG!” you are thinking.  “She has really lost it and drank that hippy koolaid!”  I promise you, it was some really awesome koolaid, LOL!  Keep reading!

When I started this cleanse, I don’t think I really knew what I was getting into.  Basically all I knew was that I was going to have to give up some tough things. So to rewind a bit, my gym (Lifetime Fitness) offered this cleanse via the yoga community in a program called Evolve.  I didn’t know very much except that it would be four sessions of yoga and wellness discourse in a small group setting. One day in yoga class I met a woman who had completed the program previously and she very sincerely told me that it “changed her life.”  Being a sucker for health and wellness, it didn’t take much and I figured $100 was worth “changing my life” and now I’m here telling you, yes, indeed, it did change my life and yes, it was entirely worth every penny of my $100.  Legit.  “Big” things change our lives such as birth and death.  But for me, and not to at all diminish the birth of our daughter or the death of my father, this cleanse needs to be added to the list of events that changed my life.  Now, I can totally see my beef loving husband rolling his eyes, and if someone would have told me this a year ago (heck, 2 months ago!), I would have rolled mine too.  I get that.  Just bear with me.

Although at the gym, our community of participants and fearless leader were PHENOMENAL, you alone still have the power to achieve life changing results.  So what is this cleanse and how can you do it even if you’re not a Lifetime Fitness member participating in Evolve? Our cleanse was the Quantum Wellness Cleanse by Kathy Freston http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/quantum-wellness-cleanse-kathy-freston/1103675457?ean=9781602860919&itm=1&usri=9781602860919.  Five Rules: 1) no gluten, 2) no caffeine, 3) no alcohol, 4) no sugar, and 5) no animals… for 21 days.  I know, I know, I know. You’re asking, “What’s left?!” and that is exactly what Evolve and the book discuss.  As it turns out, there is an entire UNIVERSE of delicious, hearty, and healthy plant-based foods out there that will make you feel like you’ve never felt before.  During my cleanse I also tried my best to avoid packaged foods unless I was traveling or on the go or needed something like a tortilla.  As the book says very early on, in giving up things, we get much more in return in the form of our health and our physical and mental state of well-being. The reality of it is actually shocking.  It seriously makes me want to build a casita in my backyard and start a wellness camp where people can come cleanse for 21 day periods with me while I cook nutritious, delicious cleanse-friendly meals for them and lead them on healthy outdoor exercise adventures!  I want everyone to experience how great they can feel like I have!  You might be surprised to hear me say this, but it is 100% truthful: I never once felt hungry or craved anything during my cleanse as my plant-based meals were very wholesome and satisfying.  Okay, one time I felt hungry, but that was because I was shopping and didn’t pack any cleanse friendly snacks (which I learned to do).  Also, I ran even more than normal (25-30 miles per week) during my cleanse as I found that I had more energy than usual and had no trouble eating enough plant-based protein to fuel my body (which, by the way, I did not think or know was possible).  The book is great and walks you through the reasoning behind eliminating what she calls The Big Five.  I must admit that first she convinced me from a health and wellness standpoint (with regard to eliminating animal products specifically) and what happened next is what shocked me to my core and I was not expecting at all.  She also makes some pretty damn good arguments from an ethical standpoint as well.  I know, more eye rolling.  Maybe it doesn’t hit you in the same way that it hit me, and perhaps I will still eat hamburgers, who knows.  But I do know that eliminating The Big Five for 21 days is not only doable but totally enlightening and a worthwhile experiment!

If you are serious about doing this cleanse, in addition to purchasing the book (I found cheap on Amazon), this would be my main advice for success:

1) You will need to make a commitment to really doing this cleanse and in that effort, planning and preparation will be essential.  Remember, it is only three weeks, not forever.  You can do it!

2) It is absolutely necessary to have an open mind to try new things.  Even if you think something sounds bad or you think you hate it, throw those notions out the window and try it anyways with an open mind.  You will be surprised at what you didn’t know you like!  Also, your tastes may even change and you will crave new and healthy things!

3) Along the same vein, and this may sound kind of silly, but don’t be influenced by vegan recipe titles or food labels.  This is kind of hard to explain but let me try.  One of my dearest friends eats very close to vegan almost all of the time for ethical reasons and in the past she has given me vegan dishes.  One example that I’m talking about was vegan queso.  Okay, so most of us have had ballpark nacho cheese or Taco Cabana queso.  So when we sink a chip into a big ol’ bowl of vegan “queso,” we are expecting a certain taste or blend of (unnatural) flavors.  And because it is vegan, it of course tastes NOTHING like the queso we are used to and are expecting, and our brains immediately shout, “What is this?!”  However, in this process, I have come to realize that when trying new food, especially vegan cuisine, we should really try to have an open mind and just think of it as a new FOOD or DIP, in this case, not “queso.”  Not sausage. Not creamy parmesan pasta sauce.  It’s surprising how delicious these new vegan foods can be when we don’t let our old processed-food loving unhealthy selves taint our opinions of what the stupid vegan recipe or label calls it and what our minds expect it to taste like or think it should taste like!

So why am I obsessed with the cleanse? Well, I have already touched on the reasons a little but in summary, going on the cleanse will have you…

• Feeling awesome for lack of a better word

• Feeling un-bloated

• Having a flatter stomach

• Probably losing weight (you’ve gotta be careful with the gluten-free pastas etc and maintain ~90% plant-based diet)

• Opening your eyes to the pointless crap we consume just because it’s there (example: unnecessary sugar in a peppermint candy after dinner)

• Learning to (and how to) read the ingredients on food labels not just the nutritional information (this was COMPLETELY new for me!!!)

• Having a clear mind and open heart

• Having increased energy and enthusiasm

• Enjoying the challenge of discovering new foods and recipes

• Learning to cook for those of us who have this as a big developmental opportunity

• Feeling happy and enlightened!

And to be fair, the challenges of the cleanse are…

• Passing up a glass of wine during a beautiful sunset or under the full moon in the jacuzzi (BUT, I discovered that a nice glass of ice water with lemon or chilled detoxing herbal tea is also nice)

• Traveling and special  events can be difficult (weddings, for example – of which I happened to have THREE during my 21 day cleanse; BUT, if you prepare ahead you will be fine – see my tips below)

• Although it was not an issue for me as I am not a soda or coffee drinker, from what I’ve heard, the initial start of the cleanse for a caffeine addict can be tough (BUT, seeing how addicted and dependent we have become on any substance whether it be alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, etc, can be very revealing and freeing).

As you can see, the advantages of cleansing far outweigh the “disadvantages.” I put that in quotes because how is skipping the booze or stimulant and thus bettering your health a true “disadvantage?”   From my new cleanse perspective, “PERCEIVED disadvantage” would be a much more accurate term.  I know, all this coming from the gal that blogged about drinking Franzia on a regular basis, haha!  But I’m being serious – this cleanse is awesome!

So where to start…If you are considering this cleanse, here are some additional tips that I thought of:

Partner up!

You definitely can embark on this journey alone, however having my Evolve community was so powerful that if you can find a friend, family member, group of co-workers, or significant other to cleanse with you, that would be even better.  Then you can check in with each other along the way and can “ride the wave” together.  And I’m always an email or text away for ideas etc.

Jot it down!

Journaling during my cleanse was also helpful for me and assisted me in crafting this blog post which I hope helps some of you too!

Eat Slooooower.

My Evolve teacher talks about mindful eating and eating like a yogi, which coincidentally was also brought up on one of the healthy eating blogs that I follow!  We live in such a rushed society, always on the go, racing around, that we often just stuff our meals in our faces without enjoying them or even noticing what we are eating!  This often causes us to overeat!  By practicing mindful eating, we can enjoy our food, slowly fill our bellies and allow ourselves to be satisfied by our meals.  Taking the time to put away distractions (phones, laptops, and the TV), sitting down to a fully prepared meal (instead of munching with the fridge door open), eating slowly and fully chewing our food, and resting between bites, we will be more fulfilled.  This is definitely one of my developmental opportunities that I am focusing hard on improving.

Immerse yourself!

My two new favorite food blogs that I have discovered during my cleanse are www.SummerTomato.com & www.KrisCarr.com.  Both have HEAPS of great information and both authors have books that I have purchased and am planning on reading.  I’ve also been enjoying the Lifetime Fitness magazines, Experience Life and Natural Health.  I am enjoying learning new ways to improve my overall health and wellness!

Get moving!!!

Try yoga if you never have!  Or dust off your mat if it’s been a while!  Yoga and cleansing go great together!  During my cleanse I tried to practice 5-7 days per week depending on my schedule and what travel I had going on.  Other great ways to get moving are walking in the park or taking a nice jog if you’re up for something a little bit more strenuous.  A new jogging method I’ve been trying out that I read about in a fitness magazine is the “30-20-10.”  After warming up, jog 30 seconds, run strong for 20 seconds, and then sprint for 10 seconds. Repeat this cycle five times and then walk for two minutes. Each “set” takes seven minutes. Repeat as many times as you would like to achieve your desire mileage.  The article I read said that this helped burn more calories in the same amount of time than a casual jog all at the same speed. It also helps runners improve their times and I can believe it because when I did six miles like this, even though I WALKED for 14 minutes, I still AVERAGED ten-minute miles!!  Crazy!  I also think it helped improve my speed as another day I ran 6 miles in 56 minutes on some serious hills with the 40 pound stroller in 90 degree weather.  Very unusually fast for me considering the conditions.  I think 30-20-10 has helped!

Eating out doesn’t have to be impossible.

You can almost always find a salad.  I’ve found that when asked to prepare a salad with every vegetable in their kitchen including some healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, and/or raw nuts/seeds), most restaurants are happy to oblige, even notoriously unhealthy eateries such as the Cheesecake Factory, Longhorn Steakhouse or Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant!  They might even be able to add in some beans for you too (if not prepared with bacon or animals). Or, you can also always try the local vegetarian, or better yet, vegan restaurants. In San Antonio, I love the restaurant Green http://greensanantonio.com.  They have cleanse-friendly options that are to die for. Delicious food. And oh-so-good for you!  I need to do more research to see if there are others in my area (San Antonio is a bit behind other cities such as Austin when it comes to vegan fare).   I’m dying to try this place: http://myvegeria.com/ – has anyone in SA gone?  It also looks great!

Traveling and On-the-Go Folks.

We are all super busy from the successful attorney to the stay at home mom and cleansing can be a challenge logistically.  There are to-go options that can help.  Of course always having water with you is a given, but as far as food goes, first, I like to make zip lock baggies of healthy treats to keep in my purse or diaper bag.  Some of my favorite things that really don’t need to be refrigerated while running errands, etc are: baby carrots, bananas, apples, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, grapes, small tangerines, gluten-free rice cakes, and various nuts (which I like to mix up with unsweetened coconut shreds, dried fruits, and seeds). Also, even easier, there are several Lara bars that are cleanse friendly (http://www.larabarstore.com/?trk_src_ss=LARPAYPCWEBMACSS).  Here are the ones I have tried and my flavor rankings (on a scale of 1 – 10 with 10 as Tasty Zen!):

Peanut Butter Cookie – 10; Peanut Butter & Jelly – 10; Cashew Cookie – 9; Apple Pie – 7.5; Pecan Pie – 7; Chocolate Coconut Chew – 7; Banana Bread – 6.5

Get Some Z’s.

Once I really started getting into the cleanse and my overall health and wellness really started to catch my attention, I began to take a look at my sleep – another crucial piece of our health.  Everything I read talks about the importance of sleep.  I had been noticing morning back aches for some time, and it had been about 9 years since we bought our lovely Sams Club mattress, so during my cleanse we made the leap and purchased a Tempurdic mattress.  I like it but think my body is still adjusting to what it’s like to have proper alignment while sleeping.  I will have to update y’all again on the mattress next month and what we think. Also during my cleanse, I discovered the Jawbone UP (<www.jawbone.com/up) which is a fitness device that measures your sleep, eating, and activity.  I mostly just use it as a pedometer and a device to tell me how long I slept (light v deep sleep), how many times I woke up (thanks, Landri, haha!), how long it took me to fall asleep, and how long I was awake in the middle of the night.  It really puts it in black and white for you to see where you are lacking.  Especially cool for those of us with little humans that disrupt our sleep!  I know that I can utilize this device more fully, I just have been busy cleansing! It’s on my to do list though!

Open Your Heart!

Try to surround yourself with positivity!  Make a new friend at the gym or grocery store.  Hold the door for someone.  Let that lady go ahead of you in line.  Thank a veteran or soldier.  Somehow being on this cleanse just helped me smile more!  I thought I was also being a better wife, but when I asked Scott, he apparently didn’t notice anything new (you know, like me getting up at 6:20 am to pack him lunches for work, driving the baby 45 minutes each way to surprise him several times at the baseball playoff games, giving him a backrub, making him dinner every night)!  I wonder if it’s nice on the planet he lives on, haha!  To be fair, Spring Football has started so he probably wouldn’t even notice if I shaved my head, LOL!

Food & Recipes.

At the end of this post you will find a slideshow of some of my cleanse meals.  Typically I started my day with Banana Sliders (recipe included in my notes/handout) and/or a Green Smoothie (large amount of Kale/Spinach/Chard, along with a little bit of fruit, sliced ginger root, Spirulina, Vega One (plant-based protein powder, replacing whey), flaxseed, hempseed, chia seeds, cinnamon, and agave.  Lunch was usually leftover from a previous night’s dinner and/or a garden salad. As far as dinners went, at the beginning of each week I would find 3-5 recipes that I wanted to try, and I would jot down all the ingredients that I would need to get from the store.  Then I would be set for the week.

As far as recipes go, there is quite a bit for this section and I wanted to keep it organized for you so I am making this section its own PDF of notes if you click here: Megan’s Cleanse Recipe Notes.

Also, if you’re like me and cannot cook to save your life, this cleanse might actually help with that!  Because I forced myself to cook at least 5 meals a week (with recipes), over the three weeks, I slowly have learned how to pair flavors together and had my first ever successful “freestyle” cooked meal!  I wouldn’t say I’m a good cook all of a sudden now, but I don’t think I suck as bad as I used to!  And I imagine that I might even get better too!

Paprika App Screen ShotAnd to credit my friend Annie while we are on the topic of recipes… She told me about an awesome smart phone app that houses online recipes for you. It’s called Paprika and is $4.99 and for me, totally worth it. Check it out and see if it’s something you can use!  You can view ingredients and directions separately and also upload to grocery lists.  Pretty cool.

My Apologies.

Speaking of Annie…this brings me to my next topic… I need to publicly apologize to all of the vegetarians and vegans out there.  For years I have relentlessly made fun of you, mocked you, wondering how you came to be so, well, for lack of a better word, weird.   I sincerely apologize.  You were so kind to not un-friend me (and I’m not just talking about on Facebook, LOL) and be patient with me while I came into my own enlightenment.  Annie, this is especially for you.  I am so sorry for my past ignorance and immaturity!  You truly are a good friend to me.  It might have taken me 15 years, but I finally got there!

Other Tidbits…

I was surprised to learn about the different types of iron, that which come from animals and that which comes from plants.  I also didn’t realize that we can actually overdo it on the iron via animal products, but not via plants.  You can read more about this in Kathy’s book.  Very fascinating!

This brand has some awesome, healthy products.  They are not all cleanse-friendly as they might have some extracts with trace amounts of alcohol, but for other times, they are delicious and very healthy.  And if you are going to cheat on the cleanse, these would be the sweets to cheat with as they are BARELY cheating.  http://www.hailmerry.com/ I buy them at Whole Foods. I love her tarts, macaroons, and granola.

Ahhhh!!!! Tasty Cleanse DrinkOkay, so voluntarily not drinking. That’s a toughie.  Like I said earlier, during the cleanse I enjoyed ice water with various fruit accents as well as chilled detox herbal teas.  However, my Evolve teacher also gave us a delicious little beverage by R.W. Knudsen Family that I also really enjoyed as a special treat.  Somehow sipping it out of a wine glass just made it even that much better. There are a variety of flavors and I really enjoyed them.

Also, I’m still a HUGE fan of the Vitamix (high-powered blender).  I use mine at least once a day, if not more.  And I know there is still a whole world of un-tapped uses for this mighty appliance that I need to learn.

If you have a spare 10-15 minutes, check out this link on YouTube.  It’s Kathy Freston, the author of the Quantum Wellness Cleanse book and she speaks a little bit about herself and how she started down the path to her healthy lifestyle.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRr1Dvt5ITI&sns=em I haven’t had time to check, but I bet that she has more videos on YouTube if you search for her by name.

I realize this isn’t for everyone, although I think a 21 day cleanse is great if you and your doctor are on board, if anything just to give it a shot and see if you can improve the way you feel.  Yes, this cleanse takes work and some getting used to.  It also takes time and planning.  But we can make time for the things that are important to us.  Again, I know, all this coming from the girl who has never missed an episode of the Bachelor, haha!  But in all seriousness, for me, this cleanse was worth the sacrifices.  Going forward I need to figure out what I am going to take with me from this experience as far a diet goes.  I will have to slowly add certain things back in one at a time and see how I feel.  I expect even greater epiphanies once I can put a finger on the exact things that cause me to feel bloated and sluggish, lacking energy.  Although, I’m 95% sure that I will continue eating vegan.

Of course I need to insert one small episode of “Scott Says” before signing off…

M: So seriously, what did you think about the cleanse?

S: I hate it and I’m tired of it.

M: Seriously?

S: I long for a day when food had taste <I think he is confusing “taste” with meat>.

M:  Well, were there any dishes that surprised you in a good way?

S: The black bean burgers were okay.

M: That’s it?  It seemed like when I made stuff you said you liked it at the time.

S: Oh the ceviche was pretty good.  <pause>  Kailyn is a pleasant girl <said sarcastically while watching MTV’s Teen Mom Reunion; clearly he’s invested in this convo>.

See, if I can cleanse successfully without any support from this carnivore, then you can cleanse successfully too!

So let me leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the book. “Quantum wellness means that health and happiness can be achieved on an enormous scale by doing small and almost imperceptible things.  That a leap from A all the way to Z can happen if we simply agitate the status quo, and keep agitating.”

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