[It was great to read so many positive messages from all you okra fans in response to my last post.  Who knew there were so many okra supporters out there?  Here’s to a new image for our pal okra!  To the dawning of the age of okra–a new era is born, and it’s brimming with green pods and seeds! Okra is cool!  Okra is au courant!  Okra rules! O-Kra! O-Kra! O-Kra! Whoo!]

 

[No, you’re not allowed this on the ACD diet. Image courtesy of Naijablog.]

Now that I’ve completed my first week of strict adherence to the Anti-Candida Diet (ACD), I thought I’d put down some thoughts and reactions for those of you who are contemplating embarking on it, or for those who are simply curious. (If you’re here seeking a new recipe, please come back tomorrow–we’ll have cookies!)

First, I am thrilled to say I have not veered even one iota from the procrustean parameters of the diet.  Having said that, I’m also amazed at how difficult I am finding it this time round.

Maybe I’d just forgotten how painful the process was last time, nine years ago, but I don’t recall struggling with it this much back then. Somehow, a decade made all the difference!  True, I am also nine years older, and nine years closer to the dreaded “M” stage of life. ** Or maybe those little candida critters have been pumping iron in the interim and are now more resilient than ever. 

[You are allowed burgers (sans bread)–but who would want one? Image courtesy of Beltway Confidential.]

As I mentioned in my previous post, this diet requires elimination of any food that could feed yeast or help yeast to grow (ie, allergens, toxins, etc.), leaving precious little to eat.  For omnivores, the bulk of the diet would become meat, chicken, fish, eggs. But if you don’t eat those foods, not much else remains once you cut out all grains and fruits, plus some veggies (okay, not all grains; I’m allowed 1/4 cup of one gluten-free grain per day)–not to mention sauces, condiments, alcohol, fermented foods, and so on.

Here’s what you should know if you’re curious about trying the ACD.

The Challenges:

Because I’d done this before, I was already aware of a few of these challenges, which made it a bit easier to follow the diet.  Still, it can be very difficult to stick with it unless you’re prepared for some of the following. 

  • No Dessert for You.  Since most people on this diet are addicted to sweets, cutting out the usual baked goods, puddings, candies, cakes, pies, etc. is really tough.  Initially, my body went carb-crazy and I had to eat something every two hours or so to keep my blood sugar levels steady.  This passed by day three (thankfully–it can really mess up your schedule!). I’ve also managed to create a few ACD-friendly “desserts”–which I’ll post anon.

carrot1

[Here’s your dessert on the ACD. Image courtesy of Innocent Creativity blog.]

  • Precious Few Grains. The first phase of the diet eliminates most carbs, and allows very few of the “acceptable” ones.  To my mind, it seems very similar to a low-carb or low-GI diet.  Which would make sense, I suppose, since its purpose is to starve off candida albicans–an organism that feeds on sugar (including blood sugar).
  • Hunger.  Perhaps I should more accurately designate the feeling  as “unresolved cravings.”  I mean, I can count on one hand the times I’ve experienced true hunger.  On this topic, I think Mark Bittman has something useful to say. A couple of weeks ago, I heard an interview with the man, discussing his newest tome, Food Matters.  Among other things, Bittman mentioned how his “vegan until six” diet plan helped him lose 35 pounds and regain his health. 

In the radio interview, he was asked how he managed to alter his diet so radically and still stick with the plan. His response was enlightening (and I paraphrase liberally here): “Well, consider the three major needs in our lives, for food, sleep, and sex.  We all learn to control our sexual urges fairly early on; and certainly most of us in the working world regularly ignore our need for sleep.  Yet we never, ever, in our society, are willing to allow ourselves to feel hungry.  Like needs for sex and sleep, why can’t we just ignore it when we feel hungry sometimes?” 

For me, Bittman’s comment was a little epiphany. Clearly, my appetite is telling me to eat when I don’t actually require more food; the ACD supplies all the nutritional requirements necessary. What I’m fighting is the desire for those last six Hershey kisses just because they’re left at the bottom of the bag (and really, why would you leave six little kisses sitting there?) or the mindless crunching on handfuls of Red Hot Blues because I just got home from work and dinner won’t be ready for a couple of hours and what else am I going to do while I peek intermittently at Oprah?–well, you get the idea.  Remembering Bittman’s advice this past week allowed me to overcome those cravings, at least most of the time. 

  • Die-Off Reaction.  As the yeasty beasties die off, they release toxins into the system that must then be filtered and cleared out by your own detoxification systems of liver and kidneys.  This can be tough on your body.  The second day of the diet, I was convinced I was coming down with a flu: my forehead pulsated, my muscles felt weak, all I wanted to do was sleep.  By day three, it had disappeared.  Even though you may feel worse initially, it’s important to push through.

The Benefits:

It’s been a mere seven days, but already I can recognzie a few of the benefits of this cleanse:

  • Symptoms abate.  Almost immediately, I noticed that my chronically blocked sinuses began to clear.  I had a strange sensation of, “hey! What’s all that air in my nose?” before I realized, “oh, THIS is what it feels like to breathe out of both nostrils.”  Similarly, the muscle weakness disappeared, some tummy grumblings cleared significantly, eyes were less swollen in the AM, and so on.
  • Clarity of Thought. One of the oft-mentioned symptoms of candida overload is fuzzy thinking or inability to concentrate.  This will begin to clear once the yeast begin to die off, after about 3 days or so.
  • Energy.  Yeast and other toxins sap your energy.  Once they begin to take a hike, your energy returns–and you’re suddenly intensely grateful for the extra hours you have during each day to blog, read, meditate, spend time with loved ones, or do anything else you please.

chaserrollgrass

[I concur, Mum–it’s great to have boundless energy! You should try rolling on the grass some time!]

I won’t be chronicling the events of every week in this much detail, but will likely mention the more significant milestonres every now and again as I move through the process over the next five weeks.  If anyone has any specific questions about the diet or the experience, please let me know and I’d be happy to address them in an upcoming post as well.

Um, Mum, you know that no one could be more serious about food and eating than we are.  .  . but really, I think you need to take a chill pill on this one.  Because this post is really a downer.”

girlsscaredfaces

I don’t mean this post as a downer.  The ACD will tax your willpower and force you to confront your worst eating habits. . . but that can be a really good thing.  For me, it’s a necessity.  Well, every nine years or so, anyway. 

** no, not “Marriage,” though that might throw me just as much.  I meant “Menopause.”

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

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Please Standby

March 11, 2009

I’m going to be dashing around town for the next couple of days, doing cooking classes (short notice, but if you’re in the Toronto area, I’ll be at the Bayview/Sheppard Loblaws tonight at 7:00–would love to meet you!), and then my friend Babe is coming to town tomorrow, so I won’t have much time for cooking (except for other people, that is). 

When we were undergraduates, my friend Babe had a roster of what she called “permadates.”  These were straight guys who were no more than friends, but were willing to stand in whenever a male presence was required–at a work function, say, a family wedding or bar mitzvah, a school reunion, etc.  She’d call up the permadate and he was always happy to receive a free meal, free booze, and maybe some dancing in exchange for allowing Babe hang on to his rippled bicep and elbow for the evening.  A win-win!

I think the same concept extends to foods as well.  Don’t we all have our own favored dishes, the go-to recipes that we whip up when we need something that will impress, will look good and taste good–and which won’t expect any “favors” at the end of the evening?  These are the “permadishes,” the old standbys that never disappoint.

I’ve been relying a lot on “candida standbys”–simple foods that are compatible with the ACD–this week.  A lettuce wrap here, some baked tofu (without soy sauce, of course) there, here a roasted veggie, there a baked sweet potato, raw almonds and pumpkin seeds everywhere. 

Then I realized I’ve already got quite a few candida-friendly dishes right here on this blog–dishes that are already in my repertoire, but happen to be suitable for the ACD.  These are great for anyone who’s battling candida, but even more, for anyone who’s seeking a cleaner, less toxic, anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting diet as well. 

Until I cook again, I’ll leave you with some of these reliable favorites.  Nothing like a good permadish to get you through a busy week!

ecleancpaw1

Mum, how about considering us permadogs?  You know you can count on us.  And of course I always rely on my big sister to take good care of me, too.” 

“Aw, zip it, Chaser–you’re making me blush.”

chaserkisselsie

A Bowl Lotta Love

March 4, 2009

Diet, Dessert and Dogs has moved! 

If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.”]  

[Thanks to everyone who left such sweet comments and encouragement for the hellish week of marking!  (And I know I still owe some of you emails. . . coming soon!) Some of you who are students noted that you’d be doing as much work on the other side of the red pen. Whether students, parents, teachers or the lucky few whose only connection to academia is reading about it in the newspapers–hope you all survived the past crunch week or so of midterms, study week, or finals. Now get ready, ’cause there’s a lengthy return post ahead–on to the food!]

1stbowl51

[Base of rice and buckwheatsautéed rapini and chard with onions and garlic; tahini-miso sauce; sprinkled with hemp seeds.]

I’m sure we’ve all met her (or perhaps we are her?): that woman who’s incredibly competent at dispensing affection, comfort, nurturing or support–yet seems to ignore her own emotional needs and physical well-being.

Well, I admit it, I’m as guilty as the next gal.  Ten days away from the DDD home base had me reflecting often on this whole notion of self-love.  Actually, that was only one among a plethora of topics on which I mused during the hiatus, which included (but was not limited to) the following: 

  • how much I miss blogging when I’m away.  I was struck by a true sense of void during this time, and it astounded me. Honestly, who are “they” who post studies about the Internet and  prophecies of doom regarding how it diminishes social skills or limits interactions with other people? Seriously.  In some cases, I’m in contact with blog buddies more often than my “in-person” friends (some of whom live only five minutes away).  Don’t let anyone tell you that the society of bloggers isn’t a bona fide community of lively, vibrant, and very much interactive people–all of you!
  • how many different ways one can answer the same exam question (more than you might think, but not quite as many as the meaning of life, the universe and everything).
  • how to create a tasty, grain-free breakfast pancake. I wanted something that didn’t require refined, or even whole-grain, flour–and I found it!  (more on that anon).
  • how this &%$!!?* winter refuses to retreat, even though it’s March already and why are you still hanging around, Mr. Jack Frost, can’t you tell you’re not welcome anymore and nobody wants you here, so just go away and don’t come back, ya big bully!
  • how, with the economy as bad as it is, I’m hoping the HH and I might still save for our dream home (okay, I’d be willing to cut some of the frills and just be happy with a daydream home).  And while we’re both incredibly lucky to still be gainfully employed, on the topic of saving money and stretching a dollar, I’ve been mightily inspired by the frugal and fantastic Melody over at MeloMeals.
  • why, once again, I have been willing to risk my health, well-being and future for the evil (and truly, ephemeral) charms of that sepia seductress, chocolate.

3rdbowl4

[Oat groats and amaranth base; grilled eggplant and grilled marinated tofu; broccoli, avocado and green onion; orange-fig sauce.]

Yes, folks, it’s time to focus on the “diet” portion of this blog yet again. 

When I first began to ponder how I’d spend my break from the college, I considered traveling to a new locale, attending a retreat, picking up old hobbies like sewing or knitting–but it never occurred to me I’d get sick instead.  Then, at my annual checkup last week, I discovered that my old candida afflction has reared its yeasty head yet again, and this time, with a potency that could rival the combined superpowers of the X-Men.  

I’ve decided that in order to rid myself of this recurring problem once and for all, I’ll need to return to the anti-candida diet (ACD).  I’ll be facing a highly restrictive diet and a few detoxes or cleanses along the way (no wonder I’ve been avoiding it).  But I’ve had it with the persistent cycle of diet, dessert and destruction (you thought I was going to say “dogs,” didn’t you? heh heh!). To paraphrase that seminal queen of weight loss, Susan Powter, “the insanity must stop!” (And what the heck ever happened to her, anyway?). 

I’m going on an anti-candida diet so I can be healthy.  So I can move more easily, and feel comfortable in my own body.  So I can express a little more self-love and self-care through my diet and lifestyle. (Anyone familiar with Sally’s fabulous blog already knows what I mean by this:  treating my body, mind and spirit with the kindness, reverence, and care it deserves.)  So I can enjoy a social life without being fixated on food. Oh, and so I can lose 40 pounds by my highschool reunion this May. **

My last “true” candida cleanse occurred nine years ago, and in the interim, my eating habits have slowly reverted to those that got me in trouble in the first place (chocolate too often; sweets too often; wine too often). After reading the diet on  this site (which is slightly less ascetic than the regimen I followed before), I think it’s doable (the only recommendation with which I disagree is to use aspartame or aseulfame, so I’ll just omit those).

To those of you who’ve been reading for a while, I understand if you’re skeptical, and I apologize.  After all, I’ve tried more than a few times to cut chocolate and sugar from my life.  Well, I’ve learned it’s never a great idea to publicly declare such a complete lifestyle overhaul on the blog, because later on, if you don’t meet your lofty goal, your initial vow is indelibly there for all the internet to see. With that in mind, I’ll restrict my candida commentary to the Progress Tracker page (may as well give it a new use, as I long ago stopped recording my weight over there).

And since I’ve already done a bit of baking over the past couple of weeks, I can intersperse the spartan dishes with more interesting fare.  If I play my screens right, you folks will barely notice a difference.

2ndbowl21

[Rice and brown lentil base; spinach leaves and steamed sweet potato wedges with chopped green onions; topped with almond-curry sauce.]

The first step is to prepare the system with a week or two of clean, whole-foods eating that doesn’t worry about yeast or fermentation (yeast and fermented foods will be cleared out next).   Rice or noodle bowls are a great place to start.

4thbow3

[Barley and amaranth base; grilled red pepper strips and onions; steamed broccoli; sprinkling of cashews and sunflower seeds; topped with tahini-miso sauce.]

Meals-in-a-bowl like these have become very popular at health-food restaurants and stores around North America.  There’s a local haunt that serves an amazing bowl called, appropriately, “The Mish-Mash Bowl.” Every meal contains either brown rice or quinoa, topped with your choice of four toppings from three categories (protein, veggies, or good fats), then drizzled with your choice of one or two dressings.

My own variation on the Mish Mash is a quartet of at least one healthy grain plus a protein, healthy fat, and complex carbohydrate (ie, veggies).  I was amazed at how satisfying–and how filling–a clean, healthy bowl can be.  The marriage of fresh, colorful veggies with chewy grains and the crunch of nuts or seeds is entirely enchanting (almost as enchanting as that vixen, chocolate–though in a different way, of course).

In putting these together, what I discovered rather quickly is that “the sauce makes the bowl.” A grain bowl sans effective topping is sort of like a perfect outfit without the right shoes or accessories–it may be good quality, it may be tailored , it may even sport a designer label, but without the proper accoutrements, it’s just a length of beige, beige, beige. 

With a winning sauce, however, these bowls are stellar; they’re delectable; they evoke impatient yearning; they’re Zagat-worthy.  And, much like those lines of toddlers’ clothing that allow the kids to dress themselves by choosing one top and one pre-coordinated bottom, they’re fun to mix and match, just to see what comes up.  

The combinations here are simply starting points to get you going; play around with different grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, veggies, and sauces.  Use these sauces with any combination you please, or go with my mixes–either way, you’ll be treating yourself with love.   

**I asked this question entirely tongue in cheek–so please, no need to send me emails detailing how unhealthy a 40-pound weight loss in 8 weeks would be!  I have no intention of actually losing that much.  Besides, at the rate I’ve been going this past year, a FOUR pound loss by May would be nothing short of miraculous.

Tahini-Miso Sauce

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

4thbowl21

Almond and Curry Sauce 

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

2ndbowl1

Orange Fig Sauce

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

3rdbowl3

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

© 2009 Diet, Dessert and Dogs

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS HAS MOVED! PLEASE VISIT US AT THE SHINY NEW HOME OF DDD, BY CLICKING HERE.

* Or, “Nothing Like Fried Rice, Really, But Still One Darned Tasty Cauliflower Salad”

rawfriedrice

[Sorry about the blur.  I may need to return to my old point-and-shoot until I finally read that new camera manual!]

For those of us fascinated by the topic of food, December is more or less highjacked by baking projects.  Cookies for the cookie exchange.  Bars and squares for the gift tins.  Cakes for the pot lucks.  Croquembouche for the neighbourhood party.  

Taken to its syllogistic conclusion,  the state of affairs in which many of us find ourselves this month would go something like this:

Major Premise: December is filled with many types of baking. 

Minor Premise: All types of baking require taste-testing. 

Conclusion: Therefore, December is filled with all types of  tastetesting  sampling quality control eating–something like 4,287 different sweets, types of chocolate, candy, cookies, fudge, frosting, glazed nuts, trifles, truffles, cakes and pies–thereby creating a massive spike in caloric intake for the month, which will lead to outright neglect of all other food groups and the overindulgence of rich, alcoholic and chocolate-based comestibles during the next four weeks or so, to the inevitable result of chocolate overload and the proverbial 7 pound weight gain over the holiday period. *

Well, given my own propensity to binge on sweets and carbs over the holidays, I thought I’d take some advice I heard dispensed by a dietician on a local CBC radio show the other day about “How Not to Gain Weight Over the Holidays.”

Get a load of this:  the dietician (who shall remain nameless–she probaby wouldn’t want you to know her name after this advice, anyway, but mostly because I can’t actually remember her name) said something to the effect of, “Well, I know that people are always told to eat a meal before going to a party to avoid overindulging, but I find that people will overindulge anyway.  And then they’ve basically eaten two meals, which is really not so good.  So what I suggest is, if you do eat a bit too much at a party, then–and I’d never suggest that you do this on a regular basis–but then you can just skip a meal or two the next day to compensate.  If you follow this plan over the holidays, you shouldn’t really gain any weight.”

Hallellujah!  In a nutshell, here’s December: Pig out.  Fast.  Pig out.  Fast.  Pig out. Fast. Pig Out. Cut back a wee bit.  Pig out. Fast. Drink champagne and kiss a bunch of strangers.

Truly, I don’t think this plan is very wise, but I’m going to adapt it to my own needs, anyway.  During this festive period when I’m more likely to succumb to the siren call of chocolate, I’ve decided to deliberately make the rest of my meals as clean, simple, and vegetable-based as possible.  To wit, Raw Imitation Fried Rice.

I came across this recipe a while ago and then, a few days later, happened upon this version by Veggie Delight.  Since the dish is raw, it’s much easier to digest than a cooked meal, and won’t tax the digestive system the way heavier, fatter meals can. It’s also mostly vegetables with a hint of dressing, which provided me with yet another novel way to incorporate cauliflower, a vegetable I’m otherwise indifferent about, into my diet.

The salad is crunchy and even a bit juicy, with a hint of toasted sesame and just enough saltiness from the tamari to provide a satisfying contrast to the neutral cauliflower. It’s incredibly easy to make and comes together very quickly courtesy of the processor. I thoroughly enjoyed it and could even feel virtuous as I chomped away. 

And it’s the perfect light meal to help you detox between all those tastings of baked goods and treats.

*Okay, so it’s not technically a syllogism.  And the conclusion is drawn from the predicate of the premise rather than the subject (totally illogical).  And (well, according to Giz, anyway) the average weight gain is only 1.5 pounds over the holidays.  As if.

Raw Imitation Fried Rice (aka Cauliflower Salad)

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

rawfriedricetop

Asian-inspired flavors meet light and refreshing salad in this mock fried rice dish.  Makes a great side salad or raw main.  And a sneaky way to include cauliflower!

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

elsieconeheadbed

Yes, it really is the pits, Mum.  It’s also very difficult to lick all the crumbs off the floor with this thing on my head.”

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

Last year at this time:  Dog Day: How Elsie Got Named

I know, that title sounds like something straight out of my Post-Modern Literary Criticism class (oooh, I shudder just re-thinking it!).  But both bits of news cheered me so much that I wanted to share them in the same post!

The Wait is Over:

Just when I thought I could wait no longer, I received my prize, as one of the winners in Shellyfish’s great 100th Post (Felty Love) contest!  Those of you who’ve read about this here will recall that I’m not the luckiest person when it comes to randomly selected contest winners (another way to say I could buy 50 tickets for the [1-in-3 chances to win] the Heart and Stroke Lottery, and still not win–then again, I suppose that means I’ll probably never be struck by lightning, either).  So this prize was doubly delightful:  not only was it a first-ever win for me, it was also awarded by one of my favorite bloggers, Shellyfish of Musings from the Fishbowl!  I received my prize package in the mail on Friday.  And what a package it was! 

I ripped the parcel open and was immediately touched by the remarkable care and attention to detail taken in choosing the items, packaging them, and mailing them (all the way from France to Canada!). 

Hey, have a look!

[Top row (left to right): Postcard of the Château de Fontainbleau; Felty Love pouch; hand-crafted card emblazoned with maple leaf and ladybugs. Bottom row (left to right): box that contained vegan chocolates, from Chocolaterie Bruyerre–from Belgium; dark truffle square; dark liqueur-infused (I think) round truffle; dark mocha truffle square.]

First, the main prize: a sleek, fuzzy and cozy, handcrafted azure felt change (or whatever else you choose to put in it) pouch.  I loved the hand-embroidered leaf motif when I first saw it on Shelly’s blog, and it was even more impressive (and cute!) in person.  But the finishing touches tickled me the most; to wit, the ribbon trim, the whimsical orange and white lining and–the pièce de résistance–the little custom “shellyfish” tag sewn into the seam!  Now I will remember the source every time I use this sweet little change purse. 

[Just look at that adorable tag!]

Shellyfish also sent along a box of vegan Belgian chocolates! (she really knows how to steal a gal’s heart).  Now, I do love me some chocolate, and have even been known to munch on it daily for extended periods of time. . . .well, let me tell you, these were exquisite.  Each one contained a velvety truffle filling coated with rich, smooth and glossy bittersweet chocolate.  I knew I’d devour the whole set myself and so offered a bite of each to the HH, who noted that they were the best chocolates he’d ever eaten.  And–miracle of miracles–they made it across the ocean intact!  Not even a scratch. I’m planning a vacation to France at this very moment, just so I can sample some more of those babies.

In addition to the pouch and chocolate were a hand-made card with the cutest little ladybugs and maple leaf imprint (thanks for the nod to Canada, Shelly), as well as a postcard of the Chateau Fontainbleau, a lyrical castle in Shelly’s neighborhood, where she lives alongside snippets of history every day (lucky duck!).  

All in all, it was a perfect way to end the week, or start the weekend, and flooded me with memories of my own long-ago stay in Bandol as a teenager. It also made me long for another visit now, as an adult!

Thanks so much, Shelly.  I will treasure my pouch and the cards. . . and my memories of that insanely rich-tasting chocolate! 🙂

 

The Weight is Under

And what about the “weight is under,” you wonder? (No poem intended, there, though I created one nonetheless–must be that literary influence again).  Well, I haven’t written a blog entry related to the “Diet” portion of my blog’s title in quite some time.  Partly, I’ve felt there was no sense in rehashing old news (I mean, how many times can one re-start a weight loss plan?).  About three months ago, I gave up tracking my weight on a weekly basis, and decided that, given the achingly slow progress of my quest, I’d post an entry no more than once a month.  Well, in the interim, something seems to have shifted.

What’s the best way to stop craving sweets all the time?  Write a dessert cookbook, that’s how, and bake three or four test items perforce each day! 

Have you ever walked into an ice cream parlor, or chocolate shop, or patisserie, and marvelled at how slim the counter folk were?  Countless times in my  life, I’ve asked the shop person, “How do you stop yourself from eating everything in sight?”  I’d usually add, sheepishly, “If I worked here, I’d weigh 300 pounds in no time.” 

“No, no, you wouldn’t,” they’d inevitably respond.  “If you work with it all day, you just get sick of it.”  Well, sorry to say, when I ran my little bakery, I was surrounded by baked goods for 16 hours a day–for two years.  My taste for sweets never waned during that time, and my weight began its ugly ascent during those years as well. 

This time, however, something is different.  I’m testing recipes in my home; I’m basically forced to eat at least a mouthful of each one (to ensure quality, you understand); and somewhere along the line, I became indifferent to the piles of bars, cookies, cakes, tarts and whatever else positions itself alluringly on the counter.  Now, don’t get me wrong; I’ve retained a desire to taste everything, and I’ve definitely indulged.  But for some unknown reason, the impetus to keep going even after the first two or three tastes (or two or three brownies, cookies, slices of cake, etc.) has more or less vanished. 

Why has this miracle from heaven been bestowed upon me?  I have no idea.  How can I ensure that this state of affairs never changes?  Again, I’m stumped.  Will I manage to stay the course this time and keep losing weight?  Beats me.  All I know is, I am unspeakably grateful, I embrace this current reality, and I am ecstatic to be experiencing it. The greatest mystery of my life so far seems to be, “why have I been able to exercise “willpower” and lose weight at certain periods of my life, but not others?”  And so far, like the secret location of Atlantis, like the methods of building the pyramids, like where Sasquatch is really hiding–like the reason for Julia Roberts’s popularity–the answer has eluded me (and all of civilized humanity).

If anyone out there has insight into this particular conundrum, please do let me know.

Mum, it’s easy to exercise willpower when someone else feeds you.  Just get an owner to dole out the food. Oh, and it helps if you learn to raise a paw when asked.”

The Dirt on Cleansing

June 8, 2008

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.” 

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know that I’m on a cleansing diet this week, an outgrowth of the Total Health course I’ve been taking for the past month and a half.  Well, I hadn’t intended to post yet another non-recipe entry this week, but since I’ve received quite a few questions about why I’ve chosen this particular cleanse and how it works, I thought it might be useful to share a bit about cleansing in general and my own choice for this week in particular.  I’ll warn you, though: what follows is a fairly long post (word count: 2443).  If you’re simply interested in the food I’ve been eating, I’ll post that later–so feel free to come back then!

[Please note: This is a condensed and somewhat simplified account of the process, based on what I learned while studying to become a nutritionist, my own reading on the topic, and my personal experience with cleanses over the past five years.  It is by no means intended as any kind of medical or professional advice and is purely my own perspective on the topic, presented for informational purposes only. ]

Q: Why Detox at All?

Whether you use the term “fast,” “cleanse” or “detox diet,” the process focuses on a single goal: detoxifying and rebalancing the body’s internal operating systems, primarily the digestive tract (but also the liver, respiratory system, urinary system and lymphatic system).  Given the environmental factors, lifestyle, and eating habits of most of us in the modern world, I believe that everyone, no matter how thin, active or deemed “healthy,” could benefit from a cleanse once in a while.  Even the instructor for our course (who has been following a strict regimen of ultra-healthy eating coupled with cardiovascular exercise, strength training exercise, yoga, dance, nia, sports, and a daily spiritual practise for over 20 years) undergoes a cleanse twice a year. 

As denizens of the modern, industrial world, we are exposed to myriad toxins daily, both from within and without.  Just by virtue of living near the great and wonderful metropolis of Toronto, I have the pleasure of inhaling highly polluted air most days of the week.  For the first two months that we lived in this house, I could smell the distinct aroma of fresh paint gases (courtesy of the landlord, who was actually attempting to do us a favor) every time I entered the house.  I ingest all kinds of unsavory substances that leach through plastic water bottles, the plastic containers I use to transport my lunches to work, the dyed and bleached clothing I wear, or the cleansers I use (though I’ve tried to eliminate as many of those as I can).   

And that’s only the exogenous toxins.  We also take in toxins from the food we eat, whether hydrogenated oils from junk food, artificial colors or flavors, or “milk” shakes at McDonald’s or Burger King. Because these substances are not made in nature and our bodies weren’t designed to process them, the liver works overtime to detoxify them out of the body (as much as possible) to keep us healthy. 

When your liver is on overdrive neutralizing toxins that you take in, free radicals are formed.  Free radicals are basically cell-killers, and they can result in cancer and chronic diseases that are often connected to inflammation (such as arthritis, heart disease, etc.). Those of us with weak immunity or overworked filtering systems (such as myself) suffer the consequences and wander around with stuffed noses, digestive distress, joint inflammation, or other chronic conditions that are so often attributed to “aging” or simply “life in general.”

One of my natural health practitioners put it this way:  imagine a pile of bricks that’s being built into a little tower, one brick at a time. Each brick is a different toxin that your body has to deal with and try to eliminate.  As with a pile of bricks, you can add quite a few to the pile without any dire consequences at all; in fact, observed from the outside, everything appears hunky-dory, stable and unchanged. One would even infer that the extra weight being piled on top is doing no harm, making no difference whatsoever. 

But then you reach the point where the pile can no longer support even one more brick.  You place that last brick at the top of the pile and–BAM! (not to quote Emeril in such grave matters, or anything)–the pile completely collapses.  Your body works the same way.  When you were younger (or healthier), you may have been able to tolerate a huge number of toxic “bricks” in your system. But tax the system long enough and then, suddenly, it appears as if everything breaks down at once.

That’s what happened to me several years ago.  After assuming all was well for years (even though I drank up to a liter (quart) of aspartame-sweetened pop a day, had 3-5 coffees a day, imbibed wine and spirits on weekends and consumed whatever junk food, candy, cookies, cakes, or other garbage I desired on a regular basis), everything came crashing down.  I spent about a year suffering from symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, endured multiple recurrent sinus infections (one so serious that it required four–FOUR!–courses of antibiotics to eradicate), and suffered almost continuous yeast infections, coupled with fatigue, depression, and general feelings of “lousy.” At that point, I really needed a cleanse.

All this to say, if there’ are any actions we can regularly take to diminish our load of toxic “bricks,” we should do so.

Q: What Is a Cleansing or Detox Diet?

Basically, cleansing means “cleaning up the diet (and, ideally, environment) to allow the body to rest from fighting off and eliminating toxins for a while, so that it can repair and rejuvenate.”

There are many levels of detox, depending on where you find yourself to begin with. It’s recommended that people start at a level just one echelon away from (less toxic than) where they are now, because detoxing encourages the toxins to exit the body quickly (through elimination and sweating, primarily), and if too many to escape too fast, you’ll end up feeling sort of like a deflated baloon in a mud puddle–or one really sick puppy (this effect is called a “healing crisis“). 

The very first time I went on a detox diet, my naturopath–only two months into her practice–didn’t think to warn me what could happen if I changed my eating habits too drastically. She prescribed what is essentially a NAG diet, but without any animal products. After one day of the diet, I was felled by my body’s extreme healing crisis (I describe the event here).  Luckily, it passed in a couple of days.

By starting “slowly”–that is, without altering too many aspects of your diet or life at once–you avoid a severe healing crisis.  Most people feel a little bit tired or sleepy; some experience mild flu-like symptoms such as a sore throat, but these ususally disappear in a day or two. 

Q: How Do You Know What to Eat and What to Eliminate on a Cleanse?

The diet you choose should depend on the diet you eat regularly before the cleanse.  If someone enjoying a SAD (Standard American Diet) decided to embark on a water fast, it would likely spark a full-scale healing crisis and the person would feel rather sick. So decide where you are now, then move in baby steps toward a full-scale cleanse.

There are basically five or six levels of cleansing diet.  Ideally, you would work your way up to the most challenging level as you clean up your diet over the years. 

Level One: Basic non-toxic diet for everyone. (from Elson Haas, The Detox Diet)

Level one is what I often refer to as the NAG diet, the diet that, if followed regularly, should allow your body to exist with minimum toxic intake and to keep you pretty healthy. (Other versions are Anne Marie Colbin’s diet in Food and Healing, Tosca Reno’s The Eat Clean Diet; or Elson Haas’ diet in Staying Healthy with Nutrition.).  If you’re not already on this type of diet, it would be the first step.  Try this for a week and see how you feel. You could theoretically stay on this diet for the rest of your life.

Level One: The NonToxic Diet (from Elson Haas, The Detox Diet):

  • Eat organic foods whenever possible.
  • Drink filtered water.
  • Rotate foods [ie, eat each of these no more than once every four days or so], especially common allergens such as milk products, eggs, wheat, and yeasted foods.
  • Practice food combining.
  • Eat a natural, seasonal cuisine.
  • Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and, for omnivarians, some low or non-fat dairy products, fresh fish (not shellfish) and organic poultry.
  • Cook in iron, stainless steel, glass, or porcelain cookware.
  • Avoid or minimize red meats, cured meats, organ meats, refined foods, canned foods, sugar, salt, saturated fats, coffee, alcohol, and nicotine.

And while it’s not stated in this list, Haas also prohibits anything processed or made with chemicals or artificial colorings–this should go without saying.

[“Sounds good, Mum, but do we have to do the part about avoiding meat?”]

Level Two: (this and later levels from Caroline Dupont, Enlightened Eating).

Level two is a step beyond level one, as “it eliminates all animal products and glutenous grains.”  As Dupont points out, this can be a lifelong diet rather than a detox diet if mostly organic foods are eaten and sources of protein and vitamin B12 (which can only be acquired naturally through animal products) are carefully monitored. 

For those who already eat a Level One diet as their regular fare, Level Two would be considered a mild cleanse.

Level Three: Living Foods Only

This level kicks it up a notch (seriously, WHAT is Emeril doing in this discussion?) by allowing only raw foods, effectively eliminating grains (except for sprouted grains). People at this level eat raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, freshly pressed juices, sprouts, and possibly raw dairy.

Q: Why Is Raw Supposedly Better?  Why Are There No Grains? Isn’t That a Lot of Fruit–Why is All That Sugar in the Fruit Acceptable?

RAW:  A raw diet provides the body with readily available digestive enzymes in raw, but not cooked, foods; these would otherwise need to be generated courtesy of your saliva, stomach, and pancreas.  For that reason, it is much easier to digest raw versus cooked food; raw foods give the body a bit of a break so it can concentrate on other functions, such as detoxifying, maintaining, and repairing.  People on all-raw diets have experienced incredible boosts in energy as well as healing effects. 

GRAINS:  Unsprouted grains (the kind we normally eat) are more difficult to digest than raw foods.  There is nothing inherently wrong with eating grains, especially if your digestive system is in tip-top condition; but for those of us with digestive issues, or when cleansing the system, grains are just a bit too challenging.

FRUIT SUGARS:  It’s true that a raw diet provides a large number of fruits, and fruits do contain natural sugars.  But please don’t confuse naturally-occurring sugars with refined white sugar (or even honey or maple syrup, which are both concentrated sugars).  When you eat something refined, the sugar is converted to glucose (a monosaccharide–the smallest sugar molecule, as it’s broken down by the body and passed into the bloodstream) extremely quickly, because it’s already practically in the form of glucose when you eat it. 

With fruits, the sugars are bound up with fibre and other nutrients, and the body must work to extract the different elements in the fruit and to convert the sugars to glucose in the body.  This means you won’t get the same kind of spike in blood sugar levels from eating a fresh fruit as you will from eating a piece of cake or even cup of coffee with sugar in it.  Sugar in fruits is healthy and doesn’t generate toxins in the body. (Think of diabetics, for instance–they’re allowed most fruits).  Fruits with extremely high sugar levels could be eaten in smaller quantities, but even then, they are still healthy foods.  And fruits are digested very quickly and easily in the body–they are the easiest foods for your body to break down, so they don’t tax the system.

[“Give us more fruits is what I say, Mum!’]

Level Four: Blended Foods, Smoothies and Soups

By blending foods, you render them yet more easily digestible.  Dupont suggests incorporating some of these foods into a raw foods diet; furthermore, this level is presented as an excellent “introduction to fasting for people with hypoglycemia, bowel disorders [or] constipation.”

Level Five: Juice Fast And/Or Master Cleanse

At this level, you’re basically removing the need for your bowel to process any fibre and are providing very nutrient-rich clear liquids that are processed very easily by the digestive tract. At level five, a person consumes only freshly squeezed or pressed fruit and vegetable juices, or the Master Cleanse, a mixture of filtered water, lemon juice, maple syrup and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Level Six: Water Fast

At this point, only those who have already gone through the other five phases should attempt a water fast; drinking only pure filtered water gives the body’s internal organs the ultimate work break. According to Dupont, no one should even attempt a water fast who has not first “established a consistently healthy diet for at least 6 months first.”

[“Yes, pure water is definitely good, Mum.  Especially in summer.”]

Q:Why Did You Choose the Cleanse You Did?

When I was in nutrition school, after spending a full year following the NAG diet and trying out most of the other diets we learned about, I felt ready to complete a Level Five (Master Cleanse) diet for almost a full week.  At that point, my “regular” diet was so non-toxic that the Master Cleanse was a good step.  I felt great while on it and did reap the benefits of better digestion and more energy.

These days, however, my regular diet is more like Level Two, above.  I already don’t eat meat; I already don’t eat refined foods; I already don’t eat most gluten grains on a daily basis.  When I examined the next level–all raw–I realized that would be too challenging for me, and I was afraid I’d slip if I tried to limit myself to raw foods alone. As a compromise, I chose a diet that still eliminated the grains, but retained some cooked foods. I’m happy with the compromise and am feeling some pretty good results so far. 

Maybe next time, I’ll be ready for another raw-go-round. 

Q: Readers: What Do You Think?

If you’ve made it this far, I’d love to know: how many of you have tried detox diets or cleanses?  What was your experience?  What worked, and what would you warn against?

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.” 

Well, as we round the final corner of this Total Health course I’m taking (only two weeks left–where have the past seven weeks gone?), the class has been asked to embark on a “cleanse” (detoxifying diet) as our final piece of homework.

Our teacher, the very embodiment of “tranquility,” has asked each participant to eliminate something from her/his diet that would ultimately lead to a cleaner, less toxic and healthier body. Each one of us, she suggested, should begin exactly where s/he is right now; for the instructor herself, this might mean embarking on a water fast (something she’s done for up to 10 days at a time in the past).  For one particular participant, this would mean cutting out red meat for the week (and retaining the rest of the animals on his plate). And for me?  Hmmn.  Hard to say.

I’m reminded of a lecture I once attended at the University of Toronto many years ago.  As I recall, the gist of the talk was “how we interpret past customs in the present day” or something to that effect. What I do remember is one speaker in particular, a very liberal rabbi in his thirties (tall and lanky, he wore a black leather jacket and Levis–clearly, not your typical rabbi)  who happened to be a vegetarian.  He related a story about a somewhat obscure religious ritual that he likened to Lent, in which Jews are asked to give up all meat for a period of time (sorry, I don’t remember how long–though I’m pretty sure it was less than 40 days). 

As a vegetarian, he figured he might substitute another food to create a similar spiritual impact (since he felt the intent of the observance was to experience self-denial in the name of penitence).  He met with a more conservative, elderly rabbi, an expert in this area, to ask what else he could give up instead. 

“I already don’t eat meat,” he told the senior cleric, “So maybe I could choose something else, to observe the intention behind the rule. How about tofu? Or what if I give up beans?” 

The rabbi appeared pensive, stroked his beard a few times, then replied: “No.  The tradition decrees that you must give up meat.  Give up meat.”

“But I already gave up meat,” the younger guy persisted. “Isn’t the point to sacrifice something? Aren’t you supposed to miss it just a little, so you can appreciate it more?”

The older man became a bit annoyed at this point.  “Give up meat,” he repeated.  “That’s what the custom says. Give up meat.”

“But isn’t there a substitute I could use?”

“No.  Meat.”

“But–”

“MEAT.”

Well, much like our young rabbi friend, I’ve already given up many of the foods that would represent a great sacrifice to the other members of the course (meat, eggs, dairy, sugar, wheat, etc.). The problem is, I haven’t given them up permanently, nor even consistently (what springs to mind is chocolate–a substance which, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard somewhere, contains sugar).

Attempting to decide on the specifics of my cleanse got me thinking back to the first year I learned about the NAG diet. Like a bride on her honeymoon, in those early days I hung on my teachers’ every word. Each time we learned about a new diet, from Ayurveda to macrobiotic to raw to vegan, I immediately went home and tried it out. I loved incorporating more greens into my diet, loved the increased flavor intensity I discovered in organics, loved trying new and ancient grains, loved the array of natural sweeteners–loved them all. If I were still consuming a similarly (exclusively) healthful diet, I’d be in for a water fast at this point, too.

In the past couple of years, however, the purity of my diet has been sullied considerably; even though I continue to consume all the healthy stuff, I am still occasionally drawn back to the unhealthy side of the spectrum as well, and that’s what gets me into trouble: cookies, cakes, chocolate, candy–all can be highly toxic (even the vegan, spelt-and-maple syrup kind, if eaten in excess). 

And so, I determined (with a little pang): I must cut out grains in all their forms for the week.  I had considered simply giving up “flour” (which would effectively eliminate any baking during the cleanse), but all grains made more sense.  Since I’m the type who might overdo something as healthy as a Quinoa and Buckwheat Salad or Millet and Pepper Pilaf when the cravings hit, to avoid any carbohydrate temptation, no grains it will be.  For one entire week.

Unfortunately, this ban will also affect other dishes that harbor grains-in-hiding, such as my tofu omelette or fritatta, or even a delectable nut roast (which contains some breadcrumbs and flour).  What the heck will I eat for the next week?  Well, I’m guessing I’ll return to some previously enjoyed raw dishes, since almost none of those feature grains (and where they do make an appearance, it’s sprouted). Since the weather will supposedly (and finally!) be hot and sunny this weekend, there should be a good variety of fruits and vegetables available to me at the local market.  I’ll also feast on beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.  Why, it’s a veritable cornucopia! And if I feel desperate for sweets, there are always raw desserts like fruit sorbet, carob-cashew pudding, or LaRAW bars.  Gee, there’s just SO much choice, I might even have TOO much to eat! 

(Repeat to self as required: “I am happy and satisfied eating my veggies and fruits.” “I feel comfortably full and content with my measely nuts and seeds.”  “No, there is no sense of deprivation whatsoever without oatmeal for breakfast, or pasta, or muffins, especially when the HH doesn’t need a cleanse and gets to eat whatever he wants, at every meal.” “Of course not, I totally don’t feel those insistent, gnawing cravings that eat away at me like rats in a prison cell that wear me down like stones at the seaside that force me to leave my home at 11:00 PM and drive to the convenience store practically in the middle of the night just to satisfy the aching desire, the ineluctable urge, the desperate NEED for chocolate. . . . Oh, my.  This may prove to be a little more difficult than I anticipated. (Help).

During this week, I’ll still post recipes that I find tasty and worth eating, though I’ll do my best to avoid anything too “out there” (but since I’ve already posted about cultured vegetables, what worse could I throw at you–except, perhaps spirulina bars?)

(“Mum, please don’t get stressed about this cleanse; we will be happy to eat your portion of the grains this week.  Oh, and remember that patting your dogs will help lower your blood pressure.” )