[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

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!

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“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.” 

Sometimes, despite all good intentions, things do go awry. 

On Friday, I had a little luncheon date with two former classmates from nutrition school.  I always look forward to these meetings, since these women (besides sharing the NAG diet philosophy) are invariably funny, witty, and generally loads of fun to be with.  The meeting had been planned for several weeks–before I started the ACD–and I didn’t want to cancel because of a silly little diet.  Besides, I was fairly certain I had all the bases covered, as the restaurant we chose served vegetarian-only Chinese food, with lots of vegan options as well. 

Well, I’m sorry to say, looks like my adherence to this regimen wasn’t as assured as I’d expected.  Rather than ruffle any feathers, I decided to go along with sharing three different dishes from the menu. While the selections were all quite delicious, they were also, unfortunately, bathed in glossy, sweetened, cornstarch-thickened sauces–definitely a no-no on the ACD.  But seriously, how could I disappoint the gals and order plain ole steamed veggies (and not even steamed rice–no white stuff on this regime!) when the intention was to share dishes while we dished the dirt?

Okay, I admit it:  of course they wouldn’t have been disappointed (they could still eat whatever they wanted to); I’m the one who would have been disappointed to pass up the culinary camaraderie. In the end, I caved.  I ate some (rather amazing, actually) lemon-pepper “chicken” with veggies, Singapore noodles (at least they were rice noodles) and roasted veggies in a Portugese curry sauce.  Everything was exemplary, and I managed not to overindulge, but I did feel guilty for the remainder of the day.  I returned to my senses immediately upon returning home, and started all over again.  Now, after more than a week on the diet, I’m back to counting yesterday as “Day One.”  Bummer!

The incident got me thinking about how much I love to eat.  Giving up the singular sensory pleasure of a beloved food’s taste and texture as it inches across your tongue is one feat I find nearly impossible to achieve (and for some reason, it gets even harder to accomplish as I get older).  Compounding the problem, it seems I’ve actually expanded my culinary repertoire and the range of foods I’m willing to consume since I started focusng on a vegan diet.  It may be true that an omnivorous diet contains more potential choices, but since I found so many of those repugnant even when I did eat meat (Ham?  Gross. Chicken wings? Barf. Snails? Vomitorious. SWEETBREADS?? Somebody please get me a paper bag), I would never have tried them, anyway.  And when I ate an animal-focused diet, I tended just to eat the same foods over and over. 

Then, when my health issues reared their ugly heads, I was forced to find alternatives.  I sought out alternative grains, novel sources of protein, seaweeds, fermented foods, soy products, and a plethora of unusual fruits and vegetables, intensely flavored herbs and seasonings.  These days, in fact, I am much more willing to try something entirely unfamiliar when I know it’s vegan and am more creative in the kitchen than I ever was before I began to eat this way. 

Which brings me to the foods I do eat–or, at least, some of them.

You may have noticed the “Hundred” food memes circulating round the blogosphere (The Omnivore’s Hundred, which started the trend; The Vegetarian’s Hundred and The Vegan’s Hundred, which was created by Hannah and has prompted quite the tidal wave of responses among bloggers).  I must say, I was (pleasantly) taken aback to see how many items on this list I have already sampled. (My exact response was something like, “Wow. I sure do eat a lot.”) 

Maybe that’s the problem with the ACD this time round:  I’m painfully aware that there’s a plenitude of foods I love to eat out there, all of which I think of as “healthy.” Consequently, it becomes more and more difficult to steer clear of them (though not, on the other hand, to steer clear of actual steer).

I’m hoping some new inspiration and creativity will magically descend so I can make it through the next few weeks without falling off the ACD wagon again.  In the meantime, I’ll enjoy some virtual treats through this list. Do feel free to play along. Thanks for the idea, Hannah–so much fun!

Here’s the basic premise:

1) Copy this list into your own blog, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Post a comment here once you’ve finished and link your post back to this one.
5) Pass it on!

1. Natto (though it is, ironically, “first” on my list of must-try’s)
2. Green Smoothie (shouldn’t everyone try one of these for breakfast at some point?)
3. Tofu Scramble (so many great varieties out there!)
4. Haggis (I ate the veg version–never have tried the “real” stuff!)
5. Mangosteen (unfortunately, wasn’t that impressive)
6. Creme brulee (a favorite of the HH) 
7. Fondue (though I’d never consider double dipping, of course)
8. Marmite/Vegemite
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Nachos (dying to try them with this cheese sauce)
12. Authentic soba noodles
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Taco from a street cart (I think this one will require a trip out of country)
16. Boba Tea
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (I had cloudberry–truly an ambrosial liquid)
19. Gyoza
20. Vanilla ice cream (What? No chocolate on this list??)
21. Heirloom tomatoes (from my first-ever effort to grow them–and the BEST TOMATO I HAVE EVER EATEN)
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Ceviche (again, veg version–the other kind c’est grosse, non?)
24. Rice and beans
25. Knish
26. Raw scotch bonnet pepper (will definitely wake you up in the morning)
27. Dulce de leche [swoon]
28. Caviar (I’ve had actual caviar in the past, but never a vegan version)
29. Baklava
30. Pate (mushroom-walnut is a favorite, but pretty much any veg kind is great)
31. Wasabi peas
32. Chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Mango lassi
34. Sauerkraut (even made my own)
35. Root beer float
36. Mulled cider
37. Scones with buttery spread and jam (No buttery spread these days, but still a favorite breakfast)
38. Vodka jelly
39. Gumbo
40. Fast food french fries (Ah, memories. . . .)
41. Raw Brownies
42. Fresh Garbanzo Beans (these sound amazing)
43. Dahl
44. Homemade Soymilk
45. Wine from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more (that crazy HH!)
46. Stroopwafle
47. Samosas
48. Vegetable Sushi (a favorite weekly lunch)
49. Glazed doughnut
50. Seaweed
51. Prickly pear (just last week! Thanks, Lucy)
52. Umeboshi
53. Tofurkey
54. Sheese
55. Cotton candy
56. Gnocchi (and have tried several times to make my own. . . )
57. Piña colada
58. Birch beer
59. Scrapple
60. Carob chips (not just a substitute for chocolate–quite lovely on their own merit!)
61. S’mores
62. Soy curls
63. Chickpea cutlets
64. Curry
65. Durian
66. Homemade Sausages
67. Churros, elephant ears, or funnel cake
68. Smoked tofu
69. Fried plantain
70. Mochi
71. Gazpacho
72. Warm chocolate chip cookies (really, is there anything better?)
73. Absinthe
74. Corn on the cob
75. Whipped cream, straight from the can (only got one mouthful . . . )
76. Pomegranate
77. Fauxstess Cupcake (still waiting to try that recipe!)
78. Mashed potatoes with gravy
79. Jerky (loved the vegan version–never tried the other)
80. Croissants
81. French onion soup
82. Savory crepes (love these for brunch time. . . )
83. Tings
84. A meal at Candle 79 (I’ll start saving up now and maybe get to go in 2015)
85. Moussaka
86. Sprouted grains or seeds
87. Macaroni and “cheese” (Susan’s is still my favorite recipe)
88. Flowers (though can’t say I enjoyed them)
89. Matzoh ball soup
90. White chocolate
91. Seitan (how I miss you, how I miss you, my dear old Seitan)
92. Kimchi
93. Butterscotch chips
94. Yellow watermelon (but really, what’s the point?)
95. Chili with chocolate (my favorite way to have it)
96. Bagel and Tofutti
97. Potato milk
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Raw cookie dough (better than baked, in my opinion!)

Glancing at the list, I see that there really are advantages to living in Toronto, where all these foods are quite common.  Now, I must seek out all the others, too–well, as soon as this cleanse is over.

Sweet Things (Times Three)

August 17, 2008

[Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad–recipe below.]

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.” 

Ah, yes, life is sweet.  Not so much in the “I’m a celebrity, I haven’t a care in the world, I’m revoltingly rich, beautiful and vacuous” kind of way; but more in the “every which way I turn I see or think ‘sweet,’ most recently the chocolate chip blondies I devoured last week” kind of way.  Also in the “I’m finally finished marking for the semester and it feels so sweet to be able to breathe for a few days before it all starts up again next week” kind of way. But I wouldn’t want to forget the “blog readers are truly some of the sweetest people in the world and the principal reason I’m so thrilled to be back here and blogging again” kind of way, either.

I have to tell you, as a rule, I consider myself pretty lucky in the friends department.  I mean, I’ve made some really great pals over the years (in fact, I’ve known a few of my friends even longer than I’ve known my younger sister!–take that, Oprah and Gayle). 

But you know what?  Ever since I started blogging last year, I’ve been repeatedly amazed at the level of support, compassion, and just basic goodwill that abounds among blog readers and writers, rivalling any of the best friendships out there. I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate that you keep coming back to read  and comment (even when I disappear for a spell) and how much I enjoy my forays into reading all my favorite blogs out there as well. And so, without disintegrating into pure mush, please accept my heartfelt thanks, and a big virtual bear hug.  Truly, sweet

And now, on to our other “sweets” of the day. . . 

First:  My diet, temporarily an official “No-Sweets” Zone.

Forget the term, “yo-yo dieter.” With me, it’s more like a “bungee-jump” dieter.  Up, down, Up, down.  Waaaaay up, waay down (and note how the “waay” down is smaller than the “waaaaay” up–in other words, a net gain).  Seems the more I diet, the more my weight rebounds upward after a fall.  Recently, it struck me that I am more or less at the same weight I was when I began this blog (at which point my goal was to lose 40 pounds!!).  Still, like die-hard smokers who wish to quit, we overly zaftig people who wish to lose weight must persevere!  I’m thankful that 90% of the food I put in my mouth is healthful and very nourishing.  The other ten per cent, well. . . that explains the weight gain.

Several times on this blog, I’ve mentioned the anti-candida diet I endured a few years ago when my symptoms got truly out of hand.  Well, I’ve decided it’s time to return to that diet as a way to rid myself of the sweets addiction once and for all (I think of it as the “Chunky Monkey on my back“).  This time, the cleanse will be somewhat shorter than previously (which lasted 2 years!). 

What does this mean for the blog?  Not much, I’m hoping. Most of my eating habits already fall in line with this new regimen (about which I’ll blog anon–this post will be long enough without fitting it in today).  The restrictions represent a new and–truth be told–somewhat exciting culinary challenge for me: can I concoct appealing, delicious dishes, even some alluring desserts, all within the bounds of the diet?  And afterwards, can I learn to consume dessert as a regular part of my menu, yet in moderation and sans cravings?  Only time will tell (and so will I, right here on this blog).

Second: Announcing Sweet Freedom!

As I mentioned last time, I’ve been working on this project for a while now (just about a year–even before I started this blog!).  After I closed down my full-time baking business in 2006, I decided to begin working on a cookbook containing recipes for my most popular products; because I’d been running the business for a few years, I already had a full compliment of proven recipes at the ready.  So in August 2007, I began mailing out cookbook proposals to various publishers (I eventually heard from two who expressed an interest in the project, only to decide against it after months of correspondence). And then, as I plowed my way through yet another set of student papers last week, I wondered:  why not just publish this book myself? And so, I averred, I shall!

Now, before I go on, yes, I do recognize the irony of doing a dessert book when I’ve just sworn off desserts.  But as I said above, my goal, ultimately, is to be capable of incorporating healthy desserts into my diet, in moderation–and these happen to be just that kind of dessert!  

I also know that there are scads (not to mention oodles, a plethora, loads and a real glut) of bloggers’ cookbooks already out there right now.  Who needs one more?  But when I started receiving emails from people asking if I had a cookbook, and when my former customers asked if I’d consider printing up my recipes so they could bake their treats at home, and when I thought of all those existing recipes just lying idle in a filing cabinet. . . well, I just couldn’t leave them to such an ignominious fate. 

Mine will be a dessert-only book, and everything in it is compatible with the NAG diet that I try to follow all the time.  Many of these recipes are already familiar to my former customers here in Toronto, so when the book is published, they’ll be able to bake the same muffins, cookies, and cakes that they used to buy at local health food stores. And once I made the decision, I got really excited about sharing the recipes and “doing them up right”! 

The book, called Sweet Freedom, will contain recipes for a wide variety of baked goods and other sweet treats, all in a style similar to those you find on this blog (in fact, a few of the DDD recipes will also find their way into the book). However, the majority of the cookbook’s 100+ recipes will be new, having not appeared anywhere else.  All the recipes are made with without wheat, eggs, dairy, or refined sweeteners; many are gluten free, soy free, and corn free as well (I’ll tag each recipe according to the category into which it fits).  In other words, these are sweets that even people with food sensitivities (like me) are free to enjoy! Eventually, I plan to post a full Table of Contents with the names of all the recipes, but for now, if you’d like a peek at some photos of goodies from the book, I’ve started a blog that’s devoted just to that.  I’m aiming for a publication date late this year or early next year; I’ll keep you updated occasionally on this site, too.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you all about what you’d look for in a “good-for-you” baking book, or whether you’ve got specific items you’d like to see in it.  And it you’ve ever tried any of the desserts from this site, I’d love your feedback on the recipes.  Just leave any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions in the comments section, or send me at email at dietdessertdogs AT gmail DOT com.

And finally: A sweet (potato) ending to this post. . . 

Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad

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

I couldn’t very well leave without posting a recipe, could I?  I actually mentioned this dish way back in my second blog entry, but since there were only two readers that day (no, literally, two readers), I thought it was worth repeating.  This is a salad from Everyday Food magazine, and it’s both simple and delicious.  I like it so much that I’ve made an entire meal out of it, in fact. The trick to its appeal, I think, is that Martha advises us to bake the sweet potato rather than boil it–and that seems to make all the difference.

This salad is filling and satisfying, with a tangy ginger and dijon-based dressing to complement the yielding sweetness of the potatoes.  I enjoy this most at room temperature, but it can be eaten cold or hot as well.  Great for a picnic or party table.

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

Pre-Blog Entry Blog Entry

August 14, 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.” 

Just poking my head in now that I finally see an end to all this work.  I wish I could tell you I’ve been away so long because I’ve been galavanting in Europe, or galavanting in Australia, or even galavanting in the Muskokas–but nay. Sadly, I’ve just been entangled by a monstrous pile of assignments to mark. 

Have you seen the movie The Brother From Another Planet?  Well, right about now, think of me as that brother, at the instant he tumbles from the sky and lands on Earth. 

It’s sort of like that spacey feeling you get after shopping in a huge mall for hours at a time. You know the one:  you’re moving at breakneck speed–say, during the holidays–and you’ve been searching all afternoon but still can’t find anything for Aunt Miranda or cousin Sheila or baby Pookie. And then you finally realize you haven’t eaten in, like, four hours and your legs are weak and the air is somehow thinner than usual and it’s definitely time to sit down. 

Or how about that numb feeling you get when you’ve been sitting in the dentist’s chair for an hour and half while s/he goes spelunking in your molars repeatedly, asking you all kinds of questions which of course you can’t answer and your jaw is stiff as a rusty hinge and your saliva’s been sucked out of your mouth through a plastic tube and you no longer feel anything because the entire lower left quadrant of your face is frozen? 

Or perhaps it’s that stunned feeling you get when you’ve been arguing with the Customer Service Rep at the credit card office for more than 30 minutes in a vain attempt to find out why there’s an extra $472.06 charged on your card–which you never spent, certainly don’t recognize and don’t particularly wish to pay for–and now your throat is getting sore and your voice is getting hoarse and you simply can’t believe how dense this person is being and you’re beginning to despair that you may never see an end to this struggle (or ever see that $472.06, again, either)? 

Well, after almost three weeks (three weeks??  Where does the time go??) of absence from this blog and almost 300 assignments under my belt (it’s a pretty wide belt, in case you hadn’t noticed), that’s just about how I feel.  But since yesterday was exam day, our term is now almost over–and next week, I plan to return here, refreshed and eager to share. 

Well, The Girls are almost as excited as I am for my return to blogging–after all, this means they’ll reprise  their starring roles here at DDD, as well:

[“We’re so glad to be the center of attention again, Mum! When do we get to eat something?”]

In addition to all the marking, I’ve been devoting lots of thought to my dietary habits, inspired by Kathryn and her “31 Days to a Better Diet” series.  So there will, once again, be some changes in what I eat for a while.  I’m also excited to share news about a project I embarked on just about a year ago, even before I began this blog.  And I’ll have a book review as well–it will be a busy week!

I’ve sorely missed blog “chatting,” hearing from all of you, sharing recipes and leaving comments at all of the blogs I read.  Looking forward to getting back in the swing! 

Until then, have a great week, everyone. 🙂

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?

On Being Mindful

May 1, 2008

I know I said I’d relegate comments about my Total Health program to a coda each week, but last night’s class spurred such a barrage of ideas that I wanted to set them down (despite last week’s blathering about eating styles–we all know how well that one went over). So be warned:  this entry features no recipe, and it’s about dieting.  Please feel free to skip if that’s not of interest!

When I first started this blog back in late October (six months yesterday!!), I wrote quite frequently about my diet and (tenuous) attempts to lose weight.  I actually never intended it to morph into a food blog, but once I started reminiscing about different recipe origins, preparation methods, ingredient sources, etc., it seemed to move naturally in that direction (at least, most of the time). I preferred to write about the dishes themselves rather than my reactions to, or feelings about, them.

Well, one of our “assignments” last week in my Total Health course was to “eat without distractions.”  From what I gleaned from our instructions, this meant virtually the same thing as “eating mindfully.”  For any of you who’ve read Jon Kabat Zinn’s seminal book on mindful living, Full Catastrophe Living, this concept is familiar.  In the book, Zinn suggests eating a raisin with full attention to its shape, color, texture, smell, size, mouthfeel, taste, and effect on your emotional or psychological state.  Giving that wrinkled grape your full awareness while consuming it takes several minutes at the least, and you’d presumably experience every nuance, every physical reaction, every sensory impact of consuming that raisin.

I was a little hesitant to embrace this homework, as my schedule these days is beyond hectic and I feel I barely have time to heave a heavy sigh before the day is over.  But I did it.  Breakfast became a private communion between me and my oatmeal (or scone, or almond butter-topped apple, etc.) as I cleared the table and sat and ate. . . mindfully. 

And what did I discover?  That my mind didn’t have very much to contribute to the exercise.  That I didn’t like it. Not one bit.

For me, trying to focus exclusively on my food as I observed, smelled, tasted and then mused upon it was like “torture lite”–maybe not a figurative year in a Medieval prison, but more like recess trapped in the corner of the schoolyard with the class bully.  As with meditation, my mind kept wandering, I found myself scanning the rest of the room as if searching for a deus ex machina to release me from my penance, and I twitched and evaded and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

Me?  Wishing EATING would be over??  It’s unheard of!

In our class last evening, I raised the issue.  Was I the only one who’d had a hard time with it?  Apparently, yes.  For the rest of the class (to be fair, not everyone actually did the exercise, so I don’t know about those few who didn’t), eating with no distractions was like an oasis of peace and calm in an otherwise crazy welter of their days.  One woman even said that she’d come to rely on her breakfast ritual, in particular, as a way to start her morning on the right note, and felt unmoored without it. 

According to our instructor, sitting one-on-one with your food and forcing yourself to focus exclusively on it accomplishes a few things.  First, you are more aware of the quality of the food itself.  As she mentioned last week, it’s virtually impossible to plunk yourself down and devour a cannister of Pringles mindfully.  I found that to be true as well (not that I’ve eaten Pringles in the last decade or so):  once you know you must to sit and attend to every puff of popcorn, or every corn chip, or even every goji berry, one at a time, over and over, the idea of grabbing a quick snack between writing assignments doesn’t hold the same allure.  Similarly, if you’re eating food that is of poor quality, paying close attention to every sniff and bite will only highlight that fact, and you may find you’re not as inclined to scarf down that McDonald’s burger and fries quite so often.

In addition, eating mindfully slows down the process of how you select, bite, chew, and swallow the food, so bingeing is virtually eliminated.  When I succumb to a chocolate binge, I’m not paying very close attention to the quantity I ingest.  Basically, I eat as much as there is, until it’s gone (which is why I try not to keep it in the house).  With mindful eating, however, I realized very quickly that I didn’t need all that much to fill my belly.  After one apple (cut in segments and smeared with about a tablespoon of almond butter) for breakfast, I realized I’d had enough.  Maybe I wasn’t used to this bizarre new physical awareness, and it made me uncomfortable.

Finally, I realized that this exercise simply highlighted for me how much I’m overstuffing my schedule as well, and how I usually attempt to fit in too many items in a day; so many, in fact, that taking an extra hour or two to consume meals in isolation throws off the rest of the itinerary.  As I sat chewing my apple with awareness, I was also painfully cognizant of the newspaper draped across the opposite corner of the table, and that my solo meal meant I wouldn’t have another moment to read it that day (well, my teacher would say, you shouldn’t be reading the paper anyway–too much negative energy).

I’m going to try to stick with the practise, despite my discomfort.  For one thing, it’s helped me to determine whether or not I really want to eat something before I dig in; if it’s worth stopping my current activity to sit down and spend some alone time with a food, then I figure I must really feel like having it at that moment. Our instructor promises that the purpose of the exercise is to create a greater appreciation of what we eat, and, ultimately, a greater enjoyment of the food.  I’m waiting for that to happen.  In the meantime, I am glad for the decreased caloric intake.

This week’s homework:  incorporate greens into the diet once a day, along with cultured veggies.  Recipe coming up!

Carrots Raised in Fear

April 23, 2008

Whoa.  That was some heavy-duty holistic workshop tonight.  We covered a huge array of topics, and ended the evening by packing jars with homemade cultured veggies (which, methinks, I will write about in due time, on this very blog).  Overall, I really enjoyed the course, especially since we’ll be taking the changes slowly, and one at a time.  Homework this week:  eating without distractions. 

Rather than bore you all with the minutiae of my diet/lifestyle/meditation/life overhaul program every week, I’ve decided that in future I’ll just add a little coda at the end of whichever post happens to follow my classes.  But for today, I’d like to provide a general sense of the core principles we covered.  And to do that, I’m going to tell a little story, one that spans the gamut from the ridiculous to the sublime.

Once upon a time, when I first started teaching, I knew exactly one person who was vegan.  As someone who’d done some minimal reading about different diets, I understood what “vegan” meant, but had never actually met one of the species in the flesh (no pun intended).  But Ms. X was very hip and very cool (sporting both bleached blonde, spiky hair and faux-leather corsets–those were the days just on the heels of Madonna’s pointy bra, after all), so I screwed up my courage and invited her and her dark, brooding boyfriend to dinner.

I have to give them credit for actually eating what I served.  It’s not that any of it was particularly distasteful on its own–I did know how to cook, after all–but I threw together such a hodge-podge of disparate dishes (based solely on the fact that each was devoid of animal products) that the menu was fairly, shall we say, “eclectic.”  It was a situation reminiscent of one my former friend M used to describe to me: often, when acquaintances first heard he was gay, they’d burst out, “Oh, I know another gay guy! Why don’t I fix you up with him!” (assuming, of course, that their shared sexual orientation would, on its own, give rise to an immediate and eternal love affair).   

Well, that’s how I treated my vegan dishes that evening, I’m sorry to say. Ever had kasha-stuffed samosas alongside mango and curry rice, with sweet and sour carrot/parsnip patties?  Oh, and with a side of guacamole? Well, I have.  And it wasn’t pretty, trust me.

It was during our dinner that Ms. X began to worry aloud about the direction in which she foresaw her diet heading.  No, she wasn’t fretting about the stereotypical vegan concerns, such as how to acquire enough calcium in the diet or where to get sufficient vitamin B12; Ms. X was ruminating (oops, sorry–again, no pun. . . ) about cruelty to vegetables.  After cutting out meat, then fish, then eggs and dairy, then every other non-produce foodstuff from her diet, Ms. X now wondered how she could continue to eat even vegetables and fruits. Eventually, she surmised, “I’m not sure I’ll be able to keep eating carrots raised in fear.”

Perhaps you need to take a moment here to compose yourself.  (The HH loves that line. . . but that’s neither here nor there.)

Okay.  To continue:

Well, apart from giving me nightmares about carrots suffocating in plastic bags, carrots crammed one on top of the other into too-small cartons, baby carrots being clubbed to death, etc.–Ms. X did introduce the notion that we could all stand to be a bit more mindful of what we put into our bodies. And during our course this evening, we discussed this very issue at some length (though not in the same terms as Ms. X’s lament). 

As we know, all living things (and this would include plants) emit an energy field; and recent new-agey theories focus quite directly on the impact our own “energy” has on the outcome of our lives (as in, “the intention you set will influence the outcome you achieve,” for those of you who’ve seen or read The Secret).  Then there are also Emoto’s amazing studies on the effects of energy on water, etcetera. 

On a more pragmatic level, is it possible the energy in our food has an impact on us?

Well, said my teacher tonight, the answer is “yes.”  Hence her recommendation to eat without distractions, to notice the food we put into our mouths, and to opt for whole, organic, raw foods whenever possible. Natural nutritionists have long asserted that “dead” foods (such as highly processed or GMO products), being composed to a large degree of chemicals and non-organic materials, harbor no real, “living” nutrients, and so can’t, in any meaningful sense, nourish us.  That’s why we can gorge on various fast foods and pre-packaged foods, yet still remain hungry even after consuming massive quantities of them. 

In the end, it may behoove us to treat our orange roots with a little more consideration, but it’s these non-foods that should really incite fear instead.  

And so, my prescription from this evening’s class was fairly clear (apologies to Michael Pollan): Eat plants. Many raw. Not much else.  I’ll do my best, but I can’t promise. 

In the meantime, I’ll still be preparing “regular” dishes and will continue to post about them on the blog (and when I cook something with fearsome ingredients, I’ll attempt to restrict my intake to tiny nibbles). 

Tonight’s coda:  A few years after our inauspicious dinner, Ms. X got pregnant.  During those nine months, “for the health of the baby,” she returned to eating meat, and continued to do so after the baby was born. She was still eating animal products up until we lost touch about a decade ago. I have no idea about carrots, though.

 

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.”]  

*Or, It’s a Long Road “Back”

*Or, Things You Think About While Lying Flat on Your Back for Ten Days

Well, I may not be completely “back” just yet, but I am at least vertical once again–if only for a couple of hours a day.  YIPPEE!  Talk about an ordeal. I wouldn’t wish that kind of pain on anyone, nosirree.  Not even the nastiest bully from grade school.  No, not even the most loathed former boss.  Not even the rudest clerk at the video store.  Or even the most reviled ex-boyfriend (He of the Black Leather Pants).  Yes, it was that bad!

And I am thrilledl to finally return to the world of blogs and blogging!  It feels like eons since I’ve written on (or even looked at) this site, or any of the other blogs out there I so enjoy reading. I promise to catch up on them all over the next week or so.  But before I even begin to write about my unanticipated interval of Great Bed Rest (aka Grevious Back Relapse)–or GBR, I want to share a recipe I discovered as soon as I returned here:

Blogger Twice Marinated in Wet, Salty Broth

1) Get Ricki to hurt her back, badly. Result: first marinade in wet, salty broth (also referrred to as Crying Jag Number One).

2) Get the HH to write a short note explaining her absence (no easy feat, considering the blog-shy HH).

3) Have Ricki return to the blog about 10 days later, read the parade of amazing, supportive and sympathetic comments from readers and other bloggers. Result: second marinade in wet, salty broth (also referred to as Crying Jag Number Two).

4) Allow Ricki to marinate for about 5 minutes before she returns her attention to the blog.

5) Accept her heartfelt gratitude for your wonderful, generous outpouring of good wishes, which is appreciated beyond words.

6) Wrap carefully and store in a safe place.  Will last indefinitely.

In other words, THANK YOU ALL for your comments and kind thoughts while I was away! I have missed you all, and am very, very happy to be “back.”

And so. . . what the heck happened, anyway??

Well, the official diagnosis is a one-two punch of, first, a bulging disk (sometimes erroneously called a “slipped disk”), followed almost immediately by an inflamed facet joint (the latter occurring due to an overly strenuous exercise regimen prescribed by a zealous physiotherapist, only ONE DAY after the original injury! Definitely a no-no).

I had thought the initial pain was pretty bad, but the second injury catapulted it into the realm of “no adjectives available.”

It’s true, the HH and I have no children, so I never had the experience of childbirth as a reference point for that particular brand of agony.  Nevertheless, I can only attempt to express the depths of physical torment inflicted by this back attack:  for the first three days or so, each time I even ATTEMPTED to get off the bed, I would be overcome with an immediate draining of blood from my face and I’d begin to black out. If not for the deft and sturdy embrace of the (relatively) strapping HH, I would have surely ended up in an unconscious heap on the floor.  And though he’s not especailly musclebound, the HH was, thankfully, still strong enough to lift my mumblemumbleundisclosednumber-pound frame back onto the bed.

[“I really hated it when you were sick, Mum.”]

As it turns out, the word “vacation” in this blog entry’s title, above, is not merely a euphemism.  You see, here in Ontario, colleges run year-round, offering three full semesters (including one through the summer months).  I happen to be one of those weirdos trailblazers quirky teachers who prefers her holiday in the winter, and who teaches all summer. Given my oft-declared abhorrence of winter, being able to curl up by the fireplace, hunker down, and just do nothing when the snow makes its unwelcome appearance is a privilege I truly appreciate.

And while I did spend the last 10 days or so lazing around, reading, sleeping as much as I felt like (more than I felt like, actually), and being waited on hand and foot (I am eternally in your debt, Oh Great HH), it was not, by any stretch of the imagination, akin to a “vacation.” Being stuck in bed with nothing to do but follow the aimless peregrinations of my (painkiller-enhanced) thoughts did, however, allow me to formulate some interesting observations.

Here’s what went through my mind as I contemplated my lot over the past fortnight or so:

  1. Never begin an exercise routine for a sore back the day after you first injure it.  Never.  NOT EVEN IF THE ZEALOUS PHYSIOTHERAPIST TELLS YOU TO.  You will regret it.  You will rue the day.  So, never!
  2. Dogs are strange and wonderful creatures, and I love them more than ever. Throughout the Great Bed Rest, every day and all day, Elsie and Chaser held vigil at the foot of my bed. Not quite close enough for me to touch them, but close enough so that I knew they were there. Eventually, we three began to sigh, heave, and sleep along the same diurnal pattern, until the HH came home.  (“Um, don’t mean to hurt your feelings or anything, Mum, but we were actually just worried that we might not get fed any more–not that we weren’t concerned about you, too, of course.”)
  3. When you are stuck in bed, staring straight up at the ceiling for over a week, the stucco finish begins to look strangely like snow.
  4. When you are stuck in bed, staring straight up at the ceiling for a week and the stucco finish begins to look strangely like snow, the actual snow outside will melt, and so when you finally get up again, it will be spring!
  5. The HH is one helluva good sport.  Can’t cook worth a dime, unfortunately, but nevertheless one very sweet guy. He took care of daily housework and chores, walks for The Girls, feedings (theirs and mine), hairwashing (mine), as well as other less appealing ablutions. He came home from work at lunchtime each day to ensure I had food and a break, and also to confirm that the house hadn’t burned to the ground in his absence (an outcome I would have been helpless to prevent, in any case).
  6. Finally, I came to the clear realization that this GBR would never have occurred at all, had I not gained all the weight I’ve been earnestly trying to lose since I began this blog. And so, this latest episode has prompted a reaffirmation of my resolve:  I must get healthy! 

It’s with renewed determination that I return here to focus on all three: DIET, dessert, and dogs.

And, of course, all of you.  Thank you all for continuing to visit, for reading, and for commenting (I love hearing from you!). 

And while the latter part of the Lucky Comestible posts will have to wait until I can stand a bit longer, I’m looking forward to scanning my files and posting about some previous exploits in the kitchen as the back continues to heal. 

Yes, it’s great to be “back”!

(Oh, and I promise never to write the word, “back,” in quotation marks, ever again.)

[“Glad you’re feeling a bit better, Mum!”]

elsiesmile2.jpg 

[“Can you guess why I’m so happy?”] 

Last week, we took Elsie for her annual checkup at the vet (a place she absolutely loves–go figure).  At the end of the appointment, the vet pronounced her an ideal specimen of canine health.  Not only that; Elsie had lost nine pounds since her previous visit.  Nine pounds!  That’s, like, 63 in dog pounds!  She’s been hanging on to that excess weight for a couple of years, at least. 

This was quite the contrast to our first vet appointment, back in 2002, when she was both underweight and unhealthy. We got Elsie from a Rescue Mission here in the city, because  I was keen to save a little pup that would otherwise face certain death.  But there was also a monetary consideration, as the mission charged only $200 versus the $1200 or so we’d have to dish out for a purebred pup.

I remember the event perfectly: it was a blustery, snow-swept Saturday in February (a day very much like most of last week, come to think of it–except THIS IS MID-MARCH), and we were assured that our little 12-week old fuzzball had received all the pertinent shots, was proclaimed worm-free, and had been given a clean bill of health by their vet. 

As he shoved her into my eager embrace, the scuzzball “attendant” behind the counter drawled, “Waell, you just take her in to your vet on Monday morning, and if there’s any problem, you can bring her on back.”  (Right.  Quick inventory: cramped, smelly, fecal-encrusted and rusty cage in dingy, musty basement; approximately 50 clamoring, whining, unkempt pups crammed into it shoulder to shoulder; Elsie, sweet, reticent, timid, hovering in the back corner, eyes pleading as she silently implored me, “Please!  You must help me! Get me out of here!  Pleaaaassseeee. . . . “). Return her to that torment, under any circumstances?  Um, I don’t think so.

Needless to say, when Monday morning rolled around and we  made it to our regular vet, we were hit with this diagnosis:  worms (yes, the scum-bag guy lied!  Imagine that!), fleas, mange, parasites, broken tooth, and your garden-variety malnutrition. To look at her, you’d never have known; she was nonetheless alert, frisky, and exhibited a voracious appetite (which remains to this day).  We embarked on a series of medications, unguents, and shots to rid her of all the vermin.  Ultimately,  we calculated, restoring Elsie’s health cost us about the same as if we’d purchaed 2.7 purebred pups instead.  Of course, by then  we already loved her so much that there was no question–it was worth it. 

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[Elsie, pre-weight loss]

So, now that she’s svelte and healthy, how did Elsie achieve this amazing feat? The same one, I must admit, that’s been eluding me since I started this blog back in November? And, more important, what can I learn from this?

First and foremost, Elsie now has a new sibling to share her time and energy. Ever since little Chaser Doodle arrived on the scene, Elsie has spent most of her time warding off the “let’s play” advances of her baby sister.  Chaser attempts any tack to entice Elsie to play: tug a little on the ear, nibble a little on the collar, poke a bit at the bum, taunt ceaselessly with the Nylabone, or nudge repeatedly with a paw. Sometimes, Elsie just gives in and plays. And play means exercise.

Human Counterpart: Seems I need a new baby or a new playmate. Hmmmn.  Baby may pose a challenge, as both the HH and I have passed our best-before dates for procreation (together, we must be something like 4,732 in dog years). And a new “playmate?”  Well, I’m not sure how the HH would like that one, either. But I do think a dieting buddy is a workable option; most of the women I know are watching their weight, too, so it would make sense to team up. 

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[The new, svelte girl]

Second, I’ve cut way back on the treats I offer The Girls, compared to the quantity Elsie received before Chaser’s arrival.  Partly because current dog-training philosophy advises against treats, and partly because I no longer require treats to engage Elsie’s attention (since she’s got another dog to play with now), the number of daily biscuits has diminished by half at least.  That’s like cutting out snacks during the evening, or reducing your meals by 25%.  No wonder she’s lost weight!

Human Counterpart: Cut down snacks.  I may need to establish nap-time between 2:00 and 3:00 (when my blood sugar crashes) for a while, but that, too, shall pass. And fewer snacks means fewer calories.

The Girls also spend a lot of time romping outdoors, running off leash for a minimum of 45 minutes per day. Before Chaser’s arrival, Elsie was walked for the same length of time each day, but never felt the urge to run (or even walk very fast).  Obviously, having a playmate has made a difference.

Human Counterpart: Take a daily romp in the woods.  Well, if I translate this into human terms, what I really need to do is more exercise.  I’ve read that in order to lose weight, the average person must exercise ninety minutes a day.  Ninety!  And once women reach perimenopause (and after), they require an hour a day just to maintain weight.  So if I tally up the hour or so I walk The Girls each day, plus whatever extra I add on with the treadmill or the workout club, I should realistically be able to reach that goal. 

Why haven’t I incorporated any of these tricks yet?  Maybe I needed Elsie as my inspiration. I know it’s worth a try. I mean, Elsie does look marvelous, and, even better, she seems to have more energy these days for frolicking and gamboling.  And lord knows I could use more frolick and gambol.

Yes, Mum, I’d highly recommend it.  I do enjoy my frolicking.  But now, can you do something about getting Chaser off my back?”

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Here’s how I was going to start this blog entry:

I simply can’t believe it–it snowed yet again yesterday.  Will this accursed winter never end? The drifts on the driveway (oh, lord, another few hours of shoveling!) have already enveloped my car in a duvet of white, and little tempests are performing pirouettes in our back yard, propelled along by the wind. 

The newscast today said that we’ve already received 72 cm. of snow this season (that’s about 33 inches), when the average for a Toronto winter is around 20 cm.  That’s more than triple the snow we usually have–pretty much a new record!!  That’s more snow than I can remember in the last decade!  That’s more snow than any human should reasonably be asked to shovel or trudge through or brush off their coats or blink against as they stumble through the assault of bitter cold flakes!  That’s just TOO. . . MUCH.  . . . SNOW!!!!!!! 

 But since that would have sounded totally juvenile and excessively emotional over, well, snow, I decided not to start my entry that way.  And so, instead, I will start it like this:

One of the things I enjoy about blogging is the ongoing discovery of new blogs I like to read, and, of course, learning about the people behind the blogs. Comments are great for this (and I never cease to be delighted–and always a bit amazed–each time I receive a new comment on any post). Memes are also useful this way, as they provide more information about the authors as well. 

And so it was particularly rewarding (pun intended!) when I discovered that a blogger I’ve recently “met,” and one whose blog I regularly enjoy, presented me with an “Excellent Blogger” award.  Whoo-hoo! Thanks so much, Romina!  I’m very honored and extremely delighted.  What a great way to enter into the weekend. (“We are so proud of you, Mum!  Um, so is this a reward of food, Mum?“)

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Part of my responsibility as a recipient is to pass along the award to others.  I’ll take a few days to mull it over before posting about it (I take my duties very seriously!).  In the meantime, I’ve been thinking about some other weighty issues.

While driving to meet with my book club cohorts the other night, I heard an interesting interview on the radio, and one that got me thinking.

[Short pause for puerile rant:  the book we were discussing was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, even though I wasn’t entirely enamoured of the author’s own portrayal of her personality during the year she spent hedonistically chowing down, assiduously seeking spiritual nirvana, or unintentionally attaining true love.  I found her writing to be evocative and entirely engaging, frequently burning with a hard, gem-like flame of well-crafted prose, yet still highly accessible and firmly rooted in the world of the mundane.

And so, you can only imagine the depths of my dismay when, while surfing the net in preparation for our discussion, I came across this piece of information.  Can you imagine a better way to ruin a perfectly good book??  The irony is palpable. Ah, well, there goes another movie I’ll never see.  *SIGH*].

Ahem. Sorry about that.  Back to the radio interview:  the host was chatting with Rick Gallup, the man who popularized the concept of the Glycemic Index, in his book The GI Diet Now, rather than being just another diet guru, Gallup is extremely well equipped to discuss such issues as blood sugar levels, lipids and hormones, as he was the past president of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.

Surprisingly quick-witted (not to imply that doctors can’t be funny, or anything), Gallup offered a wealth of information about the diet itself, and how to lose weight by eating whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and healthy protein sources.  Basically, he was advocating a NAG-friendly diet.  That much, I already knew.  It’s how to stick with that diet that I find inordinately difficult.

Well, the interview provided one more item in my endless search for weight loss motivation, which I thought I’d share here.  Gallup suggested to people in his diet clinic that they keep a bag, box, basket, or any other container in the bathroom alongside their scale.  Then, as they lost weight, he said, they should place an item of equal weight into the container.  In other words, if you lost a pound, put a one-pound can (or box, or bag) of something into the bag.  The following week, if you lost 3/4 pound, add something of equal weight to the bag.  Eventually, you’ll have a bag that weighs quite a bit–just as much as you’ve lost (just be sure the items are non-perishable, or you’ll end up with a compost bin in your bathroom).

This seemed a brilliant idea to me, and I’m determined to try it out.  Imagine, if you lost 10 pounds, how heavy that bag would be!  In my case, if I were to lose my desired 40 pounds, the bag would actually be too heavy for me to lift!  Quite a sobering thought, as I am obviously already carrying that much weight around with me right now.

I’d love to add this tip to my (far too short) list of “What Actually Works,” but will wait until I’ve tried it out for a while. Of course, this presupposes that one actually loses weight.  Another sigh.