Ninety percent of the products in the supermarket come in some kind of container. In order to extend shelf-life outside of a fridge, these foodlike products are loaded with preservatives – chemicals that kill bacteria. Most products also contain additives to give them the most attractive color, smell, taste, and texture possible, so we will be tempted to buy and eat them. The remaining 10 percent of edible items in supermarkets – produce, fish, meat, and dairy products – are put through plenty of unnatural steps as well. - from the book Clean by Dr. Alejandro Junger
Tomorrow marks the end of the Savannah Power Yoga 21 day Clean detox program designed by Dr. Alejandro Junger. And what a journey it has been! For the past three weeks, 30 brave individuals have fought pangs of hunger, longings for coffee, and cravings for chocolate all in the name of getting clean. And ‘getting clean’ for me has oftentimes felt like breaking a serious addiction.
And I do mean addiction. Food additives are commonplace these days in a variety of food products we consume, most commonly (but not strictly limited to) fast and processed foods. And when I say ‘processed’ food – I’m not just talking about Spam. Canned foods, white flour pastas, and even fish sticks are considered processed foods and are potentially harmful in your diet. Steroids and hormones are injected into our meat and dairy sources and have now been linked to obesity and menstruation in females who haven’t even hit their pre-teen years. Our bodies are being chemically manipulated and most of the time we aren’t even aware of it! Is it no wonder then that we often can’t resist our chemically induced cravings?! My drugs of choice? cheese and french fries. GOD how I loved (love?) those foods. And last night showed me just how addicted to them I am!
Despite having been detoxing for 20 straight days, drinking two liquid meals each day and avoiding coffee & alcohol, I still started salivating like one of Pavlov’s dogs when trapped inside a car with a meal from Jack-in-the-Box as I rode back from a concert with a few friends. I thought I was going to eat my seat cushion out of desire for some damn curly fries. Yes, please, dear friend – tell me again how you could never do the detox I’m doing as you swallow another deliciously golden and saltily seasoned piece of potato euphoria. No, really. It’s fine. Nah, I don’t want any. I’m good with my water back here. OH. MY. GOD. When the food was gone and I could finally stop climbing up the side of the car door like a rabid animal, I began processing what had just happened. I was shocked at how much I physically responded to the smell of fast food. This…worries me.
Tomorrow this whole thing is over. No more Foodie AA. No more Facebook support group. No more Tuesdays at Rocks on the River where Chef Jon prepares us all a deliciously Clean masterpiece. We’re on our own. On our own to reintroduce solid food, adult beverages, or sweets as we see fit. Will I have the self-control to keep myself healthy? My question echoes back at me as I stare into the unknown abyss of my (un)healthy future. And it’s more than just the 6lbs I’ve lost or the stomach troubles I’ve overcome. It’s about the family history of diabetes and heart disease and the fact that I’ve been battling high sugar levels for a number of years now. I need to keep eating right.
I can’t just go back to the way I was before – not now that the veil of ignorance has begun to lift. This program, in addition to teaching me about the inflammatory properties of corn-fed beef and the acidifying effects of too much dairy, also led me to experiment with acupuncture. Not only was it one of the most relaxing procedures I’ve ever had with a health professional, I’ve also learned some pretty eye-opening diet tips in just three sessions. At Heal Savannah, I worked with a licensed acupuncturist to further promote healthy digestion and toxic releases. Nutritional counseling is also offered and I spent the end of my last visit discussing the Glycemic index with the Doc (I don’t know if it’s correct to call an acupuncturist ‘Doc,’ but I feel it’s appropriate given the depth of knowledge I’ve noted). I had never even heard of a Glycemic index prior to that session. Nor did I realize that my high consumption of pineapple smoothies, while delicious and ‘natural,’ is also terrible for someone who has trouble regulating sugar in their body. I need to eat fruits and veggies that don’t instantly break down into sugar upon entering the body. Who knew that all fruit is not created equal??
With all this progress and new information, where do I go from here? This is my resolution: to keep practicing healthy eating. And I say “practice” for a reason; I’m not about to set some unrealistic, New-Year’s-resolution-type goal. If the crazy fast food cravings were any indication, I still have a long road to full food addiction recovery. I get the sense that I’ve just breached the plane of what there is to know about food and how to build a diet to suit my specific health needs. I know I have more research to do and I plan on asking for nutritional guidance from those with the know-how. And maybe the sense of community fostered amongst we yogis who participated in this program will keep acting as a platform of encouragement for the future. All this healthy eating is expensive as hell, but as my Mom (a type II diabetic in remission) said to me, “You have to think of it as a financial commitment to yourself.” And we know Moms are always right.
On behalf of all the participants, I’d like to extend a special thanks to all the instructors of Savannah Power Yoga. You have started so many of us on a journey we never envisioned. We have learned so much during this process about eating and about ourselves. How many of us can say without a doubt that we truly improve the quality of life for those around us? The Savannah Power Yoga 21 -day Clean detox did just that.
That’s right, folks, take heed! The end is near! Sound the alarm! It’s the end of days! The end of the Clean detox days that is…one more week and my detox is over. Free we will be to have adult beverages without guilt once again.
Last night we had our weekly Foodie AA meeting to discuss problems, questions, and general experiences while completing our detox. Lynn, never one to beat around the bush, got right to the heart of the matter. “So…has anyone cheated?” Guilty eyes roved the floor as one by one we disclosed our dirty secrets. (Hi, my name is Jen and…I drank ADULT BEVERAGES last night…with sugar! oooh, agony!) Most of our indiscretions were minor – a glass of wine here, a piece of cake there. Nothing too dramatic. Overall, our accountability to each other had kept us on track. Encouragement from Lynn and our consulting Doctor helped relieve most of the self-deprecation that may have been occurring in our minds over our wayward deeds.
You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down. ~ Mary Pickens
I’ve heard over and over from my yoga instructors that each of us must learn to be compassionate with ourselves and not pass harsh judgment on ourselves if we falter at times in our lives. I thought I understood that pretty well. And maybe I do in the logical sense, but it’s become apparent that I still need more practice in the emotional sense. One observation I made last night about my own thoughts and feelings was that I was definitely affected by how much weight people were stating they had lost. Some stated that their husbands had lost 15lbs by week two! Ludicrous! Me? Yep. Holding strong at 4lbs. I have to admit, it was hard to hear that others had lost so much so easily. I’ve struggled with my weight my entire adult life and managed to overcome an extremely unhealthy period of being overweight, eating horribly, and smoking. But even after overcoming this period in life, I’ve still never worn a bikini on the beach. Ever. I’ve just never been quite skinny enough.
I know that this program wasn’t aimed at weight loss. It was never advertised as a diet and there were no promises that you’d be Victoria Secret magazine worthy by the end. I didn’t agree to do the program for the prospect of weightloss AT ALL. I did it because I wanted to eat without feeling like World War III was being waged inside my stomach. But as I made the sacrifices and gave up all the food that I loved to indulge in…well there was a part of me that thought “I’m DEFINITELY going to lose some weight if I’m working out and giving up ALL this food!” I had expectations that I didn’t realize I had. And now because I’ve only lost 4lbs, I started blaming my faltering.
"It must have been the alcoholic drinks you had and that solid meal you ate one night. You blew it. You knew better. It’s your own fault that you haven’t lost any more weight. It doesn’t matter, you’re never going to be that skinny."
Ugh. Even as I’m typing this, I’m a bit mortified at myself. I am a confident, independent and successful young woman. I know this most of the time. I’m disappointed that I can’t overcome these thoughts and judging myself for even having them. It is neither reasonable nor logical to feel like you’ve let yourself and others down because you didn’t lose more than 4lbs. Buh. We are our worst critics, eh? Obviously, I’ll need to keep going to yoga so all my wonderful instructors can fill my ears again with how I need to love myself. I can hear Kendall now, asking us to entertain the idea that we are actually enough. Perfect, as we have always been. Practice, practice, practice. We must practice believing.
On a peppier note, the dust seems to have settled on the battlefield known as my digestive system. I haven’t had ANY intestinal cramping and the acidic, burning stomach aches are almost non-existent thanks to this detox! Last week I visited an acupuncturist to assist in the detoxification process and I believe that has helped as well. And holy cow was it just a cool experience that I probably never would have had without this program!! I don’t know that I’ve ever felt the strange, floating relaxation that accompanied an acupuncture session before. My acupuncturist believes that my stomach problems were not solely due to food – stress was most likely an accompanying factor. BIG surprise there :-p Thus, I had needles placed in places for both stress reduction and digestive relief. The needle I was most affected by was placed in my forehead between my eyes. Instantly, there was a fluid-like rush passing through my sinus cavities, down my jaw, and tingling across my cheeks. I experienced what can only be described as… expansion? I had more room in there. Liquid face? Sounds weird, I know. Other sensations included a giggly energy fluttering through my chest like butterflies and strange warmth on the undersides of my forearms and in my palms. I recommend it just for the tactile experience alone.
So here we are. Over half way there! These past two weeks have gone by so quickly in retrospect. Dr. Junger and the instructors of Savannah Power Yoga were right; you CAN do anything for just three weeks. It’s just smooth sailing now…or smoothie sailing? Either way, we’re going to rock this ride until the end. The positive digestive outcome I longed for is manifesting more with each passing day! And who knows…maybe I will lose 1 more pound before the end.
Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world. ~George Bernard Shaw
Welcome to day 10 of Clean living! I’m feeling much better than last I wrote – the crazy Medusa mood swings have ceased and my head is no longer spinning around Exorcist-style. The belly aches are slowly subsiding as well. Thus, I fished my Clean book out of the trash and put it back on the shelf.
Like anything we do in Yoga, the importance is the practice. Instant health results, like instant enlightenment, are not a reality. If I’ve been completely unaware and uneducated on food and how it affects my body, why should I be so bold as to think that a week’s worth Clean eating would provide a magic, annoyance free solution? Ah, a product of my own beloved American culture. I can’t say I wasn’t warned, either.
Dr. Junger wrote in his book and reiterated when we Skype-ed with him (we totally skyped with the L. A.-living-New-York-Times-Bestseller guy who invented this!) that there will initially be some unpleasant things happening because all the toxins that have built up inside your system will finally have the time and space to be flushed out. And how do we get things flushed out? We poop and sweat. Neither of which seem all that appealing on the surface, eh? Cleaning your body on this program is like that Spring cleaning, once a year, top to bottom cleaning you might do in your house. The one where you actually move the furniture to vacuum underneath as opposed to just vacuuming what people can see. Maybe you never do that. But you’ve seen what gets trapped under your couch over the years… your body and waste is very much the same. Lift up the carpet inside you and you might be shocked at what starts coming out!
Just as Dr. Junger advocates against focusing solely on localized problems in the body (vs. looking at the body as interconnected systems), he also emphasizes the connection between physical and mental health. Despite mental health studies consistently toting the benefits of meditation (self-reflection, relaxation techniques, whatever) on both the mental and physical, it’s still widely viewed as a hippie pastime that most modern day Americans aren’t really interested in trying. I’ll be honest, it kinda freaked me out. I pictured linen pants, dreadlocks, incense, and spacey individuals gathering in a room together to engage in joint rejections of reality. But I’ve met some people (even ones who wear linen pants) who are pretty down to Earth in the Savannah yoga community that convinced me to give it a whirl. I’ve battled anxiety since early adulthood and thought perhaps it would provide me some solace.
Solace? not quite. Meditating is hard. One would think that sitting in silence in the same position while focusing on your inhalations and exhalations would be easy – it’s not. You wouldn’t believe how wily your mind can be! Making you think all those thoughts! Thoughts you don’t want! And thoughts about those thoughts that you just thought! I’ve tried meditation a few times now, but nothing consistently. And, here we find a theme, you really need to practice meditation regularly to reap the benefits and improve. It’s an exercise of the mind and, like any exercise, the more you do it the better you will become. Monday night I attended the meditation class that Kate added to the schedule to support our Clean efforts. It was the longest meditation I’ve ever done – 20 whole minutes of eyes closed and perfect seated posture. My legs totally fell asleep. It was so painful. Obviously, with all that tingly burning I wasn’t really keeping a clear mind! Tuesday night I spoke with Kendall and Lynn who suggested that I elevate my hips higher (“Like a throne!”) to alleviate some of the intensity in my legs. I also realized I was sitting ‘Indian style’…which is not in fact how you are supposed to be seated. As you are working your way up to Lotus pose, you cross your legs, but you don’t put your front foot under your knee and have your ankles crushed. The feet are just resting against thigh and shin. Hypothetically, your knees should touch the ground. Mine aren’t even close, so there’s some obvious stretching that must occur before I get there.
As I sit here with my nightly juice, I’m thinking about the emphasis that yoga gurus put on practice. It isn’t just the practice we’d normally think about, the practice of the physical asanas. We need to practice in everything we do, every change we want to see in ourselves. Healthy eating – takes practice. Balancing in Tree Pose – takes practice. Sitting properly in Lotus and meditating for more than three minutes before hyperventilating? takes practice. To keep practicing takes an open mind, especially if we are going to take on the totality of our being. I don’t just want to improve my physical self, I want to improve my whole package. I think about how people have reacted when I tell them I’m doing a detox, that I’ve tried meditating, or most recently that I’ve set up an appointment for acupuncture. I get told I don’t need to detox because I’m not fat. Like being fat is the only reason to eat healthy?? I get giggles when I mention meditation, but always from people who have never tried it. If there’s one thing I’ve come to realize in my life (and that has been further emphasized since my experience with yoga started) is that I don’t want to be the person who speaks about things she’s never actually done. If I have an opinion, it should probably be one founded on experience. So I’m trying it. All of it. Because it’s healthy! Because there’s history, culture, AND scientific studies to back it up. And…I feel really good today!
Did I also mention I’ve lost 3lbs in a week? (4lbs if you weigh me in the morning) I have my energy back, my moods are up, and I’m doing as the Dr. ordered – pooping and sweating Life looks pretty good today.
10 days down, 11 more to go.
An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching. ~Mahatmas Gandhi
Week one is complete - finally! And I only contemplated homicide for chocolate once! I'd say that's an accomplishment. :)
Week One on the Clean detox has proven to be a confusing, emotional roller coaster for me. I started off enthusiastic, prompted by the energy of our Clean group at Savannah Power Yoga. But as we went our separate ways into individual weeks full of work, obligations, schedules, and stress...well, it was a little harder to feel so enthusiastic about juicing my dinner. And even harder to be enthusiastic about the cleaning of said juicer.
The biggest problem I'm facing is low energy. This whole week my workouts have been kicking my ass "asana." Tuesday morning, I had to take Child's Pose for the first time since I started yoga because I thought I was going to yak right there on the mat. Ugh. I felt totally lame. Thankfully, Kate reminded me that this is pretty common for the first week because your body is adjusting. We agreed it was probably a good idea for me to look into the Vega smoothie infusion powder suggested at our last Clean meeting to give me some extra needed protein. All this fruit, while delicious and healthy, is probably jacking up my sugar levels and a protein will slow the insulin releases to keep me level. I ordered my powder online only to find it's available on the shelves at Brighter Day. doh. My powder should arrive tomorrow, but in the meantime I feel like Lead Legs Louise every time I'm doing anything physical. I apologize in advance for my wobbly warriors and pathetic pigeons.
Another participant had asked both Kate and I if we had experienced any emotional swings unrelated to normal monthly fluctuation. At the time I said that I hadn't. I take it back. Holy cow. The end of my week was bizarre emotionally. It was actually a bit scary just how much I was roller coastering. I was irritated and angsty, then sad, then numb. The worst was Friday because there was a total lack of motivation. To work, to play, to feel anything. It was like a disconnect between the logic center of the brain and the emotion center. I was aware of my numb, sad, weirdly angst-filled self...and I asked myself about it, got curious...you know, all the yogi stuff... but I couldn't really get a good understanding of what was going on inside. To make matters worse, I kept getting stomach aches. They were nothing like the painful, burning, bloated and crampy ones I had been having prior to the start of the program. They were mostly just bloated and gassy and were relieved when I'd FINALLY go the bathroom. But the waiting for that moment and the obvious discomfort made me moody. Wasn't this stupid detox thing supposed to stop this?? Why do I still have pains in my stomach!? I thought, giving my Clean book the best scowl I could muster. After the book failed to respond to any of my directed hostility, it finally dawned on me that perhaps the increase in fiber might be causing the gas and bloating. hmm...ok, I'll give it another week.
So on to week two! 7 days down, 14 left to go.
Breakfast: Blueberry, Cocoa, and Almond Milk Smoothie
1 cup blueberries
1 1/2 cubs almond milk
1 tsp agave syrup
2 tspn cocoa
1/2 cup ice
Lunch: Grilled Chicken Breast and Quinoa salad
1 chicken cutlet (brush with olive oil, sea salt, pepper)
1 cup Quinoa (follow prep directions on package)
combine cooked quinoa with:
1 can of chickpeas (I only used half the can)
1 can of black beans (again, 1/2'd it)
rice vinegar, sea salt, lemon juice to taste
Dinner: I made a really horrible dinner juice that I hope to never repeat. I got a little too crazy with my creative use of leftover stuff in the fridge. Whatever juicing you do, I'd advise tempering any tart flavors, like parsley and lemon, with something sweet. I literally had to choke down my juice because I refused to let it go to waste. bleck.
Note: This is first in a series of blog posts by a guest blogger who will be documenting her experience on the Clean 21 Day Detox Program.
I’ve never been a dieter. In fact, I’ve never even tried one. No Adkins, no South Beach, no drinking water with lemon and maple syrup for a week straight… I understand this is actually an unusual thing for a woman of this day in age. I can thank my father for this, as he often waged to eradicate thoughts of anorexia or bulimia from his two young daughters’ minds with zealous lectures unparalleled by even the most effective Baptist minister. We were beautiful. Our bodies were fine. Dieting ads are a sham; you need to play a sport and eat homemade food. So I did exercise and I’ve never felt so bad about myself that I seriously contemplated not eating to get skinny.
But ‘eating well’ in our household growing up meant trying Mom’s latest concoction out of a cookbook that promised healthy meals fast. These family dinners often ended up with us all growing really quiet at the dinner table, pushing strangely glazed and dry chicken around our plates until my father would delicately broach the idea of ordering a pizza instead. Don’t get me wrong, my parents did feed us well and kept the food as healthy as they knew how. We never had Twinkies or cereal with marshmallows, but we also weren’t discussing the benefits of kale or dairy’s inflammatory impact on the digestive system either.
As an adult, I’ve realized that I know NOTHING about food. …except that I like eating it. I love trying dishes from all over the world, basking in the euphoria of the perfect flavor combinations of some brilliant chef. Every time I move somewhere new, my first mission is to discover all the best and most unique restaurants in town. I love the social aspect of eating, as well. One of my favorite activities is to spend a Friday night enjoying a delicious meal and a couple glasses of wine with friends. I eat out. A lot.
So when the first stomach ache hit me at 2am one Saturday about 4 -5 weeks ago, it never dawned on me that maybe the delicious swiss cream sauce pasta dish from Leoci’s might be the culprit. I spent the next week battling intermittent stomach pains and intestinal cramps, which I chalked up to a stomach virus that had been going around the office. When it didn’t go away, I started taking Prilosec, figuring maybe it was just excess acid production. But when the following weeks things didn’t seem to be any better, I decided it was time to see the doctor. The tests revealed nothing. No parasites. No organ abnormalities. I was still suffering pain every time I ate and I had noticed that it seemed to be the worst whenever I ate dairy. A yogurt sent me home from work sick. Fearing I had developed a lactose intolerance, I mourned for my favorite food – cheese.
At the suggestion of my sister, a physician, I cut out all dairy and wheat products the following week. It seemed to tame the baby alien trying to escape through my stomach. And that’s when Kate, Lynn, & Kendall all tag teamed me into signing up to participate in their Clean detox program designed by Dr. Alejandro Junger. Really, it was an unfair fight. Three seasoned yogis against little ‘ol me? I didn’t stand a chance.
I have to admit, I was pretty damn skeptical despite the praises sung by my trusted yoga mentors. Detoxes seemed so faddish…only really annoying skinny people on TV or posing in women’s health magazines do detoxes. I assumed this whole thing would be entirely unpleasant with unremarkable results. But then I read the book. Now, Dr. Junger may not be the most engaging and poetic writer, but I found myself listening because…well the shit made sense! I learned crazy things in my reading – like serotonin, the brain’s happy hormone, is made in the intestines! Who knew?!? Does it not make sense then that when your digestive systems is all messed up that you may be feeling depressed as well? Or the pain you feel in various parts of your body might be caused or exacerbated by dairy, sugars, and corn-fed beef which cause inflammatory responses inside your body? It was like somebody turned on the light and I could see the whole body as one big interconnected system!
So for the next 21 days, not only will I be practicing yoga at least 2-3 times per week, I will also be eating two liquid meals and one solid meal per day. Yes. That’s right. I’ll be drinking my dinner…but not not the fun adult beverage kind of drinking your dinner. Instead it will be the kale, pineapple, chia seed smoothie kind of dinner or some other equivalent. No dairy, no wheat, no eggs, no butter, no alcohol or coffee, no refined sugars…and the list goes on. But I can do anything for three weeks, can’t I? Thank god somebody had the bright idea to have Sunday meetings for all those yogis participating. If there’s one thing I need to stick to this detox, it’s a support group. It’s like AA for foodies :-p
Here we go, readers! The start of some uncharted territory! Eating clean. 2 days down, 19 to go.
Breakfast: Kale, Pineapple, and Chia Smoothie (blender)
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
2 leaves lacinato kale
2 tspn soaked chia seeds
1 cup pure water
1 tspn agave syrup
1/2 cup ice
Lunch: Grilled Chicken & Asparagus w/ side arugula salad
organic chicken cutlet (brush with oil, salt, pepper)
portion of asparagus (brush with oil, salt, pepper)
portion of arugula (add lemon juice, sea salt & oil to taste)
Snack: handful of mixed almonds and bluberries
Dinner: “What Do I have in my Fridge?” Juice (juicer)
half a red leaf lettuce head
1 pink lady apple, 1 gala apple
two large broccoli stalks/florets
10 sprigs of parsley
two handfuls of spinach
I’ve never been a front-of-the-class kind of guy, not in high school, not in college. I was always hanging towards the middle or the back, not wanting to garner too much of the teacher’s attention. It’s been the same scenario at Power Yoga, and my tendency is to head towards either wall, (not that I lean on them too much, but it’s nice to know they’re there) somewhere in the middle or further back. Well that’s about to change.
My balance is reasonably good when it comes to the standing poses, be it Tree, Dancer, Leg Extensions, whatever. But I’ve noticed that if someone in my line of sight starts wavering, I do too. If that Yogi topples over, falling out of a balance pose, I have to try like hell not to do the same. So from now on it’s to the front of the room, and face-to-face with the orange wall. It doesn’t waver a bit, and hopefully I will learn to do the same.