A Holistic Juice Cleanse in Real Time

All week I felt so lethargic and I knew my diet of processed foods and mostly carbs was to blame. I follow a vegan diet, but even still there are plenty of opportunities to eat poorly. Faced with this realization, I knew the best way to reset my body was to eliminate foods altogether and engage in the age old process of a fast. Fasts are great for jump starting weight loss, healing the liver and gut, skyrocketing energy levels, and clearing the mind.

Rather than engage in a super strict water-only regime, I chose to do a simple weekend juice fast–sticking to mainly organic and raw fruits and veggies. This weekend I’ll be documenting my fast covering juicing recipes, tips for beating cravings, and how to take full advantage of the intense focusing effect fasting has on the brain.

Day 1 (Saturday):

Also, it’s incredibly important to drink lots of water. I start my day with a liter of filtered water and this weekend is no exception.

10:00 am: Already after  my first juice I feel a surge of energy, my mind is sharp and my mood is euphoric. Even the boys got in on the action and added some organic juice to their breakfast of waffles and fruit. 

12:00 pm: I did a short 15 minute kettlebell workout and some gentle yoga. I didn’t feel any different during the kettle bell portion, and my yoga practice felt great. I concentrated on moves that focused on my back and abdomen (spinal twists and bridge pose) to encourage the cleansing process even more. After working out I made lunch for the boys, and the first real hunger pangs hit me. I reconciled these with remembering why I chose to do this cleanse in the first place, and took some deep breathes. Studies show that cravings tend to last around 30 seconds, so if you can make it past that point, you will survive–resolve intact.

I also poured myself a cup of organic black coffee. Purists would say that you should forgo all caffeine during these cleanses, but there is so much evidence that supports the benefits of coffee on the liver and gut, so I’m keeping it in.


1:00 pm: Lunch is a Naked green machine smoothie. It’s bit of a cheat and higher in sugar than I would like, but with two kids it’s a lifesaver and will help me stay on track for the duration of the cleanse. 

6:00 pm: It’s been roughly a day of consuming nothing but liquids and I feel amazing. My husband and I took the boys to Whole Foods to pick up some dinner and I grabbed a cold-pressed juice. It’s odd, I feel so sharp–sounds and smells are heightened and yet my mind is so relaxed. I can see why so many people from around the world use fasts as religious and spiritual aids: it doesn’t just clarify your body, but your mind as well. 

Four Unexpected Effects of a Plant-Based Diet.

Update: My article was published in elephant journal! You can find the latest version here: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/05/four-unexpected-effects-of-a-plant-based-diet/

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What if I told you that you could do something today that would make you look and feel amazing, save lives and the earth? I think without knowing what that action was, most if not all people would agree to trying it. Unfortunately, when that action involves breaking with societal norms and traditions, the decision to change is harder fought. My only viable option then, is to share my own experience of how going vegan and relinquishing all meat and dairy from my plate, drastically changed my life in unexpected and beautiful ways. My ultimate purpose is that someone reading this will be curious enough to try the experiment out for themselves, and watch their own life transform for the better. 

Common sense dictates that when you eat more fruits and vegetables, while simultaneously eating less sugar, processed foods, and fat, you will feel better. A diet consisting mainly of meat, eggs, and dairy has been proven to sink the body into a state of inflammation which leads to disease and a poor quality of life riddled with medication and corrective surgeries. But what I found surprising is that in the past few months while I slowly eliminated meat, then eggs and dairy in favor of a plant-based diet, I experienced a myriad of benefits that I never anticipated. Aside from feeling happy about my choice to live an environmentally friendly existence, I experienced perks that I had not even considered when making my initial decision to become vegan. I knew I would feel clearer and have more energy, but I never expected these next four items to happen, and certainly not so suddenly.

Sleep: Within days of eating a diet free of meat, eggs, and dairy, I started needing less sleep. Typically I would feel exhausted by 9:00 pm. Right after putting my two young boys to sleep, I would want to crash too, and often did much to my husband’s dismay. Our time to talk and bond as friends and a couple was truncated because all I wanted to do was clean up the dinner dishes and get to bed. This shifted almost immediately when I began consuming more dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, beans, fruit and grains. And aside from having more energy at night, my quality of sleep improved. I fell asleep fast, and slept soundly all night, which was not typical for me.

Before the switch, I would toss and turn to get to sleep (despite being overly tired) and would wake frequently throughout the night. The result was that I was groggy and reluctant to get out of bed in the morning. I set the alarm for 5:00 am so I can practice yoga and mediation, and usually it’s a battle for my feet to hit the floor. Not so under this new diet, and that’s with receiving even less sleep that I was used to getting. Now when the alarm sounds, I am alert and ready to start my day from a place of mindfulness and strength while the rest of my house soundly sleeps.

Athletic Endurance: I love to workout, it’s something that has been a constant companion my entire life. It’s rarely a chore, and something I honestly enjoy. Through working out I connect with my body and reach meditative states I can’t by simply sitting still on the floor. That’s why I was intrigued when I went completely plant-based, and my running felt different. I felt as though I could run forever, there was no resistance in my lungs, heart, or legs. My body moved in synchronicity, perfectly free and full of life. The amount of energy I source from nutrient dense foods has changed that way my blood flows when taxed, and I sensed it immediately. It has been shown that patients with high cholesterol and arterial blockages can improve their vascular health by switching to a plant-based diet. The body wants to heal itself, and it will if you only let it. It takes about three hours for the arteries to de-harden after the consumption of food high in salt and fat, which is usually when they are hit again with another damaging meal. Imagine what happens when you let the body go into a state of healing instead of destruction, and imagine what happens if you don’t.

The change I felt in running carried over to the weight room too. The weights felt lighter, and my recovery time was shorter between repetitions. Usually, the day following a tough weight session, I am sore, but I felt very little of that. At first I thought I was just having a good day, then a good week, but I saw the same encouraging results each time I went to the gym. My performance had definitely improved, and the only variation was the quality and make-up of my diet. After my workout, I typically drink a protein shake or eat an apple and it carries me through until dinner, no 2:30 pm sugary snack needed.

Sugar Addiction: Sugar is one of the most damaging ingredients in the human diet, and one of the most addicting. I certainly was not immune to its pull, however with an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies in my diet, my urge for soda, candy, and yes even Nutella has subsided substantially. Its been theorized that sugar cravings are actually caused by a depletion of nutrients such as phosphorus, magnesium, and chromium. Because I was getting plenty of the core nutrients my body needed, my usual sugar cravings evaporated. And as a result of consuming less sugar, I noticed my skin, hair, and nails looked better. I was healing my body from the inside on a cellular level, and it was showing on the outside.

Relationships: Truly happy people have a good relationship with themselves first, and feeding yourself well and with care, is the ultimate act of love to your body, mind, and spirit. By choosing to eat nutritiously and mindfully, I show myself love everyday, and that impacts how I interact with my sons, husband, family, co-workers, and friends. My improved levels of energy, athletic performance, and general sense of well-being made me happier and more excited about life and my relationships. It’s a scenario where everyone wins. Plus the more I talk about how great I feel, the more questions I receive about it. At first there is always a joke, usually accompanied with an eye-roll, but then more often than not, the conversation transforms to honest curiosity and openness about how a plant-based diet changed my life for the better, and how it could change theirs too.

The list above details just a few examples of how going vegan has had an enormous impact on my quality of life, and I am looking forward to discovering more as time goes on and I get more creative with my recipes. For those individuals who inexplicably deride a vegan lifestyle because it opposes cultural norms, I just want to convey that we have one life and one body, and to truly honor yours and live your best life, you need to actively take control of what you put in your body. And who knows what exciting ways your life might improve if you are curious enough to try a plant-based diet out for yourself.

Chocolate Strawberry Banana Protein Smoothies

One of my favorite shows, Chopped, challenges competitors to make delicious meals out of seemingly random ingredients. I am no chef, but I enjoy pretending I’m on the show when faced with a surplus of leftovers or fruit that’s a tad too ripe. 

Such is the case today when I opened the fridge and found a full container of strawberries that were not long for this world. I decided to whip up healthy protein smoothies for me and the boys and they turned out delicious!

Ingredients:

2 cups of strawberries 

1 banana 

1 package of GoGo Squeeze Organic Strawberry Banana Applesauce 

1 scoop of chocolate protein powder

1/2 cup of chocolate milk

Ice (optional) 

To Be Happy Means to Be Creative

Albert Einstein once said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” Since starting a blog I have been asked countless times why I was doing it, and the question honestly caught me off-guard. For me, writing is a facet of expression, a way I can share who I am with those who know me, or think they do. Most people have an idea of who they think someone is, I’m equally as guilty–but unless you spend substantial time with a person, you never really know who they are, what they have experienced, or what they might be going through. When we leave the house we are ever ready with a smiling face and shiny exterior, even though it is not always the case.

Through writing, I am able to share an honest picture of who I am, and perhaps inspire someone else in the process to take down the mask and revel in the freedom that an authentic existence can bring. What could be more fulfilling? I have always loved and admired artists- they are fearless, and they unabashedly share their souls with the world through their chosen art form. Though writing, I wanted to embody that freedom and truth too.

And it’s not just me who senses the benefits of living a more creative life. A recent psych study showed that daily engagement in creative activities (i.e. journaling, painting, doodling, cooking, etc) positively activated emotional states and lowered stress and anxiety. Participants in the study reported an immediate increase of feelings of well-being, and “an upward spiral” of positive emotions.

I can attest to the truth of this study. Since starting the blog a short while ago, I have experienced an overwhelming response from friends and strangers on how they have been inspired by what I’ve written, and that confirmation means everything. Each time someone reached out, that ephemeral connection we are all constantly searching for was there, and I was grateful in that moment with that person.

Here’s how to get started:

  1. Choose an art form that interests you. It could be anything from cooking, to drawing, or even creating boards on Pinterest with images that spark your imagination. The point is that you are engaging in an activity where your mind is activated in creative way.
  2. Try to do at least 10 minutes of your chosen art form a day. Start small, and then go from there. If you can incorporate at least 10 minutes every single day, you will start to receive the brain benefits, and it’s a goal that is small enough that you minimize the probability of failure.
  3. Ritualize your art by making this activity a regular part of your day. Pick a time of day that works best for your schedule, thereby increasing the chance that you’ll actually do it. I know that I have a half hour when I get home to cook, it’s scheduled.
  4. Track your progress. How did you mentally feel week 1? Week 2? How have you improved, and what have you learned? Write down wins so you can remember them. A great journal might work for you.
  5. Continue your practice each day. Make it a habit until it becomes second nature, the reward is a better brain and genuine happiness.

Moms, Stop the Self-Shaming and Be Selfish.

How does a parent (especially a mother) justify taking time away from their family to do something completely indulgent and self-aggrandizing like working out, reading a book in one sitting, or just being alone? Why is taking space for oneself considered abhorrent and selfish in this society? It may be due to unattainable expectations put on parents-both moms and dads, and the shame that goes along with failing to live up to what we erroneously think is the standard. Author Brene Brown described this situation perfectly when she said, “Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”

This is how I lived for a long time when I first became a mother. I remember feeling this overwhelming weight of responsibility and it terrified me. How would I ever be enough for this little person? How could I show him the way when I barely knew what I was doing? These feelings of shame came to a head one night as I was giving my son a bath, and I just started to cry. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, or being enough for him. I couldn’t understand why he had cried for four hours that day, or refused to eat everything I offered him. I was failing. It was a false story playing over and over in my head, brought on by fear and shame.

Fortunately, the best way to break the perpetual cycle of outlandish expectations and subsequent self-shaming is to bring it into the light. I started talking to my husband, fellow moms, and co-workers about how I was feeling. I hated being vulnerable and showing weakness, but I couldn’t carry the burden of my critical thoughts alone anymore. It was a sink or swim moment, and I had to survive. I was amazed at the response I received. More often than not, the moms mirrored exactly how I was feeling. They told me about situations where they had felt “less than” or had messed up, and it enabled us to laugh and revel in the mutual suffering of early motherhood. In hearing their stories and sharing my experience, I realized I wasn’t alone. Everyone had these feelings, especially the new mothers. Through those simple, albeit vulnerable, conversations, I had been thrown a lifeline and I realized I had been thinking about my role and responsibility as a mother all wrong.

Once I realized that my experience wasn’t unique, I could relax. I started to make self-care a priority in my life. I realized how damaging my casual relationship with exercise and healthy food had been since having my son, and I made a conscious decision to make health and self-respect the priority. Now I tell all my friends who are expecting, and even those who aren’t, that when you have children it is even more important to take care of yourself. The emphasis you place on your own physical, mental, and spiritual well-being directly impacts your children. As parents we are the first example of how a healthy, happy, human being should exist in the world, and owe it to them and ourselves, to be an example of self-love so that they can embody that mindset too.

Five years after that first tearful session with my son looking up at me from the bath, healthy habits have developed into a mindset and way of being. I realized how important my health and sanity was for my family, and I was never going back to that role of martyr and self-doubter. I was going to be selfish and carve out time for myself to workout, read, meditate, and just be without feeling guilty or shameful about it. Then I would return to the fold, rejuvenated, reenergized, and truly present. I brought the breath of fresh air I had just received into every action and conversation with the boys, and my happiness was contagious. They benefited directly from the space I had taken for myself, and learned that it was normal for mom to not always be immediately available for every need they had. My relationship with my husband has grown even stronger too, as I rely on him to help provide me the ability to take care of myself, while not having to worry about the boys. And I do the same for him when he needs space. His choices for self-care include ice hockey, cooking unobstructed, or sometimes just listening to music.

It may seem like a tall order at first to make the switch, but I have found that if you are consistent in your healthy habits, you really will become what you practice. My husband loves to say that personal growth is the hardest things anyone can do–and I agree. To truly change and elevate yourself to a higher level, it takes a breach from hardwired, second-nature tendencies and such a deviation takes serious dedication. But if you see, as I did, that your selfishness is for the good of the entire family, and you are consistent in your efforts of self-care–positive life changes can and will happen, and your family will thank you.

 

Mindfulness Matters. Here’s How To Get Started.

My relationship with meditation began in 2007, when I was traveling for work to various Native American reservations to assist in probating estates. Unbeknownst to many, the United States government holds most Indian land in a trust, and when a Native American dies, the government must hold a hearing to distribute the land to the rightful heirs.

 

At that time, I was a paralegal assisting with the hearings, and the judge (my boss) would interview the witnesses on record about the deceased person to ensure that the property was being passed down correctly. Our territory covered most of the Midwest, bringing us to some of the most remote and beautiful parts of the country.

It was on one of these trips to the reservations that the judge and I found ourselves in a tiny, Buddhist bookshop café in search of lunch. Our choices for food while traveling were usually scarce, but everyone in town had told us that this place had amazing, local organic food, and we were excited to try it.

While waiting for the food, I browsed through some of the books, and I came across one on meditation. Having traveled into these unbelievably spiritual locations, I had begun to feel a certain yearning to connect to the individuals and land we were serving, and to me this book was a sign.

That night, after a long day of probate hearings, I went back to my hotel room which overlooked a beautiful lake in the upper Michigan peninsula, sat crossed-legged on the floor and began what would become a lifelong practice.

Something I noticed right away when I began meditating was how harsh my daily, internal monologue was. I was embarrassed to see the influence my negative thoughts had over how I viewed myself and interacted with everyone around me. “You didn’t do that right,” my inner critic offered snidely. “Why can’t you…”

I had clearly been viewing the world and myself through a negative lens, and it had stunted my growth as a person. I didn’t want to continue this way, and in hopes of doing things a bit differently, I started a practice of meditation that focused on opening my heart. Until that initial session, I had never realized I was so closed off to the world.

The techniques weren’t glamorous, and it was blessedly simple to start. I began each practice by sitting comfortably on the floor, taking a few deep breaths, and closing my eyes. From there I would focus on imagining a flower opening up in my chest, and breathing in white, pure light, while blowing out dark negative air. I would do this initially for 5 to 10 minutes, and slowly I increased the time to 20 minutes as I got used to being still.

The imagery may sound strange, but it truly helped me shift to a kinder, gentler way of being. That shift to a more positive frequency affected everything, and my life was forever changed for the better. My relationship with myself transitioned from being a highly critical perfectionist, to being loving, accepting and empathetic.

I saw myself as a little girl whom I needed to care for and love instead of judge and deride. I was also able to step out of my thoughts and see them from above. This ability not only occurred during meditation, but carried over into my interactions with others. If a family member said something that would usually trigger a heated reflexive response, I was able to stop, label my initial reaction as thinking, and then move on unemotionally and at peace.

The same premise works in my marriage. So much time is wasted on completely useless fights when all that is needed is some higher perspective, an escape from the trap of believing that thoughts are real. As is so often the case, perception creates our reality, and that is where problems arise. Once I was able to see that my perception was creating an emotional response, not in-line with reality, I was able to bring peace immediately back into the present situation and quell whatever was brewing.

My husband is still thrown off when he’s preparing for battle and I simply laugh and label how ridiculous we are being. It’s saved us from so much unneeded stress and agitation in our seven years together, and has deepened our bond even more than those early, lustful days.

Meditation also helped immensely when I was pregnant with my boys. While I meditated, I focused on sending love and health to the babies I was safeguarding, and envisioned them receiving all the nutrients they needed. I think every mother speaks to their unborn baby, but through meditation, our chats reached a more focused level. I believe they truly felt my love and excitement for their arrival.

During labor and delivery, I used meditation to focus on my breath and not the pain—the result being completely natural and beautiful water births for both boys. I focused on my breathing, labeled thoughts as thoughts and nothing more, and had a strong sense of self-love to carry me through the pain and deliver the boys in a peaceful and harmonious environment. I trusted my body, not my fearful thoughts, and let the natural process of birth take over. It was like riding a wave, and I trusted that I would not drown.

An enormous amount of research has been done to support what Buddhists have been saying for years—that meditation not only makes individuals calmer and happier, but that it actually changes the brain in positive ways. One Harvard study found that meditation helped grow areas of the brain related to learning, memory, compassion, and regulatory neurotransmitters, and simultaneously shrank areas of the brain related to fear, anxiety, and stress.

 

I quickly realized it is one of the fastest, easiest, cheapest activities I could do to bring immediate peace and awareness into my life. In as little as two minutes, which is sometimes all I can fit in a day with two wild boys under five, my blood pressure lowers and I am brought into a higher, more positive frequency. Essentially, it is my way of checking in and removing the roadblocks to my best self.

 

So after a raucous 2016, why not start a practice that involves little more than sitting still? That time can bring real harmony and self-awareness to your life. The effects of meditation will not only benefit you, but as I have attested here, all those you interact with thereafter. And isn’t living happily and healthily with each other what life is all about?

Here’s how to get started:

 

  1. Learn the brain science basics. You’ll find your reason to practice as you understand more about how meditation helps your brain grow and heal. There aremany great booksout there for beginners. My favorites are The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh, Real Happiness, by Sharon Salzberg, and Meditation for Beginners by Jack Kornfield.
  2. Trysitting meditation(takes about 10 minutes). It’s simple to teach, simple to learn, but not simple to practice—it may take some getting used to.
  3. Ritualize your practice by making this time a regular part of your day.
  4. Track your progress. How did you mentally feel the first week? The second week? Write down wins so you can remember them.
  5. Continue to practice each day.

 

 

 

No Time To Workout? Try a Micro-Workout.

How many times have you said the words, “I just don’t have enough time to workout today” or “I’m just too tired to drive to the gym after working all day”? If you’re anything like me, chances are relatively high that you’ve talked yourself out of exercising due to time constraints or dwindling energy levels. Fortunately, you do not have to workout for an hour to maintain or even increase your fitness level. Micro-workouts are a great way to incorporate movement and strength training into your day without any real commitment.

Micro-workouts are ten minutes or less, and can be done with little or no equipment. If you’re not worried about scaring your co-workers, micro-workouts can be done deskside or in the stairwell. I choose to do my micro-workout first thing in the morning, as a way to loosen up, raise my metabolism for the day, and to encourage myself to drink at least a glass of water before I jump in the shower. I typically do a variation of push-ups, jump squats, core work, or quick spurt lateral movements. My favorite resource for these types of workouts is healthination.com. It has countless videos, most of which are in the ten minute range. I literally wake up, go downstairs, and go hard for ten minutes. I don’t even put shoes on–it’s really that easy.

Mirco-workouts are a great way to get your blood flowing and build strength. Researcher Eric Freese, Ph.D states, “It’s possible for an athlete to maintain or even increase fitness using shorts bursts of energy.” Freese ran subjects through four 30-second bursts of all-out cycling sprints three days a week over a six-week period, starting at four sets and gradually increasing to eight sets. “We saw improvements across the board,” Freese said. “Lowered triglyceride levels, increased mental energy, and improved overall mood as well.” You shouldn’t rely entirely on micro-workouts to stay in shape, but if you have a sedentary job, busy kids, or a long commute, these will help keep you happier, healthier, and more fit every single day.

These days being busy has become a badge of honor, but you owe it to yourself to make your health the number one priority in your life. Without it, you can’t perform at work, take care of your kids, or be an effective partner. Mirco-workouts provide a doorway into a life of better health that you can absolutely start right now. No excuses!