Done. Finito. And I do solemnly swear to refrain from mentioning it again this year. 21 days with no soy, gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, nightshades, refined sugar, red meat, sushi, caffeine, alcohol, blah blah blah…zzzzzzz. 21 days of eye rolling from my blessed friends, family and co-workers as I blabbered incessantly about this for three weeks straight. 21 days of juicing, blending, slurping, chopping, cooking, breathing and shedding. 21 days of disciplined Jedi mastery over every precise item I consumed during this 21-day cleanse honoring the digestive system.
The Husband in a last-ditch attempt at solidarity (or because his beloved espresso machine is on temporary hiatus) joined me in the last 48 hours of the cleanse. As he is a pretty hardcore coffee drinker, I was a bit apprehensive of having to shoulder caffeine withdrawals during the last leg of my 21-day journey. How dare he waltz in here and try to steal the glory of the finish line. Like a true partner though, he soldiered through with me until the end, eating only what and where I ate, giving up coffee, refraining from complaints, and abstaining from late night snacking or second dinners that, let’s face it, folks, he is no stranger to. It doesn’t matter that every time I looked over, his eyes were closed or that he was literally fast asleep, because he was there, body and soul (kind of) when it mattered. And those two days without caffeine were probably harder for him than my entire three-week experience, so props to you Husband.
Things I Learned This Time Around
One benefit I derive from doing this cleanse is that it is a constant learning process for me. So what did I learn this second time around? Besides the world of juicing I mentioned in my last post on the cleanse, I learned that eating out at vegan restaurants in Los Angeles can get pretty frickin’ expensive. But if you are desperately needing a piece of vegan, gluten-free blueberry cheesecake, you can have that blueberry cheesecake experience for a mere $8. And despite the fact that it is made of sweet potatoes, cashews, coconut and agave soaked blueberries, if you close your eyes it really doesn’t taste that different from the real thing.
I also learned that there are some really great farmer’s market vendors in Los Angeles selling prepared vegan food items that make it easy and inexpensive to be vegan, such as Dave’s spicy miso soup or Bolani’s cilantro pesto (pictured below on top of brown rice fusilli pasta).
I learned that it is possible to live a dairy, wheat, gluten, refined sugar, soy-less existence and that Los Angeles is a good city that enables that, with restaurants such as Cru, Hugo’s, Cafe Gratitude, Shojin, Native Foods, RFD, M Cafe, and Amwaj.
I learned that Trader Joe’s recently came out with their brand of a cold-pressed, organic extra virgin olive oil for only $6. I went through an entire bottle during this cleanse whereas last time I had difficulties finding this in inexpensive quantities. I learned that Fresh & Easy has really stepped up their game with gluten-free items, which can be easier on the wallet than Whole Foods.
Additionally, I learned that adding an extra week to the cleanse doesn’t seem like serious business since it is already so much of your daily routine. I learned that the opposite can also be true too, and that it is in fact, pretty serious business. I prematurely and shortsightedly had a beer, grilled cheese and sweet potato fries at 2 a.m. post-cleanse and woke up nauseous and dizzy the next day. I don’t recommend this gangbusters approach, people.
Kind readers asked how I kept my motivation and what to do when energy levels were low. I was motivated by a variety of things. One was a feeling of control. Just as the psychology behind eating disorders is the satisfaction of being in control, I would argue that the same satisfactory feeling applies here but in a healthier form. A cleanse of course is no eating disorder and there is no binging and puking. What was comforting for me was the feeling of having almost absolute control over what I ate. This means not eating out as much, as well as having to shop and cook religiously (which really, should be more ingrained in my life). I couldn’t control traffic, my job, rising gas prices, or annoying people in my life but I could control this. Oh yes, I must mention that I did in fact turn into the weirdo who would ask you if I could sniff your brownies or your fries, loudly inhale and then close my eyes. What can I say – coping mechanism!
I was also motivated by the idea that this was a way to respect and pay homage to my body. Not to sound cheesy and new age-y, but I wanted to believe that in my natural state, my body was restoring and rejuvenating itself (sounds like a sci-fi movie, I know). This was a period of great discipline where I had to retrain myself not to lean heavily on food for emotional solace but learn to comfort and distract myself with other things (and things that didn’t involve online shopping). Books. Music. Conversation. Pinterest. (Ha). It was also a period of contentedness and peace (not world, but inner). I started seeing things in a different light. I started saving things in my pocket to recycle instead of throwing away in the nearest trash can. I’m not saying I was some bag lady Buddha with tons of crap in my pockets, but certain times during these 3 weeks, yes, I felt downright euphoric.
I was also motivated by people who fast for religious reasons like Ramadan which is inexplicably far more difficult and who don’t spend their time blogging about it and complaining in a self-laudatory fashion (um, awkward). Seriously though, what’s three weeks in the large scheme of things? And low energy levels? Honestly, nothing a handful of nuts or seeds couldn’t take care of. I did however almost faint when I read online that this cleanse was recommended every 8-12 months. I did this 5 months ago. FIVE MONTHS AGO, people. Which means, yes, I totally did not need to be doing this. OMG. But by then, I was already in the zen, whatever man, it’s all good mode, so instead I shifted into the “Okay, so that means I’m set for 2012″ mode. Eleven pounds lighter (since I started my first cleanse) and hopefully a ton wiser, I am ending this chapter and reshelving for a later time.
A hearty thanks to my readers. I promise not to bore you with this for at least another calendar year. Following are some recipes and food items that helped me along the way. Oh yeah, and for those of you wondering about that 2 a.m. grilled cheese? Why, euphoric, of course.
Requested Recipes during the Cleanse
In All Your Morning Glory Juice
2 apples (I used gala)
2 stalks of celery
1 inch of ginger
3 pieces of kale
1 organic carrot (can include some root) (optional)
1/4 of a beet (can include some root) (optional)
Easy Lentil Soup
1 cup red lentils, rinsed well
3 tsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, minced
1 carrot, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup brown rice (optional)
salt and pepper to taste (I used 4 generous pinches of sea salt)
32 ounces of organic, low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth to make this vegetarian)
1/2 cup of fresh spinach, cut into slivers (optional)
Cook lentils separately until soft. Drain and put aside. Cook brown rice and put aside. In a large pot, add olive oil and sauté the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and spices, slowly adding in the broth. Add lentils to soup mixture, stirring slowly. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 10-15 minutes. Add brown rice and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Add slivers of spinach right before serving. (if not on cleanse, can add some tomatoes as well during the initial vegetable sauté).
Makes 3 generous servings.
1 lb ground chicken or turkey
1.5 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp gluten-free tamari soy sauce (optional and can use lime juice instead)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 chopped scallions (white and green parts)
1/2 red onion (or two shallots), thinly sliced
2-3 dried red chiles, chopped finely (more if you like it very spicy)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2-3 tbsp fish sauce
1.5 tbsp honey (raw if on cleanse)
juice from 2-3 limes
Don’t be afraid to play around and add more/less fish sauce, honey and lime until you get the desired tart and sweet balance.
In a hot pan, warm some oil. Cook ground meat, adding salt, pepper, red onion/shallots, ginger, soy sauce, chiles and garlic. Stir occasionally until meat is cooked thoroughly. While the meat is cooking, in a separate bowl, mix the dressing ingredients. Put aside. Put the cooked meat mixture into a bowl. Add the sliced scallions and cilantro and toss gently. Add dressing, tossing again. Serve on a bed of lettuce or with raw green cabbage.
Stuff We Ate Along the Way