Monthly Archives: May 2013

21-Day Cleanse

It was a spontaneous decision. I would embark on a 21-day dietary cleanse/detoxification. While Cleanses were not new to me, I had never committed to one for this length of time.

My first experience with a cleanse/fast was in 2003-4 during my study of  Food Energetics with Roger Green and, subsequently, with one of Roger’s graduates, Karla Walter. Among other things, Karla is a nutritionist, classical Homeopath and Feng Shui Practitioner. As part of her Five Seasons to Wellness  program, I  was introduced to a spring fast/cleanse of consuming only miso soup, short grain rice and Bancha Tea (a Japanese green tea). The timing was very specific: between April 12-19th. I followed it every April for about four years, appreciating the opportunity to participate in an “internal” spring-cleaning.

Fast forward to Spring 2013.  While visiting a friend, she mentioned a cleanse she was doing. Her comments triggered the memory of those past April cleanses, which had since fallen from my routine. I was excited to re-introduce a healthy, intentional spring body cleanse into my life.

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What is a cleanse and why do one?

Body cleanse diets, also referred to as body purification or detoxification, claim to remove toxins from our organs, blood and digestive system and help maintain a healthy weight. While our body is designed to rid itself of toxins naturally, our daily exposure to pollutants, pesticides and chemicals can overburden that ability.

Cleansing diets, especially versions of fasting, are disciplined withdrawals from habitual eating practices. Interrupting the normal diet or foregoing food has been used throughout history for religious purposes and for healing. Cleansing the body was thought to open the way to enlightenment in some Eastern cultures. Early physicians used a variety of mono-diets, herb concoctions and simple fasts to give the body a rest and help cure disease.

In addition to an internal “spring-cleaning,” I wanted to modify some of my eating habits and, if losing weight occurred as well, all the better! I contacted my chiropractor who recommended this particular 21-day cleanse.

Why 21 days? It seems there is an ongoing belief that it takes 21 days to change a habit. Well, I was willing to try it and see what new habits I kept and what old habits returned after 21 days. More on that later.

The cleanse consisted of several supplements and all the organic fruits and vegetables I could eat for the first 10 days. Beginning day 11, I could add 2-4 servings (3 oz. cooked) of protein in the form of deep sea fish and lean organic chicken and turkey that was baked, broiled, roasted or poached.

I was motivated so I found this plan relatively easy to follow. However, the challenge was to eat twice as many vegetables as fruits. It is easy for me to eat fruit, but I quickly realized that, while I believed I ate a lot of vegetables, I was actually eating less than I thought.  The first few days were spent discovering unique ways to significantly increase my vegetable intake, especially since they were a mainstay for 10 days.Veg01a

Also recommended as part of cleansing is to get to as much fresh air and physical and emotional rest as possible and to stay well hydrated.

In 2004, I saw the movie “Super Size Me,” an interesting experiment in fast food consumption, that called special attention to the increase in obesity in our country and  the diseases associated with it. While I take responsibility for the foods I eat and the calories I consume, I was amazed at a fact I had never considered: the vast increase in food portion sizes over the last 20 years! And not just at fast food places but all restaurants in general. Those increased portions also found their way into our homes.

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“Between 1977 and 1996, food portion sizes increased both inside and outside the home for all categories except pizza,” wrote the study’s authors, Samara Joy Nielsen and Barry M. Popkin. “The sizes of the increase are substantial.”

The data revealed that over the past 20 years: Hamburgers have expanded by 23 percent; A plate of Mexican food is 27 percent bigger; Soft drinks have increased in size by 52 percent; Snacks, whether they be potato chips, pretzels or crackers, are 60 percent larger. Wow! Who knew?

To make this information more personal, read this post by divine caroline.

After watching that movie, I never used a dinner plate again when eating meals at home. Instead, I use a salad plate to control both portions and calories. And, interestingly, I rarely find myself going back for seconds, supporting the notion that my body can be satisfied with less.

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I had no difficulty following this 21-day cleanse. I even had a number of lunches and birthday dinner celebrations in restaurants during that time and, by reviewing the menus of the respective restaurants in advance, I was able to make choices that allowed me to stay true to the cleanse. The only deprivation I felt was not being able to participate in alcoholic toasts with my dinner companions!

It has been three weeks since I concluded my cleanse. Did I lose weight? Minimally. I suspect that may be because my typical diet is not too far removed from this cleanse diet. However I feel lighter and have more energy.

Did I change any habits? A few: I have been able to give up my favorite between-meal snacks of chips or crackers with cheese or peanut butter. I hope this translates over time to a decrease in my waistline. I am also more mindful of eating as a sole activity. I am slowly creating a new habit of avoiding extraneous activities, such as texting or reading emails during meals in order to focus on and better appreciate my food.

And what, in fact, is the time frame for breaking a habit? Can it be done in 21 days? While some believe this is more myth than fact, current research seems to indicate the answer is both Yes and No. Some say sixty-six days is more realistic. Obviously there is a great deal of variation, both among people and among habits! Some people are more habit-resistant than others, and some habits are harder to pick up than others. What seems obvious, however is that the most important basis for breaking a habit is a true desire to change.

 “We become what we repeatedly do.” ~Sean Covey

Interestingly, when I talk with people about my doing a cleanse, the most often asked question is, “What did you learn?” Initially, I was stymied by this unexpected question. I have since given it some thought.  It isn’t so much about what I learned, but, rather, how this cleanse maintained my connection to basic Feng Shui principles:

  1. Nature is our model. To support balance and harmony in our lives, a daily affinity with nature is essential. Choosing locally grown food whenever possible is one way to maintain a healthy relationship with the earth.
  1. Your space reflects your life. In Feng Shui, we assess the affects of all the items in a home (furniture, artwork, etc.) on its inhabitants. Do those items reflect healthy chi, supporting the energies of who we are and where we are going in life? Or are some of them creating clutter and thus blocking our flow? Too much stuff in our home is not unlike force-feeding our home with too much stuff, creating an uncomfortable feeling of  bloat and stagnation. Likewise, if our most personal environment – our body – is not reflecting optimal health then we may be over-consuming or filling ourselves with less than healthy choices. A seasonal body cleanse will benefit our health, flow and chi just as will a thorough seasonal house cleaning.
  1. Everything is energy. If, indeed, everything around us holds a certain energy that has either a positive or negative effect on us, consider the innate energy of our food and its influence on our over-all health and well-being!
  1. Intention is the power of Feng Shui. Choosing how we fuel our bodies on a daily basis is one of the most powerful intentions we can set.Intention01a

“Our intention creates our reality.” ~ Wayne Dyer

 

 

 

Microwave-less in Minnetonka

Several years ago, I wrote about removing our microwave during a kitchen remodel. In so doing, I was honoring the Feng Shui tenant: have in your home only what you love, or at least, like a lot, and use well. The microwave, left behind by the previous owners, met none of those qualifications. As a result, I removed a large piece of clutter from my kitchen!

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In so doing, did I also remove a potential health risk?  Are the effects of eating microwaved food detrimental to our health? The literature, while controversial, suggests so. For interesting reading about electromagnetic fields, see articles by Anthony Wayne and Lawrence Newell.

Feng Shui is all about creating balance and harmony in our environments, including the environment of our body. Preparing over-processed, over-packaged and over-priced so-called convenience food in a microwaved field never seemed to me to promote balance, good health or family unity.

I recently had the opportunity to hear Michael Pollan  speak when he was in the Twin Cities. Pollan studies, writes and lectures on food, agriculture, health and the environment.  His books include The Omnivore’s Dilemma, The Botany of Desire and his newest, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. In 2010, Time magazine listed him as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

Michael Pollan

That evening, several of his comments especially caught my attention. The first of which was his discussion of primary eating and secondary eating. According to Pollan, primary eating refers to actually sitting down at the table to eat our food; eating is the primary focus. Think dining out, Thanksgiving dinner or, for me growing up, every meal seated at the table with my family.

Secondary eating is eating while doing other things – watching television or texting, for example. Sound familiar? It is no surprise our current life styles support more secondary eating than primary eating. I admit to going through emails or texts while having breakfast or lunch. Certainly this is not good Feng Shui practice, which supports mindfulness – awareness of each moment and being in that moment. And how aware of our food are we when we take a pre-packaged dinner from the freezer, remove the plastic and zap it in the microwave? And how focused can we be on eating when we take that dinner and consume it in front of our computer or TV? Removing the microwave was a step toward mindfulness eating.

Another important way to encourage balance and harmony is to honor the specific function of an item or a room. The kitchen table, for example, is designed for sitting and eating, not for the purpose of holding junk mail or newspapers. Using it between meals for homework or projects is OK if those items are cleared completely so the table can be set for  its primary function. More commonly, however it becomes too much of a chore to clear, and the meal is eaten on a TV tray or standing at the counter. The table’s primary function begins to take second place, if not eventually ignored all together.

Take a moment to look at your kitchen or dining room table. What is on it? How is it used?

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Is it ready at any moment to welcome primary dining?hotel-ermitage-moulin

Another comment that caught my attention was Pollan’s  questioning the viewpoint that the principle purpose of eating is to promote health. He pointed out this attitude is not universal. In fact, cultures that perceive the main purposes of food to be for pleasure, identity, and sociability may end up with better health. With this contention, secondary eating would not appear to support pleasure or promote our being social. And, of course, we say we want good health, but if the nourishment we put into our bodies is given only secondary thought in both its selection and preparation, are we even accomplishing that purpose?

Releasing my microwave was easy. Focusing on primary eating to the exclusion of any secondary eating is a bit more challenging. Secondary eating is sneaky. It can take over, and without awareness, become a life style. I appreciated the way Pollan reframed my thought process around the pleasurable and essential role of eating.

That evening spent listening to Michael Pollan encouraged me to set new goals of mindfulness during meals and improving my healthy food intake. Oh, and if losing weight also occurs, all the better! To help accomplish these goals, I decided to embark on a 21-day cleanse. I’ll share my experience and observations with you in my next post.

“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.” ― Craig Claiborne