It had to happen.
Day-after-day, year-after-year, the same problem weighed on my heart: I felt bad about the way my body looked.
For every one pound of extra physical weight, I carried 100 pounds of spiritual weight. When I got dressed every morning, I never felt a lightness of spirit in getting ready for the day. It was an exercise in camouflage that never really worked. There was angst, shame, frustration, confusion, a touch of self-pity and then…
Plain and simple, it dawned on me that having the same problem all the time was incredibly stupid and boring. I mean, really, how much longer did I want to make faces in the mirror before plastering on a fake smile for the world? Wouldn’t it be at least more interesting to take control, and move past this speed bump?
And so, I did.
The month of April was a time I set aside to focus on myself. I had a short window when holidays and responsibilities were at a lull, so I staked a claim for myself.
I didn’t cheat once.
Although there were times when my heels dragged a bit, I was just so ready for a change that it wasn’t too hard to stick with the plan. It was a gift to myself and it had an expiration date.
May is a busy celebration month in my home, which will be immediately followed by summer vacation, a new school year, the farmer’s market reopening, the holiday season…. Knowing that I had a finite amount of time to really focus on myself enabled me to get down to business without any hand-wringing. Of course, I plan on losing a bit more weight and I know I can’t do that during only one month in a year, but I got a great head start, and firmly implemented some excellent habits that will serve me well.
How I Lost 10 Pounds in a Month
1. No sugar or sweeteners.
Sugar is addictive. It operates the same way as heroin in our brains. Freeing myself of my sweet tooth made life easier than parceling out small portions. I got it out of my body and my head. I didn’t place a limit on fruit, because no matter what current fad diets say, fruit is healthy. If I wanted a something sweet, nature supplied it, and that was that.
2. No dairy or gluten.
This had more to do with trying to relieve myself of some chronic pain. I will reintroduce these foods now and see if they cause an allergic reaction in my body.
I did find myself making some creative culinary choices. When I made my family pasta, I had roasted sweet potatoes or zucchini with sauce for my meal. I also used lentil flour quite a bit and developed a deep love of papadoms heated in the microwave. Instead of cooking eggs in butter, I used avocado oil, which is unusual and delicious. It was fun to play in the kitchen again.
3. Greens 2-3 times a day!
I wanted a nutrient-rich diet. Usually breakfast was a fruit and veggie smoothie with an egg on the side. A few days a week, I sauteed spinach and mushrooms and put a poached egg on top with fruit on the side. For years my lunch has been a big salad. Vegetables are always the foundation of dinner. Eating so many plants felt great! It’s a wonderful energy boost.
4. Exercise 10-12 hours a week!
This is key. I jog almost every morning. Two weeks in, I added interval sprints which really helped. I also do a light barbell routine for my arms and an ab and leg video for toning on alternate days. Yoga has become an evening ritual, which is strange because I love a morning practice, but it fits better into my schedule in the evenings. On the weekends I swim a mile in a lap pool.
5. Replace TV with reading books about health.
In the past I’ve read fitness magazines to keep me motivated, but that never really worked. They offer so many different programs, that I always second-guessed my plan. This time I read books about diabetes, sugar, wellness, allergies, you name it. This reading constantly confirmed that I was making great choices for my health. They also shared horror stories about people who did not make healthy choices, adding fuel to my fire.
6. Up protein.
Eggs, nuts, beans, tofu, quinoa and seafood played a more starring role in my diet. Most of those are plant-based proteins which also provide excellent fiber, vitamins and minerals. I made sure to include a small serving of protein in every meal, and also ate a few nuts whenever I was hungry. This kept me feeling strong.
It’s simple and a lot of hard work. Every choice I made I knew was good for me in both the short term and the long term. My plates were full of colorful, healthy food, and my days were full of movement.
I have about 15 more pounds to lose. I probably can’t lose another 10 pounds in May, because the closer I get to my goal, the more stubborn my body will cling to the weight. That’s OK. I have more ideas to shake things up, and a realistic goal of losing 5-7 pounds.
Most importantly, I’ve lost that heavy feeling of failure.
I look and feel great!
It’s been a long time since I could say that.
The quick answer, of course, is yes.
Everybody knows that.
But popular wisdom wasn’t good enough for me. I hail from Washington State, the birthplace of Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, Tully’s and thoseands of other charming American coffee houses. When I return home for a visit I make the rounds, sharing a cup of joe or cappuccino with everyone I’ve ever known.
Seriously. All we do is drink coffee in various locations. My husband teases me about this.
I’m on a health kick right now. Basically, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired. I conducted a grand experiment of extreme wellness, which I’ll share another time. One of the first things on the chopping block was coffee.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think coffee is bad for your health. There is ample scientific evidence of its benefits when consumed in moderation. (Hey, what’s that?) Besides, it’s a staple in most traditional cuisines which indicates transcedent healthful properties.
My break-up with coffee was much more personal.
First of all, I was drinking too much. About 4-5 cups a day. I didn’t drink that much for the caffeine boost, in fact, some of it was caffeine-free. I just really love the flavor and use it as a distraction when I want to mindlessly eat.
My problem was that I wanted to return to a natural state of health and energy. I wondered if coffee truly gave me extra energy, or did it just shift my energy around, giving me extra energy at 8 am that was meant for 10 am? The constant stream of coffee in my system could block my notice of this.
Was drinking a cup of coffee akin to stealing from Peter to pay Paul?
This was important because I was taking a sleeping supplement to help with my insomnia. I wanted to rid myself of that, and return to my natural state. Perhaps getting rid of coffee would enable me to feel naturally energetic in the day and sleepy at night? What a concept!
A few other things about coffee bothered me too. I prefer mine with milk to cut the bitter edge, but I wanted to cut dairy out of my diet. For the past few years I have used commercial almond milk, but as its popularity has grown, I have noticed more unnatural processing. Homemade almond milk just doesn’t have the same body to work in coffee. It’s much better cold with granola.
Also, coffee plays the role of connector in my diet. It’s great with morning toast or a piece of chocolate or an afternoon pastry. I wanted to eliminate those food, so saying adios to coffee first made that easier.
I packed up my coffee maker, and promoted my blender to the counter top, at the ready for daily smoothies. I rediscovered my love of tea. I ate the healthiest diet possible, exercised, meditated, took energy boosting B vitamins and CoQ10. Six weeks passed.
Does Coffee Really Give You Energy?
The long answer is the same as the short: yes it does!
Once I was completely over withdrawals and embedded in a healthier lifestyle, I still felt an energy slump that just wouldn’t go away. I also noticed a slight depressive tinge to my mood. After a month and a half, I decided to drink a cup of coffee: instant energy and happiness.
This stuff is great!
But I don’t want to let it take over my life again. Green tea, chai and chamomile are back in my life to stay. My reservations about coffee as a connector and my dairy dilemma remain. My blender is not going to move an inch. Breakfast smoothies are the best! Coffee gets to enter my life twice a day: a morning brew and an afternoon treat. I freshly grind my coffee and use my old French press.
It tastes divine.
Welcome to motherhood! Please take a seat.
And sit and sit and sit.
Who knew there was so much sitting involved in raising a kid?
We sit to nurse, to watch an infant play, to drive them around town, to watch them play soccer, to read stories, to eat meals together, to let them play outside. Add that to the sitting that comes with computer usage or watching TV, and even a full-time mom can spend her entire day in a chair like an office worker.
And we don’t get a lunch break.
This has been bothering me for some time. My children are very active and usually get a few hours of outdoor time everyday. I am thrilled to give them a healthy lifestyle, but what about me? I wake up before my family to sneak in a sunrise jog and try to carve out some yoga time if I can, but the rest of the day I am basically sitting down or standing in place as I cook.
There are two components to building fitness: working out and living an active lifestyle.
Basically, if we spend our days sitting down, our workouts do little more than make up for our missing activity. They can help us maintain our weight and health, but it’s hard to make any real strides in changing our bodies if we still live a sedentary lifestyle.
Enter Playground Orbits
As soon as children are competent climbers on a playground and don’t need constant safety monitoring, there is no reason to just sit on a bench and watch them play. Instead, try orbiting the perimeter of the play area.
I’ve been doing this for a month, and I absolutely love it!
While the children play, I circle the play area over and over. I don’t jog or speed-walk, because I think that’s a little weird for everyone else at the playground, plus my main focus needs to be keeping a watchful eye on my kiddos. This isn’t a workout, it’s just raising my activity level.
After a 45 minute walk, I can feel it in my legs. My circulation has improved, and I am even able to clear my mind a little. Our brains developed during a time in evolution when homosapiens were extremely active, and there is substantial scientific evidence that an active body supports a better brain.
There’s a bonus for the kids too.
I’m much more willing to stay a little longer and go a bit more often to a playground knowing that my body will benefit from it too. I don’t have to compromise my health for theirs.
I also have the opportunity of getting closer and further from my children as I orbit. When I am closer I can overhear conversations without looking like an intrusive parent. When I am just a bit further, they get a small sensation of freedom, which is healthy as well.
Try it out for yourself. Just remember, it doesn’t count as a workout.
You don’t need to read the latest scientific studies to know whether or not you’re eating healthfully. (They’ll contradict themselves next month anyway.) Just take a look at what you’re eating and count the colors. The closer your diet resembles a rainbow, the healthier it is.
Caveat: Skittles don’t count!
Last night’s dinner:
Farm-fresh, soft-scrambled eggs with dill
Broccoli sauteed with heaps of garlic
Mountain Violet Sticky Rice (an heiroom variety from the Philippines)
Just picked strawberries for dessert
Delicious, effortless, and perfectly balanced.
What are you eating these days?
Mamaguru is pleased to announce the beginning of our new body care line: Extreme Self Care. The idea behind the line is that the best way to give yourself a treat is through extreme self care. Most of us can’t afford, nor do we have the time to go to the spa for body treatments, but we shouldn’t neglect taking good care of ourselves. High quality, all natural and positively delicious smelling body treatments you can use at home is the solution.
This beginning is only available in Miami now, but will go national in 2013. If you’d like to try some products, come to the Miami Springs Farmer’s Market on Saturday.
This week we will offer:
Key Lime and Coconut Salt Glow
French Lavender Salt Glow
Gingerbread Cookie Sugar Scrub
Honey Almond Goat’s Milk Hand Soap
Please stop by. The usual baked goods will also be available, including Gingerbread and Eggnog Scones for the holidays.
Saturdays, 8 am to 1 pm
1801 Ludlum Drive.
Miami Springs, FL 33166
My latest beauty secret comes straight from my kitchen: Brown Rice and Yogurt Mask.
I used to work in cosmetics and I have tried many top-of-the-line products. Most of them tout the natural ingredients that they use as a part of their marketing campaign. Why not skip the added chemicals and staggering mark-up and go straight to the source? This recipe is amazing and costs only a few pennies! My skin has never felt so soft.
I combined beauty tips from two countries I used to call home: Japan and India. For years I have used Japanese washing grains to clean my face in the morning. I like a bit of natural exfoliation to brighten my complexion and they always leave my skin soft, bright and clear. I’ve purchased these from the Body Shop and L’Occitane, but an idea hit me when I was cleaning out my spice grinder with rice. One day I just kept grinding for about a minute and created my own washing grains.
You can use brown rice washing grains as a cleanser by adding just a bit of water to moisten them, but I decided to take it a step further. Indian women use yogurt as a daily beauty treatment. The lactic acid in yogurt softens and hydrates skin and reduces wrinkles. Combining these two elements makes for a fantastic beaty treatment.
Brown Rice & Yogurt Face Mask
1. Grind rice in a spice or coffee grinder until very fine. This will take about 1 minute.
2. Take 1/2 teaspoon of the washing grains and mix it with 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt. Store the rest of the washing grains in a jar.
3. Apply to face. Leave it on for 5-10 minutes. As you rinse with warm water, gently rub the grains in circles to exfoliate. Use your favorite moisturizer with sunscreen afterwards.
If you have very sensitive skin, you should do a small patch test first. Obviously, if you find this irritating, you should not use it. I truly believe that this works wonders for most people. Please give it a try and leave your results in the comment section.
My carriage arrived at noon.
Of course, not a real carriage, but a town car to take me to lunch at the Fontainebleau, a swanky Miami hotel dating back to the era that defined swank, circa Mad Men.
It was not your average Thursday.
I was invited to an intimate luncheon to learn all about Hollywood beauty secrets, so I could share those tips with you. To be honest, my expectations were low. I thought the event would be lovely, but mamaguru embodies a holistic lifestyle. Although a touch of glamour and fabulousness is always fun, I’m much more concerned with helping people live lives of meaningful happiness. Smokey eyes don’t contribute much in that regard. What a surprise it was for me, when the speakers spoke about substantive beauty, not a flash and dash trip to the salon, but cultivating beauty that comes from within.
The first speaker was Kino MacGregor, an Ashtanga yoga instructor who began studying yoga in India thirteen years ago. I’d like to say our lives were parallel, because I studied Ashtanga in India twelve years ago, but that wouldn’t be accurate. Vertex is a better word to describe our lives, a point where two lines come together and then leave in different directions forming an angle. I saw in MacGregor what my life would have been if I had completely devoted myself to Ashtanga.
What an opportunity, to glimpse at the path I did not take.
I am a yoga instructor and still base my practice in Ashtanga, although I have a looser interpretation. After India, I opened and closed a yoga studio, wrote two books, travelled, moved across the country, got married and became a mother. MacGregor, in turn, returned to India multiple times to deepen her practice, recorded yoga videos, wrote a book and opened her yoga studio in South Beach. She is lovely and exudes the joy of someone who has daily practice. She gave me an advance copy of her book to review, so expect another mention of her. What I appreciated most were the connections she drew from the physical practice of yoga to the spiritual benefits that manifest in our lives from practice.
The next speaker was former Top Chef contestant, Andrea Beaman, also known as the healthy chef. Regular readers know how much I love Bravo trash TV, and Top Chef is a favorite with me because I love to see people cook things I can’t. So many other cooking shows are either at my level or below, but Top Chef blows me away with creativity and skill. I have only learned one thing in all my years of watching the show (how to flash freeze), because it is so over my head.
Back to lunch. Delicious, I might add. Lots of yummy nibbles from Hakkasan.
Tender-crisp beans were my favorite.
Along with a dessert of white chocolate mouse paired with a very sour lemon sorbet. You had to combine both of these components in each bite to achieve a balance that was spectacular.
Ok, back to lunch, for real.
The positively radiant Beaman told us the story of her own journey into healthy cooking. It started with a problem with her thyroid. Her doctor recommended medication, but she simple changed her eating to whole, healthy fare. In nine months, she had reversed her condition. After Top Chef, she went back to her partying ways and once again became sick. This time she didn’t mess around. Her doctor explained that her body simply couldn’t go through the ringer anymore, so she returned to her healthy lifestyle for good.
As someone who suffers from an autoimmune disorder, it is so inspirational to hear about someone who changed their lifestyle and prognosis. Like Beaman, I resist taking medication for life. I want to feel well by living well. I asked her about moments when diets get off-track. So often, my healthy eating gets derailed by a party. There’s nothing wrong with having a piece of cake now and then, but I notice that it activates all sort of cravings in me. The next day, I obsess about sweets and it feels like I’m back at square one. Beaman explained that there is an enzyme activated by chewing that satiates us. Sweets are usually soft and we scarf them down without noticing, which means we don’t ever feel satisfied. Hmm, I can’t wait to try that out next time I have a treat.
The other two speakers were more about topical beauty. Krystle Poulin, a celebrity make-up artist, spoke about the importance of using natural skincare and using lots of sunscreen. She recommends the Neutrogena Natual Collection and using powdered sunscreens. Powdered sunscreens are a physical, rather than chemical sun blocker, which makes them more effective and safer for your skin. Dr. Wendy Lee spoke about a new botox treatment, and I had to remind myself that it’s OK if life marks my face. I do have a worry line I tend worry about.
And then, lunch was over. I bid good-bye to the ladies I lunched with and found my driver waiting to take me home.
To my mop.
Because Thursday is cleaning day, and Cinderella still had to do her chores.
But that night, full of inspiration, we feasted on cold cucumber soup, avocado toasts, ginger and garlic sauteed spinach, followed by dripping ripe peaches for dessert. This morning when I unrolled my yoga mat, my boys rushed from the breakfast table to join my practice. Our practice. You see, I know I am not Cinderella and that’s fine by be.
I am already living happily ever after.
I recently stumbled across an article titled, Are These Celebrity Photoshopped? The Answer is Always Yes*. I followed a link to some photos which showed the original and enhanced pictures of a number of female celebrities accompanied by a laundry list of exactly what was changed in each shot. It was eye-opening and encouraging to see how average these icons actually are. It’s no surprise that images are manipulated, but seeing exactly how it’s done is akin to Todo pulling the curtain back on the wizard:
You can’t unsee the truth.
The women in these pictures were beautiful before they were changed. A form of beauty created by a combination of genetics, eating disorders, plastic surgery and expert hair and make-up. The before pictures seemed almost doable, like any pretty girl could achieve that look. The enhanced images seemed completely out-of-reach. It left me wondering:
Why have we allowed our culture to sell us an image of beauty that is not only unattainable, but unreal?
Why do we let them trim inches off waists, add cleavage to bustlines and erase any trace of age on the face?
What do we gain as a society by creating an image of our species that only exists in computers?
Who benefits from creating an image of beauty that does not exist?
These are not rhetorical questions. I sat with these thoughts until the answer finally dawned on me.
Selling something that doesn’t exist creates insatiable customers.
By setting up not just an unrealistic image of beauty, but an unreal image of beauty, companies have a market that is always searching for something, anything to get their customers closer to that image.
It’s a perpetual mirage and we are always thirsty.
We really haven’t come that far from history’s famed seekers of the fountain of youth.
Here’s another question to ponder:
Who wants to live a life with a definition of beauty that excludes them?
Not I. It takes effort to fight against such a pervasive cultural image. We have to constantly remind ourselves to tune out almost every message we receive about our own beauty and the standard of beauty. It would be helpful if celebrities, models and those blessed with good genes stopped participating in these damaging marketing campaigns. All hail to Kate Winslet when she decried an unauthorized, computer-trimmed version of her body in a magazine. All hail to Jaime Lee Curtis for her famed, unedited photo shoot. But those two drops in the bucket are not enough.
We need to surround ourselves with art from eras that celebrated and elevated that natural beauty of women.
We need to surround ourselves with loving eyes and kind words.
We need to resist plastic surgery and not say it’s OK if it makes someone feel better. We need to help those people who feel ugly recognize their innate beauty.
We need to filter our information sources so that we hear wise voices more often than snarky snippets.
We need to boycott the most flagrant perpetuators of unrealistic beauty and call out those who abuse us subtly.
We need to redefine beauty as a culture.
We need to define beauty with a mirror.
*NOTE: I am so sorry that I can’t find this link. I thought I had saved it, but after spending two hour following links, I have given up the search. If you happen to know the link, please leave it in the comments.
First of all, thank you for the out-pouring of support. When I revealed my autoimmune disorder, so many people reached out with messages and comments which surprised and touched me. Here’s an update:
I just ended a 3 day semi-juice fast and I feel a lot better. I drank living juices for breakfast and lunch, followed by broth-based soup dinners. No dairy or wheat. I didn’t snack except for a little fresh pineapple (which is very good for arthritis). I have done strict fasts in the past, but this time I was much more relaxed. I don’t see the point in suffering through a detox just to rebound with a retox. I didn’t take out caffeine, because I never intended to give up coffee. Why go through days of grumpy, sluggish headaches only to drink coffee later? I need to be energetic and alert right now. In fact, lack of energy is a main symptom I am trying to eliminate.
It has been two weeks since I’ve had any nightshades.
I feel a lot better. In no way am I cured. I still have stiffness in my hands and toes, but it is a bit better. My pain has gone down from an eight to a four. For me, level four pain is doable. I don’t put much stock in this yet. The nature of my symptoms is to flare and remit, so I can only judge its effectiveness through a long lens. I am grateful for the relief and hopeful that it may work, but I remain skeptical.
Emotionally the nightshade elimination hurts. I’m fine with giving up potatoes and eggplant. Tomatoes are very hard, but giving up peppers is daunting. I cook with red pepper flakes almost everyday. I want my kids to develop a pallet that can appreciate spicy food. So many cuisines rely upon peppers for flavor: Thai, Indian, Mexican, to name a few. If I think about it too long, wondering if I’ll be able to go out to eat without a huge hassle, I get apprehensive.
But I take it one day at time, one meal at a time.
Today I am feeling a little bit better.
I’m nervous to put this out there:
I have an autoimmune disease.
I’ve written about it before, but not in about a year. I’ve had symptoms that match lupus and rheumetoid arthritis, but conflicting blood work. My current diagnosis is: atypical rheumatic disorder.
It costs about $600 to be told that. It means nothing.
I have tried acupuncture, massage, cupping, diets, fasting, exercise, medicine, salt-water soaks, prayer and willpower to rid myself of my symptoms. It is hard to know what works, because the nature of autoimmune diseases is that they flare and remit. That means if I make a change and feel better, the change might have made a difference or it might just be a time in between flares. Needless to say that makes it extremely frustrating to endure and difficult to treat.
For a while I thought I had it under control. I loosely followed an anti-inflammatory diet and had strong exercise and sleep routines. Regular salt-water soaks reduced my pain significantly. At the end of last summer, a flare burst in my body and I never fully recovered. For me flares mean chronic pain, exhaustion and pronounced arthritic symptoms. My body feels heavy, like all the trace metals in it are suddenly magnetized and pulling me down towards the Earth’s core. It is hard to find motivation to do anything more than the absolute necessary work of each day.
I haven’t felt like myself in nine months.
I haven’t felt good in nine months.
Not even for a moment.
Recently, a new symptom popped up: a topical allergic reaction to nightshade vegetables. Nightshade vegetables are a class of vegetables which contain a compound called solanine, which triggers inflammation in many people. The most common nightshades are eggplant, potatoes, ground cherries, peppers and most regrettably, tomatoes. There is a strong link between arthritis and nightshades. I gave them up for a short period last year, but didn’t notice a change, so I added them back. This last week, my hands have blistered, calloused and cracked just by touching them. Even after touching them for one minute and washing my hands with soap, they continued to sting for an hour afterwards. The flare that never quite ended started at the end of summer, also known as, tomato season.
If nightshades cause this strong a reaction to the briefest contact with my skin, what might they be doing inside my body?
I’ve done a bit more research and I learned that it takes one to four months without nightshades to notice a difference. I did not eliminate them for that long before and I wasn’t careful about hidden sources, so it’s worth a shot. As a foodie, the thought of life without tomatoes breaks my heart. As a person with an autoimmune disease, the thought of life without pain elates my spirit.
I live on baited breath.
I am about to embark on a detox program in hopes that I will come out of it healed. I will begin with a juice fast, followed by a raw food diet with a slow integration of other anti-inflammatory foods. I will compliment this with daily cardio and a detoxifying yoga routine. Salt has been extremely effective for pain relief, so I will use it daily as well as massage.
In the past I shared a weightloss diary with my readers, but I ended up feeling stressed about not getting my desired results, especially when flares interfered with my ability to push myself. I hesitate to broadcast any diet or self-improvement plan, because I don’t want to repeat that experience. But this is the truth of my life. I have not been able to follow through with many ideas I have for mamaguru.com because of this pain. I also know that autoimmune disorders are on a rapid rise and those of us suffering from them need answers and support. I hope this detox ends with a healthier, happier me, but if it does not, that’s valuable information too.
I have one more tomato-based recipe to share later next week, but then it’s back to the kitchen to get my creative juices flowing. I hope to learn some fabulous new recipes and cooking techniques as I wean my cuisine from tomato dependence. As daunting as this detox seems, I’m also exhilarated by the motivation to broaden my cooking skills and the fingers-crossed hope that I just may wind up healing myself.
Please wish me luck, keep me in prayers and send wonderful recipes my way. I’ll update you about my progress periodically.