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Saturday, November 17, 2012


There have been a culmination of events in my life that have prompted me to reexamine my daily habits with my body and how I eat.

First of all, the election has taken quite a hit on me.  I feel like I am in a hole that I am trying to dig myself out of.  I haven't had my usual motivation and stamina.  I mostly want to sit on the couch.  My heart still hurts on a daily basis.  I am trying to put the pieces of life back together and it hasn't come easily.  The way I have been feeling is the way I would expect to feel if we had lost the vote so this brokenness has been surprising.

Then I got a cold.  And my doctor called me and told me that my thyroid levels are climbing again and I need more medication and an appointment with her next month to discuss more "permanent" solutions to this problem.  The only two solutions I know about are taking radioactive iodine to knock back an overactive thyroid (the taking of which means you can't be around kids for 5 days not to mention the other ramifications of putting a radioactive substance in your body) and surgical removal of the thyroid (which makes you hypothyroid for the rest of you life). 

Add to all of this that Sandi and I finally watched the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead this week and the wheels started turning. 

The documentary is about this man who decides that if he doesn't make some changes to his diet he will probably die soon.  At 309 pounds,  grappling with a very painful autoimmune skin disease for which he takes heavy daily doses of steroids and having a diet of poor nutrition and excess,  he does something radical.  He goes on a 60 day juice fast.  He travels all over the U.S. talking to people about their diets and their health, all the while juicing kale, apples, carrots and the like in the back of his car by a battery powered juicer. 

How can you not take an immediate shine to someone who has a battery powered juicer in his trunk?

I understand the health crisis that our country is in specific to obesity.  After all, that is why I was such an advocate for reducing the amount of chocolate milk being served to kids in our school.  But to hear some of these interviews where people would say, "Because of my size and what I eat I will probably only live to be 50-55, but hey, at least I will die eating what I love." 

This man, Joe (who closely followed medically) ends up losing 72 pounds in 60 days.  He says the fast was hard but the real difficulty came when returned to healthy eating.  He adopted a plant based diet and dropped 90 pounds total.  He also convinces another man with the same autoimmune condition, to try a juice cleanse.  At 429 pounds, Phil also does a 60 day juice cleanse followed by a diet overhaul and ends up losing 202 pounds.  Both men no longer need the powerful, potentially dangerous medications they once took and they have inspired thousands of people to "reboot" their bodies through juice fasts.

After watching the documentary and witnessing the transformation of these men, I was truly inspired to see if a juice fast could help me.

The idea of the juice fast is to ingest the micronutrients found in fruits and vegetables in a highly usable, nutrition packed juice.  This isn't meant to be bottled juice but fresh juice made at home from fresh fruits and vegetables.  It is a fast in that it gives your body a break from digestion and cleanses the tract completely.

Think of it like resting a machine that has been running nonstop and deserves a break. 

Sandi has always been into juicing.  And I was years back when I did a healing diet to help cure myself from a horrendous case of uclerative colitis I developed while pregnant with Ella.  I would say we are very healthy eaters who imbibe in coffee, alcohol, chocolate, etc on occasion (or daily).  For us a juice fast isn't a detox from pepperoni pizza, Slim Jim's and cheese doodles.  But it is an opportunity to wipe our physical slates clean.  It is also a way to bombard your body, especially at the cellular level, with staggering amounts of health and nutrition.

It is this dramatic increase in micronutrients that can allow the body to heal itself from all sorts of things, especially inflammation.  Who knows?  Maybe even hyperthyroidism. 

Sandi and I are doing the fast together which makes everything 100 times easier.  I am starting out with a 3 day fast with the hopes to extend it to 6 if I feel good.  This would bring me up to Thanksgiving where I would need to break the fast in a slow, thoughtful manner.  Since Thanksgiving is touted at the largest meal of the year, perhaps this is a blessing. 

We went to the store and bought more fruits and vegetables than I have ever purchased at one time:

(not shown: about 20 more pounds of carrots, melons, a pineapple  and several more bags of apples and tangerines.)
 Was it expensive?  Sure. But you know what else is?  Being sick.

There are some other reasons that I want to fast. I am craving the presence and intention around eating that I have been unable to find as of late. Feeling good about what I eat has been a lifelong challenge for me.  Sometimes it is easy to eat what I enjoy, feel good and like my body and other times I turn to food in times of stress and consquently struggle with my weight.

In the recent months eating has become somewhat of a push pull situation for me where I am avoiding certain foods to help me lose the erratic thyroid level induced 10 pounds I put on (I tell you a high thyroid level will make you want to eat everything not nailed to the floor), only to then find myself eating them to excess days later. I've felt a bit slaved to my own desires for non-nutritional food and was feeling sluggish and less than vital in my body. I was not enjoying food, marveling over its texture and flavor, but rather eating things before I really knew I was doing it and then feeling guilty after.  I was the cliched mother finishing her children's uneaten PBJ.  I no longer heard my body's saiety signals, or if I did I blatantly ignored them. 

Ever have your pants be a little tight and still be hunting for something to eat an hour after supper?  It's no fun.

This fast is a way for me to hit the pause button, gastrointestinal and otherwise. People have done spritual fasts for thousands of years.  This is a way for me to pare down the drama I've created around food and intentionally rebuild a more functional, less guilty, more fulfilling way of eating. 

Doing a fast together has been a wonderfully connecting experience for Sandi and I.  We have been the proverbial ships passing in the night lately and have very little quality time together.  Planning for and preparing juice (4-6 times a day) has been really enjoyable. 

My favorite juice so far:  ripe pears, granny smith apples, fresh mint, grapes, a whole lime (peel and all) and fresh pineapple.   I almost felt like I could be drinking a pina colada.  (I know, missing the point entirely.)
 We also made this surprising recipe we found here. We juiced  butternut squash and apples, poured it over ice and sprinkled it with cinnamon.  Yum.  A large part of being successful, I think, is having variety. There are lots of juice recipes to choose from out there and it has been fun to try all these different combinations. Tonight we will do a juice that is cranberries, oranges, apples, squash and greens. 

I'm more than halfway done with day two as of right now.  Mostly I have been in the groove and happy to be doing it.  I have definitely seen the patterns of when I reach for food.  Yes I am legitamately hunger some of the time (but not starving), but other times things are crazy and one child or the other is crying and I want to find peace in a bag of chocolate chips.  I think (hope) breakthroughs happen when you want to do that but don't. is Ella's birthday and the house is full of Smartfood popcorn, homemade pizza and cheesecake (her favorites).  Making cheesecake while fasting is a tiny bit cruel.  So will it be when there is pizza crust left over tonight (my favorite).  I had a particularly low moment while I was dolling out snacks where I thought, maybe this has been long enough.... But the good thing is that I have enough wisdom to know that if you want to break a fast early for dessert, you're probably not rehabilitated.

I thought, I could just erase that blog post I've been working all day on.  No one need know if I break the fast for refined sugar and carbohydrate.  And here I stand where I have stood before, in the moment where I tell myself it doesn't really matter if I eat x, y or z, I deserve to not feel deprived and I can do better tomorrow.  But guess what?  It does matter.  Because after enough days, weeks, months, years of waiting for tomorrow to break the habit, tomorrow never comes. 

Today I am choosing my health and the intentional kind treatment of my body.  When I lay my head on my pillow tonight I want to feel proud of myself, not sick and frustrated from an indulgence that takes me away from well-being. 

In other words, I don't really have any business eating cheesecake until eating it or not eating it isn't that important and when a sliver will feel like enough.

And yes, I pray that with tons of internal work, that day will come.


Anonymous said...

I will have to watch that documentary...I have a huge problem with emotional eating, particularly when it comes to school stress. I always feel SO horrible about myself, even though I am very careful about what I eat. Good luck with the cleanse! Maybe I will have to try one.

monica gray said...

I have a hypothyroid, have had it since I was 18, and therefore take the medication or it. While it can be an "inconvenience" and I think that at times Steve doesn't understand that I have to take this little pill every morning for the rest of my life, because he isn't on any medications, its not that bad. Once you get to a stable point, you don't have to retest your levels unless you have a reason, like you have symptoms that point to your levels changing, and then otherwise, once a year. While it may be better if you can find a better way, its not as much of a life sentence as one would think.

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