Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Week One!!!! Updates

I am now on Day 10 of my Addiction Free Diet Experiment, but let's round off Week 1 first.

I left you off on Day 6, where I felt great and already seeing and feeling wonderful results. On Day 7, I had plans to hang out with my two friends, Robin and Leif. We were planning to go out to lunch and I was undecided about what to eat. While Leif will eat just about anything and Robin is used to me and my vegan ways AND enjoys vegan food in general, I felt like I'd be a party-pooper if I made us go somewhere just to get a side salad. So I deliberated for awhile; I was already feeling really good and felt in control so I kind of wanted to eat something tasty and fun without worrying about whether it followed my Addiction Free principles 100%. Then again, I told myself I would try this for at least two weeks. But I was in a calm, peaceful state, knowing that whatever happened, even if I went off the deep end, I could always pick myself back up again.

We ended up going to this delicious Pho restaurant on Broadway called Pho 99 and it turns out they have amazing vegan pho (the best veggie pho I've had) along with a small vegan section included on their menu. They even had fresh young coconut juice served right out of the coconut with a straw and spoon! So that's what Robin and I both ordered, while Leif tried the chicken pho for the first time. I felt really healthy, even though I ate my entire bowl and despite the fact that I was violating the following principles: Raw till dinner (it was a late lunch), no refined foods (I'm pretty sure the noodles are white rice as opposed to brown and I had my share of hot sauce and hoisin sauce), and eat only until satisfied (I could have stopped about 2/3 through my bowl). But since these are my own principles, and they were violated in a peaceful, joyous state, I didn't feel guilty or like a failure.

After our lunch, Robin and I hung out at my house. We were bored and I was feeling a little snacky (no matter how much pho I eat, I'm always hungry one or two hours later!), but not hungry enough for a full dinner. I was craving goji berries and Kombucha and thought it would be nice to just chill and have a fun little relaxing snack and watch a movie. As much as I love hanging out with my friends doing anything, I have to admit that I have the most fun when I'm EATING with friends (I know, that's not the best mentality or food-association for a recovering food addict, but it's true.) So that brought us to PCC. The first unexpected thing that happened is I stumbled upon Nana's cookies- these vegan, ultra healthy, no refined sugar (fruit juice sweetened), some gluten free, all whole grain cookies that I read about on the Skinny Bitch website. I was really excited to find them and, with a wee bit of giddy guilt, decided I would just enjoy a "fun day" where I would allow myself some healthy treats in celebration of being social and having fun with friends. But then it went a step too far when we decided to also make stove popped popcorn (I'd never made my own popcorn before and Robin was gonna show me how).

So we went back to my house, made a HUGE bowl of popcorn covered in salt, vegan butter, and nutritional yeast (VERY delicious), watched a movie, ate my cookie, drank my Kombucha, and then went to town devouring an entire CUP of goji berries. I actually felt perfect until I ate all those goji's. They definitely made for an improper food combination, and I SHOULD have pre-measured them into a very small serving. I just wasn't expecting to eat the entire 1 cup serving that I had bought. But my lesson was learned: even if I think I won't eat a large amount, I might...or more likely WILL...unless I pre-measure. Especially if I'm snacking while watching tv or a movie. Sheesh. I should have known better.

So after this, I was feeling a little guilty and disappointed in myself. I took one step off the path, then another, then another until I was overeating all over again. But this time I did something different. I stopped the self-loathing. I got out pen and paper and wrote affirmations. I wrote all the things that I want to be true, all the things that make me feel good about myself. I wrote things like: I DO have control over my eating, I DO make the best decisions for my life, my health and my body, I have the perfect body, I am healthy, happy, and full of joy, I am full of life force energy. By the time the page was filled up, I felt great. I didn't even feel too over-full anymore. Most importantly, I changed my energy from negative and destructive to positive. If I can remember all the things I've learned throughout my life about the power of the mind and the 'Law of Attraction,' I should know that it's really there in the mind that the problems or solutions lie. Addiction is in the mind. Mind-cravings can be overcome. The mind can be made to become quiet. I can eat what I desire and feel good about it- especially if I eat foods that I know are pure, healthy, and life-force generating.

So there ends my Week 1.

-Experiment Experience Summary: End of week weight: 114.5 lbs (very low for me!). Although I did not follow my principles and rules 100%, I overcame all obstacles. Overall, a VERY positive experience. I can see myself eating this way for the majority of my days, and then also experiencing days like Day 7 (minus the overeating at the end of the night.) I am developing more peace and clarity every day.
-Groceries Spent (Day 1 - Day 7): appx. $59 ($47 necessities/$12 unnecessary snacks)(Robin bought my lunch at Pho, but that probably cost about $10 max.)

Now today is Day 10. For the sake of not being redundant, I'm not going to give a summary of everything I'm eating this week. I'm still following my principles (eating mostly raw, not eating until hungry, etc.) and I'm still on a budget and trying to buy only what I need. My weight is pretty stable, 114/115.5 and my body feels good.

On Monday (Day 8), I had a little uh-oh with half a bar of chocolate that I've been hiding from myself. It was a revealing moment, showing me just how similar food-addictions are to drug and alcohol addictions. If you have it in the house, you will eat it/use it/drink it. I didn't want the chocolate at all last week, but then I got a tiny craving, remembered it was there, and ate it "so I could just get it out of the house already and not have to think about it anymore." It was a truly pathetic and low thing for me to do, and I knew it. So I wrote affirmations, reminded myself I have control and can always transform my body and mind with the next choice I make, and moved on. Yesterday, Day 9, went perfect. I had an all-raw day (I was pretty stuffed from that chocolate) with lots of fruit, an avocado, a raw snack bar, and a big, raw salad. I even took a nice long walk to Westwood village. I'll probably take another long walk there today, just for fun. Also, Robin and I are trying to have a Food/Movie night once a week, similar to last Sunday. It will be really nice if we can stick to it, because I rarely hang out with friends unless my band is playing a show or there's something truly extravagant to do. It will be fun to make a new yummy (healthy) recipe every week and watch some new movies. Sometimes I feel like a hermit :( I don't try to be, but I don't mind being alone, peaceful, reading, writing, so I tend to come off as a little anti-social...especially since the biggest, most popular social activity is drinking and I don't drink. Anyhow, tonight is this week's Food/Movie night and we are making fresh spring rolls and avocado/cucumber/brown rice sushi. YUM!

A new development for this week is that I'm focusing on balancing my own health with the health and happiness of my boyfriend, Brian. Last year, there was a time when we would always go shopping together and I would find meals we could both eat like curry and rice, pasta, veggie burritos (I would just add meat to his curry or cheese to his burrito, etc, to make it more enjoyable for him) with a big salad or steamed veggies on the side. We would shop at places like Trader Joes (very affordable, lots of vegan and healthy options for the most part) and I would make our dinners every night and then I would pack Brian a healthy, balanced lunch to take to work in the morning (salad, a sandwich, veggie chips, etc.) He told me he missed eating this way, and I realize I do miss cooking for both of us and we do save a lot of money when we share common items. The foods aren't quite as fresh or 'perfect' (eating canned curry, canned vegan chili, etc, instead of making it from scratch) but right now, that is what will fit into my budget. And that's all I ask of myself. Doing my best to benefit my health while remaining within my budget, living a life of happiness and freedom.

Looking forward to a wonderful week! Lots of joy!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Day Six, Skinny Bitch

I'm on Day 6 and I'm feeling awesome. Things really started to turn around for me after Day 3. I had really bad dessert cravings after dinner on Day 3. I just kept thinking about dates, goji berries, and Raw-zins (raw version of raisin-ettes) but I knew I was full and satisfied and realized it was just my addiction talking. On Day 4, I felt thinner and no longer bloated. Toward the afternoon I realized I was in an awesome mood and had great energy. I was feeling positive about life and started using affirmations again like I used to. I affirmed having the perfect body, earning an abundant income. I also re-read Skinny Bitch, the book that got me to fall in love with being vegan, but more on that later. And my days just keep getting better and better. I'm loosing weight again. I'm feeling in control. Here's a summary of the past couple days:

Day 4: 116.5 lbs
-Big glass of mango, banana, and kale smoothie (9:10am). -2 carrots (4pm) -Salad w/mixed greens, kale, avocado, cucumber, tomato, garlic, onion, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and herbs/spices (YUM!) served with blanched asparagus and leftover brown rice

Day 5: 115 lbs
-Pear (11:45am). -2 carrots (3:45pm). -Salad w/mixed greens, kale, olives, garlic, red onion, cucumber, tomato, vinegar, and seasonings (not as good with these olives; Olives of Love from PCC are THE BEST! also, kale tastes better to me with avocado, not so much with olives) served with blanched broccoli and one cup whole wheat noodles tossed with garlic + seasonings, tomato, and olives.
-Groceries purchased: Romaine lettuce @QFC, avocado, 2 heads broccoli, 2 small containers fresh olives, 2 roma tomatoes, garlic, cucumber. $19

Day 6 (today): 114.5 lbs
-felt hungry upon waking so I had lemon cayenne water (9:30am). -Still hungry; grapefruit (10am) -Later I will probably have a banana, then 2 carrots at work on break, and then when I get home I will have leftover pasta, more broccoli, and an olive/veggie salad with romaine

So it seems to me that it only takes 5 days to turn my eating habits around. While I wouldn't exactly say that I'm completely free from food addictions and ready to bring back dessert and sweets, I do feel that I am in control. I do feel that I am close to being able to eat whatever I desire WITHOUT overeating or "needing" to eat certain vices over and over again. I'm close to freedom.

And now that my mind is quiet and no longer badgering me with questions, I have discovered many answers that I was seeking. To state a few of these answers: I AM capable of making proper food choices, I AM able to lose weight without eating 100% raw, I CAN eat balanced if I do eat 100% raw, I DON'T NEED to cut out grains, unless I choose to in the future. While I still don't know where exactly this experiment will lead or what my daily eating will look like 2 weeks or 2 months from now, I know this feels good NOW. This is helping me NOW. I can do this NOW. I have freedom from addictions NOW.

-Experiment Experience Summary: Now that I'm over the first 3 days of the detox, I'm feeling wonderful. I am full of life and positive energy. I am positive that I can make the best choices about my body, my diet, and my life. All good things are coming to me!
-Groceries Spent this week (Day 1 - Day 7): appx. $47 (already had whole wheat pasta at home)

Now on to Skinny Bitch (by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin). This is the book I found when I was under terrible stress about my diet and in great need for guidance (I wrote about that it in one of my first blogs.) This book was entertaining, straightforward, and easy for me to understand with their hilarious "attitude" and ways of explaining things. It was a great introduction to facts about nutrition, getting healthy in order to get skinny, eating whole grains and whole, "healthier" forms of sugar, reading labels on all foods in order to determine their quality, and how a vegan diet can promote health and weight loss. It was also an eye-opening look into the world of cruelty to animals used for the food and dairy industries.

I was a little nervous to become vegan, but this book showed me so many vegan foods that were fun and similar to non-vegan foods like mock meats and soy cheese. I bought a few vegan cookbooks and in no time, being vegan was second nature.

But after a while, I realized my weight wasn't budging. I was eating a surplus of delicious, heavy, hearty, AMAZING tasting foods and not GAINING any weight, but I really wanted to LOSE weight. I wanted to be at my perfect weight. I won't go into further detail because I already did so in my earlier blogs, but basically, my desire for pure food brought me to reading Natalia Rose's books and eating raw again. After this, I felt a little mislead by Skinny Bitch. Even though it did head me down the right path and brought me to a better, healthier diet than the one I had before, I just wasn't at my best.

Well, after eating my delicious-yet-overeaten meal at Squid and Ink and being overwhelmed with questions and contemplations, I had the sudden urge to read Skinny Bitch again. The first thing that happened upon this (third) re-read is that I fell in love with being vegan all over again. I remembered all the reasons why I went vegan in the first place. Second, I started noticing things that I hadn't noticed the first two times I read it.

Initially upon reading the book the first time, I was filled with excitement, discovering all the foods and desserts I could make vegan: French toast, veggie burgers, pastas, mac n cheese, brownies, cookies, cupcakes. My focus was baking and creating amazing comfort food meals. I completely overlooked the fact that, while these meals are semi healthy compared to S.A.D food, they should never be eaten in excess and need to be balanced with fresh fruits, vegetables, and greens, EVERY DAY.

And reading it this last time, I realize that they actually say that! They warn against overeating, tell you to eat ONLY UNTIL SATISFIED, eat fruit for breakfast and raw veggies/salad for lunch for optimal results, don't binge, balance your meals, eat appropriate servings. It's all there, I just chose to ignore it.

My main complaint is that they didn't repeat these warnings enough or in a way that can get through thick, addictive skulls like mine. I wonder how many other girls read the book and ended up like me; vegan but overeating and obsessed with desserts. (For all I know it's just me, haha.) Another thing is that the menu plans at the end of the book don't cater to the "fruit for breakfast, salad for lunch" rule. They do state that it is optimal to do so but I do wish they would have included a menu of an ideal eating day for those who have finally finished transitioning from S.A.D. to vegan and want to eat even better. But I also understand that they were targeting a different audience, a beginner audience. People exactly like who I used to be, thinking I "could never go vegan because I would miss cheese and pasta." But unless you re-read it and pay close attention to the ways in which they encourage you to improve your diet, it's hard to move past the transition stage of being vegan. In fact, I knew in the back of my mind that I could be eating lighter and healthier (I knew those molasses cookies were full of refined sugar and flour) I just plain didn't want to. I loved my comfort food and I often chose eating in abundance over losing weight.

So basically, I love this book again because I now fully understand the motive behind Skinny Bitch and how to look at it from different stages. First, as a newbie to the wide, exciting world of vegan food. Second, reading it again to keep myself on track (which didn't last long). And third, reading it from a viewpoint of trying to make the best food choices for myself, overcoming overeating, and remembering the beauty and benefits of a vegan diet.

I recommend this book to anyone looking to improve their diet, especially if you are coming from a hearty diet full of refined flour, refined sugar, meat, and dairy. It makes transitioning to a vegan diet easy and fun. There are so many meals you can make vegan. I've found that almost ANY meal can be veganized. But for those of you who want to lose weight: make sure you keep in mind the suggestions to eat ONLY fresh fruit/fresh juice for breakfast, raw veggies/salad for lunch, and a balanced dinner WHEN YOU ARE READY. This would be a good time to read Raw Food Life Force Energy by Natalia Rose. But another warning: if you do go from being a happy, satisfied vegan to reading RFLFE, don't feel like you need to or should change your diet to include fish or raw goat cheese. There's a reason you went vegan. Unless you are unsatisfied, just stick with it. I'm glad I tried raw goat cheese because I got to make a decision for myself. And while I do believe that it digests beautifully and much easier than nut cheeses and soy cheese, I think I'm ready to say I won't be eating it again. I like not eating dairy. I don't need it.

Happy Saturday everyone (I have to work tonight but then I'll be off to enjoy my night)!!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Addiction Free Diet Experiment Update

I am on day 3 of my self-named Addiction Free Diet Experiment. I definitely haven't been over-eating, but I can't say I specifically feel noticeably better. I'm feeling pretty happy and at peace right now, but there have been times during the past three days where I'm a little moody, low on energy, slightly depressed, and full of annoying, unanswerable questions. Today, I also feel a little bloated. Looking at these things as if I were detoxing from an alcohol or drug addiction, this is exactly what should be happening, considering I've cut out some very addictive substances out of my diet.

I haven't had sugar or sweets besides fruit for three days, yet my mind is craving dessert, showing me pictures of cupcakes and candy, leading me to linger in the vegan cookbook section when I really wanted to look in the health section. And I haven't been snacking on whatever I want. I haven't been eating tons of cheesy nut pates or rich sauces. So what have I been eating?

Day 1: Weight 116.5 lbs (pretty normal for the week)
-Green Juice (11am). -Pear (11:30 am). -2 carrots (4pm) -All raw veggie salad with balsamic vinegar with stir fried zucchini, onion, garlic, and red bell pepper and brown rice leftovers (small plate) (8pm) -still hungry so ate 1 1/2 slice of sprouted wheat bread

Day 2: 117.5 lbs
-Green Juice (9am) -green apple (12noon) -Avocado (3pm) -Romaine salad with my favorite "Olives of Love" garlicky seasoned olives from PCC Natural Market and tomatoes and cucumber with blanched asparagus and a baked sweet potato.
-Groceries purchased: olives, asparagus, orange, tomato (can't remember what else) appx. $12 @PCC

Day 3 (today): 117 lbs
-Apple (10am) -Orange (12:30pm) -For dinner I will have a salad with avocado, tomato, cucumber, onion, and garlic with a small serving of brown rice and blanched asparagus.
-Groceries purchased: pear, bananas, kale, salad greens, 2 tomatoes, 2 avocados, red onion, grapefruit, $16 @Pike Place Market

And so far, these are "The Principles;" the guidelines of the diet:
-The first and most important is CUT OUT ALL ADDICTIVE FOODS (I explained those and listed them in my last blog). This is the heart of this experiment. Get myself away from being obsessed with foods that trigger binging, overeating, and guilt.
-Do NOT eat until hungry
-Do drink green juice every day (a goal; I don't expect to accomplish this strictly every day because of my budget)
-EAT RAW TILL DINNER and dinner must be at LEAST half raw. This will usually be a giant raw salad.
-Eat LIGHT TO HEAVY. Start with green juice in the morning (if having) then fruit when first hungry, then raw vegetables later in the day, and then cooked veggies/grains (if having) during dinner only
-EXERCISE every day. A minimum of a comfortable amount of sun salutes ever day. Other forms: walk, jog, yoga, treadmill, wii fit games, etc.)
-BUY ORGANIC as much as possible
-BODY BRUSH every day to promote the removal of waste and toxins

It's too early to say much else about my experiment, but this is what I have done so far. I still don't know where this will lead, what shape this diet will take, or what to do once I feel that my "detox" is done. For the sake of getting these questions out of my mind, here's what I've been asking myself for the past three days:

-Am I not eating enough raw food now? -Should I be aiming for an all-raw diet? -Is it possible to eat more raw without hurting my budget? -Should I cut out grains? -Is it ok to include lentils in my few cooked meals? -What about tofu? -Do I want to go back to being strictly vegan and cut out raw goat cheese? -Should I be following one diet/person/book? -Does any one person/book have all the true answers? -Can I include some vegan comfort food dishes in my future? -Can't I just be a little bit of whatever I want to be as long as I am balanced and peaceful with my choices? -Should I read all the nutrition/raw/vegan books I love all over again to give me more direct guidance or should I let go and just let my body/intuition lead me? -Am I capable of making the best choices for my health, body, and diet? -Is being 100% raw the only way I can lose weight? -Do I want to be 100% raw? -Am I just looking for a label (vegan, raw, etc)? -How will I know when my "detox" from my addictive foods is over? -What should I include in my diet after it is over? -Should I stay away from all sweets forever? -Am I capable of eating dessert sparingly without obsessing, overeating, or getting re-addicted to it? -And what about my very small budget right now? -What are the best foods for me to eat in this situation, balancing wholesomeness and price? -Am I just hopeless?

Yes, all these questions and more are constantly running through my mind and causing me a great deal of anxiety. Just a week ago I said I felt "at peace" with my diet. Now I'm questioning everything and I'm not exactly sure what is causing it. All I can do is follow this experiment that I know my "higher self" brought me because I was filled with such an awe as the awareness of my food addiction swept over me. I can't ignore that.

But these questions are annoying me. There is nothing I can do about them now. My "higher self" knows all the answers deep down anyway, I'm sure. It's my mind that does all the contradicting. And who can know what the future will bring? If you live in the now, at peace with the moment, all will be as is meant to be.

I realized this as I was waiting for my bus this morning, just sick and tired of all the questions, all the skepticism, all the contemplating and debating. I stopped the questions and told my mind to be quiet. Only then did I find peace. And answers...

Based on how I've felt, I know there is something wrong with my relationship to food. No matter how nourishing and delicious the food is and how happy it makes me feel, I feel like crap when I overeat, mentally if not physically as well. I want freedom. This is what I have to work with, this is what I intuitively knew would be the first step; removing the addictive foods from my diet, and moving on from there. Take it one day at a time. Live in the now. Write. Learn. Progress. Go with the flow.

And I also realize it's the same with other areas of my life. I'm trying so hard to figure out what to do with my future; go to school, start my own business, concentrate on career. But have I ever mentioned in this blog that I'm writing a book? It's a fantasy novel/possible first in a trilogy that I've been working on for a few years. A few months ago, I decided to undertake a final and complete re-write. It was going so well. I had my own email reading group and I was getting a lot of good feedback. When the stresses of the holidays, my promotion at work, and my new ideas to further my education or career direction, I nearly completely stopped. My focus switched. Yes, my ideas and ambitions are awesome and I'm so excited to start working on them but I really need to focus on one thing at a time. Step One: finish my book. No excuses. Write down my goals, keep them in mind, ask the universe for guidance in achieving them, then let them go. My book is what I have NOW. If I'm meant to follow a different path, then the way will be given when it is time. There is no point stressing and questioning my future when I already have one possibility in the works. I DO want to be a writer. I LOVE writing as much as I love nutrition. I am just as passionate about my books as I am about my vision of helping others with their health and diets. I CAN do both; I can do it all; I can have, be, and do anything. But let's work on one at a time, shall we? Determination is nothing without focus.

And about my budget...yeah, it kinda sucks right now. While I got promoted and received a raise, I'm working a significantly lower amount of hours which means my tips AND paychecks are less. My budget for groceries is embarrassingly small. About $30 this week, unless my paycheck this Friday allows me a little extra, but I'm not so sure about that. But there's nothing I can do about it until I get more hours, find a better paying job, or sell my car. So in the meantime, all I can do is buy the healthiest, highest quality foods I can afford, as much raw produce as I can afford, and whatever else I can afford that will nourish and satisfy me best without contributing to my food addictions. And this will be good for my experiment. People are always saying that eating healthy is too expensive. So I will do my best to prove them wrong and eat a mostly raw diet and include the highest quality cooked foods like steamed veggies, sweet potatoes, and maybe beans and tofu (both very affordable, although not perfectly ideal-but hey, I'm here to do MY best!) I'll record all the money I spend on food, record my results, and share them.

-Experiment Experience Summary: Fighting the detox against sweets, too many questions in my mind, but I'm finding clarity. Go with the flow. Be the best that I can be for ME in my situation with my needs.
-Groceries Spent this week: appx. $28 combined with a few staples I already have (brown rice, etc.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

A New Twist On My Journey

So my vegan comfort meal at Squid and Ink went pretty well. I can't say that I'm exactly impressed with myself and the meal choices I made, but I felt good afterward and I ended up coming across some very powerful realizations as a result...but more on that later.

First, a recap of my meal: I met up with my vegan friend, Brandi (who now lives in Denver) and a few of our other friends at Squid and Ink. It was full of delicious smells and memories of fried, greasy, delicious, warm comfort food. I was torn between ordering something light and simple or ordering something heavy and tempting since my visits to Squid are few and far between. I committed to ordering salad as my side instead of fries, and then decided upon the fatty, heavy dish, Monte Cristo, which is a vegan ham and cheese sandwich grilled between two slices of fluffy french toast. It was so good! We also shared an order of biscuits and gravy and then some fries. I ended up eating my entire meal, plus digging into the shared plates and continued to eat even more still! I was surprised with my appetite and ability to eat WAY more than anyone else at the table. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in myself. While I still had room in my stomach for more, I knew I had had enough once my plate was empty. But I just kept eating. I wanted more. I wanted to taste those rare flavors over and over again.

For the rest of the day, I managed to stay away from eating until dinner, which consisted of an all raw veggie salad followed by a small bowl of seasoned nuts and about two Tbsp almond butter rolled in cocoa powder (that was my dessert tick going off.) But throughout the day, I kept thinking about all those vegan comfort food meals I used to enjoy on a regular basis, and I started missing them. I could almost hear the forces arguing within me. One would say, "Oh, but you love vegan junk food! It's so good! And look, you felt fine afterward. You should eat like this more often." And the other voice would remind me, "I could never lose weight when I ate like that every day. I felt like crap. I felt heavy. I love the direction in which my new body is going. I love eating raw. I love eating light. I love feeling good and full of life force engery."

As I was preparing for bed, I started writing in my journal about my day and about my experience at Squid and Ink, working out reasons for why I ate so much more than every body else. I started thinking about the foods that inspire binging. I thought about the foods I can eat easily without over eating.

And then a lightbulb went off and everything made sense: I'm addicted to certain foods and tastes. Just like alcohol.

In April 2007, I quit drinking. I realized my drinking was out of control. It wasn't that I was a traditional alcoholic in the usual sense. I didn't need to drink every day, I didn't drink when I was alone. But when I did drink, I couldn't stop. I would keep drinking far beyond my limit until I became a different person. And I just couldn't take it anymore. I hated the person I became when drunk. I hated the mornings where I would wake up with no idea how the previous night ended. I was hurting myself and my boyfriend, Brian. I tried moderation and control but all my good intentions about how I would have "just one beer" would quickly fly out the door once that one beer was consumed and I would wind up with a wild night and horrible hangover. While I've never done anything too crazy in comparison with other people I know, my behavior while drinking is too crazy for me. I have high standards for myself and my bahavior. I know I am capable of controlling my behavior; I've proven it by quitting drinking. While I still get occasional cravings and temptations, I have so far stayed true to my word.

Last night, I made the connection between my problems with alcohol and my obsessive over eating. I'm a binger. Certain foods trigger binging and overeating. I will eat large portions of these food and eat them until I am far beyond full. Or I will eat a small serving and then constantly think about getting seconds until I do.

I took the first step, and admitted my problem.

First; the worst; sweets. All forms of sweets and sugar trigger binging. If I make an entire batch of cookies, I can never eat just one. Ever. If I make an entire raw cake, I need to eat slice after slice until I'm nauseous and physically can't eat more. If I eat a few pieces of chocolate or a few raisins, a couple minutes later I'm back in the kitchen for the other half of the bar or for an entire bowl of raisins. This category includes all sugars, raw or not, refined or natural, all pastries, raw desserts, sweet dried fruits, raw honey, and chocolate.

Next is fats. All things heavy and fatty have triggered binging. Nuts, being the easiest of fats for me to overeat, are also the hardest to give up because they are so much a part of the raw diet. But I have already experienced overeating with nuts the first time I went raw, and have seen the dangers. There are a lot of raw foodists who base the majority of their diet around nuts, especially newbies; people who need a lot of desserts and "raw gourmet" dishes in order to feel satisfied. If they find success and balance while doing so, then wonderful. More power to them. But I know I need balance. It's hard for me to eat just a small portion of nuts, nut pate, or nut dessert. I look back to last week when I ate "Raw soft tacos" made with cashew cheese, walnut meat, and topped with salsa and wrapped in a collard green. I would eat two very full tacos and follow them by two slices of raw cheesecake. It is so upsetting to look back on this because I already know that's not balanced. I've already gotten a kidney infection. Yet I ate this way for multiple days in a row, even after I was feeling heavy and dense. One of my main obstacles is learning how to make only what I can eat without overeating. Many raw recipes make large batches and as I am the only one in my house eating them, I have to eat as much as I can for days in a row until it's all gone so I don't waste anything. But if I am ever to eat nut-heavy recipes again, I MUST find a way to eat appropriate servings and balance my week by alternating with cleansing meals after the heavy meals. Always. No excuses.

Other fatty foods that trigger binging are olives, coconut oil, oil-heavy sauces, anything deep fried, and cheese or anything "cheesey," especially in the form of melted cheese, cheese and starch combo, or cheesy sauces. This includes vegan cheese and nut cheese as well. The only cheese I'm not sure of is raw goat cheese. Since I eat it so rarely and only as a component to a raw salad or as a small topping to another veggie dish, I don't think it triggers binging. But if I do continue to eat raw goat cheese, I will keep an eye on my reactions.

And the last category is Carbs/Starches/Grains. I can easily eat too much rice, bread, crackers, pita, potatoes, and mock meats. The foods I'm unsure of is lentils/tofu. I don't think I have ever experienced binging on beans or tofu unless they are components of a burrito, and in that case I end up eating too many. And I know that soy is supposedly highly mucus forming and inharmonious, according to Natalia rose, but I have a feeling that soy in the simple form of tofu (like in a tofu-veggie scramble) would be fine on occasion. While I still want my diet to be mainly raw, I also want to include the occasional cooked side dish.

Now onto the list of things I can eat safely without binging. This includes all raw vegetables, all greens, most fruits (as long as I only eat one at a time during the day and never for dessert), avacados, and cooked non-starch veggies. Foods I know I can handle with the proper awareness and portion control are sweet potatoes (only if I bake one at a time without sugar), brown rice (one cup allowance), sprouted grain bread (one or two slices at the most), raw goat cheese (not melted or combined with starches of any kind like crackers or tortillas), olives (just a few here and there on a salad), and goji berries (pre-measured as a snack.)

So this left me with a lot of questions. Questions about myself, about my eating patterns. About what I've read in my favorite books and what I've been told. I realize that there are a few things I agree with and a few things I don't, based on MY OWN experiences for MY SELF. I agree that raw food in the form of fruits and veggies are highly life enhancing and the best for the body. I do NOT agree that you can eat as much raw food in the form of nuts and seeds and oils in any combination and in any amount. I believe you CAN include nuts, seeds, and oils in a diet but only if your portions are balanced and kept lower in proportion to your amount of fresh, raw greens and veggies in the meal. I believe that you can enjoy dessert in healthier forms but I DO NOT agree that you can eat as much dessert as you want, guilt free, in any form raw or not. All desserts and sweets should be eaten with awareness and balance and not become routine. If you are like me, and you obesessively need to eat dessert every night after dinner, then you should abstain from dessert at least until you no longer feel you need it. Because, being honest, you don't. It's fun and delicious and a wonderful treat, but if it is making you feel like crap or you are obsessing over sweets, or you are eating more than you know is necessary, than it is harming your mentality and in turn, your life force engergy.

So where does this leave me now? Well, I thought about moderation. I could cut back on nuts, eat dessert only a few days here and there. But has that ever worked with other addictive substances? Did moderation work for me when I was an obsessive over-drinker? No. The only thing that has ever helped me overcome an addiction is to give it up completely. So that's what I'm doing.

I'm undertaking a new experiement. I'm designing my OWN diet, based on common sense about my own needs. My first step is to rid my body of these addictive foods. All of them. It will be my initial detox. While I can't imagine abstaining from nuts and dessert forever, I'm thinking I will "detox" for at least two weeks, but I am aiming for 21 days, maybe even one month. As this is my own experiement, I will take it day by day, keep note of how I feel, and adjust as neccesary. If I no longer crave dessert after two weeks, then I'll know I'm ready to include some sweets like dried fruits or a piece of chocolate. Or maybe once I'm free from my dessert obsession, I'll want to stay away for even longer. I KNOW abstaining from dessert and gaining freedom in this way will help because I've done it before. I remember when I went to Europe, I felt the best on the days when I didn't eat sweets. Most of the time, I didn't even have access to any vegan sweets to begin with. It wasn't until I got home and got back into baking when I starting eating desserts compulsively again.

So I am excited about this new path in my journey. I don't know how it will go in the long run. Maybe, just maybe, I've discovered something extraordinary for myself. Today is day one of the Addiction Free Diet.

Let's see how it goes!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The raw life

I realize that I have unintentionally eaten nearly 100% raw for 8 days in a row. By "nearly" I mean I've been eating a few non-raw ingredients like cocoa powder, maple syrup, and 70% dark chocolate, etc. For the past few months I have been following the "slow transition" suggestions as read about in Natalia Rose's books. But during this past week, I just haven't wanted to eat anything else. And it's not that whole "perfectionist" itch I can's just that the meals that I've been craving just so happen to be all-raw. And it feels great! I know I will still eat the occasional baked sweet potato or lightly steamed veggie or piece of sprouted wheat bread. But it's interesting to see that, without even trying or even intending to, I've transitioned closer to an all-raw diet.

An occasion I'm curious to experience will be this Sunday; one of my only vegan friends, Brandi, is coming to visit. She lives out of state now, so I always get really excited when she comes to town because we meet up at my favorite vegan comfort food restaurant, Squid and Ink. When she lived in Seattle, we would go almost every Sunday. But I haven't been to Squid or really eaten "vegan comfort food" at all in the past couple months. I've managed to avoid fried foods, mock meats and soy cheese; three things I used to eat regularly. While I still have a place in my heart and tummy for vegan comfort foods, I don't crave them the way I used to. So I'm curious to see what I will order and how it will make me feel afterward. I predict my appetite won't be nearly as hearty- I used to wolf down my entire plate of whatever I ordered and get dessert. But, then again, I have surprised myself with my ability to binge on foods I didn't even know I could tolerate any more...ahem...Christmas Eve dinner ring a bell? (So ashamed!)

But I feel at peace with my diet right now. I feel like I have control. I feel like I can handle this occasional little splurge. I am happy to eat mostly raw food and I also feel the freedom to eat the occasional non-raw meal, if I so desire. I'm a little nervous that my sense of control will mysteriously disolve and my meal this Sunday will inspire a binge-fest, but I recovered easily from the Xmas Eve mishap, so I now know I can turn any backslide around again.

To remind myself of my power over food-addicitons and binging, I'd like to mention that ever since I've stayed away from molasses cookies from Starbucks, I no longer crave refined sugar treats. I've heard that you will crave whatever you continue to eat. That's why Alissa Cohen, in Living on Live Food, suggests committing to an all raw diet, if possible, because keeping cooked food in your diet keeps the cravings and addiction to cooked food alive. In my personal case, I agree with that to a certain extent. I don't believe there is much harm in occasional cooked veggies and such, and some raw foodists include a few cooked items in their diet, but I do believe you need to keep out all potentially negative foods from your diet, like all refined, processed, and sugary foods. Those are in no way harmonious with your body. I saw for myself; when I ate one molasses cookie, I needed one the next day, or the next week. When I ate refined flour in the form of a pita on Xmas Eve, I was desperately craving the cheesebread Brian ordered at Claim Jumper two days later. I will keep those lessons in mind this Sunday at Squid and Ink. If I start getting violent cravings for fries and mock meats the next day, I'll know why!

As a side note, I'm not saying that a traditional vegan "comfort food" diet is bad; it's just not me anymore. I feel like I've come a long way from when I ate like that every day- I've lost a LOT of weight and feel so much better now that I am on a mostly raw diet. I want to keep it that way!

And now for more news in my raw life: I've joined the Raw Freedom Community Forum. It's an amazing forum with so many recipes and interesting threads. As I don't have any raw friends here in Seattle (or anywhere, for that matter), it's nice to find a place where I can ask questions and read what other people in similar situations have to say. And the recipes, did I mention the delicious abundance of recipes? Yum! The RFC is also where I discovered the version of the Raw White Chocolate Cheesecake I made! The forum also lead me to two awesome blogs (Raw Goddess Heathy and The Sunny Raw Kitchen) that I frequent for their amazing recipes! They are both really inspiring. I've never seen so much RAW in one place! I'm new to the world of blogging and forums, so discovering all of this is really exciting for me. Yes, I feel like a nerd. I get easily excited about this kinda stuff, if you can tell.

And new developments have been making their way through my mind about my future with raw foods as a career. I keep getting more ideas. I'm now thinking of starting my own raw personal chef service. I've read some wonderful tips and advice on the RFC about making a living with raw foods. I also received some very helpful advice from Vanessa Sherwood, who runs a personal raw chef service in Chicago. Oh, and I will probably be taking a raw chef certification course over the summer. There are a couple I have looked into. The most affordable is a simple course taught by a student of Alissa Cohen's certification program. I am also looking into a few others, like one taught by Bryan Au. Since I am already confident in my ability to make delicious, edible, beautiful raw meals, I figure I should opt for the least expensive course to start with. I can always take more expensive programs in the future if I find that I need or desire it. I do not believe that "certification" is completely necessary, but I would just like to experience a class with a fellow raw chef; gain a little more confidence in my abilities.

I would just like to say that I am so grateful for all the help and recourses I have found! It's making this raw food journey more and more enjoyable by the day. Even now, while I sit at home, sick (I'm either experiencing some detox symptoms or I somehow managed to catch the guitarist's of my band The Shy Ones cold), all I want to do is search the RFC for recipes or make sketches and plans of my ideas for my raw business. Oh wait, maybe I just don't have a life haha. Just kidding. This is my life. My life is awesome!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Tessonja's Cleansing Raw Spring Rolls

Last night I made my idea of Cleansing Raw Spring Rolls. "Cleansing," meaning they don't have any heavy, dense ingredients like nut pate or rich sauces. Don't get me wrong, nut pates, Thai almond butter sauces, and maple teriyaki sauces are amazingly delicious! It's just that I was feeling a little heavy and weighed down and just wanted something light and fresh yet not boring. I love salads but I wanted to make something different. So I came up with my own spring rolls!

Recipe: I didn't exactly use measurements or anything. I just chopped up all the veggies I wanted to use and filled them in the wrappers until they were nice and full. I only wanted two rolls, so I have a ton of leftovers for today and tomorrow. These ingredients could probably make anywhere from 4 to 10 servings, depending on how big/how many spring rolls you want to make! So feel free to use as much or as little as you want!


One bunch collard greens or chard (I usually use collard greens but it turns out green chard works perfectly, as well! You could also use a romaine lettuce leaf, cabbage leaves, or any other wide greens you desire)

Marinated mushroom filling:
(I just improvised with the amounts here and adjusted to taste as I went on, but here are the approximate measurements)-
10+ Shiitake or 2+ Portobello mushrooms
1 1/2 Tbsp nama shoyu or to taste
1 Tbsp sesame oil
pinch cayenne
pinch chili powder
pinch cumin
small amount of water to ensure the mushrooms are completely covered. Taste and adjust ingredients if needed. Let marinate while you work on the rest.

1 diakon radish, julienned
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 cucumber, julienned
1 medium red bell pepper, julienned
1 avacado, cut in slices
1 mango (optional), cut in slices
1 bunch cilantro
Bean sprouts

Take one chard leaf and cut off the end with the thick stem. Place desired amount of marinated mushrooms in the middle of the leaf (along the stem) and top with small handfulls of each of the veggies/toppings. Roll the same way you would a burrito or fold like a taco. The best (and prettiest) way is to roll the end opposit the stem (the thin, flat, wide end) over the filling, then roll one of the sides over the filling, and then roll tightly toward the other side. The result should look like a traditional spring roll or burrito, with the filling showing through the end the stem had been cut from.

By themselves, these were delicious. Light, fresh, and tasty. They also would have tasted wonderful with a sweet or savory dip, like a maple teriyaki sauce, chili-mango sauce, spicy honey mustard or spicy Thai almond butter sauce. But I chose to make a simple wasabe-nama shoyu dip, like what I use with sushi/nori rolls. It wasn't perfect though. The wasabe didn't quite complement the flavors in the roll. I think I will make a spicy honey mustard sauce for my leftovers tonight or just eat them plain.

Notes and suggestions: Most of the flavor comes from the marinated mushrooms, so use as much of the filling as you desire; more will be better if you aren't going to be using a savory dipping sauce. Another flavor factor is avacado. I love avacado and will be using more in my wraps tonight. Last night I only used two slices in each, and that just wasn't enough for me.

Serve these with an asian coleslaw. I made the cabbage coleslaw from The Raw Food Detox Diet. While it wasn't exactly an asian closeslaw, the "liquid gold elixir" dressing from the recipe has ginger, lemon, nama shoyu, and garlic, so it complemented my meal well enough. I also made creamy tomato soup from Raw Food Life Force Energy. The soup was really good and would be a perfect summer soup. It didn't really go with the meal, though. And I got full/tired of the soup after a few big spoonfuls. I would suggest serving it with raw corn chips, like the ones from Raw Food Real World.

For dessert, I made Banana Chocolate Mint ice cream topped with chopped pieces of Green and Blacks 70% dark chocolate bar.

3 frozen bananas (in slices)
1 heaping tablespoon cocoa powder (or raw carob)
1/8 tsp peppermint extract (or try handful mint leaves)
1 Tbsp agave nectar (optional, the bananas usually make it sweet enough as-is)
1/4 70% dark chocolate bar, chopped (optional. Try cacao nibs for a truly raw alternative)

Blend all ingredients except dark chocolate bar with a small amount of water (unless you have an amazing blender like a vitamix) until smooth. If you are like me, and don't have a vita mix, you might want to leave the frozen bananas out for awhile until they start to soften up a bit. It took forever to blend those frozen bananas smooth!

The best step after this would be to place mixture in an ice cream maker. I do have one, but I was too lazy to wait so I just poured the not-so-thick mixture into a bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes, and then ate it as it was- more like a frozen pudding than a true ice cream. But it still tasted amazing, and goes to show that you can make a ton of recipes without fancy equipment!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Today's reflections of food and life

Oh man, have I ever enjoyed that cheesecake these past 3 days! I have to admit something...each day I had TWO slices for dessert! Now that I've been careful not to eat until I'm truly hungry, which usually doesn't happen until after 10am, I haven't been eating too much to the point where I'm explodingly full after dessert so I don't feel guilty. I've been semi careful about food combining throughout the day, knowing that the fresh fruit and nut combo of my dessert is not a perfect combination. For the past few days my menu has looked like this: Between 10am and 1pm- Green Juice (a combo of kale, celery, spinach, apple, and lemon). 30 minutes to 1 hour later- a pear and/or apple. around 4pm- BIG salad with salad greens, cucumber, red bell pepper, tomato, sweet onion, candied walnuts (recipe from Raw Food Real World by Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis) and raisins. Dessert (after my dinner starts to digest and there's room in my tummy)- two slices (spread throughout an hour usually) of the Strawberry White Chocolate Cheesecake.

I have really enjoyed this menu but I know it's time for me to lighten up with the dense foods for a bit. Listening to my body, I understand that it is best to alternate dense food days with cleansing food days if I am going to be eating dense foods at all. Last night, after eating my veggie-nut-raisin salad I immediately ate a slice of the cheesecake, since I was on my way out the door to band practice. I wasn't hungry yet and didn't necessarily want to eat it, but the mental craving was telling me I would have to wait until after practice to eat dessert! It was a BIG mistake. Since my tummy was still full from the salad, I had a major digestive upset. My stomach hurt SO bad! I could barely drive to practice and then I made us rush through our set so I could go home and recover. Once I had passed my digestive pains I had, of course, my second slice of the cheesecake. But after that I promised I would give myself a break and eat a light, cleansing meal. That's the magic of raw foods; there are huge, gourmet, filling meals that taste amazing along with light, fresh, pure, cleanising meals that...taste amazing too!

So tonight I'm making some sort of Spring Rolls. Most of the recipes I have call for a delicious thai almond butter sauce either for dipping or in the rolls. But, not only am I trying to eat light tonight, but I am also on a budget (I missed some days of work due to the snow, so my check wasn't too good!) and raw organic almond butter is very expensive. So I've made my own little concoction in my head. I usually use collard greens for my rolls, but Whole Foods was out today so I got some green chard. I've never used chard before, so I'm interested to see how it does as a wrap. I'll be stuffng the chard with sliced veggies: avacado, carrot, daikon radish (another first-time veggie), red bell pepper, bean sprouts, cilantro, basil, green onion, and shiitake mushrooms marinated in sesame oil and nama shoyu. I might make some sort of mango dipping sauce or I might dip in wasabe infused nama shoyu. As a side, I'll be making Raw Cream of Tomato Soup from Raw Food Life Force Energy. I've also made Liquid Gold Elixir salad dressing to put on Simple Cabbage Coleslaw, both recipes from The Raw Food Detox Diet. I'm not sure if I will eat the coleslaw with my meal today or just make it tomorrow. And for dessert, since I ALWAYS want dessert? I'm not sure. I still have some Green and Blacks 70% chocolate. Or I have some frozen bananas that I can make into a quick raw ice cream. We'll see. But I'm hoping to give my body a break from the delicious-but-dense cheesecake for at least tonight.

An update on my weight: I have been at a steady 116 for about a week now! I'd like to be a steady 115, or even better, a steady 110, but that would take a committment to working out more often, I think. While my body can only lose so much fat on mostly-raw diet alone, there are a few places my body could use toning and strengthening. My boyfriend, Brian, got the Wii Fit for Christmas, and it's really fun, except I haven't used it more than once. Maybe I'll use it tomorrow, since I have the day off. I just prefer to exercise outdoors, walking or sometimes jogging. The weather has been so terrible that I haven't wanted to walk, either! Every once in a while, I use my apartment's gym treadmill. The only thing I do daily is an average of 8 sun salute repetitions (I do them as I learned from Deepack Chopra's Perfect Health.) I would really l ike to get a more thorough exercise routine going. I've been thinking about joining some sort of yoga or dance class. Most appealing is a bellydancing class taught at Seattle's Academy of Burlesque. I know I could get at least one friend to join me for that! If I had my way, I would take the entire Burlesque Course, but I'd have to save up some funds for that.

Other updates: I'm still thinking about what I want to do with my future. I'm 25 and I still feel young and alive, but I know that I could be (and am) following a path that truly expresses my ultimate desires and passions. I'm glad that I got out of the dead-end career of being a professional personal housecleaner. I made significantly more than I do now, but it was not what I wanted to do with my life. I felt so stuck. I was bored. I was stressed about saving money to pay self-employment taxes. I had to suffer from no income when the family I cleaned for went out of town on vacation. When I quit my cleaning job so I could go to Europe, I knew I was going to come home and have to start fresh. I had been offered a job at Starbucks before I left, and accepted when I returned. It had been a long time since I had worked for any kind of company, and it was a nice change to work with people again and get regular paychecks. The environment is great, I love the people I work with, and all the leadership and customer service skills I am learning. But, being totally honest with myself, a Starbucks career is not what I want with the rest of my life--especially since I don't drink coffee or eat pastries! I know there is something else for me. Of course, these skills I am learning will be essential, so I am incredibly grateful for them.

So what do I want to do? After being reunited with raw foods, I wanted to follow Natalia Rose's example and go to college to learn to become a nutritionist. While this path is still in my mind, I am uncertain as to whether it is the best course for me. I know I want to help people and share my passion and experience and knowledge with others. I know I want to introduce raw foods to others and show people the health and beauty of raw foods. But obtaining my degree in holistic nutrition will be a long and expensive road, if I am to attend Bastyr, which would be my ideal. But I've heard from some people who have gotten their degrees that were never able to start a practice because they were too far in debt with student loans.

So what else is there for me if I decide not to pursue the nutrtionist path? I'm constantly asking the universe for guidance in discovering the right opportunities. Other possibilities I've thought about are: starting a small raw business, making raw goodies and catering, selling them at markets and online; or I could just get a job somewhere that sells nutrition products and raw foods like Whole Foods Market or Chaco Canyon. But that's still just a fraction of expressing my passion and not something I want to do with my life. So what do I really want? I would love to open up my own restaurant/cafe/juice bar. I am intimidated by this idea because it seems so challenging and scary and i know nothing of opening restaurants. But, ever since I was younger, I have played with the idea of opening a restaurant. My first concept was a coffee shop. Then, when I went vegan, I wanted to open a vegan bakery/cafe/restaurant with a rock n roll atmosphere and maybe sell records and clothes in an adjoining section of the store. Then, upon discovering a few family recipes from my Filipino heritage, I wanted to open a vegan restaurant with a tropical/Filipino-food-inspired menu. While all those past ideas are still appealing, and I could still incorporate pieces of them into my new vision, I'm starting to envision this: A raw restaurant/cafe/juice bar with a menu that provides a mix of Raw Groumet/Comfort Foods and also some more cleansing, light dishes. There would definitely be a large dessert menu, smoothie and juice bar, and herbal teas. Maybe organic wine? The atmosphere would be clean, bright, inviting, fun, and elegant all at once. Asian/international inspired decor. I can almost see it.

Of course, I still have the fantasy novel I'm writing, which I hope to make into a trilogy. Do I have a problem that I am maybe a little too ambitious? There's so much I can do, and so much I want to do. But hey, who's to say I can't do it? You can only limit yourself. I'm open to the infinite possibilities that life gives!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Raw White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake!

So last night I made the raw white chocolate strawberry cheesecake, recipe originally from here. It turned out to be really easy! Time consuming, sure, but easier, quicker, and less messy than all the other vegan "cheesecakes" I've made in the past. The version I followed is here , since it had helpful tablespoon measurements for the coconut and cacao butter, and it turned out perfectly! I read the note that you may need to double the recipe if you are making a big cheesecake, and paid attention while I made the crust (which was the first thing I made.) As I was pressing the delicious, chocolate-oreo-cookie flavored crust into the bottom of my 9 inch springform pan, I noticed it looked a little light. At that point I made the decision to just double the recipe. Luckily, I had extras of all the ingredients on hand. I fell a little short of doubling the amount of raw melted cacao butter, but it still turned out perfect, as far as I can tell. When the filling was done, it had the consistency of a thick yogurt. I stuck the cake in the freezer and in a little under two hours, it reached the perfect consistency. I keep using the word "perfect," because that is all I can say about this recipe! Anyhow, I ate one LARGE slice, kept one half of the leftovers in the freezer, and the other half in the fridge. I'll eat the fridge slices throughout the week, and the frozen ones later, hoping the "perfection" will last through storage. I have a lot of leftovers, so hopefully I'll get batteries in my camera so I can post pictures. You know how you make a recipe sometimes, and you are disappointed when it doesn't look as nice as the recipe picture? Well, I didn't have that problem with this one. In fact, almost all of my recent creations have looked picturesque, so maybe I'm just honing my culinary craft! Anyhow, try this recipe. I can't say enough good things about it. It's probably the tastiest raw dessert I have ever made myself. While some of the ingredients can be pricey if you don't have stuff like coconut butter, agave nectar, cacao nibs, etc, lying around, it's well worth it! I can't even remember what "real" cheesecake tastes like right now because this recipe was so good!

My notes and suggestions: Double the recipe if you are using a 9 inch springform pan. To melt the coconut butter and cacao butter without subjecting them to high heat, put the proper amounts of each in bowls in the dehydrator (if you have one) and let melt at 115 degrees. This may take a good ten minutes or more. One packet of raw cacao butter from Madison Market is enough for one recipe and sufficient for a double batch, even though it falls shortly under the total (should be 4 TB for double batch.) Freeze for 1 1/2 - 2 hrs before eating.

It's recipes like this, the incan berry torte, and many others, that taste so good, make me feel amazing and satisfied that it makes me wonder, why eat anything but raw food at all? It's a wonderful feeling to love raw food so dearly. I'm so grateful for all the raw recipes in the world!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Incan Berry Torte- Best raw dessert ever!!!

Another new discovery and new favorite...

Madison Market in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle has probably the best raw foods section in any health/grocery store around. They have so many rare goodies that I have never seen anywhere else, besides maybe online. One of these items was a product made by House of the Sun Raw Food and it was an "Incan Berry Torte." At $7.99 for one slice, I was skeptical. For that price, it had to be good. But the ingredients just seemed too simple; goji berries, incan berries, citrus, coconut, cashew butter (and a few other ingredients.) Anyone who has tasted goji berries and incan berries knows that they aren't the sweetest fruits by any means. I do enjoy both of these dried fruits, but I would never imagine them as a tasty slice of cake. But the thing looked amazing; bright orange, perfectly looked like a slice of pumpkin cheesecake. I was so intrigued, I new I would kick myself later if I didn't try it. So I did. And I could barely contain my shock and amazement as I took the first bite. I don't think I had finished swallowing my before I shouted, "holy shit!" It was seriously the best raw cake, maybe even the best raw dessert, I have ever tasted. It was so smooth; the same constistancy as cheesecake. And it was sweet and creamy and a little tangy. It was perfect. Even my boyfriend liked it, and he usually shuns all forms of raw food (with the exception of the few raw desserts that I can assure him taste perfectly "normal.") So now I have a new favorite treat. This was the first time I saw the torte at Madison Market, and at the time, it was the last slice left. I went shopping there today, and there wasn't a single slice available. So I hope and pray that they continue to carry that torte or else I'm going to have to stalk the House of the Sun website and beg them to sell me an entire pie (which I think they just might do since the website does say they do custom orders.) Anyhow, if you are in the Seattle area, check out Madison Market. Not only for the Incan Berry Torte, but also for their amazingly thorough raw foods section (both dry and refridgerated products, not to mention their extensive collection of raw nuts, seeds, trail mixes, dried fruits, etc, etc, in the bulk section!)

Holy crap, I LOVE raw foods!

P.S. During my trip to Madison Market, I picked up a little bag of raw cacao butter, which is essentially raw white chocolate. I'd never tried it before and it was so inexpensive that I figured I might as well. It tastes like raw cacao but in a solid butter form. Not exactly my favorite thing to eat on it's own, I've realized, so I checked for online recipes containing raw cacao butter so I can find some uses for it. I came across a Raw White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake on the GLiving Community Forum.

I also found another version of the same recipe that provides measurements in tablespoons instead of ounces for the raw coconut and cacao butters on the Raw Freedom Community Forum. I will probably use this one when I make this cake tonight. If it's amazing, you know I'll be writing about it soon!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Coconut Bliss and other findings of the day

So I was craving ice cream last night, but also wanted to make sure I chose something that was at least somewhat healthy and life-force generating. In Natalia Rose's two books, she recommends goat's milk ice cream as the best transition ice cream. Well, I'm not too fond of that idea. It was hard enough (mentally) when I tried raw goat cheese. I'd like to avoid all other forms of dairy. As I dismissed the goat milk ice cream idea, I suddenly remembered a brand of ice cream I've always wanted to try, "Coconut Bliss." I remember it being vegan and made from simple ingredients. The first time I went raw, I almost thought Coconut Bliss was raw. Now that I know how to recognize truly raw products, I know that it is not, but it IS very healthy according to my knowledge and in comparison to the other ice creams available. Coconut Bliss comes in quite a few amazing-sounding flavors, are all organic, dairy free, soy free, and vegan. The main ingredient is coconut milk and the only sweetener is agave nectar, one of the healthiest forms of sweetener (in raw form, agave nectar is my sweetener of choice at home when I make smoothies, home-made ice creams, puddings, desserts, and for sweetening just about everything from tea to salad dressings.) I brought home the Cherry Amaretto flavor and immediately fell in love. I ate half the pint last night! Today I bought another pint; chocolate hazelnut fudge. Holy yum. This ice cream is like magic! I thought I would have to make my own ice creams for the rest of my life in order to eat pure! While I'm sure Coconut Bliss is not quite as "life-force generating" as immediately-consumed-home-made raw ice creams, it is definitely the best choice in the freezer section by far. There are only two downsides: 1.) I love ice cream so much that my tummy has no limits and I can easily binge on a pint without remorse...OK, maybe a little remorse. 2.) Coconut Bliss is a lot more expensive than other ice creams ($5-$6 a pint) but WELL worth it considering the amazing, simple, healthy, organic ingredients. I can't wait to try all these flavors! Check out your local Whole Foods and PCC, and any other grocer, as I believe this brand is popping up all over the place. I bought my first pint at the West Seattle Thriftway!

Oh, and in other news; I've tested something out: not eating anything until I am hungry. It sounds simple, but here's the story: I work at Starbucks, and I usually work the opening shift. This means I wake up around 3:30 or 4. What I've been doing (after reading Natalia Rose's books and her suggestion of drinking "green lemonade" before consuming anything else) is waking up and drinking fresh veggie/fruit/greens juice. Although I am rarely ever remotely hungry that early, I drink it anyway, knowing it is my only chance unless I want to wait until after work (1-2pm.) And while the juice makes me feel good and awake, I've noticed that I just get hungry for food earlier than I would if I woke up later or didn't drink anything at all. Naturally, the body does not need food this early to begin with. I've read a lot of books (the first being Stanley Burrough's Master Cleanse book, I believe) explaining how the digestive system actually works best if no solid food is consumed until after noon (and if one must consume solid food, fresh fruit is the best choice) and it is even better to refrain from eating or drinking anything until you are truly hungry or thirsty. There is really no benefit from jump-starting your sleeping digestive system before you really need to. Anyhow, for the past couple days, I've woken up FULL; not just not hungry; I can tell my body does not want or need anything. As I don't currently have a travel bottle to put my green juice in to drink later, I've tried, for the past two days, to just abstain from eating while at work. I've brought enough fruit and raw snack bars with me just in case I become ravenous, but I haven't needed them. Perhaps I've just been eating too large of dinners and my digestion is backed up, or maybe I'm becoming more sensitve to my body's needs. Whatever the reason, here are my results so far: yesterday, I didn't eat until noon, and that was when I finally decided I should have some green juice (although I still wasn't exactly hungry). And today I didn't eat until about 2pm, when I was finally feeling like I needed something and ate a banana. And how did I feel during my work day? Great! My mind was clear, my tummy felt calm. During my breaks I would sip on warm water which would fill any emptyness I felt (it was wierd, I felt emptyness but not hunger. I could tell there was a difference). I never got the shakes, never felt starved. So I intend on following this theory for a few more days to see if my findings are consistent. I would, however, like to purchase a water bottle in the near future so when hunger does strike, green juice is the first thing I consume. According to Rose (and countless others) green juice (and green smoothies) is one of the best things you can consume every day. Green juice, made from different greens (I like kale, spinach, romaine, parsley, celery, cucumber--give or take more or less variety at a time; sometimes I mix it up, sometimes I choose just one green--juiced with carrots, apples, ginger, lemon, or other fresh fruit like pineapple) contains tons of live enzymes, chlorophyll, and vitamins, is best consumed immediately and on an empty stomach. However, I'm sure drinking it later (keeping it very cold or frozen) is better than not drinking it at all. So anyhow, I'm rambling a little now. Basically, I think I feel better when I eat minimally in the a.m. hours, no matter how long I've been awake. Oh yeah, and the scale showed me I lost another couple pounds today, too! wow! So I'll continue with this experiment, hopefully purchase a water bottle soon, and see how it turns out! Maybe I'm closer to loosing those last 5 pounds than I thought!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Book Review: The Raw Food Detox Diet

After falling in love with Natalia Rose's Raw Food Life Force Energy, I really wanted to buy her other book (which was her first) The Raw Food Detox Diet. Every time I went to the bookstore (broke because I was saving money for Christmas presents) I would scan through the book and absorb what I could. For the most part, it seemed pretty much the same as the book I already had. But I noticed there were a ton of new recipes and some interesting-looking sections. So after Christmas, armed with my gift-money, I finally treated myself to TRFDD (her book titles are so long!) As I had expected, there were many sections that were nearly identical to the ones in RFLFE; some points were explained more thoroughly in one book or the other. The difference is, as a first book, TRFDD serves more as in introduction to someone who isn't completely familiar with the raw lifestyle. RFLFE, on the other hand, while it is also very accessable to beginners and familiars alike, takes it up a step, including more scientific and even slightly spiritual viewpoints. TRFDD seems like the better option for a beginner; someone who eats a common diet or even common "diet" food. As her program allows a lot of freedom of choice, someone who eats a lot of meat and dairy would do well to start with TRFDD. She provides all the information about why our bodies benefit from a diet that includes raw foods, and even helps you discover the best transitioning point. At the end of the first section of the book, there is a test you can take to find you "transition number." The questions are based on your current diet and lifestyle. Someone who regularly consumes refined sugar and flour, meat and dairy, would probably be best starting at a level 5, the gentlest transtion level; likewise someone who already eats a large amount of raw foods could start at a level 2 or 1. You can stay at each transition level for as long as you are comfortable. Since I had already read RFLFE, I didn't find the transition number to be completely neccessary, considering I was already developing a nice routine. But it did help me tremendously to recover from my Xmas Eve dinner binge and overeating/bad food binge that followed me for the next few days. The first time I took the test, I found myself at a level two. A level two eats almost all raw with properly combined meals and only a couple cooked food items a week. The description sounded pretty accurate at the time. But after my binge, I read the meal plans and philosophy behind each transition closer and decided I was eating/desired to eat closer to a level 3. A level 3 eats all raw until dinner almost every day, and then eats a well combined dinner with a few cooked components like a baked sweet potato or sprouted grain toast each night. Rose warns against eating at a level that is too advanced, even if you want to. I am still currently perfecting my ability to avoid the temptations of processed and refined snacks and restaurant meals, so I am committed to remaining at a level 3 until I naturally gravitate to a level 2 on my own. I would recommend that after you take the test and find your number, read each level thoroughly just to be sure you wouldn't be more comfortable at another level. There is a lot of benefit to giving yourself strict boundaries, but there is also benefit to treating yourself gently. Just do what feals right. You can always advance your regimen another day!

The next section is the menu section. I have yet to try many of the recipes, but I can already tell that they will be good. Some of them I may pass just because I have already adopted so many favorites as my daily staples from the other book, but there are also many I would love to try. It seems there are a few more "transition" recipes in this book--recipes that are more "comfort food" than cleansing--which is great, especially for a beginner! Each recipe shows which "transition level" would correspond with each recipe. My two complaints are: I don't feel the levels correspond accurately and a few of her recipes don't follow the food combining principles as closely as they do in RFLFE. Both complaints kind of go hand in hand. For example, there is a recipe for "detox quesadilla," which is sprouted grain tortilla, pasta sauce, raw goat cheese, and avacado. This recipe says it would be good for a level 2 or 3 for dinner, and levels 4 and five any time. The problem with this is that, according to food combining, grains (tortillas) and flesh (goat cheese) do not combine well. This is the same for starches (avacado) and flesh. I don't think a level 2 or 3 should eat like this very often. And while I understand that a few imperfectly combined meals won't be harmful, I would have liked a sidenote, like the ones provided in RFLFE, that say when a combo is not ideal. A beginner who frequents KFC and Taco Bell and eats pizza and mexican food on a regular basis, would find this meal incredibly light and cleansing. But for me, already practicing proper food combinations, it seems like a step back to eat this way. And another "for me" is that I'm totally drawn to this recipe! It sounds sooo good but I know it's not an ideal dinner more than the rare occasion, and I usually make the same recipe for a few nights in a row, to conform with my budget. There are a few other recipes like this (raw fruit pie, detox pizza) so I would just suggest that you practice caution if you are NOT a beginner. Try to understand the food combining rules for yourself, choose the meals that are appealing, and at the very least be aware when you've eaten an imperfectly combined meal. That's what I did. Every time I ate something I knew wasn't perfect, I would write it down so I would know the cause of any poor digestive affects that occured. The reactions in your body is your best guide. If you eat a raw pie made from fresh fruit and ground nuts, with no digestive setbacks and you continue to loose weight and feel great, then you will know that that particular food combo rule (mixing fresh fruit with anything) doesn't apply to you. Problem solved!

The next section was something I loved and was not included in RFLFE; it was all about eating at restaurants, other people's houses, parties, and over the holidays. As I sat aching from my holiday binge, I read the holiday eating section with great shame. I could have easily avoided the pain and made healthier choices about what I ate and how I combined my food that night. The section about restaurants offers advice and tips about the healthiest options at different types of restaurants. I'm planning on making a copy of this. While I have learned a great deal about food combining, it will help to have the tips on paper with me at all times; it can get really tempting to abort the rules when looking at a delicious easily all of my knowledge hides in those cases!

That's pretty much it for my review. Summary: A lot of the same content as Raw Food Life Force Energy but better suited to beginners and people unfamiliar with the raw food diet. Pros: Helpful "transition number" section and meal plans for each level, new recipes, more comfort food recipes, and a section on eating at restaurants, friends' houses, and over the holidays. Cons: not all the recipes are perfectly combined according to the food combining principles. Rose's two books are a great combination and complement each other well. It would be hard to choose just one to recommend if someone were only choosing one or the other. As I was already familiar with the raw food diet, I found RFLFE to be incredibly helpful and life changing. But if it was my first time discovering raw foods or I currently ate a lot of refined foods or typical/poor grade meat and dairy, I would prefer TRFDD, because the transition levels would help me understand what to eat and how to gently switch out my former foods for healthier versions.

Happy New Year!