Monday, February 9, 2009

My Top Diet Tips

Over the past couple months, I've been transitioning to a healthier, more balanced diet. You can read about my wild experience on my Raw Food Journey blog. I have finally reached my perfect weight and feel really good about the way I eat. I definitely still have areas in need of improvement, but I know I have learned a lot. I am so grateful for all of the books I have read that have inspired me; Natalia Rose and her first two books, Skinny Bitch by Rory Freeman and Kim Barnouin, Healing With Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford, Perfect Health by Deepak Chopra, just to name a few.

At the start of my transition, and again in the middle of it, I was overwhelmed and confused, and felt like I should be following only one program, or only one author's diet principles. "How can there be so many contradicting theories? Who do I trust? What is best for me?" I asked. But I only found answers when I relaxed, quieted my mind, and let go. I didn't let go in an "eat whatever I want" way, but in a "take it one day at a time, doing my best to make the best decisions for my life and body." I realized that, while I respect and love all these authors, I don't have to follow just one. We all have likes, dislikes, and desires that are different from each other. So I picked up a few principles from these books, and implemented the ones I truly believed in. Deep down, we do truly know what is best for us!

Here are the diet/lifestyle tips that I have found most helpful (in no particular order of importance):

1.) body brush every day! I bought a dry body brush from PCC for about $8. If you don't know what one is, it's a natural bristle brush that you use to literally brush your skin. It helps remove wastes, toxins, and cellulite. The best description of how to body brush is in Raw Food Life Force Energy. Here's my quick summary; you take the brush, and (standing completely dry and naked) brush your skin from your feet, in upward strokes up your legs and calves, thighs, butt, all the way up to your armpits. Take some time to move the brush in slow circles over the back of the thighs to help fight cellulite. Then brush from the tips of your fingers up to your armpits and shoulders. Avoid the breast area, but make sure you brush all other areas of your skin in long, slow strokes. This takes hardly any time at all. I do it every morning as soon as I wake up and it feels great! My skin tone has greatly improved!

2.) exercise! It's obvious, I know, but what isn't obvious is how easy it is to get exercise. My favorite daily routine is to do 10 sun salutes (yoga) as learned from Perfect Health by Deepak Chopra. I do this almost every morning after I body brush. It takes no more than 10 minutes and is a wonderful way to get exercise! You don't have to sweat and strain every day; just do something. I also love to walk outdoors so I try to walk to the local shopping center (about a 20 minute brisk walk away) whenever I can find an excuse to. Other things you can do: jog, dance, play Wii fit games, do exercise tapes. Find something you love to do and do it often.

3.) don't put anything into your body until you are truly hungry! This is another one that sounds obvious but is frequently ignored. I have read quiet a few books that explain how the digestive system needs rest and shouldn't be activated until necessary. Most of us eat much earlier than we honestly need to, based on habit and convenience. And we also tend to eat a lot more than we need that early in the morning! I know some people get light headed and think they need to eat as soon as they wake up or they won't make it through the day. For some of you, that may be true. But there are also some of us who eat before we are hungry just because we want to; and you know who you are. I find that if I wait to eat until I'm actually truly hungry, I eat much later in the morning, and I eat much less throughout the day. Food is available to nourish and sustain us, not to entertain us; so eat when you are hungry and NOT BEFORE! Seriously, just try it for one day even; it is especially useful the day after eating a LARGE, late dinner. I tried this one day when I forgot my breakfast on my way to work and couldn't afford to buy anything. I kept myself from obsessing over the fact that I had no food, and went on with my day. When I started feeling a little hungry, I sipped warm water (that always curbs cravings and hunger within minutes for me!) and I was fine and full of energy throughout my whole shift. In fact, I felt better than I usually did! I ended up feeling very in tune with my body, and could tell that I really didn't need food in the early morning after all. When I got home form work, I was finally hungry and I ate a banana--and that wasn't until 2pm! Just imagine all the unnecessary calories you may be consuming just out of habit!

4.) eat light to heavy! Now this one can be hard for those of you who have been drilled with the "breakfast is the most important meal of the day and should be the largest" theory. I do agree that breakfast is very important, but not because it should have a shit ton of calories; it is important because if you eat crap (heavy, dense food), you'll feel tired, heavy, and weighed down; and if you eat light, pure, energizing, fresh foods, you will feel light, pure, and energized throughout your day! When your body isn't weighed down with all the food it is working to digest, it will provide you with more energy. Natalia Rose explains this beautifully. My quick summary is this: eat foods that digest fastest in the morning, and eat your heavier foods for dinner. This will help your food digest faster without fermenting or "backing you up," if you know what I mean. The quickest digesting foods are fruits, vegetables, and their freshly squeezed juices. They make great breakfasts if you can get over the whole "eat a giant breakfast" myth. This is another thing to just give a try. If it doesn't work for you, then you can always go back to your routine. The truth is, you won't starve. Just get out of your head! Listen to your body, not your cravings! Fresh fruit is so pure and cleansing, and should be eaten daily. If you are eating pancakes and oatmeal for breakfast, how are you eating enough fruit? And don't tell me you are eating it for dessert or along side your lunch; fresh fruit does not digest well with ANYTHING else. It will sit on top of your other food and ferment, making you bloated and gassy. Eating fruit first, followed by the denser foods later in the day, will speed your digestion right along. Here's something to think about: Have you ever talked to a girl who is effortlessly skinny? You will usually hear her admit, "I poop after every meal!" Yes, pooping often is a key to weight loss. You want the vitamins in your body and the waste out. And, if you're not "effortlessly skinny" or an easy-pooper, you need to help your digestive system! Eat light to heavy! (A good order of light to heavy foods to remember is this: Fruit/veggie juice-- fresh fruit-- fresh, raw veggies and salad-- nuts, seeds, and dried fruit-- cooked, heavy food.)

5.) eat fresh fruit or fresh pressed fruit/veggie juice as your first meal of the day! The reason is obvious if you read my last tip. Fruit for breakfast is perfect! I usually eat an apple when I'm first hungry and then a second piece of fruit, usually a banana, about an hour later. After that I'm usually good until dinner if I'm eating dinner early enough. If not, I eat carrots, a salad, or a snack bar (like Lara bar.) The second part of this tip is also important: So many people recommend drinking freshly juiced fruit and veggie juices, especially the juice of dark, leafy greens. Greens have protein and chlorophyll and a ton of other vitamins and minerals. Most of us don't get many greens throughout the day (unless you eat nothing but salad) so getting your green juice in the morning is wonderful. It can be expensive to buy a head of kale every other day, but I still like to juice some greens whenever I can! Just make sure you juice your greens with fresh apple or lemon so it's not bitter!

6.) eat raw till dinner! now this is one that I know can be hard for a lot of people. The fact is, the more raw food you eat in the form of fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and grains, the better. Raw foods are pure and uncooked and have all of their enzymes and vitamins intact. This principle is easy if you follow all of the other tips: not eating until you are hungry makes you eat a little later in the day. And if you eat light to heavy, your first meal should be fruit, your second meal should be more fruit or veggies or a salad, and your last meal should be a big, hearty, balanced dinner! It was easy for me to eat raw till dinner after a couple days of trying it out. And I don't eat like this religiously every day. It's just a principle that I know is best for my body. Being aware of that helps me make better choices.

7.) fall in love with salads! salads can be boring...if you let them! But they are so good for you, and can taste truly amazing if you get creative. I eat a giant salad as a main component to almost every dinner. I get a big plate, top it with a huge pile of greens, avocado, tomato, cucumber, fresh garlic, onion, carrots (give or take a few ingredients depending on the day) and sometimes olives or tamari chickpeas from Eat Drink and Be Vegan by Dreena Burton. Sometimes I use a simple dressing of vinegar, oil, and agave nectar; or lemon juice, oil, agave nectar, and nama shoyu; or a favorite store-bought dressing. Find a way to make salads that you love. If you eat dairy, throw on some goat cheese! If you're vegan, go to Sidecar Grocery in the U District and get some "Sheese." If you want something sweet, make a salad with sliced asian pear, walnuts, raisins, and a raspberry vinaigrette (just remember that fresh fruit digests much better alone, so be prepared for the possibility of potential gas or bloating!) Get creative. Love salads. Eat them as often as you can!

8.) properly combine your food! This is a very good principle in speeding up digestion. Natalia Rose explains it best, and I know my summary won't do it justice, so please read Raw Food Life Force Engery if you are interested in understanding food combining. But just to clue you in a little here's my quick summary: starches (grains, bread) and starchy vegetables (potatoes, etc) are one category, flesh (meat, eggs) and dairy are another, nuts and dried fruit are yet another, and fresh fruit is another. All of these categories (except fresh fruit, which you now know digests best alone) digest well with all raw, non-starch veggies (lettuce, carrots, etc), but otherwise should not be mixed and eaten with any other category. That's why a burger is so slow to digest; the meat does not digest well with the starch of the bun! That's why your tummy can rumble if you eat fresh fruit after dinner! That's why a cheese pizza sits in your intestines for hours! I agree that food combining is important for optimal health and weight loss, but I have to admit I do not always follow it 100%. But knowing this helps keep me aware and helps me understand the choices I make. Being aware is what matters.

9.) eat only until satisfied! This one is so obvious but it's the hardest for me to follow! I love eating until I am exploding but that is not healthy for your mind, body, or digestion. Food is here to nourish, remember? So stop eating when you are full! Don't eat seconds just because they are there! If you learn to eat peacefully, and pre-portion your food to proportions you know are good for you, it will be much easier. If you get a "snack-tooth" drink some tea instead. Or do something active. I like to write when I'm feeling snacky. And if you do give in and overeat, don't beat yourself up about it. Just remember that every day is a new day and a new chance for you to make a better decision. You ARE capable of making healthy choices!

10.) cut out all addictive foods! If you have a tendency toward binging (like I do) it's worth it to take a look at what those foods are. Most likely it is sweets, refined foods, or heavy, oily, fried foods. On my Raw Food Journey Blog, I wrote about my Addiction Free Diet Experiment. After realizing certain foods caused binging, I decided to cut some out completely, and manage others strictly for a short period of time. Dessert was the thing I gave up completely the first week. I also pre-portioned my grain intake (1 cup of rice or pasta), cut out refined flour and sugar products, abstained from fried foods, and refrained from snacking. I only did this "hard core" for one week. But afterward, I found that I was able to make better choices. I no longer NEED dessert every day. I no longer snack just because I can't stop. While I still give in to a few cravings, I feel more in control. Try cutting out something you know is addictive. Your body only craves what vices you give it. If you are addicted to cheese, cut it out for a week or even a couple days. Your body will cleanse itself and you will no longer need it. If you feel you want to continue to eat cheese, hopefully it will now be easier to eat in moderation. But don't bring back an addictive food until you feel peaceful about it. If you feel like you might binge, you are not ready. Food addiction is so similar to an alcohol or drug addiction. And let me tell you, it feels great to be free!

11.) make affirmations! Almost every day, I write little affirmations either in my journal or my food journal. I write things like "I am in control of my eating, I have the perfect body, I am learning to make better choices every day, I am alive and full of life force energy." This is especially useful after you experience an "uh-oh" with your diet plan. Self-loathing is usually the first reaction when you make a mistake, but it is highly destructive; positive affirmations make you feel good and reinforce good habits. Try this whenever you are bored like when you are watching tv or just waiting around for something to do. This is usually when the snack-cravings occur! Try something positive, like writing affirmations, instead!

12.) keep a food journal! I've been keeping track of everything I eat for the past couple months. I also keep track of my weight, notes on how certain foods or choices make me feel, how much sleep I get, when I exercise, when I body brush. It seemed like an inconvenience at first, but now that I've done it for so long, it's second nature. I don't know if I will ever want to stop! It's helpful because if you lose or gain a significant amount of weight one week, it's easy to look at your food journal to see why. That's how I realized what foods I should keep eating and which ones I should abstain from. And writing down everything you eat helps you really see "the big picture." It also helps you snack less. Just try it, even for a week!

13.) quit eating refined, processed foods! You know that real, pure, whole foods are better for you, right? Well then quit eating fake, processed, refined foods like refined white sugar, candy, and refined flour products. The best grain products are whole, unrefined grains, like brown rice. White rice is highly refined and devoid of essential nutrients. The best whole grain bread products are 100% whole wheat, whole spelt, sprouted grains etc. Read the ingredients; if the word "whole" or "sprouted" is not before the type of grain, it is most likely refined. And look out for those products that include whole grains, but also include refined grains. My favorite whole grain breads are Food for Life sprouted Grain Breads, and Old Mill Bakery brand Honey Whole Wheat, both found at health food stores and even Fred Meyer and a few other traditional grocers. You can also find whole or sprouted grain tortillas and bagels. My favorite whole grain or gluten free cookies (also free of refined sugars) are Nana's. For those of you who cannot stand whole grain products, all I have to say is, "Your loss!" At least try to find ones that you like. To learn more about healthier forms of grain products and sugar, read Skinny Bitch, The Raw Food Detox Diet, or Raw Food Life Force Energy. These books, especially Skinny Bitch, are essential in learning the truth about what you eat and how to make healthier choices. I reviewed all of them on my Raw Food Journey blog.

That's all for now! I'll add more when I think of them!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Operation Prosperity Consciousness

So everyone has heard about the economy. People are losing jobs. Businesses are slowing down. We're all trying hard to survive. We've been inundated with news and stories about "how bad it is."

My question is: what good is this negative talk doing anybody? The economy sucks right now; yeah, I get it. I'm grateful for the heads up so that I can watch my spending. But that's enough already. I know times are hard. I know some of you have lost your jobs. But instead of focusing on what we don't have, what we can't do, let's focus on what we can do. No matter how bad off you are there is someone, somewhere, who is far worse. Seriously; stop and think about it.

I am a strong believer that "like attracts like." If you feel like you have nothing; if you feel broke; if you feel desperate; that's what your life will reflect back to you. It's just not possible for you to see all the good things you have; all the possibilities; all the opportunities; if you are looking the wrong way.

After reading Real Magic by Wayne Dyer, I believe it is essential to build a "Prosperity Consciousness," especially during financially trying times. The worst thing we can do is think in terms of lack. No matter what, we need to feel prosperous on the inside; we need to feel like we have all that we need, that we have more than enough. And what do you do when you have more than enough?

You share. You give to others.

I've been inspired to give in whatever little ways I can. Every week. Every day in my own way. I know hour first response will probably be, "I have nothing, how can I give anything away?" My reply to you is that you need to rid yourself of that thinking right now. Deep down you know there is something you can do to contribute, even if it is tiny. A can of corn can cost less than a dollar! Can you spare 1 dollar a week? 1 dollar a month? Are there clothes you don't wear anymore? Food in your cupboards that are nearly expired? Even if it is something small, your contribution is in no way insignificant. It will make you feel so good and it will switch your thoughts from lack to abundance.

There are so many things you can do, but you must feel good about it and want to do it. Sharing is not about sacrifice or going without. Sharing is about being of service to others because it makes you feel good.

I'm going to share my ideas of how I intend to contribute and share. Please add your own ideas to my comments or copy and repost this (adding your ideas) wherever you like to whomever you like. Sooner or later we'll all see how easy it is to give; how many little ways we can all make a difference.

I, Tessonja Odette, intend to:

1.) Donate at least one healthy, high-quality canned or boxed food item to a local food band or a friend or family in need each week.

2.) Shop at local stores that I would like to support and see flourish. For example: Fresh Vitamins in Westswood Village; I love the fact that there is a store in West Seattle/White Center that carries vegan and live-food items and I want to support their mission by buying their products when I can. Also, Sidecar for Pigs Peace in the U Disctict; an all-vegan grocery store run by volunteers; the profits are donated to Pigs Peace Sanctuary! And the Raw Freedom Community Forum; an awesome community all about sharing info and recipes; buying items through their links donates a percentage right back to the RFC!

3.) Donate a useful item or money to Pigs Peace Sanctuary every time I shop at Sidecar grocery.

Share. Pass it on.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Week Two

Ok, now I think I'm really getting into the flow of making the best choices for my health, life, and body. It's becoming natural and stress-free. This past week was great. I continued along the same path, and faced a few tough choices (to buy or not to buy a cookie? Eat popcorn or don't eat popcorn?) but came out on top, feeling positive. I did a lot of walking this week; I like to walk to Westwood village, a little shopping center about a 20 minute brisk walk from my house. Since I eat salad pretty much every day, I run out of salad greens fairly quickly so instead of driving to PCC, I walk to QFC (they have a decent organic selection) when I have the time and energy. I've been working evenings lately, so taking a nice, energizing walk in the morning is perfect. My eating habits have remained mostly the same, except not quite as stringent. I've been snacking a little more (I had popcorn after my dinner salad one night, a couple spoonfulls of peanut butter when I was still hungry, etc.) but not uncontrollably. I still eat fruit first thing in the morning every day (unfortunately, I haven't had much green juice this last week except for twice at Juice Plant, a fresh juice place in the mall I work at), usually two pieces 30 min - 2 hours apart, followed by a snack at work like two carrots, or like yesterday and today, a Nana's cookie. For dinner I've had a big raw salad almost every night, along with pasta, popcorn, or homemade whole wheat biscuits. I had spring rolls and sushi one night, and last night I made a delicious salad; greens, avocado, carrots, cucumber, and tomato tossed in a little lemon juice and agave nectar and then topped with more fresh avocado and "Tamari Chickpeas" from Dreena Burton's "Eat, Drink, and be Vegan" (my new favorite vegan cookbook!) It was delish and I look forward to eating the leftovers tonight.

For the week, I think I spent about $46-$50 on food and groceries (including my Juice Plant juices.) Not bad at all! I spent about $30 at Trader Joes at the beginning of the week (and still have stuff to feed me throughout this week too!) and then the rest was from misc. goods like salad greens, avocados, a couple cookies, etc, throughout the week. And I'm still maintaining my perfect weight! I know that walking is helping with that too. I would like to make it a goal to walk to Westwood village as many days out of the week as possible. It feels so good to walk in the fresh air, especially when I need something from the store (having a goal or mission really helps!)

I'm also reading this wonderful book, "Real Magic" by Wayne Dyer. I've been curious to read his works ever since I read that he was a huge influence in the lives of Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, the writers of "Skinny Bitch". I'm a big fan of self improvement books about The Laws of Attraction like "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne, "The Success Principles" by Jack Canfield, and "Excuse me Your Life is Waiting" by Lynn Grabhorn. While reading Wayne Dyer's book, I'm remembering all the things I have learned from these other books (it's easy to forget if you are not constant in your practices and thoughts) and am also learning so much that I haven't caught on to yet, like the power of meditation. I intend on trying meditation on a regular basis. I tried for the first time the other day and it was very interesting. I didn't get too deep, and kept falling asleep for split seconds and mini-dreaming, but it was a start! What this has done for my eating habits is it has put me more at peace. I had already naturally shifted from self-loathing to writing and saying positive affirmations about my self and my choices whenever I would over-eat or snack on something I didn't need, etc, and this book just confirmed that I am on the right path in doing so. I don't think I'm even half way through the book yet, but I'm taking it slow, practicing what I learn slowly every day so it will really sink in.

I have discovered a couple new favorites this week (don't I discover something new every week?!). First up is "Eat, Drink, and be Vegan" by Dreena Burton. This is a vegan cookbook that I got for Christmas from my boyfriends sister the year before last. At the time, I was mostly into vegan comfort food and excited by desserts, desserts, and more desserts. My life pretty much revolved around making vegan mac n cheese, grilled ham n cheese, and anything else with "cheese" and mockmeats. Oh, and did I mention desserts? Yeah, there was A LOT of that. So anyhow, I also received "The Joy of Vegan Baking" by Collen Patrick-Goudreau, which is probably the most delicious and complete cookbook of vegan desserts- lemon bars, cookies galore, cheesecakes, cookies- can you guess which cookbook got the majority of my focus? I thumbed through EDABV a few times, but I saw a lot of unusual-at-the-time ingredients like Spelt and oat flour and there weren't many recipes that included mass amounts of vegan cheese or mockmeats, which was all I was really interested in. So poor little book sat on my bookshelf and was nearly forgotten about until earlier this week. When I finally did pick it up, I was filled with awe and excitement; the recipes are exactly what I need in my life now! Why didn't I remember this book when I was sick of vegan comfort food, and craving whole grains and healthier foods? This book is it! She uses healthy, whole ingredients, whole wheat or gluten free flours, unrefined sugars, minimal oils, and the recipes are unique and awesome! I have yet to make anything except the "Tamari Chickpeas" but I expect this cookbook will become THE cookbook that I use from now on. I would also like to pick up one of her other cookbooks, "Vive Le Vegan."

This just makes me realized the importance of the Vegan Transition; moving from exciting, hearty comfort food dishes (in order to get you motivated and thrilled with the vegan diet) and onto lighter, healthier dishes (in order to maintain health and balance). I wish more writers would include this ideal in their books. If I realized there was somewhere to go beyond "vegan mac n cheese" and pancakes besides a life of salad, I wouldn't have stressed out so bad when I got fed up with comfort food! You know, I could always write a book like that. Haha there I go with my ambitious ideas again! But I really could...I also need to finish my novel though.

And my second favorite of the week is Living Harvest Hempmilk. I was recommended hemp milk by a worker at Fresh Vitamins (a store at Westwood specializing in vitamins, raw, and vegan products!) and then saw it again recommended on Dreena Burton's blog. When I wanted to make "Simple baking powder biscuits" from Sarah Kramer's La Dolce Vegan, I realized I would need non-dairy milk halfway through sifting my flour mixture. So I sped to QFC and decided to try out the hemp milk (I bought the "Original" flavor.) The biscuits turned out amazing (I made them with whole wheat pastry flour) and after I tasted the hemp milk alone, I fell in love and ended up drinking the rest by the glass over the next couple days. Today I bought the chocolate flavor at Fresh Vitamins and can't wait to try that!

Fresh Vitamins is worth mentioning here alone. Today was only my second visit to the store, and I just have to recommend it to anyone living in the West Seattle/White Center area who is interested in raw, vegan, and gluten free products. While their selection isn't HUGE, they do have a lot of stuff you can't find other places, such as a GIANT tub of Really Raw Honey. Some of their items are also a little pricier, but they are worth supporting. I look forward to shopping there during my walks to Westwood. They carry my favorite bread (Food For Life Sprouted Bread), vegan chicken nuggets, Nana's cookies, Kombucha, Lydia's live food products, and so much more that I probably haven't even noticed yet.

And now I should probably get ready to go to work!