Coming Clean

One woman’s honest quest to clean up her unhealthy life for herself and her family.

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Experience Life Magazine

When All-or-Nothing Doesn’t Quite Work

At lunch, I walked over to our local grocery store with editorial intern Casie Lukes. Even though I had started the UltraSimple detox plan on Sunday Monday, I lamented to her that I picked a bad week to start.

Today is our anniversary and we’re going out to dinner, I told her. I’m allowing myself to have a glass of wine. And what about my birthday on Thursday? If someone just happens to give me a cupcake as a treat, can I really not eat it? (I say, if it’s gluten-free, then yes!)

The fact is, this wasn’t the best week to start a detox. But is there ever really a good time? There will always be dinners out and family parties and work events. And I’m a pro at holding tight to the all-or-nothing mindset: Well, I messed up today, so I’ll start again tomorrow (or on Monday). Today is a wash.

Blame it on the “diet mindset” I’ve had since I was 11 years old. I know it hinders my success elsewhere, too, like my home and work (if I’m going to start this project, I’m committed to finishing it completely, even if that means I work into the wee hours of the night — or as Kyle used to call it, my Sunday Night Cleaning Panic).

Now that I’ve seen success in weight loss with making small changes consistently, I know it can apply elsewhere.

But back to tonight’s dinner. The menu was diverse, and sure, there were a few salads and a side or sautéed vegetables, and there was chicken and fish, but some voice in my head said I would regret not eating what I really wanted. I’d think about it all week. And I know me: When I’ve made a choice that really truly felt like restriction, I’ll sneak food later.

Plus, since I was eating according to the UltraSimple plan all day (a smoothie for breakfast, a big salad for lunch, and green tea in the afternoon), I decided I could make a few several exceptions for dinner. I chose the filet mignon, which came with risotto, and ordered a side of asparagus.

I have no regrets.

The restaurant offers a special for couples celebrating their anniversary, in which they get two glasses of champagne and a dessert (they also offer a bottle of wine, any bottle, during one’s birthday week priced at your age, but let’s not get too crazy!). I had a few bites of the apple crisp, half of the champagne, and felt pretty satisfied with my choices.

I’d much rather eat for pleasure in this life, and sometimes the meals can be rich. As long as I keep my diet balanced overall, load up on the veggies, and defeat the all-or-nothing mindset, I can keep after my goals in a healthy, sustainable way.

Experience Life Magazine

New Season, Another Detox

Before I started working at Experience Life, I’d never think I’d be one to actually want to do a detox. (I’m talking elimination-diet style, not juice-only or the Master Cleanse.) But as someone who enjoys planning, it’s a bit of a relief.

I like Dr. Mark Hyman’s UltraSimple Diet, which we featured in the July/August 2010 issue of the magazine. (You can also check out Heidi Wachter’s fantastic essay on completing her first detox in “Detox Diary,” and listen to our podcast where we discuss our experiences on the plan.) I’ve done both the UltraSimple Diet and the longer UltraMetabolism plan, and had a lot of success with both.

So why do a detox now, when I already know what foods set my stomach up for discomfort?

Usually, a season of eating various foods at parties — some that taste good but don’t really do me service — and wonky schedules with travel or late-night socializing has me eating for convenience and not for fuel. And I’ve been spotty with sending life coach Lauren my nightly promises report, so the detox usually corrects my inconsistent eating.

I incorporate a seasonal, elimination-style detox at least twice a year, in January and in September (after two busy social seasons). I feel better and more energized, and it allows me to feel like I’m back on track. (Check out Courtney Helgoe’s “Detox Done Right” for more thoughts on various detox programs.)

Another reason for me to do a detox now: When my friends show interest and decide to attempt it as well. Solidarity, sister!

This week I’m in prep mode, and will start the full seven-day detox on Sunday. We’ll be traveling that day, so I’ll need to pack smoothie essentials for the morning, then plan to grocery shop in the afternoon.

I originally thought I’d keep coffee in my diet for the week, sharing with Lauren that it would be on my “allowances” list (along with a glass of wine for our anniversary on Monday and one small dessert and glass of wine for my birthday on Thursday), but I’m questioning this line of thinking. Maybe it means it’ll be even more worthwhile for me to cut those foods and drinks now? Or perhaps I should add an additional week and make it a full 14-day program? I can feel that following this plan will help me, and, as always, I’m investigating my desire to write my own rules as further information about my relationship with food.

If you’re interested in joining me on a seasonal detox, email or Tweet at me, or comment below and we’ll support each other.

Today, I enjoyed my last Sushi Wednesday (when the local grocery store lowers its price at their in-house sushi bar) for awhile, and these crunchy sushi options from the nearby Japanese restaurant are a no-no for now.

Today, I enjoyed my last Sushi Wednesday (when the local grocery store lowers its price at their in-house sushi bar) for awhile, and these crunchy sushi options from the nearby Japanese restaurant are a no-no for now.

Experience Life Magazine

September Summary

In July, I had a thought to post my monthly health reports on the last day of said month, a kind of wins and challenges list. It was item No. 3 of my goals: using monthly check-ins to review what worked and what didn’t.

I haven’t yet shared, so here’s what I’ve learned in July, August and September:

What’s working right now:

  • Workouts: Boot Camp three times a week — bonus points for the fourth day! — and Pilates once a week. Last week I had a make-up class, so I attended Pilates two days in a row. And we used an ab wheel during our Boot Camp circuit on Thursday, so my abs were sore all weekend. As if I had been in a boxing ring and taken several hits to the stomach. In a good way, of course. I haven’t made it to yoga or dance classes, so I’m shelving those goals for now.
  • Healthy Eating: Nightly emails to life coach Lauren have kept my focus on mostly yummy, good-for-me foods, but some sweet treats at my birthday celebration and skimpy meals during the week has my diet a bit imbalanced. This past week, I worked to eliminate coffee in preparation to follow Dr. Mark Hyman’s UltraSimple plan with two of my coworkers starting tomorrow. I’m hoping it’ll help me get back to scheduled, healthy meals.
  • Relationships: The vacation to Colorado a few weeks back was great for Kyle and me to break our usual routine and have quality time to relax and talk. No rushing, no “checking in” between errands, work and appointments. Just time to take in the beauty of nature and dream about the future. And with my birthday on the 12th, I was touched by sweet messages from friends and family. My mom and I visited with my younger cousins and aunt and uncle today, and had dinner with my grandparents. It was nice to connect and gain some wisdom from the three generations.

What’s not working:

  • Stress: I’m still seeking the perfect harmony for work and life, but I’ve come to realize that much of my work will seep into my life because my job is all about living better. Brainstorming story ideas on the weekends or updating my blog in the evenings is bound to happen — and that’s OK. If I’m skipping leisure time or workouts in favor of working later (as I’ve done before), then I need to reassess and reschedule projects. I have to remind myself that working out can only help me be a better, more productive employee, as we share in this month’s issue of the magazine (see “Work Out, Work Better”). Right now, I can use daily meditation and journaling to manage stress, even if I’m only checking in for five minutes a day. I’ve also been missing my weekly acupuncture sessions, so I’ll add those back in for October.
  • Overly ambitious scheduling: I have three calendars, one for work, one for projects and one for all other appointments and events pertaining to my life (this one also includes some work meetings). The latter calendar features an “ideal day” calendar, where I:
  1. Rise early to practice yoga and meditate every morning before walking the dog;
  2. Arrive to work before morning meetings to blog;
  3. Break at lunch for spinning or yoga or a walk;
  4. End the daytime hours with a strength-training workout before heading home to…
  5. Make a healthy meal, watch a little TV and…
  6. Read a book and take a bath, before…
  7. Going to bed “early,” which would be 10 pm for me.
  • I’ll expand more on this above ideal day in another post, but so far, I’ve only been able to complete item 4. Sad. This month I’m going to take active steps to get closer to this vision, but it’s worth reviewing the barriers, perceived or not, in me reaching this dream. More to come on this subject.

While travel was great during the summer and September, it was also a bit dizzying. That’s one of my favorite things about fall: a bit slower pace and time to reflect. I can make some adjustments to my goals and figure out what I’m willing to do — and what I actually can do. Students go back to school, and the rest of us, students of life, can obtain a new education, skill or practice.

Tell me about a goal you’ve had to rework — and how you finally made it happen — in the comments section below, or find me on Twitter: @clewisopdahl.

Experience Life Magazine

Drink Your Veggies

Last summer, we planted a vegetable garden. It was full of herbs, lettuces, tomatoes, squash, spinach, peppers and dino kale. The spinach and lettuces died midway through the summer, the squash plant yielded only a few, but the herbs, tomatoes, peppers and kale were abundant. So much kale, in fact, that there was still plenty come October.

I loved having fresh veggies and herbs, but such a surplus! And as a first-time gardener, I wasn’t prepared to eat or store my crop. (This year we kept it a bit more modest but still kept a few favorites.) I shared some with friends, but I found myself getting creative with kale.

All the veggies aided in helping me eat a plant-based, whole food diet, but I still saw waste, which made me sad. It’ll happen occasionally when I go to the farmers’ market: It all looks so good, and reasonably priced, that I buy more food than I can eat before it goes bad.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t been introduced to the world of juicing. A coworker was talking about the juice bar at a nearby co-op, and I assumed she meant apple juice or perhaps a smoothie like you’d get from Jamba Juice. Juicing vegetables was an entirely foreign concept to me, which meant I had to try it immediately.

I went bold to start: a green juice made with kale, cucumber and parsley with some green apple for sweetness. It was delicious in a whole new way, like those smells in nature that are so clean and fresh you wish you could bottle it and consume it. That’s the green juice for me. I’ve been getting this one (pictured) at Seward Co-op fairly regularly.

You can read all about the benefits of juicing in our June article, but do I really need to convince you that it’s good for you? We recently shared our knowledge with our CBS affiliate, WCCO, and I’m pretty sure I sold anchor Jamie Yuccas on carrot juice.


The news moves fast, though, so this was just an introduction for those new to juicing. Some helpful points from the article that we didn’t have time to discuss:

  • Keep your juice focused on veggies, aiming for three parts vegetables to one part fruit. Trick from Kris Carr’s green juice: try the broccoli stem for sweetness.
  • Use organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
  • Pair water-dense vegetables like cucumbers, romaine and squash with heartier greens to get a a smoother liquid. You can also add coconut water, but the right mix of veggies should do the trick.
  • Experiment with spices. We made a carrot-ginger juice that was fantastic. Healing spices are a great addition, and studies have found that some spices can help lower inflammation in the body and balance blood-sugar levels.
  • Have fun! Play with flavors you like, and look online for recipes. Invite friends over for a juice party and have everyone bring a different ingredient. But also remember your juice can be simple. Plain, fresh carrot juice is an easy option.
Experience Life Magazine

Smoothies on the Go

Making Mark Hyman’s UltraSimple Detox Diet work for my busy schedule required smart preparation. I would’ve loved to take the week off to journal and take leisurely walks, nap when my body needed it, visit the sauna every day and take hot baths before bedtime. Dr. Hyman recommends this in chapter 8 of his book, if you follow his enhanced version, but I had a hard enough time clearing my social schedule to avoid happy hours, so I had to save this schedule for another round of detoxing. It sounds dreamy, though, and I’d love to hear from those of you who’ve committed to the extended program. Although I’m guessing you may be so über-relaxed that you have difficulty operating the keyboard.

As a gal on the go, my favorite trick for transporting my morning detox smoothie came from Experience Life senior associate editor Kaeti Hinck, who read about using Mason jars with your blender for make-and-take mixes. Just follow these simple steps:

IMAG0027.jpg1) Add filtered water or milk/soy milk/almond milk and your goodies to a large Mason jar (you can use a small one, but the larger quart size is easier to load). I used brown rice protein powder with my water, fresh or frozen organic mixed berries, flax oil, ground flax seeds (I buy them whole in bulk and use my coffee grinder to break them down to a powder), and ice. *Note: Ground flax seeds absorb water quickly, so if you add them, your shake will get thick — not always the easiest beverage to drink! Try using less, or save the ground flax seeds for an afternoon or evening shake, when you have more time to sit and drink your smoothie immediately.

IMAG0028.jpgIMAG0029.jpg

2) Unscrew the base and blade from the pitcher, place the blade on the
mouth of the Mason jar and screw on the base.

IMAG0030.jpg3) Flip over the Mason jar with blade and base affixed and start the blender.

IMAG0031.jpg

IMAG0032.jpg

IMAG0033.jpg4) Turn the jar over, remove the blade and base, cover with a Mason cap
and go! 

Experience Life Magazine

My Life on the Detox Diet

During the month of July, I was on Mark Hyman’s UltraSimple Detox Diet, which you can find in the July/August issue of Experience Life magazine. Even though this program is only seven days, I say month because there are some crucial steps involved in order to have success. According to Hyman’s plan, I needed to:

  • Cut back on caffeine, eliminating my still-occasional soda consumption and daily coffee habit
  • Remove sugar from my diet, especially my weekly stop at our local bakery for cupcakes which I’d bring to events and BBQs, just so I had an excuse to eat cupcakes
  • No more wine or cocktails, which is challenging when several emails in my inbox inquire about get-togethers with the subject line “drinks soon?”
  • Dump processed foods I keep in the freezer for convenient dinners after a long workday
  • Delete all takeout and delivery phone numbers from my cell phone, and stop referring to the hostess at our Chinese delivery place as my friend Sarah

Of course, these are very specific references to Hyman’s list of “foods” to eliminate, but you get the point. He notes to cut these out one week prior to the UltraSimple detox in ALL CAPS in his book for a reason: eating poorly for months (years in my case), then dramatically making all these changes at once is the quick path to failure. I’ve found this to the be case before, and talked about it in my last entry on July 1, before I began the detox diet.

With the right planning and controlled environment, following the detox diet was easy. I cut back and eventually eliminated sugar, alcohol, processed and fast foods, and caffeine (it took me almost two full weeks). By July 11, I was eating clean, organic, non-allergenic and non-inflammatory foods as Hyman outlines in his plan. I brought food with me to work and kept a cooler with snacks in my car when we went to parties. I even Tweeted about my success and challenges @ComingCleanBlog. (Note: I’ll still be Tweeting here on a regular basis, post-detox diet. If you’re on Twitter, it’s a great way to do a quick check-in with each other to stay motivated. See who I’m following, too, for more inspiration and health information.) And eating before events helped a lot: When I found myself at a salad-less party, I could drink water and grab from the veggie tray, but wasn’t so hungry that I felt I was missing out.

The biggest challenges, of course, are social gatherings or going out to eat with friends. I confess, I’m still struggling to master these circumstances, and will no doubt examine them again as I continue to learn new strategies. It’s really near impossible to eat the UltraSimple detox way if you have an event to attend, unless you bring your own food or only hang out with similarly particular eaters (how frequently can you get a group of people who all want a diet that is dairy-free, gluten-free and sugar-free, not to mention chemical-, antibiotic- and hormone-free?), but you can sometimes get close. I’ll be highlighting some of my favorite tips this week, so make sure to check back.

Even though I found post-detox dieting life challenging, I’m still glad I stuck to the program for seven days and followed Hyman’s suggestions for transitioning out of detox. After four weeks, I lost 6.5 pounds, plus an inch off my waist and bust — more than I did after three months following a popular points-counting system. Within a few days on the detox, I felt less “puffy,” and noticed that my frequent upset stomach or headaches I previously quelled with food (thinking I was still hungry for the former or low on sugar for the latter) had vanished. My energy undulated throughout the month (my acupuncturist credits all the toxins leaving my system as a reason for my exhaustion), but I became more aware of how I felt and how food affected me. I now scrutinize labels before I buy or eat, and I study menus before I go to restaurants — something I once did religiously but have been neglecting as of late.

With this thoughtful assessment of food, however, my friends have declared me that girl — the one who has very specific requests to her order in restaurants, who suggests alternative locations if the menu lacks healthy options; who always asks what’s on the menu at parties and if there’s anything I can bring, that item always being a salad or veggie and bean dish; who won’t accept a prepackaged foodstuff without reading the label first.

But why shouldn’t I be that girl? Why shouldn’t we all? These eaters are sometimes referred to as fussy or picky, but we are simply discerning. With all of the information available on the food industry, and all that I’ve learned and read and watched in documentaries, I can’t just gobble down a plate of food without wondering about how it was cooked and from where it was sourced. I may get a little obsessed at times, but it works better for me on my path to wellness. (If anything, taking a moment to think about all this stalls the entire eating process, thus making me question my choice of creamy pasta dish or deep-dish pizza or “Buffalo kickers” in the first place). I’m finding it to be one of the easiest first steps in cleaning up my diet: Always choose the highest quality food you can. Real, organic food is delicious and packed with nutrients. Sitting with a plate of organic greens and hormone-free, free-range chicken with olive oil and lemon makes me feel fuller and more satisfied than, say, greasy fried chicken, which I could’ve easily devoured in the past and still felt hungry. So if I can do only one thing when it comes to eating, I will choose real, wholesome food.

Although I still miss cupcakes, I feel like I can have them occasionally in the future without getting back on the wrong track. For me, the UltraSimple way of eating, for the most part, is sustainable, and when a wedding or birthday party or reunion comes up with an unpredictable menu, I’ll feel like I can eat the healthier options but still have a (small) piece of cake if I want it. There are a lot of diets and suggestions for ways to eat out there, but I’ve gleaned some good tips from Dr. Hyman’s plan.

What have you learned from the UltraSimple Detox Diet? Share your triumphs and challenges with me here, or follow me @ComingCleanBlog on Twitter.  

Experience Life Magazine

UltraSimple Pre-Detox Prep

Detox diets are a relatively trendy concept. Although they’ve long been used by naturopathic, holistic, and integrative-medicine doctors, detox diets have been distorted by many (my friend continually confuses detoxing with fasting). Within the past few years, celebrities have claimed that detoxing — usually they mean the Master Cleanse, which is more like fasting while drinking a lemon, cayenne pepper and maple syrup beverage during the course of 10 to 14 days; or they mean colonics or, gulp, coffee enemas — has made all the difference in their bodies and appearance. Sadly, if this is all you think of when I say the word detox, then of course you’ll assume I’m a little extreme.

When I speak of detox (and when it’s discussed in the magazine — see Ann Gittleman’s piece in October 2009 and Courtney Helgoe’s discussion on detoxing in April 2010), I’m talking about elimination/reintroduction diets, where your daily menus consistent of whole, organic foods that are generally non-allergenic and non-inflammatory. Various supplements can (and should) be taken to make up any missing nutrients, and, over the course of several weeks after the “detox” period, foods are reintroduced. This is the basic formula — some naturopathic or integrative-medicine doctors also suggest hot baths, steams or saunas, skin brushing, or contrast showers to aid in the elimination of toxins from the body.

Before I started working at Experience Life, I had learned about Gittleman’s Fast Track Detox Diet from a former equally health-minded colleague. So I gave it a go in early 2008. I hadn’t taken the time to prepare myself, though, so I was still drinking wine a few days a week and three to four cups of coffee a day. Days 1 to 4 were hell: I had horrendous headaches and extremely low energy. But by day 5, I started to feel better. When day 8 came around, which required me to not eat for the entire 16-hour day but instead drink a cranberry-cinnamon tea (which was actually pretty tasty, especially when hot), I wasn’t phased by the lack of food. Really, during the other 13 days, I ate pretty well — and frequently. So when I heard about Hyman’s UltraSimple plan, I thought it would be easy. Seven days?! No problem.

Or so I thought. I tried the UltraSimple detox in March and only made it to day 4. But again, even though I was drinking far less wine and coffee, and had cut back on sweets, takeout and fried foods a little since starting at Experience Life in January, this detox was a shock to my system. And after my failure, I went back to eating the same — from what I recall, I may have even had a jucy lucy that weekend. I ended up feeling much worse.

I knew I had to try it again. After the Gittleman detox, I felt so great; with Hyman’s plan, I knew I could achieve similar results — or better. And I wanted a clean slate for my digestive tract (clean up my life, why not my GI tract, too?). But I knew I needed to be better prepared. Any success (however short-lived) I’ve had on diets, preparation has always been key.

So I began cutting out all the foods I depend on too frequently: lovely dairy (how tragic to take cheese from a Midwestern girl!), sweet treats and dark-and-rich black gold, er, coffee. Coffee was the hardest to kick, mostly because I count on my morning pick-me-up. A coworker mentioned overcoming a severe coffee addiction with the homeopathic remedy coffea cruda (chamomilla may also be suggested by your homeopath for habitual coffee drinkers), and although my symptoms aren’t as severe this time as the Great Winter Detox of 2008, I may have to find out more if I find myself hooked again.

Now, if you find yourself too attached to these treats, like me, you may have to use a full two weeks to eliminate them from your diet. (Especially if you, like me, have trouble getting away from the mindset of “the last meal” and use yours to include Chinese takeout, polishing off that bottle of wine, or a cupcake splurge with your pregnant friend in her kitchen before the husbands discover us…does specificity always equal truth?) I’ve been careful to retrain my thinking — this is for my health, I’ll feel better by improving my diet, I can eat those foods again in moderation, etc. — so that, while the UltraSimple detox is temporary, the change in diet that it’s creating is not. I’m seeing it as the beginning of better eating.