Sunday, December 30, 2007

Preparing for Raw in 2008

Recently I have been hanging out at Give It To Me Raw, a new social network that all of you who are interested in raw health should check out. It's chock full of positive energy and wisdom, and it has been an uplifting experience for me to post there. I've had a lot of fun there sharing my experiences, getting to know people, and reading responses to my posts and questions. I recently posted about my plans for 2008:

It's been so wonderful reading all of the stories and comments people have been posting at GITMR. This community is very open-minded and welcoming, which is a blessing. My raw odyssey has been an interesting one, but thanks to the internet, it doesn't feel so strange anymore, as I see that many people have jumped on and off the raw wagon, tried different percentages of raw vs. cooked foods, and tested various permutations of a raw diet. I think most of us have concluded that there is no one raw diet for an entire population of people, and that finding the right version is a personal journey.

My own journey began as 100% raw in January of 2006, and progressed to partially raw,then totally SAD, vegetarian, SAD again... and now I'm ready to get back to eating 100% raw. I've pretty much proved to myself that, for me, an unhealthy diet leads to the following things, either directly or indirectly:

1) Poor complexion (rough, dark patches on my cheeks, acne)
2) Digestion problems (noisy stomach, diarrhea, constipation)
3) Low energy, tiredness
4) Depression
5) Poorer quality of sleep
6) Difficulty focusing and concentrating
7) Back pain
8) Dry, scaly skin
9) Severe cravings for sugary/salty foods, binge eating
10) Increased appetite
11) Rapid weight gain
12) Edema (water retention)
I'm very excited about taking what I've learned in 2006 and 2007 from both my raw diet and my doctor visits, and applying it to my 2008 version of raw. This time I plan to do 5 simple things to rid myself of the above problems:

1) Eat a low carb version of raw
2) Drink green smoothies (daily, when possible)
3) Approach 100% raw, 100% whole foods
4) Don't be hard on myself if I occasionally wander off the path- just find my way back!
5) Monitor my health with my doctor throughout the year

I wish everyone success with your own versions of eating raw, and hope to learn from you throughout the year. Maybe I'll even meet some of you in person!

For those who haven't been to, drop by!! I think you'll like it.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Oh This BLAH Feeling. It Sucks!

I've been feeling very blah over the past month. I think it has much to do with my crappy diet and not so much to do with stopping the thyroid medication, even though I did feel a little mood uplift when I was taking it for that short amount of time. When I feel this way, I just want to stay in bed all day. I find it hard to concentrate on anything, and cannot motivate myself to start projects. The longer I feel this way, the more anxious I get because I can see myself wasting all sorts of time and not living my life. Through some kind of force of will I will get myself back to a mostly raw diet, knowing that this feeling will lift and my energy will come back.

I'm very good at not "acting depressed," as I hate to attract attention to myself in that way. In truth, I'd rather be invisible during times like this. But I was proud of myself for attending two holiday events this month rather than hiding out at home: I attended a holiday party thrown by my academic department at the university, and I attended a fancier event sponsored by my firm. I dressed up for the second event and did not wear a scarf or hair band to cover the thinner part of my hair- instead, I carefully styled it. I was nervous, but with my stress over my hair loss I've probably developed body dysmorphic disorder and am no longer any judge of my own appearance!

When I'm hit with this blah feeling, I often start reading self-help articles and looking for books about motivation, life purpose, ending procrastination and all that stuff. Deep down, though, I know that all that reading just gives me something to do while I'm waiting out the blue period. I truly believe that my diet plays the biggest role in my mood and energy changes, so the big issue is how to keep myself from falling off the raw wagon in the first place so I don't keep going through this "depression." After all, it's not like someone points a gun at me and makes me eat junk.

The silver lining in this cloud is that I have such a positive feeling about raw and whole foods and have a history of feeling great while I eat raw. A "diet" always seems like punishment, but even though eating raw has the same healthy benefits of a "diet," raw living is a treat for me. It's a different treat from the comfort foods I grew up eating, though, and those old, unhealthy comfort foods have not lost their draw for me. Maybe they never will. Ugh, what a thought!

Thank you for the informative comments you've been sending- I do make a note of them as well as publish them for others' benefit. The raw community is full of positive, informative people who share encouragement and advice. For those of you who are not aware, a new one has cropped up. Maybe I'll see you there?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Already Making Changes with the Medicine

I had a fantastic week vacationing with a friend in Sacramento. I got to visit San Francisco for the first time as well. I love that place! I can't wait to go back and truly explore. It seems like a great place to be a raw foodist and a fit person, what with the fresh produce, mild weather, and multitude of hills to climb for exercise.

Before leaving for my vacation I talked to my doctor about my hair loss, which seems to be accelerating. I find myself staring at my hairline with both fascination and trepidation. The doctor said that the thyroid medicine, despite being a low dose, could be accelerating the hair loss, and that stopping it would not be harmful at this point. He therefore advised me to stop taking the Armour and to see him in December for my already-planned appointment. What confusion!

So the only other weapon in my hair-loss arsenal is the low-carb/low saturated fat diet that is recommended for people suffering from PCOS/Insulin resistance. I am feeling rather noncommittal to a rigid "diet" right now, though. I am frustrated with this whole health experience, to be honest. I don't like taking medicine, and losing my hair is a nightmare, as is not knowing what is causing it yet. Furthermore, I'm sick of the topic already- I bore myself! A friend tells me to stop being vain about my hair and just keep trying the pills. I guess I could just wear a friggin' wig and get over it, but that's not an attitude I can adopt with just a snap of my fingers.

One thing I can do is adopt the new "diet" to combat my PCOS/Insulin resistance-like symptoms. Naturally, I didn't bother doing it while on vacation because ! wanted to eat all my Thanksgiving favorites. (I know- do the same thing you've always done and get the same results you've always gotten!) The holiday season is always difficult for me when it comes to eating healthfully because I've always used it as an excuse to eat "holiday food." I have not given up on the new strategy though. In fact, I've been carrying around my low carb grocery list, making it a part of daily life in a way. Sometimes I look through it and think about how limited it seems, but I know I can whip up some tasty meals using herbs and spices, so I don't have feel that I'm eating the same thing over and over.

I foresee the remainder of the year as being a gradual adoption of my new high-raw diet. I will get blood tests for the doctor and see him again in a couple of weeks to re-consult about my hypothyroid strategy. I think I will try to get a referral to an endocrinologist to look more closely at the PCOS/insulin resistance as well. I sure hope 2008 is smoother sailing!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Week Since Starting Armour Thyroid

It's been a bit over a week since I started taking my thyroid medication. It's too soon to notice any real effects, although I do feel that my mood has lifted a bit. That might just be a coincidence, but it's fine with me. What I'm really paying attention to is whether I continue to lose more hair. Because it is dry and brittle it still breaks, but I don't know for sure whether it is still falling out at the same rate. I'm going to wait a couple of more weeks before saying for sure whether the situation has changed.

Since starting the medication I must admit I have not stuck to a healthy diet whatsoever. Each time I jump off the raw wagon I notice the effect eating SAD has on me- my skin breaks out worse than usual, for one thing, and I feel sluggish and tired. I know I've gained back some of those pounds I've been losing but I refuse to weigh myself since I can tell from my clothes. I find myself looking forward to a post-Thanksgiving "cleansing" by returning to raw foods. I still believe there has been nothing better for me than raw, despite my hair loss (the jury is still out as to the cause of that, but we'll see if it might be due to hypothyroid issues).

Thank you to everyone who has been sending me information about PCOS, hypothyroidism and related matters. I truly appreciate the input and the personal stories. I have a lot to learn about these matters. From my readings, I still feel very positive about the ability of a low-carb/low saturated-fat raw diet to deal with insulin-resistance. Since learning that my dad has full-blown diabetes, I know it is even more important for me to keep an eye on any insulin-related trouble. So far I've been very lucky. My main concern with adjusting to low-carb/low saturated fat is the greater limit imposed on my grocery list. Eating a limited diet doesn't bother me so much when I'm too busy to care, but when I get bored- watch out!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Got the Blood Test Results

I saw the doctor today for the results of the blood tests for PCOS and hypothyroidism. The PCOS tests came back in the normal range, but the thyroid test wasn't so great. He prescribed Armour thyroid medication for me - 30 mg daily. I got the prescription filled this morning and have taken my first teeny tiny pill (so tiny I can't be sure it isn't stuck in a tooth somewhere). I'm not sure how I feel about the diagnosis. I'm thrilled that my thyroid might be responsible for the hair loss rather than my raw diet being responsible for it, but I'm not thrilled to have a "condition."

From what I've been learning, there is some connection between the symptoms of PCOS and the symptoms of hypothyroidism. I'm seeing that many women (not all!) are diagnosed with both. If you do a search on "hypothyroidism PCOS" you'll see websites that proclaim the two to be related. PCOS is polycystic ovary syndrome, and is associated with the growth of ovarian cysts (which I've had for over 10 years now), and can lead to insulin resistance, acne, hair loss and other unpleasant things. Hypothyroidism causes some of the same symptoms as PCOS, plus a slew of its own problems. I have symptoms associated with both of these conditions. It is like a giant maze trying to figure out what condition might be the cause of what symptom. My doctor believes that some of my symptoms point to PCOS, but he cannot diagnose that based on the test results. My dad was just diagnosed with diabetes this year, so my chances of having insulin resistance (or developing diabetes) is higher than I thought it was.

So, I'm thinking there is an indirect connection between MY eating raw and MY hair loss (this is a personal experience; I cannot speak for others.) Considering how ridiculously easy it is for me to gain weight, the family connection to diabetes, the dark patches of skin on my cheeks, my years of ovarian cysts, my doctor's beliefs, and other symptoms, I have reason to believe I have insulin resistance (IR) even if I don't have PCOS. A diet high in carbs is a problem for people with IR, and my raw diet is high in carbs. (What is considered "high carb?" I don't really know, but when I look at low-carb diets, most -if not all- are under 100 gms a day). Looking back over my 2006 diet, my carb intake was often between 125 and 200, and quite often over 200 gms per day. They were that high again this year, especially when I decided to add grains for protein after removing animal-based dairy from my diet. I've read from more than one source that grains are a relatively recent part of the human diet. They are associated with blood glucose problems, among other health issues. Yikes! So if I have insulin resistance and I'm eating a diet high in carbs -raw or not - I could be triggering the symptoms of insulin resistance that I've been seeing, such as the hair loss. Again, I'm not certain that this is my problem, but I may as well "act as if" by changing my diet to one that won't lead to the development of diabetes or any of its cousins.

My doctor told me that although he hates recommending Atkins to his patients, he has seen people with insulin resistance benefit from the low-carb/high protein diet by losing weight and lowering their cholesterol. The problem with Atkins is I have too much weight to lose. I'd be on the plan for too long, causing the high amounts of fat to do more harm than good. And I really don't want to eat all that meat and saturated fat anyway. So I'm putting together my own high-raw, low-carb/low-saturated-fat plan, which I will adjust as I learn more. Maybe I can get back to all-raw some day.

In my next blog post I will list the foods I plan to eat, and I'll track how the medicine and dietary changes affect my health and weight loss. The major improvements I'm hoping for include:

  • A return to my previous level of energy and ability to focus
  • Relief from dry skin
  • Improved ability to lose weight
  • Hair regrowth/cessation of hair loss
  • No more hair dryness or brittleness
  • Lifting of mild depression
  • Cessation of acne (I never had it when I was a kid!!)
  • Disappearance of dark patches on my face (cheeks)
  • Stronger fingernails
I've gotten some very helpful information from people trying to do raw while dealing with PCOS or hypothyroidism, and I'd love to know more about what you are doing. Also, if any of you out there take Armour, I'd appreciate knowing what I might expect over the next month or so.

So, this is yet another bend in the road of this Raw Odyssey. I never would have guessed a year ago that I'd be pursuing "low-carb raw," but I maintain that a raw diet must fit the needs of the individual. What works for one person can wreak havoc with someone else's body. We have to be open minded and willing to adjust our diet- and not feel like a failure if we have problems eating the way some "raw expert" tells us to eat. We have to educate ourselves and pay attention to our bodies.

By the way, if you have not come across the website "We Like It Raw" I highly recommend you check it out- no guru-speaking there! They support the individualized approach to constructing a healthy diet, provide lots of practical, helpful information, and introduce readers to others who follow a raw diet.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Another Round of Bloodwork

I met with a doctor that I found on the hypothyroidism website. A very nice and patient doctor who told me that based on my medical history, symptoms, and family history, I may have PCOS or hypothyroidism. Here's what I was told (in my own words, ok?) While my TSH score is in the low-normal range, my bloodwork did not show my T3, which could be outside the normal range and cause my symptoms. As for the PCOS, insulin resistance is often related to that condition, and carbohydrates would aggravate it. Of course I eat a lot of carbs on a vegetarian or vegan diet (raw or not). The doctor hates Atkins but says a low carb diet might be worth a try just to get the weight off.

I've been trying to get information on eating a raw diet when suffering from PCOS and as usual, nothing is conclusive. Raw foodists who don't have PCOS seem- for the most part- adamant about raw food being fine for PCOS sufferers. As is my norm, of course, I'm more interested in what raw foodists who actually have PCOS are doing. Now, I have no idea if I have hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, PCOS or whatever, but I do like to educate myself on an issue as well as collect firsthand stories from people going through a similar challenge. The power of the internet is most evident for me when people with similar experiences use it to share information and help each other out- especially when the medical establishment and gurus don't have the knowledge.

I get my results next Friday. I'm not sure what I want the results to be. I want to eat 100% raw, so I don't want the raw diet to be the cause of my problems. Yet I don't want to have to take thyroid pills or glucophage or that other PCOS medication I read about. I want to be all natural, darn it!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What about Hypothyroidism?

I've gotten some comments from readers of this blog and from other people about my hair loss symptoms, and I have found them all very interesting and helpful in one way or another. One thing that I've started to look at more seriously is hypothyroidism. A close friend who has it told me that my symptoms sound similar to hers. I figured that since my TSH level of .692 was within the .3 to 3.0 range, I have nothing to worry about. However, I've since learned that there is such a thing as "subclinical hypothyroidism" which involves symptoms of hypothyroidism when the TSH level is within the normal range.

I have suffered from some of the many symptoms listed for hypothyroidism: depression, difficulty focusing (a serious and stressful problem when you're a doctoral student), extremely dry skin to the point where it cracks, dry and brittle (and thinning) hair, and fatigue. My dietary changes this year definitely mitigated some of these symptoms: I've made an effort to drink more water, eat fresh vegetables daily, avoid processed foods and red meats; these improved my BP, sleep pattern, skin condition and other things.

The thing that still throws me is that I noticed the hair loss only after I turned to the raw diet last year, and it stopped after I went back to SAD. Then it started again this year with the high-raw. Mere coincidence? Who knows. It would be great if a raw diet could help with TSH levels but from what I've read, you have to take medicine to correct thyroid problems. I hate taking medicine. Even vitamins are a pain - I have to set an alarm to remember to take the B-complex 4 times a day. But if my thyroid is the problem, then the upside is that I can eat 100% raw again, knowing it isn't causing hair loss. Time to make a doctor's appointment!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Good Things

At work on Friday one of my coworkers looked me up and down and said, "you're losing weight, aren't you?" That was great- my first unsolicited weight loss comment! I had gotten a comment from another coworker a week or so earlier, but she is seeing the same nutritionist I am and was expecting to see me lose weight, so I didn't count her comment as purely unsolicited (hey, I have strict standards about what counts as unsolicited.) I am starting to fit into previously-tight clothing. I don't feel totally comfortable in them yet because I tend to wear loose clothing, but I have worn a few items to work these past couple of weeks that haven't fit me since last summer.

Another thing that made me feel good was my walk around the neighborhood. If I want to start walking to work again some day, it would benefit me to get a feel for walking around outdoors. Work is a 5-mile trek, but since I recently did 3.1 mph for 3 miles on the treadmill with variable inclines, I'm not thinking I can't do it. I just need to replace my worn out sneakers so my feet stop hurting! A faster speed won't make my journey to health any better than a slower speed, so I have no reason to hurry on this walk. 2.5 mph will be just fine, and my iPod will make the trip enjoyable. During my walk in the neighborhood this week, however, I didn't even bother turning on the iPod- it was just nice listening to the traffic and noticing the breeze and sunset. Part of the fun of walking is the greater connection I feel to the environment. When I used to walk 5 miles to work in Ohio, I noticed construction sites, chunks missing in the sidewalk, favorite haunts of squirrels, different types of trees- things I never pay attention to while driving. By walking, not only am I using my body to accomplish something necessary (rather than walking to nowhere on a treadmill), I'm becoming more familiar with the community surrounding me AND putting one less car out on the road.

So, three encouraging things have happened this week: I've made it past the 30 lb mark, my weight loss was noticed without my saying a word, and I'm one step closer to walking to work.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Getting those B's for Hair, Skin and Mental Health

This past week I’ve had a harder time keeping to my chosen food list than usual. Stress from adjusting to my academic and work schedule still has me turning to food more than I’d like. Still, I am being careful and although I gained a pound one week, I’m now down 32 lbs total since early June. In 18 more pounds I’ll have lost my goal of 50 for the year. I believe it is doable, and I’m looking forward to reaching that first milestone.

I asked my nutritionist about the B-Complex vitamins she is giving me. She is so confident that they will help me regrow my hair and process proteins that I decided to look up B-Complex vitamins online. I found that they are really 8 unrelated nutrients: Biotin, Cyanocobalamin, Folic Acid, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Pyridoxine, Riboflavin, and Thiamin. Individually, they perform different tasks, such as breaking down proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and helping with the health of your skin, hair, eyes, mouth and liver -and even with the muscles of your intestinal tract and stomach. Biotin is the one associated with hair health. Niacin is related to healthy skin and lifting depression. Pyridoxine is related to the proteins.

Now, I know I can get these B vitamins pretty easily from foods. According to the list I found at, I should include the following foods (I’ve subtracted the non-vegan ones) in my diet:

Vitamin B1 or Thiamine: beans, wheat bran, peanuts, and sunflower seeds.

Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin: whole grains, legumes vegetables (green leafy), nuts.

Vitamin B3 or Niacin: green leafy vegetables, seeds, asparagus, legumes, cereals, peanut yeast, nuts, and coffee.

Vitamin B5 or Pantothenic Acid: whole wheat, whole rye, torula yeast, nuts, mushrooms, legumes, vegetables, brewer’s yeast.

Vitamin B6 or Piridoxine: walnuts, wheat germ, peas, carrots, and brewer’s yeast.

Vitamin B7 or Biotin: nuts, brewers yeast, spinach, mushroom, and cauliflower.

Vitamin B9 or Folic Acid: whole grains, beans, starchy vegetables, fruit, broccoli, and spinach.

Vitamin B12 or Coalmine: (only found in animals)

I already eat all of these foods except peanuts, asparagus, cereals, mushrooms, and yeast (yuck!). But I can honestly say I wasn’t eating them in large amounts. In fact, I didn’t start purposely eating more grains and nuts until recently. My VitaMix (on my wish list!) will help with the leafy greens, and I’ll continue with the nuts, seeds and grains. I’ve been trying to get used to snacking on carrots during the day- I guess that’s a good thing since it is in the Piridoxine list (protein assistance). But the main thing is to eat a variety of foods rather than focusing on just the “hair” or “protein breakdown” nutrients. And getting our vitamins from foods is always better than getting them from a pill. Still, I’m going to continue taking the vitamins for a while because I’m curious to see whether my hair, my complexion, and even the slight ridges in my fingernails improve over the next couple of months. Over time, though, I’ll replace the pills with food sources.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Gym Therapy

This wasn't the best weekend for me- I felt pretty blue and found it almost impossible to concentrate on my studies. Finally I decided to take myself to the gym- supposedly that helps with depression, especially when you go regularly. I decided to just do what I felt capable of doing. I ended up doing 3 miles on the treadmill in about an hour. I will be very sore tomorrow but it was worth it. If I can get myself to do 30 minutes a day, I'll be happy. I've already been lifting a 10 lb weight every other day for a few weeks now, so I know I've built up a little muscle by now in my arms and torso.

Both yesterday and today I got about 80 grams of protein by eating fat-free yogurt, my high-protein soup, quinoa, lentils and pepitas in addition to my other foods like fruit and salad. I had a Trader Joe's protein shake yesterday and have one more left. I've been taking MSM and the B-Complex vitamins (which I swear give me gas!!!)- I hope all of that is good hair therapy. By December maybe I'll have filled in the thinning areas.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


This week I've finally had to acknowledge that my hair is falling out again. I thought it was my imagination at first but no, it's falling out and I feel horrible. What makes it worse is that I'm not even 100 percent raw- I've just been easing into it gradually. I can't figure out what it is I am missing in my diet that would cause my hair to fall out. I'm not losing weight too quickly. My blood tests were all normal except for the high cholesterol. My protein levels are certainly lower than when I was eating meat, but could I really need that much protein to keep myself from losing hair?

Interestingly, when I told my nutritionist about this, and told her (sadly) that I am thinking of adding dairy and fish back into my diet, she seemed to suddenly "come out" about her lack of belief in raw, like she was relieved. Nothing overt, but I could just tell she was all too happy about it! She didn't even suggest anything to help me figure out what the hair loss might stem from. This didn't totally surprise me, as she never seemed to totally understand the raw diet anyway. I guess she was just tolerating it. Still, I benefit from seeing her right now, mainly because knowing I have a nutritionist keeps me focusing on my health, and I like the one-on-one attention better than group meetings like Weight Watchers (whose program I like, by the way). I am thinking of seeing her until I reach my initial 50-lb weight loss goal.

Anyways... the nutritionist told me that one of my problems may be that I am not absorbing enough amino acids, perhaps due to stress. That was a new one on me- why didn't she tell me that before, I wonder. She gave me these B-Complex chewable tablets to try. You eat EIGHT of the nasty things a day, with or without food. They are made of natural ingredients including, unfortunately, soy. She said that taking these will help my body to absorb protein. I figured I'll give it a try. She says she feels a boost of energy when she takes them, but I've never been one to feel more energetic from any particular food except strong coffee (but I don't think of the shakes as energy). I've taken 6 of the vitamins so far and I don't feel a bit different. I have two more to go. Yum.

So, I must say that I am not happy with the way my raw odyssey is going, but that just means I need to rethink things. I do not have to be 100% raw or any particular percentage. My goal is health, so if eating 100% raw vegan isn't healthy for me, then I have to find what is. Until I see evidence that my hair has stopped falling out, I am going to put nonfat cottage cheese, Greek style non-fat yogurt (from Trader Joe's!), and salmon back into my diet. Those, along with hemp, edamame, quinoa, lentils, nuts and seeds will ensure I get a lot more protein than I was getting. I'll keep my calories between 1300 and 1600 daily. Once in a while I will do a whey protein shake. I'll eat plenty of raw fruits and vegetables, drink lots of water, and try to think healthy, happy thoughts. :-)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Still Going Strong!

Despite not being 100% raw yet, I'm continuing to lose weight and so far I am feeling quite healthy. I have become more accustomed to grains and beans and now I combine quinoa with lentils and vegetables for one meal daily. Breakfast is usually fruit. I often have an ounce of almonds as a snack or even with my breakfast, but I'm reconsidering continuing that since they add a lot of calories but only a few grams of protein. I can honestly say I don't miss dairy as much as I thought I would.

Speaking of protein, I've been getting between only 40 and 60 grams daily with this new McDougall-influenced way of eating. Since I have been aiming for 60 - 80, I'm not entirely happy. However, I'll keep plugging away and trying new foods over the next few weeks. The bulk of my protein comes from lentils. Combined with a grain and vegetables I can get a complete protein- this is where comes in handy; I use the recipe analyzer to see if my food combinations give me the nutrition I'm looking for.

Today my nutritionist weighed and measured me. I have lost about 29 lbs, and 54 inches total since early June. Although it's nice to see my clothes get looser, I don't get excited about the weight loss too much. When I lose 50 lbs I might get excited again. However, I was happy with my blood pressure of 110/80.

My goal is still to lose 50 lbs before the end of the year. To that end I started some light weight training about a month ago using a 10-lb free weight. I need to start the cardio again but haven't been motivated enough. Now that the weather is nice I want to start walking outdoors. I've also still got that VitaMix in my sights, and I'm even more motivated to use it since hearing Victoria Boutenko talk about green smoothies. I've tried green smoothies and can't say I like them, but I know they are good for me and will help me on my road to an all-raw or high-raw diet.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Beautiful Lentils

I was feeling pretty good about all the grains I've been preparing, but I have seen my carbohydrate intake rise sharply. Is this a bad thing? According to Dr. Mercola, a low grain diet may be more healthy than the high-grain one I've been working on. Darn you, Dr. Mercola! Actually, other nutrition resources also warn against high carb meals because carbohydrates can increase blood sugar levels. I'm still going to increase my grains and legumes because I wasn't eating any before, but I tell you, it is so frustrating trying to put together a well-balanced diet. You'd think since I'm paying a nutritionist to help me, I'd let her do her job, wouldn't you? I will ask her this week to craft a mostly-raw, vegan menu plan for seven days.

The meal I enjoyed the most today was steamed lentils combined with quinoa. Not only was it delicious, but these two ingredients were very pretty together in the bowl. I loved the textures and the varying shades of brown. There's something to be said for attractive-looking meals! The lentils came from Trader Joe's and are precooked. I prepared the quinoa in my rice cooker. I think I might have used too much water because it came out very clumpy, but I actually liked the two textures together. The picture above doesn't quite do it justice.

So here's what I ate today, for a total of 1589 calories, 56 grams of fat (6 saturated), 235 gms carbs, 59 gms protein, and 64 grms fiber

Breakfast: fruit salad
Honeydew Melon
Kiwi Fruit
Almonds, 1 oz

Trader Joe's Couscous Salad, (1/2 the package)
1/2 Avocado
Hemp seed
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Red Ripe Tomatoes
Spinach, fresh
My salad from yesterday

1/2 Avocado

By the way, Dr. Mercola's article on low grain diets can be found via the following link:

Monday, September 17, 2007

New Recipes

Today I tried to get 60 gms of protein, minimum, without resorting to protein powder. I started with a smoothie with 4 tablespoons of the shelled hemp seed for breakfast. It was better this time because I knew to blend it more thoroughly with my immersion blender, but there was still some texture.

For lunch I had half of a Trader Joe's couscous salad into which I added 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds for additional protein. As a snack I had an ounce of almonds.

Dinner was a raw salad I made based on Israeli Salad (photo above): diced cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, and green onions, with cilantro, garlic, and the juice of half a lime. I also added fresh corn. I loved this salad so much that I am experimenting adding it to different grains and legumes to give me the protein I'm always after. I've got it mixed with quinoa, with lentils, and with millet. I'll try these three over the next couple of days.

At the end of today I was in the 50 gram range for protein, so I ate a handful of sunflower seeds, pepitos, and 1/2 ounce of almonds. That gave me a little over 60 grams, but I got a lot of fat for my trouble. It's the good fat, but too much of anything is a problem, and I'm not sure how a lot of plant fat will affect my rate of weight loss. Although weight loss is not my primary focus, I do want to get 50 lbs off this year.

Thanks, ren, for the Rice Protein information. I hope to avoid using protein powders altogether, but if I decided to use some on days I don't get enough, rice protein powder would help me without giving me soy or animal products. (For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, it is also low carb).

That's it for today. Tomorrow is the grains challenge.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

First Day of Veganhood

My first day of veganhood was not meant to be raw, but I can see that eating a raw vegan diet will be very difficult in the beginning as I figure out how to handle grains and legumes. I'm not sure I'll achieve 100% raw veganhood, but that's ok with me as long as most of my diet consists of fresh, whole, unprocessed foods. I still look forward to a VitaMix and dehydrator to make a raw vegan diet more interesting and easier to achieve.

Yesterday morning I made my hempseed and fruit smoothie. I used the immersion blender (the only blender I own right now) to blend hemp with some orange juice. When it looked creamy enough I added the banana and mango. The taste was... all right, really. But the texture was not pleasant. I guess an immersion blender is not the right tool for emulsifying hemp seed, but I can see the potential for using hemp as a smoothie protein so I'm not totally giving up. I used 4 tbsp of hemp, but I might use more next time, or I might end my day with a second hemp smoothie. Lots of fat in hemp seed, but it's the good kind.

My plan for the day was to have almonds and beans but my day did not proceed as planned. First, I have a friend visiting so we were out until early Saturday morning. I was so sleepy that after my smoothie and some studying for my class, I ended up sleeping again, and missing lunch. I had a dinner planned with a group of friends, but with business to take care of my friend and I decided to eat at Chipotle so that I would get a healthy meal before dinner (in case the restaurant didn't have anything I could eat). At Chipotle I had the vegetarian burrito bowl with only the black beans, grilled bell peppers & onion, corn and tomato salsas, lettuce, and gauacamole. It sounds like a huge meal but it wasn't that large due to the absence of rice. I liked this meal so much that I will definitely work harder at creating a tasty black bean dish. Coincidentally, "Around Harlem" left me a comment with a recipe for black beans (we must be on the same wavelength):

"I don't have a name for this, it's something that I just threw together and it tastes good. The quick easy version is to take a can of black beans, corn and salsa and mix together. You have a really tasty side dish.The healthiest version would be to make your own beans, use fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapano, corn and cilantro. The ingredient that makes the dish extra special is to add chili powder."

Thank you for the recipe, and for the two others added to the comments to yesterday's post. I would love to collect more ideas from anyone who eats legumes and whole grains- those are the most challenging aspect of eating a vegan diet, not to mention a raw vegan diet.

My dinner was at an Italian restaurant that had a surprisingly tiny salad section: Caesar Salad or a "dinner salad" (nothing but lettuce and a couple of cherry tomatoes). I decided to have the penne and greens, which was escarole cooked in olive oil and garlic, and penne pasta. I drank Pellegrino and ate half the dinner, stopping when I was satisfied. Later in the evening my friend and I went dancing, so that helped me satisfy my exercise requirements. I tried not to think of it as burning calories but it's hard not to wonder if I worked off anything. I do know that as of Sunday morning I am down another pound and feeling healthy.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

No More Dairy!

This is the weekend that I try eating an all vegan, mostly-raw diet- no animal products at all! No protein powder, since the ones I've found come from animals or soy (I rarely eat soy). No more yogurt or cottage cheese. No beloved sushi. I bought my foods using McDougall's list as my guide. He is not a raw foodist; he advocates a plant & carbohydrate-based diet. Some of the foods on his list I'll have no problem eating raw, but others I will very gladly cook. My experience last year with soaked grains left much to be desired.

At Whole Foods I found cooked millet at the salad bar. On the shelves of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's I found seeds: pepitos, shelled hemp and ground flax. The flax is probably not raw, but the other two are. Also, a box of quinoa. Being 100% raw with these foods will be a challenge if I can't find a pleasant way to prepare whole grains, but I'm not terribly worried about this; I'm more concerned with getting all my nutritional needs met through whole foods that are as unprocessed as possible before I get to them.

Other foods I bought include: lentils, pinto beans, mango, bananas, kiwifruit, tomatoes, garlic, scallions, cilantro, avocados, Ezekiel sprouted bread, spinach leaves, yams and limes. These will join the couscous, sunflower seeds, almonds, kidney beans, and black beans already in the house. Another trip to the store and I'll have additional vegetables and fruits to round out my menu.

My challenge will be to see how creative I can be with foods I normally don't eat. I have no real experience with millet or quinoa, and my experience with beans often included smoked ham or, at the very least, sazon seasoning (which I cannot find down here!). I should be cutting back on the salt and spices anyway, because it's good to enjoy nature's foods plain. I'm a little worried about the beans because I know they will be bland. I will definitely need to look up recipes to make this stuff interesting and varied.

I made a test menu for tomorrow to see what the nutritional profile would be. In the morning I have a smoothie with the main ingredients being banana, mango and hemp seeds- simple, and apparently the hemp seeds will make it very creamy. For lunch I have a salad with all sorts of seeds and grains. I have 1.5 ounces of almonds as a snack. For dinner I've got lentils and broccoli, and will probably make a little salsa or salad. The profile looks like this: 48 grams of fiber (I'll probably get sick from that!), about 65 grams of protein, 188 carbs, 76 grams of healthy fat (7 gms saturated), all for 1,595 calories. I think this is decent for a first pass.

If anyone has ideas for dealing with the grains and legumes, I'd appreciate both vegan and raw recipes!!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Communing with Nature

I had a wonderful weekend exploring the natural wonders of the Southwest. The unspoiled desert is truly beautiful. I’ve known since I was a child that I would end up somewhere down here. These are my colors, my weather, and my creatures! I took many photographs as I wandered through Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas. I don’t ask for much out of life; being around nature reminds me that I really don’t need much. Yes, I must work in order to have a roof over my head, and getting an education gives me more choices in the kinds of jobs I can have, so I must study. I must sleep and eat as well. But on a daily basis, life is pretty simple for me- much more simple than I can make it sometimes, worrying about whether I’m doing something “correctly.” When I’m around nature I don’t think about what I eat, how much I eat, what the scale says, who’s going to criticize my food choices, etc. All of that seems so abnormal and silly when I’m communing with nature. And so I return home after these jaunts feeling more whole and at ease with myself. As long as I am doing what is right for me, I am happy!

Note to Raw Vegan Mama: You are right, McDougall doesn't advocate dairy, but he does list an egg substitute I'd never heard of. It's probably not dairy. I know Egg Beaters are, but I'm just not giving them up quite yet!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Transitioning to All Raw

Boy, was I sick today! I couldn't even make it through a whole day at the office. I'm hoping the problem is just the added fiber in my diet; I started adding fiber over the past few days. I was not well yesterday either, but today I had stabbing cramps in my side, which felt so much like my ovarian cyst attack from a couple of years ago that I was worried. If fiber is the problem, I will feel better soon enough. Adding fiber to my diet is part of my transition to an all-raw life as I look at all the areas in which my diet is lacking and take care of those before going all-raw.

I've been looking at the McDougall Plan to see how I can use that in my transition. I like much of what is listed on his food list, except the pasta. Now, I know that raw foodists and vegetarians don't worry about a lack of protein, but my nutritional history has made me very leery of assuming that simply eating raw will provide me with ample protein. I did a little comparison of dairy products with foods on the McDougall list to see how much of those foods I'd have to eat to get the same amount of protein I get from whey, Egg Beaters, nonfat yogurt and cottage cheese. So far, it looks like I'd have to eat a whole lot more carbs and fat to get the same protein. Seeds would be lower carb/higher fat choices, and beans would be higher carb/lower fat choices. For one cup of nonfat Greek yogurt(100 cal, no fat, 5 carbs, no fiber, 3 sugar, 20 protein) I could substitute:

  • 1 cup sunflower seeds: 262 cal, 23 gm fat, 9 carbs, 10 protein
  • ½ c walnuts, black: 381 cal, 37 gm fat, 6 carbs, 15 protein
  • 1 cup fava beans: 110.0 cal, .9 gm fat, 22.2 carbs, 10 protein
I have more homework to do, of course, but I can see why one meal at the local raw cafe fills me up all day- all the seeds and nuts they use are so filling (as well as very nutritious).

I have now lost 23.5 lbs since June 10th. My BP remains around 120/80.

I have cut fish out as a regular part of my diet (no more weekly sushi- just occasionally) and have added more nuts and seeds. I doubt I will buy any more tofu. The next move in my transition to all-raw will likely be to remove yogurt and cottage cheese, but hang on to the Egg Beaters and whey for a little while. At that point I may move to the McDougall plan. I noticed he suggests an egg substitute on his list- that means I can hang on to the Egg Beaters a bit longer.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Ever Heard of the McDougall Program?

I continue to look for ways to transition to a raw diet, slowly eliminating the dairy foods I'm eating and adding more plant-based foods. Today I was reading about the McDougall Program. It is not meant as a raw diet, but it does tout whole, unprocessed foods, for the most part (and you can eat many of the foods raw, of course). The differences between what he promotes and what I eat now is that he doesn't allow dairy or any type of vegetable oil (I love my olive oil). He also promotes the use of tofu as a replacement for some common Standard American Diet foods, while I eat tofu only in moderation due to the controversy over whether soy is good or bad for you. His diet is centered around starchy vegetables, with fruits and vegetables (green and yellow) making up much of the rest of the diet. He promotes the use of whole grains, egg free pasta and a tiny amount of noodles made from highly-refined flours (he prefers unrefined flours). He provides a 12-day diet plan and grocery list.

What I really like is that he encourages people to get lab tests from their doctors and to chart their progress so they can see the difference the diet makes. Those of you who have read my blog over the past year know that I'm a little jaded about following anecdotal advice from raw food enthusiasts regarding what I should eat. I'm all about trying something new if I feel the rationale is based on established facts and not just spiritual or political beliefs. (I have nothing against spirituality or politics, but when it comes to my health I prefer to eat what my own body responds well to and my lab results show me works well).

So I'm thinking that the next time I go shopping, I may take his shopping list with me and give this McDougall plan a try as a stepping stone to all-raw. I'm concerned about protein, still, but he- like many raw foodists, in fact- is not concerned about protein deficiencies from plant-based foods. He does recommend a B-12 vitamin for long term McDougall plan followers.

What do you think of the McDougall Program? Here's the link so you can read about it yourself:

Friday, August 31, 2007

Being Active Naturally

Today I went swimming for the first time in years. Hating the way I look, I'm not the type of person to willingly don a bathing suit and be seen in public. But a friend who has no such image consciousness has been a good role model for me this week and so today I found myself in the pool, wearing the bathing suit that I got many weeks ago but had never worn.

I love water and felt great in the pool- it's outdoors, so in the 100+ degrees heat it was comfortably warm- a bit cooler than body temperature. I didn't swim too long, just enough to remember what it feels like, and to try swimming underwater, floating, and doing a lap or two. I'm out of shape so I got out of breath pretty quickly, and staying underwater was a challenge- I guess the more fat you carry, the easier it is to float rather than remain underwater. I used to swim along the bottom of the pool and hold my breath for a long time. The treat after swimming is laying in the warm air for an hour or so with a cooler of water and my iPod. Mmmmm - this is sounding better already!

I wanted so much to calculate how much swimming it takes to burn a certain number of calories, but my nutritionist rightly discouraged me from using exercise to burn off a meal, because it actually takes a long time to burn calories through exercise. When you think about it, we've been trained to see value in physical movement in terms of calories we burn. Seems like all the women's magazines have charts telling us how many calories we can burn from mowing the lawn, walking the dog, carrying groceries up the stairs, playing tennis, etc. I wish I hadn't learned to associate exercise with calorie-burning because now I do a kind of cost-benefit analysis when I embark on a physical activity.

When I weighed 170 lbs or so and was a size 8/10 I used to LOVE moving my body- sports, walking - even taking the bus- were all enjoyable because I was able to do them without the hindrance of being unfit or being "too big." Being active was not second nature, but FIRST nature. I would put on a nice summer dress on a sunny day and walk a mile or three to a shop I liked, or to a cafe that I might sit in for a couple of hours. I didn't think about how many calories I was burning because I was beyond that- I was living life. This is where I am headed again. I got sidetracked for a few years, but I'm back on track.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Nutritionist Day Again

I figured out a way to explain my way of eating to the nutritionist. I told her that at the end of the day, I want to have met my nutritional goals - particularly calories, fiber, saturated fat, carbs, protein, vitamins and water intake. The easiest way for me to meet most of these goals is to eat a largely raw, unprocessed diet. Because most of my food is raw, the less-healthy items don't destroy my day nutritionally. I told her that I don't want to deal with the Raw Police! She gets it, and can see that my daily intake is nutritionally sound- except on those days that I am low on calories or protein (still issues for me when I eat a high-raw diet).

One thing I really have to work on is making each meal nutritionally sound. I may meet my nutritional goals by the end of the day but I don't do it as healthfully as I could. If I get frazzled and don't set time aside to put a balanced meal together, I find myself eating anything that best fits my nutritional requirements thus far. Lacking protein and there are nuts available? I'll have two ounces of nuts, or a protein shake.My nutritionist hates that! She told me that each of my meals should be balanced rather than overly representative of any particular nutrient. I will have to work harder to create balanced meals and to spread those calories throughout the day.

Anyway, I managed to lose another 2 lbs, so now I'm down 22 since June 10th. My pants are definitely looser but not a soul has noticed that I look any slimmer. Oh well- it'll be that much more fun when someone does see a difference.

Monday, August 27, 2007

I Get Tired of Explaining

I saw a different nutritionist today because my regular one was out due to an emergency.  Had I known, I wouldn't have even gone, because it's such a pain trying to explain to people my strange food list. I'm on my way to raw so 1) not all my foods are raw 2) some of my nonraw foods are highly processed (but I haven't chosen them haphazardly) and 3) there are still foods I eat that really don't "belong" - these are the junk I eat when I give in to cravings or temptation.  I'm still dealing with food issues, so combine that with the first two things and people don't know what to make of my diet!   Sure enough, the new nutritionist asked me what I was doing, because although she'd heard I was eating raw, she couldn't tell that from my food lists.  I explained to her that I'd done 100% raw last year and that I am headed in that direction again, but easing into it this time so that I don't lose weight too quickly, and so I can avoid the low protein levels I experienced.  Yes, I eat the occasional weird item when I give in to temptation, but I don't want to punish myself over it. 

So she reads my food list to herself and makes a point of reading out loud only the brownie and pizza. GRRRR.  I don't go to a nutritionist to have my foods "checked"! I go primarily for education, and secondarily for weight tracking.  I politely exlained the stage I am at in this raw odyssey of mine, and told her that I am not striving for perfection, and that I will eat the occasional treat.  She recognized that I was not going to act sorry or feel chastised, and agreed with me that perfection is not a good goal.   She weighed me and said that despite those  two foods, I didn't gain. Well, the reason I didn't gain is because my other meals that day were raw (very low calorie and very low fat, too)! The pizza and brownie therefore didn't put me over the fat or calorie amounts that I aim for each day. 

I am learning that I have to teach the nutritionists how to help me as much as they need to teach me about nutrition.  They are used to playing cheerleader, lecturer and scolder, but I'm through with those approaches.  I'm even rethinking asking for support for my long history of "food issues."   I think all I really want is the nutritional education and weight tracking.  The cheerleading doesn't make me happy, and the "naughty girl" stuff just gets on my nerves. They still give me advice for cooked foods and try to get me to buy their vegetarian cookbook, but I just smile and say no, thank you- and they say, "oh, that's right! You eat raw." But I do have to say that overall, I like the service I am getting from the nutritionists and feel it is worth the price. Having knowledgeable people to keep tabs on my nutritional intake and give me feedback is all I'm really looking for. What I'm doing is new to them, but because of their vegetarian backgrounds they are supportive of a raw diet. And I've lost 20 lbs!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Back to Trader Joe's

Today I took my protein-enhanced grocery list to Trader Joe's to see what they carry. The only spirulina I found came in pill form. When I saw that the bottle gives the protein content for a 9-pill serving I said FORGET IT! I'm just not into pills. Vitamins are hard enough for me to remember, and I like vitamins right now! I thought I'd find some other form of spirulina there but I didn't.

I picked up some Greek style yogurt, whey powder, raw almonds, snow peas, berries, several packaged salads (yes, I'm lazy), spinach and mangoes. My processed/non-raw protein sources for the week will be yogurt, Eggbeaters, cottage cheese, tofu, garbanzo beans and whey powder. The rest of the protein will come from hemp, nuts, greens and the protein in the veggies I use in my salads.

Oh-I did decide to try a couple of protein drinks from the refrigerated section. I'll save those for when I find my protein to be lower than I'd like at the end of the day. I considered protein bars but they really are too processed for my taste right now. The other thing about the protein bars is that they look too much like candy, are sweet, and will probably trigger cravings for stuff I want to stay far away from. I don't think it's good for me to keep any on hand. They sure are convenient, though!

When I shop, I look closely at labels to see how much nutritional bang I'm getting for the buck. I don't worry about fat content too much if the fat is not saturated, but if a food is high-calorie, I prefer that it has a good amount of protein rather than a lot of fat. I will tend to avoid foods high in carbs if they aren't also high in fiber (veggies I'll eat regardless, though). I generally choose foods that are lower in sodium and sugar. As far as processed foods, my most basic "rule" is that the closer the food looks to its natural state, the more likely it is to make it into my diet. Again, exceptions are those foods that give me the boost of protein I'm looking for.

To Go 100% Raw or Not?

I am trying to construct a raw vegan diet of practical foods that will give me upwards of 80 gms of protein per day without requiring me to eat uncomfortable volumes of food. By practical I mean affordable, tasty, and easy to incorporate into a meal/smoothie or to eat as a snack. Today I went through some raw vegan websites to get a list of foods that are a complete protein (or close to it). The best I've found so far are:

Spirulina, raw
hemp seeds
flax seeds
yeast extract spread
pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
whey powder
raw spinach

The other issue I'll have to contend with is the volume of food I'll have to consume to get 1400 calories a day. One of the reasons I eat Eggbeaters and tofu is because those foods are higher protein, are filling, and give me needed calories without having to eat a huge amount. Foods like those in the list aren't quite as satisfying because although they will provide calories, I don't see them filling me up like a meal would. And I'd have to eat LOTS of spinach to get a significant amount of protein from it. This makes me think I'll be relying on protein shakes more, but that's no good because even if they are the only non-raw thing I consume, I'll probably have to consume them twice a day to get about 40 grams of protein. I could add raw cheeses from Whole Foods; they didn't seem to hurt me last year.

My goal is not to be raw for political or spiritual reasons, but simply for health, so I don't feel like a failure if I consume protein shakes. Getting protein is more important to me than anything else on this raw diet, because the other nutrients- except fibers- are simple to acquire. The reason I want all raw is because I don't have food cravings when I eat that way. I'm not sure which non-raw foods I'm eating now are triggering the cravings, so I may eliminate them all except oatmeal and see how that works out. I will probably take B12 pills, as vegan sites warn about the low-B2 levels of vegetarians and vegans.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I Made it through the Workshop...

...with minimal dietary damage. Yesterday I blogged about the problems I experience with trying to maintain my raw diet when faced with marathon workshops, seminars, and catered events. This morning I ate a handful of almonds and half a banana before the event, drank water before lunch, and when the catered food arrived, chose the bean salad (edamame, kidney, and garbanzos), and half a turkey sandwich with lettuce and tomato on whole wheat (no cheese or condiments). The "worst" thing I did, though, was eat a delicious looking brownie! Ha ha! There was a woman who said she was a vegetarian. What did she eat? The fattening macaroni & mayo salad, the fattening potato salad AND the brownie! I guess I chose to err on the side of low fat (except for the brownie). Looking back, I could have taken the turkey out of the sandwich, but... naaaahh!!! I'm all right with what I ended up eating. However, I do appreciate the suggestions I've gotten for future events. Thank you Lauren for telling me about the LaraBars in particular- I might buy some for "emergencies." If anyone else has ideas, please send them in!

At today's weigh-in I found I am down two more pounds. Now I'm 20 lbs down since June 10th. That's another reason I didn't freak over the brownie. A treat once in a while is all right when I'm doing well (as long I don't get triggered into binging, that is). My BP was 120/82, down from 120/90 on Monday. I know that I am less stressed since Monday (a major stressor was resolved on Tuesday), and I have deliberately drunk more water since then, so these probably helped. I am increasingly leaning towards not eating fish anymore and getting my protein from raw fruits and vegetables, cooked legumes and grains, whey powder, and some dairy products: fat free or low fat yogurt, cottage cheese, and eggbeaters. (If I keep saying that enough, it'll happen!)

Well, that's it for today!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Desperately in Need of Raw Snack Ideas

The busier I get at my job and with my classes, the more often I will have to deal with eating outside of the house. It's such a challenge! My desire to stick to raw foods is so strong that at times I will risk severe stomach pain, headaches and lightheadedness because I stubbornly refuse to eat the non-raw foods available- I just drink water and go hungry. I have to figure out how to deal with this. Sometimes I am lucky and there is salad or a fruit tray available at the venue, but often there are just fattening entrees and foods I don't eat anymore. Catered events often have vegetarian options, but many of them are swimming in cheese or oils. If I liked carrots and celery I would carry those, but I can't stand them and they don't fill me up. Apples give me a stomach ache, and other fruits are too soft or too messy. Perhaps I should carry flax seed crackers and eat those during the lunch breaks we get during these marathon workshops, seminars and staff meetings. If anyone has better ideas, though, I would appreciate your sending them.

Monday, August 20, 2007

What a Day....

I've come to That Point in my raw diet. There appear to be several benchmarks (for want of a better word) that I reach in the early stages of my raw odyssey. One is a point where I've eaten the same thing over and over and start to get bored. There's also a point where I have little time or energy to put ingredients together and find myself eating some nasty combination of veggies in a makeshift salad. Today I was running late and threw together the most tasteless group of veggies you can think of (I won't recount them for you or you may feel as sick as I did). As I sat during a lunchtime seminar at my job, eating my nasty salad, I actually realized I was contemplating a trip to the bathroom to purge the contents of my stomach. It was that bad. Sigh...

So now I have a new quest: to go through my blog history and refresh my memory of the stuff I used to eat, then find a way to prepare salads and other meals using the tastier and easiest-to-prepare ingredients. I know that when I am bored and unsatisfied, I am more likely to stray from my raw diet in the early stages of transforming my eating. I think being in this alone adds to the difficulty. When I had a partner we both shared in the food ideas and meal preparations, shared the shopping duties, and reminded each other of why we are doing this. We also told each other how great we were looking, how loose our clothes were getting, how good we were being to our bodies, etc. I'm not good at telling myself this stuff, so going it alone is more difficult in ways I hadn't previously considered. Having a nutritionist is a big help. Now, if she would just move in and cut up my veggies for me!

Speaking of the nutritionist, I have lost more weight. I'm now down about 18 lbs since June 10th. At 20 lbs lost she'll take my measurements again. I have noticed my pants are a tad looser, but that thrill of knowing I am truly on my way hasn't hit me yet. I used to get overjoyed at losing weight. I'd have the next lower sized pants hanging in the closet and I would make bets on how long it would be before I'd fit into them. I don't have that joy anymore, perhaps because I've been there, done that. Or maybe I'm more focused on health then size - I do get joyful over improvements in my cholesterol and BP levels, after all! I would like to have that joy in other areas again, though. I remember how much I loved my achievements in the gym a few years ago, and how much fun it was to give away a new pile of "fat" clothes.

The stress of being a grad student probably interferes with that joy a little, too. Between the dissertation research, comprehensive exam studies, and growing work responsibilities, I am stressed out quite often- in fact, I am pretty good at being stressed! So good that my blood pressure was 120/90. The nutritionist said that stress (and not drinking enough water) are two things that can raise the lower number. Both of those are issues for me, so I am going to try meditation, and will try to do better with the water.

Don't know if it's my aging eyes, but the old white-on-black text was starting to get to me. Was it bugging you? As you can see, I am making changes to this blog's layout. These may continue over the next few days (or weeks, depending on how much doodoo I get into after the initial switch). I want to be up-to-date with Blogger's technologies, and this blog has been a little behind. What I'd most like to do is make comments visible at the bottom of each post, and make the colors a little easier on the eyes. What will actually happen may surprise us all!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Food as Medicine

I've had a few more self-discoveries these past couple of weeks regarding my raw diet and my lifestyle which have led me to make some adjustments.

1) I have seen that it is important for me to get as much protein during the early part of the day as possible so that I am not playing catch-up at the end of the day.

2) I need to greatly increase the amount of fiber I get each day. I thought all the fruit I was eating was doing the trick, but just because something is full of carbs doesn't mean it is high in fiber (yes, figs, I'm talking about you!).

3) I don't always reach my minimum of 60 grams of fiber by the end of the day. Whey protein is a great way for me to get to the 80 to 100 grams I really want, without the extra carbs. Smoothies are a convenient, tasty way to get the whey in.

4) I cannot wait until I can afford a VitaMix- I need a blender now! But no blender seems to stand up to the abuse I give it.

In light of the above issues, I've made some changes. First, I went out and bought an immersion blender- one of those handheld blenders that you stick into a container holding your ingredients. Set your speed and get to mixing! I'm hoping this thing will at least get my smoothie-making off the ground until I can afford the VitaMix.

Next, in an attempt to increase my fiber intake I will make an effort to reach 35 gms of fiber daily - my nutritionist's recommendation. If I can get at least a third of that in my breakfast, that will help a lot. I found that figs have a lot of fiber and so I bought some at Trader Joe's. Figs have a sweet taste and, to me, a flowery aroma. I wouldn't want to just pop them into my mouth because I don't particularly like their soft texture, but they are perfect for smoothies.

This morning I felt like some nutritional alchemist, putting together whole foods in order to create the medicine I needed this morning. My quest was to create a less-sweet, fruit smoothie high in fiber and protein, but not exceedingly high in carbs. I consulted -it's still my all-time favorite place for nutritional education. Based on the foods in the house I made a smoothie that I thought would fit the bill, but thanks to the three figs it was so high in carbs it was ridiculous. Guess I forgot to check that part in NutritionData! Despite the amount of sugars in the fruits, it wasn't overly sweet-tasting, and had 10 grams of fiber.

My recipe was: 1/2 small papaya, 1/2 medium banana, 4 large strawberries (another good source of fiber), 4 oz. of carrot juice, 1 scoop of whey protein (23 gms of protein), and 3 figs. NutritionData judged my smoothie as good for optimum health, and better for weight loss than for weight gain (thank goodness). I would make this again, but I would try to lower the amount of sugars in it and find another way to raise the fiber content. I could, for example, add grind one ounce of flax seeds and eliminate the banana and figs. This would give me even more fiber than the original recipe, and also more protein. It would raise the fat content (and calories) but since only 2 grams would be saturated fat, it wouldn't be a big deal.

I like the way my raw diet is helping me to see raw and whole foods as both fuel and medicine. I experienced this transformation in my thinking last year during my first go-around with the raw life. I even find myself judging McDonald's or Krispy Kremes more on their nutritional offerings than on how many minutes of pleasure I'll get from them (though that doesn't mean I won't fall prey to temptation). The more deeply I delve into a mindset of raw eating, the less junk and unhealthy foods I'll be eating over time.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Off to the Gym I Go

I was inspired to return to the gym when I saw at the end of the day that I'd eaten too few calories, not nearly enough protein, too many carbs, and hardly any fats. I thought, what do I have in the house that I can eat to make up this deficit? I ate a salmon patty with feta cheese and broccoli, and even added olive oil but was still low in the same areas. I thought about making an eggbeater's omelette but it was getting late and I didn't want to go to bed after eating. At first I thought I should work out and then eat- like somehow that would make up for eating so late! Then I though, why not? I've been looking for some motivation to get back to the gym, so I went to the gym and bought a protein shake, which I drank before the workout. Maybe I should have drank it afterwards, but I don't know these things and am not sure I really care. In the end, I got my protein and calories in, plus a 45-minute workout at a 19 minutes per mile pace, with some variation of the incline from 0% to 5%. I noticed that despite my weeks off, I haven't lost a step in my workout abilities, and I now recover more quickly during the cooldown, achieving a slower heart rate more quickly than I used to. I'll sleep well tonight!

Calories 1,397
Carbs 154
Fat 21
Protein 101

Monday, August 13, 2007

Blogger Changes that Simplify Raw Odyssey Searches

I noticed that now we can tag our blog entries! This is great, because now if I write about the tired topic of "hair loss," talk about how I have/don't have cravings, or how I am "starting over" again, I can tag my post with those words or phrases. You can then click on a tag that appears at the bottom of a post and see how many times I have "fallen off the wagon" or what post it was that I first noticed my hair falling out. Or maybe those things are more important to me than to any of you- haha! But still, it is interesting to see where I am today compared to a year and a half ago. If I tag all of the posts that have my blood pressure, for example, I can go back through history and see how my diet has affected my BP simply by clicking "blood pressure."

So I am currently going through 300 posts and adding tags. For those of you who subscribe to this blog via a newsfeed, I apologize if you suddenly appear to have a hundred new posts (I'm just guessing this could happen). I won't get this all done in one week I don't think, but I put a dent in it today. I'm already fascinated by how many times I have the same insights. Will I ever learn? :-)

And the Beat Goes On...

I saw the nutritionist today and found I am down another couple of pounds. That is 16 lbs since July 10th. I asked her if she thought I might be losing too quickly- visions of hair loss still dance in my head, you know. She said that as long as what I lose is adipose tissue (fat) and not lean tissue (muscle), I can safely lose up to 3 lbs a week. I asked her specifically about my hair and she said that I should make sure to get no fewer than 60 grams of protein daily, and should consider a range of 60 to 80 grams per day. Naturally I will be going for the 80!

Next, she took my blood pressure: 110/72- even better than last week. So now I'm no longer worried about the blood pressure. What a relief! I'll have her measure it for a couple more weeks just to be sure, but I do feel that it is back to what is normal for me. Now I just need to get myself back to the gym. I think I deserve a celebratory pair of new sneakers!

Since I have been eating fewer processed foods, I've noticed other changes besides the weight loss and lower blood pressure. Every week I notice I am less and less sleepy during the day. I used to nod off at work, even during meetings. I would drink coffee in a fruitless attempt to stay awake. Now I don't even think about drinking coffee unless I feel cold (and at those times I now tell myself, maybe I should start bringing tea). I believe my alertness is partly because I am sleeping much better at night, even when I don't get into bed until midnight. I do try to get to bed by 10 pm (as suggested by my nutritionist) but I tend to read or watch TV until I'm really sleepy and don't fall asleep until closer to midnight, so the earlier bedtime doesn't fully explain the extreme change in my alertness. (Another factor could be that my allergy medicine is helping me sleep better so I'm not congested at night.)

I also have more energy. If it's over 100 degrees I usually don't like walking across a parking lot, but these days it doesn't bother me so much - I guess I don't feel anymore like I'm going to wilt. My mood has also lifted. Although I still have my worries, I recover from them more quickly, and I generally enjoy life more. In fact, eating at the raw restaurant by myself last weekend was a whim that simply came to me- I usually consider eating alone in a restaurant to be depressing, so it's been years since I've done it unless I was there to use the wifi to study. That's another sign that the "old me" is coming back.

If you know of Victoria Boutenko, who writes about her family's experiences with changing to a raw diet, you'll recall that she says the health benefits they experienced were immediate. That always sounded fantastical to me, but I'm experiencing the same immediate changes. It is truly remarkable what eating raw can do!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Good Health News!

The past week has gone pretty well. I've been seeing the nutritionist and recording my foods. I did have a Krispy Kreme doughnut for the first time - right from the factory. WOW- but they've got lots of saturated fat and sugar, and are obviously not something I'll be eating much of in the future. I am not ordering myself to stay away completely from all foods, but I think that over time I will naturally refuse these types of things. I won't feel a craving or desire for these foods and won't feel that I am depriving myself. Currently there are days when I have to force myself to stay away from the unhealthy stuff, but these days occur less often with time.

Thank you, Chubbiegirl, for the juice and fizzy water idea. That is great! I used to drink juice and diet Vernor's or diet 7-Up, but I can drink it with Pellegrino or Perrier or some other sparkling water. Why didn't I think of that? This will help me when I have a taste for diet pop or Pepsi.

During my last visit to the nutritionist she measured my blood pressure at 110/80. What a difference from the 154/89 I had a short time ago during that scary health episode. I've also lost 14 lbs since July 10th. Even better, she went over my bloodwork results and said that the only thing that can explain my good HDL and triglyceride are my genetics. Lord knows I certainly haven't been eating healthfully or exercising regularly enough to have good HDL or triglycerides. I've always felt that I am very lucky to not have diabetes or diet-related heart problems. My cholesterol is high, but she says that she has seen cholesterol go from the high 200's to the high 100's in just a few short weeks from a change in diet. She wants me to get my bloodwork done again 6 weeks after the previous one was done to see how my diet has improved my cholesterol.

This morning I had the sudden idea to have lunch at the local raw food restaurant. I had about 1/3 of a cantaloupe for breakfast and then around noon went there for my lunch. I had the enchiladas. Boy, were they good! Amazingly, I was not hungry the rest of the day. No cravings, no hunger pangs, no thinking about when I was going to get my next meal. I went out to the outlet mall with a friend who ate a large pretzel, an ice cream cone, and also got candy samples, but I really had no desire for those things myself. We almost had dinner at a sushi place but the price drove us away. I would have eaten some sushi if she were hungry but if I'd been at the mall alone I wouldn't have even gone in. Today reminded me of how it felt to be raw last year, going hours without thinking about food and eating healthfully with little of the effort it is taking me right now. I can't wait for those days again!

When I finally did get hungry tonight, I had an eggbeaters omelette with vegetables. I have no idea how many calories, fat grams, proteins or carbs I had at the restaurant, but I have pledged to get enough protein, so the eggs filled that bill. At the restaurant I bought flaxseed crackers. One ounce has 8 grams of protein- not bad!

So today was a good day - I had no cravings for junk foods, drank enough water (my back started hurting, which served as a reminder!) got a taste of how great an all-raw day is, and got a lot of exercise and vitamin D walking around the mall for a few hours in the sunshine.

Note to Christine: I am at if you happen to have a myspace page and want to contact me there. If not, feel free to send me your email address (I won't publish it) if you want to talk. I'm glad to know you are out there!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

New Way of Thinking, New Way of Shopping

As I get back into the mindset of using food as fuel and sustenance and not simply enjoyment, I find that my grocery shopping habits are changing. Rather than creating a shopping list of canned goods, produce, meats, etc, creating one with categories titled proteins, fats, and carbs works better sometimes. I think of my meals in this way as well; today, for example, I looked at what I lacked in nutrients and what I had too much of by the end of the day and ate a dinner that filled in the categories appropriately. Choosing foods based on nutritional needs rather than "what I have a taste for" is happening gradually, but naturally. I don't try for an exact balance daily, however. I think a balanced week is more sane for me.

Now that I drink water regularly, I can really tell when I'm becoming dehydrated. My head starts to hurt a little and other little symptoms crop up that I probably used to diagnose as signs of hunger or tiredness. I now keep water with a slice of lemon at my desk all day at work, and refill it throughout the day. I buy bottled water so I can easily grab some H20 when I'm going to be out of the house for awhile in the evening or on weekends. I can't say I get 8 glasses a day yet, but I'm getting there! I haven't had pop in a while, although at times I want some just to get a break from plain water. Perrier and Pellegrino with lemon or lime helps a bit.

Currently I notice that I want my old foods mainly when I'm bored. If I keep a variety of flavors in the house and keep myself occupied, though, my mind doesn't wander to eating. When I was thoroughly into eating raw last year I wouldn't think of food much at all for hours at a time. I'm certainly not at that stage yet this time around, but I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Two Inches Per Pound

I saw my nutritionist again today. The weight is falling off me right now. I've lost 11 lbs since I started seeing her last month. My BP is down from 140/92 to 110 over 91. She said that the bottom number often takes longer to go down than does the top number (although the bottom number will rise rapidly). So although the top number is good, the bottom number needs some work! I will continue to watch the sodium, drink water throughout the day, and eat fruit. These things are all helpful in balancing mineral levels and helping the heart to work less hard.

Other things I will continue to focus on to improve my BP is getting enough sleep and getting back to the gym. I'm terrible at both! I've gotten out of the gym habit, but was doing 45 minutes 5 days a week before seeing the nutritionist. Now I'll aim for 30 minutes of cardio, 5 days a week as my goal for the year. This is probably more reasonable. I also need to work on lowering my anxiety level. I tend to stress over things, like my dissertation research and studying for my comprehensive exams, as well as the normal stuff we all worry about such as relationships and work issues. But I can take those anxieties to an extreme. I'm going to try meditating.

As part of each twice-a-week visit with the nutritionist I am weighed and have my BP checked. I am also measured from time to time. She says that every pound of fat lost is approximately 2 inches in size decrease throughout the body. In measuring me we came up with over 24 inches in size difference between today and when I started with her! The greatest loss was in my upper chest. She says that if you lose much more than the 2 inches per pound, the extra is likely water loss. If you lose much less than 2 inches per pound, you are often losing muscle, and that is a warning sign (this is with no weight-lifting or exercise).

These numbers are all averages of course and cannot be taken literally. Still, they are nice to keep in mind. I usually don't measure myself, but actually seeing the difference in size -on paper, at least - made me feel good today. I'll feel even better when my clothes start falling off of me!

My mostly-raw diet is going all right. I still have problems deciding what to eat, because I want quick and easy meals and simply have to get used to the fact that eating raw takes more time and makes a bigger mess. These aren't to be viewed as negatives but simply facts that I need to work into my routine. I also tend to eat the same foods all the time, so I am constantly refreshing my memory as to additional foods to eat. When I get frustrated about food choices, I also get overwhelmed and end up under-eating. Yesterday was one of those days; I ended up drinking a Naked Fruit Protein Smoothie (500 calories) to make up for skipping dinnertime because I couldn't decide what to eat. My nutritionist suggested a lower-calorie smoothie from Trader Joe's, which I will try. I tend to hate smoothies that come in a can, (Naked Juice is in a plastic bottle in the refrigerator section) but it will be my emergency beverage for those days when I've run out of food, haven't set aside enough time to prepare a meal, or can't make up my mind.

My main goals for 2007 are to have 50 lbs off before the holidays, to get my BP back to 120/80 maximum, and to get active again. I don't think I'll actually lose 50 lbs before November, but it's something to aim for.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Touched by an Angel?

You ever wish that someone or something would suddenly appear and save you from yourself? Well, I've always thought, in my worst moments, that the only way I'd stop my downward spiral of eating the wrong foods and getting more and more unhealthy was for either a "guardian angel" to step in, or some horrible health crisis to hit me and shock me back to common sense.

Well, I had a taste of the health crisis this week. I've been slowly morphing to a vegetarian/raw diet, but not quickly enough. I'd been feeling tired, sleepy and generally icky for a while and finally went to the doctor, mainly because my nutritionist wanted bloodwork. While there I saw how high my BP had gotten, and the doctor said my breathing problems could be caused by both allergies and sleep apnea. I had the prescription for Allegra filled, but eschewed the sleep test.

I felt decent the next day- not sleepy or as bad as usual. What a nice break! But the following day was strange. I woke up feeling extra tired and knew it would be a bad day. I had to fast for the 10 a.m. blood test so I went to work with no breakfast. It may have been partly because of that and partly because of whatever has been going on with me, but I felt worse and worse with every hour. I felt a tightness in my chest that seemed related to my wheezing, had a headache, was exceptionally worn out, and even had a strange anxiety/panicky feeling and shakiness. I made sure to drink water, and then went to get my blood drawn. I told the folks at work I wouldn't be back that day.

After the clinic, I seriously considered going to the ER, but remembered that I hadn't eaten, so I went to 7-11 and bought a Naked Juice protein smoothie - I was actually going for the natural sugar and carbs for quick energy but saw the protein version (38 gms per bottle) and figured it couldn't hurt. I guzzled that thing down- all 500 calories of it (whew!). Within 15 minutes I felt about 60% better. The chest tightness and anxiety went away. I was still feeling I should go to the ER but I went home to relax instead. I napped for a few hours and when I woke up I wondered again if I should go to the ER because I still wasn't totally well. I decided to go to the grocery store and check my blood pressure. If it was in the danger zone I'd go to the ER. The machine read 154 over 89. Much higher than I've seen it, but, according to the pharmacist, not worthy of an ER visit.

I vowed right then to stop putzing around with the gradually-going-raw thing and jumped back into a high-raw diet. High raw for me is this: every day I will eat raw fruits and vegetables and drink lots of water with lemon or lime juice. In addition, I will include any of the following protein or fiber-rich foods (raw or cooked as appropriate to the item): fish, tofu, oatmeal, Eggbeaters, hemp seeds and whey protein. I have already begun to drink more water, and I brewed tea to give me a non-caffeinated, non-sugary alternative to water. I love diet Snapple, but I'll stay away from its faux-sugar tastiness for the time being. I'm drinking my remaining Pepsi Jazz this weekend, and will not buy any more colas. (I will try sparkling water, though!)

Today I bought some fruits and vegetables, a manual citrus juicer, and a couple of Whole Foods salad bar items. No cheese- that's a miracle, folks! I do love me some cheese, you know. I got parsley for my salads (more nutritious than lettuce) and some raw pecans.

I feel good today. I don't really know why I felt so horrible the other day - I actually imagined at one point that I might be a step away from dying. How could I feel so terrible one day and feel normal the next? All I know is I'm treating it as a wake-up call. A knock on the side of the head from my guardian angel, perhaps. She knows I have to learn everything the hard way.

Hey raw community- I'M BAAAAAACK!!



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