How Raw Food Led Me to Love Exercise

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Get more exercise!

I love exercise!  I can’t even believe I just wrote that… but it’s the truth.  My body craves it.  I got off work today at 8pm, took the train home, put on my gym clothes, went to put a down payment on my new place, then got to the gym — at 10pm!  I have never done that before!  And what was funny is that I got to the gym, signed in, and got pissed because someone was on “my treadmill!”  Yes, I know that this gym has about 30 treadmills — maybe 5 were being used at that time.  And I was really upset that someone was using “my treadmill.”

Do I owe this newfound love of exercise to raw foods?  Absolutely!  Since completing my 30 day raw food challenge in June, I have been eating at least 2 raw meals a day.  Those meals are usually breakfast and lunch because those meals are easy for me to take to work.  The energy I have now is indescribable.  My thoughts are so much clearer.  I am better at completing the many tasks and projects that come my way at work.  The stress is definitely mounting during this time of year.  I have the added stress of trying to move to a new place and getting rid of just about everything I own.  And even though I know all of these things are happening, I know I have what it takes to handle it.  I don’t drown my feelings in french fries and chicken wings.  There’s no running out to the grocery store for ice cream I don’t need.  I get rid of the day’s stress on the treadmill — AND IN 95 DEGREE HEAT AT THAT!  I get on that treadmill and I run until I can’t run anymore.  I have no plan (at least not yet…) for how far I want to go or how long.  I just run until I’m tired.

So what’s a great pre-workout energy picker-upper?  I drink about a pint of a green smoothie starring KALE GREENS.  I don’t know what it is about kale, but whenever I have a smoothie or salad with kale greens, my body can’t rest.  It’s almost like drinking coffee without the jitters.  If I drink it for breakfast, I will have a quart or more.  That gives me lots of energy until I get to lunch.  I cut the serving size down to a pint for my evening workout because if I drink too much, I won’t sleep that night.

Here’s the recipe to the green smoothie I concocted tonight:

Pinapple Jolt Green Smoothie

1 bunch of kale greens (I used curly leaf – you use what you have)

3 or 4 slices of frozen pineapple

1 banana

1/4 to 1/3 cup of water

1. Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender.  I love my Vitamix, but use what you have.

2. Pour in a fancy glass, or put it in your workout drink container.

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Why Your Salad Sucks: 5 tips for building a better salad

 Salad background of fresh mixed salad ingredients. Stock Photo -  1497699

Need a little help pimping your salad?

I am always trying to convince meat eaters (or even some vegetarians who live on lots of starch) that a big salad can be a satisfying meal. Yes, there are some of those fast food chains that sell big salads, but have you looked at the list of ingredients??!!  Lots of bacon, boiled eggs, fried chicken, fried onions, and fatty dressings that can leave you with a 1000 calorie meal!  You would probably be better off having a burger.

The only way to ensure that you are getting the healthiest meal possible, you are going to have to become more acquainted with your kitchen and the grocery store.  That is really the best way to know what is going into your food.

So you say salads are boring?  Here are some tips on pimping your salad:

  • Skip the iceberg lettuce.  This variety of lettuce is mostly water with zero flavor, and very little fiber.  It’s not that iceberg lettuce is bad for you; it’s just that there are so many other varieties of lettuce that have a much higher nutritional content and are much more flavorful.  If you are really hardcore, you can try using kale or collard greens!  Here is a wonderful video on growing lettuce in your home or apartment.
  • Experiment with new veggies.  There is more to a salad than just lettuce, tomato, and maybe a little cucumber.  Try adding okra (my favorite), fresh corn off the cob (uncooked), zuchini, jicama, sprouts (gives your body SOOOOO much energy!), mint or other fresh herbs.  Visit some of your local ethnic grocery stores and spend some time in their produce section.  You are sure to find some veggies you may have never seen before.  Ask one of the workers how to prepare it.
  • Go for color.  Use the greens as a base.  What other colors do you like?  Add a little red or orange pepper (much sweeter than the green variety), purple cabbage, or even some fresh blueberries.
  • KISS = Keep It Simple, Silly!  Don’t try and douce your salad with too many flavors.  Trying picking a theme for your salad.  Do you want Asian flavors?  Try mixing spring mix salad leaves with some bok choy, cashews lightly coated in ginger and agave, scallions, tomatoes, and a homemade orange/ginger salad dressing.
  • Salad dressing is the key to a tasty salad.  I spent several years looking in stores for the best salad dressings (does that make me weird?).  My favorite store brought brand is Annie’s Goddess Dressing (I swear I could bathe in this stuff…).  However, if you stop and read the labels of many other dressings, you will see that they are full of processed sugars, soybean oil (often GMO), and preservatives.  I learned that I can very easily make my own salad dressing in about 3 minutes.  Here is the recipe for my own Maple Mustard Dressing:

Maple Mustard Dressing

* measurements are approximate

2 Tbsp of dijon mustard

2 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar

2 Tbsp of maple syrup

1/4 tsp of garlic powder

sea salt and black pepper to taste

  1. Put all the items in a small, leakproof container.  I use Rubbermaid’s Easy Find Lids in the smallest size available.
  2. Close the lid and shake.
  3. If you like it spicy, try adding a little cayenne pepper.  For a more savory flavor, add some chopped up rosemary leaves.

You can double or triple the measurements if you want to make dressing to last you 2 or 3 days.  You can also add more or less of some ingredients to suit your own tastes.

So what’s your favorite salad recipe?

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30 Days Raw: 6 Big Raw Food Lessons

Before 30 Day Raw Food Feast - End of May 2011

I can’t believe I did it!  I am at the end of my raw food feast!  I cannot believe I made it to this point!!!  This raw food feast has been about 3 years in the making.  I remember when I started on this journey to be more fit and healthy, my biggest concern about eating more vegetarian foods was how to season food without meat.  Eating more raw foods is so much easier than I ever thought possible!  Here are my six big raw food lessons — in no particular order:

The morning is not the devil!  This is a big one for me.  For years I have woken up cursing the day light like a vampire.  Even my beau has remarked how sweet I am in the morning now!  The morning is when I am my most productive — my mind is clear and ideas are constantly running through my head, so much so that it is difficult to write them down as they come to me.  This is the best time for me to do my blogging.  When I get home from work, I find that my head is so filled with “work stuff” that I am just too exhausted to do anything else but eat a light dinner, exercise, then lights out by 10 or 11pm.  Yes, the morning is now my best friend! 🙂

After 30 Day Raw Food Feast - June 30, 2011

Raw foods ain’t rocket science!  Making cooked food can be complicated.  You have to worry about oven temperatures, is the flame too high or too low on the stove, worrying about if it’s cooked all the way through, how long do you cook it…  With raw foods, you have none of that worry.  I initially wanted to prepare the more complicated raw food dishes because I was under the impression that food had to go through several processes before it becomes edible.  Don’t get me wrong — there are lots of delicious gourmet raw food recipes out there.  However, you don’t need a whole lot of complicated equipment or skill to make raw food taste good.  All you need are some good knives (I bought mines at Target), a decent cutting board, a quality blender (I LOVE my Vitamix, but I had a low end Oster I got from CVS which worked just fine for me for about 3 years),  a hand-held citrus juicer, and some big bowls.  My nutmilk bag is awesome for making my own almond milk, but you can just buy some cheesecloth from Walmart and get the same results.  Some of my favorite raw meals have 5 or less ingredients, with just a few minutes of marinating time.  My favorite dinner:  melon, eaten right out of its own bowl.

I am in control of what I eat.  No longer will I allow my busy lifestyle to dictate what I put into my body.  During this month I have paid more attention to how others spend their lunch time, what they make for dinner, and the foods they choose to put into their shopping carts at the supermarket.  People often say, “I just need something quick to get through the afternoon.”  Why do we need to throw food down our throats super fast just to “get through the afternoon?”  A lunch hour (if you even get that much time…) is meant as a time to refuel your body so you will have energy to last you through the remainder of the work day.  Take the time to pack a nutritious, energizing lunch the night before!  Go outside and get some sunshine!  Walk around the block for 15 minutes or so and get away from your computer!  I am absolutely adamant about using my lunch time as MY TIME and not a time to catch up on work.

Diet and exercise really work!  I lost a total of about 22 pounds while on raw foods this month.  People ask me what’s my secret.  I have to tell them to put that fried chicken down, eat more fruits and vegetables,  and walk around the block a few times a week.  It really is that simple!  My body feels lighter, my gut has gone down some.  The foods I eat — particularly dark, leafy greens — give me so much energy that I ABSOLUTELY MUST go out and exercise afterwards.  Factory farm produced meat injected with hormones and artificial colors is coma inducing.  It may taste good on the fork, but once you finish eating it, you’re ready for a good nap.  This is not what God meant for us to use as a food source.

All vegan foods are not healthy.  There are so many choices nowadays in so-called healthy vegan options in grocery stores.  You no longer have to go to a specialty store to find organic and vegan foods anymore either; you can go right to your mainstream supermarket and find aisles solely dedicated to organic produce and organic packaged foods.  Some stores have even expanded their meat selections to include meat without hormones.  However, don’t be fooled!  When looking for veggies, skip the can and opt for fresh.  While frozen veggies are said to retain their nutrient content, they do need to be cooked to taste good — which completely defeats the purpose of a raw food diet.  I am working on a blog post talking about where and how often to shop for fresh veggies.  After spending a good month paying attention to what kind of crap people are putting into their shopping carts, it has become clear to me that people don’t have a clue on how to do basic food shopping!

Creating delicious, fresh food is my passion!  I have been saying for several years that I wanted to connect to my more creative side, but didn’t know what I wanted to do.  There really is no better feeling than to make a meal that people find surprisingly delicious.  Preparing food gives me the opportunity to teach others information that can potentially be a spark that can allow them to save their own lives through better food choices.  What is better than that?  As a result of this, I have decided to begin my plans to build a personal chef and health coach business where I can teach people how to transition to making healthier life choices — all beginning with food!

This really has been a powerful 30 day shift for me!  I am so hopeful about my life.  I even notice that I complain less because I really don’t have anything to complain about!  I have never felt so connected to my life’s purpose!  I hope you will choose to stick with me and my blog so we can learn how to be healthier together.

If you have a link to any before and after pics of yourself after eating raw foods, please share in the comments!

27 Days Raw: Vegan Restaurants Really Need to Do Better

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Fish Tofu:  Does this look remotely appetizing to you?

I have to be honest.  This past Saturday I was starving and had to go off of raw foods for a moment.  I figured, if I have to do cooked foods for one meal, I might as well make the best choice in cooked food possible, right?  So I went into a vegan restaurant.  I figured, how bad can it be — it’s all VEGAN!  I took a look at their ready-made cooked food choices:  starches — pasta, potatoes, rice; overcooked veggies, and meat substitutes made of soy.  Yes, all these choices are vegan, but it was all DEAD FOOD.  Their raw/cold selection consisted of a wheat pasta salad, a cucumber salad, and some type of faux tuna salad.

I decided to be adventurous as I usually am with my food and ordered a “fish” special.  It came with rice and peas and I selected an order of cooked collards and cabbage on the side.  The faux fish tasted, well, processed.  It kind of had an escoveitched fish flavor, dense like a piece of king fish steak (any Caribbean food lovers out there???).  It also had some kind of a faux fish skin on the outer edges of it.  I am guessing they bought this faux fish already processed as I could not imagine the restaurant preparing this “fish” themselves.  The taste???  SUPER SALTY!!!  The denseness of the faux fish absorbed a lot of the saltyness.  However the onions and peppers were not able to survive — they were inedible right along with the rice and peas.  The tofu sat at the pit of my stomach like a couple of bricks (even heavier than I remember meat to be…).  The cabbage and collards were delicious with just an added touch of spiciness.  But what was missing from this plate was that surge of energy I get from eating raw greens.  Quite literally, when I eat raw kale or collards, it’s like I took its vitamins, put it in a syringe, and injected all that goodness straight into my blood stream.  It really is the best feeling in the world!  Food is meant to be a source of energy and fuel so we can get through the day.  I ate this plate of salted tofu kindalikefish stuff and I wanted to go right to sleep.  I mean, I sat there in a coma for about 30 minutes — just staring out the window because I had no motivation to move.

I guess now that I am near the end of my raw food feast, I have learned to expect more from my food.  Food is not simply meant to taste good; food is nourishment for your body, mind, and spirit.  If your body is malnourished (and yes, even fat people are malnourished…), one or more of these three are going to be out of whack.  So I challenge our vegan restaurants to not just serve food that is a replica of meals cooked with meat and starch.  I understand that many vegan restaurants serve many non-vegan patrons.  However there is more to being vegan than deep fried Boca burgers, tofu, and pasta.  Try adding some raw foods that have some kind of nutrients in them and truly teach people how to eat well.

21 Days Raw: My Raw Food Goal Check-Up

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On Day 2 I wrote a post giving some detail on why I was choosing to do raw foods for 30 days.  Goals are no good if you don’t check back in from time to time to measure your progress.  Here are my reflections on those goals:

  • Need mental clarity to make some decisions — both professional and personal.  I find it funny that I even had to make a distinction between what is a “professional” and what is “personal.”  So-called professional and personal life choices should be aligned with one another so you don’t feel like a person leading 2 crazy, mis-matched lives!  I’ve been so blind!  Raw food has definitely cleared out some of the “sludge” in my brain.  Things that were so difficult to voice an opinion on now seem much more black and white now.  I was stuck between deciding to continue on as an advisor at a community college, or become a personal chef.  I decided that it really doesn’t have to be an either or decision.  What I love most about my present position is my connection with students.  My advising sessions are much more than just about taking the right classes.  I am a “coach” of sorts, helping people to align their passions and lifestyles with what they are learning in school.  I could certainly continue to do that in my own food business.  I am planning to leave my apartment in the coming weeks to move into a room so I can save money to put towards this brewing plan of mine (if you live in the DC area and have a room for rent — or know someone who does, holla at me!).  My notebook is overflowing with ideas — it’s amazing what a couple weeks of fresh, wholesome food can do for your creativity!
  • To feel healthier, feel better.  I have lost about 20 pounds since beginning my raw food feast.  I don’t feel so weighed down with fatty foods as I once did.  One thing I did not expect though is that I can feel my body in a way I never did before.  Quite honestly, I did not recognize how fat I had actually gotten because I was too busy stuffing my face because of stress.  Now I wake up in the morning and I can feel the fat around my middle, the fat around my thighs, my flabby arms — and I can’t stand it!  The stressful days are still here, however I choose to get rid of the stress through increased activity.  I walk everyday for about an hour.  I also jump rope on my porch as well as jog/walk for about 3 miles in the Smithsonian/National Mall area of DC several times a week.  My body craves physical activity now — 5K here I come!
  • Get rid of fibroids and hopefully improve fertility.  From what I know about fibroids thus far, it is difficult to know if fibroids are getting smaller or larger without a sonogram.  As a matter of fact, checking for fibroids generally occurs when a woman has problems with her menstrual cycle.  Before I knew anything about fibroids, I went to several gynecologists over about a 5 year time span asking why my periods were becoming so heavy.  The only advice I was given was to take birth control pills and see what happens.  At the end of 5 years, my bleeding had become so heavy that I could not leave the house.  I was bleeding through my clothes — profusely.  That was when one genius gynecologist (can you sense my sarcasm here???) decided to do the fibroid check.  By that time, they saw about 5 fibroids — one about as large as a grapefruit.  Basically my uterus had grown to the size of a woman in her fourth month of pregnancy — which isn’t cute if you’re not actually with child.  During this cleanse, my cycle doesn’t seem any lighter — as a matter of fact it seems slightly heavier.  But according to what I have been reading, detoxing may make periods worse before they get better.  Perhaps I will see improvements in another 2 to 3 months.
  • Diminish my chances of getting breast cancer (as well as other cancers avoidable diseases).  I am reminded of the fragility of life after a recent death of a colleague who was about the same age as I.  Life is a gift and we must respect it as such.  What you put off until tomorrow may never come to fruition so stop putting off your goals and dreams because your life revolves around a job and a lifestyle you have no passion for.  While we don’t like to think about our own death, it is inevitable.  I choose to do what I can now to prevent many of the diseases that can cause a painful, premature death.  I choose to create a life that is full of love rather than base my decisions on fear of the unknown.

Have you ever gone through an event that made you drastically change the way you live?  I’d be interested in learning more about how it has changed you!

16 Days Raw: Choosing the Healthiest Produce

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Do you really know what kind of food you are eating?

I’ve made it a point to only weigh myself once a week.  The reason is that my focus for being raw is not necessarily weight loss, but increased level of health and well-being — the outcome of which will definitely be weight loss.  However I just don’t want to become one of those people who say that because I ate 2 avocados today, I didn’t lose a pound.  It’s easy for me to get crazy like that.

So here I am — about halfway through my raw food feast and 16 pounds lighter!  I can see a difference in my face.  I don’t feel like there is do much fat clogging my throat and neck anymore (gross!). My stomach has gone down a bit and I can start to see a waist line.  People say I seem happier, more alert.

Since my diet is mostly fruits and veggies now, I find that I pay more attention to the PLU codes — or price look up codes — the four to 5 digit numbers written on the stickers of most fresh produce in your local grocery store.  Did you know that those codes actually mean something?  It’s more than just a code to help the supermarket identify what they sell.  This code also gives you a clue as to how this food was grown.

When inspecting your produce stickers, pay attention to the first number in the code.  Here’s your PLU code cheat sheet:

  • 9 = organically grown produce.  This means the food was grown without the use of pesticides or other unnatural material.
  • 4 = conventionally grown produce.  Codes beginning with 4 have been grown with pesticides.
  • 3 = irradiated produce.  Food that is irradiated is exposed to radiation to kill bacteria, viruses, insects, etc.  Sounds like a regular pesticide, right?  Wrong!!  Irradiated food also delays the ripening process for longer shelf life, increases “juiciness,” and causes chemical changes that kill the naturally occurring vitamins and minerals in the flesh and seeds (among other things).  In other words — it’s dead food which completely defeats the purpose of a raw food diet.
  • 8 = genetically modified produce (or GMO).  This is food that has been genetically altered to prolong shelf life, increase vitamin content, reduce pesticide usage, etc.  GMO are often touted as the answer to malnutrition in some of the world’s poorest countries.  Having worked in international development, I know this is a bunch of bullshit covered in wheatgrass.  Anytime folks start messing with what is already pure and perfect for the sake of the poor, you know it’s gotta be crap!

So organically grown food (and seed, for those who are into planting your own garden…) is best for the raw food diet.  Start paying attention to how your food is grown and where in the world it is grown.  In short, if it ain’t produced by God, just leave it alone.

 

 

 

12 Days Raw: I take responsibility for me

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My life is finally finding some natural order.  I am feeling like my life is less of a mess.  My food choices have made me fall asleep by about 9pm, and I awake between 5am and 6am — naturally.  I feel like I finally have time to get my house in order, do exercise first thing in the morning (something I have always wanted to do but never had the energy to do it).  I wake up and do Bible study for 30 minutes just to get the day started right.  And this time, all this morning activity is not so much of a struggle.  It’s funny how something as simple as food can magically realign your entire life without having to formally establish goals, find willpower, etc.  It’s not that these are bad practices.  It’s just that living in America has taught us to organize our lives around keeping employment, instead of organizing our lives around our families, health, and general well-being.  That employment may keep our bills paid (albeit barely…), but it’s better than being homeless, right?  I now say, WRONG!!!  What good is that employment if it means you find it difficult to find the time to spend on activities that feed your soul?  How about finding employment that feeds your soul AND allows you to make regular time to spend with your family in a way that is meaningful for you?  What good is your job if it leaves you so stressed that you don’t even find joy in it anymore (if you ever did at all…)?

I say all this to say that raw foods is helping me to regain control of my life.  I willingly decided to give it away in exchange for living on someone else’s schedule.  I really can’t afford to do that anymore.

TODAY’S RAW FOOD RECIPE!

Banana Milkshake

2 frozen bananas

1/2 cup of almond milk (you can make your own using sprouted almonds — or buy it if your in a pinch…)

1/2 inch to 1 inch of peeled, fresh ginger

1 tsp of vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/3 tsp nutmeg

1. Place frozen bananas into a high speed blender.  I use a Vitamix — but if you don’t have one, use what you have.

2. Cut and peel fresh ginger.  The easiest way to peel fresh ginger is to use a butter knife or a spoon.  The skin should easily peel off.  Your ginger should release some juice while peeling.  If it does not, it’s too old and won’t be as flavorful.

3. Pour in almond milk and all the other ingredients.

4. Cover and blend until creamy and smooth.

That’s all it takes to make this beautiful raw treat.  I’ve eaten this for dinner on those 95 degree evenings with no air conditioner.  You can add a teaspoon or so of raw carob powder or raw cacao powder if you like.  I prefer carob as raw cacao is a toxic stimulant.  Fresh mint can also be added as well!