Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How I Feel

"There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow."


I'm not sure why, but I was certain that that quote was from the Bible.  As I was mentally formulating this post, I was preparing to defend this choice of opening, claiming that I did not intend to be all "jesus-y" and explaining how that (not being "jesus-y") would the topic of another blog entirely, one I'd probably call "And Also With You: Confessions of a Lapsed Fundamentalist." 

But, alas, I worried without cause.  It was Shakespeare after all.  And after all, who in their right mind would argue with Shakespeare?  (Although it was said that he and Ben Johnson had it out on a few occassions, but that too is a subject for another day.)

Whence all this rambling, you ask?  Well, "providence." 

That line from Hamlet came to me just a few hours ago.  A friend of mine e-mailed me today in response to this blog.  I couldn't remember if I'd sent her the link to it when I began writing it a few weeks ago, so I sent it to her this morning.  In responding she said it was funny that I'd done so today because she was on her first day of an Ayurvedic spring cleanse.  (Ayurveda is an ancient Indian practice that essentially combines food and medicine.  I have a book about it I've tried to get through.  Certainly interesting, but I know just enough about it to be dangerous to myself were I to put its dictums into practice.)

By "funny," of course, she meant coincidental and it got me thinking about a number of other providential and coincidental things that have been happening.

Blessed.  I really don't use the word so much (maybe it sounds too "jesus-y") but if I'm going to be honest with myself, I have been feeling pretty blessed lately, and not just about this lifestyle change I'm going through.  The writing of this blog and the communication and sharing it has allowed has brought me that feeling as well.  It's been incredible to feel like I've had a hand in inspiring others to, at the very least, consider their food choices ("I made your carrot salad - it was great!").  Or to inspire them to take an even bigger plunge, like my friend in Colorado who I unknowingly helped "push over the hump" and who is now a few days into a 30-day juice fast.  By the same token, it's been great to read stories of other people who are already living this lifestyle and to learn from them, whether it's other bloggers (like Healthy Girl's Kitchen, Amy the Nutritarian or Sue in Ohio) or a journalist, like the one from our local paper, The Hook, who wrote about her juice fast at around the same time I was doing mine.  Providence and coincidence indeed.  Whatever higher power you believe in, it's hard to ignore serendipity.

HOW I FEEL (and have been feeling)

This same friend who e-mailed me today also suggested that I write about my thoughts and emotions as I experienced this change - "how I feel" was my translation.  Which led me back to providence and coincidence.  I thought it was "funny" that she suggested this because the past few days have been a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me.  Here she was pointing out the importance of emotion in this process - and there I was, not seeing the connection between those emotions and the journey I'm taking with my body.  In hindsight, of course, it's obvious.  She always was right.

It began sometime a week or so ago when I started feeling a little "blah."  Not nearly as great or as energetic as I had been feeling since ending my juice fast in March and beginning this new way of eating.  I was a little cranky, irritable - I even had a headache one night.  I was more than a little disappointed in this, having been spared the need to take ibuprofen for the previous six or seven weeks.  I took my meds grudgingly and went to bed.

I wasn't dissatisfied with my food, mind you.  I was still getting high as a kite making my incredible salads, still totally in love with my Red Quinoa, White Beans and Kale, still salivating over my mangos and avocados.  My mother even made a slew of vegan-friendly dishes for a visit we made to her house over the weekend - I was ecstatic.  I wasn't bored with that part of it - I still knew I was doing the right thing.

But I'd also felt like I'd reached a plateau.  And not just in terms of weight, although there I was sticking right at 181.  A far cry from 209, to be sure, but I also knew I had a good 6-10 pounds still to go.  I'd really started thinking of doing my next juice fast sooner than June.  Something to give me another jump-start.  A little bit of the shine had worn off I guess.  Things slowly continued in that seemingly "downward" direction.

And then this weekend it all kind of hit the fan.  I'm sure it didn't help that it rained and was cold for two straight days.  For the first time I felt what Dr. Joel Fuhrman calls "toxic hunger," almost a craving for some of the food I knew full well was not going to satisfy any real physical need, just a psychological one to escape, defy, lash out or give up.  Sitting in a colleague's office yesterday feeling grumpy, I could almost envision myself at the Wendy's drive-thru ordering the value bacon cheeseburger and french fries.  In the past, that's how I used food, to essentially ignore my feelings.  To borrow my friend's phrase, I would "stuff" my feelings with food.  This time around, though, I was committed enough that I wasn't giving myself that easy out.  I did not succumb.  Small pat on the back here.

And then today almost out of nowhere it struck me - the connection between my body and my feelings.  I'm not going to get too graphic here, but my body just hadn't been feeling so great.  What became clear was that, based on what my body's been doing for the past 48 hours, I am still in the midst of some serious physical detoxification.  Do I need to be more explicit?  Don't make me go there.

It stands to reason, of course.  I'd clearly been thinking subconsciously that once I made that switch 7 or 8 weeks ago, voila!  I would be cured.  But 42 years of toxicity does not disappear in two months.  I've really been able to feel a lot of this leave my body - I now understand my foul mood a bit more - to some degree it's a manifestation of all the stuff that's still trying to get out of my body.  It reminds me of what David Wolfe says in the film Food Matters - "We think that we should be able to go out and exercise and flush all those toxins out with our sweat, but that's not how you want them to come out!"

I think the lesson here is two-fold - a) a lifetime of self-destructive eating and drinking behavior does not let go of one's psyche easily and b) I just need to get out of my own way and let my body heal itself. 

And I'll tell you what - that realization has made me feel better already.  And that is how I feel.

One Final Note - about food this time

Tonight I made another batch of that awesome beet salad, this time using of one of the options listed in the book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian .  I added grated green cabbage and 2 roughly chopped navel oranges to it.  I didn't know it could be any better, but gadzooks!!!  It won an immediate seal of approval not only from my wife, but from my 7 year old daughter.  Definitely worth trying.  Super-bonus?  Cabbage is another one of the 10 "superfoods" from the book The 10 Things You Need to Eat .  Awesome!

be well, all.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Nobody Likes Beets?

If you're like me, you've never given beets much thought and have certainly never considered them the undisputed star of a meal.  If anything, they've been a curiousity.  You've heard that they're good for you (they are very red), but that's about it.  Perhaps you think they're sort of an odd or even comical vegetable, if only because of Dwight Schrute's obsession with them on The Office.  The sad truth is that most people agree with Michael Scott when he tells Dwight that "nobody likes beets."

I was no exception to this rule, even though beets were an ever-present vegetable in our home growing up.  My dad always had an amazing vegetable garden (see Who is Sausage Boy? for more).  And he and my mother loved beets.  We pickled dozens upon dozens of jars of them, we put up or canned at least that many more.  But when they were served for dinner, the face I made rivaled the one I reserved for when I was forced to choke down lima beans.  Histrionics, really.  Ask my dad about this face and this reaction.  I seem to remember him doing a pretty good imitation of it at my pre-wedding rehearsal dinner.  When those cooked beets came to the table I practically gagged.  I simply could not abide them

Fast-forward to today however, and, well, Michael Scott, I have to disagree with you.  It now appears that I, for one, do like beets.  At least in these recipes.  I love them in these recipes actually.

I was reintroduced to beets in my adult life just recently during my 15-day juice fast back in February and March (see Who is Sausage Boy? Part II for more on that).  A juice I came to love (from The Juicing Bible) was one called Blazing Beets:

Blazing Beets (Juice)

3 beets with tops
1 piece ginger, peeled (about 1" long)
2 apples
1 clove garlic
2 celery stalks
1 jalapeno pepper
(yes, 1 whole jalapeno pepper)

Blazing indeed!!  I had this for many of my "dinners" on my juice fast.  One of the places I got beets (C-Ville Market) sells them "de-topped," so I used a few big handfuls of kale and spinach in place of the beet greens.  I think I liked it even better this way, considering the nutrient density of spinach and kale.

Beets as Food (imagine that!)

As my juice fast was coming to end, I not only looked through cookbooks I already owned for recipes, I also bought two vegetarian/vegan specific ones, including How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.  The first chapter is "salads" and there I found this recipe for Raw Beet Salad, which is now one of my staples (Simple Carrot Salad and Triple Cabbage Zinger being the others as of now).  And as for the photo, what can I say?  It's my first attempt at food photography.  I'm not sure how many of you other food bloggers make it look so good.  I think I went through at least two dozen photos before I found one that made the dish look even vaguely appetizing.  And I feel like even that is stretching it.  If anyone's got any pointers, please share!

Raw Beet Salad

3 medium sized beets, washed and peeled
1 large shallot
1 sprig fresh tarragon, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

For the dressing:
1 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (sorry super fat-free vegans!)
2 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
freshly ground black pepper

1.  Use a box grater to grate the beets (you know they're messy, right?) and put in a large bowl.
2.  Finely mince the shallot (very finely, otherwise they overpower) and add them to the beets. 
3.  Mix the dressing ingredients together and then toss with the beets and shallot.
4.  Add the herbs, mix together and serve.

One of the great things about this salad is that, because beets are so hearty I guess, it really lasts for a while in the fridge.  I've had the same batch in the fridge for four days, and just kept taking a bit out to bring to work for lunch.

One variation, which I've yet to try, is to add shredded cabbage and some roughly chopped navel orange to this, which sounds pretty fantastic to me!  I'll report on that soon, as I've got some more beets and cabbage still in the fridge just looking to be eaten.

One final note about these ruby red root vegetables.  Not only was I potentially going to call this blog "Meats to Beets," beets are also one of the ten "superfoods" featured in another  book my wife and I just finished reading called The 10 Things You Need to Eat: And More Than 100 Easy and Delicious Ways to Prepare Them.  A great book, and not vegetarian/vegan specific.  There's really no one who couldn't benefit from reading it and incorporating some of its advice.

Eat your beets - and I hope you enjoy them!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Counting the Crap on the New Jersey Turnpike

(they've all come to look for America...)

I took a brief solo road trip about a week and a half ago and found myself, the Saturday before Easter, driving the highway you just have to love to hate, the New Jersey Turnpike.  (And yet, it is a road that, when driving on it, I find I strangely miss).  I think Jersey drivers are fooled by my Virginia plates.  It's only after I pass them in a huff that they realize they were messing with one of their own.

They're doing a pretty massive widening of the turnpike, from about exit 8 (where the bus & truck lanes merge with the car lanes) all the way down, it seems, at least to exit 5 (south of the Pennsylvania Turnpike exit).  It looks like it's just about doubling in width, from two lanes in each direction to four.  Most drivers of that highway will say (myself included at times) that this was a desperately needed "improvement."  But, as every civil engineer since Robert Moses has known, nature abhors a vacuum, so I guess "Yay, more cars?"

Needing a restroom, I pulled into the Molly Pitcher Rest Area (southbound only, milepost 71.7).  As I turned off my car, I decided, just for shnits and giggles, to bring my journal in with me and to record what, if any, healthy food choices were available for the weary travelers making their way through my Garden State.  Any guesses as to what I found?

There was a Cinnabon.  Mmm, highly processed white flour covered with globs of warm and melting white sugar, cream cheese and plenty of chemicals thrown in for good measure.

There was an Auntie Anne's Pretzels.  More highly processed (and nutritionally worthless) white flour covered with salt (or cinnamon sugar, or pepperoni, or sour cream & onion).  Am I naive to have actually been surprised that they didn't offer a whole wheat pretzel?

There was a Roy Rogers.  Mmm.  No really, mmm.  One high school summer I worked at the Roy Rogers on Route 34 in Matawan, NJ.  I worked in the kitchen and was in charge of frying the chicken.  I dipped the pieces in the batter, and deep fried them until golden brown, crispy on the outside, moist and juicy on the inside.  I loved that fried chicken, but of course wasn't allowed to stand there and gorge myself on it (but why???).  What i did instead was take small pieces of the batter or breading and throw them in the deep fryer with the batches of chicken.  When the chicken was done, I would take those beautiful nuggets of fried goodness and gobble them up.  That was one delicious job - a bit stinky though.  I walked out there every day smelling like a walking grease trap.  I'm pretty sure the uniform included some brown polyester pants as well.

There was an Arthur Treacher's Fish and Chips.  What a throwback!  I thought this chain had gone out of business decades ago.  Arthur Treacher's was a sort of the precursor to today's Long John Silver's, but way, way better.  Not a fast food joint.  There was an Arthur Treacher's on Route 35 in either Hazlet or Keyport when I was growing up, and I loved that place.  Deep-fried cod with those big steak fries.  I'm pretty sure that's where I was introduced to Malt Vinegar, which, when paired with lots of salt, was better than anything on some hot fries.  The place was a coronary waiting to happen, to be sure, but that hot greasy and crispy fish was one of my favorites.

And then there was a Nathan's.  Now, don't get me or my family started on Nathan's.  Oops, too late.  Nathan's hot dogs, if you've not had them, are hot dogs totally unlike any other.  They are the only hot dogs worth eating.  They have a certain saltiness, a certain piquant je-ne-sais-pas, a joie-de-vivre  that is entirely unique.  I assure you, if any piece of meat could have joie-de-vivre, it's a Nathan's hot dog.  (Perhaps it's the added nitrates.  Or the added pig's lips.  Okay, that's just gross).  But it's not only the Nathan's hot dog that held (and holds) such a place of honor in my family, it was also Nathan's the place, Nathan's the landmark, Nathan's the institution that to this day stands along the Coney Island boardwalk and lives large in my childhood memories.

Almost every time we went to visit my maternal grandmother Enis (the one who lived in Long Island with her sister when I was growing up and who frequently gave us lollipops for breakfast - see Who Is Sausage Boy? for more info on her) we visited this this piece of culinary history en route.  From New Jersey, we'd hop on Route 440 to I-278, make our way across that poor forgotten borough of New York City, Staten Island, cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (certainly my favorite suspension bridge of all time - don't get the NYC tour guide in me started), get off at Cropsey Avenue and BINGO, there you are, in the furthest reaches of Brooklyn (not too far from my mother's old haunts and my very own place of birth, Flatbush & Avenue U).  And there, nestled right in between the New York Aquarium on one side and the world-famous Cyclone on the other, is the first, the original, the only - Nathan's. 

Dear reader, I'll let you, in your spare time, peruse the history of Nathan's (opened in 1916, served by FDR to British royalty along with Churchill and Stalin, etc.).  Suffice it to say here that their hot dogs and the visits to their birthplace were an integral part of my youth.  They served these thick and chunky crinkle cut french fries (you can buy them today in the frozen foods aisle of your neghborhood grocer!) and some sort of orange drink, both of which we all ordered every time we went.  The drink was sort of a cross between orange soda and an Orange Julius, if I recall correctly.  My heart softens now remembering those visits with my family.  However, enough nostalgia - back to the Turnpike

Back to Our Story

Amidst all these disease-inducing delicacies at the Molly Pitcher Rest Area, I did finally discover something we might call "real food."  In addition to the aforementioned fine-dining establishments, the rest area had a convenience store and gift area where you could get t-shirts, gum and the like (I've been wanting to put a "New Jersey and You - Perfect Together" bumper sticker on my car for a while, but they don't seem to make those.  Darn.)  And wait, I'm sorry, they sell perfume here too?  Really, there's a fragrance counter at the turnpike rest area - where the hell am I, Macy's?  Anyway, there, in the corner of the gift area was a small refrigerated stand-alone unit that had some pre-made Oscar Meyer sandwiches, a few yogurt cups, and whoa, what's this?, some Naked Juices and, uh oh, hold on to your hats people, a few small containers filled with...can it be?  Fresh Fruit?  Yes, it's true, for $3.99 you could actually purchase an 8oz clear plastic cup filled with your choice of red grapes, strawberries or watermelon chunks.  I suppose someone at the NJ Turnpike Commission thought a small nod should be given to those travelling persons who were attempting to be healthy.  A small nod indeed - in their view, those travellers clearly make up the tiniest fraction of the population, while most everyone else is happy with those other choices.  I guess they're not really wrong.

I'd like to say I was saddened or shocked at what I found, but let's face it, we all know that's what's out there for us to eat - crap. It's not really in anyone else's economic self-interest to have me eat well.  That responsibility rests squarely on my own shoulders.  Which is why I now find myself carrying a lot of my own food with me if I have to travel.   I guess if there was something that made me sad, it was how many people were partaking.   (I am really trying not to be too judegmental here, I promise - that's a tendency I have, one I do not like, by the way.)  I got back into the car, paid my four dollars per gallon of gasoline, and headed into the sunset with my very own mango, avocado and trusty bag of almonds at my side.

Next on Sausage Boy Goes Green

I've started taking pictures of some of my culinary creations, so next up we'll have the recipe for another new favorite - Red Hot Raw Beet Salad.  (It's not really hot, there's actually nothing spicy about it, except for a bit of shallot.  I just made that up so didn't sound too plain - "Raw Beet Salad" -  it should sound a little more tempting or exciting, don't you think?)

Be well all!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Seeing God - Carrot Salad

I've been threatening this post for a while, but had to delay it to share the good news about my medical results (see We Interrupt This Blog).  So, finally, here it is.

As I came towards the end of my 15-day juice fast, I began to worry a bit about what I would eat when it was over.  I knew I was supposed to take it easy on myself and eat just fruits and vegetables for at least a few days to give my body some time to adjust to solid food.  I'd also been reading a lot about other highly nutritious foods like nuts, seeds, beans and "superfoods" like goji berries, chia seeds and cacao.  I'd started ordering them as well, mostly online, and was gathering quite a store of them in the pantry closet to have on hand when I began eating again.  I viewed this stockpile as my defense or arsenal against the inevitable desire for sausage and chocolate chip cookies, I guess.

I also own maybe a dozen or so cookbooks, and as the end got closer, I began looking through them to find some good recipes.  A few days before the juice fast was to end, I picked up the book Tassajara Cooking, given to me maybe 20 years ago by a girlfriend's parents (Jude, perhaps you can relay this story to them?).  As I read it, I practically had a religious experience.  I'm not joking.  As I read this recipe in particular, my jaw hit the floor.  "It's so simple!  I mean, it's ridiculous!" I exclaimed to my wife, "I feel like I have just seen...GOD."  I laughed.  I practically roared.  It was not unlike the howl that engulfed me upon leaving the doctor's office last week.  It was one of those moments of singular clarity when you see both the overwhelming beauty and the incredible simplicity of the universe at the same time.  (Okay, yes, fine, at this point I hadn't eaten solid food in almost two weeks, but I absolutely stand by the revelatory nature of that moment).

Really, though, talk about simple - this recipe is grated carrots with some lemon juice and a bit of salt, and upon reading it, I JUST COULD NOT WAIT to eat it.  I lusted, I salivated and I'm pretty sure I went to bed that night dreaming about it.  I decided that it would be one of the first things I ate off my fast.

Simple Carrot Salad:

2-3 carrots, scrubbed and grated
1 tbsp lemon juice
pinch or two of salt.

Mix ingredients in a bowl. Great additions to this are raisins, sunflower seeds (or sliced almonds) and some thinly sliced apples.  The first time I used sliced almonds and when I ran out of those, I used the sunflower seeds.  Both are excellent.

This is one of my new favorite meals, just ask the guys I eat lunch with at work.  Perhaps I should start taking pictures of the foods and including them.  I think so, especially considering my new creation, Forbidden Rice with Citrus Chutney.  Yes, pictures definitely coming.

The other enormous (and and transcendent) realization I remember having that night came after reading that recipe and some of the others in that book.  I went downstairs to make my juice "dinner," visions of carrots still dancing in my head, and, to be honest, sort of shocked at how jazzed I was at the idea of eating that incredible food when my fast was over.  As it came to me, I said to my wife with awe: "I CAN STILL LOVE FOOD!" I said in amazement.  "I just have to love the RIGHT food.  Oh, MAN!"  And that's what that juice fast helped me do.

And that's what I'm doing to this day.  It's been just about 6 weeks now, and instead of eating mostly fruits and vegetables for "just a few days to give my body some time to adjust," that's pretty much all I've eaten, period.  There have been lots of nuts and seeds as well, along with a bit of grain - some black rice, red quinoa (technically a seed, actually) and a small bit of whole grain pasta (and some whole wheat matzoh around Easter and Passover).  I realize that may seem strange to many people, being accustomed, as we are, to meals built mostly around some chunk or protein, sausage or otherwise.  However, I remember reading in one of the juicing books (maybe the one by Steve Meyerowitz, a.k.a. "Sproutman") that people always wondered skeptically at his diet, which consisted of pretty much what I've been eating, asking him, "Shouldn't you eat a more balanced diet?" His response was something like "I do eat a balanced diet. I eat about 50% fruits and about 50% vegetables."  I remember reading that thinking "Well, clearly this guy's really a bit of a wacko."  Now I'm not so sure he's all that off.  Quite the opposite I guess.  I mean, don't even get me started on salad.  I practically get high off making it these days.  Really, ask my wife.  If no one makes an "I Love Salad" bumper sticker yet, I may have my own for sale on this blog soon!

I've told my daughter Phoebe that we are going to be leading (or at least part of) the "Real Food Revolution" (there could be worse people to channel than Jamie Oliver, right?).  A revolution is what it feels like to me.  I'm finding it pretty astonishing that I can feel this good eating only that food.  I can't see a reason to stop.  And to be quite honest, I'm also looking forward to my next juice fast.  I'm thinking perhaps once a quarter, maybe at the beginning of each season.  A nice 15-day juice cleanse in June to start the summer out right?  Sounds good to me.

Be healthy, people!

Friday, April 13, 2012



For an Important Announcement!

Dear Readers,

WOW, WOW, WOW and more WOW!  I just came, heels a-clicking, heart a-pumping, lungs a-filling, from the doctor's office.  In my car I was overcome by a primal and demonic laugh of joy to (and with) the universe (is that oxymoronic?).  A few of you have heard this before and know exactly what I mean.

Why, you ask?  Well, here's the story.

I'd made this doctor's appointment a while back, at least 5 or 6 weeks ago, probably during or just after I finished my juice fast.  The more I read and watched about health, nutrition and lifestyle in January and February, the more I realized I needed to get myself checkd out and know where I stood in terms of cholesterol and all those other blood chemistry vitals.  I knew I possibly had some predispositions, considering my family's history, and when I made the appointment I picked up copies of my medical history to get a handle on where I was.

What I found was not very uplifitng.  As I mentioned in Who Is Sausage Boy?, I was boderline on everything: cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar (glucose) levels and, obviously, weight.  One scary thing about these medical records was that they were nothing like current.  I had two sets of records: one from a visit in 2006 and one from a visit in 2010.  Far scarier still, though, was the progression these records showed.  Every single indicator got worse between those two visits, and considering my lifestyle and eating habits had only stayed the same or even got worse, it stood to reason that by now, in 2012, two years after my last visit, all those indicators would have worsened further still!  That's why I wished I had had the appointment before I started making those health and lifestyle changes in January, so I could have had a real baseline to look at.  These would have to do.  The doctor even warned me today to not get discouraged if the results weren't stellar, considering the possbility that things had gotten wose before I started to make them better.

So back to today.  This gorgeous, beautiful, cool, breezy, sunny spring Friday - birds chirping, flowers blooming, and me, howling at the sun with delight on my out of the doctor's office.  Here's what happened in that little room:

Total Cholesterol: went from 198 to 142
LDL Cholesterol (the "bad" cholestersol): went from 130 to 84
Blood Pressure: went from 136/90 to 122/80
Glucose (blood sugar) Level: went from 6.1% to 5.1%.  (The lowest it can be is 4.5%)
BMI: went from 30.1 to 25.8

I was practically floored.  My doctor was exicted and the nurse said I could be a "poster boy" for change.  I think I blushed.

And for all those doubters out there (not doubters about me, but those who doubt that they could effect a major health change in their life), you have to remember that these are changes have occrured over only the past 8 weeks or so!  Just imagine the next few months!

The only "bad" pece of news was that my HDL cholesterol (the "good" kind) went down, from 46 to 33.  It's supposed to be above 40.  Dr. Levin says it's partially just because of the rather drasatic nature of the change, and that if I continue to seek out healthy sources of omega-3s (fish, nuts, flax), that issue should eventually even itself out.

It's hard to describe how great I feel about this.  It obviously calls for a celebration.  Sausage anyone?  A bottle of wine?  Chocoloate chip cookies?  I'm joking, of course.  If anything, this strengthens my resolve to continue this path of Real Food.  I now know that I not only feel good, I am good.  I'm already thinking about the salad I'm going to make for dinner tonight!  I will, however, have at least one glass of red wine with it, though.  Cheers!

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How It All Started/Who is Sausage Boy? II

First off, I have to say "thank you" to everyone who's read this blog thus far and commented, either here, on facebook or via e-mail.  I think I would keep writing it even if no one read or commented, but hearing from people has provided some nice validation.  I'm excited to share and to hear from others who deal with some of the same issues.  I am feeling a lot of gratitude for your comments and responses, so even if I haven't written back, I truly thank you.  On to today's post.  It may still be a bit narrative, as it's somewhat of a continuation of Who Is Sausage Boy?, but there's just still more to the story!  (A co-worker and fellow blogger, one of the authors of Teaching Underground, tells me the key is to keep blog posts short.  I'm afraid I'll often be breaking that rule).

How It All Started/Who is Sausage Boy? Part II

In the past two and a half months I've lost just about 26 or 27 pounds.  I feel unbelievably better than I did in early January.  I haven't had a headache in that long nor have I felt that awful sluggish, grumpy tired that I remember feeling quite often.  I've had to take close to a dozen pairs of pants entirely out of circulation for the foreseeable future and had to go to Goodwill to get a few that are two or three sizes smaller.  I'm wearing two pairs of jeans that I quite literally have not worn in about 8 or 9 years (clearly I was holding out some hope for myself).  As this has been going on, the biggest question people have had for me has been something like "What made you do it?" or "How did you start?"  It's one of the hardest questions to answer because it's not very simple.  When I wrote Who is Sausage Boy?, perhaps I took a bit of poetic license and made it seem that I woke up one morning and voila, made a decision to radically change my life.  As with most things in life, it was not quite that simple, easy or obvious.  This change seems to have been brought about by a confluence of events all happening around the same time.  Here are some of them:

The Ninja.  No, a masked Japanese warrior did not stealthily enter my room and show me the error of my ways like some Ghost of Christmas Future, though Christmas was involved.  For Christmas this year my parents gave me a Ninja Kitchen System.  It's essentially a blender on steroids.  I think one of the reasons my mom got it for me was not only that we needed a new blender (having somehow lost the base to our great Kitchen Aid in a move a few years back) but because, according to the infomercial, it could be used as a juicer.  I was jazzed.  Upon getting it home and opening it, that claim turned out to be slightly deceiving.  It was not a juicer in the conventional sense, meaning it did not extract juice from fruits and vegetables and discard the pulp, it essentially made smoothies.  Its directions for "juicing" included adding fruits and/or vegetables and store bought juice.  It turns out to be an excellent blender, however, with both a large and small containers.  I've already made a few batches of hummus with it.  The point here, though, is this - When I discovered it didn't really juice, I decided to finally go ahead and buy myself a juicer with some amazon.com reward points.  We'd actaully had a small centrigugal juicer gropwing up that i seem to remember using furiously for a while, then us all realzing it was real pain in the neck to clean.  I'd purchased two books about juicing and juice fasting years earlier and knew at some point I wanted to try it.  More on the actual juicing in a bit.

Born to Run & The Five Finger Shoes.  In late December, we had a very dear friend who we hadn't seen in a while come visit us.  She had, recently I think, started running.  She talked glowingly about the book Born to Run, which I had actually heard about a few years earlier from one of my best friends.  If you haven't read it or heard of it, it's a journalist and runner's search for a tribe of Native American barefoot-running "superathletes" called the Tarahumara who currently live practically in isolation in a valley in northern Mexico.  Is it the most well-written book in the world?  By no means.  The chronology is very confusing, but that eventually becomes irrelevant.  The book is partly the story of his search for this tribe, partly a sort of history of ultra-runners or ultra-marathoners (maniac athletes who run races of between 50 and 100 miles or more, often through treacherous mountain terrain), and partly an evolutionary treatise on the design of the human body.  The title, Born to Run alludes to that final aspect of the book.  He posits that our anatomy alone among god's creatures enables us to run long distances and that characteristic gave us an evolutionary edge.  And since primitive man did not have access to the latest models from Nike, he ran barefoot.  The second part of his argument is that modern running shoes are completely inappropriate to the task of human running and that the human foot has already been designed by nature to do this effectively by itself.  He's essentially an advocate of barefoot or near-barefoot running.  So anyway, our friend Tarah is visiting us over winter break, raves about the book, and even shows us her pair of Vibram FiveFingers running shoes.  Wow - crazy looking if you haven't seen them.  But, I was intrigued. 

At this point, dear reader, you must, must, must know something about me.  I hate sports and I hate running.  Sound too strong?  Think I'm kidding?  Just ask me what "D-1" means.  Yes, there was a time maybe 12 or 13 years ago or so when I went running on a somewhat consistent basis with my friend Jane.  I could run with company. You can chat, commiserate about the pain.  Heck, we even ran the Spring Lake Five together once.  But running myself, just because?  I couldn't think of anything less appealing.  I'd rather eat broken glass.  And yet somehow, soon after Tarah's visit, I found myself reserving the book from local library and diving in.  Let me tell you, my disdain for sports and running aside, I simply could not put this book down.  About halfway through it I found myself putting my Asics sneakers/running shoes and my sweatpants on, putting some music on my ipod, standing in the basement and saying to my wife "Uh, Jenn, I know I hate running and all, but I think I'm going out for a run."  "Okay, that's great.  Don't hurt yourself, okay?"  Now let's be honest here - when I say I went for a run, I mean I sort of used my legs to heave my fatness along the road and through the woods and barely finished the two-mile route my wife does with ease almost every day.  It was not a pretty sight.  By the time I finished the book, I decided I just had to try these crazy shoes out and got myself a pair.  Vibram recommends you take it very slow in them, since your gait is very different from how we usually run, striking with the heel first (that's where all the cushioning is on a traditional running shoe).  In these shoes, you take shorter strides and land on the balls of your feet.  Consequently, your calves get a workout they've probably never experienced.  My first "run" in them consisted of perhaps one-half mile before my calves were screaming in agony.  But then something funny happened.  I had brought my Asics along, thinking that when my calves gave out I'd put them on finish my route.  I put them on, started to run and felt so unbelievably awkward and clumsy in them.  It just felt wrong.  It was clear that, for me at least, running in the fivefingers was the way to go and I would just have to slowly build back up to running that epic 2-mile route.  The point here is that, against all odds and practically against my will, I started running, both a cause and effect of the transformation that was going on.  And, even more importantly (due to the shoes, I think) I actually liked it!

(And in another nod to my brilliant and far-sighted wife: she has always prided herself on being able to work out and be fit and healthy using what we had available - our property, trails, and neighborhood, which were totally free while I insisted for years that the only way I could really exercise was at the gym (hefty fee included).  Well, she was right and I was wrong!  She'll say it doesn't come easy to her and admits that she herself was motivated by seeing her father's struggles with health and, ultimately, his untimely death.)

Weight Watchers.  Early in January, after being shocked at the 209 I saw on the scale, I remembered that a colleague of mine at work starting a Weight Watchers group.  I wasn't interested in going to meetings or anything like that ("Hi, my name is  Sausage Boy and I'm a pork addict?"), but she offered to get me the Weight Watchers Points Book as well as the Points Calculator.  You plug in your age, sex and weight and this calculator tells you how many points you're allowed to eat each day.  I got them both and my daily point target was 41.  I used the points guide to determine the value of things I usually ate like Health Valley granola bars (five points each), turkey and cheese sandwiches, Gorton's Fish Fillets, and the like.  I spent a good two hours creating my own list of those foods and their point values.  I sort of paid attention to it for about a week.  For me the biggest thing was portion size.  I stood in the kitchen and measured the one cup of rice, the one fish fillet, the eight ounce sandwich.   In the first few weeks of January I had a little success.  I stopped using mayonnaise and switched to mustard, cut out most of the butter and watched the portion sizes.  I lost four or five pounds in two or three weeks.  Encouraging, while pretty modest.  But the cravings (for sausage and chocolate chip cookies) were still omnipresent.  It didn't seem like quite enough.

The Revelation of Self-Care.  For the past two years I've been some doing pretty incredible work revolving around self-eploration and expression with some dear friends at Hearthfire.  Early in January, I had a bit of a revelation about self-care because of it.  In the past, self-care to me meant something like eating a lot and drinking a lot.  You need to eat to live, right?  And drinking, in my paradigm, was simply to relax or celebrate, so that can't be bad.  It was really self-destruction, which is pretty obvious in hindsight.  It was on my way home one night, driving down I-81 when it became clear to me.  I had stopped at a Chik Fil-A for something to eat.  When people build a home they often suffer from the "why not" syndrome.  "Well, if we need counter tops, why not get granite?  It's not much more"  "If we're going to have to get a fridge, why not get the stainless steel one?  It's not much more."  "Why not get the cherry instead of the oak?"  "Why not get the..?"  You get the idea.  That was me (not only when we built our house) but with food.  "Well, if I'm going to eat, why not get the deluxe sandwich with cheese?  I'm eating dinner, so why not get some fries?  If I'm getting fries, why not get the large ones?  Why not get the coleslaw?"  You get the idea.  There was never a good reason not to get more, so I almost always did.  That attitude certainly jived with my predilection for buffets, if you recall.  I was back in the car that night, cramming those hot salty waffles fries down my throat when I had the big revelation I alluded to in Who is Sausage Boy? - my overeating was the opposite of self-care.  It was aggression directed at myself entirely self-destructive.  Real self-care was something entirely different, something at which I was very unpracticed but which I had just caught a fleeting glimpse.  I liked what I saw there.  It was a breakthrough moment.  A moment of emotional clarity that set the stage for everything that was to come and without which this shift would have not been possible. 

The Juice Fast.  Back to the juicer.  Always full circle here.  In early January Amazon had a crazy deal on the Omega J8005 Nutrition Center juicer (I ended up getting it for about one-third of the regular price, so it was hard to say no).  As I mentioned before I had purchased two juicing books about five years ago (The Juicing Bible and Juice Fasting and Detoxification) and started reading them after I received my juicer.  I was sort of counting Weight Watchers points, but then started to supplement a few meals a week with fruit and vegetable juices.  Then in early February I watched the movie Fat Sick & Nearly Dead.  (I think they'll be a post soon about films I've watched related to health, nutrition and diet so I won't say too much about the film here.)  It's the completely inspirational story about two men who undertake a 60-day juice fast.  I would recommend it to absolutely anyone who's concerned about their health, whether or not they are interested in juicng.  It's stupendous and amazing.  After watching this, I knew I had to try it.  Not for 60 days probably, but I figured I could at least do ten.  My start date was Saturday, February 18th.  I loaded up our downstairs fridge with apples, oranges, grapefruit, kale, spinach, beets, ginger, lemons, and numerous other fruits and veggies.  The first day I remember thinking how strange to not be eating anything.  The second day, I can't lie, I felt a little grumpy.  But after that, it was pretty easy and it became more than easy, it became all I wanted to do.  The tricky part was how to have juice during the workday.  For the first few days I actually lugged the juicer to school with me, along with a grocery bag filled with produce.  During my planning period I locked my classroom door (so my colleagues wouldn't think I was totally insane) and make my "lunch."  I wised up after three or four days (the juicer is NOT light) and bought two stainless steel insulated thermoses so I could make all the juice in the morning and have it fresh for the entire day.  By the time I was getting close to day ten, it became obvious that I could go longer.  I was shedding pounds, roughly a pound a day, and because I was taking in so many nutrients I felt incredible.  I developed a clarity of mind and thought I think I have never experienced before, almost like having an out-of-body experience.  I decided I could easily do 15 days.  And when that 15th day came, I stopped not because I was desperate to eat something (quite the opposite - I was somewhat anxious about, and reticent to do so), but simply because I had told myself 15 days.  I had no doubt I could have done 5 or 10 or 15 more.  On the morning of Sunday, March 4th I ate a grapefruit and holy cow!  The sensation of chewing was so new, so unique, so interesting.  My wife has always told me to "savor" my food.  I would try, but the savoring I did was mostly savoring the sensation of shoving more food in my maw.  But that grapefruit I savored, and it was so damn good! 

When all was said and done, I had lost just about 15 pounds in those 15 days and I couldn't remember when I had ever felt better.  The juice fast "rebooted" my system and retrained and dramatically altered my taste buds.  I did not crave sausage.  I did not crave chocolate chip cookies.  Hold on - did you hear that?  I craved neither sausage nor chocolate chip cookies!  The holy grails of salty meat and sweet treat seemed to have lost their power over me.  You won't believe what I did crave - carrots. 

Smooth segue here to my next post..., which I swear, is going to be about the quasi-religious revelation of the awesome Carrot Salad.  And we'll finally get down to some business here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Welcome to My New Blog.

So here'e the deal. I've recently turned over a whole new and somewhat radical leaf in terms of food, health and, to some degree, lifestyle. It's been a pretty amazing change for me, and one that has been a very long time coming. To read the whole story (essentially my life with food) and how I ended up here, read the page "About Me/Who is Sausage Boy?"  It's a doozy.

Anyway, this has been going on for just about two months now. But, my problem is, I'm a little bossy. Okay, a lot bossy, but I come by it honestly - I get it from my mom. So as I've been going through this transformation, I've of course wanted my family (wife and 2 kids) to come along too.  Those who know me might agree that my "wanting to share" oftens means I'm more than happy to push people along with me, if need be (don't get my wife started on how urgently I feel the need to "share" movies or music).  In this case, with the food, they're mostly willing, but my wife did tell me in no uncertain terms to "cool my jets" two nights ago. To be honest, she's right - I can get very (over) excited, worked-up and ahead of myself about things sometimes.

I've spent the past few weeks reading all sorts of websites and blogs about nutriton, healthy eating, superfoods, vegetarianism, veganism and the like, and it finally occured to me last night - "Why don't I start writing a blog about this stuff - I'm doing it, too."  The advantage, as I see it, is hopefully an outlet for all this energy and excitement I've got that doesn't involve my attempting to totally micromanage my family's eating habits and drive everyone crazy.  My wife may explode in the kitchen if I make another face or snide comment about the food she is serving or everyone else in my family is eating.

I figure this can be a place to document my progress, post recipes, share nutritional information and general health items and hopefully hear from others who are attempting something similar.  The more I look around, the more of "us" I realize there are.  Add comments, ask questions, or just read. I hope you enjoy.

I've never blogged before, so who knows if I'll be able to make this site work the way I'd like it to.  We'll see.

Next stop - How it All Started and Carrot Salad.