Post-Cleanse Reflections

Now that the Clean Program cleanse is officially over, I figured it now was a good time to reflect on everything I’ve learned and decide where I’m going to go from here. I’m definitely glad that I did the cleanse. I sometimes felt a bit left out, like when my boyfriend’s family had cookie cake for his birthday, or when they ordered Chinese food and I was sitting there with my salad, but it really wasn’t that bad. I enjoyed most of the food that I was eating, and I never felt like I was starving to death or anything. I was hungry a lot of the time, certainly, but in a good way. I’ve spent so much of my life eating when I wanted food, or when I felt any sort of discomfort in my stomach. It was nice to actually have my stomach growl and know that I was eating because I was actually hungry.

Things I learned while on the cleanse:
• You don’t need added sugar to make a delicious smoothie. Bananas, strawberries, and unsweetened vanilla almond milk are good enough.
• I do not like frozen blueberries.
• A smoothie can actually keep me full for hours, at least as long as any breakfast sandwich ever did.
• I can survive without caffeine.
• I can be social and vegan; it just takes a little bit more planning.
• The second plate of food is almost never necessary.
• Fruit really is a great snack (particularly apples).
• Fuji apples are delicious (I used to only like green apples).
• Roasted chickpeas are also delicious.
• Putting 12 hours between dinner and breakfast is not difficult.
• I will drink more water if I have a 4-cup bottle next to me than if I have a single cup.
• A big salad is more filling than a piece of pizza, with far fewer calories.
• It’s okay to be hungry.
• When a recipe says it makes 4 servings, you actually get 4 servings out of it.
• I don’t need dessert after dinner.
• I don’t need cheese.
• Brown rice is actually pretty good.
• I should have gone vegan “cold tofurkey” a long time ago.

When I first decided I wanted to go vegan last April, I tried to do it in stages. At first, I was only going to eat meat when my eating it did not affect the amount of meat that was being made – for instance, at Thanksgiving, when they’re going to make a big turkey whether I eat meat or not, or when my dad brings home leftover chicken that would just have been thrown out anyway. I planned this mostly so that I would not inconvenience my boyfriend’s family.

But then I learned more about the health aspects of eating meat, and I decided that I didn’t really want to keep eating meat. I did want to be able to eat at the same places that others ate at, though, and I liked my Dunkin Donuts coffee with cream and sugar, so I decided to eat vegan at home and vegetarian when I was away from home.

As time went on, I kept changing what I wanted to do. I always knew that vegan was the ultimate goal, but it all seemed like too much work. If I could just stay home all the time, being vegan was easy. It was going out in the real world that was tricky. There was so much delicious-looking food everywhere, and it was very tempting. We visit my boyfriend’s family every Friday, and I felt bad enough asking them to make vegetarian food. Asking them to make vegan food was just too much. And hanging out with people when I couldn’t eat anything that they were eating – that was just so difficult.

So I didn’t do it. I made up excuses. I told myself that since I was eating fewer animal products than before that it didn’t really matter, that it was still better than nothing. And while that is of course true, it’s not good enough, at least not for me. I’m not trying to condemn anyone else who just wants to cut back on eating animal products – that is a perfectly valid choice, and if that is what you want, that is wonderful. Everyone has different goals and beliefs, and I’m not trying to discredit or belittle anyone else’s choices.

But I know that wasn’t enough for me. I believe that eating animals is wrong. I believe that the way we treat animals in this country is horrible. I also believe that a vegan diet is the healthiest choice for me and the planet. So, really, the only reason I wasn’t already eating that way was because I was lazy. I liked fast food and pizza and other junk food. I didn’t want to make a scene by being different. So I decided that laziness was more important than my beliefs. And that is horrible.

This cleanse helped me overcome that. It got me used to bringing my own food to places. Now I don’t have to bother my boyfriend’s family to feed me – I can just bring my own food. Problem solved. Sure, eating out with friends is more difficult now, but it’s not like I do it that often anyway. And now that I’ve gone 3 weeks without any animal products, it’s not hard to just keep at it. I’ve been prolonging this moment for so long, and I’m not sure why. I’m sure for many people slowly eliminating animal products from their diet makes a lot of sense. But for me, it just doesn’t work. I don’t see the point in continuing to enjoy food that I know I’m going to eventually cut from my diet anyway. I’d rather just stop eating it right now and start looking for other food to replace it.

So I’m going to stick with the vegan diet. It’s been working so far, and it’s what I’ve wanted to do for the past year. I’ve also decided that I’m going to go a week without tracking my food. I’m going to keep a list of what I eat, but I’m not going to track the calories. I’m going to see if I can continue to lose weight just by eating when I’m hungry and stopping when I’m full. Hopefully I can still lose weight. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.

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Week 2 Weigh-in

Previous weight: 291
Current weight: 286.4

This week’s weight loss: 4.6

I’ve lost 8.6 pounds in the two weeks that I’ve been on this cleanse. That’s exciting enough in and of itself, but there’s even more important news: I hit my first goal! Goal 1 was 5% or 15.2 pounds, and I’ve lost a total of 17.4 pounds since November 22, 2012.

I’m definitely excited, especially since this hasn’t been that difficult. I mean, yes, I pout whenever I see bread or something sugary, but that’s not really that big of a deal. It helps that I know this cleanse is only temporary. I’ll be able to eat gluten and sugar again in a week.

I will admit, I sort of hoped that my food desires cravings would go away while I was on this cleanse. That hasn’t been the case. I still can’t wait until I can make cookies and can have a flour tortilla, not a gluten-free one that’s hard and doesn’t roll up that easily. I went out and bought super expensive gluten-free pasta because I didn’t want to wait another week and a half to have pasta.

But I definitely have changed in one respect, and I think this is the more important way. I’ve learned to control my portions better. I’ve learned that a smoothie really can keep me full for several hours. I’ve learned that I should wait a little bit, even if I think I’m hungry. If I’m actually hungry, my stomach will start to growl. If I’m not actually hungry, the “need” for food will go away once I find something else to think about.

It’s like I’ve been so afraid of being hungry that I eat before hunger actually sets in. And then once I do eat, I have a hard time stopping until I’m really full. Part of that is definitely that I eat too fast. I’ve always known that. When I’m around friends, I eat slowly because I don’t want to look like that fat girl who’s always eating, but on my own I generally eat pretty quickly. Then I get a second helping before the first one has had a time to settle. Obviously I know that I should slow down, but for some reason I haven’t done that before now.

But now, with this cleanse, my meals are more regulated. You’re not supposed to eat for 12 hours between dinner (or your last meal) and breakfast, which means that I have to fit 3 meals into 12 hours’ time. Lately I’ve been eating breakfast around 11, lunch around 2, a snack on my way to class at 4, and then dinner when I get home from class at 8:30. I try to spread out my meals, and that’s helped me learn not to eat so much in one sitting.

It’s also helping me learn that I need side dishes. Fruit can be super filling, and it makes a great after lunch snack or lunch side dish. Before, I would have half a box of pasta for lunch before I was finally full. Now I can have a single bowl of pasta and some cut up cantaloupe or pineapple or an apple, and then I don’t need food for hours. This may not sound all that revolutionary or anything, and it’s not, but this is the first time in my life that I’ve actually been able to eat the way I know you’re supposed to, and it’s exciting.

That’s why I’m so glad that I’m doing this cleanse. I’m not going to continue to eat this food and only this food for the rest of my life, but I can use it as a template for the rest of my life. I might be eating a flour tortilla instead of a brown rice tortilla, but I still only need one of them for lunch.

Also, it’s going to be much easier to stay vegan now that I’ve been a vegan for 3 weeks. Plus, after 3 weeks of not being able to eat oranges, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, caffeine, sugar, gluten, or soy, the vegan diet looks a lot less restrictive than it used to. 🙂

Cleanse Days 8-12

I’ve been doing this cleanse for nearly 2 weeks now. I thought I would be going crazy by now, but I’m actually still enjoying myself. I’m still having my smoothie for breakfast. Lunch varies, but dinner tends to be a big salad. I haven’t had soup for a week. I just couldn’t bring myself to eat any more puréed soup. The thought made me ill. Besides, I usually get full enough just from the salad.

I’ve also started making roasted chickpeas. I kept reading about them on different blogs, and then one day my mother was looking for a snack, and she made some. They’re my new addiction. Half a can of chickpeas has 11 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber, and 14 whatever units you use to measure iron. They’re also delicious. I’ve been roasting mine and then tossing them in olive oil, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and a little bit of cayenne pepper.

I also tried gluten-free pasta yesterday. I was really missing pasta and figured that I could try brown rice pasta and still be following the rules of the cleanse. I also thought that now would be a good time to see if I could control myself with pasta, as pasta has always been my downfall. Yesterday was the first time since the cleanse that I actually hit my calorie limit for the day, according to MyFitnessPal. Today I had pasta again, but I forced myself to stop after one bowl, and I really didn’t need more than that. A little after that, I cut up some fresh pineapple as a snack.

I’ve been good about eating a variety of colors every day. I get red and yellow with my morning smoothies, green with my dinner salad, and tan with the chickpeas. The only color I’m not really eating is blue/purple. I don’t really like blueberries I’ve found, and I can’t have potatoes on this cleanse, so I can’t eat purple potatoes. I haven’t seen many purple vegetables at the market, but I’ll try to keep my eyes open for them.

Week 1 Weigh-in

Previous weight: 295.4
Current weight: 291.0

This week’s weight loss: 4.4 pounds

I’m definitely excited to see the results of week 1 of my cleanse. I was afraid that I wouldn’t have lost anything, and that would be sad. That number definitely made the past two days worth it.

See, yesterday was my boyfriend’s birthday, and the day before that was his brother’s birthday, so we’ve been at his parents’ house for the last two days. I packed up enough food for those days so I could continue my cleanse there. His mother was very concerned about what I was eating (she has been since I stopped eating meat), but I stuck with the plan. They had a double-layer cookie cake with frosting that smelled delicious, and it was very hard to turn that down two days in a row, but I knew that the cleanse was more important. Three weeks without sugar. I can do that. After that, I’m allowed to have sugar again, but it has to be balanced with everything else that I eat. It should be a treat, not something I eat all day long.

Speaking of sweets, though – I did learn yesterday about the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale. I remember hearing about it last April (when I started the vegan journey), but it was too late for me to actually go to it. Fortunately, I found it in time this year. The one in Atlanta is being held on Saturday, April 20 – the last day of my cleanse. I’m hoping I can talk my mother into going with me so we can buy some vegan treats to have after the cleanse is over (although not in one sitting, of course).

Overall, I’m happy with the way my first week has gone. I do think I’m going to try adding the protein powder back in to my shakes. I know vegans are sick of people asking where they get their protein from, but I actually do think I’m not getting enough protein. I’ve been getting 25-38 grams of protein each day. I haven’t been eating as many calories as I’m “supposed” to, so the fact that my protein numbers aren’t where they should be isn’t all that surprising. I know I hated the protein powder the last time I tried it, but I also hated the blueberries that were in it. I’m hoping that was the real reason I hated the shakes. I guess I’ll find out today.

Cleanse Days 4 and 5

Food Recap
I’m glad I decided to add strawberries and bananas to my meals. My smoothie Wednesday morning was delicious. A cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, a cup of strawberries, and a small banana. I was doubtful that it would keep me satisfied until lunch, but it actually did. I had the smoothie around 11 this morning, when I was hungry for the first time, and then I had lunch around 2:30.

For lunch on day 4, I had another lentil and brown rice burger on a brown rice tortilla with lettuce and that red pepper sauce. For dinner I had another big salad and a mug of green vegetable soup, which consists of broccoli, zucchini, yellow squash, and green beans all blended up.

Yesterday was my first day of the cleanse when I actually had to be out of my house for a large portion of the day. I’m currently working on getting my Masters in Teaching, and this semester I go spend one day a week in a classroom. This interfered with my 12 hours with no food, but there wasn’t really much I could do about that, as we don’t eat or drink in the classroom after homeroom starts at 9 am, which was the earliest I was supposed to eat. I ended up having my smoothie at 7:30 before I left for the school, and then I had a black bean and quinoa salad with pineapple salsa. Aside from the fresh parsley, which tastes just like cilantro (which I absolutely despise more than almost any other flavor), it was pretty good.

Thursday evenings, my boyfriend and I get together with a friend of ours and write/watch cat videos/hang out. I decided to change up my eating schedule a bit more for this, so I had a big salad when I got home from the middle school (around 5) and then had another smoothie on the way. Then I had an apple on the way home (around 9).

Reflection
I always hear people talking about sticking to 1200 calories a day, and I always thought those people must be crazy and starving all the time. Now I’m looking back over my calorie intake for the past few days (I started tracking calories on Monday), and I’m shocked. My calorie intake has ranged from 950 to 1400. The first two days that I tracked were higher (1400 and 1300), but the past two days were lower (950 and 1010). I’m a little bit worried that I’m eating too few calories — MyFitnessPal keeps yelling at me that I’m going into starvation mode — but I don’t feel like I’m being unhealthy. I do feel hungry a lot of the time, but you’re supposed to feel hungry before you eat. I usually just eat when I feel like eating, which I think is part of how I got to 300 pounds.

I’m just going to keep going with this cleanse and try not to worry about it unless I start getting lightheaded or dizzy or something. For now, I feel good. I was really craving pizza and junk food last night (as that was what our friend was eating, so the whole place smelled like pizza), but now that I’m away from that smell I feel better. I’m still looking forward to making vegan pizza when this cleanse is over and I can eat wheat and tomatoes again, but I’m not feeling miserable. The first time I had a strawberry-banana smoothie, I added vanilla to it in an attempt to make it taste sweeter without adding sugar (which I can’t have except for what is naturally found in fruits). Now it’s been a few days, and I really like how they taste on their own. I don’t feel like they need anything at all.

I’ve just started day 6 of the cleanse, and I’m still happy to be on it. That has to be a good sign, right? 🙂

Let’s try this again

Okay, so it’s been about two and a half months since I last posted on here. As per the rules of this blog, though, I’m not going to beat myself up over that fact. I’m simply going to acknowledge it and move on. I am happy to announce, though, that I have not gained weight in the last two and a half months. I’ve actually lost weight.

Starting weight (Nov. 22, 2012): 303.8
Previous weight (Jan. 12, 2013): 298.4
Current weight (Mar. 30, 2013): 295.4

Weight loss since last weigh-in: 3 pounds
Total weight loss: 8.4 pounds

Okay, 8.4 pounds in 4 months isn’t really all that impressive. Still, I managed to keep the weight off without tracking anything or exercising at all (except for the exercise I get at work). And it’s not a gain, so that’s exciting.

I’ve decided to work harder on fixing my eating habits, though. I may not have gained weight, but I’m still eating way too many unhealthy foods, and I don’t like that. My mother has started this cleanse program that she saw on Dr. Oz a while ago, and I’ve decided to give it a try myself. It’s called the Clean Program. You can choose to buy the expensive shake packets and supplements, but we’re not doing that. We’re simply going to be following the recipes listed here: Clean Program Meal Plan. You can also get the Clean Program Manual here.

I’m sharing this information in case anyone’s curious what I’m doing. I’m not trying to say that anyone else should do it. I’m going to start it tomorrow. My mother’s been following the recipes for a week now, and she’s enjoying it. She says that she feels better, and she’s looking forward to continuing for the whole month. Since she seems to be enjoying it, I figured I would give it a try, as well, especially since work ended yesterday, and I’m going to have a lot more time on my hands now.

For anyone who doesn’t want to read a 48-page manual, here’s a summary of what I will be doing for the next three weeks:

I will be cutting out dairy, eggs, meat, gluten, soy, sugar, and caffeine. There’s a whole list in the manual, but these are the main things I won’t be eating. Obviously cutting out meat isn’t a problem for me since I do that anyway. There’s actually a version of this plan that allows you to eat certain fish and organic chicken and turkey, but I’m not doing that one. Eggs and dairy I’ve been meaning to cut out completely anyway, so that’s also not really a problem. Cutting out soy will be a little more difficult, but I’m sure I can manage. It’s the gluten, sugar, and caffeine that will be a problem. I eat those things all the time. Of course, I also know that caffeine and sugar isn’t all that great for you anyway, so it’s probably good that I cut it out for a while.

The gluten is really the big thing that I was on the fence about cutting. I know a lot of people have issues with it, but I don’t really think that I do. However, the goal of this cleanse is to cut out foods that are the biggest triggers for people and then slowly add them in later and see if they affect you, so I guess it can’t hurt to try it for a couple of weeks. I can always add it back in later.

You eat three meals on this program. You have a shake for breakfast (made mostly from fresh/frozen fruits and/or vegetables). Then you have lunch, which usually consists of a salad and some sort of entrée, which you can find in the Meal Plan PDF linked above. Dinner is some sort of vegetable soup. There’s a list of approved snacks you can eat if those meals aren’t enough, although I also have a list of several vegan snacks that I’ve found on other sites that I know fit the guidelines of this program.

I will be tracking my food on My Fitness Pal again, not because I think tracking is the best thing ever, but because I’m curious to see what the nutritional information will look like for such a meal plan.

I can’t promise to blog every day or anything, but I’ll try to post frequent updates on my progress.