My Summer of Indulgence

You might say that I have had a rather decadent summer. Occasional morning runs to Starbucks somehow turned into an everyday occurrence, I spent a fair amount of time just lounging by the pool with the kids soaking up the sun, my semi-regular workouts dwindled to near non-existent, my menu planning morphed into “what take-out shall we have tonight?” and I enjoyed more than a few cocktails, bags of potato chips and chocolatey treats.

To be perfectly honest- I  am a mass of contradictions at the best of times. Although I aspire to optimal health and nutrition, I’m more of a “green juice for breakfast and glass of red wine for dinner” kind of girl. Kale chips and meditation at lunch and salty potato chips while watching So You Think You Can Dance that same evening. Louise Hay AND People Magazine on my nightstand. Kick-butt 6am workout closely followed by a few days of sitting on aforementioned butt.

I will admit that I really admire those purists – the “I haven’t had a cup of coffee in 10 years” and “I never eat anything processed” kind of people. No matter the season or holiday, there are some dedicated health enthusiasts who manage to maintain their healthy eating and exercise routine in the face of the toughest temptation and peer pressure. But I’m definitely not one of those people! (if you know me you’ll be familiar with how little twisting of my rubber arm it takes to convince me to have just one more glass of Prosecco or to share a hunk of gooey chocolate cake ; )

perfectionism louise hay

This is not to say that I’m going to throw in the towel and chuck the healthy living for a life of reality tv and bonbons (tempting though..). I think the key is becoming more mindful in my approach to diet and lifestyle. Do I really need that latte or french fry? Well yes, frankly, sometimes I do! I’m not going to beat myself up over the odd bump in the road if I continue to focus on health and wellness the majority of the time. My own quirky and flawed approach to life doesn’t necessarily make me weak or less than – it just make me human.

Is there room for improvement? Absolutely! Am I ever going to be one of those “I’ll-never-step-foot-in-a-fast-food-restaurant again” people? Not likely. And I’m beginning to make peace with that. So I will continue merrily along the path of learning and living a natural and healthy life with a fair share of stumbles and more than a few potato chip wrappers left along the way.

*P.S. I am planning to embark  on another 3-week Kathy Freston Cleanse starting Sunday, September 8th. (no alcohol, sugar, gluten, caffeine or animal products for 21 days). Is anyone else in need of a detox after a summer of overindulgence like mine? Drop me a line in the comments and we can share tips and recipes!

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My Biggest Lesson from the 21-Day Cleanse

I am a worrier. As far back as I can remember I have fretted over things, often to the point of developing a physical side effect like a nagging tummy ache. In fact, as a child people often compared me to my grandma who was famous for worrying over every little thing.

This legacy has stayed with me into adulthood and was only amplified once I had children. There are soooo many more things to freak out about now that I have 3 precious little beings to love and protect.

worry 4

I had many “aha” moments in doing the 21-day cleanse this time around but none so profound as the realization that I often numb my worry/stress/anxiety with food and wine. About 5 days into the cleanse, I couldn’t figure out why I felt so great physically and so strung out mentally. I was anxious, tense and distracted. And what I came to understand was that I had eliminated all of my coping mechanisms. Tough day with the kids? Have a glass of wine. Up all night with a sick toddler? Hit the Starbucks drive-thru for a venti. Argument with my husband? Grab a big hunk of chocolate. Anxious over an audition? Plunk myself in front of American Idol with a bag of chips. Overscheduled and strung out? Good time for a slice of pizza and a piece of cake.

I’m sure you see where I’m going with this. I have been avoiding “feeling” most of my feelings because I’ve put things in place to compensate. I never slow down long enough to figure out what is going on in my mind because I am racing through life at full throttle without taking inventory of how I am really doing. And guess what? Once I couldn’t turn to my beloved glass of red wine or a big hunk of Lindt chocolate, my worry was still right there waiting to take over.

So what did I do? Well after I shed a few tears, I decided to take this as an opportunity for personal growth. I dusted off my copy of Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life and reread it. I read Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein and When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron. I downloaded guided meditations off of iTunes (Kathy Freston, Louise Hay, Pema Chodron and Gabrielle Bernstein are my favs) and I listened to them first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I wrote. I loaded my Louise Hay CD (How To Love Yourself) into my van and listened to it whenever I was driving around. I shared my feelings with my husband, my sister and a couple of close friends. I took good long Epsom salt baths. I stopped to breathe when I felt my worry taking over – 3 slow deep breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth. I got a massage. I constantly reminded myself to stay present with my children. I watched Modern Family and laughed my head off. And I started to feel better.

dale carnegie worry

Even though I am far from having this thing conquered, I truly feel that I am on the path to more genuine peace and serenity. And I’m not going to be so darn afraid of my feelings anymore. Heck, they are all a part of me and I’m going to either work towards setting them free or figure out how to incorporate them into my life.

Does this mean I’m never going to have a glass of wine again or that reality tv is now off my radar? No chance! I’m still planning to enjoy life’s guilty pleasures. I’m just going to be sure that I don’t come to rely on them quite so much.

Bottom line – shit is going to happen. I get that. But I can’t spend the rest of my life worrying about past events and impending disasters and still fully enjoy being present as a loving wife, mom, sister, daughter, aunt, friend and human being. And I can’t grow as a person while racing through life with a glass of wine in one hand and a bag of Doritos in the other. It’s time to face my fears and move forward. Yay me!

Lessons From My 3-Week Cleanse

Yahoo I did it! 21 days with no animal products, gluten, alcohol, caffeine or sugar. It was a roller coaster 3 weeks but I made it through and I’m feeling great. Here are a few insights from my 3-week cleanse to offer a little inspiration and information:

1. Gluten and sugar are in so many of the foods I eat. It is shocking really. Did you know that there is a good amount of sugar in most tomato sauce, granola bars, ketchup, gf pizza crust and salad dressing? And that aside from bread and pasta, there is often gluten in french fries, veggie burgers, flavoured potato chips, salad dressings, soy sauce, cereal, soup broth and bouillon?

2. Going away for the weekend during a cleanse with girlfriends who love to sip wine and eat at fancy restaurants is a very, very bad idea! Thank goodness for the toddler who provided the perfect excuse for not joining in on all of the fun.

3. The Happy Cow app on my iphone is a lifesaver! It offers up a list of veggie restaurants and markets in whatever city or town I find myself in with links to websites and additional information. This came in super handy when I was away from home.

happy cow

4. It is hard to meditate in the morning when your toddler is yelling “MOM – try to find me!”, your older son is watching hockey highlights at full volume and your daughter is stomping around looking for her favourite shirt. Meditating in the afternoon while the kids were in school or in the evening before bed turned out to be much more enjoyable.

5. I am super fortunate to live in a community with easy access to an organic market (Goodness Me), 2 fantastic vegan/raw restaurants (Kind Food and The Naked Sprout) and a Whole Foods. On those days when I just couldn’t muster up the energy to cook for myself, I could simply stop in to one of these places and grab a filling and nutritious meal to take out.

kind food

6. The best way to shake off the blahs was to get my heart pumping with some kindness missions! I am telling you I felt like a spy and my heart was racing when I tried to execute my kind acts in secret. I had so much fun dropping flowers with notes at strangers doors, leaving chalk messages at a local park and leaving sticky notes with encouraging messages around town (on change room mirrors at the mall, at the grocery store, in bus shelters, on books at the library). This is one habit that I’m definitely going to keep doing and I’m excited to get the kids doing it with me.

guerilla goodness

7. My munchies alarm seems to go off regularly mid-afternoon and in the evenings. Even though intellectually I was poo-pooing the idea of a handful of walnuts or an apple or a banana to replace some chocolate or a bowl of chips – it actually worked! Who knew? (I also popped up some popcorn in my air popper one afternoon and sprinkled on some sea salt and nutritional yeast flakes. Mmmmmm…)

8. It’s really not all that hard to cook vegan and gluten-free. Honestly. All it takes is some planning and the willingness to try out new recipes. And there are so many amazing cookbooks and blogs devoted to plant-based eating. Some of my favourites are: OhSheGlows, Alicia Silverstone, The Savvy Sister, Meghan Telpner, Plant-Powered Kitchen and Healthy Happy Life.

9. I can’t even count the number of people who asked me “What do you eat?!” There is a bounty of amazing foods that get completely overlooked when meat is the focus of a meal. I ate a rainbow of fruits and veggies, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, rice, tofu, quinoa, almond milk, hummus, amaranth, chia, green smoothies, coffee-less lattes, oat flour pancakes, rice crackers, stir frys and many more yummy foods. Now that being said, I did miss a good old hunk of bread and a piece of chocolate ; )

10. I’ll share my biggest lesson from the cleanse on Wednesday. I had a huge “aha” moment this time around and I thought I’d devote an entire post revealing it. I’m also thinking about a new challenge…maybe 21 days of yoga. Anyone wanna join me?

***Before I wrap up I want to send a special shout out to my mom and dad who did the cleanse for a full week. Awesome! Way to go! It was great to have someone riding the roller coaster with me and I appreciate your support.

Colourful Quinoa Casserole

When I decided to adopt a more plant-based diet, the very first cookbook I bought was Eat, Drink & Be Vegan by Dreena Burton. You can easily tell that I adore this book because I have probably made every recipe at least once (and many dozens of times) and my copy is completely dog eared and covered in food stains. I highly recommend it and Dreena’s other books because it she is not only a fantastic chef but also the mother of three young children so she offers up a bounty of food you can make at home that is both yummy and family friendly.

eat, drink and be vegan

This casserole is a particular favourite because it is hearty, delicious, easy to make and is perfect for my cleanse. It really packs a punch nutritionally with the combination of quinoa, veggies, nuts and fresh basil and it’s a great filling dinner for the whole family. Well the whole family minus the toddler who quickly told me he “hates this supper!” Don’t listen to him though – he hates most things these days. Give this one a try and I’m willing to bet you’ll love it. You can also serve it cold as a salad over greens, in a wrap with hummus or quickly fry up the leftovers in a bit of olive oil for different variations.

And hold on just a minute before you delete this because of the long list of ingredients (yes I’m talking to you Jessica and Nancy ; ) It’s actually super easy because you just pop almost everything in a casserole dish and slide it into the oven to bake. You can do it girls!

Colourful Quinoa Casserole (adapted from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan by Dreena Burton)

colourful quinoa 1

1 1/4 cups uncooked quinoa (rinsed and drained 3 times)
1 cup vegetable stock
2 cups water
1 15 oz can of mixed beans (rinsed and drained)
1 1/2 cups fennel bulb, julienned
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup of thinly sliced zucchini
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp allspice
1 dried bay leaf
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup pine nuts (toasted – I just toast them in a small saucepan over med heat until lightly browned)
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (for finishing)

Preheat oven to 400. Oil a deep casserole dish with olive oil. Combine all ingredients (except for pine nuts, fresh basil, lemon juice and olive oil for finishing) and stir to mix well. Cover and bake for an hour, stirring occasionally, until quinoa is cooked and has absorbed all liquid. Remove from oven and stir in lemon juice, basil and pine nuts. Add additional salt and pepper to taste. To serve, drizzle with olive oil. Enjoy!

colourful quinoa 2

*I also have to add a “Woohoo” moment from last week. Kathy Freston – author of Quantum Wellness and the creator of the cleanse I am currently doing- sent out a tweet about me! What a thrill to get a shout out from one of my mentors. Thanks Kathy!

Luv that Lori is doing the cleanse https://lorileighwilson.com/2013/03/29/a-kathy-freston-spring-cleanse/ … Posting it in The Daily Lean fb chatroom if u want to join community

Cleanse Day #5 – How Am I Doing? What Am I Doing? And 2 Recipes!

So here I am on Day #5 of my Kathy Freston Jump Start Cleanse and I can feel the fog finally lifting. The sluggishness of days 2-3 is gone and the constant urge to jump into bed with a big bag of Easter chocolates is starting to fade. I’m feeling quite nervous as I head into the weekend because I have a couple of social events planned and I know it is going to be super tempting to have just one glass of wine or a huge handful of nachos. I’m resolved to stay strong but this is going to be a big test!

I made a list for myself at the start of my cleanse of a few things I want to do over the next 21 days to try out some new things and to see if I can initiate a healthy habit or two. Here is what I wrote down:

  1. Meditate – at least once a day but preferably twice. I downloaded a Kathy Freston guided meditation from iTunes and I’ve been listening to it on my ipod at night before I fall asleep. I’ve also been using a Louise Hay meditation CD, some guided meditations I found on YouTube and simply stopping to do some deep breathing a few times each day.
  2. Floss – my dentist is always after me to make flossing a priority but I’ve never been able to make it stick. I read some stats recently about the direct link between oral hygiene and overall health and it was enough to make me rethink this nighttime ritual (did you know that according to Dr. Roizen in his RealAge Makeover book-  daily flossing can add 6.4 years to your life?)
  3. Visualize – I have been taking the time when I have a quite moment to visualize how I want my life to unfold in terms of family, career, vacations, etc. and to practice gratitude for the many wonderful things in my life. I try to really picture in my mind the things I want to manifest and to feel the emotion that I would feel in those situations. (Sound too woo woo for you? Just stick to the deep breathing if one is too weird).
  4. Dry Brush – another great pre-shower ritual that has many benefits including improved circulation, immune system boosting and reduced cellulite. Check out this video on dry brushing for tips. I bought my skin brush at Whole Foods but you can also order one online at Upaya Naturals.
  5. Oil Pulling – I read about this one online from a fellow health and nutrition blogger and I was intrigued. It basically involves swishing coconut oil in my mouth for 20 minutes a day for a myriad of health benefits including whiter teeth, better skin and clear sinuses. You can check out the post on it here.
  6. Exercise – at least once per day even if it’s just dancing around to Old MacDonald 10 times with my toddler. So far so good.
  7. Organize my Pantry and Fridge – time to toss the plastic and make good use of my mason jars for storing flours, nuts, seeds, etc. I also want to get rid of condiments that I don’t use and old Halloween candy that is luring me with its stale but sugary goodness.
  8. Massage – enough said. Got one booked on Saturday afternoon.
  9. Kindness – one of my favourite bloggers is Patience Salgado over at Kindnessgirl.com. She inspires me with her “Guerilla Goodness” acts and I decided to incorporate a few of my favourites into my 3 weeks. I’ll keep you posted on the ones I try.

Here are a couple of easy new recipes for you that I’ve had this week and they are goodies:

Homemade Almond Butter

almond butter 1

2 cups raw almonds
Pinch of vanilla bean powder
Pinch of sea salt
1 tsp of agave nectar (or 1 tbsp. maple syrup)

This recipe takes some patience but it is worth it! Basically you pop the nuts into your food processor and start whirring.

almond butter 2

It will take about 20 minutes for those little babies to turn into creamy and delicious nut butter so don’t get discouraged. Just keep processing and scraping down the sides until you are convinced that nothing will ever happen and then like magic – you will have beautiful almond butter. Add a pinch of vanilla bean powder, sea salt and a hint of sweetener at the end of processing to kick up the flavor and there you have it! Spread on a rice cake or cracker or simply eat it straight out of the bowl.

Raw Tomato Sauce

raw tom sauce

7 sun-dried tomatoes (soaked in water until soft)
2 large ripe tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 big bunch of fresh basil leaves
2 tbsp. gluten-free tamari sauce
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast

Toss everything into your blender and whir until smooth. I ate this cold over kelp noodles but I warmed it gently on the stove and served it over regular noodles for Mark and the kids. It is also great over rice and quinoa.

raw tom sauce kelp noodles

Enjoy!

Day #1: Stocking Up For the Cleanse

Today is Day #1 of my Kathy Freston Jump Start Cleanse and I have found in the past that the best way to stick to the program is to be prepared. My cupboard and fridge are all stocked up with fresh fruits and veggies, gluten-free grains, nuts, seeds, organic tofu, almond milk, cold-pressed organic oils and beans.

Trust me I know how busy life can get and I am the first one to dig my hand into a big bag of chips to ward off a mid-afternoon hunger attack or to hit up the Harvey’s drive-thru for a veggie burger in between soccer and dance for a quick dinner (not to mention my coveted evening glass of red wine).

In order to survive 21 days without gluten, animal products, caffeine, sugar and alcohol, I have to make darn sure that my kitchen is full of healthy and satisfying foods. I am already a nerdy meal planner so I am all prepared with my list of meals.

stocking up 3

Here is what is on the menu at my house this week:

Breakfasts – Green Smoothies, Fresh Juice, Coffee-Less Lattes, Cooked Gluten-Free Rolled Oats with fruit, nuts and cinnamon

Lunches – Quinoa Salad, Raw Wraps with veggies, hummus and spinach, Cold Spring Rolls, Green Spring Soup (recipe is coming!)

Dinners – Stir Fry with Tofu, Kelp Noodles with Raw Tomato Dressing (recipe is coming!), Marinated Grilled Vegetables over Brown Rice (recipe is coming!), Veggie Chili, GF Oat Flour Pancakes with Fruit Puree (recipe is coming!)

Snacks – raw nuts, raw sunflower seeds, raw pumpkin seeds, medjool dates, homemade nut milk  (recipe is coming!), plain rice cakes with hummus or homemade almond butter (recipe is coming!), Mary’s Crackers with homemade guacamole, raw fruits and veggies, herbal tea, homemade energy drink (recipe is coming!) + water, water and more water!

I’ll keep posting my progress and my recipes as the days go on. As you can see, I’ve only listed 4-5 meals in each category because I am counting on leftovers to fill in the gaps. And sadly since no one in my house is doing the cleanse with me this time around (yes I’m talking about you Mark) although I will be preparing these meals, I will be adding non-cleanse items for my hubby and the kids. I’ll try to remember to let you know how I modified in my posts.

Today I am feeling a bit nervous to embark on this journey but excited that my body will have a chance to reboot after a long, cold winter. The first few days are always the toughest as I overcome withdrawal symptoms. Send me some positive vibes today – I’m going to need them! (and perhaps send some along to my poor family too – I’m not the easiest to live at the start of this cleanse).

A Kathy Freston Spring Cleanse

People often ask me why I became a vegan in the first place. Well to start with, I honestly never really loved meat. I would always cringe when meat was served as a child and I’d pour over each piece looking for icky fat and gristle. However, animal protein did make up a part of my diet until about 5 years ago.

It was after a particularly crazy trip to Vegas with my husband and our fun-loving friends (you know who you are!)  where we ate, drank and partied like we were 21 that I came home wanting to cleanse my system. I had seen Kathy Freston on Oprah and I was immediately drawn to her beautiful spirit and her gentle approach to leaning into veganism and embracing a more conscious way of eating. Her message really resonated with me – make slow and easy shifts in thinking and consuming that ultimately result in increased overall health and wellbeing.

kathy freston 2

I rushed out and bought her book Quantum Wellness and it changed my life. Not only does she address food choices in the book, but she also advocates for 8 Pillars of Wellness including: Meditation, Visualization, Fun, Conscious Eating, Exercise, Self-Work, Spiritual Practice and Service.

kathy freston 1

Kathy suggests a “Jump Start” cleanse on chapter 5 of her book so I decided to give it a try and I roped my husband into doing it with me. There are  no funky powders or weird pre-packaged foods or supplements involved in her cleanse that often contain questionable ingredients and leave most people feeling starved and miserable. Instead she suggests 3 weeks completely abstaining from:

  1. Animal Products (meat, dairy and eggs)
  2. Gluten
  3. Alcohol
  4. Sugar
  5. Caffeine

I know what you are thinking – then what the heck did I eat??? Trust me, I thought that too (and so did Oprah for the record who embarked on the cleanse with her staff shortly after Kathy’s appearance on her show).  But having done the cleanse several times over the past 5 years, I can tell you that there is a bounty of healthy and nutritious food available that kept me feeling satisfied for the duration of the cleanse. Kathy breaks down each food category above in detail in the book and suggests that 3 weeks is the optimal time to give our bodies a chance to eliminate the most common toxins and allergens that we all have the most difficulty processing.

Kathy herself says:

“If you have never done a cleanse before, this may sound a bit daunting. I completely understand. It’s always challenging to put the brakes on what feels comfortable, especially in so elemental an area as eating. But any time you disrupt a pattern or meet a challenge, you create an enormous space for a quantum leap to happen……Remember a cleanse is only temporary: it is a short-term vacation for your body, giving it time to rest and detox. No one’s asking you to give up anything forever, unless of course you discover that you want to. Just try to stay open and willing to go the distance.”

Yes it is a steep learning curve. On my first Kathy Freston cleanse I basically knew nothing about vegan food except for tofu dogs and Tofurky (neither of which I consume nowadays btw). But even though the first few day were brutal as my body detoxed from caffeine and sugar, I felt absolutely amazing at the end of 3 weeks.

Here are just some of the benefits that I have personally noticed from doing this cleanse in the past: better and deeper sleep, increased energy, clear skin, calmer overall attitude (once I came down from the caffeine addiction of course), weight loss, clear eyes, reduced under-eye puffiness, reduction in allergy symptoms, disappearance of my hemorrhoids (hey – I pushed out 3 kids people!), better focus, more patience and my frequent tummy aches completely vanished. Plus I got a huge education in cooking with quinoa, barley, flax, nuts, seeds, gluten-free oats, beans, fresh fruits and veggies, organic tofu and a plethora of delicious vegan foods. And ultimately I learned a lot about myself, my cravings and my relationship with food.

kathy freston 3

I always like to embark on a cleanse in the spring when it feels like the perfect time to toss out the gunk in my house and in my body. I am going to begin the 21 Day Jump Start Cleanse on Monday, April 1st and I will post a few times a week to share my recipes, meal plans and my trials and tribulations as I muddle through this journey.

I hope you’ll follow along and perhaps try out one or two of my recipes -if only to prove to yourself that it isn’t really all that hard and that the foods aren’t actually boring and tasteless (come on – you know that’s what you are thinking). And even if you aren’t interested in a spring cleanse at this time, I highly recommend Kathy’s book as an interesting and informative read. If you aren’t careful -it might just change your life too!