The Post-Thanksgiving Stomach Sweep-Out

A Long Weekend Cleanse For The Poor and Bloated

First and foremost, I must apologize for skipping out of posting these last three times. Between GF being in the hospital (she's okay) and cramming for a heavy-duty Anatomy and Physiology test in school, I was a little pressed for time. Also, last Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving (which we like to refer to as "Thanksgiving" in the same way one would refer to "gay marriage" as "marriage" when they're used to it), and although I watched no tediously long football games and had no turkey to put me to sleep, I knowingly neglected my blog to dedicate my time to the love of my life and her cooking. So basically, I'm lazy. The lucky thing about having a new blog is that no one really notices when you skip out.

Like every other Canuck from here to Alberta - because I'm convinced everybody in BC is athletic and shapely and would never gorge themselves on mashed potatoes and gravy the way Maritimers do - I suffered the after-effects of a delicious, uncombined, heavy-on-the-starch Thanksgiving dinner with rounds of hiccups, water retention, gas, and my personal favourite, bloating (Revenge of The Baloonha Belly!). While I can accept the consequences of my speed-eating gracefully, I can't help but want them to go away just as easily as they come on. It took twenty minutes of eating to make me uncomfortable for three days, and this is just the beginning of the holiday season, packed with identical meals. Ah, the North American lifestyle.

Being as I'm in a classroom with a bunch of health freaks two days out of the week, a lot of conversation comes up about green - or for that matter, any colour - juices or smoothies. On any given day at least a third of my classmates have mason jars full of substances as green as cartoon toxic slime, slightly runnier than paste, and they slowly chug through it, somehow, without gagging. As appetizing as that sounds, fresh smoothies and juices are making an impact in the holistic world as widespread as the yoga movement. Movies like Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead have accentuated the reasoning behind consuming liquid leaves: plants are full of nutrients and it's hard to eat a lot of plants at once, but if you juice your plants you can eat a shit-ton in one go, thereby flooding your insides with nutrients without experiencing digestive stress. Bam, instant health! This is endearing and a great idea if you can afford tiny $5.00 bags of fruit thrice a week or more, but for those of us in the Magic Bullet boat, blending anything well is a far-off dream and affording a juicer - and the veggies to go in it - is a laughable goal. Certainly I can plan for the future, where GF's the family breadwinner and I can lounge around doing martial arts and drinking greens all day, but in the meantime I have to accept that these lovely alkalizing beverages are way out of my price range. There is a limit on how well I can take care of my body, and it's called rent.

This is a similar situation, I imagine, for many other folks fresh out of their parents' houses or struggling to make ends meet. Minimum wage is definitely the minimum one can live off of, and some folks are working with less than that. As much as vegan and locavorian books preach how affordable healthy food is, there are days when a loud, "Eff you," is the only appropriate response to the pages and their writers. This said, during my stint of über-hydration back in my first blog post, I discovered the only-slightly-splurgy poor man's way to clean and soothe one's digestive tract without living off lemon water and tea alone. I call it: The "Gerard, Is This A Grapefruit?" Weekend Cleanse*.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with all this fasting and juicing stuff, here's your 101 summery: A fast is when you go for a period of time, be it hours or days, without food. Many religions practice fasting. Persons on a fast can choose to eschew solid food and eat only liquids like soup and juice, or neglect anything beyond water for their fasting period. Fasts come in varying intensities and time periods, but the basic idea is that you don't eat food, so your digestive system gets a break. Cleansing, on the other hand, is less drastic and can still involve solid sustenance. It generally excludes anything hard to digest and focuses on simple foods to ease up on the tummy without starving the body of anything it might want. Anyone who's spent multiple lazy days in the summer eating nothing but fruit knows what a cleanse can feel like. If you're under a lot of stress day-to-day, or are working on upping a certain nutrient you're deficient in, doing either might be a bad idea. Talk to a nutritionist or naturopath. If you're pregnant, just don't.

So removed are most folks from what food is that upon asking my cousin if I could dig around for breakfast in their kitchen while visiting a few months ago, she apologized  for the "lack of groceries" in their fridge, full to bursting with fresh fruit. To me, my godparents' kitchen stock was food nirvana. To them, it was embarrassingly empty of quick-to-make meals. There's a really interesting point-of-view analysis to make there, but it's not the point of my story. Excited by the abundance, I had starting making humongous salads with gusto, savoring the feeling and taste of fresh vegetables and fruit, lounging around and taking long walks at leisure (because that's what you do in tiny Cape Breton towns), and drinking, I'm sure, vat-loads of tea. I noticed, on my last day before returning home, that I felt amazing. Light, bloat-free, awake and hydrated. I felt like every movement was a drink of sunlight, if that makes any sense. I hadn't had a single juice or smoothie, and I'm happy to report that I ate cooked food too, so there, raw foodies.

As much as I'd like to duplicate exactly what I'd done those few months back, I don't have three free days of nothing to do, I live in a loud, non-relaxing city, and fruit is expensive. But I have leftover vegetables from my parents, discount mushrooms and melons from a shop down the street, and enough time in the morning to whip up some basic salads. That, my friends, is enough. To be honest, it's a lot easier than doing a juice fast, too; there's no loud machinery, no supremely different tastes or textures, more fibre, and overall, it's way less expensive and time-consuming. True, you probably aren't getting as much of a nutrient dump as a juice fast would provide, but for those of us who have never done a cleanse or have habits and cravings they're trying to break free of, this little cleanse can be a massive help without all the mental and digestive stress. If you're overweight or currently living on Mickey D's, an intense fast can actually make you really ill, as it kicks up all the toxins and fats stored in your body, and can give you crazy diarrhea, since your guts probably haven't seen carrot paste since you were an infant (or maybe not at all) . A basic vegetable cleanse gives your tummy a break from hard-to-digest food, and the huge influx of liquids and fibre will help you poop and clear out anything that's been stuck in your intestines or bothering your liver without the associated nausea. Simple, but effective.

To do The "Gerard, Is This A Grapefruit?" Weekend Cleanse, you'll need three not-too-busy days, as many green foods as you can get your hands on, a bunch of apples ('tis the season!), and, if you fancy it, tea. Herbal tea, please. A cup of green mid-day won't hurt, but try to keep the caffeine to a minimum and avoid it in the morning. To make things easier if you've got, say, kids to take care of or very little time to yourself, wash up everything the day before you start your cleanse so you don't have to worry about it later. When you hit day one, start your morning with a mug of hot leaf juice. If you want more, have more. The whole idea of this "fast" is to eat as much as you want, which sounds backwards, I know. But when you do it, you're going to be having water and herbal tea, very little heavy proteins or starches, vegetables up the yin-yang, a good dollop of sweet fruit, and very little salt and sugar. When you're eating good food, you can have as much as you feel like shoving in your face. To cover my bases for those of you worried about how safe a cleanse is, consider:

1) People have been doing fasts for thousands of years. While living off just water (or air, because there are people that crazy) for a week isn't great for you, short periods of easy-to-digest food give your poor overworked digestive system time to rest. You sleep to rest your mind; why not fast to rest your body?

2) All vegetables have protein. Per 100g, a leafy green like chard or a floret like broccoli has 10g or so of protein, where 100g of steak would have about 8g. Honestly, you'll be fine. Almost everybody in North America and the developed world are actually over-sufficient in protein. It's hard to digest and acidic to the body, and being as we want to be alkaline inside, it'd do you good to give yourself a break from meats and dairy and whatever else is pushed to get your daily dose of the macronutrient. The only way you'll ever become deficient is if you eat only fruit (and no avocado) for years. Chill.

3) Doing a vegetable cleanse is the farthest thing from starving, if you're wondering. On a daily basis so many of us are eating tons and still suffering the munchies at the end of the day, because our bodies are going, "Hellooooooooooo, I didn't get my potassium! I need that! Go eat something!" When you chock yourself full of water (which cells love) and the vitamins and minerals vegetables are full of, your body gets its daily doses and keeps quiet, even if you're consuming fewer calories. You'll feel less hungry, suffer fewer or no hunger pains, and feel wicked good, because you're not weighed down with the task of digestion. Plant foods, especially when you're not including grains or beans, are pretty calorie-thin, though, which is why you can and will want to eat shit-tons of them. I'm serious about the "as much as you want" thing. There are no dainty salad-bowl-size salads in my house. There are mixing bowls for one. Pack enough food for an army everywhere you go. You will need it.

So, the basics of this cleanse are thus: Eat vegetables whenever you want, water in between, and an apple or two a day, and aim for as much raw as possible. The greener everything is the better. Salads are going to be your number one BFF, but feel free to have some cooked up veggies too; avoid white potatoes for the three days, because they're basically all starch and sugar, but carrots, squash, turnip, and anything like them are all fine.

Apples, cantaloupe, oranges, onion, shallots, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, pomegranate seeds, rutabaga,
kale, enoki mushrooms, asparagus, carrots, tomatoes, radishes.
Water is your best friend. If you're bored, watching TV, or otherwise generally chilling out, try to make sure you've got a glass of either water (unflavoured, please, unless you're just dropping orange chunks in it) or a mug of tea in your hand. Think of your digestive tract as a blocked pipe; you're pumping Draino (fibre) into it like crazy, so you're going to need to flush everything out with a bunch of water, too. You won't feel half as good on this cleanse if you're not drinking. That said, and this should be common sense, but you shouldn't be having any pop, juice, or otherwise non-water drinks. Coffee is out, caffeinated tea is out (this includes decaf, because it's a chemical mess), and alcohol is absolutely a no-go.

As much as it can be super hard for folks who have sugar addictions, avoiding large amounts of fruit is kind of a part of this cleanse. Even though the fibre in whole fruit does generally stop it from spiking your blood sugar levels, fructose is still fructose, and you'll want to haul back on it a lot. Feel free to spice the crap out of your meals - if you're feelin' an autumn-y breakfast, throw some pumpkin together with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, but hold the maple syrup. Keep a weary eye out for pre-combined spice mixes à la "pumpkin pie spice" that could have included sugar - anything doesn't sound like food or ends in "-ose" should be avoided.

Pepper is totally free game. Go nuts. Spices are all great. They'll actually help things along. If you don't eat a whole lot of processed food day to day, and you don't have blood pressure issues, allow yourself a little bit of sea salt on the odd meal during your fast, if you must. But by little I mean, like, a pinch. Not a hefty dousing. Do the same as you would for the sugar and check mixed spice bottles for added salt or sodium anything.

As I said before, you're going to need to go easy on the fruit, but they're not under a total ban. If you want to throw some blueberries on your salad to make it taste better, you go, Glen Coco. Just keep in mind that you want the majority of your food to be from the vegetable side of the ring. On a related note, I know it's hard to make salads taste good without dressing if you're used to it. There are still some kinds of greens I can't eat without some sort of sauce on top. But in general, try to stick to spices, olive oil (just a spoonful!), and a sprinkle of salt. Lemon juice is tasty to some people. Maybe vinegar, if that's your thing. If you need more flavor, try blending up some berries into a sauce. If you really must use store-bought dressing, try to use little, and avoid anything "free". If it's fat/salt/sugar/whatever free, it's probably a chemical shitstorm of things you shouldn't ingest. Take responsibility for consuming "unhealthy" food and eat it in its natural state or not at all.

In closing, go easy on yourself. Too many people get hung up on what they're supposed to eat or not eat and in what portion sizes and lose the whole point of a cleanse - to clean. You're aiming to soothe your body by making everything easy to digest and wholesome. Don't worry if you want to throw chicken in your salad, or if you sneak a scoop of mac and cheese from your kid's plate. It's not all or nothing.

A couple of tips that you don't need to follow but that will make your cleanse that much better:

1) Try to leave 20 minutes between each meal and drinks. Most of us are used to having a glass of something with food, but it actually messes up your saliva production and waters down your digestive juices. If you really need to, take a couple of sips of water while you're eating, but have as little as possible.

2) Chew your food! Seriously, pay stupid close attention to how much you chew each bite. Consider: there're no teeth below your mouth, so the less you chew the harder the rest of your digestive tract has to work. Food should be a paste before you swallow it.

3) When you reach the last day of your cleanse, try to ease yourself back into heavier foods. Suddenly dumping five cups of pasta into a freshly-cleaned digestive tract is just going to give you cramps and instantly take away the light, floaty feeling you get after three days of veggies. Instead, have a bit of chicken at lunch, or a cup of lentils with dinner.

4) Do yourself a favour and don't do this cleanse if your climate is now very chilly. There aren't enough fats and proteins in vegetables for the calorie boost you need in the winter to keep warm. Everyone's perception of cold is different, sure, but spring and early autumn are actually the best times to fast/cleanse. Trust your body - I've got too cold a temperament for cleansing in the colder months, so I don't.

So, because we all love point form and this is certainly long enough to give anyone attention deficiency problems, I'm going to summarize:

- Stock your house with vegetables and fruit. More of the latter than former. Discount racks are the best. Buy in bulk. Apples are like natural multivitamins, so have one or two a day. Try anything leafy and green. Eat like candy. Vary what you're eating - living off rutabaga is impressive, but not healthy.

- Drink water and herbal tea like it's going out of style. Try not to drink and eat at the same time. 

- Carry around enough food to feed six people and eat as much as you want whenever you want. Seriously, eat vegetables until you're going to burst. You can't have too many.

- Feel awesome!

With love,
- Leah

*The name of this game stems from my finding a grapefruit in my godparents' refrigerator with "Gerard, is this a grapefruit?" written on the rind with permanent market. My uncle can't eat this citrus fruit because it messes with his blood pressure meds, but had for some reason bought one. There, I'm not sounding crazy anymore - it's a phrase of association with my three days of awesome cleansing. This also brings up a point that anyone on prescription medication should remember: don't eat any weird spices or take any unfamiliar supplements until you're sure they're not going to react badly with your drugs. If you're on blood pressure meds, avoid citrus fruit like the plague.

DISCLAIMER TIME. I'm not a physician. If at any point you feel like shit or faint or are starving, nevermind what I've told you and go eat a sandwich or something. You know your body better than anyone; if it says something's wrong, SOMETHING'S WRONG. Please consider your state of health before you do any cleanse or fast - if you have blood sugar issues, are taking medications, have gaping nutrient deficiencies, don't know an orange from a grapefruit, or are feeling overwhelmed, USE YOUR BETTER JUDGEMENT. Talk to your doctor, a nutritionist, a friend who's done a million cleanses before, or consult Google. Take nothing at face value. Be inquisitive. Do what's best for you.

No comments:

Post a Comment