Clean Slate Healthy Living Guide and Cookbook

Some of you who have followed my healthy living adventures in the past know that I aspire to eat as healthy as I can. Aspire being the keyword. I am human. I falter. When I’m feeling good I tend to worry less about what I put into my body. And the domino effect goes spiraling out of control. So, every now and then I need a personal challenge to get back on track.

My lovely friend, Fern, gave me Clean Slate Healthy Living Guide and Cookbook as a birthday present and asked me if I would join her on the 21-day action plan. Why 21 days? Because it takes 21 days to form a habit. So, without knowing what I was getting myself into, I said, YES!

“Clean Slate” emphasizes the value of whole, unprocessed foods as part of a primarily plant–based diet. What does this mean? It means eating foods in its most natural state with nothing having a longer shelf life of more than a week. Basically, no nacho cheese dip or Swedish marshmallow candy. Aw, nuts.

My paltry pantry and fridge consisted of junk food snacks and convenient comfort food: chips, popcorn, beef jerky, ice-cream, candy and easy frozen gluten-free pepperoni pizza and stove-top mac n’ cheese. But, nestled in between the junk were cacao powder, chia seeds, colloidal minerals, aloe vera juice, acai puree, apple cider vinegar and blackstrap molasses. So, I wasn’t completely lost. I just needed a guide to get back on track.

Fern was already two days ahead of me. So, off to Trader Joe’s I went and I found almost every ingredient that I needed for the first week of the plan. They didn’t have turnips, fresh ginger or frozen chopped mangoes so I stopped by another market on the way home.

Brussels Sprout Salad

Brussels Sprout Salad with Avocado and Pumpkin Seeds

Week 1 base diet includes legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds and oils and seasoning.  Breakfasts are juices and smoothies, lunches and dinners include lots of live-boosting vegetables and legumes. Most of the recipes called for a handful of ingredients. Nothing took too long to prepare.

Pureed Cauliflower Soup

Pureed Cauliflower Soup

I have to admit that eating raw Brussels sprouts as a salad took some getting used to but it wasn’t bad once I stopped missing the caramelized butter and bacon. But, the pureed cauliflower soup was delicious and so easy to make.

Pureed Cauliflower Recipe: 

Chop 1 head of cauliflower into florets. Add 2 1/2 cups your choice of stock to florets into a saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Then puree in a blender and serve.

Green Machine Smoothie

Green Machine Smoothie

The first couple days were okay but today I was feeling a little run down. A couple more days to go to wrap up Week 1 and then I’ll be able to add gluten-free whole grain, like quinoa and brown rice, and fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines to the mix in Week 2.

Wish me luck!

Extract Juice Bar’s Raw Foods Cleanse

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Ever since my big lupus flare/diagnosis in 2010, you could say that I have learned to be more in tuned with my body. At the time, my body was screaming bloody murder and I didn’t hear a peep. Now, my body sighs and you can bet it registers loud and clear.

I turned to juicing and a vegan diet because of Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet book to immerse my body in green goodness nutrients. I began juicing my own juice regularly. Then when things began stabilizing over the past few years and I started to get lazy about juicing and my eating habits. I was out and about and “too busy” living life to juice and eat healthy.

I know. I know. My terrible eating habits and lack of respect for my body was probably what contributed to my flare in the first place.

And yes, eventually, I started to feel run down and sluggish. So, my happy medium now is doing a full juice cleanse every 3 months or so while also still regularly consuming fresh store-bought juices like Robek’s at least a few times a week. Love their Evergreen juice!

So, a few months ago there was a Groupon for a 4-day raw foods juice cleanse from Extract Juice Bar. I decided to try it since all I had to do was go pick up the juices in Santa Monica. The hard part was already done.

Extract Juice Bar’s storefront is in Newport Beach but they deliver twice a week to the Santa Monica workspace. You pick up twice a week for two days at a time. The juice bottles are numbered 1-5 and labeled by color. And you get one raw foods snack pack. You can download their cleanse packet on their site with the instructions on what to consume when.

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This is a closeup of The Countdown + 1, is a blend of cucumber, watermelon, kale, celery and whole cranberries.

Overall, there was a nice mix of fruits and greens. I liked the focus on incorporating fun ingredients like scotch bonnet peppers, watermelon, whole cranberries and mango creating fun liquid meals as an easy way to ingest a variety of fresh produce in one gulp.

With the Trail Blazer Blend snack pack of almonds, dates, peanuts, cashews, raisins, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and oats as a snack to quiet the munching of the tummy, I felt relatively full for the most part.

The hard part was the temptation of the junk food in my office kitchen.

After 4-days, I kicked my sugar addiction, reset my palate to crave fruits and veggies, regulated my sleep cycle and restored my energy. So, whenever I’m feeling a tad rundown I gravitate towards green juice.

Extract Juice Bar
3305 Newport Blvd.
Newport Beach, CA 92663
949.675.2455

Finding the Ballerina Within

Align Ballet

I heart dance of all kinds. Whether or not I’m good at it, that’s all relative. But, lucky for me I have very little shame and don’t mind looking like the ever fool.

Ballet for me, was always an infatuation, even though I never really had much experience actually dancing ballet. I collected Degas printed anything. I cut out photos of ballerinas en pointe. I believe I was just a wee toddler when my mom took me to my first ballet class at the rec center. I learned a dance to “I’m a Little Teapot.” Nothing really came out of it except I learned where my toes were, peeking out from under my rotund, teapot-like belly.

I didn’t revisit dance again until I was in junior high school and the closest thing we had was modern dance as a PE class taught by a very bouncy and busty aerobics instructor who didn’t believe in sports bras.

In high school, I joined the dance drill team. Though it was more drill than dance with lots of parades where I learned the graceful avoidance of horse poo. The rule was that when in competition and if the part of the routine where we had to salute the judges on one knee came up, and you happened to be right in front of a big, ‘ole pile of poop, you had no choice but to kneel in it. I was dedicated but I wasn’t THAT dedicated. You bet I learned how to avoid that shit, no pun intended, with the utmost grace.

In college, I took all the intro dance classes to my heart’s content or that my schedule could actually accommodate. I was reacquainted with ballet. I bought a leotard, a ballet skirt, pink tights and ballet shoes. My dance teacher said I had good ballet feet. I beamed.

Then a decade or so pass and as my flexibility waned, I thought it would be a great idea to take ballet classes again. Always up for unthinkable challenges. A Google search for adult ballet classes leads me to Michael Cornell’s Align Ballet Method, which is “dedicated to authentic ballet training for adults.” Six classes later of Align1 and that’s me second from the right, almost looking like a real dancer.

I am in love with these classes. It’s definitely real ballet instruction and not just one of those fitness classes that have barre in the name but ends up like a military boot camp. While learning the fundamentals of ballet you are building your core, regaining your flexibility and strengthening leg muscles all while looking very graceful doing it.

Dance is like candy for the body and soul.

Heart!

Green Juice

Do over! August is Reboot Month!

Green Juice

Wow. First and foremost, I failed miserably at my 365 project. 113 days in and I dropped off the face of the Earth! Poof! Into thin blogosphere air. Somewhere around April 23 I decided to have an “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” moment and became completely preoccupied with this thing called life and work, well mostly work and unfortunately let all things in the peripheral take a backseat. I’m sorry! I promise I’ll make it up to you.

So, in an effort to make up for lost time without having to really go back and document what I have done everyday for the past couple months, (YAWN), I decided to proclaim August as the perfect month for a reboot. You know, like how they made the new “Spider-Man” with Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone when the Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst version was still pretty fresh in everyone’s minds. Kind of like that.

There’s no better time than right now, the little voice in my sub-conscience kept nagging. Especially, if I want to leave, you know, some sort of legacy, of which I have absolutely no clue about, behind.

So, this is me picking up where I last left off and doing what I love to do best…collectively binding together consonants and vowels into somewhat coherent thoughts and ideas to express the inner-workings of my fickle mind.

That being said, in going with the reboot theme, I decided today was also going to be the first day of my 21-day Kris Carr’s Crazy, Sexy Diet cleanse, which translates to green juice and green smoothies till noon, vegan and gluten-free for lunch and dinner with 60-80% of it being raw. I’m a little flexible on the raw and gluten-free part and also the no sugar rule.

Days 7, 14, and 21 are fasting days, where you consume nothing but green juices and smoothies. Body is about to be inundated with more micro-nutrients than it will know what to do with. Hoping to complement cleansing diet with sweat-inducing activities known as exercise to help with the detox process. Eeeeks!

Day 1

Brunch

Z Pizza‘s Tuscan Pizza with vegan cheese and gluten-free crust (Not raw)

Farmer’s Market fruit samples – grapes, pluots, peaches, strawberries

Water

Dinner

18.7 ounces of Green Juice – kale, celery, carrots, cucumbers, bell pepper, spinach, apples,oranges and a lemon

Veggie Wrap – avocado, romaine, tomato, onion, olives and almond cheese drizzled with organic honey mustard in a multi-grain wrap (little bit of gluten) and TJ’s baked onion rings

San Pellegrino’s Sparkling Blood Orange Soda (sugar)

Ciao Bella’s Blood Orange Sorbet (cane sugar)

Exercise

1 hour of dancing, stretching and free weights

Let’s do this!

Project 365: Day 87 “Seeing the World through New Eyes”

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About two years ago I went in to see the eye doctor because I was seeing sparkles in my peripheral vision. The docs diagnosed me with vasculitis, which is inflammation of the blood vessels, which resulted in swelling, blockage and hemmorhaging in my right eye. The next few weeks proved to be challenging as a team of docs worked intricately together against the clock trying to figure out the cause and stop it in its track. Eye drops, pulse steroids, shots in the eye.

We didn’t work fast enough and my vision quickly worsened. At my worst my vision was 20/200 with corrective lenses meaning I could barely make out the big E on the first line of the eye chart. I reluctantly embraced the idea that I was about to completely lose my sense of sight. And even contemplated whether or not I would be able to live in complete darkness when so much of my happiness comes from my seeing and experiencing the world through my eyes.

The docs were able to temporarily stabilize the vasculitis but knew the next course of action needed to be of systemic caliber. This is when they started throwing around the word chemotherapy. So, that June I began a 6-month chemo treatment that ended in December. I was then more stable but still having episodes.

So, I took measures into my own hands. January 2010, with the help of Kris Carr’s book “Crazy, Sexy Diet” I decided to change my lifestyle habits. I embraced eating to heal. I read books on the importance of micronutrients. I began juicing religiously. I slept regularly to get to deep sleep to ensure healing of my cells. I gave up alcohol, meats, junk food and focused on eating a mostly plant-based diet to get all of my micronutrients.

A year later I have never felt better. All of my symptoms were under control or even were in remission entirely. I was able to get off of five different drugs.

But, the best news was today when I went in for a checkup and I was able to see one more line up the eye chart. I went from 20/200 to 20/40. I’m still seeing, no pun intended, improvements. And this keeps me in check with staying on track. I have my off days where I slack, but know I can’t afford to neglect and treat my body like crap.

I am grateful and this is why what I see around me is like a wondrous moment each and every time. Because it is.

Reboot Your Life Challenge

Recently a friend had recommended a documentary entitled, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. It chronicled an overweight, auto-immune disease afflicted man, Joe Cross, as he infused his body with only fresh vegetable and fruit juices for 60 days straight to lose the extra 100lbs he was carrying around and to finally shuck his dependency on the steroids, Prednisone, that he was prescribed to keep his body from inflammatory reactions. Basically, to get well. He was going to train his body to heal itself from the inside out. He reasoned that when our bodies get a cut/injury on the outside, if you leave it alone  it has a natural tendency to heal itself. So, why can’t the same go for the insides as well? Joe Cross was on a mission to prove that it can be done.

Documentary by Joe Cross.

So, off he goes, traveling across the US with a juicer in the back of his car, inspiring the many people he meets to take the Reboot Your Life challenge. Reboot Your Life is a socially conscious health and wellness company that offers support, encouragement, community, media and tools to everyday people. Did I mention all this is free? You take quick survey and the results will determine which of the 3 programs would best suit your needs. I got the 15-day Reboot Entry Program. The entry plan is a 15 day journey to wellness. In this plan, you can juice and blend produce as well as eat raw and cooked vegetables and fruits in any order or combination that suits your life. This program is intended for those who are brand new to eating a plant-based diet, those who have recently completed a juice fast or those who would like to participate in a Reboot, but don’t want to exclusively juice, for 5 days.

It was a good place to start since I wasn’t sure if I was capable of juice fasting for 60 days straight yet. I eat a lot and would miss chewing. But, because Joe had such good end results, he lost 100lbs and was able to successfully stop his Prednisone altogether without having any flare-ups, I was sold on the getting off the steroids part since I was still also on the same drug, among others, to control my lupus flares. Though, in the span of a little over a year,I have already been able to reduce my dosage from the initial 60mg a day to alternating 1 and 2mg daily because I was already on the juicing bandwagon.

I have been juicing since New Year’s Day because I was inspired by Kris Carr’s Crazy, Sexy Diet book. Since I started juicing, I have noticed an overwhelming sense of well-being. I think clearer, faster, and dream more vividly. My skin is dewy and glows from within. I am bouncing off the walls with natural, non-caffeinated energy. My hair that I had lost from chemo has grown back extra thick with more color and bounce. Colds/infections are far and few between. The stiffness and pain of my arthritic hands are now gone and have regained back most of its original flexibility. I could go on and on about how my body has reversed most of the damage the inflammation had done but that’s a whole other post. I just feel good overall. This Reboot seemed just like an extra boost to continue on my road to wellness.

So, this is how I got to Day 1 of the Reboot Your Life Challenge. Follow me on my journey to wellness!

Exploring Chinese Herbal Medicine

I went to see the Chinese herbalist that my sister’s Chinese friend recommended armed with my list of ingredients that compose langchuangding, an herbal formula used in lupus study that I came across online during one of my many Prednisone-induced sleepless nights of looking for answers.

The herb group took a formula called Langchuangding as well as prednisone. Langchuangding was similar to the previously reported formula, with 18g rehmannia, 12 g ophiopogon, 9g ching-hao, 30g isatis leaf, 30g oldenlandia, 12g red peony, 10g moutan, 30g lithospermum, and 9g campsis, decocted in water, taken two divided doses, morning and at night.

Chinese Herbs

One of the objectives of the study was to measure blood levels of neopterin, a substance metabolized from the nucleic acid guanosine. It is produced from macrophages stimulated by ?-interferon and released by activated T-lymphocytes. The neopterin level can sensitively reflect an activated state of the cell mediated immune system, which can be widely employed for monitoring autoimmune diseases, transplantation immune rejection, tumors, and acute or chronic infectious ailments. This study revealed that the serum neopterin level of SLE patients was distinctly higher than that of the healthy control group (655 vs. 265 µg/liter), as had been shown in other evaluations, supporting the view that activation of the cellular immune system was involved in the SLE flare-ups. The addition of Chinese herbs to the treatment helped lower neopterin levels (to 354 µg/liter), as well as reducing erythrocyte sedimentation rate, complement C3 levels, and symptoms of facial erythema and oral ulceration. Similarly, it was shown that the immunostimulant soluble blood component interleukin-2R (sIL-2R) is elevated in patients with lupus, and declines during periods of remission and upon treatment with the Chinese herb formula.

In conclusion, Chinese medicine appears to be suitable as an adjunct to modern medical therapies when used for a period of about 3 months, a course of therapy that is to be repeated if necessary. While earlier Chinese reports suggested that Chinese herbs alone could function reasonably well as a treatment for lupus (5), this approach appears to have been largely abandoned, at least for the more serious cases seen in Chinese hospitals. For mild cases of lupus, using Chinese herbs as a sole remedy may be a reasonable choice, so long as modern medications are added in the event of a worsening syndrome. It is important that the treatment be sufficiently effective so as to minimize the chance of damage to the internal organs.

The herbalist said I needed to see the doctor in order to find the right dosage because each person is different and that I can’t just take a recipe from the internet and think it would work for me. Dammit. Defeated yet again. Good thing I have an appointment with Dr. Zhang on Saturday. He’ll give me the right dosage.

Langchuang stands for SLE, ding in Chinese means heal this disease.

Crying stomach

I had to investigate a specialty pharmacy for the Lupron shot because it was self-injecting.  At first my insurance denied authorization so it was going to cost me $500 or something for every month that I am on Cytoxan to shut down my ovaries and in theory protect them from the chemotherapy.  It’s proving to be difficult to get this shot so a part of me is taking it as fate.  It just wasn’t meant to be.  

I’ve never been so hyper-aware of all the changes in my body.  I could be bed-ridden with the flu and still think I was fine.  These days I know my body head to toe.  Today I had slight stomach pain probably caused from the steroids, which can thin the lining of my stomach.  I kept imagining a rupture and all the food that I had just eaten being let loose into my body.

Lupus Recovery Diet

My good friend Cathy brought over a care package for me.  It was filled with healthy snacks and flowers to wish me a well recovery and to aid in my new diet adventure.  I am truly lucky to have such good, thoughtful people to call friends.  Overall, this was a good week.  It’s been 1 ½ weeks on the Lupus Recovery Diet.  The book is written by a “survivor” of lupus.  She changed her diet to be basically plant-based and has had tremendous recovery to the point of disease remission.  This diet thing might be a good thing after all.  I am semi-skeptical yet desperately hopeful but at this point I’ve got nothing to lose.  So, bring on the miracles!

Holding a Paintbrush Brings Me Joy and I’m a Terrible Painter

Woke up at the butt crack of dawn to volunteer with coworkers for LA Works Day.  We were assigned a school in Highland Park to revitalize the old murals.  Spent a good chunk of the day recreating a mural in a new location.  It was good company bonding experience.  It felt good to be doing something else for someone since a lot of other people have been doing a lot for me.  I would like to take this opportunity to say that the people in my life totally rock.  I’ve had strangers come out of the woodwork and offer their genuine assistance in every which way and I am touched by all the love and support that I have been inundated with.  It also got me thinking about how only two months ago I couldn’t hold a paintbrush without wincing with pain, I felt happy, no, more like ecstatic to be pain-free, with enough energy to get through most the day almost effortlessly.  I was happy.  And at that moment, I felt like nothing could get me down and I was on top of the world or at the very least a very tall ladder very carefully stenciling letters onto the side of a school building next to dancing dolphins.

Reconstructing a mural for LA Works Day

I wanted to ride the euphoria so I continued the day doing “normal” activities.  I went to lunch at Pink Taco and had my favorite go-to nachos in LA.  After lunch, a few of the co-workers and I stopped by the Annenberg Space for Photography to check out the National Geographic Water Exhibit.  Photographs from all over the world with water as the subject.  I was captivated.  Not just by the pure beauty of water, but also the paradoxical presentation of the basic survivalist needs and the lack of it in stark contrast of how much taken for granted it also was in most parts of the world.     

Later that evening, my mom came over to spend the night.  She was fighting with my Dad and wanted to escape and needed some companionship.  I had thought to myself, what could be so bad that would result in this childish silent treatment?  I wanted to yell, “IT CAN’T BE THAT BAD!  LOOK AT ME.  THIS IS BAD!”  Trust me, I did say it but maybe not as loud as I had thought it.  If there was any good out of this diagnosis and “brush” with death, it’s my newfound keen sense of awareness on living versus just existing.  So, we had a heart to heart and I think some of this keen sense perspective was seeping in slowly.  

So takeaway of the story: If you love someone, love them for who they are.  If they make a mistake, forgive them or forget them.  Life really is too short to spend it mad.  I can’t stress that enough.  Make it count.