Sunday, December 30, 2012

A little juice 'll do ya!

*Infomercial voice* Are you tired of slaving away at the gym, getting nowhere in your workout routine but tired? Are you sick of counting calories? Do you just want an easy, no brainer way to lose weight without feeling like you're killing yourself? Look no further! Start a juice cleanse today! *Cheesy grin and pose with a glass of green juice*

Ok, it's not exactly like that... but it's kind of exactly like that! Juicing is so easy, but there are ways to screw it up, too, so don't just take my advice, but educate yourself as much as possible if you're committed to doing this. It's a super easy way to lose weight, but don't forget that it is also hard mental work, and if you're committed to health, keep a good diet and exercise regimen for after the fast. Don't just rely on juice. It helps, but it's all up to you from there on out as it's hard to subsist on juice alone.

I'm posting this as requested from several people who want to join me in my New Year's Juice Cleanse! I'm doing 6 weeks of fresh, raw juice. I may go for a full 60 days, but I am fully committed to 6 weeks for now. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I'd love to assist you and/or point you in the right direction. [Note: I am not certified in this or considered an expert of any kind in this type of thing. Please consult a physician and don't sue me for anything. You're making this decision on your own and I am not responsible for your actions. Consider this my legal disclaimer!]

Step 1: Watch the documentary "Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead" and visit the website for lots of information, recipes, testimonials, etc. It changed my life. My former roommate, Kadi, told me to watch the doc as I was flipping out about doing the juice fast the first time (I committed to 60 days without even giving it a thought... then flipped out about it when stress hit me a few days later. Oh, former Anslee was so silly!) and it was not only helpful in calming any apprehensions I had, but it was informative and inspiring.

Funny story - I was in such a sour mood about doing the juice fast the first time (Like my mom was forcing me to do it or something? I'm not exactly sure what my problem was. I made the decision all on my own!) that I watched the documentary in secret, in my bedroom, as quiet as possible so my roommate couldn't hear that I was doing what she had calmly requested me to do. I was so bitter about it! Then, I watched it and thought, "I AM SO DOING THIS! AND I'M GONNA KICK ASS!" I think Kadi laughed at me as I admitted to her that I stealthily watched it behind her back and came to the conclusion that a) she was right, b) it was something we needed to do, and c) I really was going to do it with her. (I'm laughing at myself as I type all of this, by the way. I hope you're laughing reading this! If you know me at all, I'll bet you are!)

Step 2: Get a juicer! I got the one Joe uses in the doc, the Breville Juice Fountain Plus. It's a wonderful juicer! Easy to clean and maintain. It's like a part of the family after you use it. I've traveled with it. It's awesome! If you can't find that, or don't like it for whatever reason, just find one that will juice whole fruits and vegetables that is best suited for you. There are soooo many to choose from, which is why we decided on the Breville JFP (My, how hipster of me just now!) because it was easy as it was the one used in the film.

Step 3: Stock up your fruits and veggies! So easy. Make sure that your juicer can juice everything you buy. Some fruits and veggies need a little prep like peeling oranges or lemons, and some juicers can't do certain things, so make sure to read the information that comes with your juicer about what you are able to juice with it and/or what it will take to juice things.

Step 4: Drink your fresh juice! If you're lost as far as recipes go, just go to the website I posted in Step 1 and there are plenty of recipes there. They sell books on the subject, too. Since the documentary has aired, I imagine there have been plenty of resources to come out about it. Do your research! Talk to people about it!

Note: Talk to me about it if you need to, dear reader and friend. Put me on your speed dial - I don't care if you text me 3 times a day! Any way that I can help you achieve your optimal health results through juicing, let me know, but I'll go ahead and warn you: I'm not going to hold your hand. You're doing this for yourself. If you give me a list of excuses or worries or blahblahblah *insert whining here*, I'll let you know right now that I'm not an enabler of that kind of stuff - because I used to be, and I used to victimize myself by these same excuses and reasons to, essentially, NOT take care of myself. (Erin Wehrmann, if you're reading this, we need to have lunch soon.) If you want to change your life, you have to love yourself enough [Notice I said LOVE, not HATE! Positive change comes from positive action and positive love circulating through you, otherwise it will not stick!] in order to keep your healthy commitment to yourself! We can walk together on this journey, but I will not push you. You can come here for encouragement any time, but remember that self-love you have inside you and do it for the beautiful, lovely, healthy-minded you!

Tipsy Time!
+Try to juice at least 4 times a day with about 20+ ounces each. I say this because you need to get enough calories to nourish your body. If you consume less than 1200 calories, your body goes into starvation mode and it can really damage your system. Some recipes have calorie counts, but look up the fruits and veggies that have the most caloric value if you are worried about it. (Pears, I believe, have about 100 calories. Kale may also have more calories.)
+Juice organic! You get the most benefits from organic fruits and vegetables. They taste the best, too.
+Juice more vegetables than fruits. Fruits are sweet (Duh.) and they taste amazing (Double duh.), but they raise your blood sugar (Womp womp.), so try to stick to more veggies in your juice recipe and lay off the fruit. It can be hard, but you'll receive more health benefits by avoiding the sweetness as much as possible. Try to treat yourself to a sweet juice once a day, or once a week! Whatever works best for you. Try, try, try to limit the sweets!
+Stick to just juice and water the best you can. Yeah... I know. I love coffee, too, but trust me. After a few days, you won't need it and you'll wonder why you were ever addicted in the first place. (I can already hear your excuses... AND I LAUGH AT THEM! Just kidding!) ;) Coconut water is a good supplementary treat that helps with hydration. Kombucha and hot tea are ok. Use your best judgment. I've heard of people quitting smoking while they juice. If you're gonna quit solid foods, you might as well get rid of the other vices! Try it. Your body will loooooooove you for it!
+Tired of juicing everything yourself? Go to Whole Foods! There are, like, a million Whole Foods in Austin now (Ok, just 3, but still.), and there are at least 2 Juicebox's, the Daily Juice Cafe, Juiceland, Gonzo Juice, and several other places offer fresh juice as well. (Including drink well. Fresh OJ. True story.) If you don't live in Austin, look up some places in your area that have juice bars. I'm sure there are a few places that you probably weren't aware of that offer juice!
+New Earth Center is doing some cool stuff for New Year's juicers as well! Check 'em out here:
+Avoid packaged juice if you can! It is heated in the canning process, thus eliminating most of the benefits of fresh, live juice. Some of them add sugar, too. No bueno. Be hardcore! Juice raw! Yeah! You can do it!
+Exercise. You'll feel good, and then, drink more juice. :)
+Talk to people about it. Even if you're doing straight juice for just 3 days, I'll bet someone will congratulate you and say, "I could never do that! You are so awesome!" A) They're right! You ARE awesome! and B) They're wrong because they totally could do that! It's all mental. The point of this is that you're educating others about what you're doing, why you're doing it, and it's reinforcing your commitment to yourself by having these conversations. I talked A LOT the first 60 days. (Yes, even more than I already do.) You will meet some incredible people during this journey. I met my awesome life coach, Mark, during my first juice cleanse! He's just one of the lovely people who have enriched my life ever since.
+Relax. You're not going to die. (Well, if you juice enough, you won't!) You'll eat solid foods again, I swear! Do stuff to take your mind off of it. Enjoy it. Remind yourself of the positive, great things you're doing for your body!
+DO NOT EAT A CHEESEBURGER OUT OF TEMPTATION!!!! Seriously. At any point, do not eat heavy foods like this while you are juicing. Your body is making some very awesome adjustments during this process and if you do something silly and think, "Oh, I can have a steak after 14 days of a LIQUID DIET OF RAW PLANTS. No big deal." and go for it... I'll say some prayers for you because I don't think it will work out well. You need to reintroduce foods back into your diet after you finish this juice cleanse. A good site for breaking your juice fast is this one right here or this one!
+The word "juices" makes me cringe. Just thought I'd share that. But here I am! Talking about them! :)
+Celebrate! Go juice with people. Have a juice party! I'll bet you know some people who have wanted to try it, so encourage them to take the plunge! It can be so much fun, and I guarantee you'll learn a ton about yourself and the other person in this process!

If I left anything out, I'll post it in a follow up!

Some juice-related posts of mine that may help:
Documentaries will kick your ass. Lesson learned.
Perspective! (Little shout out to Heidi Wrabel!)
Juice Fast 2012: So, what AM I doing?!
Bright today, bright future.
Balancing Act: I Am What I Eat
I'm calling it a miracle.

I can't wait to hear your stories! Please, please share them. I would love to be apart of your journey and support you!

Thank you for reading this, friends! Sending you my love! Can't wait to start this!

A little recap!

GUYS! I know it has been a while since I've posted something, so for that, I deeply apologize! It's been so busy and awesome that I haven't been able to figure out what to write! That's a good problem, I suppose. ;) Anyway, I'll give you a little bit of a post about some cool stuff I've been learning and then I'll jump into some juicing stuff with a following post since I'm beginning a new juice cleanse on the 1st!

Ok, first thing- Hair!: My hair has grown SO MUCH, and so have I! It's been an amazing journey with my fresh, new, baby hair coming in, and I won't post anything about that yet (Gosh! I know! There's just so much to write that I need to save it! Trust me. You'll probably laugh and cry and laugh some more...) so just sit tight. The past few months have been cr-a-zy good working through some tough stuff.

Dating: Yeah, so, I made myself a new rule - "Don't post anything about the dudes in your life, Anslee. They seem to disappear after you do that." That's pretty self-explanatory. But honestly, I've learned a lot lately about healthy relationships, dating and platonic friendships alike, and how boundaries are supremely important. I'm talking about my boundaries with myself above all, mainly with consideration to the other person, and it was tough to begin with, but after a while, I realized how there is a deeper appreciation between the other person and myself. Plus, heartbreak... It happens, guys. That's part of dating, right? Figuring out what works for you, what doesn't, and deciding whether the person you're spending time with is THE ONE or not. That last guy was really awesome, and he kind of told me, in a roundabout way, that he saw that I was pretty much on my way to conquering the world (It's true, ok. So don't fight it!) and he didn't want to get in the way of that due to our differences. I didn't believe him until a few days ago when I woke up, immediately sat up in my bed, and said out loud, "Holy shit. That guy was so right. Thanks, guy!" I didn't want to get in his way either, so it worked out in it's own little sad-at-the-time way. I learned a lot in that mini relationship, and I am thankful for all of the blessings from those lessons that I get to carry with me now. [Cue: "Some day, my Prince will come!" Oh, Sleeping Beauty... Thanks for being there for me when I need ya!]

Parents: Christmas 2012 will go down in history as the First Annual Vegan Connell Christmas. I shit you not! Seriously. There was no animal product or by-product to be had at Christmas dinner for the first time EVER. Rewind to Thanksgiving when I sat my parents down after a great dinner together followed by an even better conversation (I am beyond blessed to have such open, loving, communicative parents!) and showed them the documentary "Forks Over Knives." Here's how it went.

Me: Mom... Dad... I would like to show you something if you don't mind. It's a documentary that can explain to you in a better way why I am choosing to go mostly vegan with my diet. Since you're medical professionals, I think you will understand where I am coming from and why I have made this choice. As you know, I did a juice fast this year that really helped me a whole lot and provided a ton of clarity, health benefits, and healing, and this documentary can help explain some of that and why I'm going to basically do more of it.
Mom & Dad: *looking slightly concerned but open to new information that can explain why their daughter has jumped off the dietary deep end* Ok... Sure. Let's check it out. We're not doing anything else anyway.
Me: Great! Now, I just want you to know that this isn't to persuade you or convince you of anything. I simply want to show you where I am coming from so you have a better understanding. *Start the documentary*

There were a few "Oh, wow. I didn't know that!"s and "Yeah, you are totally right!"s and then... My father, the radiologist and self-proclaimed carnivore says...

Dad: How can I get more information about this? How can I be one of those doctors in the film? Is there a training program? Can I read some books about this? ... ... ...
Me: *jaw on the floor, looking up everything I can find on the internet about this subject as fast as humanly possible* Here we go! ... ... ...

And the rest is history. I got a text from Dad about a week later saying that he was a vegetarian (My heart practically stopped and then jumped for joy!) and that I've made more of an impact than I probably know!

Pause. Let's think about this for a second. I am the youngest person in my family of 5. I'm the baby girl. I'm "the artist." The "crazy one." The "weirdo liberal." You know, all of that stuff. I only dreamed of having this kind of support! I remember talking about my decision to go mostly vegan as a prayer request during community prayer at my church because I was preparing for rejection! Who knew they would be on board! I am completely elated, and I can't wait to see our progress as a family to a whole foods, plant-based diet. Our minds have changed, and our bodies are following suit. I am so, so thankful for these changes we are going through that are bringing us much closer as a family unit. (Did I mention that politics were brought up ONLY ONCE my entire Christmas visit?! Hello, Christmas miracle! Thank you, Baby Jesus!!!) I feel like I've won something. You know what, I may have!

Bikram: I started a 90-day bikram challenge! And ooooohhhhh mmmmyyyyy gooooooodnessssss I am IN LOVE! But... I'm saving that for another post soon, so watch out for that. (I am such a tease tonight, aren't I?! I can't help it! I've been needing to write for a long time about all kinds of stuff!) Good things come to those who wait, right?! ;)

So, that's it for right now. There have been so many amazing things happening in my life that I can't wait to share - along with my goals for 2013. There are many, of course. Would you expect anything less? Didn't think so! Ok, I love you guys and I'm excited to post next about juicing, so come back in a little bit!


Friday, November 9, 2012

A moment of gratitude.

Sitting at my kitchen table just now, I found a pink strand of hair that was clinging to a placemat that my date and I used last night. It was lying there as if to say, "I'll just be here when you take a moment to notice me." Little pink follicle, I definitely see you this morning, and I am grateful for your fleeting presence here.

I picked up the piece of hair, and when I touched it, part of me felt sorry for the way I treated it. There is an immediately recognizable difference between this hair and the new, natural hair that I've been growing. The old hair is brittle, lifeless, and obviously damaged, whereas the new is soft, thick, and luscious. As I wrap it around my finger and play with it a little bit, I realize I could easily break the frail, pink follicle, but something in me says that I've injured it enough, to let it rest and just be itself until it disappears or I simply throw it away.

I just started dating an incredible man named Tim. Our relationship is still fresh out of the box, but I feel really, really good and confident about this one. I've requested that we take it slow and make no major declarations for a while as in the past, some of you may have noticed, I tend to rush things. I've spent my whole life rushing things and, in a way, manufacturing my own happiness (represented here by my pink hair), bypassing the natural progressions that are beautiful, essential, and often times complex yet also so simple. Last night, we had wine, made 2 amazing pizzas, and enjoyed each other's company, slowly and joyfully. Our time was delicious and sweet, with the Italian traditional music as our background noise and each other as our comedic and romantic audience. Slow, beautiful, natural, happy, healthy.

My hair has taught me so many things in the short 2 months that it has been growing back and coming into its own. One rather unspoken reason why I decided to start over with my hair was because it directly ties into my own quest for love as opposed to lust or the disillusion of forged, impatient "love." I've processed, forgiven, and released my most recent past relationships for what they have taught me, especially where I rushed and manufactured things along the way. The pink hair that I found this morning is a tangible reminder of the journey that has led me to this path of natural, steady growth in all areas of my life, but especially my relationships. I'm grateful for its gentle reminder, and I wish it well on its own quiet, little voyage elsewhere.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Why did I shave my head? Well, I'll tell you!

I wore a white dress. The decision to shave my head had been marinating in my mind for just over a month. I spent the majority of that month preparing my body, and as a direct result, my mind also, by juice fasting to get clear about my decision and my intentions for the impending shave. I was ready.

The idea of starting over had also been tossed around for years, the only question was how it would happen. Moving away was the most obvious option as it is typically what others choose when they need a major change, but I love Austin too much to leave it. Business has been great, so no need there. What could I start over?

Hair color wise, I went red again for the first time in 5 years in June after a small stint of pink. The red was fun, as was the pink, but it didn't feel as much fun as I had wanted it to. Something in me was changing. My hair had started to fall out from the almost year and a half of going super platinum blonde from jet black. I think my hair had simply had enough. Slowly, I figured out that so had I.

When I started altering my hair color, I was about 13. I'm 26 now, so that's half of my life I've been living without seeing the real color of my hair. In fact, I'd forgotten the true pigment of my natural hair, so shaving it would be an inevitable way to find out what it really is. I realized that around the same time that I was coloring/bleaching my hair was in middle school, undoubtedly one of the worst life stages a human could endure. You're awkward, unsure of what your body is really doing, and most females at that time spend much of their existence making themselves and each other miserable from that time until, well, the end of high school if they are lucky.

At this time, my constant feeling about myself, unfortunately, was that I was ashamed to be me. I have always known that I was really different than most people my age - most people I knew, really - but I didn't see that difference as special; I saw it as shameful.  I thought of myself as ugly and inadequate of anyone's love, so instead of fixing myself and conquering my internal battle, I masked it by feigning an attempt at looking normal. "Normal" - really, "beautiful" - in my hometown at that time was blonde, skinny, and tan. I guess my 13-year-old self took all of that one step at a time until I had exhausted and semi-achieved the ideas of each notion one step at a time. (The skinny part was semi-achieved by dropping a significant amount of weight in 8th grade, but the depression in high school brought all of it back and much more.) I no longer wanted to be normal by the time I was 21, but the mask of my ever-changing hair color remained, and then I moved to Austin.

Austin is a magical place, and incredibly safe for everyone. If you have an idea, go for it! Everyone here supports you! If you have varying interests, there is something or a group for you here. Don't eat meat? Got you covered there, too! You're a cross-dressing homeless person who wants to run for mayor? People will vote for you! Seriously, I felt like I was in Heaven as soon as I crossed the City Limits sign! After all of the internal work I'd done on myself right before I moved here on self-love and self-esteem, I moved to the safest city on the planet to be a freaking weirdo, and after 5 years, there was still a shred of shame in my heart. Once I discovered it was still lingering there with the help of my life coach, Mark, and what steps I had taken so many years prior not to fix the problem, but to simply cover it up, I knew what I had to do. So, I did it.

Through several years of counseling, supportive friends, a loving family, and amazing moments of self-enlightenment, I reached a self-love capacity of about 99%. That's pretty great! But I was hungry for that 1% I was lacking, and I didn't feel it until I shaved my head.

In my white dress, with 6 awesome friends supporting me, we cut and shaved my head together on Friday night. As my former self-hatred was literally being clipped away, my nervous excitement turned into joy and love. I was closing an entire book of shame and disgust, with beautiful, transformational moments throughout, and writing a new story - a love story! - with fresh, blank pages eager to be filled with positive affirmations, focusing on inner beauty as a perfectly created, loving human.

I am so excited to be on this journey of growth with my new, natural, healthy hair! I simply want the best for myself, and this part of my body I had knowingly damaged - along with every part attached to it, subconsciously - for half of my life will now know 110% love for the first time since I can remember.

How beautiful is that?

I am really, really happy.

Friday, May 25, 2012

"If you only dream when you're asleep, then when you wake up, there's still nothing there."

When I was younger, I could fall asleep pretty much anywhere, anytime. If I was tired, I was out and I stayed out until it was time for me to wake up. I would sleep walk and sleep talk and do all kinds of funny things while I slept, but I never woke up. It was very rare that I would wake up at night. I slept through hurricanes, tornadoes, and all kinds of really loud stuff. I was pretty awesome at sleeping.

After I moved to Austin, I had a really hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. I had a roommate who got a puppy that wasn't being properly loved and taken care of, so she would bark all night while the roommate was sleeping elsewhere. That started a pattern of insomnia in me that lasted for about 4.5 years. When I started my business, sleeping was almost impossible due to excitement, and then it became almost impossible due to anxiety and lack of time management. Thankfully, I got those things pretty much under control, but I still couldn't sleep.

My oldest brother, Chris, delicately approached me one day about looking into sleep apnea. He was afraid that I had it, which struck a fear in me that I would be sleeping with an oxygen mask, so I never really looked into it. That's a sure way to take responsibility - by avoiding it. (I roll my eyes at my former self.) Regardless of whether or not I had this, I knew that my lack of sleep was a serious issue and it was most likely causing some serious health problems in my body.

"[I]nsulin sensitivity and levels of two appetite-related hormones -- leptin and ghrelin -- can be affected by sleep deprivation, which could impact weight. Leptin is associated with appetite control and ghrelin has been identified as an appetite stimulant. During sleep deprivation, leptin levels fall and ghrelin levels rise," says Miranda Hitti of WebMD Health News. So, when we sleep less, we are hungrier and less satiated. Good to know. Your brain is the powerhouse to your body, right? When it is unable to rest properly, it is still stimulated and wants to keep functioning as if it were awake. I know that when I wake up really early and go to sleep really late, I tend to eat more throughout that day because my brain is awake and keeping me going, so my body needs fuel. It makes sense that our bodies crave more when we have less sleep in order for us to function. Also, according to the Harvard Women's Health Watch, "Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite."

Damn carbs, right? Nah, just kidding! Carbs are good for you - the right carbs [Read: Veggies, mainly, but nonprocessed, complex carbs are best in place of refined white breads and the like.] - but if we don't sleep well, they can be quite a burden. Man, if only I knew all of this years ago... (Yeah. It wouldn't have changed anything. Let's just be real.)

So, one major thing I noticed with the help of my most recent ex-boyfriend (Yes, the one from the last post. We broke up. It sucked but it was for the best.) is that since the juice fast and the exercise and losing weight, I fall asleep almost immediately when I go to bed and I stay asleep. It's like my old sleeping habits from when I was younger have returned! Hallelujah! I get some pretty awesome sleep these days and I've cured my insomnia that I've had for the past 5 or so years. I wake up refreshed and excited to start the day, not all angry and tired and gross like before. My lifestyle is healthier, so my sleep is better. I never knew it could be changed so dramatically and so quickly. It feels like a miracle. I used to take Tylenol PM just to get a semi-good night's rest when all I really had to do was adopt a better diet, get some exercise, and presto! Magic. Amazing!

The biggest lesson I've learned from this is how the body can really heal itself. That's the voyage I set out to discover when I started the juice fast, and it is ringing truer and truer every day. All you have to do is treat it right. "Your body is a temple," is something we have all heard (Thanks to the ol' B-I-B-L-E!), but it is resoundingly correct. Your temple needs love so it can love you and allow you to live your days in peace, love, harmony, and health. So, take care of it - and get some sleep! :)

Friday, May 4, 2012

After the fast...

There is so much to say that it's almost overwhelming to write! Life has been so beautiful, rich, and busy lately, especially since completing the juice fast. I'll try to stay short-winded for all of this just to give an update. I'll delve into more specifics in a later post.

The day after my last post, I got my heart broken. I won't get into any details here, but I found myself to be surprisingly resilient and it brought on a reflection of how I would choose to deal with heartbreak in the past. [Read: Cupcakes.] This was one of the most empowering instances I've encountered while juicing because I chose myself and my life, my happiness, my future over destroying my body with toxicity. Of course, I cried and all of that, but the way I dealt with my emotions is very clear to me that I have committed myself to a positive change for my body. I went to the gym or went for a walk when I needed to release some frustration or sadness. I chose to move instead of consume, and I am 125% confident that I was able to work through the sadness rather quickly by making the healthy choices that I did. This was a huge victory for me, the reformed Break-up Cupcake Queen.

That Friday, I met one of the biggest inspirations of my life: Joe Cross, director and star of "Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead." Whole Foods was hosting a screening of the film as part of CleanseATX's rounding out of their 10-day challenge. As we waited to see the film, my roommate, Kadi, and I recorded our experiences for their website that you can view here, and we spoke to others who were involved with CleanseATX and/or doing their challenge. We met some incredible people who have some seriously amazing gifts that they shared with us, mainly their love and wisdom. One of them, Mark, really captivated both of us with the clarity and insight he has found through studying the body and through language mastery. He and several others were very kind to share their experiences and to listen to our stories as well.

Those were some really wonderful experiences that have shown me a great deal about how choosing this juice fast has made such an incredible impact on my life, but there's still one more situation that I cannot go without sharing.

At some point during the last couple of weeks, I decided to join just on a whim. Honestly, I was excited about getting back into eating solid foods, so I figured I would go on some dates where at least I wouldn't have to pay for it. I know! I'm horrible! But that was my logic, and you all know how honest I am. (Guilty. Haha!) I met some really cool people on there who were amazed and supportive, but I got to talking to one person who I found out was also a trainer. Now, my intentions for this site were to go on dates where I could at least get some free food out of it (which sounds so horrible and is very unlike me, I assure you), but for some reason, my immediate reaction to this guy was to set up our first date as a training session.

Now, stop for a second. WHAT?! I asked a guy to train me for our first date without hesitation?! Who am I?! And why was I breaking my take-me-out-to-dinner plan?! For whatever reason, it just felt right, so I went with it. Before the juice fast, I wouldn't have done anything remotely like that. I would have been too insecure, too out of shape, and too timid to ever suggest anything like that, but there I was, in my workout clothes at Barton Springs, getting my ass handed to me by an amazing personal trainer and falling completely in love with him all at the same time. It's been just over 2 weeks since we've met, and I know that I've found my perfect partner who loves me so much to support me in the next chapter of my life after the fast and will be there right beside me, working my ass out along the way! :)

I never dreamed that life would work out this way, but it makes sense that when you change up your routine, go do something completely different, that results will follow, no matter what they may be. My body feels amazing and alive. My heart feels full and happy. My world feels joyous and abundant. And all I did was drink fresh juice for 60 days and add some exercise. It's really that simple. I can't guarantee that everyone who does this will find the same results because everyone is different, but I would recommend trying it out if you're ready to see some miraculous changes in your life.

I thank the Lord for these experiences and the countless others I've yet to mention. This journey has been a blessing, and it will continue to be as I venture on to greater health and wisdom through loving myself by choosing my best self above all.

Thank you for being with me.

Monday, March 26, 2012

My language with food.

I think about food all the time, but not just about consuming it. I think about cooking it almost constantly these days, so I'm wondering if my obsession is more than just putting it in my body; it seems to be more of a language for me.

Since I can remember, I have enjoyed cooking for people. I would get up early on the weekends and make everyone breakfast in bed. That usually meant hard scrambled eggs (I mean really hard), some form of juice or milk, and probably toast or cereal. I didn't know how to make much in the way of breakfast, but I would often even go to the lengths of printing out a menu and asking everyone to order something. Sometimes, I would create special items that I knew we didn't have or I didn't know how to make, so I would say, as I learned from restaurants, "Oh, I'm sorry. We are all out of that! Could I make you some scrambled eggs? They're my specialty!" (Yeah, I was pretty cute back in the day.) After breakfast stuff, Mom taught me how to make grilled cheese, then spaghetti, then all kinds of stuff, so by the time I was in college, I had a bunch of simple recipes I could share with my friends that were both delicious and easy. I was also a very picky eater growing up, so I knew if I could eat it, most of the people I knew could eat it. That idea was very appealing to me.

During my first year of college, I decided to go on the South Beach Diet to lose weight and control my insulin resistance, and I fell in love with most of the recipes from the first book I got. I loved cooking things from the book, and I would often invite people over for a meal to introduce them to my new eating lifestyle. One thing that I enjoyed about it the most was making the healthy substitutions and realizing that the mock up tasted just as good as the real thing, sometimes even better! To this day, minus the juice fasting, I still follow the recipes from the South Beach Diet when I cook. I have all of the cookbooks I could find, including one just for holidays. The recipes are exactly what I love the most: delicious and easy. I'm sure I'll talk more about SBD recipes as time goes on. (If you're shopping for new, healthy recipes, you must get The South Beach Diet Quick & Easy Cookbook. It is an absolute must-have.)

When I lived in the dorms with kitchens, my roommates and I would have specific nights where we would cook for each other. I went all out and I loved it! I would also include some strange fruit I'd never eaten before as dessert just to be adventurous. After every meal, I had everyone rate the meal. I got some pretty high scores most of the time. It started to be a pretty big thing for me, so I'd invite other people to join us. There were a few times where we didn't have enough chairs for everyone. (Of course, most of the extra dinner guests were boys. The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, right?)

Somewhere in there, I started to offer to cook for my family all the time. If ever I'm home, I'm trying to cook something. In fact, I cooked for my brother and his wife a few weeks ago in Atlanta, and then again for my parents and my other brother and his wife a few nights after that - all while I was on a juice fast. I've cooked for my house guests who were traveling during this time. I've even thought about dropping off baked goods for some of my neighbors these days "just because." (I will probably still do that, by the way. I know you're probably reading this, Anna.)

Anytime I want to figure something out, I always try to have an audience. After my stay in Thailand, I tried my hand at cooking Thai food for family and friends. After Costa Rica, I tried the same thing. Any trip I took, I was whipping up something I had for someone else so they could be apart of that experience with me in some way. I'm constantly trying to figure out what is in something I'm eating so I could recreate it at home or for someone else. (Up next: East Side King's-style beet fries with Gina!) Some people know that I semi-secretly *love* picnics. [Check the 2 wicker baskets, picnic-specific blanket, and new-to-me vintage picnic plate and utensil carrying set. You can call me a hardcore picnicker.] They also know that I *adore* pot lucks. (I'm great at theme parties, too. What can I say?) This has been a normal thing for me for most of my life - cooking for people, enjoying our food together - because I don't just eat to live, but sometimes, I do live to eat because for me food is love.

Most people know this as a truth. When your mom, g-ma, or aunt – usually just someone older than you who knows how to freakin' cook - makes something AMAZING, you just want to hug them or cuddle with them afterward because a) you are so damn full of delicious goodness and b) they just slaved over an incredible meal for you just because they care. It's such a beautiful thing! And in my family, when we get together, we will sit at the table for hours, full plates to empty plates, and just talk and connect, usually over the food at first. Some of the best conversations I have ever had in my entire life have been at my kitchen table. Stories. Laughter. Tears. Joy. Love. What brought us there? Food. Delicious, amazing, wonderful, incredible food. I feel like saying Amen right now! (Thank you, Mom and Dad, for being so loving and providing as you were unknowingly shaping me into the human I am through these lasting experiences and outstanding meals.)

Fast forward to a few months ago, I felt myself getting a little stuck in the same routine with the same food staples there for a little while before this juice fast. It was no wonder that I would find myself in a restaurant more often than not, making choices that weren’t the best for me. Now that I'm juicing all of this fresh produce, I cannot wait to cook it and eat it! There are so many different flavors of lettuce out there that I am excited to build different meals specific to each one. I've juiced things I wouldn't have touched before, and now, I'm looking up recipes for when I can consume them whole. The same goes for roots and fruits and all kinds of other fresh, wonderful things.

This stuff - this beautiful, beautiful produce - is so much love for us. It is grown in our earth, put here by our Creator, for us to have and enjoy so our bodies will be strong, well, and vibrant. I'd ignored so much of it for fear, I guess. What else could it have been? Now that my eyes are opened to the rest of the produce section, not just a select area, I am planning feasts for my friends and family along with simply delicious, healthy meals all for myself.

It feels like I'm learning a new language, which is something I made as a goal for myself not too long ago, so it's interesting how that goal is shaping up into a different form. This new language with food is like a deeper understanding of love, and I am slowly but surely approaching the testing period - that is, life post-juice fast in 19 days - where I'll use this language of love for myself in the best way that I've learned how. Just thinking about eating is making me really happy, but not because I'm going to go out and eat fried pickles (which are delicious, by the way) every night. It's because I'm going to listen to what this new language is telling my heart and my body and make the best choices I possibly can, at home or wherever. This is such an empowering time for me right now that I have no fear inside me that I'm going to just go crazy and start consuming small children because I've been so deprived. That's just silly! If anything, I may fear restaurants that fry everything and use Paula Deen-esque globs of butter on otherwise ridiculously healthy things, but even then, I'll know that there has to be some option for me. If not, I'll create one for myself because I guarantee I have that power.

I love myself, I love food, and life after this fast is going to be so much fun. Of course, you'll read all about it!

If you are interested in learning more about what I'm doing and the film that inspired my roommate and I to take this journey, please come with us to Whole Foods Market on N Lamar this Friday around 5 pm on the plaza outside for a viewing of "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead." Joe Cross, director and star of the film, will be there. He's coming all the way from Australia! Needless to say, I'm super excited. Well, I was already excited, but to meet the guy who inspired the journey you're currently on while you're on the journey is kind of a dream come true. Join us! You can find more information right here on the Facebook.

By the way, I love you all. Thank you for reading this. Seriously.