Embracing My Inner Hippy

{October 7, 2010}   An Update for My Loyal Readers

I’ve been told that I’m long overdue for an update.  So here it is.  I’m in my 8th week of eating a plant-based diet.  I’m doing OK.  I’m starting to miss certain things, like being able to enjoy a nice night of take out with my husband or simply a buffet at a friend’s wedding.  I’m finding that certain restaurant commercials on tv make my mouth water.  It’s not really any specific food I crave (sometimes it’s ALL the foods!) but it’s more the idea of them.  I then remind myself that I’m doing this for my health – it’s my drug of choice, so to speak.   I want to get my Crohn’s under control in any way I can that does not involved chemical medications.  However, lately, I’ve been experiencing some additional manifestations of my Crohn’s Disease.  This is very disheartening.   I really was sure that changing my eating this dramatically would make a big difference.  Perhaps, it has.  Perhaps, if I continued eating the way I was, I’d be having a full-blown Crohn’s flare up, rather than just little bothersome manifestations.  Who knows?  So I’ve decided that in one more month’s time (which will make for 12 complete weeks of eating a strict vegan diet) I will go to my doctor and have my blood drawn and tests run on my blood to measure my Crohn’s Disease activity.   This should give me a good indication as to how my newly acquired diet has affected my health, if at all.  After that, I will continue keeping a plant-based lifestyle at home, but will allow myself a meal out at a restaurant once a week with my husband (or a night of take out!)    This will still involve me eating healthy for 96% of the time (figuring that I’ll eat 21 meals in any given week).  Plus, it will help me tame the cravings and let me enjoy much-needed alone time with my man.   It will also reinforce my middle ground resolution.  (See my last post for more on that).    So, there you have it.  Nothing fancy, just a quick update to all of my loyal readers – especially to you, Nate.


As many of you know, we are in the middle of the ten days of repentance – a period of time that begins with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and ends with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.   It is a time of self-reflection – when we take an honest look at our self and our actions in the past year and consciously make the decision to change for the better in the upcoming year.   A lot of times this involves deeds we did to other people and we apologize to all of those people we might have wronged.  But, sometimes, some of our wrong doings are things we’ve unknowingly done to ourselves.  We must also make amends for this as well.  In Hebrew, the word for sin is “Cheyt”.  The word actually comes from the sport of archery and literally means “missed the mark”.    As we reflect on our lives during this ten-day period, we acknowledge all of the marks we’ve missed and “return” or do “Teshuva” to the correct mark(s).  

I am far from perfect.  I’m the first to admit it.  In fact, I have a lot of faults.  I disclosed in a blog entry a few months back that I suffer from anxiety and panic disorder.  This ailment has actually been getting worse in recent weeks.  I had been seeing a therapist for a few years, but wasn’t making any progress.  Three weeks ago, I decided to seek out a new therapist – one that specifically specializes in anxiety and panic.  I found the most amazing therapist – Vidalia onion* – I’ll just call her Vid for short.   I’ve only seen her three times and in this short time, I’m happy to admit that I’m making tremendous strides and overcoming issues that have plagued me for years.   I’ve been discovering so much about myself.  One of the things I’ve learned is that I’m an “all or nothing” person or a “black or white” person.  There is no middle ground, no gray area for me.  At least in the past there hasn’t been.  This is apparent in most areas of my life.   For instance, I won’t start cleaning the house if I know I don’t have the time to clean the entire house at once.  So instead of cleaning a room on one day, and then another the next day, etc. and have the entire house cleaned within a few days time, I might put it off for 2 – 3 weeks until I have the time to do it all at once.    If I only have 10 minutes to exercise, I’ll skip the exercise and wait until I have the time to do a full workout.    I even waited a few weeks to start eating a plant-based diet until I ate up all of the meat, eggs, and cheese containing foods of mine that were in the house. 

 That brings me to my update on a plant-based diet.  (This really is not a digression.)  Last week, I wrote how I was having some cravings and getting a little frustrated with my plant-based way of eating, especially since my mom was going to quit “the diet”.  Well, since then, I’ve found some new recipes, some dairy free cheese that is amazing and I’ve been re-reading all of the literature that has reminded me why I’m doing this diet in the first place.  My strength has been renewed.  But, underneath it all, I’m so afraid that the “all or nothing” beast will attack.  That’s when I realized, that I have to find that middle ground and be a little gray with my eating.  I can’t be so strict and unyielding, otherwise I will break.    I’m pleased to say, that I finally have found my touch of gray and I found it tonight.    My parents went to an amazing Italian restaurant that they only go to once a year (when they visit the cemeteries two hours away, where their loved ones are buried).  I asked them to bring home my husband’s favorite dish – Chicken Alfredo.  Before they left the restaurant, they called me and asked if I wanted some eggplant parmesan.   I thought for a moment and figured I could pull of the cheese and told them “yes, please”.    When the food arrived, it smelled amazing and my mouth started watering.  I realized, that, though, I am dedicated to being healthier, I’m still allowed to enjoy life and the earth wasn’t going to crumble if I *gasp* ate some cheese.   But this was unfamiliar territory I was entering.  I was leaving the comfort of the black zone, yet not going all the way over to the white side. Could I do it?  I was inching towards the gray area!    So I took a deep breath, and cut a piece of the yummy eggplant wrapped in cheese and brought it to my mouth.  To my surprise, lightening did not strike me down.  Quite the opposite – I enjoyed every single bite of my meal.  I felt completely satisfied. And I did not feel one bit of guilt.  Success!  I arrived at the gray area and I was OK.   I know that tomorrow I will continue on my plant-based diet.  This one meal with cheese isn’t going to tip the scales one way or another, regarding my health.  If anything, it helped me learn that I need to indulge once in a while to be healthy. Granted, this will be neither an every week nor an every month occurrence, but it’s FINE when it does indeed happen. I need to learn that it’s OK to be in the middle – in fact, it’s necessary.  I’m working hard on trying to apply this to all aspects of my life.  I might only have 5 minutes free, but in that time I can scrub the toilet.  The baby might be waking up in 10 minutes, but I can use those 10 free minutes to do some yoga.  And so, as I enter this New Year, I do it in the gray area and hope in the coming year to find and maintain that balance that I often lose sight of. 

May everyone have a wonderful new year filled with only health, joy, and prosperity.   May the gray area be with you.

*To maintain some privacy, instead of using people’s real names, I use aliases that are either fruits or vegetables.

{September 7, 2010}   Week Four

So I’m into my 4th week of eating a plant-based diet.  The first three weeks were pretty easy.  I had no cravings and was satisfied.  Now that I’m in my 4th week, I’m finding it more difficult.  All of a sudden I’m missing cheese and fast food.  Also, my mom has been doing this diet with me and she’s decided that after next week (when she completes her 4th week) she is quitting and going back on Weight Watchers.   I feel a little disappointed and isolated.   Out of everything I’ve read, I’m convinced that a plant-based diet is the healthiest for me (and for most people).  The research is there in black and white.  But I feel like I need the support of another person eating the way I do.  Right now, I’m cooking two separate dinners – one for me and one for Mango.  But it hasn’t bothered me since I’ve had my mother’s support.   Not to mention, this diet involves a lot of cooking and preparation.  My mom has been doing a lot of it for both of us.  Miss Tangerine is very mobile and I hardly have 5 minutes to myself, leave alone time to constantly cook. If my mom stops this diet, and I’m the only one around eating this way, I’m not sure how I’ll found the time to prepare all of my meals (and still cook for my husband). I’m feeling a little disillusioned.  Therefore, I’ve decided to make two lists – a pro list and a con list.

The Pro List:

  1. This way of eating is very healthy, especially for my Crohn’s Disease.    I believe this is the only way to go about it treating my Crohn’s without having to take medications.
  2. I have way more energy since eating this way.
  3. I’ve lost 6 pounds in 3 ½ weeks.
  4. I’m not hungry.

 The Con List:

  1. It’s a lot of cooking and preparation
  2. There aren’t restaurants in the area where I can eat – so my husband and I can no longer enjoy our weekly dates at restaurants.
  3. I miss cheese.
  4. I miss being able to share ice cream or snacks with my husband.


 So there you go – 4 pros and 4 cons.  Any advice?

{August 21, 2010}   Day Six and Still Kickin’

I’m in the middle of my sixth day of eating clean.  I feel great!  I already have more energy and feel happier!   I haven’t been hungry at all, nor have I felt any deprivation.   

Today, I attended my first social event since I began my new eating style (I hate using the word “diet”).  It went very smoothly.  There was tons of food and I scouted the table and sought out the fruit salad.  I had 2 huge helpings of that and a bottle of water.  I didn’t miss eating all of the “junk” out there. 

If you had told me last year, that I’d be eating a vegan lifestyle, I would’ve laughed at you.   But after reading the many books that I have read on the subject, I feel like it is the only way for me to eat.  The China Study and the Rave Diet both showed me all of the studies done that proved eating this way can reverse most diseases including heart disease and cancer and does wonders for autoimmune diseases (one of the main reasons why I decided to go this route in the first place).  They also showed studies and had statistics showing just how much animal protein and especially dairy makes people sick (I’m not talking about stomach ailments, but heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.).  But the best book I have read thus far is “Skinny Bitch” by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin.  The authors really dug into the politics behind our food and conveyed a lot of wonderful information.  They did this while being a little crass at times and well “bitchy”, but in a humorous way.  However,  the overall message was serious  and based on truths cited from many reputable references.  The book was really eye-opening for me.  I highly recommend it – even if you have no desire to eat a plant-based diet.

At first, when I was thinking about eating in this manner, I worried about things that most people worry about when they think “vegetarian” and “vegan” and that is will I get enough protein without eating meat?  Will I get enough Calcium without drinking milk?  And will I get enough vitamins in general?  And the answer to all of those questions is “yes”, “yes, “and “yes”.    All the books I have referenced in my last several posts all have solid medical studies that prove that the answer is yes.   As long as I eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and grains, all of my dietary needs will be fulfilled.  Even with me be a lactating woman, I will still be getting all the nutrients both Tangerine and I need.  In addition, this diet is perfectly healthy and preferable for children as well.  Again, many studies have proven this and a great book that goes into more depth about it is Disease Proof Your Child by Joel Fuhrman.   

Though, thus far, I’m really enjoying my experience, I have to admit that on the evening of Day 3 (shortly after I posted my last blog entry) I ran into a couple of bumps in the road.  The first was that I was struggling  to make two different dinners (one for me and one for my husband, who has not jumped on this bandwagon yet) while attending to my active toddler.  Somehow, in the middle of the confusion, I slightly burned my husband’s dinner.  Luckily, he’s very sweet and understanding and wasn’t too upset about it – especially since this was the first time I’ve burned a meal in the 3 years we’ve been married (I didn’t burn anything in the year we lived together either).   The other road bump that night, was that I put a little too much garlic in my dinner (which was whole wheat pasta, stewed tomatoes and chopped spinach) and had a bit of tummy ache that night. 

All in all, I am enjoying my healthy eating journey and am excited to experience new adventures of this healthy lifestyle every day.

So far, I’m loving this “diet”.    I was afraid that I would be hungry all of the time (especially since I still nurse Miss Tangerine constantly).  But quite the opposite – I’m only eating half of my meals and saving the rest and eating them later. 

Granted, I’m only on my third day of this new way of life, but so far, I haven’t had any cravings.  I already feel heathier, lighter and enlightened.

My biggest challenge and “pain” is that I have to cook two separate dinners – one for me and one for Mango.  He is not on the plant based band wagon by far. 

I’m still toying over whether or not to include olive oil and other healthy oils in my diet or not.  Two of the books I’ve read, advocate for no oils at all (The Rave Diet and The Engine 2 Diet).  While other books I’ve read, including The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone and Disease Proof Your Child by Joel Furhman all use healthy oils in their diets.    So far, I’m staying away from the oils…but I’m still conflicted.  I’d love to hear what some of your thoughts about this are, and why.

I’m looking forward to Day Four tomorrow – bring it on!

{August 17, 2010}   Day One Completed

Yesterday was my first day on my new adventure of plant based eating.   It was a very unusual day.  We had to put down a much loved family dog.  Therefore, I wasn’t in the mood for doing a lot of food preparation.   My breakfast consisted of a bowl of Arrow Mills Organic Spelt Flakes with almond milk.  Lunch was organic raw almond butter on Ezekiel 4:9 raisin bread.  For an afternoon snack I had chocolate Juice Plus+ Complete (a Juice Plus smoothie which I made with almond milk and ½ of a frozen banana).  Dinner was 3 soy dogs in whole wheat buns and a bowl of steamed broccoli.  Dessert was organic unsweetened applesauce.    

I’m planning on a grocery store run today so I can stock up on some more vegetables.   I’m still not in the mood for doing a lot of cooking today, as my heart is still heavy.  However, I’m committed to this healthy lifestyle and so starting it during a difficult time will only make it that much easier to do (I hope) when things have calmed down.

Some of my readers have mentioned a concern for iron in a vegan diet (or lack of it).  Iron, is not just found in meat and eggs.  It is also found in green leafy vegetables.   I probably can’t eat enough green leafy vegetables to satisfy my iron need – especially on a daily basis.  But that’s where Juice Plus+ comes in.  Juice Plus+ is 17 fruits and vegetables in a capsule.  There are 16+ published peer reviewed studies done on it.  If taken consistently (every day), there will be no anemia.  A good friend of mine, who also follows a vegan diet, doubled up her Juice Plus+ (on the advice of her ob/gyn) while pregnant.  She didn’t take any prenatal vitamins nor any iron supplements.  Her iron levels were perfect during her entire pregnancy and postpartum period!    To learn more about Juice Plus+, please  message me. Day Two, here I come!

{August 16, 2010}   A Plant Based Diet

As I continue to embrace my inner hippy, I find myself going down paths I never dreamed I’d visit.  The newest road I’m just embarking on is that of a plant based diet.   I wound up here as a result of a complication of my Crohn’s Disease.  I was fortunate enough to avoid oral medications this time.  But, it also made me realize that I don’t ever want to go down that road again – the road of medications/chemicals.   Obviously, at this current time that would have been awful as I am breastfeeding Miss Tangerine.  Yes, I know I technically could be on certain medications and certain doses without harming her, but why take the chance?  Why have her receiving extra unnecessary chemicals into her little body?   So I started doing research and have concluded that a plant based diet is the only way to go.  It’s a kind diet to my body and to the earth.  What better example for my daughter?  Plus, I want to make sure that I’m around to raise my daughter and to watch her raise her children.  Heart disease runs rampant on both sides of my family.  A plant based diet would help and even reverse any heart disease I might already have (which I already know I have high cholesterol).    I’ve read some amazing books on the subject of a plant based diet. Among them are The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, The Rave Diet by Mike Anderson, and The Engine 2 Diet by Rip Esselstyn. 

 As part of this endeavor, I’m not only avoiding all meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products, but I’m also avoiding processed foods and refined foods. 

I plan to document my journey – at least the first several months as I get acclimated.  I know that it will be tough at first.  But I have to stay focused and remind myself why I’m doing it – for myself and for my family. 

If any of you follow a plant based diet, I’d love to hear about it.  I’d love to hear why you’re doing, how long you have been doing it for, what some of your challenges are, how you deal with those challenges, and how has this diet helped you.  What are the positives?  What are the negatives?  What are your overall thoughts?  Lastly, if you have some great recipes, please share!

Day One, here I come!

{July 13, 2010}   I Have a Secret

I have a secret.  It’s haunted me since I’ve been about 14.  It’s something I don’t share with many people.    Only in the last couple of years have I even been open enough to share it with a few trusted people outside of my family.  No, I didn’t use to be a man.  No, I wasn’t a prostitute in a former life.  Those secrets would be much easier to share.  This particular secret is shameful to me and makes me feel like a real loser.  But I am forced to face it head on, as I don’t want my daughter growing up and seeing this.  And if she happens to ever have the same problem, I don’t want her to feel the shame that I do.

I have bad anxiety and I experience severe panic attacks when I travel.  I haven’t been able to drive on the highway in over 10 years.  And in the past 8 or 9 years, it’s very stressful for me to even be a passenger in the car on the highway.   Before Tangerine was born, I used to take an Ativan before long car trips and that helped tremendously.  But since I found out I was pregnant with her and now that I am still nursing, that is out of the question.  Plus, I don’t want to be putting more chemicals than I need to, into my body.  I do deep breathing and even practice guided imagery, and in my everyday life, that has helped a lot.  But when it comes to being on the highway, nothing seems to help.  It keeps getting worse. 

This fear is so crippling.  I’m missing out on so much because of it.  I don’t want Tangerine to be affected by my problem.  I also don’t want her to internalize my issue.  I pray constantly that she doesn’t ever have to live with such a debilitating condition. 

I have an upcoming road trip to make in August.  The event I’ll be traveling to is something I’ve been looking forward to for a while.  Plus, I will finally be meeting a good friend in person for the first time.  However, the event is 2 hours away.  I’m terrified of it.  I won’t be driving – my mom will.  But that still petrifies me.  I’ve had a knot in my stomach for weeks now, over this. 
People in the past have told me to just “get over it”.  And I know I really must face my fears – because the more that I do, the lesser hold they will have over me.  But I can’t seem to make myself.   I do see a therapist for this.

I also must confess that I’ve been taking a very low dose of Effexor XR for about 7 years now.  I’ve tried to come off of it 3 times.  All three times, I became agoraphobic and had to take TONS of Ativan to keep me somewhat functioning.  I saw my ob/gyn before I became pregnant and she okayed me to be on it through pregnancy and breastfeeding.  Tangerine’s pediatrician also okayed me to be on it while I breastfeed.  They both said that it would be way worse for Tangerine to have a mother in a constant state of anxiety and fear than to be getting a tiny bit of the medication.  I, of course, battle with this decision constantly.  Especially, as I try to become “greener” and be more natural, the fact that I’m basically a prisoner to this medicine and have made my year old daughter hostage to this without her consent, haunts me.

So, that’s my secret.  It’s now out in the open for all to see and judge.  Please be kind.

{May 16, 2010}   My Body – My Beauty

As a woman, I’ve pretty much struggled with my body image most of my life.   I have a feeling that most women reading this are nodding their heads in agreement – that they too, have struggled most of their lives as well.   How sad is that?   We can blame it on the media and the distorted image of beauty that they propel.  We can blame it on peer pressure.  We can blame it on genetics.  We can even blame it on that extra helping of dessert.    The cause is not so much important as the solution or rather the resolution. 

I’ve always carried extra weight around my middle.  That’s just where my family and I carry our baggage.  Self consciously, I would always suck in my belly.  In other pathetic attempts, I would hide myself in huge tops.    I felt inferior to those thinner than me. 

Even when I began dating my husband and realized that he thought I was beautiful and loved me exactly the way I was, I still felt like a failure.  

Quite honestly, the more I felt like a failure for not falling into society’s ideal of the perfect body, the more I sabotaged myself by emotionally eating. It would temporarily quiet down my feelings of inadequacy. 

Then I became pregnant and a lot of wonderful things began happening.  My body inside and out was changing as I began to help G-d prepare this miracle for the world.  As I realized all that my body was doing, something else changed – I started looking at my body in a new light and started seeing something that was beautiful!  As my stomach continued to round, I embraced the changes and often stared at my naked self in the mirror. 

After Tangerine’s birth, I continued (and still continue) to love my body.  I realize that I carried something so special, something so rare, and something so miraculous inside.  I am now, with that same body, nourishing the life of my beautiful daughter.  

Is my body perfect? Hardly.  But I’m now embracing my imperfections as something so natural and so beautiful. 

I continue to exercise and try to eat as healthy as I can.  But I no longer hide behind tents – I wear tops that fit me.  Most times, I don’t even suck in my belly (some habits are hard to break all together). 

When I do start to have a negative feeling about my body image, I just look at my daughter and realize just how beautiful we both are.

So what’s the resolution to poor body image?  Is it go out and have a baby?  Only if that’s the point you’re at in your life and it’s part of your plan.  The real resolution is to realize all that your body can do – even just eating, sleeping, breathing, and circulating blood.  We’re all natural and authentic.  To me, there is nothing more beautiful than that.  Each perceived “flaw” makes us unique.   That mole on a cheek, that quirky smile, the droopy breasts and even the flabby stomach – it’s all a part of who we are.  It all tells a story.  It doesn’t change who we are on the inside.  If we embrace ourselves – all of ourselves, how much happier we’ll all be.  I hope I can impart this message to my daughter.  I hope she learns to love herself and her body.  She is a creature of G-d.  She is beautiful.  She will always be beautiful.

I must warn you that this entry contains graphic descriptions and advise you if you’re weak at heart, to proceed with caution. Miss Tangerine has had a slight constipation problem this week.  I think it may have been caused by the applesauce I gave her on Sunday.  She had a bowel movement on Saturday.  Then her next one wasn’t until Tuesday.  However, it wasn’t much at all.   So on Wednesday, I pureed up some prunes.  I was a little bit over zealous and it turned out to be prune juice, but nonetheless still a prune entrée.    Miss T didn’t like the prunes, but then again, I haven’t found any solids that she actually likes.  I managed to get a few spoonfuls into her.  Having heard the wonders of prunes from several friends’ experiences with their babies, I expected to see results that day.  That never happened.  So I decided to stop all solids and let the laxative properties of breast milk do it’s “duty”.   There was still no poop on Thursday.  Friday morning arrives and again, there was still no poop.   So Tangerine and I continued with our usual daily activities.  After a brief nap, Tangerine and I were getting ready to leave for a 3pm appointment.  At 2:40, I smelled that old familiar smell and knew my girl had finally broken the constipation spell!  I was so excited – in only a way a mother can get about a child’s poop.  I scooped her up and ran with her to the changing table.  And that’s when the real fun began.  As I took off her pants, she started to scream.  My poor girl was in pain and still pooping!  It was coming out the consistency of soft serve ice cream.  And it was EVERYWHERE.  Now, Tangerine has pooped many times all the way up her back and neck – but this was an entirely different beast we were dealing with.  No longer just the liquid poop of an all breast milk diet, but now a sticky paste consisting of bites of applesauce, sips of prune juice and tiny gobs of oatmeal mixed in with tons of breast milk.   The quicker  I cleaned her up, the quicker she pooped.  The poop not only was up her back, but down her legs, on her feet, arms and all over me!  I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned and then I glanced at the clock – 2:55 PM.  Yikes, we’d never make the appointment on time.  I cleaned Miss T up as best as I could and put on a clean diaper and clothes.  I figured she was “clean enough for now” and I could bathe her later.  So at 3:02, we walked out of the house to be at our 3:00 destination.    

 We attended our appointment and then afterwards I made one quick stop at Walgreen’s.  When I went to remove T from her car seat, I noticed that she had poop on her face!  So with horror and disgust at myself (for not bathing her before we left), I wiped up her face and wore here in my wrap into the store.  Not five minutes later, I noticed more poop on her face!  I wiped it up again and then realized it was in the crevices of her hands which she was wiping all over her face! Ewww!  We ran back to the car and I cleaned off her face and hands and we headed home to the much-needed bath. 
Lessons of the day:  Never delay a bath and Always Plan to Be Late. 

Clean Bum

"All Clean"

et cetera