“A Journey of a Thousand Mile Begins With the First Step” –Lao Tzu
I frequently get the question from friends, family members, and blog visitors—“Alana, I’m ready to get healthy. Tell me how to eat like you.” The truth is, I would never advise anyone to switch immediately from the typical American diet to my diet— a nearly raw, vegan, no refined sugar, and gluten-free lifestyle. Getting there takes time, and transitioning too abruptly can have serious side effects on your body. But what I can recommend is that you take five easy steps to getting there. Perhaps these steps will lead you to an even greater dietary change, or maybe this will define your new lifestyle. Either way, it’s all about what feels right for you. Here are the first steps I took when transitioning my diet.
Listen to Your Body
Everyone’s body is different. The only way you can know what you should be eating is by listening to yours. Eat your meals very slowly, chewing each piece with intention, that way you can notice how it makes you feel and you can truly recognize when you are full. When you are done, set a one-hour timer on your phone reminding yourself to assess how you feel once you have fully digested. Once the timer goes off, do a personal inventory of your body. Do you feel tired? Gassy? Bloated? Energized? You will be surprised at the things that make your body tick, and be more inclined to get rid of them once you are more aware.
Slowly Replace Processed Sugar
In my ideal world, processed sugar would be thrown into a pit to be used to make punching bags! Processed sugar has been proven to cause diabetes, candida, and a myriad of other health conditions. To make things worse, it has addictive qualities similar to those of tobacco. However, getting rid of processed sugar altogether–particularly given its addictive qualities–can be extremely difficult and lead to withdrawal (I experienced it myself when first transitioning). I recommend spending one day counting the amount of sugar you eat normally. Track it on the website myfitnesspal.com if that makes it easier. Then, try cutting that number in half, or even by a fourth if that’s too difficult. Stock up on stevia, which is a low glycemic natural sweetener made from the stevia leaf, and start using it as your go-to sweetener for teas, drinks, coffee, etc. Keep some in your bag in case of emergencies. Look for products in the grocery store that use coconut nectar, stevia, or dates as their base for sweetness instead.
Don’t Drink During Meals
While water is extremely important, you should be using your time in between meals to drink as much water as you can. During meals, you should minimize your water intake so as not to dilute the production of digestive enzymes. You want multiple enzymes to be produced while you are eating so that you can fully digest your food, feel full, and reap all of the nutritious benefits of your food. So keep the water intake to a sip or two during meals and save your big gulps for afterwards.
Monitor Your Meat Consumption
Several studies have proven the harmful effects of meat—acidity, heart disease, obesity, cancer—the list goes on. While I understand that a completely vegetarian diet is not feasible for everyone, I recommend taking at least one day a week to eat vegetarian. On that day, try a new vegetarian restaurant. Some great restaurants in the NYC area include Quintessence, Caravan of Dreams, Blossom, and Peacefood, among others.
Read and Research
When I first decided to change my diet, I became largely inspired by the writings of nutritionists who were able to teach me how to do it safely. These nutritionists taught me that a proper diet is not only a cure for weight-gain, but also for skin-diseases, aging,cancer, and fatigue. Check out Kimberly Snyder’s the Beauty Detox Solution and Alejandro Junger’s Clean Program. Also check out some blogs filled with recipes and transitioning tips, such as living maxwell, food babe, and kimberly snyder.
I hope this helps you on your journey towards getting your body on track!
Greetings from up in the sky!
I’m currently on my way to San Juan, Puerto Rico and am so excited to get some sun, family time, and relaxation before the new school year starts. My mother was born and raised in Puerto Rico, so I try to go there with my family every chance I get. While I love it there, the food options for me are not too plentiful—especially in comparison to New York City. In New York, I’m one of hundreds of highly health conscious individuals. In Puerto Rico, I’m one of the few health freaks on the island! But I embrace my title with pride. Here’s is how this health freak keeps her habits in a land full of platanos and lechon (fried plantains and pork).
A true health freak knows that intense packing is essential, unless you know you are going somewhere that has lots of options. Whenever I go to Puerto Rico, I come equipped with the following:
Dark Chocolate: So that I’m not tempted by flan and tres leches! My favorite brand is Lulu’s, which is made up of nothing more than cacao, coconut crystals, and vanilla bean.
Portable blender: I have a small portable blender (it’s the size of a travel mug) that I always bring with me when I travel. Even if I’m on the road, I can stop at a fruit stand and blend up a shake super easily.
Green vibrance packets: a mixed blend of different greens that replaces the green juices that I normally drink at home. Warning: These taste really bad. But they make you feel great once you’re finished drinking and are essential if you are in a place where there is a dearth of leafy greens. I usually cover up the bad taste by mixing them into a smoothie with almond milk, almond butter, chia seeds, and fruit.
Gluten-Free Rolled Oats: A quick and easy meal that can be mixed with hot water anywhere!
Digestive Support: I always bring extra reinforcements for digestion—swiss kriss herbal tablets, “eater’s digest” tea, tons of digestive enzymes, cape aloe, aloe juice, and natural calm magnesium formula. Digestion is going to be harder when you’re out of your comfort zone, so it’s better to over-prepare!
Double Supplements: When I’m on vacation, my body needs time to adjust—not only to different eating habits, but also to different time zones, sleep schedules, climates, and environmental pollutants. Although your regular supplement plan may protect you at home, you may need extra protection while you’re away. Take double the amount of supplements that you normally would take. Some essential supplements to have when you’re away from home include probiotics, glutamine, chlorella, and NAC.
Do Your Research
Believe it or not, there are food options out there for you. Even Puerto Rico has a few great spots for vegans, celiacs, and even raw foodists. If you’re travelling with meat/wheat eaters, make sure to note down where all of the essential health food stores and restaurants are located beforehand. That way, when you happen to be the area, you won’t be interrupting your friends’ day by going to those places. If you’re in Puerto Rico, the iphone Sal app is great for this purpose and will tell you which vegetarian restaurants are closest to you. More generally, happycow.com is a good resource for vegetarians, celiacs, and raw foodists anywhere. It allows you to check out all the nearby health restaurants in your area, along with reviews from other users on the website.
You’re on vacation. It’s okay to eat things that you normally would not eat. I certainly plan to eat a few tostones (fried plaintains) while staying with my grandparents. My grandmother makes them better than anyone else! However, you will not see me using this vacation as a free-for-all, where I all of a sudden down all the candy and greasy food in sight. Stick to those food items that are unique to the place that you are visiting—whether it’s your mother’s special lasagna or a French delicacy—and fill the rest of your diet with whatever nutrient-rich foods you can find.
Since you’re probably going to be eating some bad things, you may as well use some exercise to burn off those extra calories. Use the extra eating as an incentive to participate in some fun local activities. Rent a bike and use it travel to all the tourist sights, take a yoga class in a new language, or go on a hike where you can experience the local scenery.
Compliment Local Food
When I am on vacation, I normally find more pressure to eat things that I normally would never touch. Often I fear offending chefs or well-intentioned friends trying to show me their favorite food or favorite spot to eat. While my family is 100% understanding of my eating habits (my abuela even experimented to create a healthy plantain soup for when I visit—recipe coming soon!) in many cultures it is considered rude to turn down food. Although I want to express my appreciation, eating certain foods wreaks havoc on my stomach. White sugar is probably the biggest irritant for me. So rather than stuffing my face with flan, I’ll take one bite before spending the rest of my time gloating over its taste or presentation. I grab my camera and take multiple pictures. I tell my friends at the table that they must try some, and continually compliment the chef. Make the center of focus on the food, rather than on your choice to exercise restraint.
I hope these tips help you on your next vacation. !Buen provecho!
Taking some chlorella on my way to the airport. Chlorella is a great detoxifier because of the similarity of its composition to human blood and because of its unique ability to bind to and sweep out heavy metals from our system.
A little less than two weeks ago, the Bloomberg administration proposed a ban on the sale of sugary drinks above 16 oz. in restaurants, delis, and other business establishments. Since then, food industries and super-size aficionados have voiced several concerns. Bloomberg’s plan has been seen as overreaching, ineffective, and a waste of efforts towards public health. While I agree that the banning of sugary drinks alone will do little to combat the problem of obesity, I also believe that it is a small but necessary step in the right direction.
Our country is addicted to sugar. Literally. A 2003 Princeton University study revealed that sugar has addictive effects similar to several dependency-forming drugs.
I have been living in New York City for the past 6 years and have experienced first-hand the addictive effects of sugar. While working in a high-stakes charter school, I rarely had time to make or buy my own lunch, so I ate the lunches and snacks served in the school cafeteria—which usually had tons of added sugars. I would also stay at school for late nights lesson planning, where my dinner consisted of teddy grahams and wheat-thins. I kid you not. Needless to say, I had some weight and skin problems. Once I left, I decided to cut out added sugars altogether and the withdrawal effects were insane. I felt depressed, anxious, and had constant cravings—I felt the same way that smokers tell me they feel when they try to quit. If university studies don’t convince you of the addictive qualities of processed sugar, I hope my firsthand experience does!
A lot of critics of Bloomberg’s policy—or policies regulating what Americans eat in general—say that we should be focusing on education. But being addicted to sugar is not a choice. Our sugar addiction has resulted from over-advertising sugary products just as did the addiction to tobacco. It also comes from the placement of sugar in nearly every food in the grocery store to cover up poor quality. Education did not work for tobacco, and it is unlikely to work for processed sugar. The only method that has worked for curbing tobacco addiction is banning and limiting smoking. Not only did this help curb our country’s addiction, but it also has reduced the number of hospital admissions rates for smoking-related diseases
Several studies support the fact that a plant-based-diet that limits itself to no more than one tablespoon of sugar per day can have the effect of reversing heart disease, kidney failure and numerous other diseases. It also has the effect of reducing hospital visits. Former President Bill Clinton himself follows such a plan and has been able to effectively reverse his heart problems after having heart surgery. Imagine the reduction of patients we would see in hospitals if everyone reduced his/her sugar consumption. Imagine the reduction in healthcare costs!
But what about free choice? Is Bloomberg forcing us to eat healthy? My answer: No more so than big food is forcing us to develop addictions. The constant influx of advertisements and prevalence of additives and additional sugar in our foods has made it nearly impossible to avoid. Bloomberg’s proposed ban is no more than a small counterbalance to our country’s addictions. Is it enough? Certainly not. But it may be the change of direction that New York City needs.
Hi there! In case you were wondering, I was unable to blog last weekend because I was finishing up my first law school brief ever. Suffice it to say, I was running on very little sleep that weekend—as I’m sure were all of my peers—and now I’m feeling the sniffles coming on to pay me back for it. So that means it is time to get proactive and beat it before it gets worse. Thank you Washington for giving me a full three days to recover! Here is what I’m using.
Elderberry is a very powerful fruit that has several antioxidants and helps boost the immune system. Although I’ve never been able to find it in its natural form, pharmacies produce a form of it called Sambucol, which you can find at any CVS or Duane Reade. I’ll take a tablet the second I feel a cold coming on. Be careful not to overdo it though. Since it doesn’t come in its natural form, there is often added sugar, which in large quantities can counteract the benefits of the extract.
I remember when I was teaching elementary school and feeling sick all the time, my friend and self-studied health expert Amelle would take out a small piece of ginger and tell me to place it under my tongue for half an hour. Sounds crazy, but I’d feel better immediately! This is because ginger has tons of anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that have been utilized by several civilizations for years. The gingerol and shogaol components help relieve stomach pain, while its volatile oils have been proven to reduce the production of mucus. Although I don’t think I have the guts to walk around with ginger under my tongue all day (you elnd up tarking like dis), I drink tons of ginger tea and put ginger in my green juice whenever I’m feeling under the weather.
Garlic is composed largely of a compound called allicin, which acts as an anti-fungal and antibacterial. Unlike prescription antibiotics, your body will not develop a natural resistance to this compound, which means you can eat as much of it as often as you like. In order to make sure you are gaining all of the benefits, make sure to mince it, as the allicin becomes active in response to the deterioration of tissue. I personally make myself a big batch of garlic soup seasoned with cayenne pepper, saffron threads, and cumin. If you’re an egg-eater (I personally try my best to stay away for ethical reasons, but I understand that they have several nutritional benefits) you can throw a beat egg and gluten-free bread in there for extra taste.
Olive leaf has several antioxidants—including Oleuropein, Hydroxytyrosol & Tyrosol. The most powerful of these is oleuropein, which acts as a natural antibiotic. Unlike prescription antibiotics, oleuropein only inhibits the production of bad bacteria, leaving good, digestive bacteria intact. When I’m feeling sick, I take 4 tablets of Nature’s Way Olive Leaf in the morning and 4 at night.
From bad skin to indigestion to sickness, this stuff treats everything! NAC is short for N-Acetyl Cysteine, and is a supplement form of Cysteine, a naturally occurring amino acid. It helps to produce glutathione, which not only detoxifies the liver, but also helps rebuild muscle tissue. In addition, it also lessens the production of mucus, keeping me from coughing up a storm during my 9AM lecture! I like to take two tablets of 500mg NAC in the morning and two at night.
Stay Away From Refined Sugar
Studies have shown that eating too much refined sugar feeds yeast in the colon, which results in an overproduction of yeast, which messes up the digestive system. As a response, your body needs to exert an extra amount of energy to digest food and to fight against yeast that can leak into other parts of your body. This gives less energy for your body to fight against illness. So give your body a break and let it devote its energies to fighting the illness!
Avoid Casein and Gluten
Gluten and Casein are components that are found in wheat and dairy products, respectively. They both have glue-like properties; casein, in fact, is used to bind paint. Studies suggest that casein and gluten have similar binding effects on our bodies by thickening mucus, making it harder for our bodies to dispel it and leaving us feeling congested. Better to stick with almond milk or gluten-free bread if you really have a craving
I know these tips will help you feel better in no time. Happy President’s Day!