Sunday, April 21, 2013

Yoga Challenge and Cleanse: A New Amazon Adventure

What happens when an obsessive foodie decides to embark on a 30-day yoga challenge and corresponding cleansing diet? I'm not entirely sure, but I'm in the process of finding out.

I have been quiet on the blog front as I got my head around the prospect of 30 days of no dairy, no alcohol, no white flour/rice/sugar, no juice, no grilled/fried things, no red meat, and no coffee (caffeine isn't on the banned list, but with no dairy and no sugar, it may as well be, in my books). Ironically, two days before I was scheduled to start (and timing is tight because I had to sandwich the 30 days between a conference my husband was attending and a conference that I'm attending in May), my parents delivered half a lamb and half a pork, cut and wrapped. Lamb is not technically red meat according to this diet (thank God), so I have managed to sample it in a healthy stew, thanks once again to Mark Bittman's Food Matters. Tahini and Spinach Stew with Lamb was reposted here, thanks to "The Accidental Brainwashed Foodie."

Nine days in, I can honestly say so far so good. The smoothie recipes are all made up of real food, so I get to feed my recipe addiction by making them as well as some other healthy recipes. I can still enjoy some variety in my food, which might get a bit harder when I have to drop down to only vegetables, fruits, quinoa and millet in Week 3. But by then, it will be half over, and I'll be able to tell myself I'm on  the home stretch.

This weekend was a bit surreal, visiting my parents while my brother and sister and our families were all home. This is a time for celebration, since we're not all together very often. We didn't actually get to eat many meals together, since there was a family function on Saturday, which I ended up unable to attend due to sick kids. So I holed up at home, doing yoga and meditating while my kids napped, while everyone else enjoyed their roast beef dinner and celebratory cake.

My dad, however, thanks to the arrival of the aforementioned pork, was in full bacon production. He was curing, frying up slices to test every day, and then spent Sunday morning smoking bacon and pork chops. I confess I wasn't able to avoid tasting it completely. I HAD to sample it, as he relies on our opinions of whether he's got the seasoning quite right.

So Sunday at breakfast, everyone (but me) got to gorge themselves on salt pork, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes and toast. I got to enjoy an egg and some tomatoes alongside my smoothie. I didn't find this painful, however. I love food so much that I even enjoy the smells of the food, as well as watching other people enjoy it. G made up for lost time after being ill the day before by finishing off half a plate of the bacon.

The dichotomy of being on a diet while watching my family enjoy one of their favourite pasttimes (eating) got me thinking about the lessons in the diet book I'm supposed to be following, which warn against eating beef or pork, or white bread, or pickles. Dashama (the instructor) also speaks about the energy of food, and the environmental impact of eating meat. She also encourages us to do what's right for our own unique situations.

Let's use our lunch (following shortly on the heels of the bacon feast) as an example. I helped mix up hamburgers from scratch while my mom made buns. My dad grilled the burgers in between checking the progress of his smoker. Lunch consisted of homemade cole slaw, freshly made burgers on fresh homemade (white) buns, store-bought potato salad, and homemade pickles, old white cheddar, sliced on the vine tomatoes, mustard and ketchup as toppings. The beef came from a cow raised on the farm my parents live on, and was shaped and cooked with love, as were the buns and the pickles.

How much does that love count in the 'healthiness' of the food we eat? I don't know if anyone has measured it, but I have long argued to anyone feeling guilty over an indulgence that truly good food, made with love, has its own nourishing qualities that counteract the fats and free radicals. I don't have any science to back that up—call it a 'gut feeling.' Granted, maybe the hamburger feast needn't follow two hours after the bacon feast, but the two meals in themselves were truly nourishing to everyone involved.

So along with my box of hemp protein powder, greens powder, aloe juice, kombucha and kale that made the round trip with me to the farm, I brought back three hunks of freshly smoked side bacon and a dozen or so smoked pork chops. They'll go into the freezer next to my pasture-raised goose from Cool Springs Ranch, half a lamb, half a pig, and a few whole frozen fish, and when I'm done my 30 day challenge, I'll resume my daughterly duty of making room in the freezer for a large portion of the beef currently hanging at the butchershop, waiting to be cut and wrapped. And I won't just be cooking it for my family—you can bet that I'll be eating it.

I know my habits are changing already. Somewhere in the midst of this challenge, I have jumped headlong into the world of fermentation—not the liquor kind, but the probiotic kind. I now have a jar of water kefir on my counter, a kombucha scoby in my broom closet, and buttermilk and sourdough cultures ready to start. My sister-in-law has milk kefir for me when I'm ready. I'm pretty sure fermenting vegetables and more fun adventures are in my future. But so is goose fat, wine (I took great pleasure on Saturday night, post meditation, reviewing the latest catalogue for the wine club I belong to) and coffee with thick farm cream.

I'm really not sure how the outcome of this exercise will look. I know I'll be incorporating some of these practices—maybe all—because they feel really good, and they fit with my philosophy of enjoying wholesome, healthy foods, and my yoga practice will definitely be more entrenched. But I strongly doubt that my definition of 'wholesome' will cease to include cream, butter, beef and pork at the end of these 30 days.

It may not be the healthiest choice by some standards, but I LOVE the taste of fresh-brewed coffee in the morning, with a dash of cinnamon, raw sugar and raw cream. Maybe I won't have it every morning, or maybe I'll make a commitment to taking a month off from it every year, but I really doubt it will go completely. And our focus on food is one of my favourite things about my family. It fills me with joy, and it will continue to fill my belly, too. Although perhaps with a bit more moderation.

Nine days in, my current perspective is that it's ALL good. Maybe I'll learn a little bit more about eating for nutrition rather than for taste, and maybe that will help me lose that extra bit of post-baby weight that's been hanging on for the last couple years. Maybe I'll balance out a rich dinner with wine to match by having a smoothie for lunch the next day. Maybe this new kefir discovery will help me curb my cravings for a San Pellegrino Limonata while watching a movie. Not sure it will do anything for my popcorn cravings, though.

We'll see. I'll keep you posted.