29 January 2012

What I loved about Be Healthy Boston

I spent this weekend at the first ever Be Healthy Boston conference, which was held in the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel. Brett Blumenthal, the President and CEO of Be Healthy, Inc., described her event as an affordable and experiential "urban wellness retreat", intended to introduce attendees to a wide range of new information and tools that would support us on our individual paths to health and wellness.

I'm thrilled to say that Brett really hit the mark with this one! Below are just a few things I loved about the weekend.

The People
Each morning the strong and beautiful Leslie Salmon Jones led a high energy stretch that had me shedding my hoodie in even the coldest spaces of the hotel. Terri Trespicio's no-nonsense style made for a powerful keynote, where she validated and acknowledged the doubt we can sometimes feel when trying to live healthy in today's culture, seemingly swimming upstream much like those who choose to be single in today's expectantly-coupled society. She took issue with the idea of being healthy as "being selfish," stating that everyone in our lives stands to gain from the unique, healthy lifestyles we are all capable of crafting. Candy O'Terry kept her lunch-time audience riveted with her powerful story and enchanted us with interludes of beautiful song. All that, plus Margaret Moore leveraged her roots in biology to give us all some great tips about organizing our frenetic minds.

Of course, it wasn't just about the speakers. From the moment Donna shared her experience of losing 150 lbs, quitting smoking, and curing herself of diabetes through diet and exercise, the attendees contributed a lot. Throughout the day I met a lot of wonderful, like-minded people, such as attorney-turned-Zumba instructor Judy, who told me about her studio and how wonderful it was to be helping people become healthier. Later I sat with needles in my ears alongside Elizabeth, a young girl with cold hands like mine who was taking care of herself by experiencing the whole event while staying at the hotel. I chatted a lot with Adam, the dude who checks me in for classes at Inner Strength Yoga Studio, who was excited to be teaching his first class later that day and is six years past touching a cigarette. I shared information from the different sessions and ran out for Starbucks tea with Dominique, a wellness / fitness coach and personal trainer, and finally felt like someone shared my deep interest in these topics. Over lunch I helped the oh-so-grateful Connie set up her iPhone to work with her Google calendar, and heard more about her studies in the Integrative Nutrition program.

Every single person I met at Be Healthy Boston was willing to talk and listen, and made me feel supported in my own personal journey into better health and wellness.  

The Information
Breakout sessions throughout each day provided a wealth of information on many interesting health-related topics. And with three choices in each time slot, I'm sure there was something for everyone. Lauren Mackler was an engaging speaker who reminded me of the internal family systems model, and how a systematic look at our core, limiting beliefs is what needs to happen for us to take action and live more deliberately. Husband and wife team Russell and Stacy Kennedy shared some amazing statistics about how food production has shifted since the 1970s, how our brain experiences hunger, and how we can use this knowledge to make healthy eating a part of our every day lives. Panels of experts facilitated by Terri and Brett helped attendees separate health from hype, and gave us tips for staying pain and injury free as we age. In the session on mastering stress I relearned the benefits of diaphragmatic breathing, and got to see firsthand how my daily meditation affects my heart rate and supports optimal oxygen intake--being connected to a biofeedback machine validated how I intuitively felt about the benefits of my practice (and it was so cool!).

I wish I could have attended each and every one of the sessions.

The Samples
The first morning I was overwhelmed with the size and contents of our reusable "goodie bag", which included tons of free samples from vendors like CamelBak and many interesting brochures. At the MarketPlace, there were enough healthy food and beverage samples available to keep us all well fed and hydrated (even without the wonderful catered lunches). I had the most amazing organic carrot cupcake from Local Pickins, sampled all the different flavors of Joos, and got to try juice, soup, and ice cream made in a Vitamix blender. But my favorite was definitely the Budibar--every flavor was tasty, and I couldn't resist making these my first purchase of the weekend.

And the samples weren't just limited to food and drink. Over the course of the weekend I was able to experiment with several different types of fitness, some of which I had tried before, and others I'd been curious about. HealthWorks taught a lot of great mini-classes, including Zumba, Core Express, and Yoga Beats. After being away from it for 10 years, I got to re-familiarize myself with Gyrotonics under the wonderful eye of Peter Breen from Charles River Gyrotonic. I tried using a kettlebell, and although I didn't click with the instructors on that one, I definitely want to investigate it more. My final mini-class, offered by the Bar Method Boston, took me back to my childhood ballet classes and reminded me just how intense and effective small, controlled motions could be!

The professionals at Dana Farber's Zakim Center for Integrative Therapies allowed me to safely re-experience acupuncture, and get a glimpse of what Reiki is all about. I enjoyed Dr. Kimberly Deramo's panel responses so much that I visited her at the Wellesley Sports Medicine table, and purchased her prescribed vitamin cocktail that will allow me to toss most of my individual pills (which I hate swallowing) and get almost all of my most essential vitamins from a tasty powder dissolved in a small glass of water (including a multivitamin, which I typically can't take at all because they make me nauseous). I also have enough samples of Omega-3s from Nordic Naturals that I may not have to buy any for months.

I wish I could have done some of the mini spa treatments, but alas, there were only so many hours in the days!

The Atmosphere
Lastly, I have to say that as far as conferences go, Be Healthy Boston had a great schedule. There was a lot to do, but the sessions ran on time and offered a nice balance between break out sessions and independent time to visit the MarketPlace. There was ample time between sessions for asking speakers follow up questions, taking restroom breaks, socializing, or running to Starbucks for a warm beverage. "Musical transitions" in the hallways, performed by students from Berklee College of Music and folks from the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, were also a very nice touch.

My journal is full of new ideas, my desk is overflowing with information to look into more closely, and Leslie's Core Power DVD is waiting for me in my workout room upstairs. Tomorrow I start integrating more healthy practices into my life, and I'm excited to see how my personal journey is impacted by this experience. I'm extremely grateful to Brett for organizing such a fabulous event, and also to Roman Szpond at Inner Strength Yoga Studio for having a fantastic studio that I love frequenting, for participating in Be Healthy Boston, and for posting the flyer that made me register in the first place.

I will definitely be there next year, and hope some of you will consider joining me.

22 January 2012

Am I a real vegetarian yet?

This coming Monday is the three week mark, technically the end of my  21-day vegetarian experiment. The obvious question is: how did I do? Am I a real vegetarian yet?

New Food and the Birth of New Feelings: Week 1
By now you know about the Frittata Incident where this experiment started, but I'm happy to report that things improved from there. My morning and afternoon snacks for the first week consisted of two existing favorites from the South Beach Diet cookbook: Asian Tempeh Triangles and Edamame with Scallions and Sesame, so that was easy. For lunch I tried a Warm Spiced Lentil Bowl with Yogurt and Smoked Almonds, and for dinner I modified a South Beach Diet Stuffed Eggplant with Beef recipe by substituting soysage crumbles for the beef. I enjoyed all of these recipes, and would make them all again.

Did I cheat or successfully resist temptation? Yes. The most memorable resisting was probably my husband's huge crockpot of chili, which smelled up the whole house--but I knew he made it too spicy for me to really want any so I'm not sure that counts. The only time I faltered was the day after our post-holiday party, where I just had to try a leftover chicken wing (not worth it) and a small chicken, spinach, and cheese quesadilla (mildly worth it).

My ongoing struggles with food binges had me feeling mostly negative about my body when I started this, but during the first week there were more times where I felt good--actually grateful that I was strong enough to strength train, run, and do yoga. And almost every time I exercised, I surprised myself with increased endurance and stellar form. While I still succumbed to most cravings (I had a crazy busy week at work) there were more bright spots: moments where I knew I wasn't really hungry and was able to resist a craving; I drank a lot more water; I prevented myself from getting overwhelmed about everything I needed to do; and I started noticing when my breathing got shallow in time to employ some relaxation techniques. I can't say whether this is attributable to the vegetarian diet, but something definitely shifted in both my body and my mind. 

Heart Openings and Increased Self-Awareness: Week 2
During the second week, my workouts continued to amaze me. I felt even more balanced during yoga--my hips opened in a way they never have before, and twists (which are notoriously difficult for me) were a bit easier. One morning I even made up my own flow! The feeling of being grateful for my strong and healthy body reappeared throughout the week and even expanded, making me feel grateful for so many things in my life.

At times I noticed a heightened attention to the yama (yogic restraint) called Ahimsa, which is essentially non-violence in thought, word, and deed toward oneself and others. Instead of constantly complaining when I felt cold, I practiced just noticing the sensations of "cold" in my body and letting them pass. In the car one morning I felt myself getting impatient at my husband's driving, and breathed instead of criticizing. I began to notice when I felt tired or worn down, and when my husband and I might benefit from spending more quality time together instead of doing so much of our own things. At work, I was able to shelve some assumptions about how people might react to things I did, and had several nice interactions with colleagues. I honestly amazed myself when I was able to catch and even momentarily break these bad habits.

At this point I was drinking even more water, and often didn't feel hungry (but felt weird about not eating, especially around prescribed eating times). Instead of sticking with rigid recipes, I let myself get a little more creative: breakfast was either buckwheat cereal with my favorite trail mix or an egg with veggies and Kashi 7 Whole Grain pilaf; lunch was Hoisen-glazed Tempeh with Green Beans (and more Kashi); dinner was a tofu bowl I tried to replicate after having an amazing one at 29 Newbury over New Years weekend. I fried up some tofu and served it with a side of veggies that included onion, garlic, edamame, corn, and black beans (and more Kashi). I also bought kale, veggie burgers, some multi-grain bread, and Fage for random snackage. This week I was also experimenting with two "mini" breakfasts--I'd read that it was good to eat a little something before vigorous workouts, so before running at the gym I had some buckwheat cereal or a Larabar, and then eat the egg part afterwards.

Although I'd given up my meticulous health tracking, at the end of week two I gave into temptation and stepped back on the scale. I was disappointed to find that I was continuing to gain weight, especially given how relaxed and good I started to feel about my food and exercise. Again, I'm not saying this is the result of the vegetarian diet--I think it's much more likely related to my stress-induced binges.

Some Doubts, and Monumental Shifts: Week 3
Given how week two had ended, I was torn. I felt mostly good, but concerned about my continued cravings and weight gain. I considered that maybe I'd lightened up a bit too much, and started paying attention to my carb counts again. I was shocked to see just how much of them I'd eaten the previous week! In my mind I know my body doesn't handle carbs well, even the good ones. (And if I am reallyand a very active hypoglycemic.

While considering all these food-related questions, week three continued to build on week two, and brought what I'd even call significant shifts in my life. Some examples? Well, I had an hour-long, positive and connected conversation with my mother (who I haven't spoken to in years). And if that wasn't enough, I ran a solid five miles at the gym just yesterday.

And the Verdict Is: Bring on Week 4!
I ultimately decided that for week four, I'd aim for two meals a day that were vegetarian, and one with protein from fish. (Whole Foods' Friday sale on Sockeye Salmon helped seal the deal.) I also decided I'd fare better with no more than two servings of obvious carbs (e.g. bread, rice, etc.) per day (and preferably only one). I've already started paying more attention to the carb vs. protein count in things like veggie burgers, and found yummy, higher protein versions like Lightlife. I've also made sure to buy fruits like blackberries and strawberries, which are naturally lower in carbs and sugars than others.

Since I started implementing this strategy toward the end of week three and it's helped a lot already, I'm hopeful. Now that my carbs are more under control, I'm not binging, and even if I did, I don't think I'd be chastising myself for long. I'm learning to have more compassion for myself and others, and feel like I'm really evolving physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

If you've never explored modifying your diet to see how it can affect the rest of your life, I'd highly recommend it. It's truly amazing how powerful it can be.

15 January 2012

When to trust yourself: a lesson in finding balance

Lately I feel like I'm being tested at the beginning of new work weeks. This Monday I woke to an email from my dear friend Vianne, prompted by the Frittata incident of last Monday. As part of sharing some information about perfectionism with me, Vianne ended up temporarily knocking me off balance with this message:
Since I've watched you take on dance, Tracey [Anderson workouts], ChaLEAN, writing, cleansing, yoga and now the [vegetarian] diet with such unaltered diligence, I wonder if finding the right passion is really your only quest. Maybe a scientific understanding of what makes your mind obsess about the need for control and perfectionism will help in some way. I tell you this because I want [you] to find peace in 2012 and just BE, whatever that is at any particular moment of any particular day. Even if that means you don't wake up to do your yoga, that you eat a pint of ice cream twice in one day, or that you decide to fart in public. 
I think what really triggered me here was the phrase "unaltered diligence". See, when friends, colleagues, or acquaintances ask about my vegetarian experiment, hear about my morning routine (which I'll blog about in the future), or express interest in my latest exercise craze, they either seem impressed with my discipline and willpower, or imply I'm being overly restrictive. Based on my initially strong reaction to Vianne's email and my known tendencies toward perfectionism and control, I felt the need to step back and ask how others' perceptions could potentially teach me something about myself.

Reasons to Trust Myself
A few summers ago, I spent some time identifying my personal values--the qualities of life that made me feel truly fulfilled when at work or at home. After sitting quietly with the question Vianne prompted and listening to how my body responded, I realized three of my five personal values were very relevant:
  • Self improvement
  • Challenge
  • Quality "me time"
Whether by nature or nurture, I'm one of those people who's always looking to change and grow in a positive direction. I think I have much to learn about myself and about living in the world, so I try new things to see whether they fit and will help me better navigate life. I enjoy challenging my assumptions and pushing my limits, both physically and mentally. An introvert by nature, I also love spending time alone, reflecting on where I've been and thinking about where I'd like to go. So while my behavior may sometimes appear as extreme diligence, I do these activities and experiments because I actually feel energized by them. Deep down, I know I don't do them to be perfect for someone else; even when they don't turn out exactly as I expected, they just make me feel really good!

Because of inconsistencies across people, and because everyone has a lens through which they interpret reality, I've also learned to not take others' perceptions of me at face value. At the same time I received Vianne's email, for example, I received one from another friend that conveyed a seemingly opposite message--saying how happy and content I was given my increased interest in my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. Over the course of the week, I also recalled an experience I had last summer when I got my tattoo. Expressing some nervousness to my close friend Paige days before the procedure, she very strongly encouraged me to rethink my plan. I remember being surprised at her reaction, and much like Vianne's email, it prompted some serious questioning of my motivations to see if I was missing something important. But Paige's reaction when she accompanied me to the tattoo parlor (where she was so uncomfortable she couldn't stay) made me realize that her response was probably more about her own stuff than about me.

Reasons to Listen to Other People
On the flip side, I've received similar messages over the years from several people: when my boss told me to do 20% less (can you imagine?); when my dance instructor told me to relax my arm (when I thought I was already relaxed!); and when my nutritionist advised me to stop tracking my calories, exercise, and weight. I do tend to get overly excited about trying new things, and can get into rhythms that reduce my ability to be flexible and spontaneous. While I'm doing it less and less lately, my actual lack of perfection at "unaltered diligence" also sometimes makes me beat myself up a bit. And although I don't have any desire to eat pints of ice cream or fart in public, I could easily down half a bar of 70% dark chocolate from time to time! 

Reasons to Do Both
After wrestling with this over the past week, I've decided that like most other things in life, learning when to trust yourself vs. take seriously what others think or say about how you're living your life is all about finding balance.

Here's an example: when I first started working on my book, I set aside two hours each Saturday and Sunday with the intent of working through my outline. My dedication to this effort left me feeling anxious (until I got to it), resentful (because I'd often rather be doing something else), and frustrated (when I couldn't "be creative" during my allotted time). Now, I work on my book during the same 15 minutes every weekday morning. I can understand how this might appear overly rigid to most people, but doing it this way makes me feel good because it fits into my most creative time, allows me to make progress, makes me eager to do more the next day, and keeps my weekends free. Creating this structure has been a positive experience, and ironically has given me more flexibility.

I think it's good to pause, question and be curious about why you're really doing something to make sure you're doing it for the right reasons. If you ask yourself the difficult questions and still feel at peace in your mind, heart, and body, you can trust your inner compass to keep you balanced regardless of how others might perceive your actions. Conversely, other people's comments can bring to light ways you may be harming yourself or holding yourself back that you may not initially be able to see. They can be a powerful signal that you should consider making some adjustments. So pay attention, and whenever you're feeling triggered by someone else's impressions or feedback, check in with yourself and really do the soul searching work because regardless of the outcome, the thought process will always be beneficial.

07 January 2012

Earthsong Yoga Open House

Today I had the pleasure of attending an open house at Earthsong Yoga. A friend of mine told me about it months ago, and I was eager to attend because of all the Kripalu-style yoga in the schedule. (For those of you who don't know, I'll be doing the 200-hour teacher training program at Kripalu in April and June.)

I had no real expectations for what a free yoga open house would be, and I had a nice experience visiting this studio. The 30-minute mini class schedule started with Gentle Kripalu taught by Lynn, followed by Ashtanga with Gail (Earthsong's director), Hatha with Paul, Moderate Kripalu with Mary, and ended with Vigorous Ujjayi Kripalu Flow with Jeff. Each managed the atypical time constraint with grace, giving attendees a nice sampling of the different styles. (In fact, I'm now motivated to do some Ashtanga tomorrow!) Each instructor infused their mini class with their unique personalities--my favorite example was Jeff's closing of the day with a Shavasana set to the music of Stevie Ray Vaughan, because the flitting of the guitar reminds him of how thoughts typically flit around in one's mind. Gail's husband Steve (from BodyFit) was also on site, offering chair massages. They also offered healthy snacks of fruit, veggies, nuts, carrot and vegan chocolate cake (both of which were amazing!) for nibbling in between classes.

Although on Main Street on the second floor, the studio had ample (free) street parking right out in front. What's more, Gail and Steve clearly put a lot of work into creating a welcoming yoga space. There was plenty of room, the temperature was good (though an adjustment for me, given my heated yoga practices of late), there were many kinds of props available, and the restrooms were conveniently located. The decor was simple and soothing--an oasis from the sometimes overstimulating life off the mat.

But beyond all the physical aspects of their space, each of the instructors reminded me what yoga is really about: being present and making connections with people, some of whom probably never imagined yoga would be accessible to them. Those who showed up to practice were of all ages, genders, and levels; each of the instructors guided the classes with a kind and gentle awareness, acceptance, and compassion for individual possibilities and limitations. In sum, they allowed you to come to yoga exactly as you were in that moment, and it was all perfectly fine.

If trying yoga or meditation is on your New Years' resolution list, Earthsong is offering two free yoga classes next week, and a guided meditation on the 20th. Check out the schedule on their web site for more information.

What a vegetarian frittata taught me about myself

My first week being vegetarian went really well, but started out with a bang on Monday, when I tried to make myself an Autumn / Winter Frittata to have for my breakfasts.

How the Plan Went Awry
I had the day off from work, so I planned to go to a yoga class taught by one of my favorite instructors at 9:30 am. I was excited to make and have a slice of the frittata before I left and since I get up at 5, I figured I had plenty of time. In the pre-sunrise peace and quiet of the kitchen, I prepared the chard and the onions; reading step 3, I went to find the potatoes to chop, only to find there were none.

The Berating Began Ever So Slowly
Initially in disbelief, I thought back to the grocery store. My husband and I had gone to Whole Foods, and divvied up getting the items on our list as we often do. I remembered asking him to get the potatoes, but not actually verifying that they were in the shopping cart. I also remembered that since the store was a bit crazy, I read up and down the list (what seemed like 100 times) to make sure we had everything. And yet somehow there I was, without potatoes.

"OK," I said to myself. "You have two choices. You can get angry at him for not getting the potatoes (or yourself for not really checking that he did), or you can put on a coat and run to the store quick." Temporarily proud of myself, I decided on the latter. And even though my tendencies toward overthinking kept me replaying the store scenes in my mind while driving, I also reminded myself to breathe, and it helped. OK, kudos to me, it's all under control.

But Then it Picked Up Steam
Back at the house, I resumed cooking, now 20 minutes behind the time I'd originally planned. I worried about finishing the frittata and then about having enough time for my stomach to settle a slice before putting myself into a downward dog. Did the bottom of the eggs really firm before I put it into the oven? Was the frittata firm in the center when I pulled it out? I think I thought so. As I flipped the frittata out of the pan and onto a plate, I vowed to bite my tongue and not tell my husband (who was now awake and in the kitchen) about the potato oversight.

That was, until I started cutting the frittata. As the plate filled with liquid, all my negativity poured out as well. "Why didn't you get the potatoes?!" "It's not supposed to be like that." "Don't try and hug me; can't you see I'm pissed!?" "See, I totally can't cook, why do I try?!!" Ah, and then for good measure, the magnifications about getting angry and blowing up over a frittata: "It's the second flipping day of the New Year and I screwed up already. So much for my yoga practice off the mat!"  Crying to the point of making myself nauseous, I wondered aloud WTF was wrong with me, and considered abandoning my yoga class to curl up on the sofa in my room and just disappearing for the day. A few minutes later, after I allowed myself to release the most extreme part of my rant, I felt strangely better.

It's Never About the Frittata
Realizing I really needed my yoga class, I dragged myself there. But I didn't need to get down on my mat to figure things out; the drive was all it took. Here's what I came up with:
  • If I'm not perfect (cooking frittatas, being mindful of my thoughts and words all the time, etc.), people won't like or love me.
  • I'd rather blame someone else for being imperfect than not be perfect myself.
  • I'd rather voluntarily create distance between myself and other people than risk feeling unliked or unloved.
  • I can't fathom being liked or loved if I'm not perfect.
Of course, all this goes back to my childhood, where I'd come home with straight A's on my report card and be asked why they weren't A+'s. Where I would move a coffee table book a half centimeter and be yelled at for it. Where a scratch on a newly painted wall would negatively impact my life for weeks. Where being a minute late (because the time on my watch was slightly different from the kitchen clock) would deny me the privilege of going out to play again that day. Growing up, I tried so hard to be perfect so my parents would love me, and despite all my efforts, I never felt like I succeeded. And there I had been, in my kitchen, reinforcing this lack of love and compassion all by myself.

Quotes to Live By
Once I made these connections, I recalled two quotes I'd copied down in my journal recently:
  • "Aspire to be present, not perfect." (Kripalu Yoga, Faulds, p73)
  • "Habit is habit, and not to be flung out of the window by any man, but coaxed downstairs a step at a time." (Mark Train, Pudd'nhead Wilson, quoted in Real Simple January 2012, p2)
Yes, I need to let go of trying to be perfect, putting more of my energy into being present; to trust that the people in my life will love and like me for who I am, not how well or poorly I do something; and to be compassionate and patient with myself, because I can choose how to parent myself now. I will most likely have moments where I forget and start aspiring to be perfect again. But that's OK. I can still like and love myself for trying to be a better person each and every day.

Thought Experiments
  • What was your latest frittata? What lessons did it teach you about yourself? 
  • How can you be more patient with yourself as you try and make changes in this New Year? 
  • Do you celebrate the small choices you've made to slowly coax your habit down the stairs?
Any tricks or tips you want to share are also welcome!

01 January 2012

My 21-day vegetarian experiment

The History
The end of December had me thinking once again about doing a nutritional experiment in 2012. I had started 2011 working through ChaLEAN Extreme, and after at least six months of following this high protein, low carb diet and intense exercise program faithfully, I lightened up yet continued to use the pieces I felt worked for me throughout the rest of the year. But given my increased focus on yoga, meditation, breath work, and learning to "let go" as of late, I was looking for something that challenged me in a different way.

The Experiment
After considering my options for several weeks, and in keeping with my 21-day theme, I've decided to try eating vegetarian for three weeks, starting on Monday, January 2. More specifically, I'm going to go the "lacto-ovo-vegetarian" route, because I know I'm not yet ready to give up eggs or dairy. I currently love and eat a lot of fish and seafood, so I think this part of the experiment will be difficult enough! Plus, slowly moving toward eating vegan by eliminating one by one will likely help me notice the more subtle effects on my body than a "cold turkey" approach (pardon the pun).

It may or many not be interesting to folks that I'm not doing this because of any preconceived religious, moral, or environmental beliefs. It's purely an experiment to see how eating a different kind of diet impacts me physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. In theory, I like the concept that it might align me more deeply with my yogic / spiritual practice, but I can't say I'm all there just yet.

What I Think I Think, At The Beginning
There are several reasons why I think this experiment might be easy for me:
  • I already bring my own food to work for the week.
  • I enjoy making new interesting dishes, now that I dedicate more mindful time to doing it on Sundays (vs. looking at it as a chore, as I used to).
  • I already eat lots of vegetables, and like beans / lentils and whole grains, as well as tofu, seitan, and tempeh.
  • I love having leftovers and don't get bored eating the same thing (even five days in a row).
  • My husband and I already mostly eat different things, and we have no children to worry about.
Of course there are also a couple reasons why I might find this experiment challenging:
  • I eat a high protein low carb diet, because that's what feels best for my (hypoglycemic-prone) body. Many of the vegetarian recipes have outrageous (although good) carbs; I feel the need to retain a good balance.
  • I try to eat healthy when I go out, but sometimes it's hard and I fall back on fish dishes. I've ordered vegetarian stuff before, but because of the above issue, they don't always feel satisfying to me and I can end up eating more to correct later.
  • I don't want to eat anything cooling during this time of year (e.g. typical salads). I'm usually cold enough already, and do crave warm, comforting food.
  • I like my recipes to reuse ingredients I already have on hand, and be somewhat simple to prepare. I do spend more time cooking than I used to, but I still appreciate the 30-minute meal!
What's interesting already is that initially, I thought I wouldn't mind giving up red meat (which I only occasionally eat) and poultry (which I've never been wild about), but in selecting my recipes and planning my shopping lists over this past weekend, I did feel something inside me start to resist. I felt this fear of lack, an almost low-grade panic of not being able to have these foods. I had planned to track not just my physical reaction to these changes, but also any shifts in my emotional, mental, and spiritual landscape over the course of the three weeks, but I didn't expect to be starting this early!

The Resources
In making this decision, I found a few web sites very helpful:
Additionally, I'm keeping or slightly modifying some of my favorite meals and snacks from the South Beach Diet cookbook, as well as the Food Guide that came with the ChaLEAN Extreme program.

I'd also like to continue practicing my 6-steps to truly mindful eating, regardless of what I eat. I received Meal by Meal: 365 Daily Meditations for Finding Balance Through Mindful Eating as a holiday gift, so I'm looking forward to incorporating that as well.

Wish me luck!