30-Day No Sugar Challenge

February 13, 2012

Photo by Lauri Andler from Wiki

 

I am addicted to sugar. I never felt truly addicted to smoking or alcohol or drugs – none of which I put in my body anymore – but sugar still kicks my ass. Anyone who’s followed my blog these last few years has read about my trails and tribulations with sugar many, many times.

I am also allergic to sugar. It makes my system acidic, causing inflammation, which makes me break out (little tiny pimples all over my face) and contributes to flare-ups of psoriasis. I’ve had psoriasis consistently for almost two years now.

I’ve given up sugar a few times in the past, but never made it longer than a few weeks. I tried again at the beginning of 2012, but after 6 days (during which I felt amazing) I caved and went back to my cycle of sugar binging.

So this time, I’ve decided to place a wager. I’ve bet my friend China Brooks that I can go 30 days without eating refined sugar, starting today. She also is going sugar-free, and if either of us give into temptation during the 30 days, we have to Paypal the other $25. I don’t generally make bets but I’m pretty sure I’m too proud and stubborn to lose one. 😉

Many people are unaware of the truth about sugar – how addictive it is, how toxic it is, and how prevalent it is in processed foods. I’ve experienced the physical, emotional and spiritual gains that come with giving it up. I’ll be exploring these over the next 30 days as I share my experiences and struggles and, hopefully, win my bet.

 

 

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How open-minded are you? How willing are you to challenge society’s norms? How willing are you to experiment with your life? How willing are you to ask WHY?

Shampoo strips your hair of its oils.

Conditioner puts (fake, chemical) oils back.

Face cleansers strip your face of its oils.

Lotion puts (fake, chemical) oils back.

Why not just stop the cycle?

Check this out: A man named Richard Nikoley has gone almost two years without using soap or shampoo when showering.

I fuckin’ LOVE people who challenge conventional beliefs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Note: he still uses soap to wash his hands after the restroom and when handling food).

A year or two ago I was researching all the potentially/probably horrible chemicals in our soaps/shampoos/cosmetics when  I ran across some articles about using baking soda to clean your hair.

The idea appealed to me. I believe that our bodies are a naturally regulating system, like every other ecosystem. No other animals use soap and shampoo; why must we?

Does this idea scare you? Make you angry? Ask yourself why.

People are often afraid of new ideas.

People who challenge conventional belief are almost always ridiculed – until it turns out that what they’re saying is true. Galileo is the prime poster boy of this truth.

Our society thinks that we can improve on nature.  I just don’t buy it. There is ALWAYS an equal and opposite reaction. There is always a side effect, always an unintended consequence.  Cause/effect, good/evil, light/dark, yin/yang. Everything is inter-related, and Balance is a Universal law. When there is an issue,  rather than dealing with underlying internal imbalances, our society likes to treat symptoms from the outside. This is never sustainable.

Back to the shampoo.

Another guy who tried going without is Sean Bonner:

The thing that stuck out to me the most, and resonated with my own philosophy was that it seemed silly that we would have evolved into creatures that needed a bunch of corporately produced and marketed chemicals smeared all over our bodies everyday just to get by.

As I was reading this article I started thinking that the only reason I was using soap was because I’d always done it and had always been told I needed to. I’d never questioned it, but now that I was questioning it I wasn’t coming up with very convincing answers. Maybe these chemicals were messing whith my body’s own chemistry and creating the need for themselves?

And here’s a poignant comment that a reader left on Nikoley‘s blog:

For the most part of what i’ve read of these comments, it seems that no-one has yet addressed that a persons state of health and diet is the major contributer to body odours. You can be a person that bathes, shampoos and deodorises regularly but still stink offensively to high heaven from poor food choices, lack of fruit and veg, too much processed junk and the degenerative diseases developed. On the other hand, you can be a person who is physically active on a daily basis, eats only fresh food, lightly cooked meats and seafoods, avoids grain foods (because we are NOT birds) and smell perfectly fine from not using cosmetics and soaps, etc. To determine/decide if another potential mates’ odour was offensive or not is one of many important evolutionary ‘tools’ to ensure that humans mated with other humans who were in good health with good genes. Cosmetics were originally developed to mask a persons poor health, rather than making the effort to improve their health (more like ignorance in the face of decadence). We almighty Human Beings forget that we are just another animal on this planet, and how many of them (animals) do you see using processed foods, soaps and clothing? Compare the health of a chimpanzee (our closest biological relative) to most humans, these chimps are much better off than we are without our modern vices. We apply chemicals to our skin, eat food from sources that are not digestable in their natural state, technology that does all our moving/movement for us, yet still have it in our heads that we are ‘smarter’ than other living organisms on this planet. Our sense of ‘smart’ seems like a hell of a lot of ‘stupid’ to me. If our animal friends shared the same voice and could point and laugh, we would never hear the end of it, except we are HARMING THEM in all these processes.

All of the guys who tried this and blogged about it found that their hair and skin were SOFTER and less dry than before. They also said their wives and girlfriends said they smelled good, or better. Sean Bonner wrote an updated after a year of living free.

I didn’t stink at all (confirmed by friends, family and random people I ended up sitting next to on various forms of public transit), my skin felt better, oily and dry patches had all but disappeared and the light dandruff I’d had my entire life was almost gone. I was pleased with the results of my month experiment and decided I’d run with it for a while longer. As of January 1, 2011: it’s been a year now, and I can’t imagine ever going back.

And speaking of hair, that was actually a perfect test. Sometime mid-summer I stopped by a barber and before I’d realized it he’d squirted a glob of shampoo onto my head. It was too late to protest, so I just sat through the scrubbing. For the following 2 weeks my hair was a mess: full of dandruff and totally uncontrollable. Once things balanced back out to the previously established no-soap norms, all was good again.

Unexpected bonus: travel is much easier. Now that I’m not lugging shampoo and conditioner with me on the road, there’s that much less for TSA to hassle me about.

 

I love experimenting with my life and my reality, as you can probably tell by the subject matter of much of my blog. And since I’m not dating or sleeping with anyone right now anyways, I might try this out!

Luckily I have a lot of hats in case I need to hide my hair at work during the first two weeks…

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.

Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.

Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.

Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.

Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.

But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

-Buddha

‎No man can trade upon the knowledge of another person, simply because the only knowledge which we can use with certainty is that knowledge which we have acquired through personal experience.

-Theun Mares

How to Create Energy

February 5, 2011

A friend asked me the other day what I do to get so much energy.

There are probably 100 factors but here are a few I feel I have control over right now:

1. Eating Clean

I’m 36 days into my Clean Eating Challenge. I’ve dropped intoxicants (alcohol, caffeine) and severely limited refined sugars, processed foods (including bread), dairy, and meat (when I do eat meat, it’s chicken). I really feel like my body needs less sleep now – I’m guessing less recovery time from the stress you create in your body by eating foods your body isn’t made to process. My skin is so much softer and clearer. My memory is better – I realized recently that I now remember people’s names after hearing them one time (that one’s pretty strange), and I find I can remember everything without having to write it down (I’ve started shopping without grocery lists). My sense of smell is sharper. I have fewer emotional lows. My psoriasis is fading. The pea-sized subcutaneous cyst that I’ve had on my neck for a few years is almost entirely gone (when I put the paste my Ayurvedic doctor gave me on it it shrinks, but I have to keep that up or it returns).

What I AM eating is foods from Farmer’s Markets. I no longer shop at Whole Foods due to their policies on Genetically Modified Organisms and Monsanto, and I’ve been to Trader Joe’s about 3 times this year. I’ve started to get to know my Farmer’s Market vendors in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills and Culver City, and they’ve started cutting me deals! Last weekend I made my Leek, Sweet Potato and Pear soup, with Ginger Asparagus Quinoa with a Carrot Ginger sauce on top of that.  I’m also eating a lot of Bolani (available at both the CC and BH markets). Bolani is my new favorite thing – it’s like a quesadilla made with super-thin naan-like tortillas, and instead of cheese it’s stuffed with lentils or pumpkin or spinach or potato (the first two are my favorites). When I need a sugar fix, I eat fresh melt-in-your-mouth dates. If you have a sweet tooth and you’ve never had fresh dates, you need to try them.

2. Meditating

Last year I meditated about 6 days a week; on the 1st of 2011 I made a 100% commitment to daily meditation, and intend to keep that for the rest of my life. Some days it’s 15 minutes, and some days it’s an hour. Some days it’s in my room, some days it’s on my porch, some days it’s on the beach. Like eating clean is clearing out my body, I feel like meditating is clearing out my mind.  Science is proving that meditating is exactly like working out. Your brain is a muscle, but instead of physical strength you’re building focus and clarity. Ideas flowing to me.

3. Exercising

I do yoga two days a week; I run a few days a week as training for a 1/2 marathon I intend to complete in May; I try to talk a walk every day either during lunch or after dinner, and I try to hike on the weekends. We all know that, paradoxically, exercise energizes you.

4. Saying No

In 2011 I’ve been practicing saying No to energy drains. Energy drains like intoxicants  and refined sugar and sub-optimal foods, but also energy drains like people, or like doing things I don’t REALLY want to do. I’m simply being honest with people – everyone – including my boss. If I don’t want to do something, I tell them. If I’m not available to talk to them on the phone about their problems, I tell them. I make it clear that it’s not personal and my saying no is not a reflection of how much I do or don’t value them as a person or as a friend; but I’m just getting more real. It’s so refreshing, and I’m finding out that it works better for everyone.

5. Doing what I love

I wake up crazy early because I’m EXCITED to get up!!! I want to meditate and write and create! I want to read empowering and inspirational quotes on Twitter! I want to come up with ideas and work on co-creative projects with people I love working with! That could be #6: co-creative projects. I am working on awesome, fun, inspiring projects, (outside of my day job) with about 6 different partners right now. These are projects I’m doing just because I WANT TO, but working with another person keeps me moving forward when, if I were trying to do it by myself, I might give up. I’m hoping that eventually I will be able to support myself I know that soon I will be able to support myself doing things I love with people I love. That’s my #1 goal. Create my perfect day, every day. And with these small steps, create my ideal life.

So,  this is where I think I’m getting all this energy. Join me?

 

“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”

– Alexander Graham Bell

“One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power.”

– Tony Robbins

[quotes shared by the awesome Mastin Kipp at TheDailyLove.com ]

Your Life, My Life

January 4, 2011

Your life is a work of art. You are the artist. What does your masterpiece look like?

Sorry for the one-liner posts, but I feel like I’m drowning a bit over here. Something’s gotta give in my life, and I know what it is. It’ll happen soon.

By the way, I am eating some of my Insanely Tasty Guacamole as I type. I’d post the recipe but it’s my secret weapon for the Great Guac-Off of 2011, which will possibly occur on my birthday. Why so far off? Well on Jan 1st I started a 10-week No Intoxicants Challenge (no sugar/booze/caffeine; also no red meat or dairy – steak and cheese can definitely be intoxicating) and I want to be able to have a Mango Margarita and cheese and carnitas at the Guac-Off.

Oh – I also started another month-long Consumer Fast on the first. No buying non-necessities! I love the clarity that comes with clearing all the isht out of my life – at least as far as choices and emotional energy and money energy goes. Now I just need to do that in my physical space…time to declutter!

From the No Intoxicants, already my skin is clearing up (I get more and more sensitive to crap/conventional food as time goes on, and that manifests in acne and psoriasis), my sense of smell is getting sharper (that can be good or bad), my jeans are no longer squeezing me like a sausage, and I don’t feel the strong impulse to nap at my desk by 3pm.

Win.

“One can have no greater or smaller mastery than mastery of oneself.”
The wise, kick-ass Leonardo Da Vinci

The month of May was about breaking old habits and forming new ones. Specifically, around my eating and drinking habits. I’ve started breaking old drinking patterns (coffee and alcohol) and eating patterns (sugar, processed food, dairy, red meat) and am now in the process of choosing how I want to approach these things. I like the idea of threes – three caffeinated drinks per week, three alcoholic drinks per week, three cheat meals/snacks per week. There’s a 90-10 concept that makes sense to me. 90% of the time I eat what’s healthy for me, and 10% I eat whatever I feel like eating. None of these challenges were about giving things up forever (though on certain things, I might some day…) but merely taking charge of my life and my decisions.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Aristotle

I’m also proud of blogging almost every day last month! I think I missed about five days of the thirty. And I think I ate more fruits and vegetables and a month than I did during the entire four years of high school. I had enough energy to stay out dancing til 4am only drinking water, and then get up at 7am the following day to do productive stuff like yoga or write. And I’ve cut down on a lot on Facebook and email – I even did an entire (week)day without either. I should try that with my cellphone sometime. Shut it off for a day. Or a weekend. In two weeks I’m going on another retreat at the Buddhist Monastery down near Escondido, so I’ll be unplugged that weekend.

During the month of May I’ve noticed that when I start drinking again after taking time off, it’s always disappointing. I had a margarita on Memorial Day at the Standard Downtown. Not only did it not do anything to me (get me buzzed, make me happier or have more fun), but it made my stomach cramp up. I did get a buzz later from a few redbull & vodkas, but really, drinking again wasn’t as fun as I’d expected it to be.

And yesterday I went out with some girlfriends for a birthday dinner. I figured I’d get a nice (expensive) glass of wine. It wasn’t that great. Looking back on it I should’ve returned that glass (a Pinot) and tried another – I don’t know if it was the wine that was blah, or just that my palette’s not used to wine anymore. I remember after going without drinking during the month of February, the first beer and glass of wine I had both tasted disappointingly gross.

Not only was drinking again rather disappointing, I’m not sure I want to give up on the physical effects of all of this healthy eating and drinking. I’ve been getting compliments left and right, and have had the words “vibrant” and “radiant” applied liberally. And from the pictures I’ve been taking lately, I’d have to agree. 😉

Also, my psoriasis seems to be looking a little better. I’m not sure if the healthy diet/no drinking finally had an effect, or if it was the hot-as-hell mineral hot springs I soaked in on Sunday, or the hours I spent dancing and swimming in the sunshine, or the fish oil capsules I’ve been taking…that’s one problem with experimenting with your life, there are so many variables (and no controls) so it’s hard to keep track of specific cause/effects.

I also feel much more tired the day after drinking – both alcohol AND caffeine. These past two days at work have been the toughest I’ve had in awhile as far as keeping my eyes open and longing for a nap. Even the coffee I had yesterday didn’t seem to help me feel any more awake, now that I think about it…

Oh, I forgot another disappoinment – at work yesterday they were handing out giant oatmeal cookies. I haven’t had a cookie in a whole month. If you know me well enough, you know this is huge for me. I love cookies. In the past I’d rarely go for more than 3 days without having a cookie. I am not exaggerating. Anyways, I got this big lovely oatmeal cookie and…it was disappointing. But I ate it anyways. Which, like the wine, is the entirely wrong decision. IF I’m going to do something that’s not good for me, it better be good. REALLY good. If it doesn’t live up to my standards, instead of drinking the glass of mediocre wine or eating the mediocre cookie (or … doing anything else that’s mediocre – use your imagination 😉 ), I’d rather walk away from it and hold out for something excellent. Ok that’s gonna be my new motto.
Of course, to do this, you have to be aware of the mediocrity in the moment, despite the compulsion to continue doing or eating or drinking whatever it is out of habit or boredom or social pressure.

I think some people are better than this at others. Take movies, for example. I’ve never walked out of a movie. Some people make the decision that the movie’s not living up to their standards, and they’d rather do something better with an hour and a half of their lives than waste it on a mediocre movie. It takes an active decision. I want to live from that authentic, connected place. Do people in our generation even walk out on movies anymore? Or have we been conditioned to accept more and more crap in our lives and just sit there?

Sadly, this morning, I heard that while it only takes 21 days to form a new habit, it actually takes 6-7 months to completely break an old habit. So, as I’m already noticing, it’s gonna take more than a one-month challenge to change some of this stuff.

Anyways, for the month of June, I’m doing the Consumer Fast again! I did it back in January and it was awesome. It really makes you aware of how you spend your money, how much of it is on things that aren’t important, and where you can cut back. I feel like I’m doing really well in most sectors of my life (work, friendships, creative pursuits, health, etc), EXCEPT for finances. I’ve still got some mindless spending habits I need to work on. AND I’m saving money for Burning Man in August and a trip to Australia in November(ish). Thus, Consumer Fast!

Another reason to do the consumer fast and save money for travel instead of buying stuff: experiences are scientifically proven to make you happier than buying and owning things.
Here’s an article on the research paper:
http://unclutterer.com/2010/04/05/stuff-wont-make-you-happy-experiences-will/

When buying consumer goods, people will almost always have at least some doubts afterwards – by selecting one thing, you miss out on something else. It relates to the Paradox of Choice – more choices actually make us LESS happy. Check out this TED talk for more: http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice.html

Another thing that the study found was that while our satisfaction with experiences we’ve had go up over time, satisfaction with material goods goes down. All good things to keep in mind for me when I’m faced with a choice between spending money on something or saving it for one of my trips!

Consumer Fast – Day 2

January 6, 2010

I succeeded in not buying anything on Day 1 of my challenge—and I even bartered my way out of paying for pre-existing dinner plans!

Friends at Catalyst Art Collective downtown are doing a fun little experiment in which you can come over for five days of nommy homemade vegetarian dinners at $5 a pop, or buy individual meals for $7. I’d already committed to Tuesday (Pesto Calzones) and Thursday (The Legendary Peace Patties) before starting the Consumer Fast. So I had my $7 ready last night. Fortuitously, one of my friends jokingly offered to pay me $5 to perform what he considers a loathsome chore—folding laundry. I bargained up to $7 and viola—free dinner! Woohoo for archaic nonmonetary exchange systems!

 This morning, I planned to get up early and do some reading for a project I’m working on. Whenever I get up early, especially to read or write, I always want coffee. I love coffee but have cut back considerably, since I’m pretty sure it contributes to my psoriasis flare-ups. On Day 1 of the CFC, I brewed my own coffee at home in my French press. But…it didn’t taste very good. It wasn’t…fulfilling. That might be because the bag of Peet’s I have has been sitting in my cupboard for a very long time. So I didn’t want to brew at home this morning. I decided (rationalized) that since I’d saved $7 the night before, it would be ok for me to spend two of those dollars on a cup of coffee on Day 2. But I was torn…was I already breaking the fast after only 24 hours?!?

 My plan was to walk down to Organics To Go (makers of the best cuppa coffee in Los Angeles, according to me), take my coffee and my Kindle to Hancock Park (home of the La Brea Tarpits), find a sunny spot on a bench, and read for a few hours. Still feeling guilty about spending $2 on coffee on the second day of my fast, I dug around in my wallet to see if I had any “frequent drinker” coffee cards from Organics To Go. You know, the ones where you get 10 punches and the 11th cup is free. Well guess what—I did. I had a card with 10 punches. WIN! I got free dinner the night before, and I could get free coffee this morning!!!!!! I was ecstatic!!! I pulled on my Vibram FiveFinger shoes (see prior blogs) and strolled down to Organics…but…the tables weren’t set out in front. Maybe the barista had gotten to work late…well, at least the doors are open…but…where is the coffee station? Where is the salad bar that was built into the wall? NOOOO! OUT OF BUSINESS!!! GONE! FAIL!      

 So that sums up my morning: pride (bartering the night before), guilt (wanting to buy a $2 cup of coffee), elation (surprise free coffee card in wallet), redemption (not spending the $2 and sticking to the fast), devastation (favorite coffee shop in Los Angeles is closed. No coffee).

 *sigh*

So I went back home, made a cup of plain Irish Breakfast Tea, which wasn’t bad or good…but had a little bit of caffeine in it, I suppose.  

I was also going through old emails last night and, oddly enough, ran across this DailyOm from Dec 31st:

 >>>
Filling Imaginary Voids – DailyOm.com
“Consuming To Heal: In our culture today, we are constantly encouraged to consume. This includes food as well as purchasing ever newer items that we may not need, often using money that we may not actually have. It could be that we are trying to fill a void we feel within ourselves, but if we take the time to examine it, we know deep inside that this is not the solution. We may notice how quickly the joy fades after our purchase or once the food we’ve enjoyed is gone, and how soon we feel the urge to do so again. This is a symptom of disconnection from our true selves, so the first step toward balance is connection to our center.

When we connect to our center, we access the fullness of who we are as an individual spirit. We also connect to the energy source of the universe, from which nothing can be lacking. It could be that we have been energetically starving ourselves but trying to feed the need physically, outwardly. Once we make the decision to reconnect, we have the ability to examine the behavior from a higher place within ourselves. We can look, without judgment, at the thoughts and feelings that occur before and after our indulgences to find a pattern. We may want to keep track of these observations in a journal so that we can go back if we lose our way.

Often boredom is the main cause for the desire to eat or shop. But when we connect to our center, our intuition can more clearly guide us to the places where our energy can best be used. We can replace the boredom with a meditation practice, a class, a project, seeking a new job, or getting involved in a charity. We may even want to begin planning an adventurous trip. Whatever inspires us tells us the direction we should go. When we find the place we are meant to be, we become so consumed by its constant creation that the frivolous filling of an imaginary void becomes a thing of the past.”  – www.DailyOm.com

>>> 

I didn’t actually read the email above until after I’d started the Fast, but this is exactly why I’m doing it. Getting more connected with the Whys of what I do by breaking habits and patterns and modes of thought that aren’t the best for me. Instead of drinking coffee,  maybe I need to let go of the belief that coffee will help me focus, thus making me a better writer/reader/whatever. Maybe I just need to listen to my body more and get more sleep so I don’t feel the need for it, or energize myself through healthier ways, like exercise and apples. 

Something else that popped into my mind was an article about how humans like rituals. Going to your coffee shop to buy your cuppa and then pouring in your specific amounts of creamer and sugar are definitely ritualistic. The article mentioned that this is probably why Corona beer is so popular—the lime ritual. Maybe it’s time to form rituals that don’t include some kind of intoxicant…caffeine, alcohol, nicotine? Smoking is definitely ritualistic. And people always say it’s the simple habit of having that smoke after dinner that’s the hardest part to change. In our science-based society, where magical or shamanic rituals are no longer accepted, and even religious rituals are falling by the wayside, all we’ve got left is sugaring our Starbucks, liming our Coronas, lighting our Marlboros. Rituals of consumption… How sad.

In addition to my 30 Day Consumer Fast, I’m also forming two new rituals—20 minutes of meditation per day, and 10 minutes of writing (which, as you can tell from this post, tends to turn into way more than 10 minutes). What kind of rituals do you want in your life?

By the way, if you don’t subscribe to DailyOm.com, I highly recommend you do. You will only ever see me use the phrase “highly recommend” when I’m referring to something excellent, so trust me. DailyOm sends out insightful and sometimes jarringly relevant emails Monday-Friday. Hey, new ritual? 😉