Detox diet: is it worth the hassle?

I just finished a 10-day detox diet, and it was interesting experience! Here’s a recap in case you may be thinking about trying it yourself.

Why detox diet?

I’ve been feeling frustrated about my weight — specifically about how midlife seems to have resulted in extra pounds and clothes that don’t fit me anymore.

I tried detoxing for a few days last December, in preparation for a party-filled holiday season. But in thinking about how I wanted to improve my eating habits for the longer term, I selected the detox diet suggested by Mark Hyman in his NYT bestseller, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet.

Dr. Mark Hyman directs the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine. He is a medical editor for The Huffington Post and appears regularly on The Today Show, Good Morning America, Dr. Oz and other television programs. He publishes and speaks often on the link between nutrition and health. In this book he focuses on how to even out your blood sugar highs and lows.

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What’s a detox diet?

Although “detox” and “cleanse” are often used interchangeably, the emphasis of most detox diets is to rid your body of toxins and food sensitivities, so that you feel healthier, lose weight and start eating better. A “cleanse” takes it one step further, often aiming not only at clean eating, but also at clearing out the colon and intestines to reboot your system. Cleanses often entail drinking special juices with added supplements, and detox diets more typically have you eat real food – just not all the things you’re accustomed to eating.

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Detox diet basics

Hyman’s 10-Day Detox, like most detox diets, requires you to swear off alcohol, caffeine, sugar, gluten, grains and dairy. For breakfast, you drink a shake made with frozen berries, almond milk, avocado and a bunch of other ingredients – mostly “good fats” like nuts and seeds. Lunch is protein and salad. Dinner is protein and vegetables. He also suggests vitamins and supplements that will make your detox diet more effective.

Dr. Hyman’s objective is to help people live “a life of vitality.” He identifies a key American health problem as “diabesity,” meaning obesity and toxins in our bodies that lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and numerous other conditions. On top of eliminating sugar, gluten, etc. from our diets, he advocates better self-care: “Take-Five Breathing Breaks,” “UltraDetox Baths,” journaling and a good night’s sleep.

His 10-Day Detox Diet is intended to help you withdraw from bad eating habits and discover food sensitivities that affect your health negatively, with the aim of jumpstarting your weight loss and putting you on a path to “a life of vitality.”

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My detox diet experience

1. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be

Although the breakfast shake didn’t taste good (i.e., it wasn’t sweet!), it didn’t taste bad either. The good news was that all those good fats in it kept me feeling full all morning.

Additionally, I was glad I had tapered off caffeine before starting the detox diet. It helped me stay on this challenging regime, since I’d dealt with most of my caffeine withdrawal symptoms, like headache and drowsiness, the week before the detox started. And amazingly, I was able to forego caffeinated coffee for ten days!

2. I didn’t lose much weight, but I felt leaner at the end of 10 days

Weighing myself during the diet proved annoying. The scale would go down 2 pounds, then up 2 pounds, down 4, up 3, etc. When all was said and done, I probably lost 2-3 pounds in ten days. And who knows if I’ll keep that weight off, or if it was merely my body’s response to the restricted diet.

However, I did feel a little more trim around the waist – less bloat, perhaps? I fit into a skirt I hadn’t worn in weeks, so that’s a positive sign!

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Learnings from the detox

1. I saw signs of reduced inflammation in my body

It’s a well-known fact that sugar contributions to inflammation. Maybe I was looking so hard for a benefit from doing this crazy program that I imagined less inflammation. But by the end of ten days, I believed I felt less pain and irritation in a knee that often bothers me.

2. I realized I could go for 10 days without favorite foods

Don’t misunderstand me: I haven’t changed my point of view that Happy People eat and drink things like sugar, wine, coffee and bread (in moderation, of course). At the same time, I gained a real sense of accomplishment when I reached Day 10, completing my detox diet.

3. I liked the diet’s healthy fats

Previously I’d enjoyed an occasional avocado or handful of nuts, but the 10-Day Detox Diet required a conscious effort to allocate more of my daily calories to these compact sources of protein, Omega-3 and antioxidants — that would also help me feel fuller, longer. While I think Hyman’s detox breakfast shake recipe may have too many calories for me, I plan to modify it and continue drinking a breakfast shake at least some of the time.

My bottom line on detox diets

Even though I didn’t see dramatic weight loss, the combination of a small weight reduction and psychological benefits — like learning I can stick to a challenging diet and experiencing how I can change my health by changing what I eat — helped me resolve to continue my adventures in healthy eating.

I don’t believe it’s practical or enjoyable for someone who doesn’t have food allergies to be on a special diet all the time – after all, if your family enjoys pizza night together, why should you refuse to join them? You can participate in the fun without loading up on “bad” calories: just eat a small piece of pizza alongside a big salad with protein. The point is you can take control of what you put in your body and choose not to be a victim of your circumstances.

The 10-Day Detox isn’t a diet I could sustain for very long, but that’s not what it’s intended to be. It showed me the importance of eating right as a way to care for myself and for my body as it ages. I may not have “the nutrition thing” all figured out, but I am starting to fit the puzzle pieces together.

Now, in the interest of moderation, I think I’ll enjoy a glass of chardonnay.

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Image credits: 05compicserver.org, J. Hendron

Five reasons to love sports talk radio

In case you didn’t know, the San Francisco Giants are playing in the World Series for the third time in five years. They’re trying to win the ultimate baseball championship yet again, after triumphing in 2010 and 2012. And there’s nowhere better for Giants fans to get all the stats and commentary — essentially, to live the game right alongside the team, than on sports talk radio. In the Bay Area, we listen to KNBR, “the sports leader.” They have two stations, AM 680 and AM 1050, plus online access. They’re the official radio broadcasters for Giants baseball, Warriors basketball, and 49ers football. Loyal fans listen to KNBR all year long, but anyone with a passing interest in sports should check out sports talk radio when your hometown team is, to use a sports talk cliché, “on the verge of making history.”

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Five reasons I love sports talk radio:

1. It’s fun

Sports talk radio shows typically feature two personalities who engage in witty banter, laugh at each other, find funny things to highlight or give sports figures silly nicknames — all in the name of fun, of bringing a smile to your commute. Most of the partnerships have catchy names: Murph & Mac, Gary & Larry, or the Bay Area’s favorite baseball announcers, Kruk & Kuip. Some of the guys, such as Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper, do play-by-play for games. Others have built a following by talking about sports, interviewing sports figures and perhaps most important, fielding calls from listeners. All of them stay positive. No depressing world news here: it’s all sports, all the time.

2. It’s efficient

Although it’s possible to waste hours listening to different callers’ opinions on how they would have executed an important play differently, or what they think is critical for the team to win its next game, tuning in to sports talk radio is actually an efficient way to collect a few stats and soundbites that will give you “street creed” with your spouse, your co-workers or even the guys who fix your car or computer. Fifteen minutes of sports talk radio in the car will pay off later, when you mention an interesting statistic or story you remember, or you drop the name of last night’s key player. This modest investment of time can make you look completely plugged in to the sports situation.

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3. Everybody gets to be an expert

The best part about sports talk radio is the call-in show, where regular fans go on-air with their opinions about the game their team just played, or what the team needs to do in its next game. After the Giants won their first 2014 World Series game 7-1, emotion was running so high that some callers predicted the Giants would sweep the Series, just like they did back in 2012. But the next day, after San Francisco lost to Kansas City 7-2, fans were somber and analytical. “If I were Botchy [SF’s manager], I wouldn’t have left Peavy in for so long.” Or, “Why is that guy Strickland allowed to pitch at all? We’re not in AAA — this is the World Series!”

Callers had even more concerns after the Giants lost Game 3 in San Francisco, bringing the series to 2-1 games in favor of Kansas City. But fan exuberance returned after Game 4, where a come-from-behind win evened the series score, and everyone who followed baseball in San Francisco knew the Giants’ ace, Madison Bumgarner, would be pitching the following day. After San Francisco won Game 5 with a historic 5-0 shutout, callers started to celebrate a World Series victory in advance. They offered advice on how to handle the relief bullpen situation, how the Giants could “wrap things up,” how we really had KC “on the ropes,” and on and on.

The thing with sports talk is, everybody gets his or her moment to be the expert — to explain what s/he would have done better than the people who get paid lots of money to manage teams and play games. When reviewing a loss, the benefit of hindsight allows callers endless variations on what the team “could” have done. When the team wins, they offer thoughts on how “we” can keep the streak going. People use statistics to bolster their arguments, and/or add warnings that restrain fan excitement. Callers show depth of passion and at times extensive knowledge about the game. Phoning in gives them the chance to shine.

4. It offers lively debate, but within limits

Sports talk radio hosts keep callers on air longer if they have an interesting viewpoint or an entertaining manner. They dispense quickly with callers who add nothing to their program, sometimes even losing calls with a “technical glitch” that may or may not be accidental. But hosts never insult their callers, never suggest they could be spending their time better elsewhere.

Most calls discuss hypothetical situations. They deal with games that are past, or games that haven’t yet been played. As stated above, callers get to show off their knowledge. Sports talk radio hosts encourage lively debate, but at no time is a caller permitted to bash the home team. One of their unwritten rules, but every bit as firm as unwritten baseball rules like “If their pitcher hits one of your team’s players, you have to hit one of theirs,” is that ALL callers have to be fans of the home team. You can debate ideas and opinions, but everyone has the same team’s best interest at heart.

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5. Sports talk radio builds community

By valuing a diversity of views about “the small stuff,” while holding fast to the overall goal of wanting to see the home team win, sports talk radio brings people together. It gives fans a place to talk about their favorite teams, and for those who listen regularly, it offers consistent hosts who can become your radio “friends,” in much the same way TV news show hosts or bloggers you read regularly seem familiar and comfortable. Sports talk radio also gives listeners connection with each other, as they agree or disagree, but recognize that ultimately, they are united by their love of the same sports team. Positive and entertaining, sports talk radio lets fans celebrate (or commiserate) together and allows them to feel united with a bigger cause.

Join in with passion

If you’re even a little bit of a fan, tune in to sports talk radio to become more conversant in the game, celebrate your team’s wins and witness true passion at work. As you’re listening, reflect on why we don’t let ourselves experience other ups and downs of life with the same intensity as we attach to sports — why we don’t allow ourselves to feel or express similar levels of emotion at work, school and home as we do when rooting for our team. Maybe steeping ourselves in sports talk radio’s passionate community will help bring passion to the rest of our lives, too.

But for now, GO GIANTS!!

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Image credits: KNBR, Wikimedia, Comcast Sports Net, Anne Rosales

Travel to developing countries?

My last post explored impressions from a recent family trip to Guatemala. I talked about confronting my experience of travel at midlife, as well as external factors that contributed to a sense I probably won’t return to this beautiful country. Although I loved traveling there with my younger son and husband, I nevertheless felt discouraged about the enormity of the issues that Guatemala and Central America overall are facing. In general, I wonder how much more travel to developing countries I will do.

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Busy marketplace in Chichicastenango, Guatemala

My reaction to Guatemala’s economic problem

My most troubling issue with travel to places like Guatemala lies within myself. I find it tiring to be always saying “No, gracias” to the scores of people who approach tourists, trying to sell them something. These entrepreneurs are just doing what they can to try and feed their families, but their sheer number at times can overwhelm.  My heart went out to a woman who hadn’t made many, maybe not any, sales one day — sometimes I would buy, or simply give a vendor money. And yet there were too many salespeople for a single tourist to make much of an impact. As a result, I felt discouraged. Admittedly, mine was a “first world” reaction, but I didn’t like feeling depressed while on vacation.

Furthermore, conversations with locals about Guatemalan industries like rose-growing and candle-making, where once-thriving businesses had been shuttered due to competition from lower-wage countries, gave me little cause to hope for future growth in their economy. Guatemala has more than 15 million people, but most of them lack the technical skills needed to thrive in the modern economy. Like similar countries, corruption is pervasive, but infrastructure and investment are lacking. Micro-enterprise loans and grants can address poverty on an individual level, but system-wide, the standard of living remains low.

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Mayan woman selling flowers outside church in Chichicastenango, Guatemala

My travel time is finite

It is a strange feeling to be in a place, feel grateful and happy to be there, but also to recognize you probably won’t be back. I felt this way a few years ago when our family went to Machu Picchu. I didn’t have this perspective when I was younger, when I ventured alone to Michoacán, Mexico, or took a midnight ferry across the Adriatic to then-Yugoslavia. It didn’t cross my mind as a twenty-something to wonder whether I would go back to these places, or what they might be like in the future. But from where I stand now, time for traveling seems finite, and some places are lost to me forever.

But maybe I shouldn’t give up yet

There are still some developing regions of the world I’d love to visit. However, I’ll need to reconcile my desire to change people’s living standards with appreciation for life “in the here and now.” Just because my personal impact might be limited to people whom I encounter, just because I feel frustrated or despondent that their lives seem so “uncomfortable” compared to mine — this is not a reason to give up my appreciation for the beauty of life as it is right now.

This insight, in fact, might be what I’ve been lacking all along. Moreover, it’s a significant element in why it remains worthwhile to travel to places that aren’t so comfortable. Whether we are at home or abroad, ultimately all we have is the present. Maybe this is what I was supposed to see, and why I need to continue traveling to places like Guatemala.

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The sun rises over the jungle of Tikal, Guatemala

 

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Iconic Mayan temple in Tikal, Guatemala

Last vacation in Guatemala

We vacationed in Guatemala this year. It was my second trip to the country — our entire family had visited in 2005. While I enjoyed both trips a great deal, this time was likely my last visit to Guatemala. At least it was my last visit for the purpose of vacation — perhaps I’ll have an opportunity to do community service there, but I’ve realized I’m nearing an end to my long-held interest in travel to developing countries where they speak Spanish.

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With my husband at Lago de Atitlán, a volcano-rimmed lake

Why? In large part, my tastes have changed as I’ve grown older. It isn’t a question of safety: at no time did I feel unsafe in Guatemala. We took the usual precautions one would take anywhere in the world. But as much as I hate to admit it, I like being comfortable when I’m on vacation. While it’s perfectly possible to find nice hotels and restaurants in a developing country, the “comfortable tourist” cannot help but come face to face with the uncomfortable reality of life for that country’s people. I know it’s good to have a broader world view and not to remain ensconced in my cozy suburban life. At the same time, I’m not sure this type of experience, for me, makes for a “vacation” in the usual sense.

In this and the next post, I’ll explore my thoughts on our recent trip.

Developing country travel is harder at midlife

Traveling to Guatemala made me admit I’d grown older. Partly this acknowledgment had to do with expectations based on the easy life I have at home, and partly my body just doesn’t work as well as it used to. But I appreciate a firm bed, a nice shower, a good cup of coffee and clean bathrooms. I found most of these things during my trip, even the good cup of coffee — thanks to following the advice of my older son to take along an Aeropress and hand coffee grinder. Still, by most measures, it was far from luxury travel.

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With my CSA teacher in 2005 and then again in 2014

My younger son and I spent a wonderful week studying Spanish — each with our personal tutor at the Christian Spanish Academy in Antigua Guatemala. We loved Antigua. It’s an excellent tourist destination with numerous hotels and restaurants, and it’s small enough to negotiate on foot. However, I found wandering around there more difficult this time than nine years ago. Antigua is an old colonial town where all the streets are cobblestone, and the curbs are uneven. Cars might slow down as they approach an intersection, but no one has bothered to install stop signs — presumably because they would go unheeded. I turned my ankle and fell at a street corner when I wasn’t paying attention. Furthermore, many streets weren’t marked, so it was easy to become confused about where we were going.

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Antigua’s cobblestone streets

Don’t they want to attract well-off tourists?

Second, for a country such as Guatemala where tourism is one of its principal industries, it seems odd that they aren’t trying to encourage affluent travelers to visit by making sure they provide world-class accommodations and food.

The hotels where we stayed in Antigua and Guatemala City seemed more run-down than they had in 2005, and it struck me that management efforts to cut operations costs may have detracted from guests’ experience while not actually saving much money. For example, our room on the lower level of the Antigua hotel smelled dank, and they had fewer tropical flower arrangements and candles in the hallways this time around than had impressed me nine years ago. In Guatemala City, our business-class hotel still had not replaced a burnt-out light bulb two days after we requested it. Likewise, shops and market stalls seemed stuck in the previous century, with little evidence of innovation in their product offerings. And don’t even get me started on the restaurants! If you want more of my opinions, check out my Trip Advisor reviews.

Most travelers to Guatemala today are students studying Spanish, or they’re budget-conscious couples (and occasionally families) who aren’t staying in the nicer (meaning “more expensive”) hotels, or eating in fine restaurants. They also aren’t buying many souvenirs. I’m glad they’re there. But attracting more affluent travelers also would help Guatemala’s tourism industry overall. It’s an excellent destination with natural beauty, culture and friendly people. Yet broadening their base of travelers involves improving all aspects of the hospitality industry — not just upgrading an occasional hotel or restaurant. Given the country’s economic and political woes, it’s not an easy thing to accomplish.

The next post will continue my thoughts on this specific trip and vacationing in developing countries generally. In the meantime, enjoy some travel photos!

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Lunch with a view at Café Sky in Antigua

 

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Mayan men in the church courtyard, Santiago de Atitlán

 

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Girls in traditional Mayan attire

 

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Women preparing a float for church festival

 

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Mayan woman fastens blooms to festival float

 

Have YouTube don’t need Mom

Say you’re a teenage boy. There’s a girl you have a crush on, and you want to ask her to the school dance. But you can’t begin to tell anyone or get tips on how to act calm when you’re nervous.  Least of all, you can’t discuss it with your mom. She wouldn’t get it, anyway. She’d probably say something dumb and make you feel embarrassed. But that’s okay: lots of other guys have gone before you, and they’ve documented their experiences on YouTube.

Or you’re a middle school girl, and you’re itching to dye a pink streak in your hair. You know your mom will freak out, though, so you can’t ask her to help you do it. Again, no problem: there are tons of YouTube videos to show you how.

In short: have YouTube — don’t need Mom.

YouTube shows you how

YouTube is not merely the source for home videos, humor riffs, stupid cat movies and viral memes. It showcases people demonstrating all kinds of practical skills, answering questions like you used to ask your parents. You’ll find YouTube channels devoted to cooking, makeup, home and car repair. You can learn to sew, knit, crochet, do macrame or pottery, just by watching videos on your smart phone or computer.

YouTube takes over mom’s job

Mom’s job of teaching her kids how to do stuff is becoming obsolete. For example, none of my kids cared about learning to do laundry before they left for college. Never mind: there are plenty of videos online where college girls or guys show you how to wash your clothes, and they’re much more fun to watch than Mom. For more info on garment care, young men can turn to Esquire’s Virtual Valet channel, which has videos on how to iron a shirt, pack a back, polish a shoe, sew on a button, and more.

Mom’s not the expert anymore

Moms no longer possess exclusive knowledge or skills. Anyone can use web video to learn to make pie crust, peel an orange in one long strip, fold perfect hospital corners on a bed. My son sent me a link to a video for “spatchcocking” your Thanksgiving turkey to cook it in half the time. Not only has YouTube replaced me as the source of cooking knowledge — I’m now a recipient of its wisdom, directed at me through my offspring.

YouTube targets ever-younger audiences

As if that weren’t enough, YouTube assistance is reaching down to younger ages. For example, there are numerous videos on how to tie your shoes. Moms can get advice on potty training or sleep training from YouTube. But think of it this way: we can outsource tedious child-rearing tasks — especially now that lots of kids have iPads. Too bad a video can only show you how to change a diaper.

YouTube states that its users watch over 6 billion hours of video every month, with 100 hours of video being uploaded every minute. It’s no wonder you can find better how-to instruction online than Mom could have ever offered. More than that, you can learn stuff Mom never would have told you.

But YouTube can’t do everything

What’s a mom to do? She’s no longer the one her kids look to for advice on domestic matters or traditional passages along the way to adulthood. However, a video can’t look at the jam your son is cooking and tell him when it’s thick enough to put into the jars. And while YouTube might show him the best method for tying a bow tie, it’s not going to tell him how handsome he looks as he leaves for his senior prom.

Furthermore, YouTube can show your daughter how to pick up a slipped stitch in her knitting, but you’re still the one she’ll turn to when she gets frustrated and needs someone to correct her mistake.

You can’t beat YouTube, so embrace it

Here’s how I see it: YouTube offers more and often better “how to” information than moms could ever provide. It’s crowd-sourcing at its best. For moms, delegating instruction in tasks where we don’t excel anyway is a win for us and our kids.  It leaves us more time for the aspects of parenting that YouTube can’t handle. We get to focus on things we do best, connecting with our children in more meaningful ways.

And since we’re saving time by having YouTube teach our kids basic chores and life skills, we can do other stuff. Like watch stupid cat videos.

 

Image credits: YouTube, fdecomite via flickr