Simplify – Days 6-10 (or How I Became a Gluten-free Veganish Health Crazy Person that No One Wants to Go to Restaurants with)

Alright, I promised this. Be forewarned. It’s long. I think I like to hear myself type, if that’s even a thing. 😉 And a couple disclaimers…this type of diet and lifestyle doesn’t work for everyone. Some hate it. Some love it. Some, like me, can’t lose a pound or think a clear thought without it. Then there are those folks who smoke cigarettes, live on flavored milk and corn dogs, and live to be a hundred. We’re all different…just thought I’d share what’s worked for me, and for us.

And Jamianne and I sometimes say ‘veganish’ instead of ‘vegan’, because we still eat fish occasionally because of the alleged health benefits. Some vegans say that fish is totally vegan. Others cringe and literally look like they would shoot us if they had a gun they’d fashioned out of organic plants and hempseed. So, ‘veganish’ for us means no dairy (milk, cheese, butter, etc.), no honey, no eggs, no animal products, and no meat except for fish…but not as an everyday staple of our diet. I also try not to say vegan too loudly, because I have a leather jacket that I love, and I choose to believe it was taken from a cow who had shed its skin, and subsequently grew a new coat. Also, yes I believe that anything that comes out of another species’ utter is not fit for human consumption. I understand this is not a popular view. 😉 If you do not agree with me, go drink some milk, taste it, love it, enjoy it, and own it. I’ll drink my non-GMO soy milk, we can toast our glasses, and still be friends. Here we go!

We started these bi-annual cleanses in August of 2008. I was 230 pounds. Well…on a good day. After dialing the scale back a little from zero while telling myself that it was ‘slightly off’ and hence needed to be corrected (you know how it goes), not eating the night before, and rounding down to the nearest multiple of 10. Amazing how we can lie to ourselves, right? So it was probably more like 235 to 240. Let’s average it out and say 235. I’m 6′ tall, and was not at all built, although I did like to think of my man-mammaries as ‘pecs’. They were not pecs. They were man-mammaries. By all accounts, I was quite overweight. However, and I’m guessing I’m not alone here, with certain styles of clothing, and with those of us blessed or cursed to gain weight evenly throughout our bodies, I did not quite get that I was overweight., that it was compounding every year, and that I was on the road to something very, very bad.

I would work out…nothing. No weight came off, no matter how hard I pushed myself, and so I just assumed I must be at a healthy weight. Turns out, of course, that my body doesn’t particularly know what to do with Disodium Guanylate and Disodium Inosinate, or Yellow 5, or Blue Lake 3. Don’t know what those are? Ya, me either. Neither does my body. But turn over a package of hamburger helper. We don’t know what they are, but we eat them. And our body, anticipating an orange and getting plastic, can’t digest them. It can’t use them for energy. It can’t burn them when you work out. But, I didn’t know that, and hamburger helper tastes pretty blasted good! Ignorance is bliss…until 235 pounds starts pushing 240…and 245…and until you see yourself in a very unfortunate choice of clothing in a family wedding photo.

Yep, that’s me. 2008. 235? 240? I didn’t want to step on a scale. You can really see it in my cheeks, my hips, and my gut that’s straining the buttons. haha And yes, I’m completely sucking it in here. I know, it’s not obese, but it was bad enough to make me change my lifestyle. I’d always been the in-shape athlete in high school, and seeing this photo made me realize that as you pass about 22 or 23 in age, you really need to start working to maintain your health. It was a good wake-up call for me.

So…it was August of 2008, and my wife had just been diagnosed with celiac disease. If you’re on this site, you probably know what that is, but just in case…it’s a disorder of the digestive tract which causes the body to be unable to properly digest the gluten protein, which is found in wheat, barley, and rye. Basically, we all have these little hair things in our digestive tracts called villi, and they absorb the nutrients (you just can’t say that word without thinking Jack Black in Nacho Libre…’they have no nutrients!’) in the food we eat. For celiacs, gluten maims the poor little villi, chopping off their ends, and hence rendering the body very poor at providing itself with nutrition. Which is why celiac is so difficult to diagnose…because the symptoms just seem like malnourishment. The villi though, take six months to fully grow back; which means that a person with celiac disease lives with intense malnourishment for six months just because the restaurant used the same cutting board for the fruit as they did for the bread. So it’s a fairly serious condition.

The doctor prescribed for my wife a gluten-free and dairy-free diet. (Dairy is not meant for human consumption past the age of two years old. Okay, that’s what I believe now…and I’m a crazy person now. haha For practical purposes, dairy discourages the body from healing from the damage gluten has done.) But before she did that, she wanted to give her body a full digestive tract cleanse, as just the day before we’d probably been macking down at Olive Garden, eating the bottomless breadsticks, and then wondering why even the ‘healthy’ restaurants gave her intense stomachaches. There was a lot of gluten in her, and she wanted to get rid of it–all of it, and get a clean start.

Me being the supportive husband that I am, my first thoughts were for her. Nope, not even a little. They were for my quesadillas. I love quesadillas. And while I could still eat dairy in the house, gluten was now a huge problem; because trace amounts of dairy would not hurt her. But trace amounts of gluten could. And my quesadilla’s desire wheat tortillas. No, they do. And I desire quesadillas. Yes, I do. Let alone the fact that the cleanse she was thinking about doing was the Stanley Burroughs Master Cleanser. You know, the one where your coworker looks all pale and shaky for 10 days, and you never see them eat, but only stagger to their locker in the breakroom and take a swig of a bottle that has what you can only assume to be urine in it. I know that’s gross, but that’s what it looks like. Yep, the lemonade diet. Now I love lemonade. The pink stuff at Costco that you get with that polish hot dog deal (you know the one where you can literally feel your heart working extra hard to unclog your arteries after you eat it) for $1.50? Ya, I love that. But fresh squeezed lemons with pure Grade B maple syrup? I’m sorry, what? And cayenne pepper? Ya, I was not having any of that.

Then the wedding came. We flew to Colorado to watch my cousin get married, my mom took some photos (like the one above), showed them to us the next day, and I was like, ‘Who’s that fat guy in the unfortunate looking pants?’ I thought maybe the wind was blowing my shirt…and pants. I looked down at myself. Nope. So I decided to do the cleanse. More out of desperation than anything else, and because, as much as I joke about it, I did want to support my wife through this very difficult time in her life. So we made that weekend in Colorado our last hurrah of unhealthy food. I remember specifically, a Pizza Hut at the Phoenix Airport during a layover, at which I paid $14 for a personal pizza the size of a protractor. The ‘food’ part and the grease part had long since separated, so you had a round little dried up piece of what at one time must have been pizza, with a nice pool of grease sitting in between the circle of crust. It was more like one of those soups you get in a bowl of bread. Jamianne didn’t touch hers. I touched mine. A lot. Even now, three years later, I still feel the urge to stick my finger down my throat and get rid it, if you know what I mean. Ya, I’m sure you do.

And thus started our first lemonade cleanse. 10 days. Lemons. Syrup. Cayenne pepper (well, I couldn’t do the cayenne pepper because my mouth is white…as in…Weird Al’s ‘White and Nerdy’). And laxative tea in the mornings. That stuff is terrible. Then 1 day of pure orange juice. Then, finally a day of orange juice in the morning, and vegetable soup at night! And then one day of just vegetable soup. And by vegetable soup, I mean, cut up vegetables in vegetable broth. Not Campbell’s vegetable mush with beef and noodles in chicken broth. 😉 And let me say…after 11 days of not eating, squash never tasted so good.

It is the most horrifying experience of your life. Toxins, black stuff, and grossness comes out of everywhere. Your skin, your mouth, your uh…etc., you feel terrible, and the cravings are almost unbearable. Cravings for weird stuff…I remember the first time it was Doritos for Jamianne and Jack-in-the-Box fried cheese sticks for me. The world feels black and dark, and by the time you get to day 4, it literally feels like it will never end. We basically just rolled around on the floor and loathed our lives. It is the worst.

But…afterwards. The light at end of the horrifying tunnel of lemonade and unmentionable toxins. I lost 25 pounds, and never felt better in my life…thinking more clearly, addictions to having to eat all the time greatly reduced, and I felt alive again. And I’d love to say that from that moment on, I cut out all gross dairy, meat, preservatives, and artificial flavors. Ya. Not even a little. As soon as the cleanse was over, I went out to Ralph’s, bought my Toy Story Kids Cookies and 40-pack of string cheese and had a little party. Which meant that that winter, with my weight back up a bit and health back down a bit, I did another lemonade cleanse. And then another the next summer, 2009. Each time, getting closer and closer to an actual lifestyle of healthy eating, not just crash cleanses every six months. After 3 lemonade cleanses, your body literally develops an aversion to the stuff and you start vomiting it up. Well, at least I did. It was probably all in my mind. So…after the third one, realizing I probably couldn’t do it again, I cut out all artificial things and preservatives. Kind of. I mean, that was the plan…but I failed a little bit. And I told myself that within two years, I would be off of all meat save for fish, and off of all dairy, and all gluten.

In the winter of 2010, I did a fruits and veggies cleanse for 2 weeks, in lieu of the lemonade cleanse. And then the next week, my birthday, I remember we went to Native Foods, and all-vegan diner at The Camp in Costa Mesa. And we walked out, because I didn’t think there was anything I could eat. (It’s now one of my favorite restaurants.) Jamianne, meanwhile, was of course off gluten, almost completely off of meat, was doing no dairy, and was now even cutting out eggs and honey! I wanted to be there, but just couldn’t. I had been gluten-free in our home for about two years now (just due to the dangers of cross-contamination), but every time I’d be out for work lunches or with friends, or even with Jamianne, I’d just pile down the bread. It was my release. But I knew things needed to change, as I got older and my metabolism kept slowing, and as Jamianne kept giving me scary medical journals to read about how the casein protein in milk (or at least its casing) is addictive and used in morphine (cheese was certainly addictive for me!), and how The China Study‘s findings were that after the age of two, the human body can no longer process milk properly because the majority of its forming is done…so after 2, milk, cheese, and butter go straight to fat. Not to healthy bones, pretty girls, and ‘doing a body good’, as advertising would have you think.

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During June 2010, one month before my next scheduled fruits and veggies cleanse, I remember watching the World Cup every day, and macking down on Udi’s gluten free bread, but with tons and tons of cheese piled on top, and tuna fish. Little did I know…it’d be the last time. In July 2010, I did my next cleanse, and something just clicked. I don’t know if it’s because I had finally flushed out all the toxins, or if because I just felt so good not only physically but mentally too, but I never went back. My two-year plan became a one-year plan. I just literally stopped everything artificial, stopped all meat save for white fish in moderation (may go off that someday…but hey, fish is basically plankton with eyes, right? 😉 😉 ), all dairy, all gluten (wheat, barley, rye), all processed sugar, and all eggs.  And, at now an average of 190 pounds, digestion flowing like never before (I’ll spare you the details), and a place of physical and mental health, I don’t think I’ll ever go back. My blood pressure has gone way down, dentist’s are surprised at how little wear my teeth have gotten in the past year, and muscle gain/fat loss with minimal working out is stunning to me. It used to take my months and months to lose five pounds or gain a pound of muscle. Now? Well, my body is actually using the fuel I give to it. It’s a huge step to start looking at food as fuel that your body is using to run. Changes the way you eat for sure.

This was this last winter, 2011. 45 pounds later. Also, the Rock and I saw something that was not quite as cool as us.

Here’s a before vegan/gluten-free/healthy eating and an after vegan/gluten-free/healthy eating shot:

And no, not all the weight loss was in my hair. 😉 Still haven’t gotten the veganish lifestyle to reverse my male-pattern baldness, but I’m hopeful! lol

One thing to look out for when jumping into healthy eating. In late July 2010, the week after the cleanse, I did have a piece of pizza at BJ’s on a business trip, just simply because I wasn’t thinking about it. The waiter came around with free pizza samples, we were talking, and I had one. That’s one of the main things to worry about when eating healthy. It sounds weird, but if you’re not paying attention, those habits die hard.

Jamianne eats the exact same way as me. And finally, we feel happy and healthy. Is this diet for everyone? Absolutely not! Some people are very healthy while eating whatever they want. Everyone’s bodies and psyche’s are different. But I would say, that from my own experience…give it a chance. Just see how you like it, and how you feel. It’s literally changed my entire life. Not just 45-50 pounds worth, but in pretty much every other way imaginable. My body now uses what it takes in, rather than just trying desperately to pass what it can, and storing the rest of the artificial plastic for the rest of my life. (And yes…artificial sweeteners are essentially plastics. Sucralose? Splenda? Seriously folks…drink Mountain Dew before you drink Coke Zero or anything with no calories. I mean, don’t drink either, but…hehe)

Do I still have a ways to go? Oh ya!! Some vegans cringe that I eat fish. And it is very possible to be a bad gluten-free, artificial-free vegan. Take me, for example. Sometimes I still live off of potato chips. Sure, organic potato chips with just potatoes, sea salt, and sunflower oil…but eating those all day and not working out? Oh ya, I can be a very bad health-nut.

But I’m on the journey, and thus far this lifestyle has raised my quality of life a ton. Many different things raise the quality of life, and they’re different for every one of us. I’d encourage you to do your own studying, and find a way to eat what energizes and refreshes you personally. This is the only shot you get. May as well find a way to enjoy it!

This is your life.
-her gluten-free husband

P.S. As for the July Simplify cleanse, it’s going very well. Not doing so well on cleansing our house of needless and pointless material possessions, but doing well with the working out, eating stuff that grows only, and with cleansing spiritually. So 10 days in, I’ve lost 9 pounds, gone down one belt buckle notch, and my shirts are just slightly tighter around my chest. Also, an update to the peanut recipe…use sunflower oil instead of olive oil. Way less heavy when cooked. I also bought an 19 pound organic watermelon, and Jamianne and I have mowed through it like nothing. If you’re thinking about going healthy, get a watermelon. One bite, and you’ll want to eat only fruit for the rest of your life. It’s so good.

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