Wednesday, January 27, 2010

End of the cleanse

A Frank's bratwurst was delicious... but not very cleansing!When I crossed the finish on my three-week cleanse last weekend, I celebrated with a cold 13-miler, which broke my training into 10+ (and 30 for the week) for the first time since the Akron Half.

Needless to say, it was a bit much and probably not a fab idea to suddenly kick up my long run by 50% in less than a week.

At least the cleanse was fab.

Now that I’ve shaken the not-so-hot post-cleanse overindulgence I committed on Saturday and Sunday (bratwurst from the market, cupcakes, cookies, apple fritter, pizza on Saturday; cinnamon roll-wrapped bacon and cupcakes on Sunday) and shed weight I packed in a mere two days, I’m basking in the afterglow and digging some new habits.

It’s no secret that nutrition is both mystery and obsession for me. What’s more fun than exploring foods’ properties, cooking up a storm and understanding how food delivers energy and affects our insides, outsides, brains, feet and tears? Yet I’ve never grasped how much grub I needed to thrive (and how not to skyrocket my blood sugar all the time).

The Clean program was a good place to start. Not only did I learn about my body’s natural, regular detoxification process, I discovered a collection of foods that lessen the detox load, deliver energy and kick the habit of blocking my body’s natural ability to heal itself.

A week out of the cleanse, I'm still observing the 12-hour detox period at night and waking up with a lemon-water detox for my liver. If nothing else, these two rituals have helped my body prep for sleep at night and wake up easy in the morning.

What’s more: I began to appreciate a number of ingredients (i.e., quinoa, kasha, kale) that comprised many of my meals, use them in new ways and crave them for the great way they made me feel. For weeks before the cleanse, I had suffered from nearly debilitating heartburn. By week two, it was completely gone.

But it was the “plan” part of the cleanse that delivered the real epiphany.

While I consider myself, in general, a healthy eater (with some unhealthy habits), I don’t think I’ve ever been a conscientious eater. Particularly with respect to calories. I’ve grown up in a culture that advertises 2,000- and 2,500-calorie diets as standard. And they are. For people much larger and/or more active than I am. Even if I am training for the Ironman. After getting a basal metabolic rate assessment from my health care provider, I realized that a person my size (5’1, 124 pounds) needs about 1200-1300 calories each day. Then I get a few more for training… but not much. Who knew?

I’d used online tools in the past to measure my needs, but the standardized tools recommended 1500-1800 calories each day. Suddenly I realized how a girl running 50+ miles a week could gain weight.

Imagine my disappointment, though, when I discovered that I needed 300-500 fewer calories each day! I thought I was going to starve. But then I really tuned in to my plan and listened to my real appetite.

In the past my appetite was measured on taste satisfaction, not quantity. Cupcakes? Those are good… and I’m not full until I’ve had 30 of them. Green beans? Often delicious, but not indulgent. So, I’m full about 20 calories in.

Enter the Clean plan.

The book didn’t outline three weeks of meals, but provided a series of recipes and a recommended eating plan (i.e., smoothie for breakfast, lean protein solid lunch, light detox-friendly snack, soup for dinner). And it only took me 1-2 days to realize that the smoothies, soups and meals I was eating actually left me full and satisfied, even if they were smaller than my usual pig-out of food.

Some things like a brothy soup or grilled chicken breast tend to have filling properties, but I was surprised that I wasn’t full… my appetite was satiated. Even on heavy training days. And once 7 p.m. hit., I observed my 12-hour detox and never thought about snacking. Turns out following this plan was a lot like following a training plan for a marathon. It’s not always perfect, but delivered results.

But what will shock you to your very core: I seem to have kicked the too-sweet habit. Seriously.

Sure, I tried the weekend overindulgence, but I didn’t really enjoy too much of these goods things. In fact, I only ate one half each of two cupcakes and a third of an apple fritter before I felt too indulged (they were tasty… and are now in the freezer). I ditched plans to make fancy donuts at home on Sunday… and haven’t had anything sweet all week despite being done with my cleanse.

Don’t get me wrong: I still love my desserts and treats. But I don’t crave and think and plan and dream about them. Much (I am still alive). I have a drawer full of chocolate I stashed during the holidays (“for later”) and haven’t even reached for it. Somehow I survived a very stressful month without any stress-eating. And according to NPR, that’s not easy to do!

But how long will I stick with the good-eating habits? What will toss me from the wagon? Only time will tell. At least I have regular cleanses planned to keep me on the straight and narrow. I’m most vigilant, however, on how my nutrition affects my training. And… so far so good. My energy has been steady and strong (totally unlike calorie-cuts of the past), and I feel like I’m eating the right things, rather than less of the same schtuff.

Still so much to learn about myself, food, energy delivery... and the million things I can do with kasha.

All this Cleanliness has primed me for dropping some of my non-leanness for racing season. I dropped about six pounds over the three weeks (part diet, plenty of exercise). The only drawback: my running tights are too loose now… and loose tights lead to some mean chafing on a rough 13-miler. Ouch!


Landon said...

Way to go on maybe kicking the sweets. I aspire to your kind of willpower! I've been experimenting with the good old 'eat until you're 80% full' maxim. So far so good.

GP said...

Thanks, man. I had the rest of my apple fritter last night and some chocolate (what good is kicking your own ass all week if you can't have some treats?). After a few bites... I felt sugared out. So much for my future as a competitive cake eater. Perhaps I'll just stick to running.

Mnowac said...

Good for you. I am thinking about doing a cleanse for most of March. I haven't ever ever ever suceeded in cutting out sugar. I'd love to do it, I know i would drop a few lbs easy.

DaisyDuc said...

Very interesting. I have thought a lot about doing some sort of cleanse. I am just not sure how well I would do it!