A Matcha Made in Heaven

IMG_0701Honestly? I thought it would be the sugar. Sure, I knew caffeine would be tricky but I didn’t expect it to be soul sucking torture. But there you go. It’s Day Five of our reset – the twenty-one day mindful eating practice upon which my NCLP and I have embarked.

Several of his family members began the – ahem – “cleanse” (see why I loathe that word here) a few days prior to our own leap of faith into the land of vegan and elimination diets. For the rest of this month and for a good chunk of May we’re letting go of all animal products including dairy and eggs plus alcohol, sugar, gluten and caffeine.

Here’s the cool thing – my NCLP’s family live continents apart and so we formed a What’s App support group. We check in with one another, commiserate, offer advice when requested and ask important questions like this: “If we’re avoiding animal products, is eating hummus with your finger cheating?”

Finger licking is fine, but green tea, even with its low caffeine content, is not. And yet that’s what I resorted to in order to soothe my caffeine withdrawals. I’ve quit coffee before. It’s not impossible. And until the last few years I was happy with my steaming mug of morning joe courtesy of Mr. Coffee.

But these small joys can be a slippery slope. I was introduced to the gentle nuances of a fine bean and the next thing I knew I had not one but two cafetierres and a Hario grinder. Morning coffee from a can of pre-ground dust from who knows where was no longer enough. The warm, earthy aroma…the sound of the beans being crushed in the mill…the music of the water being poured….it was something I not only wanted but needed morning, noon and sometimes night.

Yep. I had a monkey on my back and it smelled like a pound of organic, fair trade, Peru dark.

Yesterday, my first day without even green tea to burnish the edges, was rough. I survived but I learned that not only was one cup of green tea healthier for my body than four cups of the black stuff, it’s healthier for me (and my yoga students) than no green tea at all. This morning for breakfast I had an iced matcha with my oatmeal. Am I letting myself down? I don’t think so. My intention is to be mindful, not perfect. My intention is to pay attention. To choose wisely. I want to release reflexive bad habits and replace them with considered reflection. One morning matcha to greet the sunrise. Not a bad way to begin another beautiful day.

I’m Not Dirty. Or Toxic. So Why Do I Want to Cleanse?

IMG_1026If you were a woman living in the UK towards the end of the last century, you almost certainly spent some time talking about Carol Vorderman. Carol might be described as ‘game show gal turned best-selling author. She might be seen by some as the UK’s version of America’s letter-turning Vanna White. But Carol’s story is more intriguing. Carol Vorderman studied engineering and graduated from Cambridge with honors. Her talent for adding columns of numbers is what helped her gain decades of employment turning digits on the BBC’s game show Countdown. Thinking back, it’s astonishing (and shameful) that we should be amazed that a woman might be beautiful AND have great computational skills. But there you go.

I don’t think I watched Countdown more than a few times. Instead, I remember Carol for a book she published: Carol Vorderman’s 28-Day Detox Diet. The book, an instruction manual on how to look as svelte and vivacious as Carol by eliminating wheat, soy, meat, alcohol and caffeine, was a huge best seller. This diet would change our lives! We had all the proof we needed. Over the course of a summer Carol transformed before our eyes from beautiful to – well – more beautiful. Finally! A diet that worked! And one that promised to cleanse and detox our dirty, dirty bodies.

Who hasn’t been tempted by a detox diet? My first was during the summer of 1979 when I lived in Tucson. My friend Sissy and I tried the 10-Day Lemon Fast – a concoction of lemon juice, pure maple syrup and cayenne pepper mixed with water and sipped whenever hungry. I managed to survive ninety-six hours before I was chugging maple syrup from the bottle. I don’t know if Sissy fared much better.

Fifteen years later, in my little corner of Donegal, I along with the majority of women I knew carried Carol’s book with us like a Bible and dreamed of her cheekbones.

At the time it didn’t occur to me the message I was sending to my psyche. There are deep, negative connotations in the words ‘cleanse and ‘detox. The truth is my body is not in need of an internal scrubbing. And no matter how many times Brittany Spears tries to convince me through song, I am not toxic.

And yet, in a few days time my NCLP and I are going to embark on a 21-day ‘quantum cleanse’ – a plant-based/vegan diet that also eliminates caffeine, alcohol and sugar.   Given my cynicism and the revulsion I feel whenever I see the words ‘cleanse or ‘detox you might ask “Why?”

Because, for me, they work. Carol Vorderman’s food plan is not too far from Kathy Freston’s (Oprah acolyte and designer of the quantum cleanse). Stepping back, simplifying my diet for a set period of time, setting aside moments for journaling and contemplation (as Freston’s plan encourages) is a positive act of self-love. It encourages a mindful approach to eating. It asks me to consider what it is I want and why I want it. It challenges the relationship I’ve built with food over the past few years – the relationship that sees food as comfort and reward rather than my source of nutrition and energy.

And, believe it or not, I’m looking forward to it. Not because I’m expecting a miracle (or Carol’s cheekbones) but because it seems to me that I’ll be entering a few weeks of mindfulness training. There is a meditative quality to the process that I embrace.

So here I go. Just don’t tell me I’m on a cleanse.








California Plump


Me with hair (and eyebrows) in 1976.
Me with hair (and eyebrows) in 1976.

When I was sixteen I thought I was fat.  I wasn’t.

But now I weigh more than I would like to. I am still not fat. But I reside in a state, and work in an industry, where having to size up from a zero to a size 4 petite is cause for concern. In this golden state, despite weighing slightly less than the average American woman, I am considered chunky, pudgy, ample or round. I prefer, however, to think of myself as California Plump.

I wasn’t always California Plump. There was a time when I was clinically obese. Several times per week I dined on half a packet of spaghetti mixed with baked beans and cheddar. I tipped the scales just shy of two hundred pounds. Yep. Those were the days.

I was not lacking in nutritional wisdom, only discipline and encouragement. Furthermore, I knew my lifestyle would kill me or at the very least trigger the diabetes that runs thick and fast in my family. I joined a weight loss organization and I joined a gym. And, unfortunately, I became so obsessed with dropping pounds that I fell into a pattern of disordered eating. I lost the extra seventy pounds it had taken eight years to gain in an unhealthy eight months. In exchange, I gained a lovely collection of gall stones and a truly dysfunctional digestive system.

A decade has passed. I’m now in my mid-fifties. Five years ago, during an emotionally intense period of my life, twenty of those seventy pounds began to find their way back onto my bones. The difficulties eventually worked themselves out yet the twenty pounds insisted on sticking around. Today my life is in a beautiful place. But I’m California Plump and while I’m not happy about that one bit I know that now – that this moment – is the time to take control of my health and wellness.

And what better way to begin this journey than with yet another self-absorbed blog clogging an already crowded cyberspace?  My intention is not to tell the story of weight loss.  My intention is to tell the story of finding my way back to fitness.  I want to share my story and the stories of other women I know who inspire me with their commitment to health, vitality and life.

Here we go.