Thursday, April 28, 2011

Living Foods Lifestyle Program: Wrap-Up

After eating a vegan, raw food diet for two weeks, it's strange being back in Boston and to be introduced to cooked foods again! Here, I would like to wrap-up my experience doing the Living Foods Lifestyle Program at the Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute.

As I mentioned in my post on day one, we were kept rather busy in the program. On the weekdays, there was optional yoga at 6:15 am, juicing and drinking wheatgrass from 7:30-8:30 am, silent breakfast from 8:30 - 9:15 am, class until 12:30 pm with a break for snack in-between, and a nice afternoon break that was perfect for taking naps, with optional yoga at 2:45. Classes resumed at 4:15 until 6 pm, then dinner, and a final class at 7 pm. See sample schedules of the institute's programs here. Topics varied, with classes based on nutrition, disease, and health, the mind and the body, how to grow your own food,

Learning how to grow wheatgrass and sprouts

Composting class. Their composting system is very efficient- this pile turns into usable compost within a mere six weeks!

how to prepare your own food,

Preparing zucchini flaxseed crackers in Food Dehydration Lab

and more.

Coconut experience class. Mmmm fresh coconut water and coconut meat!

Because of my interest in nutrition, health, gardening, and food, I enjoyed many of the classes. One topic that struck me was how they reiterated the importance of cleaning your colon, via enemas and implants. The colon is an extremely important organ, after all. Although I had been nervous about doing them at first, I actually began to enjoy the clean feeling that I got after doing enemas. The wheatgrass implants, however, are something that I still need to get used to. I even got a colonic at the institute (which apparently are as strong as approximately 40 enemas) to see what it was like. It was a strange and interesting experience, but I did enjoy the clean feeling that I got after completing the colonic. Even though I can't imagine getting colonics on a regular basis, I imagine that some colonics lie in my future.

As for the food, energy soup, a combination of blended greens, sprouts, sprouted peas or lentils, and rejuvelac, made the base of the diet at the institute. Other toppings allowed to be added to the energy soup included papaya, a source of fat (usually flax cream or sunflower seed yogurt), pureed garlic, pureed sauerkraut, and dulse flakes, as pictured here. Because the energy soup is so nutritionally dense, somewhat predigested because of the addition of the fermented rejuvelac, and because it is the base of the diet at the institute, the soup was available at all meals and available in the fridge throughout the day.

When I first arrived at the institute, the energy soup tasted ok to me. After all, it is basically just a salad, blended. However, the second day that I was at the institute, I got extremely sick, with diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting, and was rushed to the hospital. There, they replenished my fluids with several IV bags of saline solution. Reasons for my sickness may have been a bug or virus of some sort, related to detoxing, and/or related to a deficiency in salt and electrolytes. At the institute, no salt is used, except in the form of seaweed, which was usually available as dulse flakes that we could sprinkle on our food. In any case, after my sickness on the second day, I had trouble drinking the energy soup, perhaps because of the traumatic experience.

Besides the energy soup, the other food option at silent breakfast, which you were not allowed to combine with the energy soup, was a fruit salad (usually papaya and banana) with sprouted and dehydrated buckwheat that you could sprinkle on top.

Lunch was typically a salad bar and energy soup.

For dinner, energy soup was available daily, and there were usually some flaxseed crackers to go with it as well. Snack in-between meals (one at 11 am and one at 3 pm) was usually coconut water, and occasionally fruit, such as bananas, oranges, or papaya.

On day one, I mentioned that wheatgrass was something that was new to me in the program. Despite the numerous reported health benefits of wheatgrass, I never got accustomed to it. It made me nauseous, which many of the others at the institute said was normal in the beginning. However, after a week of trying the wheatgrass and the continual nausea, I decided that it was time to give drinking wheatgrass a break. The second week, I continued to do several wheatgrass implants, but stopped taking wheatgrass by mouth. Although the wheatgrass didn't work for me this time, I imagine that if I return to a raw food center again at some point in the future, I'd be willing to give wheatgrass another try.

Besides being in classes, it was nice to travel around Puerto Rico on the weekend (renting a car or getting car access is necessary to get around in Puerto Rico). We went snorkeling, visited some beaches,

Beautiful, unnamed beach near the sand flats in southwest Puerto Rico

stopped by San German, the original capital of Puerto Rico,

enjoyed some beautiful sunsets,

and more.

Dinner at sea
We were definitely kept busy over the two weeks. But before I knew it, the graduation ceremony with joyous dancing and festivities came up,

and I received my certificate for completing the two week intensive Living Foods Lifestyle Program.

Directors of the program, and me on the second left.

Me and my fellow graduates. Check out our graduation caps (sprouting bags).

The course had its ups and downs, but overall, I enjoyed the experience. It was great to talk to and get to know others who were interested in learning about this lifestyle and improving their health. In addition, it was great to meet so many people of different backgrounds and perspectives. Besides my classmates, there were also many returning students at the institute, who could come to any of the classes if they wished, or who could just enjoy the food and being at the institute and Puerto Rico. We were a very international community, with participants coming from all over the world, including Germany, numerous French-speaking regions, Iceland, Ukraine, and more. The staff was very friendly and supportive, and to be in this supportive environment with others who were going through the same thing as me provided encouragement throughout the program.

How has my return to Boston been? For starters, the flight was a bit of a disappointment. I had planned to leave late Friday night the day my program completed. However, because of a delay in my connecting flight to Boston, I had to reschedule my flight for two days later. I was not happy with Spirit Airlines because a similar problem had occurred on my way to Puerto Rico as well. After this experience, I am not sure if I will be taking Spirit Airlines again.

In other aspects, as I mentioned in the beginning, it is strange to return back to having the option of eating cooked foods again after eating raw and vegan foods for the past two weeks. One of the most significant changes that I've noticed is salt. Because there was no salt used whatsoever at the institute except for the dulse flakes, I am now more aware of any additional salt added to foods. Additionally, the diet was gluten-free at the institute. Although I am not planning on remaining to be completely gluten-free, I am hoping to have a diet that will contain less gluten than what I was originally eating before the program.

Do I plan on staying raw and vegan? Not at the moment. I enjoyed the experience of eating a raw and vegan diet, but I don't think that this diet is right for me at the time, for numerous reasons. Staying raw and vegan is especially hard for those who live in regions with cold winter climates, such as Boston. I also enjoy occasionally eating and getting nutrients from non-vegan foods, such as eggs, fish, meat, and poultry (although of course I aim to purchase as much ethically and sustainably-produced foods as possible, such as organic and local foods and grass-fed meat). I plan to slowly incorporate some cooked and non-vegan foods in my diet, although I plan on keeping some raw foods in my diet, as well (who doesn't love salads, fresh fruits and vegetables, and fermented foods?), and to do what I feel is best for my body. Something important that I remind myself from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition is the concept of bio-individuality: everyone's body has a different constitution, and everyone has different needs. I did enjoy eating a clean, unprocessed diet for two weeks (and losing eight pounds!), but eating a raw, vegan diet isn't appropriate for me at the time.

I enjoyed the experience. However, I don't imagine that I will be retuning back to the Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute. In the future, I hope to visit some other raw food centers, such as the Optimum Health Institute and the Hippocrates Health Institute, and am looking forward to seeing some of the similarities and the differences between the programs.

If you are considering visiting a raw food center at some point, or if you have any questions about this lifestyle or the program that I attended, please feel free to contact me!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Living Foods Lifestyle Program: Day 1

Today was my first day at the Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute for their Living Foods Lifestyle Certification Program: 2 weeks of eating, learning, and immersing in a vegan, raw, and living foods lifestyle in sunny Puerto Rico.

But before I get into the program, I'd like to backtrack into how I got there:

The plane ride to Puerto Rico was not the best. A delay in one of my flights meant that I missed a connecting flight, so alas I had to stay an extra day in New York City. The upside was that in my NYC I was able to visit One Lucky Duck, which offers raw foods and juices, and Candle Cafe, which offers vegan and farm fresh food options. The sushi at One Lucky Duck was delicious, filled with marinated shiitake, avocado, asparagus, red pepper, jicama rice, and nama shoyu. However, their chocolate garnache tart, although good, was extremely dense and something that you will want to share with many friends. At Candle Cafe, I loved the BBQ Tempeh and Sweet Potato sandwich served with a side salad and an amazing shallot sage aioli. Their vegan and gluten-free oatmeal and chocolate chip cookie was on the slightly dry and crumbly side (probably due to the spelt flour), but it was good considering that it can be hard to make a good gluten-free cookie.

After rescheduling my flight and after an 8 hour layover at the Fort Lauderdale airport in Florida, I was happy to finally arrive at the Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute at 3 am this morning.

please note that these pictures were not taken at 3 am

I have to say that I cannot complain about the surroundings.

The beach next to the institute

A few hours after my arrival, I woke up tired but enthusiastic for my 7:30 am class on juicing wheatgrass. After our class on wheatgrass, we went into the dining room for breakfast. Today's breakfast options were a fresh papaya and banana salad with sprouted buckwheat grains, or energy soup, made with blended green vegetables and sprouts, and that could be topped with various toppings such as pureed ginger and dulse flakes. Breakfast at the institute is the one meal that is always silent, allowing individuals to focus on the meal and to concentrate on chewing, a part that can be often forgotten about in eating: chewing is the first step in the digestive process, allowing the enzyme salivary amylase in our saliva to begin breaking down the food in our mouths as we chew.

After breakfast we had a two hour class learning more about Dr. Ann Wigmore and the institute, which was broken up by a 15 minute snack. Then we had lunch, optional yoga at 2:45 pm daily (there is also yoga daily at 6:15 am), another snack, and then class again at 4:15 where we learned about enemas and implants. Dinner is regularly at 6 pm, and after dinner there is typically a class at 7 pm. Classes are on weekdays, and weekends we get off.

Dinner, featuring energy soup, papaya, sunflower seed yogurt, dehydrated flax seed crackers, and various toppings

If eating raw foods is something that you are new to, it definitely takes some getting used to. Even though raw foods has always been an interest of mine in reading, culinary adventures, and dining out, going completely raw and vegan in my diet is not the same as reading about and dabbling in it.

Rejuvelac, a fermented beverage, is always on hand. Pictured here is rejuvelac made from cabbage (left) and quinoa (right). The cabbage rejuvelac is basically like drinking sauerkraut juice.

Two daily activities that I know that I'll need some getting used to are juicing and drinking wheatgrass regularly twice a day (the wheatgrass flavor is strong) and the enemas and implants (enema: clearing the colon, such as with filtered water, and implant: here we implant the colon with wheatgrass juice for cleansing and detoxification. Read more about enemas and implants here). Of course, you only do what you are comfortable with in the program, and it's important to listen to your body. Another challenge that will be coming up very soon (tomorrow) will eating only blended foods for the next three days!

These next two weeks will be an experience featuring different and new food and lifestyle challenges. I am interested to see how my body will adjust to these changes, and also how my diet and lifestyle will change after I return from this trip. Overall, I'm glad to be here, I'm sure that this will be a worthwhile and learning experience, and I'm looking forward to what the next two weeks will bring!