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!

No comments: