Saturday, 16 August 2014

Unedited Version of Article for Vegan Life Magazine

I'm appearing in the inaugural issue of Vegan Life Magazine (yay!). It's even one of the cover stories (yay!)! Nonetheless, the editor had to significantly reduce the original essay/article, so I am posting it here in its original entirety. Hope you enjoy!

*****

Within two months of marrying, my husband and I rescued a dog. This may not seem like a significant detail (with the exception that my husband was terrified of dogs having been repeatedly chased by a particularly cunning Jack Russell throughout his childhood in Swansea), but it turned out that Janie, the Boston Terrier rescued from a puppy farm in Ohio, would be a significant stepping stone on a path toward veganism. Like most things though, if one looks far enough back, every path ultimately starts at the beginning… and for me, the beginning began in rural America.
            Northern Michigan is populated predominately by three things: national forest, expansive bodies of water, and agriculture. Of the fifty states, Michigan is the second largest producer of dairy. Driving down a highway, one is as likely to see a dairy farm as a political billboard paid for by the National Rifle Association. It is a place not unlike other parts of America’s middle; it can be insular, defensive, and protective of its traditions. Unfortunately, eating—and in large quantities of all the wrong things—has become one of those fought-for traditions.
            I was raised on a diet of beef, wheat, dairy and sugar (all of which are produced en masse in my home state). My mother was a serial dieter who likely ate hundreds of animals during her adventures with the Atkins Diet, and my father had such a ruinous relationship with food that he received one of the earliest gastric bypass procedures in the ‘90s. (The surgery didn’t ultimately take as after losing all the weight, he re-expanded the newly shrunk stomach, continuing on with disastrous patterns, such as eating whole boxes of Girl Scout cookies—an American icon—in one sitting.) By the time I was a teenager, no plate looked the same in our house at dinnertime; though one of the only things we could agree on was steak. In fact, I remember ordering prime rib (medium rare) at my junior prom (not particularly ladylike) and steak juice staining the prom dress my grandmother had made me. It wasn’t yet enough to convince me to give up eating flesh.
            That incentive came three years later when at nineteen, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
            While, from the age of fourteen, having had an autoimmune disease that can often lead to thyroid cancer, no doctor had ever discussed nutrition with me—and while I am not here to say that my poor diet (which caused me to be an overweight, unhealthy adolescent) lead to my cancer, I can say with certainty that it didn’t help. Alarmingly, I have since learned that both wheat and dairy are major contributors to this particular disease and should be exclusively avoided. No medic has yet informed me of this; I have learned it through online research and my own experience.
            Following full removal of my thyroid, fifty-three lymph nodes and two of four parathyroid glands, I was left so nauseous from painkillers that I preferred the nausea of pain itself—and I stopped eating entirely to the worry of my carers. I was fed macaroni and cheese at the hospital (which I vomited) and then my family physician recommended my mom take me to the Dairy Queen (another American icon) and load me up on blizzards (a thick milkshake laden with crumbled candy bars). I gained over two stone during the recovery period (likely both from the excess of blizzards, as well as the fact that the thyroid controls metabolism and my new medications hadn’t yet been adjusted). Yet, the incredible blessing of this experience is that meat made me sick in the months following the surgery. My body simply rejected it.
            When I first became a vegetarian, my friends who had witnessed this period of illness in me, not only mercilessly mocked the decision, but also looked at my new vegetarian foods with suspicion. I distinctly remember the first post-cancer trip to a friend’s cabin (a trip we had been making for years) when my best friend refused to try my tofu. She actually said she was scared of it… this, as she ate a hot dog--a food item that contains parts of animals better left unmentioned.
            Vegetarianism, simply, was and is, un-American (and veganism unspeakable).
            Nonetheless, I persevered with this new diet (but fell into one of the many vegetarian pitfalls—replacing meat with diary products) and every time someone deigned an accusatory look or comment, I simply mentioned the “c word” and conversations were immediately halted.
            Fast-forward to my twenty-fifth year when I discovered that juice fasting and higher concentrations of raw food enabled me to feel even better than I had before the cancer (despite my GP’s persistent warnings that vegetarianism and veganism would make me weak). Not yet a vegan, but suddenly realizing the incredible importance of nutrition, I began reading book after book on diet… and somehow this affected by Chinese-Welsh husband, who grew up eating “anything that moved.” One day, after three years of marriage, he simply came home and said, “I think I’m going to be a vegetarian t00.” When asked why, he replied, “If Janie and Elu [our second dog] have thoughts and feelings, so too must farm animals.” I agreed… and then two months later, while standing in the kitchen sprinkling parmesan cheese over a salad, Kwok called from his desk: “Honey, I think we should be vegan.” I paused—unsure if I had heard him correctly. Apparently, he had been reading… about the lives of dairy cows… and he wanted me to read about them too.
            At the time, veganism seemed unfathomable (and if I already was losing my cultural identity having moved to Britain at twenty-two, I could fully say goodbye to my Midwestern heritage by becoming a vegan). Yet, in that moment, I made what I believe to be one of my first truly adult decisions: a decision not to live in ignorance. We gave ourselves six weeks to fully remove dairy from our lives (knowing then that “cold turkey” just wouldn’t be successful). Four years later, it is hard to imagine life before veganism.
            Having not only grown up in an agricultural belt of the Midwest, I also grew up in America’s Bible Belt, in which one not only goes to church on Christmas and Easter, but one goes to church every Sunday, barring only such extremes as smallpox and death. From the age of two, I recited prayers with my father every night. After learning the basic prayers, he asked me, “What would you like to pray for?” The first words from my toddler mouth? “All the bad and good animals.” When asked what a bad animal was, I replied, “Snakes. Crocodiles. Things that eat other animals.” I wouldn’t learn till I was seven that I too ate other animals (when on a road trip, having just gotten fast food, I asked my parents where burgers came from and began to cry when they said it was made of cows—they laughed).
            Having loved animals my whole life (and being that kind of person from childhood that every animal in need somehow seems to find), I marvel at how long I remained part of a culture of willful ignorance. Within weeks of becoming vegan, my life seemingly blossomed. I was no longer lethargic, no longer unable to rouse myself from bed in the mornings. Running was no longer a chore, but became a privilege in its newfound ease. Each stride, each bite, represented freedom—freedom of the body and freedom of the spirit (which never even knew just how burdened it was). Veganism brought me back to yoga (something I discovered during cancer treatments), and I actually credit this lifestyle with giving me the courage to leave behind an academic career and become a yoga teacher, a part-time writer and artist, and a full-time animal lover.
            My husband and I now have eight rescue hens and are working toward purchasing land to continue rescuing animals in need.  His Chinese family remains overtly concerned about our lifestyle and are yet unable to see the beauty in my husband’s own blossoming—from a child afraid of animals (unless dead on a plate), to an adult that will stop on the side of the road in the dead of winter to help an injured buzzard. We have learned that quietly living an example—and offering guests amazingly tasty vegan fare—is more effective than proselytizing and producing fear and judgment. I was raised in a culture of fear and judgment (and because of this, a culture in which people are exceptionally afraid of being judged). Veganism for me is living compassion—and that includes all creatures (human animals too)—and that, I have learned, is the only culture that I need.
 © Julie Bolitho-Lee


Thursday, 1 May 2014

2014 Juice Fast: Breaking the Fast, Day 4

So, I sort of broke my rule about only fruits and vegetables (though have remained fully raw), but only sort of. I felt a bit weaker than I believe I should during and after my morning aerial practice today, so I decided that instead of making a green juice for breakfast (as was my plan), I'd use a raw meal replacement powder a friend gave us awhile ago. I used to use protein powders and all sorts of things like it years ago, but I learned that actually whole foods do my body just as good. Kwok has gradually been getting through the raw powders on his own (always saying he will try to gain weight, but rarely making a concerted effort unless he's working out regularly). (Yes, my husband and I have the opposite problem in that he tends to hover at slightly underweight and I tend to hover at slightly overweight--and not based on BMI as I think BMI is rubbish, mainly just based on how we look/feel.)

So, yes, after my morning aerial practice, I mixed 16 ounces of water with a banana and two scoops of Garden of Life's Raw Meal: Beyond Organic Meal Replacement Formula. It offered me a whopping 34g of protein, as well as provided 100% of sixteen vitamins and minerals. The ingredient list is pretty intense, but I'm going to post it below anyway. Before posting, I will say this isn't the tastiest stuff on the planet... and it reminds me of the days when I followed my mom's lead and used to eat pretty unpalatable protein bars (this wasn't as bad as the protein bars, but I can't say it's something I'll include regularly in my life--it just seemed right today). Onto the ingredient list....


Garden of Life: Raw Meal Vanilla Ingredients:
Organic RAW Sprout Blend (Organic Sprouted Brown Rice Protein, Organic Sprouted Brown Rice Sweetener (from Organic Sprouted Brown Rice), Organic Amaranth Sprout, Organic Quinoa Sprout, Organic Millet Sprout, Organic Buckwheat Sprout, Organic Garbanzo Bean Sprout, Organic Lentil Sprout, Organic Adzuki Bean Sprout, Organic Flax Seed Sprout, Organic Sunflower Seed Sprout, Organic Pumpkin Seed Sprout, Organic Chia Seed Sprout, Organic Sesame Seed Sprout) Organic RAW Flax and Coconut Blend (Organic Flax Flour, Organic Coconut Flour), Organic RAW Vanilla Flavor, RAW Green Food and Fruit Blend (Organic Oat Grass Juice, Organic Spirulina, High Protein Chlorella, Organic Alfalfa Grass Juice, Organic Barley Grass Juice, Organic Wheat Grass Juice, Organic Strawberry, Organic Cherry, Organic Blackberry, Organic Blueberry, Organic Raspberry), RAW Enzyme and Probiotic Blend (Bacillus coagulans, Proteases, Amylase, Lactase, Glucoamylase, alpha-Galactosidase, Lipase, Pectinase, Peptidase, Bromelain, Phytase, Hemicellulase, beta-Glucanase, Papain, Cellulase, Xylanase, Diastase, Invertase), RAW Organic Stevia (Leaf), Brewer's Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Natto. Contains (fermented) soy.

****

Okay, so I totally broke the rules and have given into a few non-raw veggie items.

*****

Today's Menu:

Breakfast:
Blended:
-1 banana
-16 ounces of water
-2 scoops of Garden of Life's Raw Meal Vanilla Replacement Formula

Lunch:
Salad from:
-1 head romaine
-5 cherry tomatoes
-adzuki bean sprouts
-2 roasted artichokes (uh-oh--this definitely isn't raw)
-pinch Himalayan pink salt
-juice from 1/2 lemon

4pm:
Salad again from:
-1 head romaine
-5 cherry tomatoes
-adzuki bean sprouts
-2 roasted artichokes
-pinch Himalayan pink salt
-juice from 1/2 lemon

-2 bananas

6pm:
Smoothie from:
-125g raspberries
-1 mango
-juice from 2 oranges
-juice from 1/2 a lemon

8pm:
-Snack on some organic olive and lentil dip from Abel & Cole (didn't dip anything into it, just had it straight--yum!)

Teas:
-1 mug ginger yerba mate

Exercise:
-45 minutes of aerial yoga
-2-mile dog walk
-2-mile run

Supplements:
-2 chlorella tablets
-2 spirulina tablets

Other self-care:
-morning dry skin brush
-15-minute morning meditation

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

2014 Juice Fast: Breaking the Fast, Day 3

I'm trying to do all raw fruit and veggies (with the exception of a little Himalayan pink salt) until Sunday evening. It is amazing how nice a salad is with just a little lemon juice and salt--no need for all the heavy, nut-based dressings (as delicious as they may be).

Years ago, I tried being a raw vegan and I wasn't mentally ready for it. I got a dehydrator and all the proper equipment, but I replaced a vegan diet with a high-fat raw diet full of dehydrated raw foods, nuts and flavor enhancers like nutritional yeast. I was completely neurotic by the third month and realized the diet had to go.

At the moment, I am in a much healthier place both in mind and body. This most recent juice fast was spurred by recognizing my unhealthy patterns were returning to my life, but what has been amazing is that in terms of juices, this has been by far the most nutritious of the fasts I've embarked upon. I actually learned not only to tolerate beetroot juice, but to love it! (Honestly, this is truly incredible. I've always had an anti-beetroot thing going on in my mouth--it always felt far too earthy.)

This being said, while I'd like to live on a high-raw diet, I still have no desire to go completely raw. I subscribe to beliefs in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine that a raw diet is too cold for the body, too damp (especially in the winter). Truthfully, I've met very few raw foodists who haven't either been a) neurotic or obsessive and/or b) looked cold--not as in shivering, but as in their skin looked cold (I don't know how to explain it any better than that). I think a raw-foods-only diet works better in more tropical climates, but in Britain? It just isn't for me.

A vegan diet has always been for me, though (I just didn't know it until I was twenty-five). :)

So, yes... I definitely have every intention of staying on a high-raw whole foods (as in, not dehydrated, but whole, juiced and smoothie-fied, yes) diet, but I have no intention of limiting myself to only such.





Today's menu:

Breakfast:
-1 banana
-1 handful adzuki bean sprouts

Lunch:
Salad made from:
-5 cherry tomatoes
-1 head romaine lettuce
-adzuki bean sprouts
-1 avocado
-juice from 1/2 a lemon
-pink Himalayan salt

2pm:
Smoothie made from:
-125g raspberries
-1 mango
-juice from 3 oranges
-juice from 1 lemon

5pm:
-1 banana

7:30pm:
-1 romano red pepper

Evening juice:
Made from:
-1/2 lemon
-100g spinach
-3 apples
-30g mint

Teas:
-1 mug ginger mate

Exercise:
-60-minute morning yoga session
-2-mile dog walk
-2-mile jog

Supplements:
-2 chlorella supplements
-2 spirulina supplements

Sauna time:
-45 minutes

Other self-care:
-Morning dry skin brush
-oiling with sesame oil after shower

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

2014 Juice Fast: Breaking the Fast, Day 2

I'm feeling a little perkier after resting most of yesterday, but the idea of food still isn't particularly appetizing. (I know. Amazing, right?) I thought a mango sounded great through most of the fast, and then I couldn't even get through one yesterday and now the idea of eating a mango today is completely unappealing.

*****

After overeating on salad today, I actually crashed. I physically crashed and fell into a hard sleep for over an hour. I find it incredible. No sugar rush, just more than my system needed at that particular moment and bam! The body shuts down to deal... Take note, self. Take note.

*****
I'm feeling weirdly acidic....



Today's menu:

Breakfast juice:
Made from:
-3 large beets
-11 carrots
-chunks of ginger

Lunch:
(This ended up being too much and I sort of regret eating all of it.... I wasn't going to, but lamb's lettuce wetted by the lemon juice isn't so nice after it's been saved.) 
Salad made from:
-5 sultan's jewel tomatoes
-5 handfuls of lamb's lettuce
-1 avocado
-5 basil leaves
-juice from 1/2 a lemon
-sprinkle of pink Himalayan salt

Evening (5pm-ish):
Smoothie made from:
-juice from 1 lemon
-juice from 3 oranges
-1 mango
-125g raspberries

Teas:
-ginger mate

Exercise:
-2-mile dog walk
-taught 90-minute yoga class
-40 minutes of Just Dance

Supplements:
-water with nascent iodine
-3 chlorella tablets
-3 spirulina tablets

Other self-care:
-morning dry skin brush
-oiling with raw sesame oil after shower

Monday, 28 April 2014

2014 Juice Fast: Deciding to break the fast

I decided to break the fast today as my body continues to feel wrecked from the intense physical exercise--AND my mom is coming on Sunday. While I don't intend to eat poorly at all while she is here, I'd like to be able to just eat with her--salads, lentils eventually, etc. If I continued my fast through Wednesday, it would simply mean a longer period of all raw fruit and veggies while she was here (rather than some nice nut salad dressings, etc).


Today's menu:

Breakfast juice:
-2 cups cherries
-3 large sweet potatoes

Breaking the fast item (3pm):
-1/2 a mango (then I felt utterly full and had to put the rest in the fridge)

Evening (5:30):
Bites from homemade tabbouleh:
-chopped fresh parsley
-chopped fresh mint
-1 red onion (chopped)
-2 cloves garlic (chopped)
-2-3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (different varieties)
-juice from 1 lemon

7pm:
-1/4 mango (1/2 of what remained from earlier--I gave the rest to Kwok as I am feeling very full.)

Teas:
-Pukka Green Mint

Supplements:
-4 chlorella tablets
-4 spirulina tablets

Exercise:
-2-mile dog walk
(Sad to say this was pretty much it. I am so sore today and just so out-of-it.)

Other self-care:
Pathetically, I didn't do any of it today--not the skin brush, not the sauna, none. I have been reading loads though - and also managed a pretty epic late afternoon nap.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

2014 Juice Fast: Day 12

I am exhausted.

Yesterday's yoga fly class was intense... and teaching three classes today has left my body aching... and craving lentils.

Unfortunately, even if I decided to break my fast now, lentils are not the way to do it (raw fruit is the way to do it). So, I'm sticking to it... likely until day 15, but we'll see.

Did I mention I'm exhausted?

I didn't even feel like I could drink anything other than water after the first juice (so I haven't).

In other news, I started reading Billie Lett's The Honk and Holler Opening Soon and I love it. I'll finish it tonight (it's about 300 pages) as I've just been so enamored with it. (Love the scene - 1985 truck stop.) When I was teaching my classes today, I admittedly had a few moments of thinking, "Ooo! I want to go home and read now." ha!

Meanwhile, of fasting note, I drink water every day, but I'm worried it hasn't been enough, so I'm forcefully trying to increase my uptake to about 3-4 litres a day (especially given the sauna, where I usually drink 1 litre anyway).

Anyway....

Today's Menu:

Morning/Afternoon juice:
-1 pineapple
-1 cucumber
-30g mint
-150g spinach

Exercise:
-taught 90-minute Kripalu class
-taught 75-minute aerial yoga class
-taught 75-minute aerial yoga class

Sauna time:
-60 minutes

Other self-care:
-Morning dry skin brush
-oiling with Ayurvedic blend and Mahua oil after shower

Saturday, 26 April 2014

2014 Juice Fast: Day 11


Today's Menu:

Morning juice:
-3 large beetroots
-10 carrots
-2-inch chunk of ginger

Afternoon/Evening juice:
(This made a hell of a lot of juice--about 1.5 litres.) 
-9 large tomatoes
-3-inch chunk of horseradish
-head of celery

Exercise:
-2-mile dog walk
-30-minute home aerial yoga practice
-crazy 2-hour yoga "fly" class--combination of vinyasa and inversions

Sauna time:
-25 minutes (morning session)
-70 minutes (evening session)

Supplements:
-3 chlorella tablets
-3 spirulina tablets

Other self-care:
-Morning dry skin brush
-oiling the Ayurvedic blend and coconut oil after shower
-


2014 Juice Fast: Day 10

Today was... well, today was just a strange day. My energy wasn't low per se, but just off. So... it was a lot of juice, a lot of driving in the car to a scheduled meeting that was a good distance away and a lack of movement. That's okay though... Some days are just like this.


Today's Menu:


Morning juice:
(Most of my juices make one litre of liquid. This did as well, though I only drank just over half of it. It was really potent, and Kwok had the rest.)
-2 romaine lettuce heads
-4 turmeric roots
-4 carrots
-1 cucumber

Afternoon juice:
-2 very large sweet potatoes
-2 cups cherries

Evening sip:
(I made this and then decided I didn't really like it. I literally had two sips... and then gave it to Kwok, who promptly put rum in it.)
-4 nectarines

Evening juice:
(Again, a bit too sweet.)
-30g mint
-125g spinach
-5 apples
-1 lemon


Teas:
-1 mug of sleepy tea

Exercise:
Not even dog walkies today. It was tipping it down all day--even the dogs didn't want to go out. :( 

Sauna time:
-0!!

Supplements:
-2 chlorella tablets
-2 spirulina tablets

Other self-care:
-Morning dry skin brush





Thursday, 24 April 2014

2014 Juice Fast: Day 9


Today's Menu:

Morning juice:
-5 beetroots
-9 carrots
-2-inch chunk of ginger

Afternoon juice:
-1 cucumber
-1 small pineapple
-30g mint
-125g spinach


Teas:
-1 mug Yogi Green Balance
-1 mug Clippers Sleepy Tea

Exercise:
-2-mile dog walk
-60-minute home aerial yoga practice
-2-mile jog/run

Sauna time:
-60 minutes

Supplements:
-2 chlorella tablets
-2 spirulina tablets

Other self-care:
-Morning dry skin brush
-oiling with Ayurvedic blend after shower





Wednesday, 23 April 2014

2014 Juice Fast: Day 8

I feel like I want to fast forever.

Before coming into this fast, I was backsliding heavily into lazy patterns of eating and "living," which I don't even consider living.

So, I love movies. I really love movies, but television... Okay, I love Nashville. LOVE it. I also have a stupidly guilty pleasure in Grey's Anatomy, even though I think it can often be, well, stupid. Every now and then Channel 4 has a show on health or diet that I'm keen to tune into every week... and if this were it, three hours of television a week during certain months of the year with a move night every other weekend or so, I wouldn't think so much of it.

The problem is that I am often alone in the day and for some reason that translated to great loneliness this past year... which meant that when I ate my breakfast or my lunch, I'd do it in front of the television... then Kwok would often want to eat dinner in front of the tv, and so it added up to a lot of brain-zapping and mind-numbing.

Since this fast, I've actually loathed hearing the television. I had to haul myself upstairs to read when Kwok was watching a program the other night. (Okay, this is all with one exception. Last Friday morning, I performed my usual ritual of hauling out my laptop and watching the previous evening's Grey's Anatomy that aired in the US.)

My mom is coming to visit at the beginning of May and while I'm glad she's coming, I'm reluctant to abandon my fast, though will need to unless I want to take her out for Mother's Day and watch her eat while I juice. It's possible actually, but it seems, sort of, wrong. We'll see.

This was one of the harder fasts to get into because of said backsliding and the attachments I have to food, but once in it? It's been one of the easiest and healthiest in terms of juice choices. Of course, I could still be healthier. There are diehards who would scoff at the fact that I use fruit at all. Okay, scoff. This is my fast, so this is how I'm doing it.

Overall, I'm feeling pretty good... more on the Hurom to come!

*****
So, the Hurom, while it gets a much higher quality juice, isn't the best at straining... So, I've been double-straining. Unfortunately, I must've missed out on double-straining some of the juice this morning as some fiber got into it... and then I felt hungry and had cravings all afternoon. Hmm. I made sure everything was double-strained this afternoon for what was ultimately a really delicious juice.

Also, I think I'm tending less and less to the sweet items as they almost seem to irritate the gut. I take this as a good sign.

*****
How much can change over the course of a day on a juice fast! I started the day feeling great... quickly turned to feeling wretched and nauseous, felt tired and weak, couldn't go for my run... and then by evening, I felt okay again. Ahh, gotta love honoring the body.



Today's Menu:

Morning juice:
(I actually felt really bloated after this... not sure why... but then I felt hungry and got cravings, so not sure what's going on....)
-150g spinach
-30g mint
-1 lemon
-4 apples

Afternoon juice:
(I drink 2/3 of this, which was about 2/3 of a litre because again, I really suddenly wasn't feeling well, so gave the rest to Kwok.)
-9 tomatoes
-8 stalks celery
-2-inch hunk of horseradish
-3 new potatoes

Evening juice:
(Didn't think I'd drink anything but tea or water after feeling unwell earlier, but then this sounded nice, so I went with it.)
-1 cup cranberries
-5 oranges

Teas:
-1 mug Yogi Green Energy

Exercise:
-40-minute morning yoga session
-3+-mile dog walk
-15 minutes of Just Dance

Sauna time:
-60 minutes

Supplements:
-2 chlorella tablets
-2 spirulina tablets

Other self-care:
-Morning dry skin brush
-Oiling with an Ayurvedic blend after shower