Eating a whole foods diet takes extra time and effort, so it’s helpful to save time where you can. When I make a big salad for dinner, I make a second one for my lunch the next day. If I don’t get around to eating it, whoa, hey, there’s another dinner already prepared. The salad keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days, just hold the dressing until you’re ready to eat. Three cups of filling lettuce has only 20 calories, so go big!
Clover Juice has been open for months, actually. I finally dragged myself through the boomtown construction that is happening on La Brea Boulevard to sample the goods. I avoided the whole fro-yo craze last time around, but I am ready to join the juicing frenzy. Cold pressed juice is the new red velvet cupcake.
I am a sucker for subway tile. Clover looks cool. White tiles bathed in sunlight, wheat grass growing decoratively in trays. Lithe young women who juice cleanse and do hot yoga work the counter. It is neighborhoody, in the way that you don’t really know your neighbors in L.A., but you like their house.
I asked for the Clover and the Go Big. The girl walked around the counter and pulled two plastic bottles from the refrigerated case. Not the definition of fresh cold-pressed I was expecting, hoping for some noisy magical machine in which fruit enters whole on one end and pours out a juice rainbow on the other. Both juices were vibrant and tasted of their colors. They immediately quenched some deep-seated thirst for fruit nutrients that I hadn’t realized was so dire. I wanted an I.V.
I want to wake up with the sun. I want to see that pale pink sky turn golden and then blue. I want to hop out of bed with vigor and accomplish things. But, how?
Early risers, I need your help. I admire you and want to be like you. I want to know how your eyes pop open at the same time every day, and how your next impulse is to swing your legs over the side of the bed and sit upright. How do you do it? How do you escape the warm and fuzzy snuggle monster that tangles me in blankets and pins me to my bed every morning?
The people who live upstairs wake me every single morning, but not at a time I want or need to get up. So I struggle, with a pillow over my head, to eek another two hours of slumber from my heavy lids while they run and jump on the hardwood floors above my bed. When the alarm of my cell phone eventually sounds, I curse, grab the phone and hold it in my hand, finger on the snooze button, so I can silence it the very moment it dares chirp. This repeats every 9 minutes for one hour, until I am grumpy and late and very much ready to burrow under the covers to reclaim those lost hours of slumber.
Part of my goal for Transformation March is to rewire my sleeping and waking so I can be alert and happy when the neighbors rouse me before dawn. I want to banish the snooze button. I want to wake up and get up. I wouldn’t mind waking THEM up with all of morning activity! I want those extra hours in my day for morning hikes, reading, yoga, learning something new, cooking, and saying hello to you.
Early birds, any advice?
I thought eliminating coffee would somehow give me a more realistic sense of waking up, that my body would recalibrate to a genuine alertness. Three weeks into Transformation March, and I have noticed absolutely no benefit to skipping my morning cuppa, although I now know I can manage without. I have decided to add java back into my morning routine. Today I had a bowl of stovetop espresso with frothed milk and it was heaven.
I can’t get enough fish on my Transformation March menu. We’ve been eating it for Sunday dinner, buying it in the morning at the fish monger at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market (it’s fun to say the words, fish monger). We didn’t make it to market last weekend, so we walked up to Whole Foods to inspect the seafood offerings. Maybe we’d bake a branzino. The branzino had sunken pits for eyes, and the salmon fillets looked dried out and spongy. The only really fresh looking fish were farmed rainbow trout, but they were exceedingly fresh, so we gave in and brought two home with us. They were a great deal too, less than $6 a piece. All they needed were lemon slices and rosemary sprigs stuffed in their bellies. We drizzled olive oil, seasoned the scales but not the flesh and baked them for 20 minutes at 375°. Yum. Do it.
When I made this salad, I was smiling all the while. Fresher than fresh baby arugula and baby butter lettuce from my farm box, crisp Persian cucumbers, and real tomatoes – in March! I paired garbanzo beans with a tahini dressing. #ilovesalad #transformationmarch
On a mission to eat more fruit, and never suffer the scurvy, I took my lunch from a fruit cart on the sidewalk in front of a Chase Bank. These bright spots of color dot the sidewalks and street corners of Los Angeles. They pop up in front of banks and bus stops. Their rainbow umbrellas and neatly stacked melons and mangos cheerfully advertise the healthiest portable food in the city. They are quintessential L.A. (along with bacon-wrapped hot-dogs carts and chile-lime corn on the cob vendors).
For $6, the aproned attendant will slice and dice whole pineapple, cantaloupe, watermelon, mango, jicama, cucumber, and fresh coconut, filling a large plastic bag with fruit. The fragrance takes me on an imaginary tropical vacation. Next, whole limes are sliced in half and hand squeezed over the fruit. A few shakes of salt and chile powder, a white plastic fork, and it achieves perfection.
Angelenos, I urge you to stop more often when you pass our technicolor fruit carts. You should probably be eating more fruit, anyway. Share a bag with a friend (who, let’s be honest, could eat more fruit too). Visitors to our fair city, don’t miss your chance to be charmed and refreshed in only 5-minutes. You’ll look local. It’s a perfect snack while sightseeing, and you won’t spoil your appetite for dinner at Animal.
This is my Transformation March recipe for huevos rancheros, inspired by a gorgeous tomato and avocado delivered in my produce box. It’s hearty enough for Sunday breakfast before a hike. If you are looking for a protein binge, add more egg whites – they add 3 grams of protein each, and only 15 calories. I doctor the beans with my husband’s secret family black bean recipe. It’s not that secret, I’ll tell you: onion, bell pepper, mustard, worcestershire sauce, and ketchup.
To meet Transformation March standards, the tortilla, beans, eggs, and most of the produce is organic. The tortillas have no bullshit ingredients, only corn. I skipped my usual crumbled Mexican cheese, sour cream, and jarred salsa verde. I opted to make my own tomato and avocado salsa, which was such a worthwhile way to make this dish vibrant and spectacular.
For the salsa:
1/4 ripe tomato, cubed
1/4 avocado, cubed
2 tsp onion, chopped
minced Jalapeno to taste
salt and pepper
Pile on top of:
2 small corn tortillas, heated
1/2 cup black beans, heated
2 scrambled egg whites
This breakfast has 265 calories, 6 g. fat, 16 g. protein, 38 g. carbs, and 12 g. fiber.
My great friends planned an all day hike to the Bridge to Nowhere in the San Gabriel Mountains. Without a map, we ended up hiking to actual Nowhere, several miles up a streambed that had not seen humans in a while. The terrain was rough, dry, charred from a massive wildfire (my guess is the devastating Station Fire of 2009). We climbed and descended rock piles and crossed the river again and again. In several places, our footsteps disturbed clouds of ash, blackened branches striped our faces and clothing with soot as we bent past them. Life was renewing, green spears grew from the tops of burned yucca plants, spring water trickled in the riverbed. Two golden owls alighted when they heard us and soared away through bare tree branches. Animal tracks were everywhere, wild cats and bears especially. I thought I heard the bears growling in the distance at times, and I definitely heard the snap of branches. This was frightening and added stress to an already challenging hike through unknown territory without a trail. The adventure was something I am grateful to have experienced (and survived). I loved being in absolute nature, moving my body, breathing clean air under our blue, blue Southern California sky.
For the past 8 days I have lived a little differently. I wasn’t sure what I was committing myself to at first, other than change. There was a long list of things I wanted to improve about my diet and habits. I decided to give myself the choice to do any and all of those things as often as possible for all of March. And by April I would be transformed or something.
I figured if I manage even one goal on the list, that would make a difference in my health, and if I could manage 6 or 7, I’d be winning. The attitude of the list is DO instead of DON’T, and my goals are attainable.
There is one thing blatantly absent from my Transformation list, and that is any mention of alcohol. That was February’s singular goal. I called it Sobruary, because everything I do needs a ridiculous name. I am still not drinking and (gasp) I prefer it.
The way I am eating feels great. I call it Veganish, with a surprising amount of protein. I am not losing weight so much as losing inflammation.
Here’s what I am working on, with gold stars next to things I’ve achieved:
Fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, plain yogurt, miso, fish and egg whites sparingly, dark chocolate**
less, when it feels right**
2 liters of water per day
Green and herbal tea Rose black tea** Nutribullet juice Order a Nutribullet
Wake up and get up
Have produce delivered**
Keep a journal
In bed by 11:30
IF TIME PERMITS
Shop at farmers markets**
Go to the spa**
Morning walk once a week
One 10+ mile walk**
Don’t call it a cleanse. And don’t call it a diet. I don’t feel dirty on the inside. I don’t feel fat on the outside. What I do feel is bone tired. My attempted journal entries of late all give up after a few paragraphs with some sort of scrawled complaint about being tired, so tired, so f-ing tired. I can’t quit working, and I refuse to quit living (in fact I want to do more of it), so how can I generate more energy? This month, I am cutting back on a few things, and adding others to try to find a new center of balance.
I’m calling it Transformation March. And it starts today.
And it starts without coffee.
Wait, what?! Doesn’t that mean I need more coffee?
I rely on coffee. Coffee is my friend. It is necessary to the success of my day, necessary to lighten my morning mood when the upstairs neighbors (my new alarm clock) are pounding away on my bedroom ceiling, necessary to wash down anything called breakfast, necessary preparation for a safer commute. All that makes it clear to me that I am addicted. I love and respect coffee. I don’t think coffee is bad for you. But if I am addicted to caffein, then I need to try stepping away from this nectar of the gods.
I decided not to go cold-turkey. So today, on the first day of Transformation March, I swapped my usual single mug of strong-like-bull French press coffee for a cup of rose tea. A little caffein to keep the deep throb of that certain headache at bay.
And by some miracle, I got through the day with ease. I was in a pretty good mood, I managed to eat breakfast, my car and I made it to work in one piece. Fingers crossed that tomorrow will be the same story.
I think that the absence of caffein will give me a more realistic awareness of my energy levels. I’ll probably be tired and ready for sleep earlier each night, and therefore rise earlier. When the month is over, I hope to be waking up after 8 hours of sleep feeling refreshed.
More details about Transformation March to come – my diet, beverages, exercise, and possibly a complaint or two.