A day in Edale

Last weekend I attended the level 1 plant-based macrobiotic cooking course, presented by Macrobioticshop.co.uk, at Mam Tor House (aka The Old Winery) in the beautiful Hope Valley in the Peak District.

Our small group of just seven students was welcomed with tea and raw home-made chocolate brownies and lemon verbena raw crisps (delicious!) while we introduced ourselves in the warm September sunshine. Course leader Georgina then talked us through some of the ingredients we would be working with, their importance in a macrobiotic diet and what we could expect from the day.

The first part of the morning consisted of a couple of demonstrations by Georgina during which she created our dessert of amazake, kuzu & foraged blackberries and a vegetable miso soup. One of my specific hopes from the day was to learn to work with ingredients I’d not used before and the amazake dessert fulfilled this objective perfectly.

After the demos it was our turn to don the aprons and get cooking. We were presented with a selection of beautiful ingredients – fresh, locally grown organic vegetables, macrobiotic staples from the shop and some items foraged locally that morning. Each of us was given a recipe (or two, depending on complexity) to work with to prepare our dishes, the intention being that between us we would create a banquet that we’d share for lunch.

While our dishes were cooking, Ishmael introduced us to the process of fermentation and offered us the opportunity to sample some of his home-made, flavoured kombuchas. Kombucha (fermented, sweetened tea) was a new experience for me and quite alien to anything I’d tasted before. I think it’s something of an acquired taste but perseverance brings rewards and after my initial ‘confusion’ surrounding the fizziness of the tea, I grew to really enjoy it. The beetroot-flavoured version was particularly good.

Lunch was something for us all to be proud of. It looked great and the range of new flavours, tastes and textures were delicious and inspiring. Afterwards, the theme of fermentation continued as Ishmael led a demonstration on the making of the staple Korean dish kimchi (fermented raw vegetables). After the demo, each of us was given the opportunity to select two or three of our favourite vegetables and produce our own jar of kimchi to take away with us.

The day closed with more tea and the amazake & blackberry pudding that Georgina had prepared earlier. I’m not a sweet-toothed soul and I very rarely eat desserts but I was pleasantly surprised by the amazake. It was neither too sweet nor too creamy for my taste and I’d definitely make it at home. After lingering for a while, talking and reflecting on the day, we gradually began to make our way home.

Throughout the day it was evident that Georgina & Ishmael are clearly knowledgeable & passionate about their respective subjects. The course was well-designed & structured and delivered with a lot of love & enthusiasm. Overall, the day was a great example of the sweet stuff of life – a lot of fun; new knowledge; delicious food; inspiration; art; science; meeting new, like-minded souls and healthful treats to take home.

Master Cleanse – Part 2

Master Cleanse – Part  1

Day 11

Last night I fell asleep within 5 minutes of going to bed, which rarely happens for me. I hope this will continue. Yesterday’s positive mood, enhanced clarity and increased vitality continued throughout today.

Day 12

Rapid slumber and another great night’s sleep last night. I’m still feeling all the benefits of the past couple of days. If things continue as they are, with little or no discernible day-to-day changes, I’ll probably start grouping those days’ journal entries together in order to maintain your interest and to avoid this journal becoming overly long.

Day 13

Ha! Famous last words…. Sleep was still improved and I awoke feeling good again but then I started to become aware of a slight loss of concentration during the drive to work. This continued throughout the day. Is this the beginning of a decline? I’ll monitor this symptom closely. I increased the number of glasses of lemonade throughout the day. I’ve not been hitting the maximum 12 glasses over the past couple of days, purely because I’ve not felt sufficiently hungry.

Day 14

This morning I felt somewhat light-headed and the concentration issue persisted throughout the day.

This is of particular concern when driving. Clearly, increasing the quantity of lemonade I drank yesterday has not had the desired effect. A slight downturn in mood was also noticeable.

Day 15

A further noticeable drop in positivity and mood was apparent today and the light-headedness and lack of concentration continued. Tomorrow I plan to introduce some plain organic short-grain brown rice to my diet to see whether it will alleviate these symptoms.

Day 16

Today was basically similar to yesterday except for the addition of a bowl of brown rice at dinner time. Extra concentration was required behind the wheel during the journeys to and from work.

Day 17

The brown rice meal yesterday evening seems to have yielded some improvement to my overall mood and concentration. It was suggested to me that I’m possibly suffering from a lack of minerals so I may continue with the additional rice for a day or two.

Day 18

Further improvement in concentration and less of that light-headed feeling were noticeable again today. I’m still feeling good in myself and a colleague commented that I seemed to be in a better mood. I ate rice again this evening and sleep was deep & restful.

Days 19 & 20

The rice intake of the past 3 days has certainly made a difference. The drive to work was without issue and my concentration lasted throughout the day, on both days. I left out the rice on both days.

Day 21

Clearly the addition of rice to my diet is a significant factor in maintaining concentration, as the light-headedness and dip in mood returned today after two days without it. As the third weekend of the fast approaches, I’m wondering whether this journey is becoming a little too extreme now. Thoughts of cutting the cleanse short of the planned 28 days have begun to manifest. I’ve still got plenty of syrup left to use so I’ll see what the weekend brings.

Days 22 & 23

I ate a bowl of rice on the Saturday but not on the Sunday. I felt good throughout the weekend and I decided that I’m going to push for the target over the next five days. I’m so close! I plan to eat a bowl of rice on alternate days during the home run.

Days 24 – 27

There appears to be little or no change to my overall well-being from day-to-day and as a result, these last few days have become increasingly boring. I continue to feel vital, sharp and I’m still feeling all the positive benefits that became so apparent during days 9 to 12. It seems that I’ve reached the peak.

Day 28

Yes!! Job done! The sense of achievement alone is sufficient to carry me through today. Extra syrup and rice for me this evening, I reckon I’ve earned it. I’m so looking forward to fresh, home-made organic apple, beetroot, carrot and broccoli juice for breakfast tomorrow.

Epilogue

10 days have passed since I finished the fast so I thought I’d share some thoughts on my post-cleanse experience. For the first three days I gradually transitioned back from liquids to more solid foods, basically a reversal of the ease-in process. I ditched the occasional meal of brown rice that I’d been eating as the juices and pulps were sufficient to provide the necessary vitamins and minerals that I became deficient in during the second half of the fast.

Having not shopped for almost a month, going to the stores has been a novel experience. I’ve bought only organic produce, mainly vegetables, brown rice and dried beans & pulses. I’ve also started my move toward macrobiotics by getting into sea vegetables, tempeh, seitan, miso and various flavouring condiments. I’ve really enjoyed the new things I’ve tried so far and I’ve felt a real sense of well-being knowing that I’m only consuming the best-available nourishment. It’s kinda like ‘everything counts’ now – pure total goodness!

The transition back to solids has had some noticeable effects on my body. I’ve again experienced some sensitivity in the digestive tract which is diminishing as time passes. I guess this is due to the return of the natural peristaltic function that becomes suppressed when consuming only liquids. Also noteworthy is that I’m eating less than I used to and I’ve not had any of the previous cravings for snacks that I used to get, which I’m really happy about.

Towards the end of the cleanse it occurred to me that my weight might continue to drop slightly as my metabolic rate increased and returned to normal. This seems counter-intuitive and is not what I’d intended but it has, in fact, been the case. By the end of the fast I’d shed about 6 kilos and during the following week I lost another one. My weight has now stabilised and my body shape is as before, only leaner.

My lemonade master cleanse experience has been a good one overall. As with any fast, it had its tough moments and 28 days is probably pushing things for the first one. The recommended duration for a first-timer is 10 days and the record for the longest fast is reported as being 356 days! It’s definitely something I’d consider doing again periodically, although hopefully my new dietary regime means it won’t be necessary. It’s definitely a worthwhile exercise in self-discipline and focusing the mind. For further information visit http://themastercleanse.org/.

Thanks to Georgina at Macrobiotic Shop for providing the maple syrup and for the educational gems & dietary wisdom along the way. I look forward to meeting you and extending my knowledge of macrobiotics at your next cookery class.

By Mel

Master Cleanse – Part  1

The master cleanse

The Master Cleanse by Mel

For many years my dietary regime was based on the premise of only eating that which can be caught or picked. I shunned processed & tinned foods and avoided as many refined substances as possible, particularly white foodstuffs such as sugar, flour, rice and pasta. Then, around 20 years ago, I gave up eating all meat apart from seafood. More recently I’ve also relinquished even that due to the ever-increasing amount of pollution being released into our oceans and, specifically, the fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Contamination of our food is, of course, not limited to our waters. The ongoing contamination (accidental & deliberate) and genetic modification of our crops, coupled with the use of poisonous fertilisers, insecticides and fungicides means that it is more difficult than ever before to source clean, wholesome nutrition.

These reasons are the primary motivating factor for my undertaking the master cleanse. Once complete, I plan to consume only organic and whole foods where possible and I’ve also begun to research switching to a macrobiotic-only diet in time. Common sense and a small amount of critical thinking inform me that in order to maximise the benefits of making these changes, it is first necessary to start with as clean a digestive system as possible otherwise what is the point? It’s the classic scenario of deconstruction prior to reconstruction, applied to nutritional intake.

The re-education of the digestive system and its effects on the body is not something to be entered into lightly and I’m expecting to experience a number of side-effects as I progress through the cleanse. These may include headaches; cold & flu symptoms; dermal symptoms such as spots; tenderness of the digestive tract; feeling light-headed and a reduced ability to concentrate.

There are numerous other worthwhile & diverse reasons for cleansing which I won’t dwell on here. One such example is the gradual deconstruction of the National Health Service here in the UK to a system that is increasingly mirroring that of the USA. This process is already well underway. It is becoming more incumbent on individuals to take responsibility for their own health if they wish to avoid the looming cost of medical care and to minimise the financial liability of (not) being able to afford medical insurance.

Governing all of this is one very important factor which should not be ignored – INSTINCT! I feel that the time is right for me to embark on this adventure; to make these changes in my life. I hope that I will be a happier, healthier, more positive individual, with an increased sense of overall well-being as a result. The following quotes bring it all together perfectly for me:

“There will be a few times in your life when all your instincts will tell you to do something, something that defies logic, upsets your plans, and may seem crazy to others. When that happens, you do it. Listen to your instincts and ignore everything else. Ignore logic, ignore the odds, ignore the complications, and just go for it.”
Judith McNaught, Remember When

and

“It’s very simple. Keep your body as clean as possible, your mind as clear as possible. That’s all you need. And do it in anyway you can, in your own way. It doesn’t matter. That’s why I say ‘peaceful body, peaceful mind’. And then you’ll be useful. You don’t have to become a useful person. You will be useful.”
Swami Satchidananda

Ingredients used

  • Terrasana organic 100% maple syrup, grade C (dark colour, robust, smoky flavour)
  • Organic lemons
  • Fresh organic cayenne pepper
  • Filtered water
  • Organic laxative senna tea (don’t use psyllium-based laxative tea)

Quantities Used & Method

  • 2 x tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 x tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • one eighth to one quarter teaspoon cayenne pepper according to taste. Use as much as you can handle but bear in mind that the level of heat you feel in your throat and stomach after drinking will be reflected later at the other end!
  • 8 – 10 oz water

I found that the pepper is more easily combined if it is mixed with the syrup first. Then add the freshly squeezed lemon juice and water. The lemon needs to be freshly squeezed in order to preserve the enzymes within.

Drink a glass or two of the mixture at meal times and whenever you feel hungry. A minimum of 6 glasses should be consumed each day although more is better, up to a maximum of 12 per day.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day.

1 cup of laxative tea MUST be taken first thing in the morning and another one before bed. This is essential to instigate the necessary bowel movement which would normally happen naturally when consuming solid food. Lack of a bowel movement is dangerous.


Preparation

A 3 day ease-in is recommended to allow the digestive system to adjust to a liquid-based diet. As someone who habitually eats a lot of raw vegetables, pulping and juicing these was an easy solution. I ate home-made hummus, fruit and raw veg on the first day and gradually increased the amount of these that I juiced on days two and three.

Observations

Days 1 – 3

Hunger pangs were the main issue for me during the first few days. I found that these can be suppressed by increasing the amount of cayenne pepper. Once I had the balance right, I was surprised by the lack of a hungry feeling. A mild headache developed on the third evening.

Day 4

Cold symptoms developing comprising sneezing, runny nose, sore throat and increased mucus production. Faint headache persisting but feeling good “in myself”.

Day 5

Cold symptoms worsening, mild ache in kidneys, headache persisting but becoming intermittent. Mild tenderness in the gut which feels like internal bruising – a sure sign that the cayenne pepper is having its cleansing effect.

Day 6

Peak cold symptoms and continuing kidney tenderness. A few spots developing on face. Feeling run down today.

Day 7

Cold symptoms and tenderness in kidneys subsiding. I’m feeling a rush of energy up the body after each glass of the mixture.

Day 8

Cold symptoms, kidney pain and tenderness in gut have gone. I feel that I’ve passed the low point and that I’m now rebounding. Run-down feelings of the last few days have disappeared and I’m feeling more energised after each drink.

Day 9

Feeling better again with increased vitality. A colleague who was unaware of my cleansing adventure remarked that I look younger today and that my eyes are brighter. My skin feels less dry and despite the occasional spot, it looks clearer. Sleep was more restful and long-lasting. After 9 days, weight loss is around 3 kilos.

Day 10

This morning I awoke feeling a distinct improvement in my overall well-being. Increased energy, vitality, focus and clarity are remarkable – an almost “wired” feeling, if you will. My general mood is also noticeably more positive and light-hearted. There is definite spring in my step and during the somewhat stressful drive to work I was calmer, sharper & able to anticipate the road ahead with an apparently effortless clarity.

Master Cleanse – Part  2