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If you would have asked me a year ago what I thought about "reset diets" or detoxing, I'd have probably told you it's all a crock of shit. I would have recited some perfunctory knowledge about the liver and kidneys doing all the detoxing a body needs and then silently judge you if you said you were "going on a cleanse."
Then three weeks ago, I was sitting in my nutritionist's office, next door to my doctor, listening as she shared with me the results of my blood and gut tests. It turns out, my body wasn't functioning at proficient levels, I was allergic to many foods I'd eaten my entire life, and to top it off, my liver was underperforming and fatty.
"You have a lot of inflammation in your body," she said. "I think a detox diet to eliminate processed foods and allergy triggers would really help."
The detox she prescribed was relatively simple: eat all the inflammation-fighting green vegetables I wanted, add minimal oil, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and natural sea salt, supplement with four ounces of fish per day and drink a rice-based shake to fill up in between. No fruits (aside from cucumbers and lemons) and nothing to drink but water. That, plus a pill case full of vitamins, and a week later I would be a new woman.
It sounded great until we looked at the shake ingredients. Pineapple. Vanilla. Two ingredients I had recently tested highly allergic to, and needed to avoid.
"Well, it will be a lot harder if you do this detox without the shake, but it can be done. You just need to make sure you're eating at least every two hours to stabilize your blood sugar," she warned.
In that office, smiling at my beautiful, lean nutritionist, I acted like a week of green vegetables and fish didn't faze me. Basically, I started the week off with a lie. I was terrified about the task ahead, and with good reason.
Disclaimer: My detox was monitored by my nutritionist and doctor, and tailored for my specific health needs. Please do not attempt the diet I did on your own. Don't be cray-cray. It wasn't fun. I promise.
Thankfully, I'd stocked up on things like bok choy, green beans, celery, kale, spinach and chard beforehand so I had something to eat in the morning. I made the mistake of adding everything in a blender and pureeing it into a smoothie. It was more like a "chunky" and it was disgusting.
I'd forgotten that I'd made plans a week earlier to go to lunch with my girlfriends today. I ordered a spinach salad with nothing on it but cucumbers. The waitress who took my order actually said I was weird. I know, sweetie, I know.
Photograph by Bryanne Salazar
My friend texted me in the morning to remind me of our symphony date tonight. Crap! I spent the day freaking out about what I could eat since we'd be gone longer than two hours. I'd tried boiling the remnants of the prior day's nasty smoothie, but that just made a strange brownish-green soup that was equally unpalatable.
I sent an SOS text to my nutritionist: CAN I EAT GARLIC AND ONIONS?
Her reply: Yes garlic, no onions.
Yay for small victories. After a frantic search for travel-friendly food, I finally settled on a recipe for roasted green beans. I tossed them with a tiny bit of olive oil, sea salt and, you guessed it, crushed garlic. I packed them in a small baggy in my purse to munch on at the symphony. That's right, I ate green beans out of my purse at a symphony.
I'd forgotten to eat fish and went to bed without any protein. Not smart, Bryanne.
Photograph by Bryanne Salazar
While attempting to hike with my husband and forage some wild greens, I felt weak. I had to sit down at least five times during our short foray in the wilderness. It felt like someone had slipped me a muscle relaxer, and all I wanted to do was sleep. I was also incredibly hungry. My husband rushed me to Whole Foods and force fed me some cold-smoked salmon. I ate those four ounces of smoky fish with gusto. Instantly my energy returned. For the first time, I realized how food was genuinely fuel for my body, not just something I mindlessly stuffed into my mouth for pleasure.
The day before was hard. I was still weak and if I'm honest... bitter about it all. I managed to make it through but I cheated a little. I accidentally ate double the fish allotted. Oops.
I almost quit today. Even though I'd been eating protein, drinking plenty of water, taking my prescribed vitamin supplements and consuming green vegetables every two hours, I felt tired, slow and angry. It took a lot of cajoling on Facebook by my friends to get me over the hump of self-defeat. I documented my struggle with frequent sad pictures.
Photograph by Bryanne Salazar
I had boundless, surprising energy today. I literally felt so good that I imagined I could do this for another two weeks. Crazy, I know. My jeans even fit better, sliding effortlessly over my butt. I didn't even have to jump up and down to get them on.
Like yesterday, I had more energy. I managed to tackle a few more chores and felt genuinely proud of myself for making it as far as I did.
I woke up on day 8 and popped a large sweet potato in the oven. While it baked, I boiled red lentils with garlic, ginger, onions, cumin, turmeric, chile powder, cinnamon bark and water. I also steamed some basmati rice. I ate all of it for breakfast. I now understand what heaven must feel like.
I weighed myself and, shockingly, I lost nine pounds during the detox. Some of that was muscle loss since my body literally started feeding on itself because it wasn't getting the carbs, fat and sugars it was used to. I also stopped having a lot of issues I'd had for years: headaches, belly aches, indigestion. Once I flushed the crap out of my system and loaded it with healthy stuff, my body started responding in kind. Honestly, it was really hard, but in the end I felt great.
Finally, I now have a strange kinship to Tom Hank's character in "Cast Away." I'm not even kidding. Each day was a battle to eat something and the small bites of fish I was allowed felt like a feast. I now know I could survive, at least for a week, on a deserted island.
Would I do it again? Maybe. I didn't know that I could stick with something so difficult and that gave me insight into myself in other ways. I'm determined as hell. I like that about me.