How I abused my blender and saved my life

A few weeks ago, as you may remember, I suggested that a particularly horrific dream that I’d had involving Ted Cruz may have come to me because, just a few hours before going to sleep, I’d broken a “self-imposed, month-long ban on sugar, wheat, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, fried foods, and everything else that makes life worth living.” Well, as a few of you have written to me since then, asking for details about this diet of mine, I thought that I’d share a bit more… Here, for those of you who might be interested, are a few of the highlights from my month without fun.

blender2

As readers of this site may recall, I went to the hospital with chest pains about a year or so ago. After a day of tests, the doctors at the University of Michigan, satisfied that my heart was in good working order, came to the conclusion that my pain was most likely due to stomach acid making its way up, into my lungs. “It happens sometimes with stress,” they said, before suggesting that I start taking antacids and change my lifestyle.

Well, I started taking an antacid every morning, and it helped some, but, given my work schedule and other commitments, I never really followed through on the sleep, diet and exercise side of the equation. I just took my medicine and hoped for the best, and I kept right on going the same as before, spending up to 14 hours in front of an illuminated screen every day, exhausted, and totally stressed. And, on top of everything else, I also took on the additional stress of borrowing a lot of money and buying a largely vacant building in downtown Ypsi with the intention of redeveloping it. And, by the start of 2016, things had started to take a toll. Not only was I perpetually tired and sickly feeling, but I’d somehow developed a really terrible, deep and persistent cough.

Several times a day, I’d literally have to stand up, hold onto something for support, and cough to the point where I felt lightheaded. I was not only having to wake up several times a night to cough, but the people around me, as you might expect, were becoming concerned. [Some of my coworkers, I’m sure, thought that I had tuberculosis.] And, at some point, I just decided that it had to stop.

I made the decisions just after a coughing fit behind the wheel of my car had sent me veering off of Huron River Drive with my daughter in the backseat. I only blacked out for a moment, but it was enough to scare the hell out of me.

The next morning, I just got up and said, “I’m going to change my diet and see what happens.” I figured that, while I couldn’t really make time for exercise or sleep, I had some control over what I ate during the day. So I got out of bed that morning with the intention of eating only fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and lean meats. I gave up everything made with wheat, sugar, and dairy. I gave everything that I felt could be even remotely bad for me. I gave up alcohol. I gave up processed foods. I gave up fried foods. [I’d already given up caffeine about six years ago because of what it did to my anxiety, so I didn’t have to give that up.] I dusted off the expensive blender, filled it with beets, kale, some frozen berries and a handful of chia seeds I found in the cupboard, and I was on my way.

My cough was gone in three days. Completely gone…

And I started losing weight. While I don’t know exactly how much weight I lost, as I didn’t know how much I weighed at the beginning, I did begin to periodically weigh myself at some point during the first week, and I know that, by the time the first month was over, I’d lost at least 12 pounds. It wasn’t my objective to lose weight when I started, but it’s a nice side benefit, and I suspect that other health benefits will likely be had as a result. [I’m thinking that if I can keep off some of the weight, maybe I’ll get backaches less often, for instance.]

Well, as I alluded to that post referenced above, I then slowly started tapering off a few weeks ago, when I went out for a beer and some pulled pork nachos at Red Rock. I was about a month in at that point, and I could feel the pull of cheese, calling to me from the street outside… While I’ve had a few pieces of pizza since then, and a few more beers, I’ve still kept pretty true to the new diet for the most part. I still make a big smoothie every night and put it in the fridge for the next morning. And I still do my best to stay away from wheat, sweets and processed foods. I wouldn’t say that I feel great… I still need to work on the sleep and exercise… but it’s been nice to see the “whites” of my eyes actually beginning to turn white again, and sleep through the night without getting up several times to cough phlegm into a towel by my bed like a 90 year old man.

Like I said, I just started on a whim to see what would happen. I didn’t really have a plan. I’ve heard since then, however, that there are real programs that do pretty much the same thing. There’s something, for instance, called Whole 30, where you essentially give up all the same stuff that I gave up for 30 days. [There’s a book that you can get that’s full of recipes and the like.] So, if you should want to give it a shot, but think that you’d tire of grilled chicken breasts and beet smoothies, there are resources out there. All you really need is access to a lot of vegetables, a powerful blender and some willpower.

Speaking of the blender, I didn’t really kill the one pictured above. While it’s true that I’ve been abusing it, by forcing it to grind down bags of carrots each a day, that’s not what caused the explosion above. I didn’t burn out the motor by jamming it too full of produce. I just accidentally caught my sleeve on the lid while it was running, causing beet juice to fly everywhere. I don’t think the blender has much life life left in it, though. I’ve really put some miles on it these past few months. And I think it’s just a matter of time before it gives up.

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20 Comments

  1. Frosted Flakes
    Posted May 24, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing. You can feel the life changing benefits of juicing and blending vegetables within a week. I go through month or two cycles where I do it but then I feel so great–like an idiot, I quit. One thing I have done to help prolong the juicing cycle is to juice like crazy one day and put several weeks worth in the freezer. Each container, to be frozen, can have 4 or five days worth of juice.The task of juicing is a pain. Fresh is better but I think fresh frozen juice is still pretty damn good. Juicing daily is too big of an obstacle for me….you or your readers might find that method beneficial….

  2. Posted May 24, 2016 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    I can’t juice. My OCD won’t let me waste the pulp. That’s why I just blend.

  3. alan2102
    Posted May 24, 2016 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Waste the pulp? No need. Just put it in or on the ground, where it belongs. Worms and insects love it. Or add to compost heap (same idea). If you don’t juice and bury the pulp, you are denying countless thousands of annelids and arthropods access to tasty snack foods.

    Fresh juices are the easiest, most sure-fire way to take your health up to the next level. Include dark greens along with the apples and carrots.

    I’m becoming convinced that overall health varies with fruit and vegetable intake — the more servings per day, the better. Juicing and blending are essential to getting a high daily count. The only pitfall is in emphasizing fruits (sugary) over vegetables. With vegetables, no overdose is really possible.

    fruit/veg servings per day:
    <3 = average american (2 of which are french fries and catsup)
    5 = widely-recommended minimum
    10 = approximate real minimum
    15 = superior
    20 = way superior
    25 = immortality and permanent protection from malevolent spirits

  4. Frosted Flakes
    Posted May 24, 2016 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Blending is probably best.

  5. Posted May 24, 2016 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    If the blender dies, upgrade to a Bass-o-matic.

  6. Josh Chamberlain
    Posted May 24, 2016 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    classic clickbait “journalism”, your blender is alive and well

    oh glad you’re good too

  7. charlieRomeo
    Posted May 24, 2016 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Get tested for pneumonia, whilst hacking up the phlegm. No need to be a hypochondriac. Sounds like you just got caught up in mainstream american culture/narrative which is sick. Get out of it for awhile or permanently and some healthiness may ensue.

  8. Joseph Yaroch
    Posted May 24, 2016 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

    For reflux, elevating the head of the bed is the way to go.

  9. b
    Posted May 25, 2016 at 3:59 am | Permalink

    nutribullet… works great for blending.

  10. Amanda Edmonds
    Posted May 25, 2016 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    Great to hear of such a transformation– so glad you feel somewhat better from it! I intend to juice but rarely get around to it and it makes a mess, but I love love love my stick blender for smoothie making– small and easy to clean, and can make a smoothie directly in a wide mouth jar so nothing to them clean. We pick fruit in the summer locally– right now going through frozen cherries– to always have at hand. Also re: juicing pulp when I have juiced– search for recipes. I’d throw the pulp in the freezer, then you can pull it out and add food fiber/nutrients to lots of stuff- soups, muffins, etc.

  11. Steve Bean
    Posted May 25, 2016 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    I think blending is the better option so that you get the fiber with the high sugar content of the fruit and carrots. The blood sugar spike could lead to another set of health issues. Glad you found your way on this.

    I stopped eating sugar one day about 8 months ago, likewise not to lose weight, but ended up dropping almost 30 pounds. Starting to wonder if I could dunk again. ;-)

  12. Krystal Elliott
    Posted May 25, 2016 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Awesome! I’d like to second the recommendation for the Whole30 program… I’ve completed two rounds of it. Haven’t stuck with it overall, but it COMPLETELY transformed the way I look at food and nutrition and since making some major dietary changes I’ve never felt better. I’m glad you figured out what works for you.

  13. Secret health nut
    Posted May 25, 2016 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Buy one of those pricey Vitamixs. Changing your diet really works. I have been juicing for over years. I both Juice and I blend with a vita mix. Put my partner on my smoothies everyday and he lost 80 pounds and feels wonderful. He came off all of his meds including his anti-acids…true story.
    Mark, There is a guy in depot town who owns City Body, his name is Scott Sobry. He had a heart problems a few years back. He changed his diet to become mostly vegetarian as he had a genetic based propensity for high cholesterol. He got a lot healthier but he was still on 11 meds a day. A few months ago he decided to go vegan and now he is off all of his medications.You might want to go talk to him

  14. Kate Stroud
    Posted May 25, 2016 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Jenn and I did the whole30 (ish) this past month and the results have been fascinating. We sleep better, we are less crabby and Jenn has stopped sneezing every morning. It turns out Jenn reacts to wheaty beers (we think only wheat beers – PBR and Modelo are still ok as she tested the waters on her trip to Vegas). Another super interesting finding was that after drinking a shanty at Aubrees she got really irritable and emotionally grumpy one night. We talked about it the next day how weird and unsettling it was for her to be so pissed with no provocation. I still have not reintroduced sugar and dairy but once I ate a flat bread and had insta-heartburn and felt like my body was not very happy with me. Both of us have commented how our skin looks better and we are just not as haggard.

    We have chatted about how hard it is to live in a social drinking town and not drink or partake in the ease of all the restaurants we refer to as second kitchen being that we can walk to most of them. We did have a great night throwing back LaCroix at the Corner while our friends partook in the lovely Corner beer. And I hope this is not too much but I do not miss the morning after beer gut.

    Regarding recipes I love using pinterest for that purpose. My favorite is – A banana, 1/4 coconut milk from the can, cinnamon, and berries in the blender (we use a nutrabullet). It is like pudding heaven. Also spaghetti squash apple fritters are the BOMB! Today I just made some turmeric tomato soup http://detoxdiy.com/turmeric-tomato-detox-soup . I am having fun being creative with food but I am not going to lie there are sometimes I miss some foods or get cravings but they pass. My body started falling apart as soon as I turned 40. My feet were messed up, my shoulder started to hurt really bad every day, constant headaches, and random other stuff. I am not digging on continuing down whatever path I was headed.

    We need someone to open up a restaurant to accommodate this new trend of “my body is going to shit because of what I am eating I need to change”. I find most folks have a hard time because it takes time to look up recipes and be creative. We are a busy society and it shows in what we eat and what is easy.

    Side note to the “I can’t waste pulp of juicing” people – Juicing pulp makes great leathers. mix it up with some fig paste. Spread it on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and 150-200 degrees for a long time until it is dried out. Let cool and cut into reasonable pieces and refrigerate for snacks.

    Good on you Mark! Getting old is fun.

  15. alan2102
    Posted May 25, 2016 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    PS:

    1. I was half joking when I emphasized how tossing pulp into the ground is good for insects and worms. But half serious, and here’s why. There’s a global catastrophe underway wrt insect and bee populations, e.g.:
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2704973/Insect-population-45-just-35-years-Scientists-fear-drop-harm-planet-vital-role-play.html
    Insect population is down by 45% in just 35 years: Scientists fear drop could harm planet because of vital role they play
    …………….
    further info, mostly on neonicotinoid pesticides as probable culprits:
    http://www.tfsp.info/ — Task Force on Systemic Pesticides
    “Over the last few decades, scientists all over the world have been noticing dramatic declines in insect populations…”
    ……………….
    Support your local insects!

    2. Regarding vegetable juices and blood sugar: carrot juice (for example) has a glycemic index variably quoted between 45 and 70 — which is pretty good, even at the high end. Much lower than most grain products and potatoes, and roughly comparable to beans (famous for having lower glycemic index than most other carbs). And as for the loss of fiber: hey, it was never about juicing INSTEAD of eating whole foods, at least not for an extended period (i.e. beyond “juice fasts” for a few weeks).

    3. Here is a fun documentary: Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (2011) — Joe Cross’ journey to health by way of juices:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_MxCKKIgJI

  16. Posted May 25, 2016 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    You don’t have to sell me on the benefits go composting, Alan. I’ve been doing it for about 30 years now. Feed the bugs. Create good soil. Cut down on the waste going to the dump. There are a million reasons to do it. I just don’t like composting pulp because I think I should be eating it. It’s like throwing good food away. But maybe I could look for ways to use it, like some of you have said above. I really just think it’s more elegant to just blend everything, though, and drink it.

  17. freeto
    Posted May 26, 2016 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    Another note- all the nutrients in your ingredients lose potency after about 30 minutes of being exposed to oxidation. I suspect having the smoothie is better than not having it, but better still would be to blend and consume it fresh! Do you take breaks from your screen? Recommend it at least once an hour! As for the last element in your puzzle- what about cycling? It is an easy way to ingratiate your body to exercising.. Good luck and glad you self healed!!! peace…

  18. Frosted Flakes
    Posted May 26, 2016 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Freeto,

    My body tells me that it is only marginally better to drink the juice fresh. I have experimented with juicing and blending for two decades. Daily juicing or blending is a pain for many people. Those people would be much better off knowing that making 4 day batches is still extremely beneficial.

  19. alan2102
    Posted May 26, 2016 at 7:44 am | Permalink

    “I just don’t like composting pulp because I think I should be eating it.”

    Do you think you should be eating apple cores, orange peels, banana peels, coffee grounds, pecan shells, or the contents of teabags after making tea?

    Nature is extremely prolific in generating “pulp” — woody, fibrous material, such as the stuff we throw away after extracting that which we find good to eat. About 100 gigatons per year, I’ve read. If we were ruminants, like cows, we could make better use of it.

    You’re right: you should be eating some pulp. The bugs in your intestines like it. And good on you for being a veteran composter. And good on you for making fruit/veg smoothies.

  20. Posted June 1, 2016 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Hey Mark,

    I’m also going to chime in here and sing the praises of Whole30. I did it in June 2014 and have done many rounds since. It was a complete lifestyle transformation for me, and it inspired me to become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. In addition to weight loss and overall improvements, it made a profound impact on my mental health. I was diagnosed with just about every mood disorder under the sun, and was on a slew of medications. I haven’t been on any in two years. Turns out, food intolerances and blood sugar imbalances were at the root of most of my issues, and Whole30 eliminated those.

    Acid reflux is very often caused by *too little* stomach acid, which you can learn more about here: https://chriskresser.com/what-everybody-ought-to-know-but-doesnt-about-heartburn-gerd/

    Smoothies and blended fruit drinks can be healthy, but if you have blood sugar dysregulation issues, they can exacerbate them, so it’s always good to pair them with a healthy fat (e.g., nuts, coconut oil, etc.)

    Best of luck to you! I’m kind of a Whole30 evangelist, so I’m happy to talk to you if you have questions. I’m a Depot Town local. :)

    Holly

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