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Review: Insanity DVD Workout Program – Part 2 (Days 17-60)

12 Nov

Finally, Part 2 of my review! (It’s been a very busy last month and so I’ve had to keep putting this aside to do in the past weeks)

I started the 60 day Insanity program on August 5th and completed it on  October 5th, doing my final Fit Test on October 7th, and the results are in!

In Part 1 of my  review, I covered only the first 2 weeks of the program, which was a good introduction on what to expect from carrying out the grueling 6 day-a-week fitness regime that was to continue on for another month-and-a-half more. I have to say that it took a lot of discipline to get the workouts in every day, with almost no fail (I only skipped 2 days, due to a bad head cold, but mostly made up for it later on in the week), and I commend anyone else who has a busy life who has made the time and effort to complete what is known to be the most difficult DVD workout program out there. But having discipline is essentially the single key to completing this program. And as I said before, there is pretty much no way you cannot be successful at this program as long as you complete it.

Here’s a look at the calendar (which comes with the DVDs) that I dutifully followed every day for 2 months:

The Insanity regime.

The insane Insanity regime.

So after completing Month 1, I was “treated” to the “Recovery Week”, which entailed following the same 37 minute “Core Cardio and Balance” DVD every day. You would think you would really get a break from during the workouts on this week, but I would say that it was only marginally easier than the preceding month, and I find that the “Core Cardio and Balance” workout is still a fantastically challenging session that will still leaving you sweating. (and I actually continue to use this particular workout now when I want a short,  but effective exercise session)

The purpose of this week of “recovery” was to give the body somewhat of a rest from what had been a month of extremely hard work. It could be described as the calm before the outrageous storm that was to come in Month 2!

In Month 2, you move on to the 2nd half of DVDs included in the set, which make the workouts from Month 1 seem simple, premature and benign. This is to say that the program in Month 2 is 100% more hardcore!! Whereas Month 1’s workouts averaged at about 40 minutes long (that is, 40 minutes of torture), the different workouts in Month 2 average from 48-59 minutes each. So, minus the warm up and cool down components, instead of doing 20 minutes of intense non-stop exercises, you’re doing about 40 minutes instead – which means 20 more minutes of  jumping, punching, push upping, and, especially, dripping more sweat than you had ever imagined was possible. But, it IS possible, and the elongated workouts suddenly become the norm and you wonder why you even did the Month 1 workouts before, which now seem silly and ineffective in retrospect.

The extended Month 2 workouts throughout the week are simply a longer and harder version of Month 1’s workouts. After all, by now your bi-weekly Fit Tests have proven that your level of fitness has been progressing, so it’s time to step it up and challenge yourself even more, to the max! (hence the preceding “Max” in the title of each of Month 2’s DVDs) Month 2’s workouts also include a variety of new exercises, most building upon ones that you’ve already grown accustomed to carrying out for the prior 5 weeks, so the bridging is a natural transition, and the new moves also mix up the sessions to maintain your interest. Even the music played during the sessions changes up a bit as well! And, notably for Month 2, at the end of your 48 or 55 or 59 minute hard core session, you feel that much more accomplished, having completed a workout so strenuous and taxing that you have your doubts in your abilities while you are doing it – but as long as you keep pushing, keep motivated, and just keep going, you know that you’ll eventually reach the end of the session to allow yourself that grandiose moment of self-praise at  the end when Shaun T. proclaims “You did it!” (and while your DVD workout companions are aptly passed out flat on the floor).

Yes, these workouts in Month 2 are extremely strenuous and taxing on the body, so much so that I found myself to be injured for the whole last 3 weeks of the 2nd month, with a pulled shin muscle, a sprained ankle, and what felt like a dislocated shoulder (from all the vigorous punching movements involved). And the problem was that due to the stringent Monday to Saturday schedule of the program, with only Sundays off for rest, there weren’t enough days to recover the body from my injuries. This meant that for those last three weeks of the program, I was in constant pain, and continuously injured, and had to modify my movements as well, since I could barely jump at all when the exercises called for it.

The lack of recovery time in Insanity is a criticism I heard from a co-worker of mine as well who is familiar with the program, and this is an issue that should be taken note of when carrying it out. I chose to continue pushing myself every day, definitely toning down the intensity of some of my movements (the jumping), because I had to, but still working to my utmost maximum intensity so that I could reap the benefits (make progress) in the program as much as possible before it ended. I was determined to finish it, and I did!

Here are my results from each of the 5 scheduled Fit Tests that I did throughout. While the amount of progress in the latter tests sometimes wavered and even declined a bit (remember, my injuries), note the overall progress of results from the Day 1 test as compared to the final Day 60 test!

Day 1 Day 15 Day 30 Day 45 Day 60
Switch Kicks 134 137 150 148 150
Power Jacks 50 49 56 56 53
Power Knees 71 83 93 113 109
Power Jumps 32 40 44 50 49
Globe Jumps 28 35 40 37 42
Suicide Jumps 13 16 17 17 18
Push Up Jacks 27 30 35 37 40
Low Plank Oblique 33 50 76 74 93
The Fit Test exercises.

The Fit Test exercises.

The results don’t lie, and clearly indicate the increase of my overall fitness level from Day 1 to Day 60. So from this perspective, I have to say that I am rightfully impressed with the impact of the program. Shaun T. has designed a program that is guaranteed to greatly step up your fitness levels, as long as you abide by it and just try your hardest. You need not be as fit and ripped as your fellow workout classmates on the DVD (or even fit or ripped at all) to get results. From doing this 60 day program, I can say that I am now fitter than I ever have been in my life, and that’s been a lifetime of ongoing exercise since I was 13 years old. As a naturally “unfit” person, I now feel empowered to carry out intensive body moves that I had not delved into much before. They are now the norm for my fitness routine as, one month later, I am still doing the Insanity workouts as part of my regular workout program – just for fun! (and for its effectiveness, too!)

However, I should address the issue of weight loss, since it seems that most people lose a great amount of weight on this program. I, however, did not. (surprise, surprise) As I had mentioned in Part 1 of this review, in the first 2 weeks, I merely maintained my weight throughout the program (but at least wasn’t gaining), and this continued throughout the rest of the program until I entered my 5th week and suddenly had no appetite (not related to doing Insanity, I’m sure), and so entered an involuntary 2 week fast, which mostly continued for a 3rd week as well, after my appetite had returned. It was only during this time that I began to lose weight, and dropped 9lbs and then gained back 1 in that first week of fasting, for a net weight loss of 8lbs, which I kept off after the program ended. I am certain this weight wouldn’t have come off if I had been eating during this time, so I definitely do not credit the exercise program for loss of pounds!

Whereas I didn’t notice much (or any) weight loss from doing the program, I did experience some marginal changes in my girth measurements of various body parts, which I took at the beginning and at the end of completing the program. These were my results:

Waist: loss of 1.25″
Hips: loss of 1″
Right thigh: no change
Left thigh: loss of 0.6″
Chest: loss of 1.25″
Right bicep: loss of 1/8″
Left bicep: loss of 1.12″
Right shoulder: gain of 1/4″
Left shoulder: gain of 1″
Neck: loss of 1/8″

Also, shortly after I finished the program, I went out for my first run in over 2 months, and it felt great! But of note is that when I checked my working heart rate, I noticed that it had gone down by 12 to 18 beats per minute, and this decrease in bpm (and thus increase in cardiovascular fitness) has maintained itself since then, I’ve noticed. This change is significant for me, since my bpm had been consistently at 180 for the last few years, and 192 all my life before that. Wow, is all I can say!

One more thing that I want to note in this review is that while my Fit Test results largely improved from the first day to the last (meaning that I could do a lot more repetitions of the different exercises in the last part of the program compared to the first day), and while I become noticeably stronger and faster, I never did notice that the laborious exercises ever became easier – and I don’t think that they are supposed to! You can see the über-fit classmates struggling hard on the DVD, having to take frequent breaks, and even Shaun T. can’t do the full  repetitions of many of his own exercises! So the challenge continues, and this is why I continue to follow the DVD workouts in my now “post-Insanity” regime. I’ve completed the 60 day program and am better for it, but there is always more that I can achieve, and I will still keep doing these workouts for awhile longer yet, until my next new challenge is to come. (I am aiming for P90X!)

Review: Insanity DVD Workout Program – Part 1 (Days 1-16)

25 Aug


How insane are you?

I’m always looking for ways to push my physical limits in order to achieve maximum fitness levels, and tackling the Insanity workout program has been on my bucket list for awhile now. It is touted as “the hardest workout ever put on DVD”, and also one of the most effective in achieving results of weight loss and accelerated fitness (along with P90X). The intensity of the workouts and its no nonsense approach have always been particularly appealing to me, and I wanted something that was going to promise results with a lot of hard work.

I don’t mind sweating for the prize at the end of the rainbow, and, in fact, I thrive off seeing results after you know you’ve worked your hardest. So this seems to be a great program for me and for anyone else who is willing to push themselves to their limits and beyond in order to achieve success, no matter how painful or inconvenient the process will be. This is just another challenge for me in the big picture that is known as “life”, and one of the most arduous daily physical demands I have ever faced.

The Insanity program is a 60 day prescription that involves knocking out daily workouts from Monday to Saturday with a day of rest every Sunday. That might sound really grueling, but every Thursday is also somewhat of a “rest” day (aka “Cardio Recovery”), where the workout follows a routine akin to a yoga session, so it splits the high intensity workout week into a psychologically manageable half. The sessions are led by trainer “Shaun T”, a super motivational guy whose never ending barks of enthusiasm are being etched into my mind everyday of this ongoing adventure. When I turn on the DVD and hear him yell at me to “dig deeper!”, I am reminded that this is what the program is truly all about – to do your own personal best and go beyond, whatever that means to you.

For each day of the first month, you follow a different workout DVD, specified from: the Fit Test, the Plyometric Cardio Circuit, Cardio Power & Resistance, Pure Cardio & Cardio Abs, and, as I said, Cardio Recovery. (the 2nd month follows a whole new set of workouts, but I’ll cover that when I get there) Each cardio workout in its entirety ranges from 38-41 minutes, with the exception of doing Pure Cardio (38 mins) and Cardio Abs (16 mins) in the same day, which starts occurring in the 2nd week. And each day’s 40-ish minute cardio workout starts off with an 8-10 minute cardio warm-up, followed by about 7 minutes of stretching, followed by 15-20-ish minutes of hardcore intense activity, followed by a 3-7 minute cool down stretch. When you see it broken down into these 4 segments, the workout seems much more attainable, rather than thinking about it as one big challenge.

These sessions are designed to get you into your best shape in all aspects of fitness, from cardiovascular health, to flexibility, to core strength and muscular development of the limbs, and I like this ‘all-round’ approach to the program, which focuses on what is called “maximum interval training”, as opposed to just regular interval training where you are doing intense exercises for shorter periods of time. Maximum interval training works you out at an intense level for a longer duration of time with only brief 30 second breaks between intervals.

What I also like about the program is that each day’s workout is short (only about 40 minutes), and you can do it in the convenience of your own home. I use floor space in my living room that measures about 1.5 metres squared, and this is all the space you need to carry out a myriad of different circuit exercises that involve all kinds of quick jumping, kicking and bending movements (many sports drills), plus many calisthenic exercises such as push-ups in various forms. You’re really getting an amazing workout here that doesn’t only make your body pour with sweat to burn calories, but is also working on your fitness levels overall! Just into the first week of the program, I could already see that there is no way that a person can do Insanity without improving his/her fitness levels, and this was proven with my Fit Test results from Days 1 and 15.

I don’t consider myself to be a super fit person (which is why I am doing this program), but I would consider myself to be “moderately” fit, since I incorporate a lot of exercise into my lifestyle already and have for many years. Being “moderately” fit, I may not be doing every exercise (or most exercises) in its perfect form or as fast as the fellow classmates on the DVD do (who are all outrageously fit, by the way), but I am still working my hardest and my heart rate is up where it should be, and there is sweat constantly dripping from every part of my body, and that is really all it takes to do what you need to do to achieve results on this program.

The first week of the program was really hard on my body – total soreness after the 1st and 2nd days, and by the time I got to my last workout of the week, my calves were so incredibly sore and tight, I could barely walk for a few days! This was the conditioning I needed, however, to prepare my body to get used to this daily event, which I actually mostly look forward to conquering every day. And into the second week, the complete muscle soreness was gone and my body is now acclimating to the new levels of activity it is taking on.

Weight loss is probably a main reason why most people do this program. If you look online for peoples’ results, you’ll see that weight losses of 30lbs or more on this 2 month program seem to be the norm. So I thought that maybe this program could provide the key to unlock my own process of doing something for effective weight loss. I thought that because I had never done an all-round fitness program such as this one, which works on improving your core fitness (and thus speeding up your metabolism), as opposed to just burning calories from a workout, that maybe I would experience some amazing weight loss results as well. However, on Day 16 here, this has not yet proven to be the case. I have basically stayed within the same 2lb range as what I started off as 16 days ago, and as of yesterday, my weight is exactly 0.6lbs less than Day 1 of the program, which really is no change at all.

But…. the real results lie in the comparison of my Fit Test that is done every 2 weeks on the program. The Fit Test comprises of doing 8 different exercises as fast as you can for 1 minute each, and then counting how many repetitions you accomplished. Here are the results from my first 2 Fit Tests, which speak for themselves!

Day 1 Day 15
Switch Kicks 134 137
Power Jacks 50 49
Power Knees 71 83
Power Jumps 32 40
Globe Jumps 28 35
Suicide Jumps 13 16
Push Up Jacks 27 30
Low Plank Oblique 33 50

While power jacks are not my forté because they put stress on my damaged knees, you can see here that a moderate amount of improvement in all the other exercises, in only the first 2 weeks, has taken place! I compared these results to that of another person who wrote a review online, and hers were similar as well. I am really looking forward to my next Fit Test in 2 more weeks! I thrive on seeing measurable results like these.

One thing to note is that while you only need about one hour in your day for each day’s workout (and that includes time for getting motivated, putting on your workout gear, and putting the dvd into the tv), this may prove a little bit difficult if you have certain days of the week where you just don’t really have time at all, which is what my Fridays are like for me – they’re a day that I normally take off from exercise. But because I totally want to do this program by the book and not skip a single workout (that’s 6 days a week for 60 days straight!), this just means getting up earlier in the day to quickly squeeze in that Insanity session. And yes, scheduling in the workouts may take some creativity and discipline, but it is totally worth it, and you know that after your 40 minutes are over and you feel so much more invigorated in life than you had 40 minutes before!

I’m sure I’ll have more to add in my next report about the program, coming up in a few weeks! If you have any questions about the program, let me know, and I’ll address them next time.

Check out a short video about the program here, so you can watch the moves in action. As one of the participants in this segment says, “This ain’t for everybody, but if you’re a masochist, bring it!”

Click here for Review: Insanity DVD Workout Program – Part 2 (Days 17-60).

Book review: Ani’s 15-Day Fat Blast: The Kick-Ass Plan to get Lighter, Tighter, and Sexier… Super Fast, by Ani Phyo – Part 2

22 May

…continued from Part 1.

In Phase 2, the weight loss stopped happening for me. I started off at 135.2lbs at the beginning of this program, and then went down to 132.4lbs after Phase 1 (on the 4 day of the program), went down to 131.4lbs on the 5th day, and then I seemed to reach my plateau, despite exercising every day, and following the meal plan (but eating less than required every day, due to already being full on about half the prescribed amount of food). Actually, on my 6th day, I actually gained weight! Went back up to 132lbs, then down, up, down, up. So at the end of Phase 2, I was a disappointing 132.2lbs, which was pretty much the same as I had been at the end of Phase 1. The headaches started to lessen when I started Phase 2, and were gone by the end of it.

Phase 2 introduced pre-biotics and pro-biotics (which are supposed to “eat away belly fat”), plus “healthy fats” such as avocado, coconut oil, and nuts. There were a LOT of these healthy fats from Phase 2 and onward in the program, and so I wasn’t surprised that my body wasn’t losing weight due to the high caloric content of the meals. For example, after one day of Phase 2 where I actually gained weight, I calculated the caloric content of the day’s food (and I had actually eaten all the prescribed food that day, I think, or at least close to it), and it came to 1400 calories! So no wonder I wasn’t losing weight with that kind of caloric intake (where 1 tbsp of olive or coconut oil racks up over 100 calories)! With exercise, I cannot take in more than 1100 calories a day and expect to lose weight. I know other people can, but my body is weird and doesn’t work that way.

There are some desserts, too, like this yummy and satisfying Peach Crumble.

There are some desserts, too, like this yummy and satisfying Peach Crumble.

Phase 2 was Days 3-7, and Phase 3 (the final phase) was days 8-15. I was still really enjoying all the different foods in the meal plan, and Phase 3 was no exception. In fact, in Phase 3, you get to eat some yummy desserts! And this is where I want to talk about some of my favorite recipes in the whole meal plan itself.

But before I get to that, I should mention that there are a few foods that I absolutely detest and cannot tolerate, and so I omitted the meals that called for these certain ingredients (pineapple, grapefruit, and mushrooms) and substituted them with other meals from that phase or below. This was totally fine to do, according to Ani. She stresses the flexibility in this program, and also stresses that she wants you to be full and satisfied while on this “diet”. (even though it really doesn’t feel like a diet!) So it’s okay to go ahead and make more food to eat if you feel that that’s what you want – but that was never the case with me!

So as for the meals that I loved, there are a few that I want to give attention to. First of all, the beloved shakes (which I started my every day with, much like in my regular life, but with way more variety) My favorite shake, hands down, was definitely the Chocolate Banana Mylk Shake, but that’s to be expected when you’re blending bananas and chocolate together! I really enjoyed the Blueberry Blast and Orange Vanilla Shakes as well, and other shakes that followed the same basic model, that is: blend one type of fruit with some nuts, some ice, some water with a bit of matcha in it, and maybe some coconut oil or cinnamon – and you’ve got a delicious drink that will take most of the day to drink because it keeps you super satiated! (due to the fat content, I think – Ani says that these drinks are designed to keep you satisfied)

Kreamy Chipotle Salad

Kreamy Chipotle Salad – another winner.

With regards to the salads, I was blown away by the deliciousness of the various dressings, as combined with the really wholesome mix of greens (mesclun mix, romaine, cabbage, etc.) and veggies, such as cucumbers, bean sprouts, and/or shredded carrots. My favorite salad overall was the Spring Sauerkraut Salad with Thermo Dressing. I actually learned to like sauerkraut (which I had always thought I hated, but really, I didn’t) because of this salad, and the mixture of bean sprouts, sauerkraut and the creamy, tangy miso-based dressing was one of the best things I had eaten in quite some time.

Again, I must stress that you don’t feel deprived on this diet, and, in fact, the food is absolutely delicious, which is why you don’t even feel like you’re on a diet. Think of it more as just a new and exciting way to eat, rather than a meal plan of restrictions.

The Cabbage Salad with Cucumber Miso Dressing was also fantastic (another great dressing on a bed of ever-so-healthy shredded cabbage and carrots), and I loved the Corn and Basil Mesclun Salad because it taught me to eat fresh, uncooked corn from the cob – something that I had not even known before was possible, and so delicious!!

Moving on to the soups, you might think it’s weird to eat a soup that isn’t piping hot, because if it’s room temperate or cold, then it’s kind of just like a savory smoothie, right? Right – but there is really nothing wrong with that. Sometimes I would pack my soups for work in my Vitamix drink bottle and just drink it from the bottle – so delicious, flavourful, and sometimes spicy, too!

I loved the Coconut Tomato Soup. I loved its simplicity in that it was only raw tomatoes (which I am not a fan of at all, on their own), a bit of coconut oil, a bit of miso, and a bit of ginger and optional garlic. But the mélange of all these ingredients in my blender turned out one of the most delicious concoctions you can imagine! And this was the case for so many of the other soups as well: blend a handful of simple ingredients together and, in minutes, you have an amazing and filling meal to eat that is low on calories and high in nutritive value. This is a way of eating that I need to start adopting into my regular lifestyle.

Celery Almond Pate

The Celery Almond P̢t̩ РI can eat this forever!

As for the recipe section in the book entitled “Rolls, Wraps, Noodles, Patés”, I certainly do have some favorites from here, even though I didn’t eat everything from this section (avoiding the mushroom meals, and seaweed ones as well – another food that I can’t stand). It was from this section that I fell officially in love with kelp noodles, and that is because of the amazing Marinara Sauce that I made to go with them, which was incredibly simple to make and I’m flabbergasted at how blending together so simple ingredients (cherry tomatoes, a few herbs, lemon juice, and olive oil) can make one of the tastiest sauces ever! I loved this dish so much that I made it 3 times over the course of the program.

I was also blown away by the deliciousness and simplicity of the Celery Almond Paté, which was so good on its own, I thought. I just ate it straight with a fork – no wrapping or dipping accompaniments needed. When you mix together chopped celery, ginger, garlic, raisins, miso, some herbs, and almond meal, this happens to create an amazing “paté” that I could eat forever.

By the end of the 15 Day Fat Blast program, my total weight loss was a paltry 4.6lbs. After the initial weight loss in the “liquid only” part of the program, the remaining daily meals in the program allowed me to only just maintain my weight (all while exercising daily as well). But while I didn’t lose anywhere near the promised 15lbs as I had hoped for at the beginning of this program, I feel that what I gained was so much more valuable, which was the introduction of a true transition to 100% raw plant-based eating. As I said at the beginning of this review, this is something that I had been striving for for the past few years, and now, I’ve finally accomplished it! I’ve been completely raw now for the last 18 days!

Fudge Brownies w- Fresh Berries

Fudge Brownies with Fresh Berries – simple ingredients, satisfying flavour.

I would like to see this “Fat Blast” program touted not so much as a way to lose weight, but more so as a transition into an extremely healthy (and new) way of eating. I was able to experience so many good things from carrying out the meal plan of this program. I learned how to make (and enjoy) so many new and healthy foods; my mindset has now shifted, I believe, to want to eat fully (or at least more) raw in the future; and I learned the practical process of how to actually “go raw” (and to do it the right way).

When I went into a supermarket the other day to buy some peaches, I looked along the middle isles of the store and it seemed really weird to me to see that these aisles consisted of “food” that was mostly all in boxes and plastic packaging! I feel so much more removed from these processed products now and really have no desire to have them back in my life. What’s in these boxes and plastic bags is not food. Food is the variety of fruits, vegetables and greens that we have abundant to us (at least here in North America), and there are so many combinations in which to eat these that you can never get bored from it. Food is deliciousness that grows on trees or in the ground. Food is not something that has multiple ingredients written on a label, and packaged with preservatives and a big fancy colourful label!

It is fully my intention to continue to incorporate many of the recipes in this book into my regular lifestyle, and I am so grateful to have been introduced to these delicious and super healthy recipes that utilize solely whole plant foods. I plan to continue on this path as well in discovering more delicious things to eat by buying Ani’s other books and tackling the raw food books that I already own. So thank you to Ani Phyo for this book! I may not have gotten lighter, tighter and sexier, but I ate delicious, wholesome, and healthy food for 15 days, all made from pure ingredients, and that is what I ultimately value and take away from this experience!

Book review: Ani’s 15-Day Fat Blast: The Kick-Ass Plan to get Lighter, Tighter, and Sexier… Super Fast, by Ani Phyo – Part 1

22 May

anis fat blast coverI must admit, I have had this book for quite some time now – about a year – and had always wanted to try out this “15 Day Fast Blast” – a diet plan of wholly raw foods -, but had been somewhat apprehensive about it all this time. Why? Although I’ve been experimenting with a high raw diet for the last 2 years, and have been wanting to go completely raw vegan for that period of time, the “fear factor” of consuming only raw foods for 2 weeks kind of got to me. Could I do it? Would it be difficult? Would I be hungry? Going on a “diet” is synonymous to me with being deprived, and I like my food too much to want to be deprived, especially if I’m unsure of what the results will be. Well, one year later, I finally did it, and the only thing that I regret is that it took me this long to finally embrace the challenge!

Ani Phyo, for those who don’t know, is a household name in the world of raw vegan cuisine. She is an expert in the raw kitchen and has already put out four other raw recipe books to date. This book was my first introduction to her food, but it’s a bit of foray from her other books that read exclusively as “cook” books; this book is primarily written as a diet plan that promises the reader that they will lose 15lbs in 15 days by following the daily meal plan as provided.

I had my doubts as to whether the weight loss of 15lbs would or could work for me, since that would put me at 120lbs, and I’ve never been that weight in my life! (ok, not since about grade 10, but I was still growing then, so it doesn’t really count) I definitely have more than 15lbs of fat to lose, but despite my already fairly healthy vegan diet and my regular exercise regime of 5 workouts a week, it is extremely difficult for me to manage my weight to get it in the 120s. So this diet was going to prove, once and for all, that if I ate the best diet possible in the world (a raw vegan diet of whole fruits and vegetables) and continued with my exercise, would the weight just “naturally fall off”? (as is always promised by various vegan and raw advocates in the community)

Apparently, once you transition to a vegan diet, your “excess” weight is supposed to naturally come off, without effort. That certainly never happened to me when I went vegan years ago (in fact, I gained a lot of weight). So would it work for me when following a 100% raw vegan diet of fruits and vegetables? That was the question, which you will discover the answer to shortly!

I love the way this book reads. Ani guides you along the path, as your mentor, giving you encouragement and motivation every step of the way. Her language is fun and invigorating. Her words are consistently conveyed in an upbeat manner, and I must say that it’s this continuous positive re-enforcement that is a key to keeping the reader moving along to actually do everything they need to do to begin the program. She focuses on regularly checking in with your emotions during the program, and so you feel that she is with you there every step of the way.

I would think that the 15 day food meal plan program, itself, would be quite daunting for the average person entrenched in a lifestyle of the Standard American Diet to face. But it was even daunting for me, even though I was already familiar with most of the foods needed for the program! I think what was intimidating to me was the whole proposed process of putting all these foods together, multiple times a day, to create creative dishes that I was not so used to eating. (not raw, at least) Luckily for me, I already had all of the non-perishable ingredients (except for the matcha powder) in my pantry, so it was just a matter of buying fresh produce like apples, tomatoes and greens to really get started.

But I can understand that if a person didn’t already have ingredients called for in this program such as spirulina, coconut oil, miso paste, cacao powder, and stevia, it would certainly be more of an effort (plus a great monetary expense) to have to purchase all of those items at once. Not to mention that the majority of the recipes call for using a $500 high speed blender, which most people don’t have. (though, of course, you can get through the plan with a regular cheap-o blender, and it shouldn’t diminish the experience too much)

Once you have the required ingredients, however (and yes, there is a very convenient set of shopping lists in the book to follow), the food making part is super duper easy, and super duper FUN! Yes, the “blast” part about the diet (in my opinion), is that it’s really just a blast to be able to make all this delicious and nutritious food to eat!

Packing my soups for the day!

Packing my soups for the day!

The 15 day program is broken down into 3 phases. In Phase 1, Ani says the purpose of this phase is to “reboot your body”, so that you can start with a “clean slate and a clean engine.” Fair enough! It consists of a purely liquid diet, and you may think that that means you’re going to go hungry, but this was not the case at all. You’re constantly drinking in your nutrition throughout the day, and, honestly, my stomach couldn’t even take in all of the prescribed daily meals: a shake for breakfast, a shake for a morning snack, a soup for lunch, another shake or soup for an afternoon snack, and another soup for dinner. I found that it really was too much for me, and so my initial fear of “being deprived” was really nothing to be concerned about, since the breakfast shake and dinner soup was about all I could take in each of these days. The drink meals, I found, were satisfying, tasty, and filling.

Ani says her test subjects lost an average of 3-5lbs in Phase 1. Since I was on a low calorie diet (and still exercising), I managed to lose a total of 2.8lbs in Phase 1. It could have even been more, I think, if my sleep scheduled hadn’t been messed up with working a graveyard shift and therefore hadn’t been sleep deprived. (because you lose your weight while you sleep and you’re not going to lose any weight if you only get four hours of sleep in one day! As a result, I didn’t have any weight loss at all on my 3rd day.)

So I was excited through Phase 1. This diet was really working! Oh, I should mention that I certainly began my “detox” headaches during this phase, and that part wasn’t fun. I also think it was a result of the low calorie diet. I felt very weak during this phase from taking in few calories, plus the exercising. And then Phase 2 came along.

In Phase 2, the majority of the daily meals still continue to be delicious shakes and blended soups, but green/vegetable salads with dressings are also added in – and so the solid food begins!

The addition of salads was really exciting for me, because I really love salads. I really love smoothies as well (or “shakes”, as Ani calls them), and already incorporate these largely into my diet. For any given day, I’ll start my day off with a green smoothie and then have a large green salad with veggies and either beans or tofu for my main meal. But I must admit that I tend to always make a variation of the same smoothie and same salad for every meal, so it was exciting for me to experiment with such a wide array of different recipes every day in these meal-type categories. In fact, I don’t think one single recipe is ever repeated in the diet plan, which calls for making an average of four different recipes a day (with leftovers as your “snacks”). For a foodie like me, this is great – it was always a pleasant surprise to see what kind of delicious concoction would be produced when blending a medley of specific ingredients together. In fact, every day I was excited for the food to come for that day. Only thing is, the food doesn’t just magically appear – you have to spend the time to make it!

So, this brings me to the topic of time management for the 15 Day Fat Blast Program. The meals may be quick and easy to whip together as individual “dishes”, but since there are so many of them to make for the day (or throughout the day, if you’re fortunate enough to be able to spend most of your day at home), you really have to schedule the time to create your lovely raw food.

If I was working an 8 hour shift and I knew I had to make all my food for the day before going out to work, I would schedule a full hour beforehand to prepare everything, plus wash the (minimal) dishes. This was the case for the first half of the program. For the latter half, I was working mostly at home, so I allowed myself short 30 minute breaks throughout the day to make and eat/drink each meal, whenever I became hungry. If you’re a busy person like me, it is essential to make sure you plan out the time to make your food, since this is a key to the success of following the program!

Cabbage Salad with Cucumber Miso Dressing - sooo good!!

Cabbage Salad with Cucumber Miso Dressing – sooo good!!

But really, once you have all the ingredients, and have the time to make the food, there really isn’t a lot more to it. All you need to do, according to Ani, for this program, is to eat! Eat lots of delicious food that happens to be raw, and you’ll lose 15lbs in 15 days. (and she recommends repeating Phases 1 and 2 before moving on to Phase 3 if you have more than 15lbs to lose) Exercise isn’t even a required component of this program, and I’m sure many people will be happy with that. However, for me, I was convinced that I still needed to exercise (for my petulant body) in order to have a chance of success on this program. Because, generally, if I don’t exercise every day, I gain weight. For example, I exercised a lot during the 3 days of Phase 1, and if I hadn’t, I’m convinced that I wouldn’t have lost those 3lbs.

Continue here to Part 2.

Lecture: Power Foods for the Brain, by Dr. Neal Barnard

22 Apr

  2 Fridays ago, my sister and I went to see Dr. Neal Barnard (founder and President of the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine) give a lecture in Vancouver, based on his latest book “Power Foods for the Brain“. I’ve seen him speak twice before in person (and several times on tv, now that he is becoming quite a popular personality in the mainstream media), and he never fails to impress me with his sound, expert knowledge on health and nutrition.

While standard medical school curriculum involves a miniscule amount of nutritional training, Dr. Barnard’s knowledge as a medical doctor far exceeds the norm, and he has dedicated his career to research and education to cure peoples’ ailments with lifestyle changes rather than going straight to the pharmaceutical route. Some of his recent work has been in reversing diabetes, and now he is working on the challenges faced in Alzheimer’s disease, which was the focus of last week’s talk.

Motivated by a genetic predisposition in his family to have Alzheimer’s, Dr. Barnard has been researching the causes of this disease and has discovered that even when a person’s genetic history sways in the favour of going the route of the disease, it can still largely be avoided by carrying out simple actions in lifestyle. He spoke about important factors to take note of (and work on) to feed the brain to avoid memory loss, which included:

  • Avoid bad fats
  • Knock out free radicals
  • Exercise the body (studies have shown that physical exercise reverses brain shrinkage and expands the memory area of the brain)
  • Exercise the brain
  • Minimize iron (don’t take it in multivitamins, for example, which give us too much iron)
  • Eat less meat (or none at all! Meat consumption promotes free radicals in the body,  as well as too much iron)
  • Sleep (the brain needs that time to proper file away the info from the day)
  • Avoid sleeping pills (they ruin your memory!)

In his charismatic, articulate and humorous demeanour during this 1 hour talk, Dr. Barnard didn’t just simply deliver the information to the audience, but rather, he offered approachable solutions to making these changes in lifestyle that would appeal to a mainstream public open to learning and adaptation. And I find this communication method to be part of his appeal – he spells it all out so clearly that you feel that there really are no unbeatable obstacles to making a shift for the better.

The room held a full house of over 200 people, and Dr. Barnard was gracious enough to take questions at the end, even though we were running over time. Audience members took advantage of this rare opportunity to pose him a variety of nutritional questions, asking about: saturated fats in coconut oil, the paleo diet (a “romantic fantasy”, he called it), raw food diets, fermented dairy, iron needs for children, corn in diet, and pesticides in food. It was awesome to hear him answer each of these questions with discerning information that could be trusted.

Disappointed now that you didn’t get to attend the talk? Well, lucky for you, about 10 minutes into the lecture I realized I had my voice recorder on me and realized that should record it, so I have most of it for you to listen to! You can listen to the recording of the talk here, which includes the Q&A at the end:


My sister having a friendly chat with her idol

My sister having a friendly chat with her idol.

Final Thoughts/Summary: Lose 8lbs in 6 Days!

9 Mar

Game Over: Day 7: Saturday, March 9, 2013 – Final Weigh in and Final Thoughts/Summary
Weight: 130.0lbs! – loss of 1.0lbs
Total Weight Loss: 8.6lbs!!!


I did it.

Mission accomplished!!!

I got down to exactly 130.0lbs this morning, and am completely satisfied with this result. Yay!!!

Another great 7 hour sleep last night, after which I felt rested and ready to start my day. I had my ju jitsu class today and my body was still so weak, so I was worried that I wouldn’t have the energy, in my current state, to get through the strenuous workout. So I ate a bunch of sugar, which included a bowl of sugary cereal with chocolate almond milk. And thus, my fast was broken.

Ju jitsu was EXTREMELY difficult today! I was really lacking in strength, but I got through it (and even sat out for a few rounds of grappling as I had no power to control my opponent at all). It felt like I had to exert way more effort to be that physically active (which is indicative of what my cardio workouts have been like all week). Then I went swimming and that was pretty bad as well, but I just took it easy and did what I could do, taking lots of breaks. My heart rate was unusually high from what should have been easy laps.

The dress fit great tonight – even a bit too loose! AND, I tried on the blue ball gown as well (which I had referenced a few days ago), and that fits now too, as well! (though barely, but it zips up!)

I would definitely like to do a juice fast again when I’m not on a deadline, so that I can not be so rigid on it and make myself exercise every day. In fact, I would do it with no exercise to see what the results are for a 10 day juice fast, which is my next dietary goal to achieve. Waking up this morning, I still wasn’t hungry, and felt like I could keep going with it. (but I have all these food plans coming up now, so it wasn’t to happen this  time) I’ve done a 5 day juice fast before (my longest) and my weight loss was an average of 1lb per day.

The detox headaches are supposed to come in days 2-4 (according to what I’ve read), and for me it happened on days 3-5. Also, I’ve found that in addition to having a really weak-feeling body, my whole body has been really sore all week. My muscles are sore all over, and I feel an old injury in my right foot coming out, and I know that this is supposed to happen as well when you’re detoxing – your old injuries rising to the surface of your body as the toxins (and thus injuries) are flushing out.

Speaking of flushing, I have consumed SO much water this week! I always drink a lot of water, but it’s been a lot more than usual this week. This can only be a good thing, encouraging the the toxins to be expelled from my system. This diet has been more about weight loss (the end goal); however, I see it, secondarily, as a nice way to give my digestive system a break, and reset it, basically. When I got back from swimming today, my body was actually craving carrots (more fresh vegetables), so that’s what I ate.

Speaking of food, I’ve been looking forward to a lot of food making for next week! Carrot cake, banana bread, seitan, soup, salads – just some of the things that I’ve been anticipating on making very soon! But I bought more green juice ingredients this week and want to continue to keep that up as well, more than I usually do. In fact, I have a green juice in my fridge right now that I need to drink up!


The final result.

Day 6: Lose 8lbs in 6 Days!

8 Mar

Day 6: Friday, March 8, 2013
Weight: 131.0lbs – loss of 0.8lbs

Disappointed after all that work yesterday, I only lost 0.8lbs!! Good thing I worked out yesterday, or else I think there wouldn’t have been any weight loss of all. It must have been the Lara bar that did it!

What I did today.

What I did today.

Today was my 2nd video shoot job day, so another early day to wake up. I got another wonderful 7 hours of sleep last night. I definitely could have used more; however, I found that I wasn’t tired at all today, and, not only that, I felt pretty good. No headaches at all all day, although there was just a touch of a lightheaded feeling. And, in addition to that, I have barely consumed anything all day. For some reason, I was craving a Diet Coke when I got to the job this morning, so I took one from my car and drank it in about an hour. I know it’s completely not a good thing to ingest when I’m trying to detox (making my body acidic), but I knew it wouldn’t disrupt my calorie intake, since it’s 0 calories, so I gave into my desire and took it.

For the rest of the day, I haven’t been hungry and didn’t even finish my green smoothie that I made for the day. (I drank 8/9 of it – I measured!) I took the time, as well, to make a beautiful green juice this morning before leaving for work, and I just ended up carrying that around with me all day – didn’t even touch it.

My body is very weak and feels very sore (especially after standing and hunching my shoulders for hours today and yesterday during work), so I forewent my Costco trip this afternoon to instead have a last minute massage therapy session, and it was sooo worth it! So, note to self for my next juice fast: book RMT appt. in advance because I know I’m going to need it. I have muscle soreness all over – probably because of my exercise all week with a really weak body (plus the standing for hours).

I’m going to get a good night’s sleep tonight, and tomorrow morning will be the final weigh in! So, there was no exercise today, but I hope that with simply my fasting, this will allow me to get to 130. I’ve been drinking SO much water today (and all week – more than I usually drink, which is already a lot), so I think this will help with flushing out my system. I’ll be satisfied to get anywhere in the 130 zone for tomorrow – which I failed to mention in the introductory write-up. My goal was just to see “130” (point whatever) on the scale.

Today’s calorie intake:  Green smoothie (261) = 261 calories
Today’s calorie expenditure via exercise: 0 (no exercise)

Continue here for ‘Day 7: Final Thoughts/Summary’

Day 5: Lose 8lbs in 6 Days!

7 Mar

Day 5: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Weight: 131.8lbs – loss of 1.2lbs!

I was happy to see my weight in the 131 range when I got up early this morning. I had a good night’s sleep (yes, I slept at night last night!), and I think that had something to do with it, allowing the rest time to lose the weight. I hadn’t had so much sleep at once, like 7 hours, for so long. I definitely feel that the cardio workout yesterday evening was instrumental to the 1.2lb weight loss for today. I fear that I wouldn’t have lost much at all if I hadn’t done that (really exhausting) workout last night.

This morning I had to get up for a video shoot job that I had in North Van today and tomorrow. So it was a very unpredictable day. I was worried if I’d be able to go all day with just liquid, so I packed a few snack (a Lara bar and dried apple rings) with me, just in case. I made my green smoothie this morning before I left, but I didn’t have time to make my green juice, so I hoped it would be enough.

My only solid food this week.

My only solid food this week.

On the drive to North Van, I actually finished about 2/3 of my smoothie by the time I got there, plus, I was feeling lightheaded/headache-y, so that was worrisome. I was worried that I’d be like that all day and would have a hard time functioning at my work all morning. To combat the lightheaded feeling (feeling akin to low blood sugar), I felt like I had to have some solid food, so I dug into the Lara Bar, consisting of a whopping 230 calories with peanuts (high fat) and dates (high sugar). But I needed it! And then I stopped off at a supermarket on the way to pick up more sustenance, since I thought this might be a day where I would actually need some food to get me through it. I purchased a 450ml “Berry Boost” bottled smoothie, plus an iceberg lettuce “Asian” salad kit that was only 70 calories per 2.5 cups. Yes, I was going to eat salad if I needed it!

By the time I started the job, I was feeling okay, and not hungry at all. It was nearly a 7 hour work day and it took me some time to finish my green smoothie; I didn’t even start on the berry smoothie until near the end – and I only got through 2/3 of it in the whole day. Didn’t even want the salad, so that’s in my fridge, now. Tomorrow I’m going to make an effort to have the time to make my green juice before I leave for work. Near the end of the job, my head was hurting again – more detoxification!

On my way home, I decided to visit one of my favourite thrift stores, just to see if they happened to still have a nice dress there that I saw a few weeks ago (but didn’t have time to try on or buy at the time). It was gone, but there was lots of other nice stuff there, and I decided to allow myself to treat myself for all the hard work this week, so I tried on a bunch of dresses and a few skirts that I would let myself buy if they fit and looked good. There was the most awesome emerald green ball gown there – a size 12 – which SHOULD have fit me. In fact, I didn’t doubt that it would, since size 12 is usually a bit too big for me, even in dresses. But, unfortunately, it didn’t, and this was really disappointing to me because when I tried it on, it was so beautiful and actually looked good on me. BUT, it wouldn’t zip all the way in the back! I hate this. Makes me feel very inadequate and fat when I can’t even fit into a garment that should be big on me – not too tight. I even considered buying it anyways, to grow into it, but it was $25 so I decided not to.

In any case, I had already done this with another beautiful ball gown (size 11/12) which I had purchased from the same store last month, which also doesn’t fit me, with the intention of getting myself down to 125lbs one day to wear it, which is the weight I estimate I need to be for it to zip up in the back. (why is my back so fat?) I know – you must be thinking: “What do you need a ball gown for anyways?” I don’t! I just like clothes and allowing myself to indulge in clothes at thrift stores is one of my very few guilty pleasures. It’s recycling, so it’s not bad. I ended up buying 2 skirts and 3 dresses (that all fit). There will be another green dress one day, if I ever make it to 120lbs (my estimate, for fitting into it). And anyways, I already have another fancy dress to aspire into!

And by the time I got home, in the late afternoon, I knew I couldn’t work out right then feeling like that, so I took a Tylenol and let myself take a 1 hour and 10 minute nap. It was just what I needed and the headache was gone when my alarm went off. I went to the gym and did 62 minutes of the Adaptive Motion Trainer for 504 calories. It was, again, really difficult to do this (I was really weak), but I felt marginally stronger than yesterday and was able to push myself to do the whole hour, and then some. I certainly hope that this makes a difference in my weight loss for tomorrow. I’m a bit worried because I consumed so much more today than any other day on this diet, but, when I look at the total numbers, it’s still quite a bit less than what I normally consume when I’m dieting and losing 1-2lbs a day. I just want to get to 130 by tomorrow so that I’m home free until Saturday! (since I don’t have time to exercise tomorrow)

Almost there. I’m thinking of all the food I want to make when I’m done this. I’ve been coming across so many good recipes, as usual, while on the internet this week, and I WANT!

Today’s calorie intake:  Green smoothie (311) + Peanut Butter Lara bar (230) + 2/3 Boathouse Farms Berry Boost smoothie (161) = 702 calories + B12 vitamin
Today’s calorie expenditure via exercise: 504 calories

Continue here for ‘Day 6’.