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A healthy way of eating

There is a lot of information out there about detoxing but the truth is, the body detoxes all the time, if it didn't we would die of the build up of poisons we consume daily - imagine if that alcohol/caffiene/sugar remained in your body and you'll get what I mean - you just couldn't survive if you didn't constantly detox.

However, often the food we eat isn't as fresh as it could be - eating on the run, working late, dining out, mean we can often be eating and drinking food that requires the body to work harder to remove what would be toxic if not removed so the point of a detox diet is not to 'detox' the body, but to support the body's natural detoxification by reducing or removing the amount of toxins we consume so it can work more efficiently and not be overloaded.

One of my favourite detoxes comes from Kundalini Yoga and involves a 40 day diet of healthy food using kitcheree (a kind of mung bean and rice dhal) as the main dish. It's quite hardcore as it involves sticking to a simple diet of salad, fruit, nuts and seeds and, of course, kitcheree. You eliminate any caffeine, potatoes, wheat, processed sugar (no cake, chocolate, biscuits, sugary drinks etc), dairy & eggs (dairy alternatives such as soya/almond/oat milk are OK), meat (if you're not already vegetarian/vegan) and alcohol. The upside is, you can eat as much of everything that is permitted as you want so you never have to go hungry. Although it is best to not have more than 5 pieces of fruit a day (or a handful of dried fruit to replace one of your pieces of fruit) due to natural sugars and no more than a handful of nuts and/or seeds.

One of the reasons for following the diet is to examine your relationship with food and your addictions to it (most of us have them).

I'd like to say that I breezed through following it for 40 days as I already tend to eat fairly healthily but I would be lying. I probably made the mistake of not starting it at the weekend but on a Monday when I went into work as this would have given me a couple of days where I could rest and take it easy but I didn't. Suffice to say by Tuesday, I had a headache so bad that I could hardly read my computer screen and my colleagues were concerned because I looked dreadful. It was suggested I took a pain killer but that kind of defeats the object. (Hint, choose to start on a couple of days when you've not got much on - I really can't say this often enough!). Wednesday wasn't much better only now the headache was fading into a constant state of nausea. I was very tempted to give up but as I'd committed myself to 40 days of practice I was determined to persevere. Thursday the headache had gone but the nausea was still present although not as intense as the Wednesday.

Then came Friday, I woke up and thought 'wow'. No headache, no nausea, just feeling lighter and clearer. I think I almost sprang out of bed rather than dragging myself out like I had the last few days. Getting ready for work I was waiting for something to happen, I didn't believe I'd felt so ill the day before and now was feeling so good.

During the 40 days I followed this diet, after the first few days I felt so much better. My mind was clearer, my skin developed a glow and interestingly, instead of becoming bored with the diet, I found it so freeing to not spend time thinking what to eat. I could use different vegetables with the kitcheree and got very creative with salads, not just sticking to the normal stuff but adding avocado, raw mushrooms, sweetcorn, peas etc . I never once managed to eat 5 portions of fruit - usually only managing just two (although had berries been in season I may have managed more).

The purpose of the diet is not to lose weight as the intention is to observe the mind and your thoughts around food and desire however it is a side effect that most tend to shed a few pounds. As my body was using the food I was eating I found that my bowels functioned more efficiently (requiring a motion shortly after a meal as the body is supposed to function) and that there was little waste. I also lost some weight and didn't feel like I had to even try.

One of the problems with diets can be that you start to think about food more whereas, with this diet I found I didn't think about it much at all, I knew roughly what I'd be eating each day with a bit of variation. When I found I was tempted by office biscuits or cake, I would tell myself that this was my yoga practice and that I'd made a promise to myself to do it for 40 days. That way I didn't feel I was denying myself, but being disciplined in my practice.

This is not an easy path to follow if you have to eat out a lot - e.g. you entertain clients, business lunches etc, as it is almost impossible to get a salad which is interesting and cheese free however if you speak to the waiter, often the chef will be able to provide some food (if you know where you are going, a phone call in advance can help). If you are out on the road then a wide necked flask enables you to heat a batch up in the morning to take with you to eat during the day. Or you can prepare a salad if the weather is nice.

So if you are interested in observing your mental fluctuations around food and want to give the diet a try - here's some suggestions around preparation and helping digestion together with the basic recipe (although I admit I tend to be a bit more heavy handed with the spices than the recipe dictates) :-

Guidelines for preparing food

  1. Prepare your food with love and care

  2. Eat only in a pleasant, relaxing environment

  3. Serve the food gracefully

  4. Take a minute to reflect upon your gratitude for the gift of the food

  5. Take the time to eat consciously

Guidelines for healthful digestion and elimination

  1. Eat to live don’t live to eat

  2. Avoid snacking between meals and eat fewer meals

  3. Eat only when hungry

  4. Chew well, your stomach has not teeth

  5. Stop eating when you are ¾ full

  6. Rest after every meal

  7. Don’t eat after sunset

  8. Eat only what you can eliminate within 18-24 hours

  9. Once a week, give your digestive system a rest

  10. If you can’t digest it and eliminate it, don’t eat it.

Mung beans and Rice Diet

  • Eat for 30-40 days, include lost of fresh vegetables cooked into it - cook greens on the day of consumption and add to the kitcheree

  • May eat fruit between meals as a snack and a handful of nuts/seeds

  • Yogi tea may also be taken (care - don't use the caffeine variety)

1.25l water

I cup mung beans (preferably soaked overnight - this reduces cooking time)

i cup basmati rice (white)

thumb length ginger root finely minced

1 chopped onion

3 cloves of garlic minced or chopped

3 cups chopped vegetables (do not use greens unless you are eating batch all in one go - better to add them separately) I use carrots, celery and fennel due to their cleansing qualities

2 tablespoons ghee/coconut oil/olive oil or vegetable oil

¾ teaspoon (tsp) tumeric

¼ tsp crushed red chillies

¼ tsp ground black peper (freshly ground prefered)

½ tsp ground coriander

½ tsp ground garam masala

½ tsp ground cumin

2 pods cardamom seeds

1 bay leaf

Step 1

Cook onions, garlic and ginger in the ghee/oil until soft in a large saucepan.

Step 2

Add spices and stir in well

Step 3

Add water tp the onions and bring to the boil

Rinse mung beans and add to boiling water (if they are unsoaked allow to boil for 30 mins before doing step 4)

Step 4

Add chopped vegetables.

Rinse rice and add to water

cook for further 20-30 mins (or longer if veg and rice not cooked)

Should look like a thick soup when done.

This quantity will make me c7 meals so one pot lasts me all week and I just add extra veg to it if I want to e.g. broccili, spinach, etc

If you have a pressure cooker,

Follow the steps above however cook on full pressure for 10 mins then turn off heat (if beans were soaked beforehand). Food continues to cook in the pressure cooker if you leave it to cool down so a cheap way of cooking. If you have not soaked mung beans you will need c20mins cooking beans only in water then add the other ingredients to the water (so prepare your onions etc in a frying pan whilst they boil) then add rice and vegetables and onion mix to the water. Check whether the beans are soft and if so, cook for 10 mins as above.

You can keep the finished kitcheree in the fridge for about a week although do not add greens when cooking as these putrefy quickly and will reduce the longevity of the kitcheree. It is best to add greens separately e.g. if you want to add spinach, place a little water in a saucepan and heat it, then stir in the kitcheree to warm it through and then eat.

You can experiment a little with the spices, you could add more garlic or ginger or chillies to taste.

I'd like to say I'd created this amazing salad but it is courtesy of Taverna Konatsi in Apo Tryos. Salad doesn't have to be boring - this had cabbage, lettuce, carrot, oranges, tomatoes, sweetcorn, nuts and sesame seeds!

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