21 Days Detox

Detox PDF: Chương Trình

I am sharing with you the nutritional lessons that I wish I can share with my 17 years old self.

When I was 17 years old, I switched from eating traditional homecooked Vietnamese food to a highly processed, fast-food Western diet. I was a senior in high school and I was working two jobs, going to college, and taking a college class at night. Before, I was eating mostly the rice, meat, vegetables my mother prepared. But to save time,  I would have a big muffin (from Costco) at breakfast. Once I arrived at school, I would eat lunch at school including the pizza, hotdog, spaghetti, all highly processed without vegetables. From then I went and I would get a burger at Burger King for dinner. In one year, I gained 15 pounds and continued to gain another 10 pounds in college. I carried these extra 25 pounds for ten years, weight me down physically and mentally. During this period, I wished someone would have teach me the basic lessons in nutrition. I am sharing with you the lessons I wish I have learn. It is always best to intervene early on instead of waiting for signs of having weight gain, chronic illnesses, or mental fog.

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There are many conflicting and confusing information about nutrition out there. I am going to share with you three simple guidelines that will likely have the largest impact on your health and wellness. There are many other guidelines that play a smaller effect which I will not focus on (example: Is bacon good for me? Are there too much sugar in an apple? Should I eat eggs?). Think of this as the 80/20 rules. I will share 3 simple guidelines that help you build a foundation for your health and wellbeing. If you follow it, you will at least be 80% on the right track. Once you are on the right track, you can work on the other 20% to optimize further.

There are there key themes in my sharing, I would like you to:

  1. Building healthy eating habits for life.  My focus is not on the short-term starvation methods to lose weight. For example, I would not recommend you to drink only lemon juice all day to lose weight. Instead, I focus on giving you the education, the guidelines, and the tools so that you can build healthy lifelong habits. I do not believe in taking short-cut and quick-fixes. I hope you come in with a strong desire to learn about food and its effect on your health. Keep an open and curious mind. When you understand the “why” you can endure any “how.” As you make adjustments to your food intake, we will celebrate together every battle you overcome (for example, I replaced breakfast cereal with whole grain bread & peanut butter).
  2. Understand how biochemistry affects your food cravings. Controlling your food intake is not simply a matter of willpower. Even if you have more willpower than me, you might still give into temptation and eat unhealthy food. I want to share with you the science behind food cravings. Food craving has to do with genetics, the kind of food you ate in the past, stimuli you are exposed to (like advertisements), your stress level, the amount of sleep you got, and other factors. As such, I do not play the “blaming” game. For most of us, we gained weight because we were not armed with the right knoweldge about food early on. Once egain the weight, it is very hard to lose them. For most of us, we do work hard fighting against weight gain. We do have the best intentions. For example, I have a friend who eats a small salad everything for lunch. Yet, he still hasn’t lost the 20 pounds he wanted. When I gained the 25 pounds, I blamed myself for being a pig. I blamed myself for not able to control my appetite. I would wake up in the morning feeling hopeful. Somehow by 10am, I already feel a need for a snack and start to eat with abandonment. I was stuffing my face so fast as if someone else would steal all my food. I felt like a racoon digging through a greasy trashcan. And I hated it. And I was obsessed about food. When I was eating breakfast, I was already planning what to eat for lunch. And if I go a few hours without eating, I was worry that I would collapse. I blamed myself for my pig-like behaviours. Now I know that I was reacting to a cascade of hormonal imbalances.  As you gain more knowledge in nutritional science, I want you not to put the blame on yourself for your past eating behaviours.  As you gain a better understanding of how your biochemistry drives your food cravings, together, we can have come up with an effective fighting strategy. For me, the ultimate goal is not just about the weight loss. I did lose weight significantly but still was obsessive about food. The ultimate goal for me is to get to a place where I eat when I am hungry, enjoy the meal thoroughly, feel full and satisfy after I eat. It is still a working in progress for me. Yes, it is possible. And yes, you will get here, too.
  3. Everyone is different. You might not have any problem eating cheese, but I do. Please keep in mind that everyone reacts differently to food. Just like everyone likes different food. A key theme is that you need to listen to your body very carefully. For example, I do enjoy the taste of eating cream cheese. So yummy. One time on a ketogenic diet, I ate an entire bar of cream cheese in one sitting. My stomach was bloated and upset for days. Another time during a bike ride, I ate three protein bars. My stomach was swollen like a balloon for 5 days. Now I treat my body well because it is the only home I got.

The reasons. 

When we know “why” we do something, we can endure any “how”.  For me after many years battlining with food obsession, I now have clear goals. These goals evolved over time and came after many deep reflections. Once I am clear on my goals, I bunker down when the going gets tough and just focus on these goals. I know deep in my heart why I am doing this and I hope you will dig deep to find your own reasons to.

So the big question: why are you motivated to change your eating habits?

  1. To have boundless energy level. For me, wellness is not just a desirable number on a scale. Even when I was 97 pounds, I felt weak. I want to live life with vitality, with colors, and with warmth. The world is ours for the taking. The human body is truly an superb feat of design, engineering, and performance. The perfect blend of form and functionality. We have awe-inspiring endurance athletes capable of running 350 miles nonstop , doing 10,000 pushups, swimming continuously from Cuba to Florida (110 miles). Yes, they share the same human body as you and I! Food is fuel. Eating food should help me to perform at a higher level. Instead, for the longest time, I found myself completely and hopelessly drowning in a food coma after I ate food. When I ate lunch at noon, from 1-2pm, I was completely useless. I used to sit in front of the computer for an hour, trying to stay to awake. The worst part was that I thought it was normal to have a food coma and feel bloated. When I went for a short run or try to do a pull-up, all the extra weight made me tired and worn out. When I have a heavy and oily dinner, I couldn’t sleep deeply. At times, I also have nightmares. It was like giving a Ferrari engine (this exquisitely designed human body) the cheapest and corroding form of fuel. I want to feel energetic, satiated, and strong after I eat. I want to be able to jump out at bed at 5am to fight martial arts with guys twice my size. I want to be able to do a 200 miles bike ride and feel more alive as mile 180 than miles 8. I want to be able to sit down to do work for 3 hours straight with the clearest and most focused mind without the need to check FB every ten minutes to stay awake. I want to be able to read a complex biochemistry book and master the materials instead of falling as sleep. I want to be able to have three hours lively an engaging dinner conversations with my family and not go through the usual steps of feeling starving, stuff my face, too bloated to talk, and pass out on the couch.  Is it possible to feel this way? Dare I dream?
    • The key metric I am using to track energy level is fasting blood glucose. I find that when I have a fluctuating blood glucose, I have a wild swing in my food craving and mood. For example, if I eat too much sugar or refined carbs (like a bowl of cereal) for breakfast, I will feel good for 2 hours. The high load of sugar (as high as 6-8 teaspoon of sugar) causes a crash leaving me feeling hungry, anxious, and started to look for food immediately. If I don’t get food, then I become “hangry.” After I get the food, because of the low blood level, I would eat too much and leaving me in a food coma right afterwards. The cycle would repeat all day. As such, I want to control my blood glucose as a way to maintain a sustain stable energy level. My fasting blood glucose is quite high, typically around 9mg/dL. The pre-diabetic level is from 100mg/dL-125mg/dL. During the detox, I can lower the fast blood glucose to the 80s. If I can get it o the 70’s I am one happy camper. When I have the blood glucose in the 70’s, I find that I only eat when I am hungry. I don’t overeat. I don’t have energy swing; high, low, and crash. I can feel the constant source of energy where I can get work done, instead of having either to forage for food or deep in a sleep coma. 
  2. To improve long-term health. Heart disease and cancer — account for roughly half of all deaths in the United States.  Eating healthy can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer if I can keep my waist circumference in a healthy range.
    • Waist circumference is a powerful metric to track. Research has linked a high waist circumference to a higher risk of heart disease and cancer. For a woman, you have a higher risk when your waist circumference is above 88 cm (35inches). For a man, higher risk is above 102cm (40 inches). Even though I have a slim profile, all the women in my mother’s family have a high amount of visceral fat.  Visceral fat is the fat that deposits around your abdomen.  This fat is known to be harmful in a high content because it releases a chemical, called cytokines, that can be harmful to the heart, insulin level, blood pressure level, and blood clotting function. Another reason why visceral fat is bad because it is near the portal vein. The portal vein is the vein where the intestine sends blood to the liver. So when you have a lot of fats in the abdomen, the fats are biologically active. They send free fatty acids, along with other substances, to your liver. From there, your liver packages these extra fatty acids and send to the rest of your body for your cells to rebuild. Higher visceral fat in your abdomen has been linked to a higher triglyceride, higher LDL, lower HDL, and being insulin resistant. I have a shape like a bird: skinny legs and head, but a big belly. My waist circumference is at 30.5 inches. During the detox, my goal is to lose 2 inches of my waist circumference. I don’t care about my weight. Because I can have a low weight but not feeling healthy. In reducing the fat in my abdomen, I am reducing the chances for chronic diseases.

What metrics should you track? I suggest tracking:

  1. Waist circumference (instead of weight). This is a simple measure and effective to protect against chronic illness. Health range for a woman is less than 88cm (35inches) and 102cm (40inches) for a man.
  2. Measuring fasting blood glucose requires a blood glucose device, strips, and lancets (all of which you can get on Amazon). But it is not for the faint of hearts since I need to prick my fingers every morning. For me, it doesn’t really hurt. I do believe that managing a balanced level of blood glucose helps me to not have a wild swing in food cravings. In addition, I also have a high risk of getting Type 2 diabetic, 3 times higher than the general public, since my father passed away from type II diabetes.  I keep track of my blood glucose not only for controlling my food intake but also for prevention against Type 2 Diabetes.
  3. Hours of sleep. People take this for granted. I used to sleep less so that I can go do fun things like talking to family, martial arts, or biking. But now I seek at least 7.5 hours of sleep. The hour of sleep you need is different for everyone. Go to sleep on the weekend without setting an alarm and see after how many hours you naturally wake up. Sleep is important because when I don’t sleep enough, the increased cortisol in my blood cause me to have more food cravings, especially sweet and savory food. Sleep well and you will have the best chance of fighting against your food craving.
  4. Exercise time. See below for more info. Exercise is crucial because it increases insulin sensitivity, which can keep your blood sugar level constant, avoiding wild swings in your food craving. And exercise also makes your body stronger reducing risks against chronic diseases. Exercise also releases endorphins, the best anti-depression drug you can get.

Let’s get to the fun part. This wellness program is based on three simple rules:3 rules (2)

Eat Real Food!

  • A simple way to recognize is what real food is eaten what your grandmother would have eaten growing up. I include a few healthy foods below as examples. Real food is food directly from nature, and not processed.

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Here are some examples of food to avoid:

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How much to eat is a big question.

  • If you are new to detox, you should start with eating 3 meals per day. The meals is made of real food only, no added sugar, and everything fit on a medium size plate (no bigger than 8 inches). The important thing is no snacking in between the meal (unless you are diabetic). This is very important since snacking will cause fluctuation in your blood glucose, insulin level, and hence create food cravings.
  • Once you are ready to move to a more intense level of detox, then you can replace the dinner solid food meal to a liquid meal.

Food allergy:

  • Typically on a detox, we would cut out food that has been known to cause allergy: egg, gluten, dairy, and nightshades. Here, I don’t exclude this food because doing so will be quite restrictive. My approach is based on helping you in building long-term and sustainable healthy habits. However, if you suspect that you don’t do well on certain food: like eggs or dairy, then please do exclude them from the detox period. Once you do, pay close attention to how you feel to see if you are feeling better. After the detox period, you can introduce it back, one item at the time, and see if it cause any problems.

Examples of a meal plan:

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Also, make sure you make your sauce from scratch. Many of the sauce out there for cooking for dipping have sugar, MSG, food flavors and other chemicals that are designed to boost your food cravings.

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My experience in the 21 days detox

Day 4, 10:25am

Feel light. a bit hungry but energetic. Don’t need to always put on music to stay awake. A strange feeling that for the past 3 days, I am not stuffing my body and overloading it with food. Feel nice to have a break for the body. Light, slightly hungry, but energetic. A good place to be.

Day 5,

10:20am

Feeling great. I went to BJJ this morning and was full of energy. On Day 2 I didn’t have enough energy for the explosive moves. When the big guys were about to choke me, I didn’t have the energy to make that final push to escape. But today, there is no dip in energy. Calorie restrictions and can still roll hard in BJJ, that is a success story for me!

Most importantly, I don’t have brain fog. I feel a sense of optimism and hope in the air. LIke the world is for mine for the taking. I wanted to lose the belly fat for almost 20 years now. Even when I went to meditation and was only eating 1-2 meals a day, I came out at 97 pounds. I was all bones, but the belly fat was still there. This time, I am combining the ab workouts (pull ups and push ups), calorie restriction, intermittent fasting, and I am seeing results. I cannot believe that there is a chance I can lose this stubborn (and high-risks for chronic diseases) once and for all.
Fat cells also release a high level of inflammations inside the body. My high energy level, and the lack of brain fog, could also be related to this reduction in inflammations.

3:04pm

Normally this time of the day I get so sleepy. I used to need to put on the headphone so that the music will keep me awake. Even when I was working, I normally can only do administrative tasks and nothing involves critical and creative thinking.

Today on Day 5 of the Detox, feel stable. And I can focus my brain at a deeper level.

One good news is that I can’t stop petting my stomach. I can feel some harder definitions in the stomach instead of just a ball of softness before. Must be from all the push ups and pull ups. I used to do 5 push-ups right after I get up from the chair and 5 more right before I sit down. Now since I have gotten better, I increase it to 10 each time. That means I will have done at least 100 push ups before I leave work today. Just got done doing ten push-ups. It is no joke. Felt like I was going to collapse mid-way. Deep breath.

Day 7

9:05pm

Hungry. The only thing that kept me from eating a tub of butter right now is that I already brushed and flossed. So will sleep it off. How to sleep with my stomach growling? I will go read a complex biochemistry book. That will at least put me to sleep very fast. I will monitor my blood glucose tomorrow. Tomorrow I hope I have enough energy for martial arts. Will report that to you guys later 🙂

Day 8

8:54am

Feeling great. It is only been one week and I love how I look. Fit into tight dresses with ease. I am also so happy that my fasting blood glucose this morning is 83mg/dL. Since it is in a stable range, I expect that I will not get wild food cravings today. I expect to feel a sense of calm and ease. It also helps that I slept for 7 hours and half! So good. BJJ was a bit harder since I roll pretty light. I got armbared. No explosive power. But still able to do my regular push-ups when I get to work. Going to eat my yummy breakfast now: fat smoothie. Love the creamy taste of the avocado and almond milk. The frozen blueberries taste like sweet candies. When you are on a detox, food tastes ten times better than normal! And I even get to eat walnut& olive paste. Happy Monday 🙂

Day ̣9

8:48am

I was cooking dinner for my mother-in-law last night. It is hard to resist temptations when you have to cook. I knew I would eat some solid food because my body was craving for protein. What I should have done is put everything in a small bowl and do portion control. Instead, I was just munching mindlessly while I was cooking. I ate a lot of Kerry Gold Butter and rice cracker, some brown rice, shrimp, salmon. All healthy home-cooked food. But I should put portion control it. I don’t regret since in the morning I needed the energy to go to BJJ ̣- martial arts. Food tastes so good. I was eating the salmon slowly and it never felt better. At least I did not snack on unhealthy food. Right now I just finished eating a small bowl for breakfast of home cook rice, cabbage, shrimp, mushroom, and egg. I want to up my portion of fat, so will eat avocado mix with  6 blueberries, almonds, and half a spoon of cocoa powder. I am going into an office meeting now. So I will bring my hand grip press with me to work out during the meeting.

Day 10

8:36am

Last night I was hanging out with family, so we ate a Chinese Restaurant. I did not eat too much but the food was covered in sauce. And I ate too late. The last bite in my mouth was at 9:30pm. This morning, fast blood glucose was at 101mg/dL in the pre-diabetic range. This shows that having an early dinner does help to keep the blood glucose in a healthy range.

I am looking good and feeling good. But I am not making any progress on my waist circumference. In fact, it went up a little bit. There is more definition in my stomach and I am happy about that.

 

Day 11

9:15am

When I eat food I cook, I feel like I am able to downregulate those dopamine receptors and they are not just in overdrive. I am not stuffing my face like a pig. Success. Just chilling and sipping on my walnut olive paste. So good. And sipping on the juice. So it is possible to not to obessively eating food like I am on a high. Instead, just to slowly enjoy food. It is possible! I am so happy.