Death by Cheese: Holidays will trip up even the most dedicated Health Coach... and it's okay.

Life is not perfect. People are not perfect. I'm okay with this. In fact, I count on it. That's why I can live with myself when amidst all of the organic produce on the grocery store conveyer belt there might be a random box of Mallomars (best cookie EVER for those who may not be familiar). As long as, in general, I am moving closer to where I want to be on an overall wellness continuum, I can accept the moments when a little nostalgia (see Mallomars) or a tug of desire calls to me and I answer. Well, over the holidays I tend to answer that call with gusto! My weakness... cheese. Every kind. Mild and mellow, or stinky and funky, cheese calls to me like the Sirens called to Odysseus, and there is no mast to strap me to in order to save me from myself. And cheese is everywhere in December; every party, every get together, and samples at every grocery store, BJs, and Costco. One of my favorite restaurants even puts out an enormous wheel of Parmesano-Reggiano, free for the taking, and calls it "Holiday Cheese." It's okay. I indulge. That's what the holidays are for: life out of the ordinary. And that's where January comes in...

So these days I've been hearing a lot about "Drynuary", or a January without alcohol. After the holidays it is definitely a good place to start. It's great to see how terrific we can feel just forgoing one vice, and maybe take some of that experience with us into the coming months. But for the past 7 years January, for me, has been a time to slash and burn. Full liver detox. A formal Reset, Remind, Refuel, Relinquish, Recharge & Rediscover. The best part for me... this is not a deprivation cleanse (juices only for a week???) or supplement gig (there's only so many capsules I can swallow in a day and they are already allotted for by my daily vitamins). This is a crave-worthy discovery of fruits and vegetables and clean eating that not only cleans out my insides and supercharges my liver, but introduces me to a world of delectable dietary changes that I have incorporated more and more over these last 7 years.

Okay... so the first week is a little more challenging than the rest. I have always ascribed to the motto, "Nothing good comes easy." On the menu: fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, lentils, herbs and spices. Off the menu: sugar, gluten, corn, soy, peanuts, eggs, dairy, alcohol, & caffeine (I go down to 1 cup of white tea daily - just a smidge of caffeine), anything processed, and for the first week... even beans. All of the forbidden foods are those that are harder for our liver to process and are foods that many people might be allergic to at some level. In the second week I start adding back some foods, one at a time, to see how they might affect my digestion or my energy. I have learned from this process that wheat zaps my energy and I am definitely slightly allergic to eggs. I have also found that eating mostly vegan gives me an abundance of energy, helps me lose weight (It's the only way I can lose those stubborn last 5lbs.), and makes me feel that I am really taking care of my body.

I was first introduced to this detox diet in the now defunct Martha Stewart ,Whole Living, magazine which was dedicated to a natural and organic lifestyle. The magazine published this diet for 3 years 2011-2013. In the first year, the "action plan" also included revamping your exercise routine, adding meditation and general stress-reduction, and cleaning out your home. A total life redux! I loved that!!! It's essentially health coaching all rolled up into one month! Well, maybe the shock and awe redux was a bit too much for readers because in subsequent years it all focused on the liver detox. But if you like the idea of a total overhaul I can help you with that.... more slowly and with sustainable, step-by-step goals!!

Fortunately, the original "action plans" are still available on line at, and in a book compiled by the editors called Clean Slate. Even if you are not going for the full detox, I recommend all of the recipes, from detox smoothies to main course entrees (that include some animal protein) because they are delicious! and healthy! I have no stake in this promotion. It's just what I have used to get started with this awesome life-changing hack. Since 2011 I have gone off script adding other delicious vegan recipes for the first couple of weeks and other clean, healthy foods to my life in general. I have also concocted a few favorites of my own which I am happy to share here. An added benefit to the health effects is that I get to use my creativity in the kitchen. I recommend adding creativity wherever possible as a mood and self-esteem booster.

I am not a nutritionist or a recipe developer. As you will see I have a loose definition for what constitutes a "recipe," but I think you'll get the idea, and hopefully the lack of specific instruction will help you make it your own. Don't be afraid to experiment. It's only food - and since we're grownups... it's okay to play with our food!

My favorite detox salad - when you haven't had time to wash your kale or you've run out of romaine, try this tangy mix of only 4 veggies, and if you have it, cilantro. This has become my daughter's and my favorite go to salad throughout the year. We refer to it simply as "That Salad.".

In a bowl combine the following:

2 -3 slices of sweet onion, diced

1/2 sweet bell pepper, diced

1/2 ripe avocado, diced

4 Campari tomatoes , large dice

2 Tbs chopped cilantro

1/2 lemon, juiced (or to taste)

1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)

5-6 good grinds of pepper

about 2 tsp olive oil (or to taste)

about 5 dashes of hot sauce (more or less to taste - I like Frank's)

Veggie Veggie Soup: You can skip the roasting step, but it adds a great depth of flavor. If you do, just saute the onions with the garlc and simmer the rest of the ingredients together until veggies are tender

Set oven to 400*. On a large roasting sheet combine:

1 large sweet onion, diced

1 large sweet potato, diced

2 parsnips, sliced

3-4 carrots, sliced

2 celery stalks, sliced thinish

1 whole sweet bell pepper, diced

roast with some olive oil, salt and pepper for about 40 minutes stirring once

Meanwhile.... In a large soup pot

Sautee 1 large tsp chopped garlic in a little olive oil for about 1 minute

then add:

2 quarts Vegetable Stock ( I like Pacific)

1 28oz can diced tomatoes

some celery leaves, chopped

2 Tbs or so of fresh thyme

2 loose cups or so of chopped kale

1 large squirt of ketchup

11/2 tsp paprika

1 can of white beans, rinsed (preferably organic)

salt and pepper to taste

Simmer while veggies roast then add roasted veggies and simmer for an additional 30 minutes. So satisfying! Helps get me through that challenging first week.