Last week, I wrote about my first four days of Glow15, a guidebook to help me get healthy. This week, I enter day five of Glow15 more prepared and optimistic about the week ahead. I’m ready to start glowing, feel more energized, and get healthy.
The Glow15 day-to-day rituals and rhythms are beginning to take hold. The goal is to activate autophagy – the body’s process of repairing cells and cleaning up waste – and slow down the aging process by cycling through “low days” and “high days”. “Low days” start with a brief period of fasting, followed by a protein-restricting diet to lower insulin levels. “High days” begin with a high-intensity workout followed by higher-protein meals containing good fat. On both low and high days, fats come first, and carbs come last. Enhance this process with exercise, “powerphenol” supplements, by eating natural, autophagy-optimizing foods, and getting plenty of sleep.
Slowly but surely, Glow15 is helping me transform my old, bad habits into new, healthier ones. But also raising new questions about my body, my health, and which habits are truly worth changing.
What is Autophagy and Why Should You Care?
Autophagy is not a hippie-dippy idea invented by Naomi Whittel for Glow15; it’s the genuine, scientifically proven process by which our cells rid themselves of waste. When autophagy isn’t working right, cells become damaged. This can lead to illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. The goal of Glow15 is to help us activate autophagy and maximize its effectiveness. For autophagy to work, however, it can’t be active all the time; it needs to rest. Glow15’s high and low days are designed to turn autophagy on every day through fasting and exercise, promoting a healthy cycle of renewal and cellular waste clean-up.
When autophagy “corner(s) like it’s on rails,” it improves the immune system’s response to infections (like both my rounds of the stomach flu), improves muscle performance, reduces chronic inflammation and DNA damage with proven links to cancer. It also gets rid of the damaged protein molecules that can lead to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and helps cells become more resilient by increasing their efficiency.
In other words, if autophagy is working correctly in your body, it slows down the aging process and improves your chances of living longer and healthier.
For more information on autophagy from sources other than Glow15, check out these articles:
Plants Activate ‘Self-Eating’ Pathways from Asian Scientist Magazine.
Finding Ways to Reverse Obesity’s Lingering, Pro-Cancer Effects from News-Medical.net.
Stress Cancer Cells to Death: Turning Off Autophagy Helps Chemotherapy from TechnologyNetworks.com (because if turning off autophagy leads to cell death, then the inverse must also be true.)
Connection Between Autophagy and Lifespan: Scientists take a deeper dive into cellular trash from ScienceDaily.com.
Days Five, Six, and Seven – Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
Halfway through my fifteen-day commitment, I’m sleeping harder and longer. On average, I’m getting 35 minutes more sleep than I was on day one, and my average bedtime has gone from 11:27 p.m. to 10:48 p.m. According to my Sleep Cycle app, the quality of my sleep has increased too.
Strangely, however, I’m not yet experiencing Glow15’s promise to feel “more alert and focused during the day,” and I don’t feel more energized than usual. My energy continues to plummet around 2:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. every day; my “energy valleys,” I’ve come to call them*. Since being more energized is one of my primary goals, I’m disappointed. I’m hoping this benefit is on the horizon and coming soon.
*It’s worth noting, 2:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. are the same times when I used to reach for a fistful of Haribo gummy bears. Later in the week, I learn that my “energy valleys” are naturally occurring, but I also know I’ve habitually used candy to combat drowsiness. I decide to google “sugar withdrawals” and learn I’m probably kicking a sugar addiction on top of all the other hurdles I’m jumping. If you want to learn more about sugar, check out What Happens to Your Body When You Give Up Sugar, The 7 Stages of Sugar Withdrawal (and why it’s all worth it!), and How to Ease Withdrawal Symptoms When You Quit Sugar, According to a Nutritionist.
Among Glow15’s other promises are rapid weight loss, fewer wrinkles, better health, and more strength. Most of these are subjective. For instance, I can’t calculate whether or not I’ve had a “30% reduction in wrinkles” and only time will tell if I’m preventing future diseases. But my skin does appear smoother and softer, and my health seems to be improving. My pink eye is 99% gone, and I’m no longer congested.
Weight loss is measurable, however, and I can tell by the way my clothes fit that I’ve dropped some weight. I don’t own a scale, but I’ve lost an inch around my waist since I last measured on day one*. Weirdly, I don’t feel the least bit deprived, so I’m surprised to see such dramatic results this quickly. Unfortunately, weight loss isn’t my goal and I don’t want to lose any more weight. Since I’ve never finished a Glow15 meal and still felt hungry, I’ll need to find healthy ways to add calories into my diet.
*If you’re considering Glow15 with the goal of losing weight, you’ll probably be happy with the results. Glow15 is delivering on that promise.
Sticking with the Glow15 meal plan requires advanced planning, which isn’t something I’m good at doing. On more than one occasion, my family has returned home from a baseball or softball game at 8:00 p.m. and I haven’t prepared anything. Little by little, my refrigerator is filling up with healthy foods so that I can scrape dinner together in a hurry, but I’m still going to the market for missing ingredients almost every day.
I’m noticing the organic movement brainwashing techniques are beginning to work. I’m not yet ready to drink the Kool-aid, and I’m mildly ashamed to be supporting an industry that profits from elitism. The organic lifestyle is flatly unattainable for most people, and I’m appalled by the price of some products. But the more knowledge I acquire, the more I find myself eyeing the monster-sized Foster Farms chicken breasts I once favored with suspicion. Only a mutant, dog-sized chicken has a breast that large.
I’m surprised to learn how many of my friends eat organic. When I mention my misgivings about the Foster Farms chicken to my friend, Jackie, she is dumbfounded. “You eat Foster Farms chicken? Nobody’s eaten Foster Farms chicken for, like, ten years!” I tell another friend about soaking and roasting raw almonds before eating them and she looks at me like I just said the sky is blue. She’s been soaking her nuts for years. (I laugh every time I write or say “soaking nuts.” It never gets old.) Apparently, I’m not fashionably late to the health-party, I’m late-late.
Thursday afternoon, while perusing Instagram, I notice that my favorite med spa is offering a special on vampire facials in April. I want one badly, but I promise myself I’ll wait until I’ve completed my fifteen-day challenge. Not for the first time, I’m glad I’m not trying Whole 30.
On Friday afternoon, my daughter and her friend help me make the first batch of egg muffins from Glow15. Whittel is a big fan of the bite-sized egg-based meals. (There are fifteen egg muffin recipes in the book.) The muffins are yummy, and my oldest son likes them, too. But the pan is difficult to clean and has to soak for a day. Next time, I’ll try making them in a dish like a quiche.
On Friday night, I drink a glass of red wine before dinner and another glass and a half during the meal. Drinking two and a half glasses of wine over four hours doesn’t usually intoxicate me, but tonight it goes straight to my head. I feel like I’ve had four glasses.
Despite getting more than nine hours of sleep, I wake up tired on Saturday morning. I’m inclined to blame the wine, but low days seem to be a culprit, too. Looking back on the last week, I see a pattern. My 2:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. energy valleys aside, I feel better and more energized on high days when I exercise. On low days the slumps come more frequently and last longer. Since I know fasting activates autophagy this prompts me to ask myself: Do I feel tired when autophagy is activated? Is it possible that my cells have so much cleaning up to do they require every ounce of my energy to do it?
By 12:30 p.m. I’m sure I’ll fall asleep if I lay down. But naps are a luxury no mom can enjoy, so instead of sleeping, I make some autophatea (sans coconut oil), pour it over ice, and head to my son’s baseball game. I’m hosting a party later in the evening and can’t afford to be drowsy. The tea helps a little, but not much.
I serve chicken fajitas for dinner, but today is supposed to be a low protein day, so I try to keep my portion of chicken low and double-up on the veggies, rice, and beans. I drink a margarita which I’ve made with agave nectar instead of simple syrup. I haven’t had a single granule of sugar since starting Glow15, and the margarita tastes like a guilty pleasure.
Day Eight Through Eleven – Sunday to Wednesday
By the time I wake up at 8:15 a.m. Sunday morning, my family has left me behind to go to church. I feel sad about this since I enjoy attending mass with my family every Sunday, but I needed the extra sleep. I wake up feeling good.
I continue feeling good and energized the rest of the day, which reinforces my theory that my energy level corresponds to low days and high days.
To celebrate my husband’s birthday, my daughter bakes a strawberry shortcake from scratch. I eat a slice after dinner. The cake is tasty and I especially enjoy the rich, heavy whipped cream. I expect the cake to awaken my sweet tooth (aka sugar addiction) and make me crave more, but the craving never comes.
Day eight is a low day which means I’m supposed to fast until 1 p.m., sixteen hours after finishing my strawberry shortcake. Glow15 doesn’t prescribe exercise on low days, so I’ve been skipping my workouts and running only on high days. But now that I’m convinced low days mean feeling sleepy and sluggish, I decide to go for a run to see if exercise helps me feel more energized. It does, which is a relief.
Later, though, I read the sections on exercise in the Glow15 book more closely and realize that I’ve misunderstood the role of exercise in autophagy, as well as how low and high days cycle autophagy on and off. I thought autophagy is activated on low days by fasting and protein deprivation, then cycled off on high days. But this is wrong. Both fasting and exercise – activities that create acute stress on the body – activate autophagy, which means I’m activating autophagy every morning, not just the mornings I’m fasting. Autophagy turns itself off naturally as we go about our day; we don’t need to do anything to turn it off.
This is an important piece of the puzzle, and I’m glad I understand it now. But it also raises new questions: How do I know autophagy is working and why do I feel so sleepy on low days?
After combing through Glow15 and the internet for signs autophagy is in an active state, I come up short and find none. From what I can tell, there are no symptoms to indicate autophagy is on or off. Short of having my cells studied in a lab, the only way to know Glow15 and autophagy is working is through long-term observation of my health and energy.
I don’t find a concrete answer as to why I’m so sleepy on low days, either. But I do discover an article on circadian rhythm that confirms my “energy valleys” are normal. And since I know from experience that exercising on low days helps me feel more energized, and I see nothing in Glow15 that forbids it, I see no harm in exercising on low and high days.
On day ten, determined to find a recipe my whole family will love, I study the Glow15 recipes for high days. I see a recipe titled “Superfood BLT Bowl” and think I’ve hit the jackpot. But when I read through the recipe, I realize the name is deceiving; it’s just a salad. I decide to try the “Loaded Portobello Mushrooms” with guacamole, onions, spinach, broccoli, and cheddar cheese and serve it with the superfood BLT salad on the side.
The entire process from start to finish, including yet another trip to the market, takes two hours. Midway through, my kids ask me to play a round of dominos with them. I shoot my son what’s probably a nasty look and gesture to the mess on the kitchen counter. What I want to say is “can’t you see I’m in over my head trying to prepare you a healthy f—king meal!?” But I don’t say that. I also don’t say I’d much rather be playing dominos with my kids than making this complicated (to me) meal.
The mushroom recipe turns out to be delicious, even though I forgot to add the cheddar cheese. The salad tastes great, too. Everyone but my husband, whom I’d forgotten hates mushrooms, likes it. I’m proud of what I’ve made, but also frustrated. Making dinner was stressful and cost me precious quality time with my kids. That can’t be healthy, no matter how nutritious the meal.
The Midpoint Assessment of Glow15
My husband and I have a saying in our house: “If someone is a nine, they can never be a four.” We can improve ourselves and form better habits, but extreme changes are rarely sustainable.
With ten days under my belt, I’m convinced I need to permanently incorporate some of the Glow15 practices into my life beyond day fifteen. But the list of changes I need to make is long. I don’t want to set myself up to fail by setting unrealistic goals. If I can only maintain a few new behaviors, which ones should they be? It’s difficult to decide.
For one thing, many of these changes impact my family. My husband and I share the responsibility of food shopping. I’m exceedingly grateful he’s willing to buy groceries. The last thing I want to do is make the job harder for him by asking him to hunt down obscure ingredients at multiple markets.
Out of all the meals I’ve prepared for my family in the last two weeks, only a few have been crowd pleasers. I’m on the hunt for Glow15-friendly recipes my whole family will enjoy, but it’s a process of trial, and error and my success rate is low so far.
Also, finding recipes, shopping for missing ingredients, and preparing these meals is incredibly time-consuming. I’m cooking more than I ever have before, which means I’m cooking more than I like to.
Worst still, the results of all this cooking are far from guaranteed. On Monday night, for instance, I found a paleo recipe for zucchini noodles and pesto sauce. I followed the recipe to the letter. I twisted the zucchini into long, curly strips using the vegetable spiraler my mother in law gave me two Christmas’s ago (and which had been sitting in my drawer unused ever since). I prepared the pesto sauce using fresh, organic basil and avocado. I baked cherry tomatoes in the oven with garlic and olive oil. I made a cucumber salad well ahead of schedule so that it could marinate all day. “I’m finally getting the hang of this,” I thought. “I’m serving my kids a healthy, wholesome meal made with organic vegetable and fresh herbs. I am an awesome mom!” I felt proud and superior.
But when I finished cooking, the dish I set before my children looked like a prison meal for death row inmates. The zucchini had turned to mush, the tomatoes were tasty but shrunken and small, more like salad toppers than a side dish. The cucumber salad turned out to be savory and delicious but did little to improve the appearance of the meal. I served my daughter first since she had a softball game to get to and when she looked at the plate, I thought she might cry. So much for being an awesome mom. Clearly, I’m still climbing the steepest part of my learning curve.
My habit of deciding what to make for dinner at 5:00 p.m. isn’t going to fly if I’m to continue with Glow15 and a healthier diet. At least an hour of my life will need to be dedicated to dinner preparation. That may not sound like much, but on nights my three kids have multiple sports practices and games, I don’t have that kind of time in the evening. I get a sliver of time to myself while the kids are in school and it’s precious to me. Whittling that sliver down to a splinter is a big sacrifice.
But most importantly, Glow15 still isn’t giving me the two things I want most: To feel healthier and to have more energy. Better skin and a trimmer waistline are excellent benefits, but they aren’t powerful motivators for me. Unless I start to feel healthier and more energized it’s going to be hard to stay motivated. I’m not sure all the sacrifices required for me to live the Glow15 lifestyle are worth making.
Yes, No, Maybe
So, which changes will stick? Which ones will go? And which ones are sitting on the fence?
I’m saying “YES” to:
1. Avoiding refined sugar or, at the least, drastically reducing my sugar intake. This is not easy. But it’s time for me to be a big girl.
2. The “Make Cellulite Glow Away” scrub. I love it and use it every time I shower.
3. Soaking my nuts. (I told you it never gets old.) If this is the only tip I take with me from this experience, it will have been worth it. The nuts better for me and they taste better, too. They’re crunchier and more flavorful after being soaked, and roasted then they are raw. I love these.
4. Eating more vegetables. Before Glow15, I made a simple green salad with romaine lettuce and cherry tomatoes every night for dinner but rarely served a veggie side dish. Now, I’m craving vegetables and I’m highly motivated to expand my recipes to include more vegetarian dishes.
5. Cooking with oils with a high smoke point. The fact that I’ve been barbecuing meat marinated in olive oil with a smoke point of 375-450 degrees on a 400-500 degree grill, potentially inhaling toxic fumes and feeding carcinogens to my family makes me ill. Grapeseed, Avocado, Tea Seed, and Extra Virgin Olive oils are my new pals.
6. Egg muffins. These are easy to prepare, taste great, and provide a ton of nutrients in a convenient, travel-sized package.
I’m saying “MAYBE” to:
1. “Powerphenol” supplements. Admittedly, I often forget to take them, but I have yet to see how they’re helping me (and maybe long-term use is required to be sure.) Plus, they’re expensive, which makes them a harder one to justify without an obvious benefit.
2. Intermittent fasting. Sixteen hours is pretty long. I’ll definitely adopt it as an occasional, even weekly practice. But I’m not sure I’m ready to fast every other day indefinitely.
3. Protein cycling. Since I’m having a new love affair with vegetables, this habit’s chances of sticking are improving daily. The primary obstacle right now is that I don’t have enough go-to recipes that my whole family likes to replace the ones I know by heart, which are all protein based.
4. Sleep habits. Glow15 doesn’t call for making changes to our sleep habits. We’re simply encouraged to identify our natural “sleep bird” style and obey our bodies’ natural circadian rhythm by going to bed and waking up at about the same time every day, and being sure to get enough sleep every night. For the most part, I’m already doing this. I’m getting more, better sleep than I was before starting Glow15, but I am not feeling more refreshed and energized. There is a mystery to this part of the equation that I haven’t unlocked yet.
5. Eating only organic foods. I’m about 99% convinced I need to switch to organic meat and 90% sure it should also be grass-fed and (truly) free range. I’m a little less convinced that all my fruits and vegetables need to be organic. I need more information. (Feel free to send it to me, as long as it’s from a highly credible source.) I’m not at all convinced I need everything in my kitchen to be organic.
I’m saying “NO” to:
1. Adding coconut oil to my tea. Never again. Just thinking about it makes me gag.
2. Replacing all my makeup, shampoo, deodorant, and other beauty products with all-natural, chemical-free products. If I need to minimize my exposure to harmful chemicals, I’ll minimize it in my food first.
Home Stretch with Glow15
I’m hopeful I will experience significant improvements in my energy level in the next four days, but I might not. My body and my health are like an onion. Glow15 is peeling off a layer and uncovering new layers I need to understand. But it’s also revealing how many more layers I have yet to peel back. Every question answered exposes two or three new questions.
In the meantime, I’m trying to be patient and pace myself. On the night of day eleven, I serve microwave burritos for dinner and squeeze in a round of dominos. It feels good.
You all, my readers, have a lot to say about Glow15 and I want to hear more from you! Some of you are ahead of me in this adventure and living far healthier lifestyles than I’ve been living. If you have healthy recipes I can try or helpful articles to broaden my education on the subject of healthy living, please send them to me! I’d like to share them here on the blog for other readers to enjoy.
Some of you are like me. You want to get healthy, but aren’t exactly sure how. I’d love to hear your questions, challenges, and other feedback.
Will you please take a minute to answer just four simple questions at the end of this post?
Thanks for reading,
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