#VeganBloodTest Results+ Dangers of supplementation!

vegan blood test

I recently stumbled into an opportunity to take a blood test…and I got the results! This is as exciting for me as hopefully I can make it sound for you! And…medical test results seems to be the only type of evidence that is valid in “meat-eater” court. So, the jury is in….and the verdict is, ummm, interesting. 

feeling-so-special-veganFirst, how did I accidentally get a blood test?

Without going into too many private details, I made an appointment at a women’s health clinic for a routine-ish OB-GYN check-up. I’ve never had a OB-GYN appointment before (hence ‘routine-ish’), and to answer some personal questions I had about my reproduction as well as screen for STI/STDs I had my blood drawn. Since they were already drawing my blood, I decided to ask them to expand the blood test to include a full metabolic panel and I specifically asked for B12 levels as well, mentioning that I was a vegan and was concerned about this vitamin in particular. If you are familiar with the high carb vegan community on YouTube you know that B12 and supplementation is a hot topic! (I am too familiar, translation: I have no life.)

I definitely hadn’t prepared to have a blood test that day which is both good and bad. I’ve detailed before how much I despise shady scientific and medical practices, one of which is not disclosing all the information. So, in being consistent with my message- full transparency! The “good” is that the blood test results are a true snapshot of my health. I didn’t change anything beforehand to try to manipulate my blood levels because I had no advance warning to prepare. The “bad” is that since I didn’t know about the test, I did not fast beforehand which is recommended by healthcare providers to ensure accurate results, specifically for triglyceride, cholesterol, and glucose levels. So I apologize that my results may not be 100% because by 3pm of my test, I had breakfast at 10am and lunch at around 1pm. But, not fasting beforehand doesn’t transform terrible results into good results…in specific cases it does make a difference, but in general if all your levels are looking good then you are most likely in good shape!

rabbit food

Now getting to the results! I actually got  detailed voicemail message from my doctor and she specifically mentioned certain things to note that aren’t readily apparent from the paper results.

The long story short is that everything is normal! Woohoo 🙂 Except for one thing! Can you guess what that might be??? Hint: Everyone asks you about it when they find out you are vegan…Actually, that might not be too helpful! To narrow it down a little, my calcium, iron and protein levels were all in good shape!

Yup, it’s B12…but it’s not what you think!

My B12 levels were actually way too high. Like astronomically, off-the-charts high. My provider said they were almost twice what they should be, normal is between 211-911. I was 1,618 pg/mL. Oops. I was extremely relieved to not be deficient, and it’s no mystery to me how this occurred. I’ve mentioned in my “What I Eat Wednesday” posts that I supplement (responsibly, or so I thought) with a sub-lingual, vegan B12 every morning.

b12

Specifically this exact one from Nature’s Bounty, which is the cheapest vegan B12 that I can buy from my local Safeway. I had assumed since this was a sub-lingual versus a shot, and since it is cyanocobalamin which is not as easily assimilated in your body as the better form, methylcobalamin (out of my price range), it would not be a risk to take one per day (as recommended). My thoughts were that besides not being as easily absorbed by my body, and being a water soluble vitamin, if I did accidentally and improbably take too much, I would excrete it. Unfortunately, B12 is stored in your body and not excreted as readily as vitamin C (for example). Fortunately, ridiculously high levels like I currently have have not been found to be harmful or toxic. Phew! But before you ask, I have stopped taking my B12!

I have one more surprising result for you all…

Potassium! My levels are actually low, which is ironic considering that I spent the months of April-June experimenting with a “Rawtill4” high carb vegan lifestyle that advocates eating 20-30 bananas a day! And yes, I was actually consuming 10-12 banana smoothies for breakfast and sometimes lunch! Another reason this was unexpected is because I consume copious amounts of sweet potatoes everyday…usually two pounds worth and sweet potatoes are a richer source of potassium than bananas!

love hate banana

It’s not as clear to me why I have low potassium as it is that I have high B12. But I have some theories…

For starters, I used to be extremely bulimic, I spent about three years hardcore throwing up maybe 15 times a day, almost everyday. The cessation of my purging wasn’t terribly long ago, and so it could be that my body is just trying to recoup. When you throw up a lot you cause your electrolytes to become unbalanced due to all the fluid loss, the same happens with excessive sweating or diarrhea. When I was going to the student health center at Oregon State University for help, I had my potassium levels checked and they were low then. I was given a prescription for potassium chloride (which I did not take because I thought they might have calories and I didn’t care enough to get better, I wanted to die not take something to improve my health).

Even though I am healthy now (and have the blood test results to prove it!) I still might have a hard time keeping my body’s potassium in proper balance because of all the running that I do. While I am not a heavy sweater, highly active people still lose more electrolytes that normal and so this might explain why I have a hard time keeping up my body’s needs through diet especially because right now because I am not ingesting any performance drinks or gels during my current phase of training. I don’t like to make that a regular habit anyway! My chloride was also a little low, but potassium and chloride work together in the body, that’s why I was prescribed a potassium-chloride supplement..so if one is low it makes sense the other might be too…just like calcium requires Vitamin D! It’s always a better solution to get your vitamins and minerals from whole food, plant sources, not through supplementation! Supplements isolate specific nutrients that can create toxic buildup or imbalances within the body at worst, and at best are just a waste of money if you aren’t consuming other nutrients to allow for proper absorption of the supplement. For more on how this reductionist scientific thinking creates harmful medical practices and flawed scientific study designs, I suggest reading T. Colin Campbell’s book Whole. But before I get off on too much of a tangent…

Here are the important bits! My results thus far, I’ve been a vegan for 2 years solid:

2015-01-02 10.31.33

2015-01-02 10.32.08

Here’s to entering the new year happy  and healthy! May your resolutions be made responsibly (of course I’ll be doing a post about that)!

I’ll leave you with this fun video about rice and beans 🙂 Happy 2015!

An unsavory history: my relationship with food

Unhealthy-Relationships-teaches you

It is really hard to be a female in this society and have a normal relationship of food. Normal isn’t even the right word because I am not sure that a “normal” relationship with food exists among anyone…how can it in our current food environment? I can’t say for sure, but I think most people have some degree of disorder when it comes to eating. I recently wrote a post about calorie counting vs. eating whole foods, in which I detailed how I have tried to train myself to view food in terms of the nutrients it contains and not the calories. I also use my love of running to motivate myself to make better choices. But therein lies another struggle, athletic achievement and diet, the two are inextricable.

There are societal pressures to be thin, as well as athletic pressure to be healthy. I’m going to speak from my perspective and experience as a young female and an endurance runner…trying to find the balance has been a really hard journey for me, and it is still not over.

anorexic 3Over the last several years I’ve been obsessed with nutrition. I’ve read almost everything I could find concerning weight loss, calories, different diets, eating disorders, and achieving optimal health. My crash course in diets began with my spiral into eating disorders when I was 15. At the beginning of my sophomore year in high school my training for XC was ramping up, and unbeknownst to me I wasn’t eating enough to keep up with the energy my body used. I realized I had lost weight when I had to weigh myself for PE class (a cruel practice), and after that moment, I was consumed with trying to eat less and run more. Compounding that, my high school coach would make fun of girls on the team for their bad eating habits or excess weight. It may have been in jest, but I wanted to be the best runner I could and so I took all his remarks seriously, though none were ever aimed at me.

What followed were years of stress. On the pictures to the left (above) I am a senior in high school, 17. To the left (below) is the transformation I underwent when I first became anorexic. I went from normal skinny during the fall XC season to scary skinny in the spring track season. I remember feeling terrified of what I was doing to myself, I hated the way I looked. I compared myself to a reptile because my spine looked like the spiky back of a lizard and my skin was dry and scaly. But I also couldn’t stop restricting my food. I needed to see my bones or I believed I was gaining weight. I developed a bad tendency of measuring my arms with my hands…and to this day I still do it.
anorexic 4

Physically, I was always cold. I was stiff, even though I ran for miles everyday, including my weekly long run of 20 miles once a week, I could barely climb the stairs at my school. I couldn’t think clearly, even though I maintained straight A’s during this time. I began to get dizzy, have insane heart arrhythmias, and I was always depressed. I didn’t feel like I had any emotions, I can’t remember feeling much at all except for scared and obsessed.

I hid food, I spit it out when no one was looking, I threw my lunches away and skipped breakfast. I was compulsive about running and needed to exercise every day. Occasionally I felt guilty about how scared my mom was, but her tactics to get me to eat only steeled my resolve to eat less, as long as I wasn’t dead my dad believed I was fine. During this whole ordeal, I ran two marathons, one when I was 16 and then when I was 17…I must be really strong because it’s a miracle I didn’t die, both times I probably weighed about 80lbs (naturally I settle around 100lbs.)

Somehow I started eating more, and then I dealt with a whole different monster, bulimia 😦 I spent my first year alone in college locked in my tiny apartment, eating and throwing up, over and over again. My body was fighting me for food after years of being starved. I couldn’t stop and I didn’t know how to eat. If I wasn’t binging, I was trying not to eat.  I never told my family, if anyone asked, I made up fictional meals that I had cooked for myself.

The point of my story is that I want people to know how my experience with food has influenced the way I see it now. This is why I am so AGAINST dieting, processed food, calorie counting, etc. This is why I despise the pressure I feel to stay skinny. As someone who has never had an overweight problem, there are a lot of things I am sure I will never be able to understand. But now when I post about what I eat in a day or about my views on a whole food diet, you have some context. I lament that I am still really obsessive. I’m picky and strict about what I consume. There might be remnants of ED behavior influencing my habits, but I am also Type A, and I only want to eat what I feel will give me the right fuel to run fast. I’ll never be nonchalant about my diet, but I have come so far compared to where I once was. Being skinny is no longer my most fervent wish. More than anything now, I want to make the Olympic trials in 2016. If I can do that, I’ll set my sights on the Olympics in 2020. I’m ready to reach the highest heights and the only thing that can stand in my way is me.

My struggles have taught me thastrong skinnyt you do run better when you are skinny, to a point. And then you crash. Runners are skinny because they run, and if they’re smart they eat the right nutrients and enough energy to sustain their workouts.

I’ve come to understand that I will never be an amazing marathon runner if I am only eating to stay skinny. In the picture below (sorry, MarathonFoto) I am not dieting, I am not worried about being thin. I care about having enough energy to feel strong and kick ass for 26.2 miles. The sad thing is, I wasted several years trying to whittle myself away to nothing, for what? I have the capacity to be a much more amazing person now. As long as I eat right and exercise, I’ll be fine.

 

What I Eat Wednesday: 10/08/2014 What works for you?

I’ve been a bottomless pit for the past two days! Logically it makes sense, I just put my body through 26.2 miles of intense running and I need to refuel the tank, but I was not prepared to be so ravenous! The day of the marathon I took in 250 calories prior to the run and 200 calories on the course. Immediately after finishing I ate ~1 lb. of green grapes, about 300 calories and then went home and ate: 2 small apples, 3 small nectarines, 1 large peach and 2 tiny Seckle pears which all totaled ~560 calories. I ate my usual meal for lunch and had a smaller dinner than usual because I slept all day and felt sick from my migraine. So it makes sense that the next day (yesterday) my hunger drive kicked into high gear!

hungry dog memeI ate my usual fruity breakfast, and my pre-packed lunch of veggies and potatoes…but mid-afternoon I was walking past a Whole Foods and decided to go inside for the salad bar (where there’s always something healthy and tasty for a high carb vegan to eat). I grabbed a to go container and filled it to the brim with corn, peas, edamame, cauliflower, tomatoes, mushrooms and lettuce. After I paid and started eating and I realized I was ravenous. It was a 2lb. salad and when I was done I was still starving. It hadn’t made a dent! I was craving the rich fat of avocado, and so I bought a fresh avocado salad roll and a mini avocado white rice sushi roll. I ate them both (without the sauces) and then went back for 2 more servings of avocado salad rolls (I have a history of past addictions to salad rolls) for the road. By this time my hunger was finally beginning to feel quelled and I was able to tear myself out of Whole Foods, which was rapidly consuming my whole paycheck! I went home and consumed the rest of the salad rolls as well as my usual huge portion of steamed sweet potatoes and lettuce.

Today was a little bit better! I ate my usual fruit for breakfast and veggies for lunch. In the afternoon I only bought one serving of avocado salad rolls and 1 serving of avocado white rice sushi. Then I ate my usual dinner.

I’m really proud of myself. Listening to my body and honoring my hunger drive, specifically my cravings, has never been something I was able to do. In high school I developed severe anorexia and then bulimia, and so I was either depriving myself or binging and then purging. Thoughts of food were never safe, and feelings of hunger and cravings filled me with dread that I might binge or eat something I wasn’t allowed to. But yesterday I realized I was hungry and I definitely understood why, so I ate. And I made good choices! I wanted to eat more veggies and salad rolls! My only strong, specific cravings were for avocado (maybe I needed the fat?) so I ate avocado and I didn’t worry about the fat content! For a brief moment I did fret that eating extra food I hadn’t planned for in the day would make me fat, but I checked myself quickly. Everything I ate was natural, fresh, whole foods! Who has ever gotten fat eating vegetables, salad rolls and rice?

post marathon cravings

My main focus right now is to recover my muscles optimally and stay healthy! This is the time to pack nutrient-dense fresh fruits and veggies into my body! I want to be strong and injury free. With my mindset of optimal athletic achievement, a healthy weight will naturally follow.

Breakfast:

WIAW 7 breakfast

I hobbled through a quick 3 mile run this morning, I’m still recovering! But I plan to run again tonight and I also feel like my quads have healed enough to bike to class (it’s only 25 minutes each way with minor hills).

It finally happened 😦 I went to the grocery store and there were NO peaches, nectarines or pluots! I’m heartbroken! I’ve known for awhile that the summer fruit was waning…but I didn’t expect the breakup to be so sudden!

For breakfast I had honey tangerines, 2 medium-large Honeycrisp apples, and a large Asian pear. I took the apples to class with me and ate them mid-morning.

On my way home I stopped to do a sweet potato haul at a New Seasons grocery store. New Seasons’ are the only place nearby where I can find my favorite Japanese sweet potatoes. I also bought some deliciously squishy golden kiwis for tomorrow’s brekky. I like to have sweet and juicy fruits for breakfast, so it might be hard for me to survive this winter on bananas, apples and citrus only 😦

Lunch:

WIAW 7 lunchAs soon as I got home, I dug into lunch. Again, I was ravenous! I am still getting really hungry! I had my usual carrots, zucchini, and sweet potato (steamed). It’s a really large potato, about 300 calories worth…so it’s not as though I am not eating enough calories. But even after I ate all that, I was still wanting…

Yesterday when I went grocery shopping I had bought some avocados just in case (based on the avocado cravings I had the past two days) and after lunch, I really wanted some avocado! Good thing I had planned for this!

So I threw together what I had and made 2 little lettuce boats containing: 1/8 avocado each, sliced yellow cherry tomatoes, 1/2 sheet dried nori, and a handful of freeze-dried corn. It seemed to do the trick! After I ate those I finally felt satiated and ready to get to my homework!

In the early evening I donned my running clothes and jogged over to my favorite running store to lead a run group. We didn’t go far, and the pace was pretty relaxed (which was all I could manage anyway). In total I jogged a mile there and back and ran 3 miles with the group.

Dinner:

Guess what??? Steamed sweet potatoes and lettuce for the win! Yes, I had what I always have, but that’s the dinner that I ate everyday of my training cycle and the night before I won the Portland Marathon, so it must be working! I had 1.8 lbs. of steamed potatoes and 2 large heads of Romaine lettuce. I might finally be calming my post-marathon hunger!

In total I ran 9 miles (easy) and biked 50 minutes.

Macro nutrient breakdown:

Total Calories: 2,101 calories

Carbohydrates: 475.9g (86.3% of total calories)

Fats: 16.9g (6.7% of total calories)

Proteins: 54.6g (7% of total calories)

make the healthy choice