New Year’s Revolution 2015! Veganuary (Yes, it’s what it sounds like)!

try vegan this jan

I think there are some mixed reviews about the Veganuary campaign, whose goal is to get people to go vegan for the month of January. There are some, like Bite Size Vegan on YouTube who makes a good point against going vegan for the new year, and others, like Kerry McCarpet who argues that it’s a good idea. Click their names to be linked to their videos! Both are extremely intelligent vegans and I highly recommend their channels, which only works if you think I am at least moderately intelligent…I overflowed my oatmeal this morning (for the trillionth time), so I might not be as smart as I (try) to sound….

I will proceed to address three points: what the heck Veganuary¬†is, arguments for and against it, and my own POV (with a little freebie for one lucky-ish person ūüôā ). Prepare yourself fellow vegans and vegans-to-be!

What is Veganuary? 

“Try Vegan this January” is a month long pledge to avoid consuming animal products and go vegan. Of course, avoiding eating animals is not the entirety of what veganism is, but it is the biggest leap into veganism that one can take. You can sign up and pledge to go vegan on their website: www.veganuary.com. You can still pledge even if you are already vegan, and I urge you to do so! Movements are much more successful when they are supported by the masses, so if you are already vegan and think this doesn’t apply, think again! We need your voice! You don’t have to change a thing (if you don’t want to), just pledge.

veganuary pig

Their website provides a plethora of helpful resources for vegans-to-be and I’ve found it pretty interesting myself! I tried to put my self back into the head-space that I was in when I first went vegan, and I appreciate all the work that went into the site even more. Even 4 years ago (when I first attempted veganism, I failed the first time) compendiums of helpful resources like this did not exist on one website.

The¬†why¬†of veganism is addressed from multiple perspectives: health, environment, animals, and nutrition. You can search for recipes easily, either by cuisine, ingredients, or type of food like ‘pizza’ or ‘cookies’ to easily find lots of recipes in one place. I really love the¬†eating out¬†tab. It links you to handy ‘cuisine guides’ for Chinese, Indian, Italian, Mexican, etc. For each cuisine there is information about what you can order as a vegan and certain things to look out for that you may not have ¬†known about. For example, new vegans might not think to ask about fish or oyster sauce in Chinese dishes because it is not as apparent as say, a hunk of meat or an egg in their dish. A word of caution, reading the cuisine guides will leave you salivating and craving the yummy vegan dishes they describe!

They also have a¬†products¬†tab under which they have everything from books, DVDs, clothes, food (tons of food), household products, pet products, cosmetics, medicine, etc. All neatly categorized for the new vegan to find anything they wish! For each product there is information about what it can be used for or how it’s beneficial, nutrition facts or ingredients (if applicable), and links to websites where you can purchase the item (like Amazon). It’s not all superfoods and junk either, it’s pretty good stuff!

There is a¬†vegan myths¬†tab, under which there are tons of helpful Q&A’s. One of which was what my brother desperately clung to as he was grasping for straws, and reasons to eat meat: #30 “What about all the problems facing humans in the world? Shouldn’t we worry about those first before we worry about animals?” The answer was more than thoughtful, a new vegan might not realize how eating vegan will indirectly help feed starving children.

Lastly, there is a¬†vegan people¬†and¬†news & blog¬†tab. Under the people tab, you can find examples of actors, athletes, activists, and regular ol’ people…YOU ARE NOT ALONE! The news tab keeps you entertained with interesting updates, articles, tips/guides and infographics. The website is interesting, helpful, and trust me you will learn something new, even if you think you are a ‘seasoned’ vegan. (Pun intended, can you tell I’m getting hungry?)

So, why might it be a bad idea? (But ultimately, it is a GOOD idea!)

vegan new year

The argument against it is that January is a time of New Year’s Resolutions, most of which fail…so why would this resolution be any different? Unfortunately, this is a time of fad diets and quick-fix weight-loss tricks, and some are worried that going vegan for January might get mixed up in that trend. I agree, it definitely could.

I am ambivalent about resolutions, like many I believe that waiting until the new year to make a change is silly, but that doesn’t mean that January is a bad time to make a change either! There is no good or bad time, everyday is a good day to set a goal, resolve yourself to make a change, or take a pledge! Don’t let the connotation of “New Year’s Resolution” scare you away from trying something new¬†at the beginning of a new year.

Ultimately, Veganuary is a good idea. Unlike other “awareness-raising” months which do only that, raise awareness, Veganuary provides individuals a call to action. It doesn’t make people feel powerless in the face of statistics, it emboldens them to¬†do¬†something! In the process of becoming vegan, the individual will learn information concerning animal cruelty and nutrition and will be better able to navigate ethical eating. (As it pertains to animals…farm worker justice is a whole different can of worms!) The website ensures that the individual has every opportunity for success by providing as many resources as possible.

Lastly, Veganuary is a good idea because even if some people decide to do it for weight-loss or as a cleanse, many more individuals will discover the health benefits of veganism and stick with it past the conclusion of January. I think that a lot of people in society have forgotten what it feels like to actually feel¬†good.¬†Even if the individual doesn’t embark upon the healthiest vegan diet and relies on processed vegan foods, eschewing animal products is often enough to reap dramatic health benefits if the individual was on the standard American diet beforehand.

My personal opinion….and a surprise for you!

veganuary 2015 resolutionI believe there are two hooks to veganism: some go vegan because they love animals a.k.a the ethical hook; others go “plant-based” for their health, athletic performance, or aesthetics a.k.a. the individual/health hook. In my opinion those who go plant-based for health fall into two camps. Some will stay plant-based and their abstention of animal products will not extend past their diet, these are also the people who partake in “cheat-meals” that contain animal products…they haven’t educated themselves beyond deciphering the nutrition label and haven’t peeled back the curtain of cruelty. They are merely concerned with how they look. I think there are very few who stay this way, these people usually fall off the vegan wagon because they always feel deprived.

The rest of the people who begin as plant-based will continue to educate themselves, watch documentaries and realize the ethics behind the vegan lifestyle. They may start off only concerned with how they look or feel, but they will stay vegan because they have seen the suffering of the animals raised for food or clothes, and they empathize. These people can feel the pain of the animals and can see how the effects of eating meat ripple outward in violence, poverty, environmental destruction and starvation. These people stay vegan not only because they feel good, but because they don’t feel deprived…they feel satiated both by the food and the knowledge that they are doing good for the planet.

All it takes is for the individual to simply give veganism a try. So in that sense, the more people who “try vegan this January”, the better!

2015-01-05 16.31.45And now…..Before you think my brother is all bad, he did get me a gigantic vegan cookbook for Christmas. So at least he tried to find a vegan thing for me, and I appreciate the thought! But I don’t cook, like ever. So I am pretty confident I will¬†never¬†use it, I haven’t even cracked it open yet. So I am giving it away, I will mail it to whomever I feel leaves the most detailed reason in the comments below, or emails me at sushitomismith@gmail.com with the reason why they would like this book! Whoever I feel wants/needs it the most based on their comment or email will receive it ūüôā

I just want to find it a good home ‚̧

#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 ūüôā¬†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:

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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 ūüôā Happy 2015!

Book Review: Diet for a New America

This is what I call the “second-hand school” effect ūüôā When I produce class work that I think could do double duty as a blog post! Or when I happen across really interesting topics in class that provide inspiration for a new blog topic, like my ‘Are only interesting things worth it?‘ post from awhile back. For my senior capstone class requirement I chose to take a grant writing and sustainability class (mostly because it was online) and one of the assignments was to do a book review on literature of our choosing that related to sustainability. Bingo! Of course I immediately¬†thought of veganism and how it relates to the environment. I had been wanting to read¬†Diet for a New America¬†by John Robbins for awhile, so what better way to kill two birds with one…..hmmm, I should find a different analogy…¬†diet for a new america review
diet_for_a_new_americaDiet for a New America is intended for the general adolescent or adult public. Whether the readers are omnivores, already vegan, or anywhere in between they will find it interesting and eye opening. If the readers are not already vegan or considering eschewing animal products from their diet, after reading this book they will either seriously consider changing their diet or will feel confident in their ability to defend their current dietary practice of veganism. Most of the public is unaware of the effects that occur as a byproduct of breeding and farming animals for food. The government purposefully conceals most of this information from the public in order to continue to profit from meat and dairy. Many states have enacted ‚Äúag-gag‚ÄĚ laws that make it illegal to film or take pictures of even the outside of factory farms, even if the person does so from a public road. If you recall, in 1998 Oprah declared on her show that she would never eat another hamburger after learning details about her meat. She was then sued for slander by angry cattle ranchers who feared her statement would convince her viewers to do the same. The USDA has a conflict of interest, they are responsible for sustaining the agricultural industries of meat and dairy as well as dictating the nutritional recommendations for the public. But when it comes down to the health of individuals or making a profit, money wins at the expense of the environment, animals who suffer, and the health of individuals.
The main objective of this book is to reveal to readers the detrimental consequences of consumption of meat and dairy products. He details the different practices that are involved in farming all animals including fish, chicken, turkeys, pigs, and cows. Each process is cruel and inhumane, as well as unsustainable. In each section he details the emotional and mental intelligence of the animals who are slain. The practices of the fishing industry are particularly relevant to today. Americans are told to consume more fish for ‚Äúhealthy‚ÄĚ Omega-3 fatty acids and because it is lower in fat and cholesterol than other animal products. However, our oceans are being depleted of fish faster than they can be replenished. It is estimated by organizations like the United Nations that by 2050 the oceans could become ‚Äúfishless deserts‚ÄĚ at our current rate of consumption. Robbins keeps the reader engaged with information that is emotionally stimulating as well as factual, ‚ÄúWhen infant dolphins are caught in tuna nets, their mothers will go to extraordinary lengths to join their doomed young. Once in the nets, they will huddle together with their offspring, singing to them. The tuna industry takes note of this only to acknowledge that the majority of dolphins killed in their nets are females and infants‚ÄĚ (21). All of his facts, stories and studies are cited and listed for readers to continue their research and delve deeper into the truth.
Robbins attacks the issue of animal agriculture from all sides. He begins with the cruelty to animals and then moves on to the negative health consequences people suffer from consuming animal products. He appeals to the future of the children and their health. The current generation has been predicted to be the first who will not outlive their parents because of chronic lifestyle diseases. Robbins details how many, if not all, of these diseases can be attributed to consumption of animal products. A vegan diet has been shown by doctors such as Caldwell Esselsytn, Neal Barnard, and Dean Ornish (to name a few) to be able to stop and in some cases reverse serious chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Lastly, Robbins addresses the environmental impact of breeding, feeding and slaughtering billions of animals annually for human consumption. From the process, to the end, Robbins addresses the pesticide issues involved in growing food for animals and the pollution that results as well as the toxins that accumulate in the meat and then are ingested by people. He talks about the waste of water, grain, oil, and land that are used in the intensive practices of factory farming. He talks about the pollution that results to our rivers and oceans, the deforestation, and the greenhouse gases that account for climate change. Animals raised for food are the dominant producer of greenhouse gases (methane), even more than the transportation sector. Animal agriculture uses nearly half of all water consumed in the U.S. Viable farmland is planted to crops for animal feed and farmed so intensely that the soil loses its nutrients and then the capacity to grow anything at all. Then the industry looks to other countries, like Brazil where rainforest destruction results mostly from land needed to grow feed for animals. Growing grain to feed animals is an incredibly wasteful process and results in diminished returns in terms of calories and nutrients. Robbins states that the planet is fully capable of supporting the projected population estimate of 9 billion, but only if we are able to stop filtering our grains and water through animals first! For example, it takes 100x more water to produce a pound of meat than it does to produce a pound of wheat (341). Robbins writes on page 327:

Many of us believe that hunger exists because there’s not enough food to go around. But as Frances Moore Lappe and the antihunger organization Food First have shown, the real cause of hunger is a scarcity of justice, not a scarcity of food. Enough grain is squandered every day in raising American livestock for meat to provide every human being on earth with two loaves of bread.

Diet for a New America continues to be as reliable and relevant today as it was when it was published. Conditions, unfortunately are still deplorable. But he was optimistic in his opinion that people are waking up. They are realizing the burdens that come with eating animal products and are changing their ways for themselves, the planet, the animals and the future. Robbins’ work was recently sourced by the documentary Cowspiracy for information alongside other studies and reports from the UN, the WHO, and other reputable sources.
The dominant theme throughout Diet for a New America is compassion. Compassion for the planet and the animals, and compassion for ourselves. By inflicting torture and suffering on other animals, we are also torturing ourselves as we become sick from diseases like diabetes and cancer at an alarmingly increasing rate. Robbins calls for a healthy diet based in justice and compassion for all living things. Robbins hits readers on every level: intellectual and emotional. He presents readers with the knowledge for why they should change, and gives them the additional resources to do so. Once people have read this book, they can no longer claim ignorance. They must do something. Robbins’ call to action is clear: stop eating animals and their products.

Americans are growing increasingly aware that what we do to the earth, we do to ourselves; that how we treat animals says something important about who we are as people; and that confining animals in factory farms is wrong and produces food that is damaging the health of our bodies, our world, and our spirits (Prologue).

John Robbins is ‚Äúan advocate for a compassionate and healthy way of life,‚ÄĚ (419). He has written nine bestsellers and received many awards including the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, the Peace Abbey‚Äôs Courage of Conscience Award, and the Green America‚Äôs Lifetime Achievement Award. He is the founder of EarthSave International, whose mission is ‚Äúto help people make food choices that promote health, reduce health care costs, and provide greater health independence‚ÄĚ.

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Food does not equal calories! Putting calories in their place

In the battle to be healthy and maintain a weight conducive to good health (not aesthetics), food is not the enemy. Your basic biological drive to seek out nutrients for survival, a.k.a. hunger is not the enemy! The real enemy in disguise are fast food chains, junk food companies, and…the FDA (I should just rename my blog “I hate the FDA” because I rant about them so much!)

When most people attempt to lose weight, they turn to counting calories. After all, calories are facts. They are quantitative and easy to keep track of thus, the number is in your control. Well, I’m sorry to tell ycount chemicalsou this, but the number you think you know is wrong. A calorie is not a calorie and your body is not a machine. Eating less calories than you expend on a diet consisting of packaged foods is nearly impossible.

2 Reasons why you can’t count calories correctly:

  1. Calorie counts on food labels are incorrect.¬†Under FDA regulations, packaged foods (even diet foods) can be as much as 20% off! The FDA allows this amount of “wiggle room” to account for variations in portions. Food companies mostly operate on the honor system because the FDA lacks sufficient manpower to ensure the accuracy of nutrition labels on all the food products available.* 20% wrong doesn’t seem like much, but in a day or a week, it can really add up…along with the excess sodium, chemicals, and preservatives.
  2. Calorie counts for whole foods are imprecise!¬†Yes, even for whole foods! Whole foods don’t come standard, they vary in weight and nutritional content. Also,the caloric content of foods listed in databases that people rely on are based on a formula that is 100+ years old.** When caloric contents of natural foods were computed, there wasn’t any factoring in of how much of the food is actually absorbed by your body. Components of whole fruits and vegetables, like fiber decreases the absorption of calories by your body, especially when eaten raw. Also, when raw, fibrous foods are eaten, your body has to expend more energy in digestion to break these foods down. Conversely, when you denature or process foods in any way, such as cooking, chopping, blending, or juicing, you make more calories available to be absorbed. You have essentially predigested your food, and thus your body doesn’t have to work as hard to obtain the nutrients, expending less energy. (This is not necessarily a bad thing! Except in terms of counting calories.) So the amount of calories contained in whole foods is pretty variable! Though the volume of fruits and vegetables make it really hard to eat too much of them!

 

The practice of counting calories and eating packaged foods also instills some pretty bad habits. When someone eats from a package, they are more inclined to finish the package. That person may not want to leave just a little bit left, or may feel entitled to eat it all because they are still “safe” in terms of the amount of calories they have allotted him or herself. This teaches you to override your natural feelings of fullness, and eat for a number instead. Most packaged foods are designed to be eaten on the go, and thus promote mindless eating and further takes you out of touch with your natural hunger.

Calorie counting is also stressful! The stress hormone cortisol leads to weight gain around the stomach and also spikes your appetite! When someone is trying to dutifully account for every last calorie, it makes it impossible to appreciate the food for what it is and what it could do for you. It also teaches the person to view themselves as either “good” or “bad”. This creates a slippery slope toward the cycle of restricting and overeating, which characterizes yo-yo dieting.

In reality, a calorie is a number that means nothing. It does not tell you how healthy or unhealthy a food is. It’s a waste of your time and energy that could be better used elsewhere to try to count them. They’re not even accurate anyway!

Packaged food vs. Whole food:
pro bar health food

This is a pretty good example of how whole food vs. packaged foods can create an unhealthy situation. A Pro Bar meal replacement bar is a¬†really¬†good idea for ultra endurance events (think 100 mile runs or 10 hour bike rides), it’s also a good idea for 8 hour plane flights, but it is a really bad idea for everybody else!

These meal bars are marketed as a healthier alternative to replace meals for people on the go. Undoubtedly, their natural ingredients are much healthier than a fast food meal. But the problem comes when people are so blinded by the “health halo” that they don’t realize how energy dense this little bar really is. One bar is 85g, that’s tiny! It’s about the equivalent of one¬†extra¬†small (less than 6″) banana. But it contains 360 calories! The problem is that people eat these packaged foods thinking they are “healthy”. In reality, this bar will not leave you with any feelings of fullness you would have otherwise gotten had you eat 360 calories of fresh, whole plant foods packed with water and fiber as well as the vitamins and minerals that the ProBar claims to contain as a selling point. (I might also add that the calorie equivalent of this bar is 3.5 bananas, which would be¬†cheaper than one ProBar!)
2014-11-16 09.27.53

Eating whole foods in as close to natural as possible makes it much easier to create a situation of good health where you don’t have to count calories to check your weight, you feel full, and you give your body the nutrients it needs in the correct proportions. Since it has gotten a lot colder, and the fruits available have whittled down to the basics (I can’t really afford out of season fruits, and by eating what’s cheap I also eat seasonally!) I have been eating a lot of oatmeal and apples. But this is what I mean by real food:

Whole food oatmeal:

  • 1/2 cup oats, dry (150 cal.)
  • 1 large apple (115 cal.)
  • 1 Tbsp. chia seeds (14g) (68 cal.)
  • 1/2 cup frozen cherries (50 cal.)
  • water, cinnamon, fresh ginger (~0 cal.)

I also ate 3 tangerines before my oatmeal (170 cal.) this brings my total calories to 553 calories for my breakfast. Is that a lot or a little? The answer is that it is completely subjective. To a female dieter trying to restrict their calories to a tiny amount, they might have already “blown it” by consuming that many calories so early in the day… When I look at this breakfast I see: vitamins and fiber from the fruit. Oats have fiber, protein, and complex carbs to help my muscles recover from a run. Chia seeds are a source of Omega 3 fats and are filling as well as satiating because they bulk up my oats. Cinnamon is great for regulating blood sugar. Cherries are amazing for antioxidants, they are anti-inflammatory, and can speed up muscle recovery in endurance athletes. Ginger is also nature’s medicine, great for overall health including¬†indigestion, GI distress, nausea, and inflammation. These are only the known benefits of these foods…scientists haven’t identified all the compounds inherent in fruits and vegetables, and they definitely don’t understand the symbiotic processes that occur when someone consumes a whole food.

I see this bowl of whole foods, not as a bowl of calories, but as a breakfast that will fill me up, taste amazing, and allow me to recover from my morning run optimally so that I can run again tomorrow. My main goal in life is not to see how few calories I can eat in a day, my goal is to push my body to the limit in terms of miles run and speed sustained.

The main message is to eat whole, fresh foods: fruits, vegetables, grains, and some nuts and seeds. Our reductionist scientific understanding of things has enabled people to view food as nothing but calories and macronutrients (carbs, fats, proteins). The reality is that no one¬†really¬†knows all the magic contained in fruits and vegetables that allows them to unleash their nutrition on our metabolism (all the chemical reactions that take place in the body). The best bet for better health is to stop eating for a number (that’s arbitrary anyway) and eat whole plant foods till you are full!

Sources:

*Jeff Rossen, Robert Powell,¬†NBC News: Today Show¬†Rossen Reports: Can you believe diet frozen dessert labels?” Aug. 20, 2012.

**Sass, Cynthia, Health News & Views¬†Why Calorie Counts are Wrong: 6 Diet Myths, Busted” Feb. 7, 2013.

 

Sorry, I’m NOT Sorry for Being a Picky Eater

If you are health conscious, or a vegan, or a health-conscious vegan, you know all too well the daily struggle that accompanies your food choices. If you are a female, you might be familiar with the need to be a people please-er and apologize for causing any inconveniences. I happen to be all of the above! A people-pleasing, health-conscious vegan, who constantly feels the need to apologize because females are expected to be either a) demure or b) un-opinionated in our society.

Eating with others (whom I don’t know well), ordering at restaurants or having people over for meals is pretty difficult for me. I always feel the need to explain or apologize for my choices even though I know what I am doing is right for me!

This is my un-apology.¬†I am not sorry for choosing to be vegan¬†and eat healthfully, even if it means I inconvenience my fellow diners! This phenomenon highlights how successfully the big food industries have brainwashed everyone…I have to go against the grain and fight social disapproval for a salad untainted by cheese or croutons, and then apologize for it!

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My lunch! Everything is packed full of vitamins and minerals. No oil, no processed grains! Raw or lightly steamed veggies!

It may not seem like a big deal, but for years I have dealt with being the odd one with “weird” eating habits. I always feel guilty when other people feel the need to accommodate for my diet, even though I constantly tell them not to! As a successful vegan, I know how to adapt to pretty much every situation, and no one needs to change anything for me! I’ve also endured remarks about how my food looks, or about my diet being just “rabbit food”, always implying that it is disgusting or unappetizing. Lastly, we’ve all heard the joke, “How can you tell if someone is vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.” (Ha-ha.) These remarks may seem harmless, especially because most of the ribbing (no pun intended!) comes from my meat-loving brother and father, and from my non-vegan friends.

Changing your diet is not the hard part of being a vegan, enduring other’s criticism and remarks is much more difficult. Our current food environment has made it easier to make terrible dietary choices, and really¬†really¬†hard to make health promoting choices. Something is definitely wrong if I feel the need to apologize for not consuming animals or junk food, and am made to feel weird for eating 3 plates of vegetables from the salad bar. (Hey, when you eat whole food fruits, vegetables, and grains, you can eat till you are stuffed!)

2014-09-28 13.13.34

Two fish are swimming along, an older fish swims by and asks, “Hey boys, how’s the water?” A few moments later, one of the two fish turns to the other and asks, “What’s water?”¬†

We have become so inundated with “health” information paid for by the meat and dairy industries and from large food companies that we don’t even realize that catch-phrases like “Beef, it’s whats for dinner” or “Got milk?” or “The incredible, edible egg!” are all¬†advertisements paid for by the industry,¬†not factual scientific information. Independent scientific research consistently finds that meat, dairy, and eggs are NOT good for building strong bones or preventing osteoporosis. Animal products are not a good source of viable protein, eating them won’t make you strong or healthy. There is, in fact, a correlation between high intakes of dairy products and increased osteoporosis in industrialized countries. There is also a correlation between excessive animal protein consumption and increased incidences of breast, prostate, and colon cancer. Also, the top causes of mortality and morbidity in the U.S. are heart disease (heart attack, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, etc.), stroke, cancer, diabetes…and they are all caused by consuming too much fat, sat. fat, cholesterol, and sodium, all of which come neatly packaged in animal products. Any scientific study that comes out in favor of consuming animal products was most likely funded by the USDA (responsible for making profits from meat and dairy, corn and soy), the meat or dairy industry, or the American Egg Board.

Most people don’t have time to conduct their own research and dissect and understand scientific findings. Knowing who to trust is difficult, especially when many people in our own govt. agencies have perverse conflicts of interests and benefit from keeping consumers in the dark about their food. People only have time for the ads they glimpse on the street, or see on TV or in magazines. None of that is scientifically sound information, but sadly that’s where most Americans get their nutrition advice.

I don’t apologize for not being a drone, I seek out my own information and I recognize the difference between true science and paid for advertising. I feel so different because I am not trapped in the eat junk- get fat/sick-go on a diet-go see a doctor cycle that fuels junk food companies, the weight loss industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and contributes to our nation’s ballooning healthcare costs. I will not be puppet-ed around by propaganda. I am responsible for being¬†proactive¬†about my health and not¬†reactive.

Did you Know?

  • Only a handful of big companies own your food: we are made to think we have a plethora of choices, but in reality 80% of what we eat is controlled by a select few parent companies.
  • “Natural” and “whole grain” claims on packaged food mean nothing, there is no FDA standard for “natural” and as long as there is some whole grains, then the claim can be made on the box ūüė¶ Labels like these are used to distract the consumer.
  • Popular food companies have learned their marketing strategies from Big Tobacco, their tactics include funding favorable research and lobbying politicians.
  • The excessive use of pesticides is shocking. For example, Roundup (from Monsanto) is doused on fields of wheat a few days before harvest because it is easier to harvest the withered, dead plants.
  • Food companies lobby politicians, head govt. agencies like the FDA and USDA, and market to children in schools!

Source: “9 Hidden Facts the Food Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know” Livestrong, Oct. 10, 2014. “The Real Reason Wheat is Toxic (it’s not the gluten)” The Healthy Home Economist, Nov. 13, 2014.

extreme esselsytn quote

As a vegan, I am made to feel like an “extremist”, a crazy left-wing, animal loving, tree hugging hippie. Supposedly I am weak and subsist on a diet of twigs and leaves….the harmful misconceptions that perpetuate about veganism are simply other ways for the meat and dairy industry to continue to rake in the profits by convincing consumers that they need to eat animals.

Am I really extreme? No, I’m educated. Am I weak? My last marathon time doesn’t indicate that I am. My biggest problem is that I am not “getting with the program” and cooperating by eating animals and processed junk foods, and thus not lining their pockets with cash.

I’m not sorry for that!

Snapshot: How I Ate and Exercised Today Oct. 22 (Wed.)

WIAW 7 morning stretch

Good Morning! Today was¬†literally¬† a run, eat, sleep, repeat type of day. I woke up at 5:30 am to the seemingly ceaseless sound of rain falling. It was still pitch black outside, which didn’t make waking up any more inviting! But I rolled out of bed anyway and went for an easy 4 mile run at an 8 min./mi. pace. I nixed showering (I didn’t sweat, but I got rained on, and I had no time) and changed into whatever was warm and comfortable. I spent the next 45 minutes stretching, eating peaches and watching YouTube videos in the semi-darkness until I had to catch the bus at 7:45 am for my 8:15 am Epidemiology class. I have a break between classes from 10 am- 10:15 am when I also ate 1 large Honeycrisp apple and 1 tiny sweet Tango apple.

WIAW 8 peachesBreakfast: FRUIT!

  • 3 peaches (610g) = 238 calories
  • 1 large + 1 small apple (322g) = 167 calories

Total: 405 cal.

I also brewed myself plenty of coffee to take with me! One thing I have learned as a student is to never buy coffee or fruit (or really any food) on campus! Before, I could easily have spent $5 on coffee and an apple or banana (of which the quality is always suspect) and that adds up over the week. It’s not hard to slice apples at home to take with you, and bring your own coffee in a thermos. It saves me money and I help the environment!

I’m done with classes by 11:30 am, so I caught the bus home and made it back by noon, just in time for lunch! My greedy glucose- glugging brain uses up a lot of my fuel (20% of the average person’s calories are burned by the brain) and I was pretty hungry. I was also really tired. I haven’t been able to sleep well lately, I’ve been going to bed by 10 pm at the latest but I’ve been tossing until midnight or later ūüė¶ So I felt like a nap after lunch would be necessary.

WIAW 8 lunch

Lunch: VEGGIES! POTATOES & SOUP!

  • Baby carrots (not pictured) (200g) = 70 calories
  • Snap peas (85g) = 40 cal.
  • 1 medium zucchini = 33 cal.
  • 1 cup vegan butternut squash soup = 90 calories
  • Freeze dried corn (24g) = 85 cal.
  • Steamed Japanese sweet potatoes (322g) = ¬†290 calories

Total: 608 calories

And I was right! After a warming and filling lunch I attempted to do some homework for an hour, but I was ready to sleep. I had to run at least another 5 miles later that evening, and I would never make it the way I was feeling. My eyes were itchy and my brain was tingly and foggy. My high carb potato- coma and the gloomy rain all convinced me to go to bed. I napped from 2:30pm to 5pm and woke up feeling much better. It was still drizzling rain and getting dark so I donned my brightest rain jacket and laced up my running shoes again.

WIAW and exercise 8I ended up running 1.3 miles to my coach’s running store, then ran 4.3 miles at an easy easy pace with my coach, and then ran 1.3 miles back home for a total of 10.9 miles for the day…but they were all easy miles. Tomorrow morning at 6:30 am my track buddy, Em and I have the first of many early morning hard tempo workouts and so I was happy taking it easy.

By the time I got home, it was dark, I was cold and definitely hungry! I foam rolled and stretched again, and bundled up for the night. I steamed some more potatoes and ate them with 2 large heads of fresh Romaine lettuce!

Dinner: POTATOES!

  • Steamed Japanese sweet potatoes (764g) = 687 cal.
  • 2.5 large heads Romaine lettuce = 266 cal.

Total: 953 calories

Macro nutrient Breakdown:  

Total calories: 1968

Fat: 12.1g (5.2% total calories)

Protein: 57.5g (8% total cal.) Where do vegans get their protein ūüôā

Carbohydrates: 446g (86.8% total calories)

That was my day! Lots of running and sleeping, school and food. I was not exaggerating about the amount of rainfall!

record-rain-2

Source: KOIN 6 blog, “Rainfall breaks records in Portland, Vancouver” Oct. 22, 2014.

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 ūüė¶ 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 ūüė¶

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