Plant Life

Today marks two years of not eating anything with a face. I discussed my reasons for moving toward a plant-based diet here, but two years in, a review of the process seems in order.

There have been many failed recipes. Homemade bean burgers that fell apart before we even got them out of the oven, a spring roll that was fine with enough sauce, but the wrapper tasted like rubber, and a misused spice that ruined a whole pot of stew all come to mind. Trial and error. Find what works. Dump what doesn’t.

Gather knowledge. And recipes! I have a penchant for purchasing cookbooks. The more photos, the better. Discovering Forks over Knives has a quarterly magazine FULL of tasty concoctions that I’ve revisited many times was a game changer. The internet?! Hello. SO. MANY. IDEAS. It has been a learning curve, but some tasty eats along the way.

Health. There has been much research on the health advantages of a plant based way of eating. Here are a few:

NutritionFacts.org

Forks Over Knives

Thug Kitchen (Language alert – but SO funny and great eats!)

Dr. Dean Ornish

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Quick article from Harvard Health

Dr. Garth Davis

Personally, it’s been a road of increasing health, but not in the way we typically think of it. For most of us, we think of health in terms of appearance. 6-pack abs, a certain size, before and after pictures, etc. all promote an idea of what healthy looks like. The fact is, you can be very unhealthy and achieve those things. I’m talking about health from the perspective of cholesterol and A1c (blood glucose levels). Health from the inside out.

For me this process began after getting blood test results that indicated I was prediabetic. Basically that means that I was on the road to Type 2 Diabetes. I sought advice from a registered dietician and followed her instructions. My numbers came down. Among the list of foods to consume was lots of processed meats; and it just didn’t seem right so I kept investigating, reading books such as Protein-aholic by Dr. Garth Davis, Presto! How I made over 100 pounds disappear and other Magical Tales by Penn Jillette, The China Study by Dr. Colin T. Campbell among many others. I read about Type 2 diabetes and how the conventional advice was to limit carbs/sugars and watch the A1c numbers come down. It’s true, the numbers will come down a bit. But it’s putting a bandaid on the problem. It’s not addressing why the body isn’t processing carbohydrates the way it should.

Fat is actually the issue. Fat gums up the locks of our muscle cells, not letting insulin do it’s job of letting in the energy (carbohydrates) in. “Fat in the bloodstream can build up inside the muscle cells, creating toxic fatty breakdown products and free radicals that block the insulin signaling process. No matter how much insulin we have in our blood, it’s not able to sufficiently open the glucose gates, and blood sugar levels build up in the blood. And this can happen within three hours. One hit of fat can start causing insulin resistance, inhibiting blood sugar uptake after just 160 minutes.Fat is actually the issue. Fat gums up the locks of our muscle cells, not letting insulin do it’s job of letting in the energy (carbohydrates) in.”

-Michael Greger, M.D.

And what type of fat? Saturated fat. The kind from animals, trans-fat, deep fryers, etc. You know – the ones that you know you shouldn’t eat. (The fats from avocados and nuts are unsaturated fats.) According to my registered dietician, eating meat was going to help me lower my blood glucose levels. By eating meat?! Nope. Bandaid for sure, but not a long-term solution.

My A1c numbers came down but my cholesterol and triglycerides had shot up! Great. (insert eye roll). It’s no wonder most of us are so dang confused by nutrition. The ‘experts’ attend conferences funded by fast food companies. While many practitioners are simply teaching what they are taught, it’s not solving the problems, and it’s not accurate information.

Fast forward a year in to a plant based diet, I had bloodwork done yet again to check my A1c and cholesterol. My triglycerides came down from 276 to 118. My doctor was so excited by my results she called me from her personal phone after hours to celebrate with me! My A1c number when from 5.6 to 5.3. That doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but it is a trend in the right direction. The farther down the normal range the better. A plant based diet has done just that!

BUT WHAT ABOUT PROTEIN!? My answer is two things.

  1. Proteins are amnio acids. There are 20 amino acids – some are made by the body, some we obtain from food. Regardless of whether you get those amino acids from plants or animals, the amino acids are the same to the body.
  2. Take a look at a gorilla, one of the strongest animals on the planet. Guess what? They have lots of muscles on their body and are capable of lifting 10 times their body weight. They are STRONG. And they are plant eaters. I don’t think they are saying to their gorilla friend at the gym, “What about protein, Brah?”

I also did a test of sorts, I looked up the nutritional value of my typical breakfast and compared it to a typical meat/egg breakfast. Here’s how it stacked up:

Bowl of oats with sliced almonds, blueberries, and hempseed: 23g protein, 12g fiber.

2 eggs, 2 slices bacon and an English muffin: 11g protein, 0.8g fiber

The numbers are clear. Protein is more than sufficient and plant based eating will give you the fiber most omnivores lack and then some!

My palate has changed. Eating a steak or a piece of bacon doesn’t even sound appealing. (I used to LOVE me some bacon!) When I walk by the meat department in the grocery store I can actually smell the blood. It’s so weird. Two years in and I’m feeling great, my doctor is beyond thrilled with my results and I have energy! I have no desire to return to eating meat. Doing so would undo all the health progress I have made and wouldn’t make sense.

Cheers to eating nothing with a face for life!

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I See You

The gym is such a weird, wonderful place. It is a prime location for spectacular people watching opportunities. Working in the gym affords me more time than most to observe, and of course work with, all types of people.

I want you to know I see you.

I see you putting in the time. I see you watching, picking up new things, learning how to do this exercise thing. You’ve been really working. Stick with it. Your consistency will pay off.

Even when it’s hard and it would be easier to just skip it. When you can easily just get lost in the day-to-day busy, or the phone, the family, the computer, or your work. Don’t quit.

Do. Not. Quit.

While you may not see it now, you are making progress. You are starting to realize that those negative voices are not speaking the truth. Keep fighting back. That voice that whispers, “It’s too hard…” and “What’s the use?” will be proven wrong. It’s not too hard. You can do hard things. You’ve done hard before. You’ve survived.

And you will again.

Ask yourself, do you ever regret moving your body? Have you ever gone home and thought, “Well, that was a waste of time. I don’t think I’ll do that again.” No, you haven’t. While not every workout has been Earth shattering, you always feel better when you get moving. You know this. Keep going forward. Progress. Not perfection.

I see you.

I see you contemplating. You have a fork in the road. Don’t opt for the easy way. In the long run, it’s not easy at all. It’s not easy to not have mobility. It’s not easy feeling uncomfortable in your own body. It isn’t easy to have zero energy to get through the day. Easy isn’t easy.

Do the work. You have the tools. Seek out information. Trust your intuition. Learn. Keep moving forward. Don’t quit. Do. Not. Quit.

I see you.

And you are worth it.

Turn Off the Noise

I’m really tired.

I’m tired of all the drama, the hype, the noise around pursuing a healthy lifestyle.

Have you heard the term orthorexia? According to the National Eating Disorders Association:

Orthorexia nervosa is not currently recognized as a clinical diagnosis in the DSM-5, but many people struggle with symptoms associated with this term.

Those who have an “unhealthy obsession” with otherwise healthy eating may be suffering from “orthorexia nervosa,” a term which literally means “fixation on righteous eating.”  Orthorexia starts out as an innocent attempt to eat more healthfully, but orthorexics become fixated on food quality and purity.  They become consumed with what and how much to eat, and how to deal with “slip-ups.”  An iron-clad will is needed to maintain this rigid eating style.  Every day is a chance to eat right, be “good,” rise above others in dietary prowess, and self-punish if temptation wins (usually through stricter eating, fasts and exercise).  Self-esteem becomes wrapped up in the purity of orthorexics’ diet and they sometimes feel superior to others, especially in regard to food intake.

Basically, we’ve become so obsessed with diet and exercise it’s on its way to becoming classified as a disorder. To quote Amber Rogers from Go Kaleo, “…nothing says ‘elitism’ better than a long list of foods you CAN eat, but won’t.”

Seriously.

As a person looking to help people in the arena of health and fitness, I find it sad that as far back as most of us can remember, people have struggled with self acceptance, physical appearance, diet and exercise. Aren’t we tired of the dieting culture yet? Aren’t we better than constantly striving for a physical aesthetic? Do we really want to be 75 years old and STILL on some stupid diet?! Aren’t we tired of the noise of ‘Eat this, don’t eat that!’? Even outside of this particular subject, a flip through the Facebook feed will reveal the same kind of noise regarding all kinds of subjects; mommy wars, religious superiority, crafty moms vs. anti-pinterest moms, lifters vs. runners, cross fitters vs. everyone else, and on and on it goes. Follow this guru! No wait, this one is a quack! But this other one is science-based! Follow this person! What?! You follow {insert group/person of choice here}?!

Why don’t we ask questions like “What can I do?,” “What do I think?” or  “How can I serve?” instead of “How do I look?” and “Am I fat?”

I’m really just tired of the noise and the negativity.

Yes, we live in the real world. We like to look nice.  I’m not saying there is anything wrong with dressing up or wearing make up, eating healthfully and working to improve physical fitness etc. But where does the motivation lie? How about doing these things because they make US feel better. Not to please others or to fit into some arbitrary jean size. I love to workout. I like the way it makes me feel. My body works better when I take care of it. The black hole of depression is kept at bay through physical fitness. I love being able to help others feel better in their skin, too.

I say let’s focus on other goals instead of obsessively, compulsively fixating on food and exercise.

Let’s reach out to a friend who needs it.
Let’s cook meals at home instead of eating out. Let’s eat it around the dinner table with people we care about.
Why not try something we’ve never done before?
Why not join that group exercise class? Or go for a bike ride? Or do yoga – or anything else that floats your boat?
Let’s be a little more real. Even when it is scary.
Let’s let go of a “someday” ideal and go out and be the best we can be. Right now.
Let’s find something that lights our fire and go after it with reckless abandon.

If you, like me, are tired of the noise, let’s all collectively turn it off. Shut it down.

And go be our own awesome.

It Wasn’t All That Long Ago

I have labeled my son a “picky eater”. Much like his father, he prefers to eat only a few different foods, is reluctant to try new things, and detests condiments, sauces or dressings of any kind.

While not all of this is necessarily bad, as a parent, I see other kids happily gobbling down anything placed in front of them, my other child included. As a baby, I would introduce a food, he would spit it out, refuse it, etc., and then I wouldn’t offer it again thinking he didn’t like it and okay, off we go to the next new food to try. What I didn’t realize but later learned is that kids, as well as adults, often have to be exposed to a food 10-12 times before they can really decide if they like it. Familiarity is key. (When I pointed this out to my husband – a couple of weeks later, I caught him eating a banana. He has sworn he HATES bananas due to texture, but was giving this familiarity thing a try!)

Let me just say that this whole process is so foreign to me. I am an eater. To the point that I once had over 50 lbs to lose. Seriously?! I know my way around a fork. I think that may be why it’s so hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that my son just has a narrow window of tastes right now.

As a result of this beating my head against the wall, I decided earlier this year to just relax about it. I always tried not to watch and wait to see if he’d try something new, or pressure or punish. But I know he was able to feel my frustration with his “selectivity”.

After a couple of months of “relaxing” about food, I’ve noticed some things. FIrst, when I do put a meal on the table, there is always at least 2 things he will eat and likes, plus 1 new thing. He doesn’t have to eat it, but does have to sniff it, lick it, or bite it. If he doesn’t like it after that, okay. So far he has tasted brussels sprouts, roasted broccoli (4 WHOLE BITES!) and zucchini bread. He passed on the brussels sprouts (so did his sister), but we’ve made it a game of “try the new crazy food mom has made!” They laugh and we keep it light as we chomp, crunch and tear through the food!

And more importantly, I’ve been remembering how far we’ve come. While at a restaurant, I overheard a mom ordering a root beer for her preschooler. In my mind, my first thought was NO! A preschooler doesn’t need soda! But I had to stop myself and take stock…(you know the verse: that pesky one about the stick in someone’s eye, but you’ve got a log in your own, or that other one about glass houses….)

It really wasn’t all that long ago that I drank soda at least weekly.

It really wasn’t all that long ago that I RARELY worked out.

It really wasn’t all that long ago that I could eat obscene amounts of really unhealthy food.

It wasn’t all that long ago that it didn’t occur to me that not every meal has to be a feast.

It wasn’t all that long ago that I didn’t know I should be reading ingredients and nutritional information.

It wasn’t all that long ago…for so many things.

It wasn’t all that long ago that I began MY journey. My journey isn’t going to be like anyone else’s.

5168795-girl-cleaning-window-with-clipping-path

Here’s to me getting that log out of my eye, setting my rocks down, and grabbing some Windex to wipe down my shiny glass house!