Friday, June 29, 2012

Ch-Ch-Changes: How I went from Meat Eating Ignoramus to Plant-Based Whole-Food Goddess

Ok, that is a little extreme…I am far from a “Goddess,” but I don’t give a shit, it sounds cool.
By now you should have learned about my nutritional past. If you haven’t: CLICK HERE
Up to speed?...Badass.
So in early April of this year I semi-secretly dropped meat and all animal derived ingredients from my food life. The typical human’s view of giving up all things animal is frightening. I know; I’ve seen it. The reactions of people around you can vary from critical through curious right up to downright annoying. Being new to the ‘scene’ can be hard, you get over it. Transitioning my diet just meant finding replacements for my run of the mill animal based nutrition.
Daily Protein Smoothie
Here are common staples from my omnivorous (always said with an English accent) past and what plant based foods I used to replace them.
·         Eggsà Pea/Rice/Hemp Protein Powder
·         Beef/Pork/Chicken/Fishà Tofu, Seitan, Tempeh, Field Roast, Beans, Lentils, Quinoa
·         Cow’s Milk (Previously used only as an ingredient, as I have always found the taste/smell repulsive)à Almond/Soy/Hemp Milks
·         CHEESEà None. Vegan cheeses do exist, but I’d rather just be sans Cheeze.
·         Other various Dairyà Leafy Greens, Earth Balance Margarine 
·         Processed garbage food I shouldn’t eat anywayà Fresh fruit OR specialty vegan garbage food I shouldn’t eat anyway

People know how to make Vegan Garbage Food

 I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. I don’t have cravings for meat or cheese. I feel confident about everything I ingest.
Having the diet based on WHOLE FOODS is what really makes the difference. Since I spend my time eating whole foods it is easy to decipher which are vegan, and which are not. Pick up and apple and try to locate its Ingredient List…Oh what? Can’t find it? That’s because it’s a friggin’ apple. Now do the same with that box of crackers and tell me if they contain animal ingredients…don’t worry, I’ll wait. They could be made exclusively from plants, BUT it kind of doesn’t matter if you only recognize 1/30 ingredients on the label…You probably shouldn’t eat it.

Some foods are not worthy

To increase my knowledge of all things Vegan I use a variety of resources:
·         The interwebz: Lots of searching and reading…anything I want to know—the answer exists.
·         Yahoo Answers: Type in “Is _____ Vegan?” and chances are the top result is a Yahoo answer. Sometimes they are amazing, other times I get too distracted by all of the speleeng airerz. (ßSpelling errors. Distracting huh?)
·         Read the labels for items that are “Certified Vegan”: If it’s in there and in another product I was questioning, I got my answer.

Pretty good read
· Great spot to find relatively simple vegan recipes and links, it is funny as hell.
 · This is a great resource for healthful recipes and other awesome fitness related blogness.
 ·         I read THRIVE- The Vegan Nutrition Guide for Optimal Performance in Sports and Life by Brendan Brazier. Kind of a boring read, but like anything it has “take aways.”
 ·         I read FOOD RULES by Michael Pollen. I realize that this book isn’t vegan or even vegetarian, but the concepts are good and readily applicable to everyone. If everyone: vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters alike ate the way this book suggests (Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much) we’d all be much happier.
I have experienced very little frustration in the past several months with my diet. I have taken a number of my family’s classic recipes and rewritten them to eliminate animal foods, tried out new recipes and effortlessly reinvented my version of healthful eating. Often people view it as a sacrifice…but for me I am forced to do things I should have been doing in the first place.
1.       Planning ahead and making my own food
2.       Not eating cheese, bacon, sausage, butter, sour cream—Often people don’t have the power to say no; I just pretend I’m allergic and it’ll fucking kill me. (Kind of true in the long run, see “Heart Disease”)
3.       Eating whole foods: like I said earlier it’s easier to tell what’s in an apple than a box of Apple Jacks.

Exit Strategy of Choice

The things that I have not enjoyed exclusively stem from other human beings wasting my time telling and validating why they eat meat. Or declaring their love for X, Y and Z. For the most part I don’t, uh, care, at all. Sooooo, if ya wouldn’t mind shutting up I was actually on my way to the bathroom…
I’ve been a non-vegan. I know what non-vegans think of vegans. I’ve scoffed and written veganism off as senseless…and thennnnn I became a huge fucking hypocrite. I don’t really care. (Best bout of ‘hypocriticism’ ever? I think so.) Eating only plants doesn’t make me any less of a badass. (I know. I’m more badass now than I’ve ever been.)
As I’ve read different blogs and books about people’s changing diets I found there are many paths. I just dropped all of the animal foods. Whether eating out or in I ingest exclusively plant foods. I have read about others who start by doing it at home only, or just at dinner. Any way people change is just that…Change.
I initially started the plant based diet to reduce nutritional stress on my body and increase my capacity to perform in athletics. (Running, lifting, and sailing, expanding to cycling and who knows what else) The removal of animal based nutrition has opened my eyes to reducing my consumption of all animal derived products and ingredients. The food half is easy because food is perishable or gets eaten by others, but that gallon of shampoo I bought will last quite some time. So in my effort to become a real vegan I will change by phasing out and using up the things that remain, or donate them.

I Love Sunscreen
In my transition from regular human being to a plant-based whole-food eating maniac (that seems more accurate than “Goddess”) I have learned a lot about what I consider necessary. It is easy to decide to no longer wear leather and consume certain foods. The most perplexing and annoying issue I have encountered is: having to check things that in no way appear to have any correlation. Sugar, shampoo, sun screen, and almost every chapstick on earth…the list goes on. Finding replacements is not often difficult; there are lists all over the internet of acceptable substitutes for my current products, companies (and subsidiaries) to avoid whom still test on animals, as well as things you may not realize are “Accidentally Vegan.” ***

I Am Not a Hippie, Nor Do I Smell Anything but Wonderful

My family and friends might poke fun at me for turning into some SMELLY HIPPIE, but it won’t stop me from evolving. Nor does it mean I now feel differently about the poorly trained dog/cat/child that is crapping on the carpet. I regard humans and animals similarly: I may not like you, but it doesn’t mean I want you tortured or killed. Like you or not, please don’t drop a ‘numero dos’ on my carpet.

***IMPORTANT : Please see the disclaimer at the bottom of the linked page***

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Approach to Training

My Sunday Shoes

My 2012 goals center on RUNNING. I have lined up 5 half marathons. Goals for which include, running 5 half marathons (2 down, 3 to go), running a half in under 2 hours (CHECK 6/9/2012: 1:55:53), running a half in with 8 minute miles (three more chances), and getting a friend to run in each one (2 fer 2).
We all have our own motivators. Mine range from the typical to the borderline insane. Playing competitive organized sports my whole life provided me with many that are loosely applicable to much of my life.
First: Avoiding being yelled at; being a kid/teen/young adult this was/is not always an easy task. Sometimes you just want to throw rocks at the person using the porta-crapper next to the field. Besides goofing off, not getting yelled at also includes doing what you are supposed to be doing and doing it RIGHT! Even though I have no coach following me around and watching my every move, I still use this as a great motivator at work and when sailing. Being publicly scolded is fucking embarrassing. Especially if it is something you have done 1,000 other times.

That is One HUGE PUSSY

Second: Ensure you don’t come off as being a giant pussy. (Yeah I am a woman and I use that word in a derogatory way.) If you have made your goals public by spouting off about them constantly (MOTIVATOR) and then you puss out, you look like a giant idiot. To make sure this doesn’t happen to me I actually follow my training schedule and if I am falling behind I shut my trap about my interim failure to avoid being embarrassed by my lazy-ass-ness.

Makes Me Feel Accomplished

Finally: The feeling of success. Walking away from an endeavor with a finished product is amazing. Whether it is a medal, a PR, rock hard abs, or what have you, coming away from a long drawn out process with a check in the “W” column feels friggin’ fantastic.
#2 from “GET MOTIVATED” pretty much covers this.
I’m not an expert. I speak from a buttload of personal athletic experience, book learnin’, and interweb research, so that basically gives me all the authority of a Certified Individual.

Hal Higdon's Intermediate Training Schedule
I started running half marathons using “Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon Training Program.” In the past I have used a mix of the Intermediate and Advanced levels. I take the simple layout designed by Mr. Higdon and create calendars using a template I found in EXCEL. (I am a huge nerd and constantly use Excel to organize my life.) I start from the date of the race and fill in the days backward until I reach the current date or the race that came/comes before. Beginning 2012 I had every workout through December on a calendar; that doesn’t mean it didn’t/won’t change, but having a plan is half the battle.

How I Nerd Out

There are many purposes to these calendars. I keep them up to date with conflicting activities; typically this just means moving around a rest day to free up time for other random happenings. Another purpose is to make use of #2 from above. On my calendar each day I make an X. There are 3 possible colors: Purple, Black, and Red.
              Purple means I did the prescribed workout. One Point. If I had a great session or did something I deem magical I’ll often doodle something extra or add a smiley face.
                Black means I did not do the prescribed workout.  ½ a Point. Whatever I did deserves half credit. (The activity was physically demanding and worthy of being considered “work.”)
                Red means I flaked. ZERO Points. Be it due to a last minute scheduling conflict or just being lazy; RED is BAD. Having that mark on the calendar makes me feel like shit.
 To further the usefulness of the calendars at the end of each month I tally the “points.” Add them up and divide by the number of days in the month, record the percentage and then POST THAT SHIT! It is easier to let everyone know how well you did as opposed to how big of a slacker you are. The question is: if you can’t keep a promise and work hard for yourself who will you work for?
(**I realize I am a mid 20’s, completely single and childless, but we all deserve to be selfish when it comes to our overall health and well being.)

To hold myself responsible I post a picture on the ‘Facebook’ (old person voice) at month end and pin up the actual calendar at my work desk. If I get a “high score” it feels good. Should the results be sub-par it will, at the very least, shame me into completing future workouts.

Not Training Tools

Some people might argue that this is too much negative reinforcement. I say, “You can shove it.” Rewards are not acceptable for doing things I should have been doing in the first place. If I have an extra good workout that is what the doodles and smiley faces on the calendars are for. Doughnuts and Candy are NOT training tools. 
Easy to Use
Learning to run isn’t that hard. In fact, you probably knew how before you could crap in a toilet. Learning to rest issss…a bit more of a challenge. I honestly still don’t know how. I build rest days into my program, but when resting I often feel like I should be doing something. My body needs time to recover, but I don’t know the BEST way. I need to pound into my head that cross training is not the same as rest.
After a race I take a week or two off. In my current cycle I am on the 3rd week without running. It’s a bit longer and feels weird, but I can tell I need the mental break in order to gear up for my next training period and achieve the goals I have outlined for that race.

A huge part of rest in athletics is related to injuries. If you are hardcore you sacrifice your body. Scrapes, cuts, and bruises are no reason to be held back from competition. A sprained ankle? Let’s get that taped up and GO! Got a scrape? Rinse it with water and pack some dirt in there to make a quick scab. In college my coach would ask, “Are you hurt or injured?” Sometimes the line isn’t clear.

A Few Blisters Won't Stop Me

When I am in the heat of competition or in the middle of a run I am able to block that part of my mind. I don’t feel those kinds of pain; the ONLY thing is being faster/stronger and making the mark.
After the game/race is a different story. For whatever reason, getting my ass up off the couch and walking up the stairs is harder than putting in a 10 miler. It is up to each individual to determine their threshold for pain. Mine is high, often to a fault. I don’t pay attention to signs of overuse injuries. One day it may come back and bite me in the ass, but for now I’ll keep powering through.

We all know that you are supposed to have fun when running or playing sports. It was engrained in us as children (to make losers feel better.) My sure fire way of having fun is to WIN. I know I won’t cross the line first, but if I leave with what I came for (a medal and a PR or…?) then I won. Other people’s approaches to achieving goals may be a little more laid back, but I don’t have time for that shit.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Food I Ate

Let me outline of my nutritional life up to this point.

Food Pyramid from Childhood--Carbs Much?
1.       0-18 : Ate what my parents fed me and what the Food Pyramid outlined as acceptable. Well balanced and variably punctuated by special snacks and treats.

2.       18-20 : Ate variety of foods provided by the college cafeteria. Health conscious so as to contribute to my athletic performance.

I Used to be Good at Sports

      3.       20-22 : Learned to cook and made dishes I learned from my mom as well as others I picked up from the interweb and picture tube. Continued to eat so as to better my overall health and make me BIGGER, STRONGER, FASTER.

      4.       22-25 : Moved to Chicago. Diet shifted from that of a healthful hardcore athlete to that of a fat-ass lazy moron. Too many slices of pizza, pulled-pork sandwiches and liquid meals. (AKA BEER)

An Accurate Representation of My Physique
That brings us up to about 18 months ago. I was chubby, and ate and drank too much. SO MANY FUCKING USELESS CALORIES. I went from being in the best shape of my life to that of a moldy old potato before I knew it. (Round and squishy)

A few things helped whip my head out of my butt…

1.       Alton Brown did an episode on “Good Eats” called Live and Let Diet. Here is someone’s blog review of the episode; I didn’t read it all the way through, but the beginning gives you an outline of what the episode entails. You can also check out the episode on It encourages you to forego garbage (doughnuts, cookies, fast food) in favor of nutritionally dense foods. (This is highlighted with an orange vs. doughnut example.)

2.       I read “This is Why You’re Fat, and How to Get Thin Forever” by Jackie Warner. Crazy lesbian trainer to the fancy. She has a billion DVDs and has been featured in countless magazines. She tells you what to eat, how much of it and what not to eat. The book also includes workouts, but that is not the point. She let me know the reason I was fat is that I eat too much sugar. ‘Fat doesn’t make you fat, sugar makes you fat.” That is what the book preaches. Sugar in the broadest sense of the term. That artificial sweetener shit is sugar too for all intents and purposes. The book makes it really easy to follow along and eat clean. She tells you to eat like its your job. 5 days per week. It also allows you to have “treat meals” (Not cheat, TREAT!!!) If you ate correctly during the week you allot yourself 2 treat meals. Seems fair. Who does that bitch think she is? A professional or something? She was right. It worked. I used clean eating to shed my winter layers (yes LAYERS) and run my first half marathon.  

After My First Ever Half Marathon
A month later I moved back to Portland and started training for my next half marathon in October, which seemed to go well. I continued eating clean and kept up on my fitness.

From mid-summer to late winter my diet was normal; swayed from healthy to eating out too much and back again. AND THEN…Dun*Dun*DUN***

I watched Food, Inc.
Stream this on Netflix

A documentary about the food we buy and eat. Much of it focuses on the meat industry and GMOs. It encourages you to buy local/organic foods in lieu of the disgusting garbage that most national chain stores are slinging. Eye opening.

Stream on Netflix
It takes a lot to gross me out; I was. So I evaluated the foods I was eating. I made a huge effort to reduce any and all processed food items from my diet; the goal was to ingest only WHOLE FOODS. When I get super psyched about something I chatter about it to anyone who will listen. (Case and Point, this Blog.) So I started blabbering about this movie. Someone suggested I watch Forks over Knives (about the benefits of a whole foods plant based diet) and Fat Sick and Nearly Dead (about the health benefits of juicing to reduce/eliminate disease.) 2 more documentaries about food…MY NEW OBSESSION.

Stream on Netflix
I watched them. I sorted through the things that were presented; it is all propaganda after all. There are tons of things, in both of these films, which helped convince me that animal-less foods were the way to go. So I challenged myself. 
I Assume this is Super Racist Propaganda

The next day I started eating sans animal derived products. I continued to eat as many whole foods as I could, while leaving behind [for the most part] the processed garbage I shouldn’t eat anyway. Things that people think would be really hard to go without or that the majority of Americans say they “Can’t live without” were actually really simple to eliminate. Here is the process I followed:

Step 1: If you don’t eat it, you won’t eat it.

A change like this for the people around you can be shocking. I barely know a handful of people that are even vegetarian, let alone “Vegan.”

I continued to eat only plants for 2 weeks before I even mentioned it or anyone admitted to noticing. So I read and googled and spent tons of time discovering new foods and flavors. One take away I have found from cooking without meat and butter is: to take a lot more care in seasoning food.


So here I write, a couple months down the road, about how I went from an average healthful diet, to SAD (Standard American Diet), back to average and straight into a well rounded plant-based whole-food extravaganza. It wasn’t as hard as most people think. I am lucky to have a great network of people who are less critical and more curious about what the change entails.  For those of you who think they could never give up meat/eggs/cheese because you “can’t live without it”…I say you CAN, and you’ll probably live longer.

For more about my transition to plant based foods and less about why…STAY TUNED.

Read This Book

It is Summer BITCHES!!!

And apparently for me that means when my friend texts me in the middle of the day, “Blow off work and let’s go hiking.” I do just that. If you know me, (which you probably do if you are reading this) you know that I am less than a fan of my current job. It is lame. If I were Siskel or Ebert I’d cut my fucking thumbs off just to make sure no one was confused about whether or not I was flashing anything but a thumbs down.

Daisy Smelling Face
Plus it was the first day of summer and the forecast was for 80 degrees. For me, any decent weather makes me shed my extremely penetrable adult façade and I repeat aloud, “Can we have class outside?!?!” like a 3rd grader who wants to do math by counting the daisies they mastered into a smelly crown. (Daisies smell like urine)
 So I slung my purse over my shoulder and bolted for the elevators, drove home as fast as the wiener car I’m currently sporting would go, stripped my clothes off from the garage to my room and put on my shorts and sporting brassiere and high tailed it to meet up with my pal and his pup.

Triple Falls

The day was glorious. We went to Triple Falls in the Columbia River Gorge. The hike wasn’t so hard that you forget to look up and see what’s around you, but hard enough that you don’t feel bad if you, say, skipped a run or other exercise in favor of this funtivity.

I took a buttload of pictures. I sweated my ass off. It felt good and refreshing. So many things I love were combined in that trip! Sweating, riding in cars windows down/music up, chatting, water, sunshine, being slathered in sunscreen, and acting like an only mildly responsible adult. I was so fumped (fucking pumped) to be out of the office and actually enjoying a Wednesday.         

Cascade 36 - Bums Rush

THAT wasn’t even the end of my adventures that day. I still had a sailboat race during the evening! So after a brief recap of the hike I pimped my way down to the yacht (pronounced Yah-ch-t) club, changed my shoes and got a ride on a Cascade 36.

Not many people have ever been sailing…and most assume its all old men in white pants and navy blazers walking around with martinis OR that T-Pain and Andy Samberg are flipping burgers and fucking mermaids in swim trunks/flippy floppies and pashmina afghans. Granted this particular race series is less than intense, but it is a competition nonetheless. 

This is not real sailing - That isn't even a sailboat

We raced, we were late to the line and came in 6th…I didn’t give a fuck. Any day with sailing is better than one without. Plus I took a bunch of photos!

Me and My Brother

 4 hours of work, 2ish hiking, a couple on a boat with some miscellany in between and I had the best first day of summer ever! (I think, I don’t explicitly recall any others…who fuckin’ knows?) To top it all off a few clouds rolled in and I witnessed one of the best sunsets I’ve seen in a while. So even though the forecast is for rain this weekend I still raise a water bottle (gotta hydrate after all that sweating) to toast the beginning of summer. I can already tell it is going to kick ass. Check back soon for other crap I decide to share on the World Wide Web, it’ll be fucking awesome—Just like this photo progression of the sunset