Tag Archives: Nutrition

How to Not Die (Before You Need To)

I just got back from an awesome and quick workout and I feel a million times better than I felt yesterday after not exercising. Why is it so easy to forget how magical exercise is? Just a few days without it and I already was starting to fall into a slump, and with one good workout, I feel rejuvenated (and sore… I guess that happens when you’re a turd and don’t work out for several days). If you exercise regularly, you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, you’re missing out man! Pretty much anyone can exercise, so really you have no excuse. If you have a body, you can move it, and you should, and if you don’t, you’ll probably die like, 20 years sooner than everyone else, leaving behind your spouse and children to mourn your unhealthy life and unhealthy death.

Um, ok sorry. Sometimes I get really morbidly existential about health and exercise. BUT ITS TRUE, OKAY! If you don’t exercise and if you eat unhealthy food, YOU WILL DIE. I mean, we all are going to die, but its how and when you die, and more importantly, how you LIVE, that you have some control over. Some factors you can’t fully control, like pollution (lies, you CAN control this) or second hand smoke, and those things can cause all sorts of awful deadly cancers, BUT if you exercise regularly and stop eating crap and start eating organic whole foods from the earth, you can avoid so many more deadly cancers and diseases that are entirely lifestyle-related. Yes, I know, easier said than done, but (and I’m saying this to myself too), stop the excuses and just do it.

So… A few tips on how to NOT DIE BEFORE YOU NEED TO:

Start small if you’re new. Try one (and only one) of these changes for a week. Start gradually… by swapping one or two things a day, and slowly grow, week by week. Set small goals. See how it goes:

Food

  • If you’re still drinking soda (really? are you still 7 years old?? I guess easy for me to say because I’ve never liked soda), drink sparkling water with fresh lemon or lime in it.
  • If you like juice, find one thats 100% fruit, without added sugars or any of that bullshit that I can’t pronounce.
  • If you like sweets, eat fruit, or heck, just eat half of the damn cake and not the whole thing. Share it with another fatty friend who also is trying to be less of a fatty. Just start somewhere. (This is the hardest one for me. I fail constantly, but I’ve gotten better.)
  • If you like chips, go for tortilla chips instead of Lays or potato chips or any of that greasy nonsense. (Also easy for me to say… I’m not big on chips. Unless they’re tortilla chips, with guac, and then I’m done for.)
  • If you want a burger, eat half. Or take off the top of the bun. Or get a whole wheat bun. Or get chicken instead of beef. Or a veggie burger. Or turkey. So. Many. Options.
  • If you like cereal and milk, try oatmeal or Kashi cereals instead. (Or something natural, organic, and as close to raw as possible. Add raisins for sweetness, if you must.) And try almond milk or soy milk.
  • If you go to McDonalds or ANY other place where your food takes less than 10 minutes to make, DON’T. Like really, do you live in a cave? Has no one ever told you that these places are pretty much the worst thing you could EVER POSSIBLY DO TO YOUR BODY?! Like, why don’t you just shoot up heroin in an ally with a rusty shared needle or fucking go skydiving without a parachute. You might be better off. Fuck, at least skydiving is fun. But really. McDonalds? There is NOTHING WORSE. Plus if you’re like me and have sensitive skin, you’ll just become pepperoni face girl and it’ll be age 16 all over again, or you’ll be muffin top boy or man-boobs man or mom-arms lady and your stomach will hurt and you’ll probably have diharrea and you’ll feel lethargic and stoned and also cracked out because there is literally crack (and by literally I mean figuratively) in everything they serve you and you’ll hate your life afterwards and really, its just never a good idea. If you’re broke and are starving for calories, buy a jar of almond butter and a bag of carrots for like, $5 and you’ll pretty much have enough food for the whole day. Like literally if you’re starving. But if money isn’t the issue and its just that you don’t know any better or that you actually like the taste of a mediocre soggy burger, then listen to these words: IF YOU EAT FAST FOOD, YOU CAN START SAYING YOUR GOODBYES NOW.

I am totes serious about that.

  • OK but without the sass, here’s a more gentle solution. Craving fast food? OK, I know if you’re in the habit of going to a fast-food restaurant every so often, then it might be a hard habit to break. (I’m the queen of struggling to break bad habits.) Often you don’t know what other choice you have, or you don’t know how bad it is, or you really love the food. I get that. I’ve never liked fast food (I’ve probably eaten McDonalds less than 10 times in my life), but I fucking LOVE dessert, so I get the appeal. My suggestion is to go to McDonalds or whatever your poison of choice is, and choose something “healthier” off the menu, like a fruit and a salad or something. Or if what you want is a burger, just don’t go to McDonalds and splurge a little on a nicer burger at a restaurant! At least it’ll be more satisfying and probably slightly healthier. There are solutions. You just have to care enough to find them.

Exercise

  • When it comes to exercise, its the same idea. Start small. Try walking 20 minutes a day for a week. After a week, move it up to 30 minutes. After a month (or when you’re ready), try power walking. Looks silly, but gets your heart rate up and burns more calories. Give it a few more weeks and when you’re ready, go for a short run. 10 minutes, and you can take as many breaks as you need. Even if you weigh 300 pounds, YOU CAN RUN. Please, please, please, do it… for me??
  • After you’ve been walking, power walking, and jogging lightly for a few weeks or months, I challenge you to sign up for a 5k race. It should take you 30-45 minutes (or however long you need) and I promise you, it will change your life. If it doesn’t, you can come back here and smack me for being a liar.
  • Don’t be intimidated by a gym. I realize a lot of people avoid gyms because they think they won’t know how to exercise, or people will stare at them, or they’ll feel pathetic next to the beefy dudes or the skinny women, but remember what is important and just push through it. The first step is the hardest, and it will get easier with time. People that exercise frequently are usually so excited to help someone start exercising (like me!), so you might be surprised… you might find that people would be really happy to show you how to use the treadmill, or the stationary bike, or how to properly do a bicep curl. And if you have a friend who can go with you, even better! The point is, don’t be afraid. You are worthy, just like everyone else, of going to a gym and doing what’s best for you. So do it!
  • If you’re still too embarrassed or don’t have the money, try exercise videos. There are so many resources online… all it takes is a very quick google search and you’ll have access to some of the best trainers in the world, for free! This has been my saving grace for my broke ass here in Paris, since gyms are super expensive and difficult to find. Try Zuzana Light or Jillian Michaels to start, then explore to see what other videos or styles you like.
  • Try yoga. Anyone can do yoga and while it might not give you the intense cardio that you need for your heart and to burn calories, it gives you something much deeper and more powerful. It gives you awareness and appreciation for your body, confidence, and a sense of calm (among many other benefits). And, if done enough, it will transform your body. Try yoga once a week, then slowly increase. If you can do 15 minutes in the morning, every morning, you will feel better all day long. Promise.

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If you’re not a n00b anymore and you’re already more established on the road to a healthy life, which is where I think I am, I think these are the things that work for me, or that I should work on more.

  • Portion control. I know this is really vague because, especially in America, our idea of portions is entirely skewed, but start small and eat off of a smaller plate, or share a dish at a restaurant with a friend, or measure out your servings when you’re at home. This is a struggle for me, but I’m trying.
  • Lessen carbs. They’re the bain of my love handle existence. It’s amazing how quickly the weight comes off when the carbs are gone. That means less bread, less potatoes, less cereal… and sadly for me, less oatmeal. But little by little, it gets easier. And avoid AT ALL COSTS any refined carbs (anything white, like bread, pasta, rice, etc).
  • Lessen dairy, especially cheese. Its fatty. Enough said.
  • Cut out red meat. Cholesterol and saturated fat up the ass.
  • Eat more greens. Spinach and green beans are my go-to, because I’m picky and I hate broccoli, asparagus, and pretty much all other green veggies. Half of the plate should be green. Personal rule of thumb.
  • Drink more water. Not a problem for me because water is all I drink (I don’t like anything else, oddly), but some people (I’ve noticed French people in particular) don’t drink water! Aren’t you thirsty!??
  • Drink more green tea between meals when the hunger pangs arrive. Apparently helps curb the appetite for a little. I’m a monster snacker so this might help me stay away from the temptations when its not meal time.
  • Experiment in the kitchen making healthy swaps for your favorite meals, like instead of spaghetti with meatballs made out of ground beef, use whole wheat spaghetti (if you must) or even better, spaghetti squash with turkey or tofu meat balls. This is actually one of me and my moms favorite things to make when we’re lazy. Trader joes has awesome meat-less meatballs that have tons of protein, with a little homemade pasta sauce and spaghetti squash… YUM. I really have no need for regular pasta again.
  • Eat fruit as dessert.
  • Eat nuts as a snack. Who doesn’t like nuts in their mouth??! !!@?#!@$ [Sorry, I’m tacky.]
  • Learn about calories and nutrition basics. Don’t obsess over the numbers, but be aware. Like when you sit down at dinner time, you’ll know that your piece of salmon has X amount of calories and not Y as you used to think. We tend to underestimate our calories consumed and overestimate calories burned, so use an app (I use MyFitnessPal) to get you started.
  • As for exercise… amp up the exercise to 45 minutes (or more) a day, 4-6 times a week. And if you’re really intense, you can do 2-a-days, with light cardio or yoga in the morning (for 20-30 minutes) and a real workout in the afternoon, doing weight training or HIIT routines. Mix it up, so your body doesn’t get bored. Learn to crave the soreness and the sweat.

And if you’re a pro… well you can tell me what I need to do WHEN I get there, because it’s happening, someday.

***

Other things that might help everyone get a healthier life started:

  • Keep a journal or a blog! Writing how you feel about food and exercise and health helps you stay accountable and helps you see the progress you’ve made. Seeing what you ate in any given day can really be enlightening.
  • Keep inspirational images or quotes in a visible place. Sounds cheesy and guess what, IT IS CHEESY. But guess what else? It reminds you of your strength and power to change and grow, every single day. And at the end of the day, haters gon’ hate. But wear your badge proud, and put up a cheesy little poster in your room to remind you of what your goals are. I did this, and it helped.
  • Tell your friends about your goals. Don’t keep it private. Part of my reason for starting this blog is for this very reason… I know that if I don’t tell anyone that I’m trying to make a change, then no one will know that I “failed” if and when I did “fail.” It essentially gives you a green light to give up before you even start. But telling someone and having them hold you accountable makes a big difference in your motivation to succeed.
  • Ask for help. So many of us are in the same boat. I am so far from perfect, and me writing this list isn’t me giving you all the answers, as if I’ve already found them. This is encouragement for me and for you to seek each other out, find help, and work together. I don’t want to feel alone in my struggle, and I know you don’t either.
  • Get rid of all the haters. People don’t like it when their friends try to get healthy if they aren’t on the same path themselves. They might not know it, but its a reminder to them that their choices are not the best, and they react in disapproval, they mock, they try to get you to eat the burrito that you’re trying so hard to resist because you are showing them something they are not ready to accept about themselves. I am FAR TOO FAMILIAR with this. Its frustrating and alienating when your closest friends make fun of you, judge you, or just simply don’t understand you (and don’t try to) for wanting to improve your life. Find friends that encourage you, that respect your choices, and that maybe even want to join in on the fun, because they know how much it means to you. Find friends that will be selfless, even if they’re not ready to make a change in their own lives. People are resistant to change and people don’t want to be made aware of their own lifestyle if they somewhere, deep down, know that it could be better. Find people who boost you up and make you better. Get rid of the rest.

Lastly, for now… remember this: YOU ARE STRONGER THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE. You are beautiful just as you are today. There is no standard of beauty that you need to adhere to. This isn’t even a question of beauty at all. It’s about your health, your life, your family, your future, and your self respect. You are worthy and perfect right now, today, yesterday, tomorrow, and always. You are capable of so, so, so much more than you think. It’s a long journey, and it never ends, but all you need to do is take the first step. One little step is closer than yesterday. You are powerful beyond measure. Know this at the deepest core of your being. And you deserve nothing but the best.

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Deadly Dairy Diaries

[This post started as a short little post about how dairy gave me a stomach ache, and it turned into something quite a bit longer than that. Get your reading pants on, kids (what??) and EDUCATE YO’ SELF]

I’ve been mostly vegan the past several days, without too much effort as described in this post from last week, and it has felt really great. However, today the girls baked a cake, and since I don’t like chocolate, they baked a little separate one without chocolate for me. I didn’t actually want it, but they were so sweet to make it that I couldn’t turn it down and break their little hearts. So I ate a small piece of cake (and later a bite of one of my cookies from Belgium), and immediately… the intestinal chorus began to sing. I’m sitting here feeling the alarmingly immediate effects of dairy on my body, and I’m reminded once again of that feeling of “liberation” by eating clean, whole, unprocessed, plant-based foods. Food should never make you feel sick. Dairy is not natural for us to eat! And anyone who thinks otherwise, let me explain:

(PS: A lot of this information comes from things I’ve read and watched or learned in school, but I haven’t the slightest clue where or how to cite any of my sources. Take it or leave it, or do some research yourself to be further convinced.)

Why Not Dairy?

When you are born, you drink your mothers milk, which has all of the nutrients you need for the first few months/year of your life, and until you are weaned off of your mothers milk, you do not need anything else. Milk is very nutritionally dense for a little baby. In the same way, a kitten is born and drinks her mothers milk until she is grown and is able to fend for herself and eat the things an adult cat eats. Likewise, an elephant calf is born and drinks its mothers milk, and a baby gorilla does the same, and a baby cow does the same. All mammals drink their mothers milk while growing during those formative infant moments (be it days, weeks, months, years…) and once the baby is old enough, it no longer needs any milk, and the mother no longer needs to produce it. So why as a population have we been convinced that we still need to drink milk (or consume dairy of any kind)? For calcium. Strong bones and teeth. Etc etc, right?

Actually, not so.

First, consider this: If we as humans no longer need to drink our own mothers’ milk, from our own species, why should we have to drink the infant growth juice of a mother from an entirely different species? Why cows milk, and not elephant milk or dog milk or gorilla milk? If anything, gorilla or chimpanzee milk would be most appropriate, considering we share over 98% of our DNA with them. Or, why don’t we just continue to drink our own mothers milk well into adulthood? That would actually be most appropriate, considering our options. But who decided cow milk was what humans need? Likely (most certainly) it was the food industry, trying to find new ways to make money. Inventions like frozen food, non-perishable Twinkies, and milk are all products of industrialized “nutrition”.

Second, consider this: The majority of the human population on this earth is lactose intolerant. So yeah, that means probably you too. If you’re at all like me, you’ve grown up your entire life drinking milk (cereal with milk is and has always been my favorite food), eating cheese, ice cream, butter, etc, then you’ve likely gotten used to the grumble in your tummy or the discomfort or even the diarrhea that comes along with eating dairy. Its likely you’ve never noticed it at all. And if you have, you’ve just attributed it to… who knows… “something I ate” or maybe you haven’t attributed it to anything at all, but to the simple, normal reaction that happens after you eat. Truth is, I lived like this my entire life, literally until about a week or two ago, when I slowly started eating less to no dairy, and today, I’m sitting here, after about 3 or 4 bites of a cake that is made entirely of dairy (milk, yogurt, butter, eggs, and some flour… yes I know eggs are not dairy), and my entire digestive system is NOT happy about it. And I’m starting to see the light.

So, if most of the human population is lactose intolerant, why do we keep consuming lactose? Why do we have so many products, like Lactaid, which make dairy easier to consume? Eating should not require a set of pills to make us function properly. Our body is built to process things naturally, and ideally, we should never need Tums or Pepto Bismol or Lactaid to help us eat. Ever heard of pharmaceutical companies? Yeah…

Another highly compelling fact is this: There is a small population of people living in the desert in Africa who have historically, for thousands and thousands of years, been cattle herders. They live in a place where water and food are scarce, but they have co-evolved with the cattle they herd over time in order to be able to survive together. Since humans are naturally intolerant to lactose, we normally become sick, even if just mildly, upon consuming dairy. In some cases, we can have diarrhea from dairy, which for most of us in a privaledged western world may mean we have to run to the bathroom at an inopportune moment, maybe take some Pepto Bismol, and if its really bad, we may have to lay in bed for a while and drink some gatorade or water to feel better. But if you live in the desert in Africa, with little access to food or water, diarrhea can kill you, since it completely dehydrates you from all liquid and nutrients in your system. So, this unique population of cattle herders has co-evolved with cows, developing a distinct and rare genetic mutation that allows them to properly process lactose without becoming sick and thus dying, since more often than not, they rely exclusively on the milk of these cows to survive. So think about that. In order to process milk, they evolved (over centuries) a genetic mutation to be able to drink milk and not die. Most of us do not have this mutation, and thus, if we were stranded in a desert with only milk to drink, we would all probably die.

I’m just saying…

OK, so maybe dairy isn’t exactly normal to drink, but is it actually harmful? Yeah, it is. Much to my sadness and dismay (I love dairy), dairy has high levels of saturated fat (the bad kind of fat) and of bad cholesterol, similar to a piece of red meat.

“Red meat and full-fat dairy products (cheese, milk, ice cream, butter) are among the main sources of saturated fat in our diets.” – Harvard School of Public Health, “The Nutrition Source”

“Trans fats are also naturally found in beef fat and dairy fat, in small amounts.” – Harvard School of Public Health, “The Nutrition Source”

“… Because vegetable fat was not related to risk of breast cancer, these findings suggest that red meat and high-fat dairy products may contain other factors, such as hormones, that increase risk of breast cancer.” – Harvard School of Public Health, “The Nutrition Source”

“It’s worth noting that milk and other dairy products are our biggest source of saturated fat, and there are very credible links between dairy consumption and both Type 1 diabetes and the most dangerous form of prostate cancer.” – Dr. Barnard, quoted in this New York Times article by Mark Bittman

Animals and Planet

Another important factor to consider is the effect of dairy production on the environment and on the well-being of the animals being exploited. I think we all like to imagine that all the milk we drink comes from happy cows (from California) who roam around with wide green pastures much like this,

but sadly, this is a reality for very few, if any cows at all. Most of the time, a real dairy farm looks more like this:

or this,

I’ve actually been to a dairy farm, when I was wwoofing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) in Ireland a few months ago, I was taken by my host to the local dairy farm that provided the milk for some of Irelands most popular dairy products. Ireland and the United States are very different in their production of dairy, but I presume they shared some similarities. Since milk comes from a cow who has recently given birth, naturally that milk should go to the calf, but instead, they are separated immediately (imagine the stress on the mother to have her baby taken from her!) and she is hooked up to an uncomfortable machine which pumps her milk out for hours every day. I actually got to milk a cow with one of those machines, and trust me, the cows did not enjoy it. Though the farm looked like that last photo, the cows in Ireland did get to spend part of their time in a lovely green pasture. But remember, this is Ireland, where leprechauns exist and magic is everywhere. America is not so quaint. Most american dairy and beef cows are fed corn, which their stomachs are not built to digest (they’re meant to eat grass), so when they become sick, they are pumped with antibiotics. More than half of the antibiotics sold in America go to food-animals, not humans. So the happy cow thing is just a big lie so that you can sleep at night and buy milk in the morning… milk from stressed mothers whose children have been taken from them, mothers who are fed unnatural things (imagine if you were fed wood or rocks instead of actual food you could digest?) and pumped with chemicals and antibiotics, living in a metal warehouse filled with feces and all sorts of nasty things… Honestly, just ew. If we are what we eat, and if cows are what they eat, and if we eat cows, then we are what cows eat, and if you knew what it looked (or smelled) like inside a dairy farm, I promise you’d never touch a piece of cheese again. Promise.

Also, that whole thing about cows farting is actually true. The methane gas released from the billions of cows in industrialized farms contributes to more greenhouse gases than all of the gases released from all transportation methods, combined. Global warming is serious business, and a huge part of it comes from cows that are farting from eating corn, much in the same way we’re farting from eating dairy.

“The nearly half a million factory farms in the U.S. produce 130 times more waste than the human population. Cattle produce nearly one billion tons of organic waste each year. The waste from livestock, chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides are a primary source of water pollution in this country. Wastes from dairies, feedlots, and chicken and hog farms enter waterways, damaging aquatic ecosystems and making the water unfit for consumption. Cattle also contribute significantly to global warming because they emit methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide, three of the four gases responsible for trapping solar heat.” – Born Free USA, “The Destructive Dairy Industry”

So… if cutting back on dairy for your own health isn’t compelling enough, do it for the earth, man! After all… our body is our one and only vessel, and our planet is too. Once its gone, its gone for good.

[Also I should point out that I highlighted America, but each country has its own industrialized food system and I encourage those of you reading this in other countries to take a look into your countries practices. Its likely that they’re not all that different from those of the grand ol’ U-S-A.]

Ok all of that is sad about the animals and the planet but you’re probably not going to do anything about it because most of us don’t but you’re still thinking about health because a sliver of you is curious about not dying or maybe just not being sick one day, and likely you’ve been wondering this whole time about the “real” question… CALCIUM!

Calcium is needed for strong bones, right? And we get calcium from where? Milk? Research shows that osteoporosis (loss of bone density, bones becoming porous, weaker bones, breaking your hip when you’re old, etc) is most prevalent in the countries with the highest consumption of dairy, like United States, United Kingdom, Finland, and Sweden. And that’s not a random coincidence. To quote from the Livestrong website:

“Most know that milk is high in calcium. It may seem counterintuitive that the calcium in dairy can contribute to osteoporosis, which is characterized by a loss of calcium from bones. However, excessive calcium suppresses the activation of vitamin D, argues Walter Willet, M.D. Activated or supercharged D contributes to a wide array of health benefits. According to Campbell, persistently low levels of this activated vitamin create an “inviting environment” for different cancers, autoimmune diseases and osteoporosis. Of note, animal protein also suppresses the production of supercharged D.”

So… Then where else can I get calcium and protein?

If you don’t know where else you could possibly get calcium and protein if not from dairy, there are many natural foods, from the earth, that have as much if not more calcium than dairy, like broccoli, kale, spinach, sesame seeds, nuts, soy, and so much more. Similarly, most of those, plus quinoa, lentils, beans, and other legumes have as much protein as any piece of lean meat. By eating a regular, well-rounded plant-based diet, you can get all the nutrients you need (protein, calcium, etc) without harming your body in the long run. Dairy is not the answer. We’ve just been told it is, and we’ve never questioned it. But becoming informed and educated about what you put into your body, your one and only vessel, is one of the most important things you can do to prolong your life and the quality of your life along the way.

***

[My] Dairy Detox:

Milk

I have always loved dairy. Like I said, cereal with milk has been one of the biggest staples of my diet for most of my life, so I am no stranger to being a part of the dairy myth. I love milk, I love the taste of a sweet glass of 1% milk, I love cold milk and cereal when I’m hungry in the middle of the night, and I often used to say that cereal and milk was “my coffee” (since I don’t like coffee) in the mornings. I am obsessed equally with yogurt, especially greek yogurt, and getting rid of yogurt from my diet has been surprisingly more difficult than milk. I stopped drinking milk a while ago, not all at once, but as I slowly realized there were more options for breakfast than just cereal and milk. I began to enjoy oatmeal or greek yogurt or eggs instead on some mornings, and slowly, without meaning to, I found myself more satisfied by those than by an airy, sugary cereal, so cereal, but more importantly milk, began to take a back seat to my new breakfast discoveries. There are plenty of non-dairy milks, like almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, etc though I’ve only tried almond milk, and I usually only use it in smoothies because I haven’t quite gotten used to the taste on its own (its best to buy unsweetened but the flavor is also stronger), but I’m working on it. Maybe if I’m ever really craving cereal, I’ll give it a shot. But for now, I don’t miss milk or cereal enough to drink almond milk straight, though that could change as I continue to expand my taste buds.

Yogurt

Yogurt is one of my favorite snacks, particularly and nearly exclusively greek yogurt (except here in France where my host family only buys regular or flavored yogurts), so I’m learning to find ways to replace it, most recently by my discovery of soy yogurt. It tastes great, and has the same consistency as any regular yogurt, and honestly you wouldn’t know the difference after eating it a few times. When soy yogurt becomes your new normal, you wont feel deprived in any way. I am learning to expand from my limited understanding of what yogurt is, in order to discover new, more interesting ways of enjoying the foods I’ve always loved.

photo (21)

Cheese

Cheese is another food to consider. I don’t really eat a lot of cheese so this isn’t particularly difficult for me to cut out, but I know I’m probably alone in that. Though I must say, avoiding cheese in France is about as difficult as avoiding water. But I’ve done surprisingly well lately, just by saying “Non, merci.” (No, thank you). And I hear there are plenty of vegan cheeses that taste the same, melt the same, look the same, but they don’t kill you in the same way. Nice! When I get back to California, I’m excited to try these out. I know eating pizza (another one of my favorite things) is going to be a challenge, but perhaps a cheese-less pizza isn’t so bad, right? More room for the sauce, which, lets be honest, is the best part anyway.

Butter

Another important element to consider in the dairy category is… BUTTER. Good lord. I understand why we like it, but I don’t understand why it’s even legal. It is so, SO bad for you! Eating butter is just asking for a heart attack. It’s basically all “bad fats” and cholesterol. And so many of us don’t know what we would do if we cant cook/bake with butter, but trust me, there are so many options! If you love spreading butter on bread like I do, um, basically, just don’t. Sorry. Find something else. Natural fruit preserves, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, almond butter, avocados… there are plenty of things that can be put on bread, and butter should not be one of them. As for cooking, you can use olive oil, sesame seed oil, coconut oil… pretty much most natural oils are better. I used to not know how to cook certain things without butter, like eggs for example, but I started using olive oil instead and I don’t miss butter one bit. As for baking (one of my favorite things to do), I hear apple sauce makes a great substitute, as well as avocados (yum) or greek yogurt (yeah I know its dairy, but its a start…) and plenty of other things. Just takes a little research. I’m eager to test some of these substitutions out next time I decide to bake myself a treat.

Ice Cream

Who doesn’t love ice cream? Actually… I don’t. I enjoy it from time to time, but I rarely crave it and whenever I do, all I actually want is a bite or two. Often it is too rich and I get bored quickly. But I know some people die for ice cream, so I suppose I’ll address it here. Ice cream is basically just really cold fat and sugar. If you’re looking for something cold, sweet, and flavorful, you could make yourself a smoothie, or eat an all-natural frozen fruit pop thing (I hate those, but if thats your style, go wild), or a natural frozen yogurt (yes, also dairy but better in general if you just can’t let go), or best of all, just a piece of frozen fruit. That is something I can get sexy on. Frozen strawberries? Mixed with a little balsamic vinegar and some mint leaves? You wouldn’t believe how delicious that is. And if you really want something ice cream-y, you can try soy ice cream. I’ve never tried it but I bet if its anything like soy yogurt, its probably really good.

I realize leaving the dairy world is not easy, and if you read my last post, you’ll know my deep frustration with blog posts and magazines that “give you all the answers” and make it look easy. I know its not. I wasn’t born vegan, and even now, I’ve only really been mostly vegan for about 10 days. I’ve spent the past 25 years of my life eating meat, dairy, eggs, and a plethora of processed foods, sugars, and other nonsense (Um… Lean Cuisine anyone? Don’t judge me, I was in college). I’m not perfect (AS YOU KNOW if you’ve read any of my posts. Good lord I’m so far from where I want to be, and you all know it) and I struggle so much with any change I try to make in my life. But one thing that I suppose I can learn about my relationship with dairy (and thus apply it to all my other desired changes) is that things really happen very, very slowly. This slow process of lessening dairy in my life has been something I have been doing (without even meaning to) over several years. And even still, I do consume cheese and yogurt and butter and ice cream, but I’m trying to consume them less. And eventually, who knows how long it will take, I’d like to be free from them all together. Its a slow process and I realize its not easy at all. Sometimes all you want is a cheesy pizza or some ice cream or cereal with milk. But I’ve started to see that you can still have all of these things, but in new ways. Eating right does not have to mean deprivation! It just means being smarter and more aware of what you are putting in your body.

The saying really is true… You are what you eat.

To learn more, I recommend these videos or any of the links at the bottom.

 

Harvard School of Public Health, “The Nutrition Source”

The New York Times, “Got Milk? You Don’t Need It”

Huffington Post Healthy Living, “Dairy: 6 Reasons Why You Should Avoid it at All Costs[…]”

Born Free USA, “The Destructive Dairy Industry”

ABC News, “Sixty Percent of Adults Can’t Digest Milk”

Livestrong, “Milk Consumption & Osteoporosis”

Food Matters, “The Truth About Calcium and Osteoporosis”

US News, “5 Non-Dairy Foods With Calcium”

Yahoo Voices, “5 Foods With More Calcium Than Milk”

Livestrong, “Healthy Heart Substitute For Butter”

Fitsugar, “Healthy Baking: Surprising Butter Substitutes”

Yahoo Voices, “5 Dairy-Free Cheese Substitutes”

3 Fat Chicks, “7 Healthy Ice Cream Substitutes”

Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

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Welp, There I Go Again…

So I guess this is how things work out for me… I have one fabulous day (yesterday) and, as if to maintain the natural order of things, I find myself today way too full and way too unhappy about it. Snack time consisted of a some nuts and an all-natural granola bar… not bad, right? Then I thought, “Hmm, maybe my body needs fiber…” so I ate a bunch of prunes, because “my body might need it.” Then, since I thought I was still hungry (I probably was just thirsty) or because I thought I hadn’t had enough vitamins for the day, I ate an orange. Still, healthy choices at least. And then, as I seem to do quite often, I started worrying that dinner tonight with my host family would not have enough protein or whatever other nutrients I thought I might need (this is all just my own rationalization to reduce my guilt about eating more more more before dinner) so I convinced myself that a yogurt, apricot preserves, and some granola would be just the thing. So I ate that too.

Now, I realize that all my choices have been fine as far as quality goes (oatmeal for breakfast, quinoa, veggies and avocado for lunch, fruits all day long, etc), but its the quantity that has me feeling full and embarrassed. To be honest, I wasn’t even hungry any more after the granola bar, but something inside of me just kept rationalizing more snacks, and “since they’re healthy, its okay to overeat, right?” I don’t know why I always find little excuses to do what I always do, but these habits need to stop. These little snack binges, no matter how healthy they are, ultimately are getting in the way of me seeing actual changes in my body. Like, for example, my pants not being tight. Why is it so easy to slip up from one day to the next? Did I (without realizing) exhaust all my willpower yesterday and am I in a deficit today? Is it because I lazied my way out of exercising this morning that I caved in a moment of weakness in the afternoon?

I need to figure out how to break these habits. I’m thankful that I have learned to at least eat mostly pretty healthy, even when I am “binging”, but its not just what I eat – its the lack of self control that really affects how I feel about myself. Or, perhaps, is it how I feel about myself that prompts these far-too-frequent snack binges?

TOO MANY QUESTIONS.

At the end of the day, losing weight is a numbers game. Calories in, calories out. Surely it’s not so simple – 500 calories of spinach is not the same thing as 500 calories of chips. And in that regard, I’d rather be binging on fruits and nuts than on chips and cookies (don’t worry, I do that too), but in the end, I need to learn self-control, so that food does not consume or define me. I want to remember days like yesterday, when food liberated me and I felt strong. And I want to minimize days like today, when I forget everything I have ever learned and lose myself along the way.

BUT HOW?

Does anyone out there have any CONCRETE tips or experiences to share? Encouragement is great. I love hearing “You got this!” “You’re strong and beautiful!” “Oh man, I know, I’ve been there. But every day is a new day!”… All of that is lovely. But days like today, all I want is practical advice. Like “don’t buy granola” (I wouldn’t if I had that freedom but I live in a kitchen that is not my own and the temptations of French indulgent eating are around me at all times) or “brush your teeth after eating” (I’ve tried this, with mixed results. If the binge is coming, the flavor of mint in my mouth won’t stop it).

So, I ask, in mild desperation… what can I do to gain more self control??

If you have the magic answer, please don’t be shy to share. I need it.

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Tone It Up

Some of you may have heard me mention Tone It Up here and there, but for those of you who don’t know, I’ll give you a brief synopsis. (Please note, I have no financial or any sort of incentive whatsoever to be talking about Tone It Up. I just really like them and want to spread the word!)

Tone It Up is a fitness, health, and lifestyle blog… or dare I say movement, that emphasizes positivity, self-love, teamwork, community, and flexibility. The two founders/trainers are Karena and Katrina, two real-life best friends and fitness professionals who have taken a really fun, carefree spin on wellness by encouraging their followers to get healthy through friendship and a friendly, relatable attitude. The success of Tone It Up can be largely attributed to how easygoing and normal these two girls are. Many fitness professionals take the intimidation route, where they yell, push, scare, and generally try to light a terrifying fire under your ass in order to achieve success. Karena and Katrina are not like that. They are silly with each other and with their viewers and it really works. Personally, I’m all about it! (Plus they’re really cute California girls and their whole vibe is very beachy and warm and incredibly inviting).

I first heard about them about a year ago, when I was buckling down to get fit for a friends wedding. I came across Tone It Up (TIU for short) on Pinterest, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I started by just following their blog and their Youtube Channel and eventually I registered (for free) in their community to be able to interact with other TIU members and to get encouragement from others who were working hard to reach their goals. I love the support network and the sense of family and I think this was one of the most important aspects of Tone It Up for me. Often times I didn’t feel that I had the full support or understanding of my close friends or family, so I looked elsewhere for people who understood my struggles and who cheered me on through every up and down of becoming healthier and fitter. I really love the community and I still use it, though I haven’t been as active since I’ve been in France. I’m hoping to dive back in soon! They are also all over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media, and followers can interact with them, and with each other everywhere. You can also find plenty of regional TIU groups, where other TIU followers in your area can get together to exercise (or do whatever you want) together, extending the support network out of the internet and into real life. It’s super inspiring and I’m a big fan.

I also purchased the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan last summer, which I mostly use for recipes and nutritional education. I haven’t been following it very strictly in France, but when I get home I will hopefully get back into the swing of things quickly. Essentially, Tone It Up is all about 5 small meals a day, and the nutrition plan gives you everything you need to know about that lifestyle in order to achieve the greatest health success.

Best recipe ever… Protein Pancakes!

 

This is Katrina, one of the TIU girls… She’s a big inspiration because even though she’s a fitness professional, she strugged (and still does) to get fit and healthy. Her transformation is impressive and reminds me that anyone can do it!

Anyway, the reason for this post was to share the big “Bikini Series” that Tone It Up does every spring. It was through this series that I first started really following TIU and now, a year later, I’m excited to follow the Bikini Series once again. My resources are limited and my schedule is more complicated than it was last year, but I’m going to try to get back into my Tone It Up routine for the next 8 weeks, at least as much as I can! And I want to invite anyone out there (and it does not have to be just for women!) to join me in this years Tone It Up Bikini Series. There will be great recipes, workouts, education, and plenty of motivation to keep you on track for your goals, whatever they may be. If you are at all intrigued, be sure to check out the website and learn more. Once you sign up (all you need is your email address), you’ll get a cute little “starter pack” with recipes, and a few workouts to get you going from day 1.

Summer is coming… lets make this a good spring, together!

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Nutrition 101

A conversation with a friend this weekend reminded me of the importance of nutrition education in developing a healthy lifestyle. I realized that I often take nutritional information somewhat for granted because I have spent hours upon hours at my computer, reading about nutrition and health just because I find it interesting. Not to mention that my mom is a doctor and my whole family lives a very active, healthy lifestyle, so I have been surrounded by healthy knowledge my whole life. But not everyone has had the same exposure to nutritional information, especially in other countries where being as health-conscious as we are in America (this is ironic and we all know why) just is not the norm yet. Here in France, my friend tells me that nutrition labels are just recently starting to become a “thing”, but they are often brief, complicated, and no one knows how to read them so people just ignore them all together. I am quite aware of this every time I go into a grocery store – I can’t find the information I want on the nutrition label and I just have to make blind guesses, using whatever knowledge I already have to try to make the best choice. I can understand how frustrating it must be for someone who doesn’t know how to read a nutrition label because I spend my life here constantly trying to make sense of these complicated labels, in French, and I more often than not feel intimidated, scared, and defeated by that dreadful little box on the package of any product. To some, it really is another language and that feeling just flat out sucks.

I want to share a few quick links that might help begin to demystify nutrition basics and nutrition labels.

Nutrition For Everyone – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The Beginner’s Guide to Diet, Nutrition & Healthy Eating – A Calorie Counter

How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label – FDA (This link is a little dense for total beginners, but its a really excellent resource to keep on hand)

How to Read a Nutrition Label – WebMD

How to Read Nutrition Facts on Food Labels – WikiHow

 

Good luck! Let me know if these links are useful, and if you’d like to see more like this.

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